12 days of Christmas: Day 11

It’s perhaps inevitable that after another fabulous vacation in Australia so many of the photographs are from our last trip there. My two younger sisters are dedicated sun-worshippers and couldn’t get over the number of photographs of totally empty beaches I posted on Facebook, such as this one on the Mornington Peninsula. But many of the beaches are dangerous, I’m not talking sharks but riptides which could easily sweep you out to sea. However, I just loved those miles of empty sandy beaches bordered by greenery and pounded by the waves.  I think they look wild and remote. Perfect for a spot of chilling, but nothing more.

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 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!

Postcards from Melbourne II – Yarra Valley

All too soon, we were on the final lap of our vacation. The time had just flown past. We chilled at a Vineyard Spa hotel in the Yarra Valley where the roads were quiet, albeit undulating, which afforded us plenty of opportunities to explore the nearby towns on two wheels. As before in Adelaide, we watched the cycling, this time the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, two stages of which started close to where we were staying.

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Yarra Glen

 

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Healesville

Once more, we self-catered for some meals and ate out for others, usually lunches at neighbouring vineyards and cafes. Most evenings we enjoyed watching the wildlife, mainly rabbits and the odd kangaroo, from our balcony, glass of local wine or beer in hand for my beloved and sparkling water for me. All very relaxing after a busy couple of weeks travelling.

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De Bortoli Vineyard and Restaurant

My beloved has been taste testing the local baked goods, particularly pies, scones and hot-cross buns from the many local bakeries. Sadly and very enviously, I’ve had to rely on his reporting of the tastiest pie, the lightest scone and the spiciest bun. British firm Greggs would have no chance in Australia as there’s so many excellent local, family-run bakeries. And so many cafes offer “cream teas” you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Devon, if it were not for the countryside and its miles and miles of vineyards.

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We found another excellent “local” in the next town which served its own craft beers, local wines with a small but excellent lunch and dinner menu. A number of breakfasts and lunches were also enjoyed at a nearby family-run organic café. In truth, we’ve been spoilt for choice and I’ve never been so well catered for on my new regime.

We also renewed our acquaintance with central Melbourne visiting both the Southbank – site of the Tour’s prologue – and the art gallery, where they staged the press conference.

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Jayco Herald Sun Tour Press Conference

 

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Melbourne

The Tour’s last two stages gave us an opportunity to re-visit and better explore the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland, two locations we’d much enjoyed on our initial leg from Melbourne to Sydney, where the roads and undulating landscape are perfect for cycling. Allegedly, Sky’s Chris Froome plans to spend January 2017 training in the Mornington Peninsula.

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Plenty of towering rain forests as well as vineyards

We’ve much enjoyed watching the wildlife, particularly the colourful birds despite their early morning raucous cries. Finally, I met my first koala bear on the road to Inverloch. He was casually sauntering across the road, we stopped to let him pass but he scampered off before I could take his photo – obviously paparazzi averse. They have very appealing faces and are surprisingly large, with thick fur and sharp claws – all the better to climb trees. The following day, we saw another koala but sadly this one had met an untimely end. I made my beloved stop the car to check, but riga mortis had already set in.

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Inverloch

You may recall I had three back massages in as many days at the start of our trip and then none for the next four weeks. My neck and shoulders were feeling stiff from all the riding and my frozen right shoulder had gotten worse. I know; I’m falling apart. While my beloved had his hair cut, I popped into a nearby Thai massage shop for a neck and shoulder massage. This tiny Thai woman, with hands of steel, administered 20 minutes of exquisite torture but I now felt so much better. I topped this off with another chair massage on the flight home.

We’ve never before taken such a long holiday but the time has flown. I’m now looking forward to going through and cataloguing all of my beloved’s photographs and discussing (and blogging further about) the best bits!