Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Our big road trip part 2 (Millawa)

So this is the aim of our stopover at Wangaratta - to attend the BB gourmet food and wine festival. This was our first visit to the festival but our friends were old hands at this. After a quick trip to KMart for some sunscreen, we met up with M, S and C at the Brown Brothers' Estate where they had already scoped out the place and bagged a nice table in the shade to share with us. It was close to being equidistant from the playground, the market hall (where the food was), the cellar door (where wine tasting was being conducted) and the music. As we entered the estate we were offered a glass of sparkling white. It was delicious. I can't recall what it is called now, but I know we brought a bottle home!

After hassling me for a whole morning with, "Where is Caelan?" and "what time will we see Caelan?" and "Can we go see Caelan now?", Alex was happy to be reunited with his friend.

The boys enjoyed each other's company and I realised that there was no way I was game to come to another of these events if there was no other child with whom Alex could play. The boys kept one another entertained , even if they did have the occasional tiff.

At one point, S's iphone was brought out and the boys were kept amused by the light sabre app. If you haven't realised by now, Alex is a bit of a Star wars nut. He loves everything Star Wars-y. A few weeks ago, he was apparently Luke Skywalker and I was Pricess Leah. hmm.. something odd, incestuous and wrong there, my child!

We adults were busy eating, drinking and being merry. The food was good. When I first saw the plates, I thought they would not be enough but they were enough. they weren't huge meals by anyone's standards. No, not even large. Every "main" was more of an entree sized dish and it came with a glass of wine. the menu included the suggested wine pairings but you could ask for a glass of any wine you wanted. We tried the Durif, which we liked so much we ended up with 4 bottles of it. We also enjoyed the Cienna. A lovely drop for a warm summer - like the one that we're heading into right now.

We forgot to take photos of the main dishes, which were very good indeed. I had the lamb neck, which was really much better than it sounds. Chris had the steak sandwich (well, that's what I called it, but the description on the menu was fancier than that) - and it was very good too. We did whip out the camera for a few shots of the dessert.

This is Chris's. I think it was a panacotta of some sort.

This is what I had. It was a prune and chocolate flan with rum and raisin icecream. I thought the flan was heavier than what it should have been. I think of flans as being light but the cake was quite dense and heavy. It was delicious, nonetheless. the rum and raising icecream was nice, but I think it could have done with a sprinkling more raisins and a dash of rum.

There was plenty of entertainment for the children. there was Trixie the clown whom the kids thought was fantastic. She did not freak me out as much as clowns normally do. She was quite nice. A funny sort of clown. No, I don't think they are ALL funny. Some are rather scary looking! The children also got their faces painted. C was a tiger and Alex was a pirate. He was a rather dirty looking pirate too.

Who's that knitting? Why, me of course! It was a relaxing day for me. I had my knitting and a glass of wine and the company of friends. Could not have asked for more. I had started a toe-up sock for Alex in the car and I was aiming to have it done by the time we got back to Sydney. You'll have to keep reading if you want to find out whether I achieved my goal. That wasn't the only knitting I had on the go. I was also knitting a shawl, but I can't show pictures of it as the owner of the shawl wants it to be a surprise. It's a commission job so I do as I am asked, especially when she's asked so nicely.

I think we adults could have stayed all day but by mid-afternoon the boys were getting cranky. Yes, the little boys, not the big boys. The big boys were happy to be entertained by wine and music and I am sure they could have stayed all day. So we left around mid-afternoon and headed towards the Millawa cheese factory. Oh my, the cheese. I'd go back just for the cheese. They had a lot of goat's milk cheese which were not too "goat-y". I loved it all. the 3-year aged cheddar was delicious, as was the King River Gold and Millawa Gold (a washed rind sort of soft cheese - a little smelly but the good sort of smelly). What I loved the most was the Tomme. I had not had it before. I saw the little wheels (wheels? mounds? whatever..) of Tomme uncut and the mould was rather frightening to look at. However, taste a sliver of it and you'll know you're in cheese heaven. Another not-too-goaty goat's milk cheese. It is a hard cheese, almost like a parmesan. Very nice and flavourful. Mm.. I could do with a slice now, but unfortunately it would not have survived the ride to Melbourne, around Melbourne and back to Sydney, so we had to forgo it.

We had a little snack at the cafe next to the cheese factory and then it was back to the motel for some rest and dinner. Alec fell asleep on the way back and I had to carry him from the car to the apartment. In the course of doing so, I lost one of his shoes (a croc-style shoe). Oops. After a frantic search around the car and on the path back to the apartment, I gave up. Alex woke up from his slumber a very cranky child but after dinner he was right as rain again, and (most unfortunately for us) raring to go! We stayed up for a little bit watching the (free) DVDs which we could borrow from the front desk of the motel.

Did I mention where we stayed? It was the Parkview Motor Inn at Wangaratta. The folks running it were lovely and ever so helpful. they even found Alex's missing shoe the next day! We had a 1 bedroom apartment which was nice and spacious. There was plenty of room for the kids to sit on the floor and colour in or have a little dance. All in all, for what it cost, I think it was pretty good.

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Our big road trip part 1 (Wangaratta)
For a long time, Chris and I have been talking about taking a road trip together. If I recall correctly, this discussion started even before we were married. Then we got married, and I got pregnant, Alex arrived and then it was all too hard (or so it seemed) to take a baby on the road with us.

Alex is now nearly 4 and in just over a year he will start school. It hit me all of a sudden that if we didn't find time to do this trip now, we may not have another chance for many years to come. Once Alex starts school, we'll have to start thinking about school holidays and school activities and plan around all of that. So we decided to go.

And go, we did.

Well, I did anyway. I got into planning mode and started booking accommodation, looking up touring maps, etc etc. It didn't long at all. The two things that took the longest were deciding whether we were going to fly in to Melbourne and hire a car and drive it back to Sydney, or drive the whole way there and back, and deciding where to stop on the way back. After a few quick calculations we worked out that it would not cost us that much to drive the whole way and driving offered us the flexibility of packing extra bedding for Alex in case we needed it. We didn't decide on where to stop on the way back before we left.. but that's a whole other story!

Before we left, we had to work out what we were going to do about navigation. We don't have a GPS navigation system, you see. So, do we buy one for the trip and see whether we like it enough to use it after? Do we buy a whole lot of different street directories and maps? Then Chris had a lightbulb moment. How about if we just get a mobile broadband subscription (which we need anyway as a back up for my work) and bring a little laptop along with us? Google maps will see us through, right?

We set out on the morning of Friday 19th November, headed towards Wangaratta our first stopover. Chris drove. I sat beside him with my trusty pocket wifi beside me and little laptop on my lap. I was fully armed with a bag of knitting and a bag of food at my feet. Alex sat at the back and he was armed for the trip with a back pack full of goodies. I had gone out and bought a "Shrek movie pack" from my local QBD bookstore for $4.99. It included a sticker book which kept Alex entertained for ages. There were other things in the pack including a book which I could read to him and a "movie novel", which held his interest for all of 2 seconds until he realised there were no pictures in it. I also included Alex's drawing book, some reading books and a colouring book in his backpack.

Alex slept for much of the journey,which was excellent for us because when he was not asleep, he was talking. No, I am serious. These days Alex is like a talking machine. He's either asleep or talking ALL THE TIME! You can imagine how grateful we were when the chatter subsided and we could hear gentle noises of slumber coming from the back of the car.

Alex woke up in time for lunch at Yass. We stopped there thinking we'd scout it out and decide whether we want to stop there on the way back to Sydney. We very quickly decided it really wasn't interesting enough for us to want to stay there. Lunch was lovely, though. We ate at Cafe Dolcetto on the main street. The boys claimed the banana smoothie there was "to die for", but I don't like bananas so I took their word for it. My chicken salad was pretty good as was Chris's pasta. Alex just ate off both our plates.

Having the mobile broadband connection and the laptop with us was very handy as we could look up towns along the way to see whether there was anything interesting to see or anywhere nice to stop for lunch or tea. Chris had a mad craving for sashimi, and I did a search. the nearest was at Albury, and no, we did not stop for that. There's plenty of Japanese food to be had in Sydney and Melbourne so there was no need to give in to his mad cravings.

We pressed on to Wangaratta after that, arriving not too long before dinner time. Our friends, Megan, Shane and Caelan were already there. Megan and I left the big boys to nap, study or just relax while we took the little boys out to the park. The park was conveniently located about 5 minutes walk away from where we were staying. This proved to be very handy over the three nights we spent there as Alex just needed somewhere to expend his energy. The kids had a ball, and it was nice to be able to just sit and catch up with Megan.

On the first night, our dinner consisted of fairly average Indian fare from the restaurant next door. We over-ordered (as usual) and ended up with leftovers which became dinner the next day.

It probably would not have been as bad had I not gotten angry with them in the first place. We placed our order on the phone and was told it would be ready for pick-up in about 20 minutes. I arrived there 20 minutes later to find that they could not find my order. What had happened? The lady who took the call still had my order attached to the order pad and the order pad was in her pocket. So I was told that they would rush it and I could have my food in 15 more minutes. Fuming, I walked to Coles to pick up breakfast supplies. After all it would be between waiting 15 more minutes for our Indian food or going elsewhere and being prime dinner time then, it would probably have taken longer to get our food. about 15-20 minutes later I arrived back at the restaurant. The lady who was looking for my order greeted me with horror in her face and the question, "Wrong order?" Uhm, no, I haven't received my order yet, remember? Anyway, about 10 minutes later I finally made it out of the restaurant with our food. Our 20 minute quickie dinner run ended up taking an hour.

In the picture you can see a curried chicken dish in the front (chicken pishwari or something) which I found a bit ho-hum but Alex enjoyed. It didn't make his mouth hot :) I chose the saag paneer (usually called palak paneer in Sydney, I think) which was hotter than I was accustomed to but not too bad. We also had a chicken tikka briyani rice - I told you we over-ordered, didn't I?- which was again ho-hum. Hot but not spicy enough.

We settled in to an early night that night. We were all tired after all that travelling. Besides. We had a big day ahead - at the Brown Grothers Gourmet Food and Wine festival at Millawa.

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