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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Trip #2–Weekend in the Yarra Valley

 

After reading through a few of the visitor guides of Victoria I had picked up at the information centre, it was time to head out and explore some of our great state. Why not make the first stop the Yarra Valley. I’d been to the Yarra Valley once before for a friend wedding while I was living in Adelaide. But while that was a great weekend away, it was a quick trip and we didn’t have a chance to explore.

So after brunch in Melbourne with friends we started the short drive (I was surprised how close it actually is to Melbourne!) into the valley with Marysville in mind as our first stop. Apparently Victoria’s highest waterfall is just outside Marysville, so why not check that out before we get into the trying out the great produce from the area.

The Black Spur drive between Healsville and Marysville was a highlight. The massive trees tower over you on both sides of the road as you wind your way through the hills. It was clearly evident that this was bushfire country, with many of the trees still blackened from the Black Saturday fires which devastated the area. Years after it does add to the beauty of the area, with the contrast of the black against the magnificent green of the new regrowth.

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Black Spur drive

Driving into the tiny town of Marysville it was evident the town had been devastated in the Black Saturday fires of 2009, not just the still blackened trees, but in the fact the everything here was new, I don’t know what the tiny town was like before Black Saturday so I can’t make any comparisons, but considering it was winter the town seemed to be getting back on its feet. The other thing that surprised my was that Marysville had a very alpine feel, not just because we were in the hills, but more so in the architecture and apparently they get snow here. Maybe it’s just my naivety of my own backyard, but I never realised they got snow this close to Melbourne. While we didn’t see any snow while we were there it was apparently snowing just down the road at Lake Mountain.

After a quick look through town we headed out the road to check out Steavenson Falls (Victoria’s highest waterfall). A lovely little place we walked to the top of the falls and were rewarded with some beautiful views as the clouds rolled in over the hills.

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The view from the top of Steavenson Falls

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A quick pit stop at the Black Spur pub for a cider!

Back in Healsville we began the task of finding somewhere to stay for the night. We had left Melbourne that morning with the plan that we weren’t really sure where we wanted to stay and we’d just see what happened, so the tent was in the boot (just in case!), or we could always pop back down to Melbourne if we got stuck. We were lucky enough to find one room left available at the Yarra Gables Motel, a cute little place on the edge of town. After getting all the local tips from the reception of where to head for tea and then for drinks afterwards we were ready to hit the town and see what it had to offer. And it was a good night out! If you’re ever in Healsville make sure you check out Grind N Groove, yes we were a little sceptical when we were told that’s where we wanted to go out for the night, but its a cool little bar and we were treated to a fun night out of live music and good banter.

Day 2 saw us with a goal to find at least one of each of the following:

Cider

Wine

Cheese

Chocolate

To say we were successful in achieving our goals would be a massive understatement and a LOT of self control was required (especially since we were driving back to Melbourne that afternoon to head to the footy!)

Our first stop of the morning was the local Healsville market and it was a typical local market. They had everything from old pieces of junk (or what I considered junk!), homemade jams and plenty of knitted things and we made our first purchase of the day, fudge! A lovely little girl who made fudge with her mum during the school holidays and sold it at the local markets.

Then it was off to the local bakery for breakfast and to wait for the White Rabbit brewery to open so we could begin our day tasting the produce the Yarra Valley has on offer. 

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                 White Rabbit Brewery, Healsville                -                  Learning about the process of brewing

We tasted and purchases a few goods at the White Rabbit Brewery and headed out of Healsville and across to Yarra Glen in search of wine. Not a hard task, but we wanted to find somewhere small and local. We stumbled across a lovely little winery just our of Yarra Glen, Yileena Wines. It was exactly what we were looking for, a small boutique winery. The owner of the winery was absolutely lovely and you could tell he loved what he did. He took us through nearly a dozen different wines, as well as some of their smoked products. We probably could have stayed here all afternoon if we hadn’t been driving, so we made a few more purchases and headed off to our next stop.

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                              Yileena Wines           -             They also had donkeys to keep the kids entertained

Next stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolatier & ice creamery. This was a massive new place & it was packed! Mainly with families and kids. We got ourselves some delicious ice-cream and got out of there. It was way too busy for us! One thing I really likes about this place though, was that they had a heap of cricket bats, footballs, tennis balls etc. for kids to place with on the massive grass area. Definitely a great place to stop with kids. Therefore we moved on quickly! Ha

And onto somewhere more our taste. Yarra Valley Dairy. This cute little farm stop offered up some delicious cheese options and again it was a matter of self control to only purchase one of the cheeses we tried.

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Our mission completed we thought we’d begin the journey back to the big smoke, but along the way we passed the Punt Road Winery and thought it would be rude not to stop in and try the Napoleone Cider which we had tried at the pub the day before and enjoyed.

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We arrived back in Melbourne feeling pretty please with our weekend away. We’d seen some beautiful countryside, meet some lovely people and brought some good food and wine home for later. Definitely recommend heading up for a weekend away!

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Yep, it was a pretty successful weekend!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Catchup Feb-July


So I have been asked a couple of times in the last few months by some loyal fans (mum's can be considered fans right!?) when my next blog post was coming. Unfortunately my reply was that the current post I was working on was a little too depressing and hopefully I would have something soon...... So keep your excitement at bay, because I have a new blog ready for you (I can just hear the excitement from you all!!). But firstly I thought I had better fill you all in as to what's been happening since my one and only post back in February..... as its now the end of July........ The first thing I will admit to you all is that yes the travel depression got to me! Don't get me wrong I am enjoying Melbourne, actually I'm loving it (when I get a chance to!) and I have been doing things, although none that really count as 'travel', but I have finally realised there was something getting in my way.......     This included: 1. Settling back into full time work - Let me tell you after not working for nearly 9 months and spending a lot of that time laying on beaches and wandering through old town city streets, it was a bit of a struggle adjusting back into a routine again. For about the first month I really did wonder how I had ever done it before! 2. Finding my way around - So this has been an enjoyable challenge, but it does take time and has maybe contributed to me feeling a little lost at times. Finding where to go to get a good coffee, or a cold beer have been fun. But there is also the mundane stuff, like finding where the best supermarket is or where to get your hair cut. 3. Finding people who want to explore as well - This is probably my biggest challenge. While I was away I was surrounded by people who wanted to get out and explore just as much as I did and so there was generally no shortage of mates to tag along on some kind of adventure. Back at home everyone (including myself) has some kind of commitment that restrict the same spontaneity. Plus I have been reminded that its tough starting again in a new city. You've got to learn everything over again. I had forgotten this, but the exact same thing has happened every time I have moved to a new city. It's easy to just remember the easy, good times, but when I look back at when I first arrived in Adelaide or London it was exactly the same. I loved where I was, but I also found it hard. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to remember that. So with a new renewed attitude I think I'm again on the right track to live up to the expectation of my blog. IMG_8289
I even went a bit crazy at the Melbourne visitor centre looking for inspiration!

Stay tuned for my next blog on my weekend away with a mate in the Yarra Valley!














Monday, 25 March 2013

Trip #1 – 6 days in New Zealand (February 2013)

Ok so I know I set myself the goal of exploring Australia and all the great things we have here.....but a call from across the ditch to visit some mates was too strong. Plus the fact that I will soon have a full time job and not be able to get away so easily was a great excuse for a quick trip over to Christchurch to visit our Kiwi neighbours.


Overlooking Christchurch from Victoria Park
 
The last time I was in Christchurch was 2009 and therefore this was my first visit since the 2011 earthquake. Although I had seen a lot of pictures and footage of the city since, it was still quite a shock to see the city still so completely devastated. Obviously since the Feb 2011 earthquake a lot of work has been done, and this is evident, but so much of the city is still a mess and will be still for many years to come.



Christchurch Cathedral

But there are many great things emerging from the devastation, the popup spaces are great to see and it was encouraging to see so many people returning to the city centre and the container mall area. Obviously the cordoned off sections of the city are an attraction to visitors and those wanting to see and understand just how much the city was destroyed by the earthquake. While at times it feels like you shouldn’t be in the city to look at the destruction, it is now part of the city’s history and something that needs to be remembered and not forgotten about.

 
The new container mall area in the city centre

But Christchurch isn’t just about what happened in the earthquake and while I was only there for a quick trip and to catch up with mates its somewhere definitely worth checking out before heading off to explore the rest of what New Zealand has to offer (there’s my New Zealand Travel Expert past coming back! But it’s true).

 
A couple of my favourite kiwis on the banks on the Avon

 
Ciders and cupcakes overlooking Lyttelton Harbour

As well as checking out Christchurch I also made a trip down to Akaroa for a night. This is a place I had always told my clients to check out, but had never actually been to myself (I wasn’t lying to them, enough people had told how much they enjoyed it for me to feel confident my clients would too!), but when the opportunity to check it out myself came up I jumped at it! And it was the cute little seaside town I had told people (phew!). While the town itself is a quiet seaside village, it’s the drive over to Akaroa that makes the trip really worthwhile, just remember two things - make sure your cars got a decent set of brakes and when in New Zealand sometimes the best view isn’t from the highest point.

View over Akaroa Harbour from the car park (it was a bit blowy)!

The same view after a half hour walk up the hill to the look out....

While on the Banks Peninsular I think we also managed to check out most of the bays around Akaroa harbour looking for a nice swimming spot. While the bays around the harbour don’t have great beaches for swimming, we managed to find a nice little bay for a swim. And while the water was, take your breath away, cold it made for a relaxing afternoon in the sun before heading back to Christchurch.


Tikao Bay

Six days flew by catching up with friends and a little bit of exploring, but two things stand out from my trip to New Zealand that will always draw me back to visit our neighbours across the Tasman.

Number one is the landscape. The colour of the water and how it contrasts with the landscape is amazing! My favourite landscapes involve water and mountains and in New Zealand you can get them both at once, maybe it was mainly because of where I was, but driving over the hills towards the coast, the landscapes were simply beautiful.

Number two is the people. They really are some of the friendliest in the world (even when they realise you’re an aussie!), I don’t know if it was just because we were out in the country, but everyone we met was up for a chat and interested in why we were there visiting.

Anyway I have probably rambled on enough about the great things of Christchurch, just go check it, and the rest of NZ, out for yourself (and please take me with you!).

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Challenge


The most common comment I get on returning to Australia after 2.5 years living and travelling in the UK & Europe is ‘How’s the travel depression?’ It is a serious question and problem, and while I won’t say my condition is as serious as depression, I do get a serious case of itchy feet quite often (don’t worry I have checked for tinier and all clear for that one). Therefore I have set myself a challenge of keeping the travel dream alive while back in Australia, for however long that may be.

We live in one of the best countries in the world and there is so much to explore at our own doorstep, so why not check it out now rather than waiting until I retire and buy myself a caravan (if I could afford one I would already be on the road joining the grey nomads, they seriously have the life!). Plus I can’t really take off again until I have had a large injection into my saving fund and I feel this challenge will be a good way to keep the travel depression symptoms as bay. For a little while anyway.

These shoes were made for walking......
So I have based myself in Melbourne and have decided the only thing to do is make the most of being back in Aus by trying to continue living the same lifestyle I lived while overseas. Part of that will be to explore the city as much as possible, like I would any other city in the world, and attend as many events and gigs as possible. Melbourne is perfect for this!
 


One of my goals living in the UK was a trip to Europe once a month (which I almost managed!), therefore my goal this year is a trip somewhere in Australia once a month. To be honest it will mostly be somewhere in Victoria, still trying to save money for the next big overseas trip, but as long as I get out of Melbourne it counts!

So there is the challenge and as I am new to the blogging world please be kind. I’m not the best with words and will try let my photos tell the story, but I hope you enjoy and I am able to keep the travel depression at bay! Any suggestions of places to visit and check out please let me know, I'm also always looking for travel buddies, so come and join me on an adventure!