Vegan Shrove Tuesday

Just because I can’t have dairy or eggs doesn’t mean I can’t have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, or any other day for that matter. I woke up this morning to find it grey, overcast and wet, not what I ordered. So, after a quick session on the home trainer in lieu of my morning ride, I made pancakes for breakfast and the world immediately seemed a better place – the power of food!

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Ingredients (makes 9 pancakes, serves 3 greedy cyclists)

  • 1 tbsp chia (or flax) seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 250ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp unrefined or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of sea salt

Method

1. Whisk together the chia seeds with 2½ tbsp of cold water, then set aside to thicken.

2. Combine the almond milk and cider vinegar, add the melted coconut oil, then whisk in the chia seed mixture.

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3. Sift and combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, then make a well in the middle. Gradually pour in the wet mixture, stirring continuously until combined. Don’t worry about a few lumps. Set aside for -10 minutes.

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4. Turn oven on low. Heat a tiny amount of coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, or like me use a non stick pan without addition of further fat. Add a small ladleful of the batter per pancake to the pan, you’re aiming for a scotch pancake size, then add more ladlefuls of the batter, ensuring they’re nicely spaced out. You’ll need to do this in batches.

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Ready to flip
Ready to flip

5. Cook for around 2 minutes, or until golden underneath and little bubbles start to appear on the surface – a bit like a pikelet. Then use a palette knife to flip them over. Cook for a further 2 minutes, or until golden. Place in the oven to keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes.

With homemade apricot compote, not much of a contrast in colour but it tasted sooo good.
With homemade apricot compote, not much of a contrast in colour but it tasted sooo good.

6. Serve with a dollop of coconut yoghurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, a spoonful of fresh fruit or fruit compote, or all of them if your heart so desires and enjoy!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can grind the chia or flax seeds beforehand for a smoother batter if you prefer, but I don’t mind leaving them whole.

2. You can add flavourings, such as cinnamon or vanilla essence, to the batter. Probably no more than 1/2tsp.

3. You can use any kind of milk, I just prefer unsweetened almond. If you use a sweetened milk, omit the tablespoon of sugar.

4. Just before you turn the pancakes for the first time, you can add fresh or dried fruit to taste – banana, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, apples – to the batter.

 

Things in Australia that made me smile: Aussie Signs

I have yet to finish mining our trip Down Under!

Road Signs

Although we didn’t drive as much this time as on our last trip to Australia, the roadside messages still amused me. Australians think nothing of driving long distances and those roads can be soporific. To keep drivers on their toes, signs wisely exhort you to stop every two hours or to pull over and take a nap if you’re feeling sleepy. But they mix it up all the time and I love their ingenuity.

You’ll see plenty of this sign, white letters underlined on a red background, which surely must strike fear into anyone reading it.

Wrong way, go back!

Here’s just a few of the other ones we’ve seen:-
  • Cut your speed, don’t make a grave mistake (accompanied by picture of a headstone)
  • Sore eyes? Powernap now!
  • A 15 minute powernap could save your life
  • Open your eyes fatigue kills
  • Droopy eyes? Powernap now!
  • Yawning? A microsleep can kill!
  • Don’t sleep and drive.
  • Open your eyes fatigue kills.
  • Drowsy drivers die.
  • Stop. Revive. Survive.
  • Survive this drive.
  • Fatigue is fatal.
  • Only sleep cures fatigue.
  • Vicroads ask passengers to share the driving.

In that last sign it rather assumes that the passengers all have driving licences!

But it’s not just road signs that bring a smile to my face. Traffic lights exhort you to “Give Way to PEDS”, short for pedestrians, not performance enhancing drugs.

Entertainment and Shop Signs

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Last year I wondered what the hell are or is “Pokies,” they’re everywhere in Australia. I looked them up on Google which provides two explanations. In this case, the signs refer to Poker machines. Of course, I should have guessed with the Aussie love of abbreviating words and then making them end in “ies” such as Barbies, tinnies and so on and so forth. But how was a girl to know? While the signs are everywhere, I’ve yet to see one of the machines. Or maybe I have and assumed it was a cigarette vending machine?

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Tattoos are very popular in Australia and there’s plenty of tattoo parlours. So when I kept seeing signs for “Tatts” I assumed it was shorthand for tattoos but no, it’s the name of the Australian Lottery.

Australians also like to display their sense of humour with signs such as these:-

Aussies are really serious about their coffee and it's excellent
Aussies are really serious about their coffee and it’s universally excellent

 

Fishing is a hugely popular sport Down Under
Fishing is a hugely popular sport Down Under

Now you can understand my concern about sharks and why I won’t swim in Australian waters.

They take their food seriously too
They take their food seriously too

 

Though Indian Pizza is a step too far
Though Indian Pizza is a step too far

 

My father-in-law was G Whatley and he's got two sons so this shop sign rather tickled our fancy
My father-in-law was G Whatley and he’s got two sons so this shop sign rather tickled our fancy

 

Australia tries hard to be PC but see what I spotted in a shop front
Australia tries hard to be PC but see what I spotted in a shop front

Melt in the mouth hazelnut biscuits

I’m always looking for ways to use left-over egg whites and this is definitely one of my favourite ways. Brutti ma Buoni (English: Ugly but Good) is an Italian hazelnut biscuit with a crisp exterior and a heavenly chewy centre: perfect with an espresso after a morning bike ride.

The classic recipe uses finely ground nuts mixed into the meringue batter. I prefer some of them just roughly chopped so, when you bite into one, there are lovely chunks of hazelnuts. If you can resist, I find they’re better the following day, when their sweetness has softened and the hazelnut flavour is even more pronounced. They’re easy to make but don’t use very fresh egg whites. I’ve found the trick is to leave the egg whites to age in the fridge for a couple of days or for a month in the freezer.

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Just a few ingredients to make these tasty little morsels

Ingredients (makes 20 small biscuits)

  • 100g (approximately 3) organic egg whites
  • 300g (3 cups) toasted hazelnuts, half finely chopped and half finely ground
  • 200g (2 cups) caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan).

2. Grease a baking sheet with butter and dust with plain flour or line with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

3. Stiffly whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl and slowly add the sugar. They’re done when you can invert the bowl over your head and the mixture stays in the bowl!

4. Gradually and carefully fold in all the other ingredients.

5. Pour the mixture into a bain marie (or a basin over a saucepan of hot water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the basin) and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes – believe me, they are worth the effort! When it’s ready the mixture should have darkened and formed a ball.

6. Remove the pan from the heat and place heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet, spaced well apart.

Already for the oven (image: Sheree)

All ready for the oven

7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try to resist opening the oven door!

8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet and enjoy with a cup of coffee or as an after-dinner treat. I often package them up and give them as small gifts.

That'll do nicely!

Those will do nicely!

(Header image from La Cuisine de Bernard/Wikipedia)

Spring is just around the corner

Even though it’s much diminished in status (only three WorldTour teams), I much enjoy watching the Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-Matin. Last week-end it was a cool, clear and sunny morning as I drove along the La Provençale motorway in the direction of the Var. Despite the bare vines and trees, the bright bursts of yellow from the flowering mimosa among the green pines made me feel as if we were on the cusp of spring. I parked up in Le Cannet des Maures, a pretty village just off the motorway, and enjoyed a pot of tea while watching the crowds amass and the teams arrive. The race generally attracts just a local crowd and only a smattering of press.

No occasion is too small for the local band and there were plenty of stalls – I picked up some early asparagus and a dozen free-range eggs – to entice the crowds. The race has moved from late February and now clashes with a number of more prestigious races, the  Tours of Oman, Algave and Andalucia, which explains the paucity of WorldTour teams. However, it’s sponsored by the legendary Raymond Poulidor, the race’s first victor in 1969, the commentary entices the voice of cycling aka Daniel Mageas out of retirement, former UCI President Pat MacQuaid lives close by and pops over to mingle with the great and good while Stephen Roche drives a few VIPs around the course.

There were plenty of kids autograph hunting and hoping pick up a bidon or cycling cap. Everyone wanted their photograph taken with the French national champion and pre-race favourite, Arthur Vichot (FDJ) who was happy to oblige. There were plenty of unknowns at the race from Continental teams, no doubt hoping to catch the eye of one of the Pro Conti or WorldTour directeur sportifs, but they struggled to make any impact here.

Ultimately, it was a race dominated by the French. The diminutive Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) won the first stage while Cofidis’s Julien Simon worked with FDJ to thwart Ag2r and take the second stage. A second and third place finish was enough to see Vichot take the triple  in Draguignan, Simon was runner-up and Fortuneo’s Romain Hardy rounded out the podium. BMC’s Tom Bohli was best young rider and BMC were also adjudged best team.

Having skipped the finish in St Paul-en-Foret on the Saturday, I rode on Sunday morning and just put in an appearance for the latter stages of the race which finishes with a couple of circuits of Draguignan. The weather was glorious all week-end and looks set to continue for the next 10 days or so. Meaning, I’ll have ample opportunity to get out on my bike, something I’ve missed of late.

 

An award, really?

Introduction

I’ll be honest, it’s a mystery why anyone would nominate my blog for an award. However, thanks must go to Jack from Pep’s Free from the Kitchen who nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This is allegedly, and I quote, “an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts whose blogs should captivate, inspire and motivate you.”  Thankfully, it’s also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging – that’s much more me. This award was dreamt up by Okoto Enigma – what a fabulous name.

The Rules Of Engagement

Now there’s a whole list of rules I have to follow, here they are:-

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their post about the award
  5. Tell your reader(s) 3 things about yourself that they may not already know
  6. Nominate at least 10 other blogs for the award
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice which should include one weird or funny question
  9. Share a link to your best post
  10. Check you’ve fulfilled all of the requirements above – I have!

Three Things About Me

I’m an alumnus of Loughboro’ University, which is where I met my husband of nearly 40 years – where’s the time gone? – and I’m an accountant by training,

Questions for Me

These were posed by Jack

What’s one of your favourite works of literature?

I’ll be honest, I have problems with picking favourites. It’s too difficult to whittle things of such import to just one book, or one record, or one restaurant. But, as you insist, it’ll have to be something that made me laugh out loud. I’m going to pick Manchester United Ruined My Life by Colin Schindler.

 Is there any ingredient you’ve struggled with?

No, not really though I generally steer clear of tofu.

What advice would you offer to other bloggers?

Write about things you know and love.

What’s your favourite band?

Please refer to my response to question one! Should I go for Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Guns n Roses? Why not all three?

What collective name do you refer to your readers as? (Like my: Dear Readers)

A collective noun implies that there’s more than one reader doesn’t it?

Five Questions for My Nominees

What do you most enjoy about blogging?

What’s your favourite sport and why?

Where in France would you most like to visit and why?

Which meal would you choose for your last supper?

Name five people who you’d like to join you for your last supper?

My Nominees

In no particular order or preference, these are just some of the blogs I enjoy reading:-

Travelling matters to us

Recipe in a bottle

Secondrate Cyclist

Petiteloulouseverydayadventures

Fit Recovery

Jessica & Love

Mae Travels

Cookies & Chemistry

Ragtime Cyclist

Just Pro Cycling

Eat Live Escape

Masala Vegan

Lori Greer in Portland

Share Your Best Post

Mmm, best post? Should that be the one I most enjoyed writing or the one that attracted the greatest number of visitors? Okay, bizarrely this one has enjoyed the most visitors.

My 12 favourite photographs from Australia

My beloved has finally downloaded all his photographs from our recent trip to Dropbox, meaning I can finally choose my favourites! I confess this was a difficult task and it took me a while to whittle down the chosen few.

1. Agapanthus in the De Bortoli Gardens

We ate in the restaurant on our trip last year, when we were staying nearby in the Yarra Valley,  and returned again this year with our friends. The countryside is heavenly and the vineyard’s gardens are lovely and you can picnic in the grounds, washed down with a bottle of their finest. However, the photo is about the flowers, not the location. Great clouds of Agapanthus are everywhere during the Australian summer, in gardens, growing wild on the side of the road. I was assured by some of our hosts that they’re easy to grow. I like the plants but my late mother loved them. It’s a great shame we didn’t have the opportunity to travel to Australia with my late parents. Mother would have known all the names of the flora and fauna. Of course, she’d have done a spot of research beforehand, but we’d have benefitted from her sharing her knowledge with us. This is not my area of expertiseI tool tand the Agapanthus is one of the few flowers I can readily identify.

2. Friends’ elder son

 

Friend's son in tree

I took this photograph in the gardens of the Shadowfax Winery in Werribee, after we’d eaten with friends in the restaurant. This is their elder son who’s just turned eight. I have a huge soft spot for him, he’s a wonderfully energetic boy with a real aptitude for sport. He and his younger brother, who I also adore, pictured in 3. below had spent the morning at a wildlife sanctuary and, while we were enjoying lunch, the two played in sight in the restaurant’s gardens. Not all the vineyards have restaurants but those that do typically serve fantastic local produce, often grown alongside the vines.

3. Friends’ younger son

Friends' younger son

Here’s his younger brother getting strawberry – thank goodness it wasn’t chocolate – ice cream everywhere. Having lunched at De Bortoli in 1. above, we had promised the boys an ice cream at the nearby Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. You can’t tell it from his photo, but the younger one is fearless, he’ll have a go at anything. The boys also sampled some of the chocolate as there are plenty of freebies to tempt you to buy. According to my beloved, the dairy produce in Australia is superb. I have to take his word for it as I can no longer partake of dairy. He particularly commends the ice cream, milk  and yoghurt.

4. Port Noalunga Beach

Port Noalunga Beach

I took this photograph from the balcony of the hotel we stayed in for two days at Port Noalunga, in Onkaparinga, South Australia. It’s about 30km south of Adelaide CBD, formerly home to the Kaurna tribe, and is a popular holiday destination. I took this photo at the week-end which is why the beach is “busy.” I say that because so many of the beaches in Australia are deserted. This beach is a long expanse of golden sand with relative shallow water, ideal for kids to splash about in. We had a couple of strolls along the beach, just dipping our toes into the water. There were no shark sightings!

5. River Torrens Linear Park

Walkerville Creek

This park was alongside our hotel and provided a shady spot for me regular jogs. It’s in the affluent north-east suburb of Walkerville, 4km from Adelaide CBD. We stayed here last year too and found it an ideal spot, surrounded by shops and plenty of dining options, within walking distance to downtown Adelaide. The park, one of a number of green spaces, is a popular haunt but particularly for joggers.

6. Hunting for Cherries

Hunting for Cherries

My beloved loves cherries and having found a map of cherry farms in the Adelaide Hills, he went looking for one down this very long track. We never found it despite following signs for the farm so he had to settle for some from the market rather than straight off the tree. I love how the trees grow over the road, providing shade and shelter. You can well imagine that if the road weren’t regularly maintained, it would quickly revert to bush.

7. Twenty20

Adelaide Oval

This time we watched a number of Twenty20 matches live at the Oval, HCG and MCG, as well as plenty on the television. We supported the Melbourne Renegades who narrowly missed out on the semi-finals but who nonetheless played some scintillating cricket. The Adelaide Oval has a capacity of over 50,000 and also hosts Aussie Rules football and rugby matches. It is reckoned to be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds n the world and is just a short stroll from Adelaide CBD.

8. Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay

Last year we spent a couple of days in Apollo Bay but this year we just stopped for lunch on our way from Portland to Birregurra. This was deliberate as we both wanted to return to its Fish Shack on the beach where we both agreed we’d eaten our finest fish & chips. This time around I was tempted by the thought of lobster until I saw how large it was – enough to feed the 5,000 and more besides! Instead I ate squid and my beloved ate whiting under the watchful gaze of the gulls. You can now see what I mean about empty beached. Although overcast, it was warm enough to sit out but there were only a handful of people wandering along its seashore.

9. Seaford Beach

Seaford

Many of the beaches in Australia are bordered by sand dunes and vegetation so that you don’t see the beach from the road unless you’re looking down on it as you descent a hill. This was my first view of Seaford Beach where we spent the last leg of our vacation. It was formerly the Karrum Karrum swamp, a source of food for the Bunurong tribe. It was drained in the early 20th century, initially for farming. It lies 36kms south-east of Melbourne CBD and en route to the Mornington Peninsula.

10. Montalto Vineyard Sculpture Park

Montalto Sculpture Park

I know what you’re thinking – another vineyard! In truth we visited only a handful and never partook in any of the tastings. This was recommended by our friends and we ate a fabulous meal in the café, rather than its fine dining restaurant, before strolling around its sculpture gardenThis is presumably what happens if you imbibe too freely, you end up in the flower beds.

11. Seaford Jetty at Sunset

Seaford Jetty

I’m a sucker for sunsets (and sunrises). This is the only photograph taken by my beloved that made the cut. Yep, all the others were taken by me on my mini iPad. I love the reflection of the jetty in the sea and the apricot coloured sky. We both took a load of photos on the beach at sunset but I thought this was the best one.

12. Yet another deserted beach

Lightening Beach

This is lightening Beach on the Southern Ocean side of Mornington Peninsula. It’s a beautiful area but as you can see from the surf, the water’s full of rip tides which makes it unsuitable for bathing.  I could have chosen photos from any number of beautiful beaches such as Safety, Shoreham, Flinders or Balnarring. There’s something very relaxing about watching water and I find the noise of crashing waves strangely soothing.

So, there you have them. My 12 favourite photographs from the trip which tend to be more about the memories from the day rather than the quality of the image.

 

(Header image: Sunset from balcony in Prahran)

 

Postcard from Dubai: Part II

The heavens opened as we drove to Melbourne airport for the first leg of our journey home. The intensity of the storm was such that our flight, coming from Auckland, was diverted to Adelaide and finally set down in Melbourne some five hours late. By this time, having eaten a light meal and read all the magazines, I had fallen asleep in the Emirates lounge. Once on board, I was back in the land of nod about 10 minutes after take off wearing my “do not disturb under any condition”  sticker on my bedcover. I had even skipped my usual glass of bubbly. Swathed in my cashmere wrap, eye patch on and earphones in, I slept for a good eight hours before waking, browsing the updated entertainment on offer, listening to a few new albums and taking a stroll down to the A380 bar – surely one of the best reasons for flying Emirates. On a 14 hour flight, the opportunity to walk around and stretch one’s legs is a godsend.

The time soon passed and as two of the few passengers without a connecting flight, we sailed through customs and collected our luggage. I had taken the precaution of booking two cars for our luggage as the van I’d booked on the outbound flight hadn’t materialised and, after wasting 20 minutes or so we’d been loaded  into two cars. This time the staff insisted they could get all our luggage into one car. They tried and they tried but they couldn’t! Saying I told you so in these circumstances affords me no pleasure whatsoever. My taxi driver, clearly the taxi equivalent of a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel, went rogue and tried to deliver me to a sister hotel, despite me having given him the correct hotel name and address.

Thankfully, despite arriving ahead of check-in, our room was ready and they gave us an upgrade. Before unpacking, my beloved wanted to check on his stand. So we walked down the road to the Trade Centre after a swift beverage at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Lucky that we did, because he was missing two exhibit cases which I then had to pay for in cash. I have my uses. My reward was lunch at a Syrian restaurant just round the corner from where we were staying. The food is not too dissimilar to Lebanese though the spicing is subtly different.

Monday evening, after setting up and readying the stand, we felt too tired to do anything other than watch a spot of tv. After flicking through the channels, we found one showing the final stage of the Dubai Tour aka The Marcel Kittel Slow. The commentary was in Arabic but who cares, it’s cycling. The sole commentator barely paused for breath during the final 25km. We understood little, apart from the riders’ names and places along the route. He was wildly enthusiastic a la Murray Walker and much amused us with his pronunciation of some of the riders’ names. He was clearly conversant with riders such as Viviani, Nibali and Cavendish but had trouble pronouncing others, such as Cobrelli and Degenkolb. Our favourite however had to be “Jungle Bob” better known to most of us as Bob Jungels. We were also tickled by Eeezal Bernaaard, Mooovistar and Quickastepa.

After a good night’s sleep, we rose early to catch up on work. Disaster! The hotel’s WiFi wasn’t working. Fortunately, it was working two doors down where we went for breakfast. We spent the next three days working. Unbeknown to us, the weather was dry but not overly warm or sunny. My beloved’s distributor took us for a splendid dinner in a Lebanese restaurant and we returned to the Syrian restaurant for dinner on our final evening. I managed to fit in a deep tissue back massage where I was pummeled all over. I feel better now but then I could barely hold back the tears, it was so painful.

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All too soon we were up at the crack of dawn for the last leg of our journey home. The five-hour flight was relaxing, I slept through most of it (again). Just after lunch, we were back home to the cold and rain. ‘Fraid so, not even the Cote d’Azur has been left unscathed by the Arctic conditions in Europe. It was great to be back.

A few observations on Aussie cycling kit

I don’t normally write about cycling kit, preferring to leave that to our  in-house expert Panache, over on VeloVoices. However, while down in Australia, where cycling is a strongly growing sport, it was interesting to see what kit riders wear, aside from their club kit. The Australian market appears to be not too dissimilar to that of the US and UK. It’s a  predominantly white-collar sport where its proponents ride seriously expensive bikes and demand high-end co-ordinated kit to match. It’s rare to see someone wearing a mismatched jersey and bibs. Indeed, many will be totally co-ordinated from head to toe with matching socks, caps and gloves.

By comparison with our trip last year, I noticed that local brands, such as MAAP, Lumiere, Pedla and Black Sheep Cycling, are seriously challenging Rapha’s seeming stranglehold on the Australian market. What these brands all have in common, is their determination to break with tradition and use innovative colours and patterns allied to leading edge fabrics, with all the performance bells and whistles. I particularly like their use of navy or grey as the base colour for bib-shorts with their colourful matching tops and bottoms. Now I say this as someone firmly wedded to black bottoms and silhouette slimming dark jerseys. Some of the brands have international distributors and all of them have webshops which ship internationally.

These newish brands are particularly popular with the ladies, who represent about 40%  – hurrah – of all cyclists on the Australian roads. Not unnaturally, it’s often the ladies who demand more fashionable, stylish and colourful kit which, of course, also helps make you more visible on the road. So, purely in the interest of research, my beloved tried on one of these brands to check the sizing, and came away with a new outfit!

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He usually takes an XL in Rapha and Assos but moves up to an XXL in many of the Italian or French brands. Here he’s wearing an L in the shorts with an XL jersey, along with the matching socks. Of course, he just had to try it out the following day and said it was really good at wicking moisture and the pad was extremely comfortable. He then started muttering about maybe he should have gotten a pair of the bib shorts in grey too. That man will be the death of me and my bank account.

Postcard from Melbourne: Part III

I cannot believe that our Australian adventure is almost over. The time has just flown by and we’ve had such a blast.  Later today we’ll be flying back via Dubai and a four-day Dental Exhibition.

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We’ve spent the last 10 days or so, including Australia Day, close to the Mornington Peninsula. Last year we spent the national holiday in Coonawarra and everything was closed. This year we had live racing to watch. The organisers of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race put on crits around the F1 racetrack in Melbourne. There was a good turnout, despite the rather low key promotion of the event.

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We’ve been staying in a small flat, off the main drag, which is beautifully decorated and appointed. We’re within a minute’s walk of all amenities including, the station – direct line to Melbourne – and the beach, long and gloriously sandy. Even I was tempted to wander along the shoreline. It was also great for my early morning plodding and my beloved’s rides as he could easily cycle to the more undulating terrain on the Mornington Peninsula.

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Over the first week-end, we drove to Geelong for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Races. We’d passed on this race last year because the weather had been very wet. This time around the weather was beautiful and we stationed ourselves at the yacht club – facilities, food, big screen, close to start and finish line – for two great days of racing.  

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We had planned to watch some of the stages of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour but finally settled for just stage one’s individual time-trial once we realised the latter stages were in the back of beyond, over 400kms from Melbourne! While I’m not one to pass up on the opportunity to watch live sport, I felt a few days just chillin’ before flying to Dubai would be perfect. In addition, my beloved could continue to build his base mileage for the new cycling season in Europe. 

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Our days soon fell into our usual routine of early breakfast, exercise, lunch out, followed by a spot of moseying around, largely on the Mornington Peninsula. We love Mounts Martha and Eliza, the hinterland around Red Hill and Arthur’s Seat, and the beaches on the wilder Southern Ocean coast. We took the opportunity to visit a number of farm and vineyard restaurants while the weather was warm and dry.  

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I had a potter around the shops for gifts to take back to family and friends. I also went shopping for a swimsuit. The shops here have a dizzying selection, and the sales had already started. Typically none of the ones I liked were in the sale. Instead I fell in love with what must have been the most expensive suit in the shop. Still, it fitted, made me look slimmer and was extremely flattering. You can’t put a price on that, can you? 

Wednesday afternoon, we took the train into Melbourne to watch the Jayco Herald Sun Tour team presentation and short prologue. One of my VeloVoices’ colleagues is a huge Kenny Elissonde fan so I interviewed him using her questions. I managed to pose most of them, not necessarily in the same order. It was kind of strange interviewing a rider with someone else’s questions, albeit really good questions. However, my colleague was delighted so I might find myself doing it again.

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Thursday we had lunch at an olive farm with a great menu for me and enjoyed a post-lunch stroll around the grounds admiring their veggie garden. Friday we ventured into one of the major cycling clothing shops to check out the latest Australian kit, all in the interest of research you understand! My beloved is now the proud owner of some navy blue kit. 

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Over our final week-end the weather has been spectacular and after our morning work-out we made farewell visits to some of our favourite spots before returning to lounge on the beach and reflect on our magnificent trip. We’ll definitely return to Australia but it probably won’t be until my beloved retires so that we can spend at least three months here. While it would be nice to return next year, I don’t think we’ll be able to take such a long break away from Europe while he’s still working. In fact, next year’s Christmas vacation is already organised. We’ll be spending a month cross-country skiing (weather permitting) in Seefeld (Austria) in an apartment we last stayed in many summers ago – another trip down memory lane!