Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 6 - Near Death Experience and Hunter Valley

So for the last two days we have been up in wine country in Hunter Valley. We rented a car Wednesday morning around 10 and headed off for the 2 hr drive. (This is where the near death part comes in) I’m not sure if you are aware, but the Aussies drive on the OTHER side of the road! After almost running off the road and driving into on coming traffic we were out of the city and onto the freeway. The freeway was much more relaxing as I wasn’t screaming anymore or praying for my life and Nathan got us to the Hunter Valley safely with no more mishaps!

The first winery we went to was McWilliams b/c it is one of my favorite brands of shiraz in the US. Very nice wines and the staff was friendly and informative. From here we headed to have lunch at the Hunter Valley Gardens which was very good but Nathan said was a rip off. (Food is pretty expensive here – and we found out why – food service workers get paid about $18/hour! Needless to say you don’t really have tip as they make a damn good salary.) From here we went to Tyrrell’s winery for a tour. The tour was fantastic – I highly recommend it – very informative – and last about 1 ½ hours. Afterwards, we tasted all the wines with the tour guide as he explained the different tastes based on age of the wine, grapes, oaked or unoaked barreling, etc. We were then onto Hope Estates (another winery I like to drink in the US) – the wine was great and the staff was again friendly and informative. The wineries are at the end of the harvest for 2008 and everyone has told us that this was a crappy year for Australian wines b/c they had so much rain. They had to leave a lot of grapes on the vines so they will not be producing as much wine as usual this year (all I could think was that my cheap Australian shirazes were going to go up in price!) From here we went to the Smelly Cheese Shop (what a name!) but it must be famous (or infamous) b/c it was very busy and everyone was telling us to go! We had a look around tasted some fantastic cheese and went on to our hotel b/c Nathan was starting to get crabby!:)

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Hunters Valley – very nice! It was very hot so we went to the beautiful pool to relax and have a swim. (We were so tired b/c Nathan has been getting me up at 6 am to write this blogJ so we went back to the room to take a nap before dinner.) I woke up at 8:30 pm (oops) and Nathan was still asleep – we tried to get ready quickly but most places stopped serving at 9 – so we didn’t get to have a fancy dinner out, but we ended up eating a lite dinner at the Crowne Plaza’s restaurant which was very good (great bruscetta). We had heard a lot about the Crowne Plaza’s breakfast so we got up and had that before going to see more wineries. (Do you see a pattern here? All we have been doing is eating and drinking – I won’t be surprised if I have to buy new clothes to wear on the way back!)

This morning I decided that I would drive the car to see how hard it was. Although it is very unnatural I did a fine job, did not drive into on coming traffic, and only hit one curb (which I do in the states all the time so no biggieJ). So anyway, we started off the day at the Hunter Olive Centre – I bet they had about 50 different olives, olive oils, vinegars, and chutneys to taste with even more on the shelves. About 90% of everything was grown and made in Hunter Valley – very cool place to go if you like this kind of thing! Now on to Drayton’s Winery – we thought we were going to make their 11 am tour, but they had an explosion about a month ago killing two people so they won’t be doing tours for a while. The Cellar Door (tasting room) had been moved due to the explosion but it was still open so we went in to try some. This was probably some of my favorite wine. We bought a couple bottles as well as some Liqueur Muscat – great after dinner drink! Nathan was sick of trying wine (or more likely buying it as I had to get some at each winery –right?!) So went to some of the antique shops, gift shops, and finally Aqua Golf. So much fun! You basically hit golf balls into a big lake that has nets that you are trying to hit for prizes – Raleigh should have one of these! (Of course Nathan’s mind was running about a new business for us blah blah blah but I have learned to just agree, smile, and nod -no need to get all huffy since he doesn’t have any free time anyway! J) After this we went to Ivanhoe Winery and then off back home – we had to get back to Sydney for the Buck’s/Hen’s Party (Bachelor/Bachelorette). Okay – that is it for now but I will fill you in on the party tomorrow! Love and miss everyone!

Nathan Learning how to drive on the right side of the car.

Nathan playing golf at Aqua Golf - Unfortunately, I was not able to hit the targets.

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