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Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Barossa Valley in winter

Jacob's Creek

This past week I played tour guide to an overseas visitor and went off to the Barossa Valley. I had thought of an itinerary that included some wineries and other stops through the valley.

First stop was the Jacob's Creek winery at Roland Flat, I knew from taking previous overseas visitors to the Barossa, that Jacob's Creek has a high name recognition outside of Australia. Despite it being a weekday in winter, the wine tasting area was busy. My visitors enjoyed the wines on offer as well as the photo opportunities, luckily the rain held off for some of the time.


Winter vines at Jacob's Creek

From Jacob's Creek I drove through Bethany (the oldest Barossa settlement) and up to Mengele's Hill. From there we would get a great view of the surrounding valley, which we did, unfortunately by then the rain was coming down quite heavily!! Ah the perils of outdoor tourism in winter!


Rain over the valley

It was well past 1 o'clock so time for lunch. My visitor was an avid watcher of Maggie Beer on cooking shows, so her farm shop was the logical place for a lunch stop. It would also be the first time for me to try out the food there so a win, win all round.


The Maggie Beer Farm Shop and Restaurant.

The Farm Shop was well set up with tasting areas of all the products, really enjoyed that part of visiting the shop. And they got a sale out of me, I loved the Dark Chocolate Vino Cotto Caramel, kept going back for repeat tastes! Then bought a jar for home!

The restaurant has a limited lunch menu, I had the Caramelised Onion tart with goat's curd.

My visitors went for the Chicken Taragon parcel with salad.

The restaurant area had bifold windows that opened up to a view of the lake, sadly due to the rain and cold weather it was all closed but I thought a return visit in summer would be on the cards.
There was one lone duck paddling away in the rain!




Part of the Farm shop with the tasting pots on the wine barrels. As well as the restaurant and farm shop there is also a cooking demonstration room. 

Maggie Beer's Farm Shop and restaurant is just off Seppeltfields Road which was perfect as I wanted to visit Seppeltfields next. First a quick stop at the Seppelt Mausoleum.


View from the Mausoleum looking towards Seppeltfields winery.

Seppeltsfield is my favourite of the Barossa wineries, we spent some time in at the Jam Factory, the arts collective now on site. As well as looking at some memorabilia of Seppeltfields' past and naturally trying some of their ports.


Going down to the winery buildings


Historic wine ledgers with records of the wines made, on an old cart.



We had already had lunch but another great option would have been the Fino restaurant at Seppeltsfield. The rain held out long enough so we could have a walk around and see the historic buildings before the light began to fail and it was time to drive back to Adelaide.

I had planned to visit another winery but 2 ended up being plenty for visitors who weren't great wine aficionados, but were happy just to experience some wine tasting in a well known wine district. Despite the rain it was a lovely little day trip from Adelaide.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Mt. Lofty Ranges Vineyard

Adelaide Hills, South Australia


South Australia is very well known for the various wine regions, the one that is closest to Adelaide is the Adelaide Hills area. There are around 60 wineries (a fact that surprised me!) that produce cool climate wines. As a way of promoting the Adelaide Hills wine region a Winter Reds Weekend is happening July 28th to 30th.

Winter Reds Weekend

I had my first experience of visiting an Adelaide Hills winery this past week. (Surprising considering the area is so close! I'm more familiar with the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions) A reunion of sorts was organised to be held at the Mt. Lofty Ranges Vineyard at Lenswood, as well as some wine tasting, lunch was to be the main event!

The vineyard was established in 1992 (so not that old compared to some of the other wine areas), it had been an apple orchard. That's what I mainly knew the Lenswood area for, it was where apples are grown! There are still apple orchards and I passed through some on the way to the vineyard. The cellar door was opened in 1998 as was one of the first in the area, all this illustrates how young the wine industry is in the Adelaide Hills. 

The vines are grown on the slopping hillside and are still hand pruned and the grapes handpicked. A very labour intensive way to care for the vineyard, most large scale vineyards are mechanically pruned and harvested. The owners want to retain the old style practices in running their vineyard.


The Cellar Door and Restaurant are quite rustic and added to the atmosphere of the vineyard. 

There was a 360 degrees fireplace which I was VERY happy to see, it was cold! The Adelaide Hills are chilly in winter! The bar behind is where you could taste the wines that are produced from the vineyard, all very agricultural chic! The cellar door and restaurant building used materials from old demolished buildings so lots of reclaimed timbers and galvanised iron.


There was a lovely view out to the vineyard and the hills beyond, the bifold windows open up in the warmer weather so it makes for a real inside/outside feel to the restaurant.

There is an outdoor seating area, complete with knee rugs for those hardy enough to sit outside. The indoor option was far more appealing!


The restaurant, from Monday to Thursday offers a "Light Lofty Lunch' and then Friday to Sunday an a la carte and degustation luncheon. (Quoted from their website!) There were plenty of options on the "Light Lofty Lunch" menu, reasonably priced from $12 to $22.

The Roasted winter root vegetables salad, with Buffalo curd and almonds and honey. This was my order, a warm winter salad, the buffalo curd tasted like a mild sour cream, with the crunchy almonds the dish made for an interesting collection of tastes and textures. 

The drive up through the Adelaide Hills is pretty too.

Apple orchards, some are undercover to protect them from birds.


Vines and the Mt. Lofty Ranges.

Being so close to Adelaide, a day spent exploring the various wineries of the Adelaide Hills, would be a great way to get to know the area. As well as the scenery and the wine tasting there's also the bonus of sumptuous food!






Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Novotel Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Super convenient location!



Price
This was the more expensive airport hotel (out of two) possibly due to its location right outside the International Terminal. I had an early morning flight so it was worth paying the extra money for the convenience of being next to the terminal.


Location
Fantastic location, walk out of the International Terminal and there it is infront of you. 


Facilities
It's rated as a 4 star hotel so has the amenities that reflect that rating. The room was spacious, it had a mini bar, there were bathrobes, tea and coffee making facilities. There is a restaurant and bar and a business computer that can be used to print off travel documents. There's also a fitness centre for those who want to exercise before or after a flight!

The minibar with a glass door, making it harder to resist the lure of what was inside! The bathroom is behind the frosted glass, so it does get some natural light.



There was a large walk in shower.


Optional Extras

The hotel boasts sound proof windows and I can attest that it's very quiet considering planes are taking off and landing nearby.

Although the hotel was expensive, it was worth being so close to the International Terminal, perfect if you're coming in from a late night flight or like me leaving on an early one.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Port Willunga, South Australia

And the historic township of Willunga



Remains of the Port Willunga jetty, the second one, built in 1868. Port Willunga was a working port during the early days of the colony of South Australia. The area now is a popular beach with only a few remnants of its historic past.



The beach at Port Willunga with the Star of Greece restaurant on top of the cliff. The restaurant is named after the ship the Star of Greece, it was blown onto the nearby reef during a heavy storm. The ship took on water and sunk, apparently the wreck can sometimes be seen at low tide. Due to the heavy seas and distance from Port Adelaide, the attempts to rescue the sailors failed and they drowned, it was the largest maritime loss of life in the colony. The restaurant itself is a hugely popular foodie destination, with the added attraction of the view across the gulf.



Looking down the coast, the limestone cliffs of the Fleurieu peninsula.



These caves were carved into the cliff face by fishermen to house their boats. I didn't know that before I saw them and was just puzzled by them. They looked very 'Star Wars' universe to me, really out of place in an Australian beach. Once home I researched them and discovered what they were used for, they only date back to the early to mid 20th century. Nowadays they're used like beach huts, people spend the day camped in them. Talking about being fascinated by these caves at work one day, a colleague told me she had been to a wedding reception held in the caves! She then proceeded to show me pictures, it was stunning, lighting was strung up in the cave, you've got the sunset views and a truly memorable wedding reception!



A few kilometres inland is the town of Willunga. For South Australia it's quite a historic town as it was founded in 1839, less than 3 years after the first white settlers arrived in December 1836. It was established as a farming community and now is part of the Southern Vales wine district. It's a pleasant spot to visit and have lunch when holidaying in the area or just a day trip from Adelaide.

The Willunga Hotel, now all one complex but originally the building closest to the camera was a store with the residence above it. Currently there are footpath renovations going on so lots of speed restrictions and bunting around the main street!


Now a restaurant, this had been the Methodist church, the 1839 name acknowledges the foundation of the town in 1839.

Willunga had been the major town in the area and this was the Courthouse and police station. It's been restored by the National Trust and run as a local history museum.

Across from the Courthouse had been the Telegraph station, the buildings are now a private home.

As well as vineyards, the area around Willunga is famous for its almond trees. Each year, the last week of July is the Almond Blossom Festival, it's a gorgeous time to visit as the trees are covered in pink and white blossoms and it all makes for a wonderful scene. (Closest you can get in South Australia to the Japanese Hanami! The picnics under the cherry blossoms.)





Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bluff Hill Lookout, Napier New Zealand

Also Clive Square



It was worth the scary drive up the steep narrow road to get to the lookout. Fabulous views over Hawkes Bay, and the port of Napier, for those who are interested in industrial ports!


Hawkes Bay.




The Napier Port is directly below the lookout, which I thought kind of spoiled the view as you needed to look across the bay and not down. I tried not to get too much of the port in my photos! But then I heard a different opinion from someone who found watching the activity at the port really interesting and thought it added to the experience of visiting the lookout. So it seems the lookout has something for nature lovers and urban industrial lovers!

Clive Square



Came across this pretty little park, have now done some research into its story. It was originally mapped out in 1854 and the idea behind it was that it would be the equivalent of an English country green. Napier's first cricket and football matches were played on the green. Later it was enclosed with a white picket fence. (So, so English country garden!!)

After the 1931 destroyed the commercial centre of the town, the square became known as 'Tin Town' as galvanised iron temporary buildings were placed there, they were the banks and stores that had been destroyed during the earthquake and were needed to keep the town economy going. Tin Town lasted for the 2 years of the rebuilding process and then the square was again restored and upgraded.




The Square's fountain. It's Edwardian and placed in the square in 1904, in memory of E.R. Blythe a major promoter of the square. 

I continue to rave about Napier as it was definitely my favourite town in New Zealand. Even this fountain represents what I loved about the town, it's beautifully restored, it's an ornate artefact of a bygone era, but maintained and cared for. There's such a dedication to preserve history in the town, I didn't seen any faded or peeling paint, no historic building on the verge of collapse. Instead I saw old buildings being cared for and put to use, it's not a theme park Art Deco museum but a living town. 

One last old building next to Clive Square.

Trinity Methodist Church, the only city centre church in Napier to predate the 1931 earthquake. It was built in 1876 and a lovely example of a wooden church. 


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Kadina, South Australia

The largest of the Copper Coast towns

Driving in from Adelaide, Kadina is the first of the Copper Coast towns that you come to. Like the other towns, it owes its existence to the mining of copper from the nearby copper mines. Once the mines were closed, and ones close to Kadina stayed operating until 1938, much later than the Moonta mines, it became a service town for the local area.


The Royal Exchange Hotel, it is the second hotel on this spot, the current hotel was built in 1874 and it got its prefix 'royal' when Queen Victoria's grandson the Duke of Clarence stayed there in 1880. The hotel is a beautiful example of an Australian country pub with its long verandahs

Like all good country towns, Kadina has a number of old style pubs.
The Wombat Hotel, possibly named for that wombat the dug up the copper at Moonta mines?! Originally the established as Wombat House in 1861, a boarding house for men.



The Kadina Hotel, I noticed that all three pubs have an enclosed outdoor area, not something I had seen in many pubs. For safety perhaps, so children don't run out onto the road? Or anyone else going on the road as there's also roadside barriers.

Copper made the town quite prosperous so there are some nice examples of colonial architecture in the centre of the town.


This lovely building is the bus station!


The Town Hall, it's opposite Victoria Square. (Same as in Adelaide!)


The rotunda in Victoria Square, it was built in 1897. The money for its construction was raised by having a bicycle race, a fair and private donations. (Helpful Heritage Walk pamphlet information!) The square has a large modern playground which is popular with families.


This delightful old building I thought had originally been a private house for a wealthy owner. But as with most South Australian country towns, any kind of substantial building in the town centre, it had been a bank. Now a real estate office.


Old time movie house, still the Kadina cinema.

And nearby a coffee shop.

Kadina is very much a service town, coming into the town there are car yards, huge farm machinery yards, agricultural businesses and offices. The town centre has some nice colonial buildings and interesting pubs, but I found it very quiet! I drove through on a Saturday afternoon and was surprised to see all the shops and cafes shut. I wondered if they still had half day Saturday trading which stopped in Adelaide many, many years ago.