Monday, 3 May 2010

Autumn in Spring

Tom and I are very confused. Last week we had a wonderful autumnal long weekend in one of Victoria's best loved country hideways, where the air was crisp and the leaves on the trees were stunning shades of yellow, orange and red. But isn't September, or October, or even November.. it's April! Having Autumn during 'Spring' just feels wrong, but luckily that’s where the complications ended for our beautiful weekend in Daylesford.

Located ninety minutes north of the city of Melbourne, Daylesford is a popular romantic getaway for city-types, and is one of Australia's best natural spa towns - think a tiny version of Bath, but without the Romans. We had booked two nights at a local B&B and set off armed with a picnic and the Lonely Planet, but otherwise were relatively unprepared (I usually have an itinerary of events for weekends such as this!).

Our first stop was Hanging Rock, which is a volcanic rock formation, and therefore a very topical place to visit! We climbed the rock and ‘enjoyed’ the scenic views which were unfortunately obscured by lots of low cloud. (Chris – I don’t think it was a noctilucent cloud, or I would have taken a photo.) I’d been totally unprepared for how much cooler it is inland compared to the coast, and as a result was very underdressed - luckily though it was a steep climb which helped to keep me warm. The rock was (apparently) famously used as the location for the 19070s film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ – so naturally we had a picnic ;-)

Me at Hanging Rock

Next it was on to Daylesford where we checked into our B&B, Cherry Tree Cottage. After an initially unwelcoming 10 minutes whilst we waited for the owner to appear, we were shown into a beautifully designed 2 bedroom annex, complete with log fire, champagne in the fridge and chocolates on the bed. Tom and I each spotted something that was missing though – no TV in the bedroom (that was Tom) and no proper door to the toilet (me!). Ho hum, who needs TV and privacy anyway?! I might sound critical, don’t worry I was much more favourable in my Tripadvisor review! The shower was one of these trendy roses hanging above a traditional claw-foot bath tub in the middle of the bedroom. It looked beautiful, but not cosy. So, when Tom showed signs of softening to the idea of going to a spa, I leaped at the chance for a decent shower and off we went!

We visited the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, which is a mineral water spa dating back to 1895. Thankfully there has been some considerable modernisation since it first opened, and we loved relaxing in the different pools. I say ‘we loved it’ – I certainly loved it and I think Tom tolerated it very well!

All afternoon we’d been counting down to our dinner reservation at super-fancy restaurant The Lake House. With two Chef’s Hats, The Lake House is one of Victoria’s most respected restaurants. Chef’s Hats are like Michelin Stars, but probably not quite as hard to get! Unfortunately we couldn’t get a reservation before 9.30pm, which is late for us – we’re really not that rock and roll. I was worried about staying awake, Tom was worried about fitting all the food in, and more importantly 9.30pm took AGES to come around! Eventually we were seated and the fun began! Tom had the most extravagantly named starter – ‘Five tastes of the sea’ – and it was spectacularly presented. For main course I had snapper with came with the best cous cous I’ve ever tasted – shame there was only half a teaspoon of it! Dessert stole the show however... five sharing dishes including quite possibly the best chocolate fondant I will ever eat in my life! We had a great night and went home sleepy, a bit heavier in the belly and a lot lighter in the purse!

Our pudding plate at The Lake House - sorry about the poor photo quality from my iPhone - I was too embarassed to get a proper camera out!

After all the raving about fancy food, the following night we had the *best* pizza to date in Australia at the Koukla wood fired pizza cafe. At around one quarter the price of The Lake House, the $ per ‘yummy noise’ ratio was much favourable, and Tom still hasn’t stopped talking about how good it was!

Before our pizza, we had spent the day that Ballarat Wildlife Park, which was another opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s wildlife. We loved feeding the kangaroos, and they were well trained at spotting the tourist with a bag of seed – we couldn’t keep them away!

Crocodile feeding time!

Yogi the koala!

On the same weekend that Tom and I were in Daylesford, my good friend Sally ran the London Marathon in aid of the Spinal Injuries Association. Tom thought I was crazy as I jumped around our B&B room cheering Sally out loud , “Run Sally, run!”. She finished in a great time, so it must have worked ;-) Well done Sally!

Since we’ve been back in Melbourne we’ve continued the usual routine. Ballet, wine tasting, gym etc are all ticking along nicely, and this weekend Canadian-friend-Tamara and I added Deep Water Running to the training schedule. It was hilarious, if you’re curious I suggest you look it up on You Tube as there isn’t space here to describe it! UK-colleague Gail and her boyfriend Jon arrived in Melbourne last week – see their blog at Jon and Gail’s Aussie Adventure - and so our expat community has grown again. We celebrated their arrival in style with Tom’s signature Beef Wellington a la Gordon Ramsey– it was so yummy I’ve almost forgotten about the pizza last week!

Until next time....

The Australian term for 'X-Large' eggs!

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