Archive for ‘travel’

October 22, 2011

Would you like a cappuccino with that withdrawal madam?

Wandering somewhat aimlessly around Richmond last week, (it was a lovely sunny Spring day), I came across a very cleverly designed and beautifully executed new hybrid. The owners have taken the old National bank building and turned it into a very glam antique shop merged with a coffee shop that offers a snug reading/sitting corner, indoor and outdoor seating, and a very pretty garden area. I couldn’t resist…

Cleverly called ‘The Bank Bazaar’

 it is open Mon – Fri from 9.30am until 5pm, Saturdays from 9.30am until 4pm and Sundays 10am until 4pm.

This sitting area looked so inviting but since it was such a nice day I opted to sit outside in the garden…

How cool…you can have lunch next to the original vault…

The courtyard area outside is shaded by a huge Jacaranda tree, which will look gorgeous in summer when it flowers…

I chose the smoked salmon and dill rissole, (poor MD had to work so I was flying solo), which was interestingly served with both salsa and a delicious youghurt and cucumber sauce…

And, of course I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to try one of the tempting cakes on show…this one was a coconut and lime…it was quite dense and not overly sweet…

October 8, 2011

A retro find in Richmond…

Let’s face it old is in again, and whether you prefer to call it vintage, antique, retro or just plain old, you’ll find something gorgeous at Queenie’s! On the main street of Richmond, it’s cute pink and white striped sign promises a shop full of interesting finds. From the swagged silk ceiling to the wooden counter top inlaid with mother-of-pearl it is an enticing mix of boutique and antique shop.

Straight out of the wardrobe department on Underbelly Razor…silk smalls…

If you pop into Queenie’s you’ll meet the lovely Kimberley…

And while you’re in Richmond there’s a few interesting old buildings to spot…

This is the Richmond School of Arts building…it was first opened in 1861 and is still used by aspiring thespians today…

There are quite a few beautiful Victorian mansions built in Richmond…I’m afraid they’re still privately owned so this is as close as I could get to this one…

St Andrew’s Uniting church was built in 1845, (of course, originally it was a Presbyterian church)…

September 25, 2011

Where the hell is St Albans?

Well, as they say in the classics, you’ll never never know if you never never go! St Albans is the countrified home of one of the oldest pubs in Australia…it’s proper name is The Settlers Arms Inn and the doors first opened in 1836. Made of convict hewn sandstone blocks it nestles prettily into a small village bordered on one side by a meandering stream/river called The MacDonald river and the other side by a real, actual mountain. Apparently it was a stop for the Cobb and co stagecoaches back in the 1800’s between Newcastle and Sydney. If you’re in the market for a lovely drive with the promise of a relaxing, delicious lunch or dinner at the other end I can’t recommend St Albans highly enough! There is a slight catch however, (and don’t say you weren’t warned), because it is so popular I would recommend a Saturday, (or preferably through the week), if you must go on a Sunday be prepared for a looong wait at the bar or for lunch – but, then again, it is Sunday…who needs to rush?

 And, now, to answer my title question – to get to this little hamlet of heaven follow these precise directions, (or you could just google maps it or use your phone nav thingy): head out to Wiseman’s Ferry, then just before the village itself, as you come to the bottom of the winding road turn left to get to the Webbs Creek Ferry, the ferry is free and runs 24/7, on the other side it is a very picturesque 22 km drive to St Albans itself, the road was dirt up until only a few years ago which tended to deter everyone but the most determined, now, however it is blissful bitumen.

The inside is a little difficult to photograph as it’s so dark in there…plenty of convict atmosphere but not so good for photos…

And check out the home-made cakes on the antique dresser, (more about that later)…

The hotel is set on a large area of parkland…if it’s a nice day bring a blanket and stretch out…(although you can’t bring a picnic, but who’d want to when the food there is so good)…

The food is ordered at the bar, then is brought out to you when it’s ready…there is a kitchen garden that supplies a lot of the fresh produce and the menu changes often according to the season and what is locally available…

I tried the zucchini, leek and mushroom tart, it was light and fresh tasting, set on the prettiest arrangement of salad I’ve ever seen…

MD had the beef pie with mash, it had big chunks of tender melt-in-your-mouth beef in a tasty vegetable laden gravy…

And now for the cake – as well as the desserts on the blackboard there’s three cakes sitting temptingly in the foyer under glass domes…I chose the chocolate, for a whole $4 a piece it was a bargain…and just as nice as it looks!!

The drive from Wiseman’s to St Albans has so much beautiful scenery I could’ve bored you stupid with so many scenery shots…but in the interests of good mental health I’ll confine myself to only a couple…I couldn’t resist this teeny old church and accompanying graveyard…

It’s called St Jude’s Anglican and the church was built in 1918, the surrounding graveyard has been in use since 1869…what a peaceful looking place to rest!!

September 6, 2011

Here is the church, here is the steeple…

which, unfortunately at the moment is getting a little bit of a facelift…restoration work is being done on St Matthew’s church in Windsor, but  at the ripe old age of 191 it deserves a little touch up or two! It has the distinction of being the oldest Anglican church in Australia, and it’s pretty cousin in countryside Ebenezer is the oldest church of any kind here. Designed by the now famous convict architect Francis Greenway, (who also designed the Windsor courthouse and St James church in Sydney), it apparently followed the style of the time and favoured clean lines with little ornamentation to distract the faithful – as requested by Governor Macquarie.

 

 The bricks used to build the church were all hand-made by convicts and vary in colour including pink, orange, red and brown, giving it what one contemporary called ” a delightful rosiness.”

 

 

The bell tower is a sister to the one at St James church in Sydney, both belfries were cast in the same foundry in London and were brought over on the same ship –  back in the day bells were an ideal way of summoning local landowners to church from miles away. The beautiful black and gold clock in the tower was a gift from King George 4th, (his father was immortalised in the great movie ‘The madness of King George’), as was the original bible which was used in St Matthew’s until 1937 when it became too fragile.

 

The semi circular area at the end of the aisle is called a reredos, (thank you Hawkesbury historical society  for all this interesting information), and it is positioned on the Eastern side of the church as it is believed that Christ when resurrected will return from the East. It has four columns holding up five arches in which are painted the Lords Prayer, Exodus XX, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed. The ceiling of the apse is painted in graduating shades of blue with gold stars representing the night sky – John Tebbutt, a local astronomer, (commemorated on the $100 note), lay on the floor and drew the stars in the positions they occupied that night.

 

 And, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool stained glass freak like me, there are some gorgeous examples to see, ranging from the simple to the amazingly ornate:

 

 

 The cemetery surrounding the church predates the church itself by ten years – it was in use from 1810, and is a veritable who’s who of historical figures from the area…it is the last resting place of Thomas Arndell, a first fleet surgeon, William Cox who built the first road over the blue mountains, as well as John Tebbutt whose family mausoleum is decorated with a celestial sphere on each of its corners:

 

Inside the church is a fascinating document, a hand drawn map of all the gravesites with names carefully inked in…it is behind glass so I couldn’t get a good enough photo unfortunately…

 

 

 

 

I had to take a shot of this amazingly ornate Victorian-era monument that sits in the forecourt directly in front of the church, I now know that it is made from Italian Carrara marble and was erected in 1882 by Mr McQuade the mayor, in memory of his daughter.  

 

July 20, 2011

Wentworth Falls: a cool place to visit

both literally and figuratively! MD and I drove up for the day on a sunny but really cold day in winter…it’s definately pack-your-thermals up there, so we had the perfect excuse to while away some time in a warm, cosy cafe. First on the agenda, however, was a visit to the oldest bridge still standing on mainland Australia – Lennox bridge. It is a little way off the beaten track but worth a visit…first head to Glenbrook, turn right at the McDonalds and follow that road towards Mitchell’s pass…you’ll almost literally bump into the bridge, unfortunately the road behind it that was the main route up to the Blue Mountains is closed now due to falling rocks.

 

The bridge was designed by David Lennox, a master mason with plenty of experience building major bridges in England and built by him and a party of 20 especially selected convicts using locally quarried stone – it took from November 1832 until July 1833 to build. Apparently David was taken by the good work of his men, as he petitioned for the pardon of 8 of them after work was finished! 

About a half hours drive up towards the Blue Mountains themselves lies the picturesque town of Wentworth Falls – it seems to specialise in cute, quirky little shops and enticing looking cafes – and we all know how much I like that particular combination!

This antique shop had not only lovely objects inside but beautiful tiles on the outside of the building:

 The original Wentworth Falls post office has been turned into one such cafe – I don’t know where the post office went to…but it certainly makes a lovely place to eat…

Inside was eclectic, cosy and warm, with a roaring open fire set in an antique grate…

 Although it was quite small that only seemed to add to it’s charm…there were a few tables scattered outside, but they were all taken, (plus it was a bit too nippy for me to eat outside, even in the sunshine!)

MD ordered a toasted turkish pide with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, it was fresh and delicious and at only $11.90 a good value lunch…

I went for the potato pancake with smoked salmon, the pancake was thick and chunky, just slightly sweet and the salad accompanying it had a really yummy whole grain mustard dressing…this one cost $14.50

Because we were too full to pack in dessert I took some photos of them just to show you, (even though I got some very strange looks from the other patrons)…

July 5, 2011

Carey and Co – charming curios in a Kurrajong cottage…

Try saying that six times fast! Another in my series of cool shops in Kurrajong…this little gem is a 1920’s cottage that has been carefully turned into one of those shops where every time you venture into another one of its little rooms you find yourself saying wow!!!

It’s name is Carey & Co, it opens from 9am until 5pm Tuesday – Sunday and just happens to be handily situated right across the road from Sassafras Creek restaurant, (they are both owned by a lovely lady named Natalie)…

From the big…(I seriously fell in love with this lounge)

to the small…(how cute are these hair clips)

For the kids…

to the mums…

and for other assorted odd bods and aunties…

They even sell a book about the history of the Kurrajong area…it has loads of interesting photos…

 

June 26, 2011

If you like your museums dainty…

and not some gigantic cavern like, say, the powerhouse, then I’ve got exactly the place to while away some time. The museum in Windsor is only two years old and, (I’m ashamed to say), that we hadn’t actually visited it until I realized that it would be a good place to feature on the blog. It’s built directly behind a clutch of some of Windsor’s oldest buildings and is a fusion of clean lines and modern architecture with convict remnants and locally important artifacts. Free to enter, the Hawkesbury museum is open from 10am until 4pm every day except Tuesday, and handily available in the foyer is a plethora of pamphlets on local historical sites to see as well as guided heritage walks.

I have to apologise in advance for the quality of the photos…the exhibits were mostly in glass cases and because of their age I couldn’t use the flash…

This metal surveyor’s chain dates from the 1880’s and was found in Wilberforce, they were used to measure roads and property boundaries, each chain was constructed of 100 links…

I kinda thought the whole ball-and-chain thing was a Hollywood invention, but they really were used…apparently male convicts who re-offended were made to build roads while chained together, each man’s leg irons weighed up to 6 kilograms…

This boat building tool box dates from 1890 and belonged to John Whatmore and his descendents John Thomas Books and Ebenezer Matthew Books, (thanks to the museum, by the way, for allowing me to photograph their exhibits and steal all their info)! The picture on the lid is hand painted and in beautiful condition considering its age…

You probably can’t read the text in this beautifully written advice-to-young-ladies book, it talks about contraception being a menace to both body and soul, as well as an insult to every right thinking man and woman. It also advises against first cousins marrying – and she’s not that crash hot on second cousins either!

These items were owned by Andrew Loder (1826 – 1900), whose initials are engraved in elaborate scroll text on the end of the handles…Loder was the grandson of John Howe, an early Hawkesbury explorer and chief constable who arrived on the Coromandel in 1802.

June 15, 2011

A sweet combination: sailing boats and German food

Tucked away quite out of sight to the casual observer, in the green paddocks of a suburb called Luddenham lies the yummiest German/Austrian restaurant I’ve yet to encounter in Sydney. It goes by the impressive sounding name of  The Hubertus Country Club and even though it’s a little bit of a drive from…well… anywhere really, the food and ambience is definitely worth it! You’ll have to hold onto your taste buds for a little bit, however, because before we get to the delicious bit I’ve some cool shots of the model sail boats that were merrily tacking and leewaying on the lake in the front of the clubs grounds.

This one was hand built from scratch by it’s owner…he said it had taken him 2 and a half years…partly because he kept getting called out of the shed by his wife…

We visited on a rather chilly winter Sunday…perfect for the warm heartiness of german food…

The restaurant itself is actually a part of the club, so although it is licensed you’ll have to sweet talk hubby into going next door to the bar to buy drinks – but that means pub prices, and they have a german pilsner on tap!!

As an entree we shared the amazing dish called langosh, $7.50. For the uninitiated it’s an airy soft bread that has been fried and is served with a topping of fresh crushed garlic and with a pot of sour cream to dip in – the texture is something akin to an un-sweet krispy kreme donut!

I chose the main course size of the stuffed cabbage rolls, ($24.50, or entree size $14.50), a dense filling of mince and rice encased in cabbage and served in a light tomato broth…those baked potatoes were the best I have ever had, (sorry mum), they were crisp outside, soft and fluffy inside and tasted like no ordinary potato has a right to taste…

MD being MD went for the most meat intensive offering he could find…the gypsy platter, ($32.50). This tower o meat was held together by a wooden skewer and consisted of: baked potatoes on the bottom, then a chicken schnitzel, a pork schnitzel, (both melt-in-the-mouth tender), a kransky sausage, two huge crumbed mushrooms and a lemon wedge!! Artfully heaped onto the plate around the sides was a delicious lemony potato salad, some token pieces of lettuce, and a cubed beetroot salad…

For dessert, (and yes, I know what you’re thinking – how on earth can she fit in dessert after all that food, well, at the Hubertus whatever you can’t eat can be packed into a little container and taken home), so it just had to be the strudel…it was served warm, with big chunks of firm apple pieces and a decadent handful of double cream…and at $8.50 was a steal! 

The Hubertus club has a rather unusual variety of entertainment options: it is also a pistol and rifle club…

the aforementioned model boat club and on the first Sunday of the month offers Fruehschoppen, (home-made German delicacies for sale), as well as old-time dancing in the beautifully decorated auditorium, complete with a live band!

May 31, 2011

Windsor markets: from bonsai to button necklaces

Continuing on from last weeks extravaganza about our local Sunday markets comes the other half of the promised post. While we’re at it I should probably warn you that the Windsor markets are primarily a craft market rather than a produce one, although there are a few stalls that offer fresh local produce, mainly its oh-my-god-that’s-so-cute type of stuff!! I was a little constrained by how many photos I could reasonably expect you to sit through so only featured the unusual stalls, many others sold clothes, handbags, snacks, plants etc so if that’s what you need its got you covered…

This weeks installment begins with bonsai carefully crafted by Chris and Cindy…the first one has been growing since the 90’s!

These bright and colourful wooden puzzles are handmade…any name, colour or combination of pictures can be ordered…

How cool are these metal sculptures…the proverbial flying pig and a chook! 

The stall is quite aptly named ‘Yeah, but it’s unique’, they used to be in a shop at Windsor mall but now can be found at the markets…

As you can see these jams are called ‘truly tasty’ and are made by a lady in Kurrajong…man, they’ve brought home a lot of ribbons!!

This stall sold the most gorgeous and detailed wooden dolls houses, it was very busy so I couldn’t get close enough to take more than these two photos, but they had every little girl’s dream, a house that opened completely on a hinge…as well as all sorts of miniature furniture, even teeny tiny food!

How beautiful are these colours, they are scented wax melts and the names sound positively delicious…just peachy, coffee break, strawberry fields, amber and patchouli, lavender lips, jazzy jasmine, rosie cheeks, luscious lime and kiwi kiss, to name a few… 

Mmmm…cake…pardon me while I drool a little…

How cute are the old-fashioned roses on the patty cases…

The sweet ladies-of-the-icing even make handmade flowers for you to buy and pop on top of your own cake!

A practical demonstration of the honey making process, it’s fascinating to watch the little guys work…

This stall offers everything you can think of that’s honey related: soap, beeswax furniture polish, clear honey, honey with the wax comb in it…

This apparatus I found really interesting…apparently it is an IVF system for reproducing the queen bee…not quite sure how…

This lady’s stall had masses of beautiful fuchsias all in flower…I had to just take one photo…

Fancy a carriage ride m’lady?

And now we come, dear reader, to the last of the stalls…these unusual and pretty creations are by Christine on Terrace, from Terrace Road, Freeman’s Reach…

May 24, 2011

Windsor markets: from Annie’s jam to vegemite teatowels

Every Sunday come rain, hail or shine, (well, within reason anyway), Windsor holds it’s markets. As the main street is paved to create a mall it provides the perfect traffic free area for strolling and gazing at the lovely local produce and bits n bobs for sale. It runs from 9am until approximately 3.30pm and is very handy to three historic pubs so hubby can take a load off while you’re shopping!

MD and I took a wander around them again on a lovely autumn day a couple of weeks ago…I got so caught up in the gorgeous items that I ended up taking 176 photos!! To save you from having to look at anywhere near that amount I will only be able to show a few from each stall I photographed, (and there were lots I didn’t), and I will have to do this post in two parts…so keep an eye out next week for the next installment!  Firstly, before we dive into the lovely colours of the pictures I must say thank you to all the generous stall holders who gave me permission to take them, if anyone would like a copy of the shots I took that day email me at: convictstock@hotmail.com and I’ll be happy to send them to you.

Here is where it all begins…next to our old post office…

Annie’s stall is first, with a colourful array of anything edible that can be put into a jar! 

Shiny things, snuggly things and dangly things…

These felted items were made by a lady named Denise Hill, if you look closely you can see the ribbon she won from the Castle Hill show for her beautiful scarf…

These colourful dishes caught my eye immediately…

How nice do these pretty, (and natural), handmade soaps look…and take it from me, they smell even better! They are made by a lady called Kim Julius, she has her own website at: www.kimsclassichandmadesoaps.com

 How’re these for some cute and quirky tea towels…and how patriotic is the vegemite one!

This is Nin – she makes delicious cakes, biscuits and slices…and she was the only one brave enough to have her picture taken…

May 17, 2011

Old buildings are what Windsor does best!!

 One of the reasons I love living in the Hawkesbury so much is that just by popping down to the local shops to buy a paper, (or maybe a cupcake or two), you can almost literally bump into so much history. Last Sunday MD and I meandered around Windsor looking at the markets, (more about them next week), and enjoying the autumn sunshine…I couldn’t resist taking a few shots of these interesting buildings…

Spoiler alert…this might get a little factual so if you have an allergy to dates turn off now!

The town of Windsor itself became the third settlement in the colony in 1794 and is the first of what became known as the ‘Macquarie’ towns.It was originally named the picturesque ‘Green Hills’ but was changed to the slightly more boring ‘Windsor’ in 1810 by Governor Macquarie after the town in England.

The first post office in Windsor opened in 1828 and was housed in many different buildings, including The Doctor’s House – more on that in a minute. This post office was built in 1879, it is now used as office space…

I’m afraid I could only get this close and had to shoot over the fence because this house is lived in by some lucky person…

This building is the very cute home of the National Australia Bank…I’m not sure but I think it was originally built as a bank, does anyone know for sure? There is another bank building at the other end of the paved mall that is now the home of a restaurant called ‘Vault 146’, the wine is stored inside the original vault, you can still see the heavy steel doors, it’s really cool – I’ll do a post on it sometime soon…

If this building looks a tad familiar it’s because I used some of the detail around the beautiful door for the banner at the top of my blog! It’s known as ‘The Doctor’s House’ and was built in 1819 as a pub called ‘The Lord Nelson’. From 1876 onwards the house was occupied by a succession of doctors – the first being a Dr Fiaschi, hence the name!

It sits proudly on the best piece of real estate in Windsor, right down on the banks of the Hawkesbury river and practically next door to another famous pub – The Macquarie Arms, which was opened in 1815, so that probably explains why it didn’t work as (another) pub.

Segueing in nicely with the medical theme, this is the hospital. It was built, (as you can see from the dates over the door), in 1818 as a convict barracks, then was converted into a hospital for prisoners in 1823. In 1846 it was operated as a facility for the poor, aged and sick by the cutely named ‘Hawkesbury Benevolent Society’, then ran as a fee paying hospital from 1879. It was closed in 1996 when we got our spiffy new hospital literally across the road.

Now, I have some personal experience with this next one…the courthouse…and no, I wasn’t up before the beak…I sat in the public gallery for a day and watched as the cases were heard, (it was research for a novel I was writing: a sad tale of a lady who is convicted of a crime she wasn’t responsible for and the effects it has on her life as a ‘good’ wife and mother), anyway, it is a beautiful building and inside is just as it would have been back in the day…fascinating if you like that kind of thing!! I was sitting in the gallery trying hard to follow the legal arguments and court procedures and all I could think about was the history of the room itself… 

It was built in 1822 and designed by famous convict architect Francis Greenway, according to the sign out front it is the oldest purpose built courthouse in Australia. Inside in the public gallery is hung an 1820’s portrait of Governor Macquarie – apparently it was originally hung behind the magistrates chair but was damaged when during a rather rowdy public meeting it got hit by an egg! It was removed, restored and can now be seen safely resting inside the courtroom.

Anyone can tour inside the courtroom, of course as long as court is not is session!

Are you getting over saturated with dates yet? OK here’s just one more and I promise I’ll finish…

This is Tebbutt’s observatory, made famous by an astronomer named John Tebbutt who lived his whole life in the Hawkesbury. In 1861 he found ‘the great comet’ which was imaginatively named Comet Tebbutt 2 – I have no idea why it was 2, can any astronomers out there can tell me? His first observatory was built in 1863, but then demolished to make way for a bigger telescope in 1874…that’s the round building in the last picture! The square building was built in 1879.

And this is his house…I couldn’t get any closer because it’s lived in now…it’s called ‘Peninsular house’ and was built in 1845.

April 27, 2011

Sassafras Creek – restaurant/art gallery/cool things shop!

So now we come, once again, to the subject matter I like best to write about – food. Sassafras Creek is a magnificent hybrid of a place perched somewhat precariously on the edge of a cliff at pretty-as-a-picture  Kurrajong, (do you think I could’ve possibly crammed any more adjectives into that sentence), sorry…I’m passionate…what can I say! It manages to successfully combine, (as the title says), a licensed restaurant with an art gallery space that showcases local talent and a shop that would look very comfortable on the well-heeled streets of Double Bay or Surry Hills.

 Whilst the entrees and mains are lovely, where Sassafras Creek really excels is in its desserts – and we all know by now how much I love dessert. As well as the usual menu of dishes there is a looong blackboard filled with the sweetie delights of the day, although as the weekend wears on some things can get rubbed off, so better to get in early if you can. Thus, it is a great place if you are after a little spot of morning or afternoon tea instead of the whole meal thing – they also serve a wicked breakfast if you are up and about that early – Bill’s eat your heart out!!

There is rather an embarrassment of riches when it comes to deciding just where in Sassafras you want to eat: there’s a sunny outdoor area under a vine-covered pergola out the front, (of course, nice if it’s a nice day), inside the restaurant itself, (there’s an open fire that’s perfect on a cold, wet day), or out on the rear verandah with its views clear out to Sydney!

I’m sorry but this was the best photo I could get on the day as the verandah was full and I try not to take ones of people without their permission… especially when they’re eating, not a good look: 

On this particular beautiful autumn day we had gone up on a whim, therefore weren’t able to get a table outside for lunch – it’s always wise to book ahead on a weekend. We decided to share the pesto and parmesan bread first: mmm fat sourdough bread smothered with rich pesto and topped with lightly grilled tangy parmesan…are you hungry now? Sorry…

MD decided on one of the specials for the day, Italian homestyle spiced meatballs and penne in a fruity tomato sauce…it was delicious, and a huge serving…

I chose the pork butterfly fillet that came with a mushroom and red onion ragout, Australian brie sauce and spinach polenta…

The prices vary but are very reasonable for the level of quality and taste: the bread was $7, pasta $18 and the pork $26.

The breakfast menu includes such tempters as: Toasted apricot and date loaf with honey and ricotta for $8.50, Omlette of three eggs with olives, parsley, sautéed chorizo, spicy lentils and grilled vegetables for $15 and mini croissants with Enniskillen seasonal jam, butter and hot chocolate dipper for $15.    

And then…do you know what happened? I was too full for dessert…I’m sorry but this means you’ll have to schlep up there and experience it for yourself…either that or the next time we go I’ll just order two desserts and do a new post!!!

As well as eating and looking at the view there’s also the gallery space for added interest…again, I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t have permission from the artist that was being featured that day…the exhibits change quite frequently, there have been sculptures, watercolours, collages, beautifully made hats and gorgeous indigenous paintings that we’ve seen, their website has the information about what will be exhibited and when.

Then there’s the shop…

April 20, 2011

Bathurst – a petrolhead pilgrimage and a bishop’s house…

The last town we visited was a girl’s paradise of cute shops and bric-a-brac so to even up the scales a bit I thought we’d take in Bathurst – the pinnacle for V8 motor racing enthusiasts and boy people everywhere! Each year in October this quiet farming town hosts the biggest Australian motor racing weekend in history as a 1,000 km race is fought out grimly and with take-no-prisoners-determination on the famous mountain that is Mt Panorama. The track for the rest of the year is free to drive around at any time, although the official speed limit is 60 kph and it is rumoured to be heavily policed…but the experience is still awesome. What the tv cameras don’t show is the view from the top…looking out over the town proper and off into the countryside for miles and miles…

After the obligatory hot lap we checked into our accommodation for the night, a real live, (well, he’s actually dead now but you get the picture), bishop’s house. Set up on a hill on the outskirts of town and opposite a gothic looking cathedral-type edifice that is actually St Stanislaus boys college sits Bishop’s Court, a very upmarket B&B. The house itself was built in 1870 for the first Anglican bishop of Bathurst, Samuel Marsden and his family, (and servants I presume), and then was the home of each successive bishop until the 1970’s.

It has been magnificently decorated by the current owners, Christine and David and offers a choice of six rooms…all with a little something different but with the same sense of style and decadence, (I dare you to choose one, it took me ages…eventually I resorted to getting MD to pick for me), and a magnificent acre of gardens.

The room we (eventually) chose was called the ‘Harmony’ suite, how lovely is that colour scheme? Behind those cool white shutters was a view down into the valley and the wooden doors opened onto an antique strewn verandah that looked out over the gardens…I’ll show some photos of it in a minute…

I kid you not…there’s chocolates in every room of the house!!

 
Some of the other rooms…they range in price from $270 – $295 on a Friday or Saturday night, I actually found this on Wotif…
 
 
 
 
The living areas are available to be used by the guests whenever you would like, there  is a huge lcd tv in the main lounge room and an open fireplace that would be just gorgeous in the cooler months – I was going to say winter but it gets a little chilly out here so maybe more than just winter…
 
See, there’s the chocolates again…
 
Breakfast in the morning is included in the room rate, a lovely local lady had set the table with yoghurt and fresh fruit salad to start, (there was a selection of boring old cereal if we had wanted it), then asked what we would like for breakfast…MD had a mountainous plate of bacon, cooked tomatoes, fried eggs, mushrooms and turkish toast, I had two poached eggs on turkish that she very thoughtfully drizzled with a little hollandaise and added some fresh baby spinach…just delicious! Out the back of the house is a kitchen garden that supplies a lot of the home-grown produce…
 
 
 And then there’s the chapel…yes, you heard right…the house has its own mini chapel with a high vaulted ceiling lined in wood and a baby pulpit! Now it is used for functions and special dinners, the wooden door that can be seen on the right of the lounge room is the door leading into it…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 The premises is licensed so you can kick back with a coldie on this beautiful verandah and listen to the birds chirping!
 
 
Our room opened onto this lovely upstairs verandah, those lounges are as comfy as they look…
 
 
 
 
 
Your humble scribe checking out the gardens…
 

 

Although Bishop’s Court doesn’t have a restaurant of it’s own it is a short walk or taxi ride to many of the local restaurants, the owners would be only too happy to give advice on somewhere nice to eat – or you could just live on the chocolates!!

April 13, 2011

Millthorpe – the grand old dame of the Central West.

Now I like a bit of history maybe slightly more than the next person so when I found out that there was a whole town classified by the National Trust I was dead keen to go there! Millthorpe lies almost exactly in between Orange and Bathurst and is a cornucopia of historical buildings, quaint shops, delicious eateries and country scenery. Unfortunately, it’s cute size is also a little bit of a drawback in that there’s not a lot of options when wishing to stay the night somewhere. MD and I tried in vain to get accommodation but the town was full, (we found out later that there were a couple of weddings on that weekend), so we settled for a day trip on our way back from Orange.

This artistic shot was taken by MD, I was a tad worried about getting run over but as you can see, the road was lovely and quiet.

The main street could be a set straight from the movie ‘Australia’, the two-story buildings complete with enticing shady verandahs and black slate cobbled streets vying with the pretty countryside for attention.

And if you’re feeling a little peckish, of course there are lots of choices, all showcasing the wines and produce of the local area.

This old shop now houses a cafe…

This lovely little house is owned by the nicest lady…I’m afraid I didn’t get her name but we talked for ages. She and her husband bought it recently and she sells beautiful handmade paper products, cards, photo albums, journals etc, as well as offering tea/coffee and the yummiest looking homemade cakes in her back room. It is all fitted out with eclectic chairs and tables painted in pastels and overlooks a riotous garden complete with hundred year old fig tree. I was sorry we had couldn’t stay as the following day she had arranged for an Elvis impersonator friend to do a concert in the garden to benefit a local charity.

Another interesting shop we discovered is called ‘galvanised’ and was originally an old potato storage barn, the owners bought it, (complete with a yellow dart hanging from the highest wooden beam in the ceiling – which they kept of course), then took 18 months to completely renovate it and turn it into this amazing place which sells an enticing mix of homewares, furniture, books, antiques, art, lollies, soaps and bath products, and soon they’ll add jewellery.

Of course, just for the sake of research we had to check out the local hotel for you…aptly named ‘The Railway Hotel’ it sits in front of…you guessed it…the railway station…how cute is the matching colour scheme?

Millthorpe Station…

Inside the hotel has been modernised whilst still retaining its period charm…

 Charcoal sketches done by a local artist hang on most of the walls, this one shows the hotel and surrounds blanketed in snow one epic year…

This antique shop was a great, dusty, higgeldy piggeldy mass of the most authentic antiques I have ever seen, not necessarily beautifully presented but real and old!

And how come my hydrangeas never flower like that?

Sorry this post seems to be getting longer and longer and I haven’t even shown half of the town proper…I’ll finish with a view of the main street from a grassy knoll, well…more of a hill really but knoll sounded so much nicer…

April 6, 2011

Saddle up pardners…we’re headin out west!

Orange…the up and coming mecca for Australian foodies and winies, (that’s wineeees not whinies), and a darned tooting pretty place to visit too! MD and I had the extremely rare pleasure of a long weekend so decided to hit the happy trail and mosey along into the heartlands of the NSW Central West – are you getting sick of the western motif yet? Sorry, I’ll tone it down a little. Of course it’s not helped by the fact that MD is currently playing Red Dead Redemption on the XBox – a real shoot-em-up cowboy game – a little gory but great graphics if you’re interested!

Anyway, back to the trip…we decided to take the scenic route up through the Blue Mountains, then on to Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange, all up it took about 2 and a half hours, with plenty of cow, sheep and goat spotting as well as the sweeping hills and charming countryside this area is famous for. Forget your cactus’s, (or is it cacti), even without a lot of rain lately the pastures were still green and the towering pines a novelty for those of us from the suburbs.

You might be aghast to know that I didn’t actually get any photos of Orange itself, I’m sorry, it was raining pretty heavily, so you’ll have to just take my word for it, it is the coolest town. It is bigger than I had imagined, with its fair share of boutiques, elegant restaurants and a long, long main street prettily paved with red bricks. The streets are so wide, with huge trees growing up through the bitumen along each side, (which the locals merrily park between), and heritage-listed-esqe houses nestle cheek by jowl with old-fashioned workman type pubs. You know, the ones with the tiling up to the  middle of the walls so they can hose off the…well, you get the picture!

We had booked our night’s accommodation via Wot If at a boutique hotel called the de Russi Suites and I’m cheerfully and heartily recommending it if you’re considering hanging out in Orange for the night. I find it is always a little bit of a gamble booking things over the net but we were very pleasantly surprised, (this I did manage to take photos of). Firstly, it’s a good location, close enough to the city to be handy, down one of those quiet, tree-lined streets and is an easy walk to the main shops/restaurants if you are so inclined. There is an off street parking area too.

Continuing on with the theme the foyer was elegant, with a cosy looking reading nook and fireplace just around the corner from the left side of this photo…

We had booked a junior suite, (the only room left for that particular night), which cost $252 a night, including continental breakfast, more about that later though…

I’m afraid the photos don’t do justice to the look of the room…it was a drizzly day so the light wasn’t right, but I found it tastefully decorated and very thoughtfully appointed.

As you come into the room a set of four wood panelled doors on your left slide back to reveal a baby kitchen complete with microwave, stove top with four hot plates, fully stocked kitchen drawers, toaster, coffee plunger, tea-pot, sink and mini fridge. Sitting on the bench was an intriguing brown paper bag…inside were the supplies for our breakfast…two glass bottles of juice, two packets of whisk and pin muesli, ground coffee, sachets of butter and jam and two cutely wrapped packages each containing a slice of white, wholemeal and raisin bread, a box held a selection of T2 teas.  

The small living room managed to successfully fit a dining table with two chairs, a huge lcd tv, a pair of very comfortable black velvet tub chairs and an ottoman, without feeling crowded at all. Floor to ceiling glass doors led to a small balcony complete with teak chairs.

 

The bathroom had a spa bath, and a shower with a really fat shower head, (you know what I mean by that…not one of those horrible skinny little things that puts like four drops of water on you), and the hot water was plentiful and strong, there were four thick, soft towels and a bathrobe each.

 I hate to sound like a noob, but how cool is that glass see-through basin? 

The L’ Occitane bath products were a little touch of luxury that I really appreciated…they smell divine!

The bedroom held a queen sized bed with a feather filled pillow top to it that made you feel like you were sinking into fluffy heavenliness, a window that could be opened, another lcd tv, (this time smaller and mounted up on the wall), a comfy chair, wardrobe complete with hairdryer and coat hangers, iPod dock/alarm clock, silken pull cords to turn off each overhead light and a giant chocolate chip cookie laying on the bed. These people really know the way to a girl’s heart!

We decided to eat dinner at a restaurant called ‘Bistro Ceello’, it came highly recommended by a lady who owns a local B&B, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Set in one of those beautiful old houses opposite a park it has three dining areas so it doesn’t feel like you are squashed next to anyone else, and is decorated with warm modern style whilst still retaining period features such as cornices, stained glass sash windows, wooden floors and a fireplace.

The staff were friendly, efficient and very helpful – in fact, I would go so far as to say that Orange had the friendliest people I have ever met, perhaps outside Bali, maybe it’s all that calm country living. Our dishes were brought out at a measured pace, even though for a while we were one of only a few tables. Each dish on the menu was accompanied by a recommendation of a local wine to pair it with, and which was available by the glass if so desired.

I had the fried whitebait for entree which was a suggestion by our waitress, she was right, it was delicious, and the orange, radiccio and fennel salad teamed with it had enough citrus tang to perfectly counterpoint the fish. MD had the pork and duck rilettes which were served with sourdough toast and cornichons, the creamy texture and subtle flavour was lovely with the crispy toast pieces. For mains I chose pork belly served with creamy polenta and an olive, red pepper and tomato braise – mmm my mouth is watering just remembering it, perfectly cooked, the pork was juicy and literally fell apart as I cut into it. MD chose the sirloin steak which was served with tasty colcannon mash and red wine jus and even though he ordered it medium to well the chef took pity on him and didn’t over cook it at all!*

*Sorry for those who haven’t read Anthony Bordain’s first book ‘Kitchen Confidential’, it’s a reference to how chefs view cooking steak any more than rare!

For dessert I had the financier, (a french cake made with ground almonds), which I had never tried before, it was light, sweet and the texture was perfect, a little like a butter cake. It was served with local stewed peaches and the nicest home-made vanilla bean ice cream I have ever had. MD was talked into dessert, (he’s not usually a dessert kinda guy), and thoroughly enjoyed his summer berry pudding with the same ice cream – in fact he made a point of complimenting the owner on it as he was paying the bill! All up, with a couple of drinks each and some bread to start the total came to approx $160.

Sorry this has turned into a bit of an epic…in a nutshell…go to Orange…go now…I promise you won’t regret it!