Girl in the Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Vineyard Tour Wedding at Circa 1876 Hunter Valley Halls Road Walk Hunter Valley New South Wales

For somewhere that is less than 2 hours drive from Sydney, we don’t go to the Hunter Valley nearly enough. We were lucky to be invited to a gorgeous wedding at Circa 1876 between Christmas and New Years, however, and stayed at the Convent next door – a gorgeous boutique hotel that has now topped my list of affordable but luxurious places to stay in NSW.

The wedding itself was gorgeous, one of the nicest and most heartfelt weddings I have had the privilege of attending, and it was a great opportunity to explore the Circa 1876 vegetable garden that the restaurant uses to supply some of the produce for their dishes. The vegetable garden is large and varied, with lots of herbs, trussed tomatoes, globe artichokes and feathery fennel.

With only 48 hours to play in the Hunter (and temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade) we had a very laid-back day visiting vineyards after the wedding. We picked up the makings of a picnic lunch from Binnorie Dairy (which we enjoyed from our private balcony looking over the Convent gardens), and went for an afternoon swim in the hotel pool before hitting a few more vineyards in the early evening.  One of the best vineyards we visited was Petersons, where ‘John the Pom’ treated us to a special tasting in the private members room.

Stayed at: The Convent
Ate at: Restaurant Cuvee, Peterson House, Circa 1876, Binnoire Dairy
Explored: Hunter Valley Vineyards
Region Highlights: Broke, Pokolbin, Lovedale, Wollombi, Wollemi

How to Live Like A Traveler (Even When You Are Home)

How to live like a traveler (even when you are at home)
It can be really tough when you get that itch to travel, but circumstances prevent you from traveling too far or for very long.  A big year at work and our first year of having a mortgage to pay off mean that there hasn’t been much scope for overseas trips in the last 12 months, but I have developed some strategies to help keep myself sane and grounded when all I really want to do is take flight.  Here are some of the ways I help myself find that exhilarating and/or comforting feeling that travel always brings into my life.

Centre Yourself

Many mornings when I have to get up, shower and go to work, I try to visualise the excellent life place I was in when I was travelling solo for six months, back in 2013.  The physical place that represents my adventure mindset that I always end up returning is Whistler in Canada, because I was there in summer and the landscape, hiking and people I met were amazing.  I felt so free and grounded there.  Most mornings when I am in the shower, shampooing my hair etc, I imagine I am back in the shower of my dorm at the Whistler Hi Hostel.  This helps me start the day with the same peace and sense of wonder that I have when I am travelling.  Every day is an opportunity to recapture the person I was that summer.

Prepare Your Body for Future Travel

Traveling requires endurance, and we are often far more active when traveling than when at home.  Lately I experimented with being as active and adventurous in Sydney as I am when traveling, and found it really lifted my spirits.  I bought new active wear that I love so much I would wear it all day if I could, and started getting up at 6am at least 3 mornings a week to take the dog for a 7 km walk around Sydney Harbour near our house in Balmain.  I also started cycling 10 km to rock climbing twice a week and going for drives to the beach on weekends for an early morning swim.  Not only do I feel much more fit, strong and capable, I feel encouraged by the fact that I am living the same active life that I would be if I were off on a long adventure. Let’s just say that I have already started my training regime for a life of future travel.

Downsize Your Possessions

After having been home for a while, most of us tend to start to accumulate possessions again. While I love having shelves full of books, an ice cream maker, and at least three big fluffy petticoats for wearing under vintage dresses, I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that I have.  I often lie in bed at night doing an audit of my wardrobe, working out what would make the cut if I were to head off traveling, and what would stay behind.  I’m making a point at the moment of selling or getting rid of a lot of possessions that I just really don’t need in my life any more, and whenever I buy anything new I think about whether this is something that will help me in the future if I decide to live a more transient life.

Make the Most of Your Weekends

Even when you work full time, there are weekends (especially long weekends) when you can get out of the city and go somewhere different.  Even though it has been a very busy year without any overseas trips (NZ doesn’t count), I have been lucky enough to go on several short trips in the last year, including to Queenstown, Noosa, Melbourne, Mudgee, Brisbane, Tasmania, and the Hunter Valley.  Even if you can’t jump on a plane or drive for three hours, there are still plenty of ways to explore your own backyard.  Check out national parks near your home, cheap rental properties near the beach for the weekend, special excursions like walks or kayaking trips.  I especially like We Are Explorers, an Australian community of adventurers who curate awesome microadventures that you can go on close to home.

Travel in Your Own City

Even if we spend much of our time dreaming of far-off or exotic locations, most of us are actually not that great at spending time alone.  If you are thinking about traveling in the future, or just want to capture that magic travel feeling, try wandering your own city.  Pick a suburb you have never been to before and visit for the day, go to museums alone, take solo ferry journeys, take a book to a restaurant or cafe with good atmosphere and eat out alone, visit bookstores and art galleries.  Exploring your own city is a great way to revisit that sense of wonder you carry with you when you travel and gives you a chance to see your own home with fresh eyes.

Travel in Your Own Mind

Even if you can’t leave your home any time soon, there is no reason why you can’t expand your own experiences.  Read world literature, watch foreign films, and cook meals from other cultures.  Food is one of the most amazing things about traveling, and is something we savour and remember long after we have moved on to our next destination.  A great way to live like you are travelling is to eat food from the places you would like to go (or have been).  We love French and German Rieslings and have been thinking about going to Alsace for a long time.  We planned to spend a month in France in 2017, with part of that time spend in Alsace, but unfortunately (due to a number of circumstances) it looks like we may not make it in the next 12 moths.  But last night, to help myself imagine myself there, I cooked Coq au Riesling, and it was delicious.  You would be surprised how many ways there are to travel to a place you have never been, even when you are in your own living room.

Melbourne Day Trip: Macedon Ranges, VIC

Granite Hills Winery, Macedon Ranges

Just an hour from Melbourne, The Macedon Ranges offer a perfect out of town day trip.  Even in rainy September, this hilly rural area was on fine display with daffodils blooming everywhere as the towns and vineyards en route celebrated the coming of spring.

If you are planning on wine tasting, aim for a Friday or Saturday when more vineyards are open. On the Thursday we set out, there were 7 easily identifiable vineyards open for tastings, but they were spread out over a wide area and we had to plan our route.  Granite Hills in Baynton was our pick of the bunch with a smart cellar door, a welcoming host and an impressive range of fragrant and complex cool climate wines.

After hitting a few vineyards we stopped in trendy Kyneton for a late lunch.  The main drag Piper Street is full of edgy and interesting artisan clothing, antique, homeware and culinary stores housed in historic shopfronts (vintage homewares store Kabinett was particularly awesome). Right in the middle  of Piper Street is historic pub The Royal George Hotel, revisioned five years ago as a low key hipster mecca, complete with taxidermy, peeling wallpaper, a large range of craft beers.  The chilled out modern folk on the stereo on the day we were dining included Blitzen Trapper, Bright Eyes and Dana Falconberry.

It would be easy enough to head on from Kyneton to Daylesford and make a proper weekend of it, but as we had to return our rental car by 6pm, we headed off from Kyneton at about 4pm for an easy 60 minute drive back to the Melbourne CBD.  I’ve already started looking for Airbnb properties to rent for a weekend in the future, though.

Ate: Red Duck Curry and Mornington IPA at The Royal George Hotel
Explored: Macedon Vineyards, including Hanging Rock and Granite Hills
Region Highlights: Kyneton, Daylesford

Girl In Melbourne

melbourne-capitol

A sneaky mid-week trip to Melbourne recently provided a chance to catch up with friends and find some much needed relaxation.  We fine dined, soaked in baths, visited museums, did some shopping, played some pool and had a glorious day trip in the Macedon Ranges.

A few years ago, Tourism Victoria had a great ad campaign with the tagline ‘get lost in Melbourne’, and staying in the Capitol Building near Flinders Lane, Little Collins Street, and Degraves Street was a great way to get lost in all the laneways and arcades full of curious little shops and cafes.  I loved that every time I turned a corner there was a choice which way to explore, and that could find so many different ways from street to arcade.  If you are planning to visit Melbourne, I would definitely recommend staying right in the thick of it.  Melbourne is such a walkable city and so fun to explore to exhaustion, and with a new free tram zone in the city centre it’s even easier to get around and also venture further afield.

Stayed at: A Capitol Building Apartment booked with Airbnb
Ate at: Attica, Horse Bazaar, Mess Hall, Journal, Queen Victoria Markets
Relaxed at: Onsen Ma Japanese Bathhouse
Explored: Macedon Ranges wineries
City Highlights: Melbourne CBD Laneways, Ripponlea, Fitzroy

Rainy Spring Melbourne Packing List

rainy

We’re off to Melbourne for four days on Wednesday, and the weather forecast says rain, rain and more rain. It makes sense as it’s just turned Spring here in Australia, and Springtime up and down Australia’s East Coast is always a bit rainy. But I didn’t quite plan for this, and am now drastically changing my packing plans.

Outer Layer
Apart from Summer, when it’s hot everywhere, it’s always about 5-10 °C colder in Melbourne than Sydney. Because of the chill factor, I was planning on taking my favourite cold weather outer layer, a gorgeous oxblood red wool cape from Cue. This isn’t going to be very practical if it’s all rain all the time, however, so I think I’ll just stick with my trusty Paddy Pallin rain parka. I have had my rain coat for years, and intentionally bought a black one because I knew it would be perfect for incognito rainy days in the big city as well as for tramping (hiking) and rainy country days with my parents in New Zealand.

Footwear
There is really only one pair of shoes I wear during rainy weather, and it’s my black R.M. Williams boots. My trusty turnouts are slim and dainty enough to wear with skirts or dresses, but are also the perfect utilitarian match for a pair of skinny jeans. They are so waterproof: I have stepped out of cars into overflowing gutters and walked through creeks and never got a wet foot, ever. Unlike some shoes which just won’t survive a drenching, they always dry fine. With a nice cushioned pair of ice breaker running socks or a luxe pair of thick hand knitted alpaca socks they are comfy all day, even when there is lots of walking involved. In anything but the middle of summer they are my go-to shoes for any city break or rural ramble.  Even better, because they slip on and off, I will be wearing this bulky item on the plane.

Bottoms
I could totally stand to take just one pair of jeans, but I like options, so will be taking my grey Citizens of Humanity Rocket jeans and my black Frame Le Skinny de Jeanne jeans. Both are durable, soft, comfy, stretchy, withstand damp weather and repeat wears without washing. If I want to dress them up I will throw on a silk kimono top or a camisole and blazer.

Tops
But to be honest, because it’s Melbourne, I will probably just live in a soft bamboo singlet and chambray button down shirt, or a tshirt and merino cardigan. I would rather be comfortable than fancy, and just sewed a gorgeous scarf out of a soft Nani Iro double gauze fabric in a vibrant blue, so I can use that to jazz up my outfit if I feel a bit drab.

Fancy
We are going out to dinner to Attica, and I should probably dress up a little, so I will make an exception to my comfy and casual rule, and pack a nice little black dress from Camilla and Marc (this one is similar) to wear. I guess if it’s rainy I should probably pack some stockings and a pair of heels (or booties?). And maybe an umbrella…

Girl in Mudgee

 

walterwinesskimstoneskimstonedoor

A quick weekend away in Mudgee, New South Wales over Easter has left me with a new favourite place near Sydney.  Mudgee is a gorgeous little town four hours drive from Sydney, with vineyards in all directions, and some superb places to eat and rest.  I like that it’s a very flat region, making it perfect for cyclists.  There are also some gorgeous vineyards and very special places to stay nestled into the surrounding hills.  The golden light in the mornings and evenings shining down on the valley and the layers of hills is just divine.

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