Friday, 21 October 2011

The Rose

"But he that does not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose."  Anne Bronte

I've been musing lately over the life we've led and how grateful I am that we grasped the rose by the thorns.   This voluptuously beautiful floribunda rose graces the entrance to our house and assaults us with perfume the moment the door is opened.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Red Hill and Other Epicurean Fun

During the last week of J's Spring (nothing says Spring quite like October) school holiday, I managed to convince my overworked, overwraught, overseas husband to take a four-day break and venture together into Melbourne's epicurean heartland, the Mornington Peninsula for a little quality family time.

The plan was for beachwalks, bushwalks (Australian for treks or hikes), wineries, cheeseries, patisseries, and all and sundry epicurean providores in and around the town of Red Hill about an hour or so south of Melbourne.

We rented a little cottage, sweetly dubbed "King Louis's Cubby" in reference to the plethora of King Louis and Rosella parrots that arrive regularly during the day on the cottage's landing strip to feed off sunflower seeds and jasmine flowers.  Our Cubby was set deeply in thick gum forests and surrounded by a large and wildly fragrant herb garden which J and Murphy thoroughly explored and fossicked (Australian for foraged).

Our Rosellas

Upon our arrival, we headed straight to Tuck's Ridge Winery for a gorgeous al-fresco lunch, glass of their own Chardonnay and beautiful views overlooking the vineyards. We followed this up with a Brownie the size of Tasmania from the iconic Merrick's General Store and a walk on Point Leo beach.

I think all of us, including Murphy, dip into some magically peaceful part of ourselves when we discover these beautiful, deserted Australian beaches.  We have almost an unspoken, collective pact to search them out, discover their secrets, and let their magic go to work on us.

The following day, we spent FIVE hours, yes, FIVE hours at an amazing place called the Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens.  Here we embarked on a Gnome and Fairy Hunt (9 hidden gnomes, and 8 hidden fairies), through stunning gardens, winding mazes, and little bits of Australian wilderness.  J was completely enchanted and even hard-to-impress C2 was seduced by the beauty of these natural gardens.

Naturally, we followed up this very busy day with a glass of wine at a winery just up the road from the Cubby.  This time it was the Vines of Red Hill winery and an excellent glass of Pinot Noir overlooking the vineyards and bordering red gums.

That night, we walked from the Cubby down our red dirt road through the Eucalyptus forest to The Long Table restaurant, a '1-Chef Hat' (think Australian Michelin stars) for a meal so wonderful in an ambiance so beautiful that we went back the following night and would have again had we stayed another night.

Day three took us to the tiny coastal town of Flinders and another beach walk on quiet Flinders Beach followed by a lovely lunch and a visit to the Mornington Chocolaterie.

We spent the afternoon on an amazing walk down the cliffs from the Cape Schank lighthouse.  The lighthouse is on the scrubby southernmost tip of the peninsula and separates the wild seas of the Bass Straight from calmer Western Port Bay overlooking Phillip Island.  We bore witness to some truly amazing scenery and again found that spiritual, calm place these Australian seas seem to give us.

A quick stop at the T-Gallant winery in Main Ridge for a glass of Pinot Grigio before we had another memorable meal at The Long Table.  We followed dinner with glasses of champagne, games played with large tic-tac-toes, and dominos by candlelight in the restaurant's front room.  J won all the games...he might have cheated.

Our final day dawned cool and cloudy.  Our original plan was to head into Mornington National Park and a 6km bushwalk.  Upon arrival at the trailhead, however, Park rangers were present and dogs not welcome, so we turned around and undecided, headed back in the direction of Flinders.  C2 spotted a tiny carpark off the road a few kilometers outside of the National Park and pulled in.  What followed was the crowning glory of our time on the Peninsula, and one of life's memorable moments.  A short bushwalk led to a walking track (Australian for trail) down to a wildly beautiful, utterly desolate beach littered with sand dunes, 50-million year old lava rock, a waterfall, and the sea which offered monster barrel waves that exploded onto rocks explaining the lack of surfers or swimmers.

Where else but Australia do you encounter this fella on your bushwalks?

We spent a couple of hours alone, together.  C2 experimented with his amazing photography, J slid down sand dunes and clambered over lava.  Murphy swam in the shallow water near the beach chasing sticks, and I watched everyone's backs for rogue waves.

We climbed back to the walking track up the side of the waterfall.  Murphy drank fresh water from it, and provided our comical moment of the trip by confidently stepping into what she thought was a few inches of shallow water and what was actually about a meter.  She sank like a rock, emerged covered in moss, ego damaged, and further humilated by our howls of laughter.  Still how many 13-year old Labs can still climb up a waterfall?

Murphy's epic "swim" and pride damage, J and I were howling with laughter

Pride restored if a bit muddy

We ended our lovely little holiday with woodfired pizza at the T'Gallant winery sitting in their herb garden, the scents of rosemary and sage wafting by.