Monday, May 30, 2016

Sydney is Vivid

We're in Sydney in Reconciliation Week - the week that is meant to celebrate and build on improved relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

There were plenty of visible signs that this beautiful city is embracing our past and acknowledging the Aboriginal people on whose land the city now stands. 

The Barangaroo Reserve is hosting ANTaR's 16,000 - hand Sea of Hands this year. Barangaroo Reserve is named after a powerful Cammeraygal woman (and one of Bennelong's wives) and a key figure in local Aboriginal culture and community in the late 1700s.

This year's Vivid Sydney celebrates "First Nation's spirituality and culture through the songlines of our land and sky"......I was looking forward to seeing how this was interpreted on the sails of the Opera House......
 It was pretty awe inspiring!.......

For the first time this year the Royal Botanic Gardens in the Domain had some Vivid lighting to celebrate its 200th birthday.

I loved the way the lights interplayed with these grand old Moreton Bay fig trees lining the harbour.

We spent Sunday night at Sydney Vivid - along with many, many, many, many thousands of other people - at least 70%-80% of them from what appears to be a non Anglo background. This city has sure come a long way in the last 228 years!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The girl is 9

It's hard to believe that this sparky fun loving and talented girl is nine already!

Eight of Ella's friends helped her celebrate yesterday at the Rock Climbing Centre at Hume. We were all "roped" in too, acting as belayers for the young ones while they scaled the walls (of varying difficulty), having lots of fun and laughter in the process!

 Of course the four year olds wanted to join in too (eventually)!

This is the first year Ella has designed and made her own birthday cake. We made the chocolate devil's food cake (Donna Hay) before school on Friday morning and then did the icing on Friday night. Ella did a superb job of all the piping on top of the cake then it was our challenge to convince her to "let it show" and not crowd it with all the other decorative effects she had in her lively imagination. 

She loved the way the cake ended up looking like a Cadbury's block of chocolate (complete with purple ribbon). Go girl!

Abi loved helping Ella unwrap her presents afterwards, and was very taken with some of them herself.

This was our nine year old girl this morning - about to head out to another birthday party - looking very stylish and grown up. Go girl indeed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Adelaide and the Barossa Valley

We've been in Adelaide, just briefly, enjoying some contemporary opera and other delights in the city, and an overnight stay in the Barossa Valley.

My work colleague, Don Bemrose, won a lead role in the SA State Opera Company's production of Tim Winton's "Cloudstreet". It's world premiere was on Thursday night. We made it down to Adelaide after an early start on Friday morning to see the second performance. "Cloudstreet" the book was my introduction to the wonderful writing of Tim Winton and it was amazing to see its rough Australian edges (and warm heart and Indigenous spirits) interpreted as a contemporary opera. Don was amazing as "Bob Crab" whose character set the scene for the whole production and remained the link to its spiritual heart. Wonderful stuff!

 We had a celebration drink after the show with Don and his good friend Janelle!
We weren't in the city for long but what we saw was impressive - from our very quiet and classy Hilton Hotel overlooking Victoria Square, to the rich foodie scene at  the nearby Adelaide Central Markets and all those wide avenues and old sandstone buildings in between. We found time to indulge in some beautiful cheeses from the Markets and a bottle of Barossa Shiraz (of course) before the performance (virtually over the road from the Hilton at Her Majesty's).

After all the excitement of the performance and a very late night we didn't get going Saturday morning until after 10.00am, heading North out of the city and then NE along the M20 towards the beautiful Barossa Valley Wine Region, only a bit over an hour's drive out of Adelaide.

We were ready for an early lunch by the time we got to Maggie Beer's famous Farm Shop in Pheasant Farm Road Nuriootpa (try saying that quickly). It was just as well we were hungry as the Farm Shop Cafe serves up generous, flavour packed dishes in hearty servings. We enjoyed our introduction to the Maggie and Colin Beer empire, the site of their original pheasant and quail farm, her first restaurant and the vineyards and orchards that are the source of her Maggie Beer food empire now.

 These are Colin's Shiraz plantings (Beer Brothers Wines).

 ...and their Frantoia olive trees....

Maggie Beer does wonderful things with her quince orchards - but I was a bit alarmed by the spectacular fungus growing on most of the trees near the Farm Shop.

There were pheasants and quails and ducks and chooks of every size and colour at the Beer's farm - but I was most impressed with these ring necked pheasants from China!

Afterwards We dropped off our growing collection of Barossa Valley goodies at our motel in Nuriootpa (perfectly fine accommodation but a bit of a come down after the Hilton) before heading off again, this time down the Barossa Valley Way past the picturesque vineyards and myriad cellar doors that line the road between Nuriootpa and the Southern outskirts of Tanunda. 

We chose to stop at Elderton's and St Hallett's cellar doors, both old Barossa wineries providing generous tastings of their rich local Shirazes and some varietals. As Rob was driving it was my responsibility to taste as much as I could  on his behalf.

I really enjoyed the very special 2012 St Hallett Old Block Shiraz (98 points James Halliday) - grapes from old Barossa Valley and Eden Valley vines - and with Rob's encouragement bought a bottle to open for my BIG birthday later this year.

We ended off a self indulgent, lovely day with a Bee Sting beer (a beer chaser for me after all the wine tastings!) and a little live music at the Barossa Valley Brewing and Brasserie near Heinemann Park on the outskirts of Tanunda.

We had a lazy start this morning. A delicious, unhurried breakfast at the very cute and retro "Nosh" in Tanunda.......
......before heading back to the M20 and Adelaide airport via the old  Gomersal Road, past the endless vineyards of all the big old Barossa wineries (Seppeltsfields and Jacob's Creek being amongst the biggest). We stopped off at one of the newest wineries: Pindarie with all its new(ish) vines, but still a very old farming property on the Western Ridge of the beautiful Barossa Valley, complete with an old stone homestead from the 1890s, a picturesque cellar door and some of the prettiest resident sheep you could ever imagine.. Pindarie has won a lot of tourist awards for its restaurant and cellar door...and we could see why...but it was just a bit too early in the day for us to do any tastings....maybe next time!!

This was such a tiny taster of what this amazing wine region has to offer - next time we're coming back for a week at least!!