Friday, 7 October 2011

Back to Sydney and around for Part III - A trip to the Hunter Valley...


And a good Saturday evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  The Bull woke up about 9:30 today, but I'm really scoring that as 7 AM, as there was a 2.5 hour window between 3:20 and 5 AM where Sammy was WIDE AWAKE after his alarm went off.  The girls were up at 3:20 and out the door just before 4, and I was left lying there in bed with a mind and body screaming, "Wait, it's the weekend - you ALWAYS do the early flight - why aren't you headin' to the Budget Terminal for your staple of McGriddles and coffee?"  I logged 4 miles on the treadmill at an 8:07 pace, and the run felt easy most of the time.  I will definitely stick between 3-6 miles for the rest of the year, as it a) takes so much less time, b) I really need to built up a much stronger cardio base, and c) it enables me time and energy to cross-train a bit more.  Not that I'm going to be "clipping in" anytime soon, but I do enjoy biking - simply because I can continue reading "Noble House" whilst working out.

So, when we last left you Down Under, the Bull and Striker had roamed the city throughout Saturday, walking around Darling Harbour, by the Opera House, and some of the other haunts.  In this post, however, we're going on a road trip - out to the Hunter Valley!

So a little back story here - the Hunter is the wine region closest to Sydney, about a 2 hour drive away.  I loved it, as the countryside once you leave the city is not only GORGEOUS, but it honestly reminded me of East Tennessee (Rice - it goes back to the point you made so long ago...) in many aspects - rolling hills, fields of green, cows and barns scattered throughout - lots of similarities.  What was NOT similar, however, were roadsigns that said KANGAROO CROSSING NEXT 15 KILOMETERS.  Seriously - you always see it in pictures, but that sign really is everywhere.  Unfortunately the only 'roo we saw on the drive up was a dead one (HUGE) on the side of the road, but I'm happy to report we fared better the next day.

The boys drove up in one car, with the girls following in the other.  We reached the Crown Plaza (part of the hotel chain that Dean works for) in the afternoon and checked into our Villa, which was EXTRA AWESOME.  Seriously - this place was GREAT - a huge place with 3 bedrooms, a massive kitchen, and a bathroom you could play baseball in.  However, the lodging was not the featured attraction - it was time to hit some wineries!!!!  And so we rolled out for the day, hitting 2 wineries and procuring 3 bottles between the four of us.  I wasn't a big fan of the first place (Bartolo), but Dommy LOVED their sparkling wine (neon pink in color).  The second place(Huntington Hill), however, was EXCELLENT, and we sampled some GREAT stuff - most notably some simply fantastic Shiraz bottles (Shiraz and Vardelho are two popular grapes there, but Shiraz is more common in Victoria - "groovy grape" land.  The featured grape of the Hunter is semillion, which we didn't try until Monday - SOOOOOO GUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies...) including "Heavy Metal Shiraz" - normally not available for sampling. 

We rolled to a third winery that was closed for the day, but their cheese shop was still open!!!  Sammy was in HEAVEN - I bought 4 kinds of cheese (for ~$40 - worth every penny), and they served as a DELISH appetizer for us prior to our FANTASTIC dinner.  The girls hit the grocery store to procure the goods, whilst Dean and I showed them how Fathers (and Fathers to be, knock on wood) roll when it comes to feeding the kids, getting their baths, and putting them in their pj's.  I was on food duty, and I was bloody LEGEND when it came to scooping up that fruit with the spoon - Sammy V, beware - you will be powerless against my airplane-spoon game.

The girls in action, with Dommy showing that yes, mothers
really can do ANYTHING with one hand...
When the girls returned, Jenny had a surprise that I was thrilled about - KANGAROO MEAT!!!  Now for those of you rolling your eyes, DON'T HATE - it's 99% lean and WICKED tasty.  However, as Dean and Dom are vegetarians, we had to cook in separate pots.  I think Dean was more broken up about the fact that his guests were "eating the national symbol," and he had some GREAT lines about us "flesh eaters salivating every time we saw the kangaroo sign on the roads" over the next couple of days. :-)  All joking aside, the meal was GREAT, complete with chili-filled cheese, bleu cheese, GREAT Aussie cheddar, and of course the featured dish - Mexican!  That's right - you haven't liven until you've had tacos stuffed with kangaroo meat - for us it was the culmination of culinary fusion.  Sooooooooo guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud....

We spent the night catching up and polishing off a few bottles of wine before sacking out around 10:30-11.  Yes, it was an early night, but again Sammy the Bull learned about his potential future when, at 6:30 AM, there were two beautiful but wide awake children running around.  However, once again D & D sacrificed and kept them in their room until about 8:30, when we finally stirred. 

We like to call this the Jones "J Crew" Christmas Cover...
We rolled out about 11:30, hitting a pair of other wineries before rolling over to a pub for a GREAT lunch.  Also, they had Bluetongue, a local beer in the Hunter that I'd never heard of.  And so Team Taylor and Team Aussie had a DELISH lunch with a spectacular view looking out at the mountains surrounding the area.  And the best part?  There was a MOON BOUNCE! :-)  Seriously - Charlotte was a kid in a candy store, bouncing around like a Jack Russell Terrier in there - it was SO CUTE.  Games for the kids, booze for the adults, someone else driving on a perfect day - it pretty much was the greatest thing EVER.

We then rolled back to Sydney, passing a field of kangaroo on the way home!!!  That was just AWESOME, as I'd never seen them in the wild before.  It was a terrific end to a brief but fantastic getaway, and I was all smiles as we rolled back into Manly, feeling at peace with the world and thrilled about the fact that I had still one more day off before going back into the office.  We'll talk about that last day tomorrow - stay tuned. :-)

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and (most likely on a beach with a Chang in hand) Jenny

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