Since Rod’s last chemo treatment at the end of September and our son Lachlan’s wedding in October, Rod and I again got itchy feet and decided more travel is in order.
This time it started with a band. Rod has always liked The Dead Kennedy’s, a ’70s punk rock band from the USA. They came to Australia for a little tour but weren’t coming to Perth. This meant (of course!) a trip to Melbourne for us to see the band!
Since we were going cross country, we thought we’d make an adventure of it by hiring a car and driving up to the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s wine regions we hadn’t been to. As a child I lived in the area with my parents and sister, but it was a short lived 2 years and I was a short-stuff kid of 8-10 years, so naturally hadn’t known about the developing local wineries. These days, there is a lot on offer in the lovely Hunter Valley, so we were excited about making this trip.
To round out the trip, we contacted friends in Melbourne to arrange our catchups, more friends in Canberra who invited us to stay, more friends who live in the Hunter Valley (who also kindly invited us to stay), and yet more friends in Sydney who invited us to stay over on our last night before flying home. This trip meant I spent lovely time with some of my oldest (longest serving!) friends who date back to my childhood – Carolyn and Linda from my school days in Malaysia, Jacqui from our teen years, and Gerry from my days as a new mum in my 20s, so this was a really lovely trip for me in particular, in many ways. Keep your good friends through the years; these are the people that help create fun times, joy and some of life’s best memories!
Arriving in Melbourne for the weekend, Jacqui and Greg had planned a special extravaganza dinner at their beautiful home as a surprise birthday dinner for their visiting friends from the UK, and had insisted that we come along to join in. This meant getting dressed to the nines in black tie and cocktail outfits and being sumptuously wined and dined with a custom menu of fresh, local and indigenous ingredients and delicious wines. What a fabulous night!
We spent a lovely warm evening enjoying the sights and tastes of South Bank with Caz & Andrew’s company, even being surprised with fireworks over the river since it was spring racing carnival in Melbourne.
The band were good fun, we managed to scored a great table at the balcony overlooking the stage, front and centre. Although I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs (I think I’d listened to one of them from Rod’s playlist once) and couldn’t hear the words through the volume, I really enjoyed watching a bunch of young people throwing themselves about (literally!) in the mosh pit. We can add that to the huge list of bands we’ve seen together over the years.
Collecting our hire car the next morning, we realised it was Melbourne Cup day and that was a bonus for us because the streets were all deserted and we could escape the city without any stress.
Unfortunately our friends in Canberra had a setback with Sue being in hospital when we arrived, but we still managed to visit and reminisce about our shared experience living in a French village. Thankfully Sue is now out of hospital and on the road to recovery.
Then it was Hunter Valley time. The region is really easy to get to, being only about 1.5 – 2 hrs north of Sydney and the only traffic hassle was getting past the outer suburbs of Sydney itself. Once we arrived, we found lots of small towns from the coal mining days that are all fairly close to each other, along with lots of lovely wineries, gourmet foodie places and quaint galleries, stores and pubs. Linda and Ken were amazing hosts, putting us up for 4 days in their breathtaking rural property, taking us out to dinner with their friends and around to some of the best wineries for leisurely tastings. We visited Newcastle and checked out our old family house in Woodberry.
While there, we also took the opportunity to try something I’ve wanted to do for years – ballooning!
Ballooning always happens at dawn which isn’t just for fun, it turns out that is the optimum time of day where the air temperature differs enough from the ground temperature to allow the pilots to fly the balloons. The pilots are pretty good too – ours managed one of the largest balloons that flies in Australia with a basket of 24 passengers, manoeuvred us up and down to various heights to get great views of everything, and then landed us right on target and very very gently in a field at the end. After helping to pack up the balloon, we were taken to Petersons winery for a champagne breakfast, a perfect finish on a stunning spring morning. It was definitely worth getting up before 4am for this experience!
Our last leg of the trip was then a relaxing drive back to Sydney to enjoy a night in Little Bay with Gerry and Bob, with time for a little explore before flying home. We took Scruffy the dog for a nice walk along the Mosman Bay area then enjoyed a yummy fish & chip picnic under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while looking across to the Sydney Opera House. It was another stunning spring day and a lovely way to end our trip.
Thank you to all our wonderful friends who offered us such amazing hospitality – it was a really great holiday!