A Travellerspoint blog

Symphony in the City

When I discovered that Dan had never seen a full orchestra play live I decided it we should try to find a concert to go to. Originally I thought it would be awesome to see one at the Opera House when we got to Sydney but it was too expensive so that idea quickly went out of the window. So when I saw that there was a free concert happening in Langley Park show casing the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (WASO) season for 2014 we had to go and check it out.

We wanted to get a good spot so went early into the city and managed to get a space close to the front. Blanket laid out and picnic ready we settled down to enjoy the sunshine and watched the crowds gather.

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Soon there was no spare grass as rugs and sheets of various colours and sizes quickly materialised turning the front section of the park into a large patchwork blanket. Everyone was in good spirits and further back after the blanket only section the crowds filled from low chairs to normal sized ones to make sure everyone had a good view.

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You know you re at a different music festival when someone pulls out the scrabble along with wine and cheese!

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A jazz band blended in with the relaxed chatter of a sunny afternoon creating a great atmosphere.

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As we idly laid in the sun an ominous shadow caught our eye... It was Darth Vader! Along with the rest of the cast of Star Wars, who had come out for a photo opportunity with kids and adults alike! Can you guess that the Star Wars theme tune would be one of the pieces played!

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Love these guys.

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The show was opened with the Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare followed by the Star Wars theme. Whilst this was played an epic battle was fought at the front of the stage complete with lightsabers!

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This was the programme that was played...

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Everyone was captivated by the theme from Schindlers List and even the kids all stopped playing to listen to the tiny violinist who was playing those haunting notes, the crowd was silent for a few moments after she finished before erupting in applause. Definitely the performance of the night.

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The Lord of the Rings score was conducted by the appropriately named Christopher Dragon and we were transported to the world of hobbits and elves although I was a bit disappointed that they didn't put on a Hobbit vs Orc battle like they had done for Star Wars.

We learnt that it is tradition to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus as King George II was so impressed by it at the UK premiere that he got to his feet, and of course if the King was standing then the crowd needed to follow suit.

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The evening ended with a good old sing along and fireworks! It had been a great way to spend an evening and all this had been FREE! Awesome!

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 17:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Rottnest Island

In amongst our time living in the Hillary's we had been enjoying the beaches and chilling out and so we felt we needed to have a day out and explore. The nearest main attraction that is listed a must-do around Perth was Rottnest Island which has been marked as a idyllic holiday location for locals and tourist's alike. Known to the locals as "Rotto" the island was apparently named 'Rotte nest' which means rat nest due to large amount of 'rats' that have nested on the island. These weren't rats at all but Quokkas, more on these to come. It is called Wadjemup by the Noongar people, meaning "place across the water".

The attraction is that no cars are allowed on the island except for maintenance vehicles and so families tend to hire out villas and enjoy the coastal views whilst the kids are allowed to roam free on the bikes. Similarly day trippers like ourselves can boat over and enjoy a ride around stopping off at coral bays to snorkel and soak up the sun. It is also a perfect place for the locals who own boats to sail out and moor in the bays to snorkel, dive or just fire up a BBQ and get the drinks on.

We booked our ferry a few days before going from Hillarys boat harbour and decided to get the earliest one at 7:30am having been advised by Kim on the best plan of action for a day out at Rotto. It was a perfect situation as we were only 10 minutes away from the harbour and the boat trip from Hillarys is shorter than if we were to go from Fremantle. Arriving on the island we weren't alone and already it seemed that the island dwellers were up and about getting ready for the day. We hadn't picked up our bikes from the mainland before getting on the boat and so we visited the tourist information to get our baring's and then visited the bike hire shop.

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Before the store opened we encountered one of the resident wildlife milling around. The Quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans when first visiting the continent. The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting "a wild cat" on Rottnest Island in 1658 but nowadays it has been labelled as a Kangeroo Rat. They have no fear of humans and it is common for it to approach you and so everyone was quickly getting out the cameras to have a butchers.

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Once the bike shop was open we hired our bikes and snorkel gear and headed off making the decision to cycle the whole island and visit the far western end which was about 8.5km from where we were and so it was going to be a fairly long cycle.

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Before we left one of the Quokkas came up to Sarah and said hello.

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As we started we began to see the draw to staying on the island as the views are stunning.

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Even Santa was holidaying on the island!

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As we approached our first bay, Henrietta I missed a very large bobtail lizard by a fraction according to Sarah, I didn't see but thank god I didn't run it over. When we stopped peddling the downside was that the bush flies were on you and wouldn't go away. I have no shame in saying….I hate bush flies!!, they are just relentless always aiming for your eyes and mouth! AAAAAAHAHHHHH! . Fair to say it annoyed me incredibly and so I was keen to get back on the bike. It didn't help stop them but you got a break from it as you cycled up and down the hills.

It was quite surprising that the island was very hilly, and so we managed to get a good work out as we traversed the island. It was a beautiful day and we just kept riding and stopping at a bay when we felt like it taking in the views, such a good way to start the day.

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As we reached the last two or three kilometres before the most western point of the island we stopped off for a break at a memorial for Roland (Roly) Smith who pioneered safe passages into the northern and western bays and help make Rottnest a more accessible island.

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Moving on it wasn't long before we got to the end of the island and being the only two people around we took in the sea breeze and had a stroll out on the purpose built deck which is normally used to sight whales who migrate around the bay. We were unfortunately out of season for the whales however we did spot one of the native Osprey birds. I managed to follow it as it landed on the other side of the bay and with help from our super camera zoom took a snap. It wasn't till later in the day when we could see the picture on a bigger screen that I realised I actually took a snap of two ospreys together!

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The wildflowers were out in full as well.

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We left the island edge and continued on with the intention of making it to Little Parakeet as it had been recommended by Mel as it is one of her favourites but by the time we got close to it we were getting pretty fed up of cycling and so we diverted off to Armstrong Bay to go snorkelling and catch some rays.

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It was a cool spot with only a handful of people.

Feeling like we had had a good amount of time chilling we moved on and found the Parakeet bay and its little partner and to be fair they were pretty good but by that time we were hungry and fancied a drink and so we moved on to the bar.

We got back to the main port and village around 2.30pm and so we had a good couple of hours before we had to get our boat. We opted out of the cultural walk and in true Aussie fashion we hit the hotel bar! It was so cool to just hang out by the islands edge and soak up the atmosphere with a glass of wine and good company, You really got a feel for how the other half lives in Perth and also just how isolated the city looks from across the waters.

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Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 07:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Beaches and getting in the festive spirit!

We have been blessed with the great friends we have made on our travels and amazed by their hospitality and generosity. One of these was our mate Mel who we had met back in Melbourne and had recently moved back to Perth. She invited us to stay with her and her folks at their gorgeous house in the Hillarys for 2 weeks. One of the great things about the houses here is the use of outdoor space and it would be great to be able to have space like this for entertaining back home (if the weather was better!)

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To top it all off when she came to pick us up she revealed a great surprise of lending us her old car for our time in Perth as she had just got a new one. Anyone who has been to Perth will tell you that you really do need a car to get around so this was perfect timing and made a huge difference to our time here. Thanks Mel :) We headed to celebrate our reunion at the Hillary's Boat Harbour for some pizza and a good catch up. Little Caesars even do desert pizzas but we decided to stick to the savoury!

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We were still hoping to find some work in Perth and signed up with some temp agencies to see if we could get anything. One thing to remember though when looking for jobs online is that there is more than one Perth in the world! I made the mistake of applying for a job in Scotland! whoops! Most mornings we would wait incase we got a last minute call for work that day but if we didn't then we headed to the beach and there are lots to choose from! The one closest to Mels house would soon become our regular and was always nearly deserted. If the weather was this good back at home you wouldn't be able to see the sand for all the people on the beach but I guess when there are so many beaches and the weather is consistently good noone feels the need to rush out unlike back at home.

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We had heard that Cottesloe was a good beach so headed there one day, we over shot it a bit and ended up in North Cottesloe beach instead. It was perfect for us and seemed to go on for miles, with hardly anyone on it!

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After getting our tan on and spotting a huge bob tail lizzard, which had a head the size of my fist, we went to find the famous Cottesloe beach.

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This was a lot busier with school kids having their sport lesson in the water and groups of guys and girls showing off to each other. Definately the place to people watch and be seen. As we sat down to have a picnic under the shade of a tree we heard a commotion coming from the beach and could hardly contain our laughter as we watched 2 girls who had just bought chips being chased by a gang of opportunist seagulls down the beach!

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It was hard to believe that it was the first week of December and that Christmas was just around the corner. We couldn't have felt further away from the festive season and home but this was all about to change when we were invited to help decorate Mels family Christmas tree.

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And Dan was even given the honour of putting the star on the top :)

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To continue on the festive feel we joined the crowds to check out the Christmas Pageant in the city.

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We managed to nab a good spot to see the colourful parade of lights and floats go by accompanied by dance troops and marching bands.

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It was also during our stay in the Hillarys that we got back in touch with our friend Marilyn who we had met in Bali. It's such a small world as it turned out that she lived just the other side of the park from where we were staying. After being introduced to her dog Roger we headed to the Marmion Angling and Aquatic Club where Marilyn was a member and had a lovely lunch and a good catch up over some wine.

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It was a perfect afternoon with gorgeous views over the ocean, we even spotted this bird fishing for his lunch.

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Check out this awesome house, complete with a holographic Santa delivering presents in the top window.

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As we admired the decorations a taxi pulled outside as two kids ran out to greet their father who was returning home. It had such an Xmas movie feel :)

Our first few weeks in Perth flew by with great company, food, wine and sunsets.

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A massive thanks to Mel, Anne and Kim for welcoming us into their home and introducing us to eggnog night and National Lampoons Christmas vacation :)

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We ll be sure to return the favour if you come over to the UK.

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 06:13 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Making it to Perth!!

Waking up the next morning we were feeling pretty good despite having had a few drinks the day before. We were a little sad that it was our last day of our epic roadtrip across the country but also looking forward to getting to Perth and the prospect of a proper bed. We had to get the van back into central Perth by 1pm so it was an early start as we needed to cover the 3 hours it would take. The roadtrip wasn't eventful apart from deciding to stop off and use up our spare petrol we had kept for emergencies, and then almost running out of petrol. Woops!

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It was great to be seeing signs for Perth, the end was in sight.

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The plan was to meet up with my aunt before dropping the car off as she had graciously offered to take us in for that weekend. Before we went to Carols's place we stopped off at a car wash to see if we could get all the bugs off! It didn't completely work and so we had to use some extra buckets of water and some elbow grease. I hadn't seen Carol for a long time, not since I was about 8 and so it was a quite funny as she hadn't seen me as a grown up and so we weren't really sure what each other looked like. We had a quick catch up but she was aware of our deadline and so helped Sarah and I get the van cleaned up by pulling out the vacuum and water bucket for us to use.

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With the car fixed up we drove into the city centre with Carol and dropped the van off with an hour to spare.

WE HAD MADE IT TO PERTH!!

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With a quick handover of keys it was all done, they didn't even check the cleaning so we probably could have left the bugs on. I definately would recommend the relocation rental if you are trying to save a bit. It was the perfect way for us to have this adventure. Moving on Carol suggested that we do some Perth sights and so she took us to Kings Park. The park was really nice and is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and it showed off the city really well with panoramic views of river.

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Life looks pretty sweet when you can jet ski from your home.

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We had a good catch up with Carol as she needed to fill me in on her daughters, my cousins, Sarah and Emma who I hadn't seen since I was 8. It was nice to hear about theirs lives and how they enjoyed living here in Perth. We set up for a picnic lunch and continued to catch up about our trip.

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In the grounds of the park there was some interesting trees that Carol thought we might like to see so we walked around the grounds to go see them. They were called Boabs tree and were distinctly different from the rest of the foliage around. They had been brought down from the North West of Australia in the Kimberly region. These trees have relatives found in Africa and Madagascar and so are relics of a time when the continents were together.

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There was a incredibly large Boab tree that the parks had moved from the Kimberly region to preserve it as it was situated within a mining project. Being sacred to the indigenous people a ceremony was conducted to appease the spirits. Taking 6 days to move the 750 year old tree was an amazing feat especially as they covered almost the same distance as we did for Melbourne about 3200km.

Carol pointed out to us the lemon scented gum trees which have a great fragrance.

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We were starting to get a picture of the type of lifestyle that this city can offer.

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After the park we headed back home to relax as later that day we would be going out to Fremantle to try some fish and chips. Carol told us that you had to have an opinion on what place was better, either Cicerellos or Kailis. When we later posted on Facebook we were going it sparked a bit of talking point amongst friends from Perth.

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We went to Cicerellos because that was Carol and her families favourite place. We thought it was pretty good grub and after we had our full we went off to a famous brewery called Little Creatures that has a bar and enjoyed a cold glass although I tried their pear cider and it was awful.

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It had been a long day and so we were certainly ready to hit the hay.

The next day we leisurely woke up and planned to go for a walk with Carol along the river that went through her neighbourhood. It was a nice walk as the sun was out and beating down. Along the river there was wildlife to be heard and seen, one of which being the black swam which Carol told us was the symbol for Western Australia.

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As we walked along the riverside we got to see the differences houses that have been built over the years and some of them were pretty amazing. You would have large mansion style houses next to the single storey older style and it won't be long before these lots are brought up and developed into more luxury houses with river views.

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With people kayaking close by and enjoying a run or a walk I could see why Perth is an attractive place to raise a family. Our walk took us to the local cafe where we enjoyed some lunch and a coffee.

We didn't have much planned as we were recovering from our long trip and so after walking back we hung out until needing to leave to met up with Sarah and Emma for dinner. The place they took us too was very nice, right by the riverside in east Perth at a place called The Royal. We got a chance to exchange stories and catch up and it was just a shame that both of them were planning trips away to the UK and France whilst we spent our time here so we wouldn't be able to see them again.

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It was nice to rekindle the family tie.

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A big thank you to Carol for giving us a bed and providing us with a tour of Perth.

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Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 05:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wine for Dudes tour- Margaret River

This morning we were really excited that we had the wine tour, Sarah had done the research before we left Melbourne and came upon these guys.

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It looked perfect for us as we were not wine experts, despite being good wine drinkers.The Wine for Dudes idea is that 'wine is for everybody' and therefore you should be able to enjoy the wineries and not be put off by the snobbery associated with wine tasting.

We were picked up by John, a Kiwi fella who at first I just thought was a driver but it turned out he was the owner. He fitted 'Wine Dude' stereotype as he was a pretty laid back character but he was good value and obviously knew a lot about the area and the wineries. On route to pick up more of the group he told us that back in Nov 2011 there was a bush fire that came through the Margaret river area burning down 33 homes including the replica of one of the first settlers house which looks over the river. John wasn't able to get back to his own house as the roads were closed but was relieved to discover that although the outside was burnt that the contents inside including his wine collection had survived. For 3 weeks they weren't allowed to go back to their homes but the community rallied together with dinner parties round people's houses who were putting friends up.

John also explained why Margaret River is a famous wine region as the climate and soil in this area has ideal conditions. The clay soil absorbs the little rain (this mornings rain was unseasonal) that the area gets releasing just enough for the vines rather than over watering them. This area gets lots of hours of sunshine which allows the gapes to ripen, however as it has the ocean on 3 sides which helps to cool it down rather than being too over heated, similar to Mediterranean. Grapes do well on western coasts , which is why you will find wineries on the western coasts of South Africa and South America and California.

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We up 2 other couples who were from the UK and headed to our first winery passing through Cowamup aka "Cowtown". This town wasn't doing very well until someone came up with the idea of adding the cows.

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Now tourists will stop off to take photos and help the local business to keep going. The golden cow known the "rump on a stump", was an artists take on one of the famous wineries Laurence who are known for having a 'chick on a stick' as part of their wine labels.

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On arriving at the first winery we were taken into the wine tasting area, the group grew to 13 of us and with the exception of one Aussie we were all Brits. We were also joined by our guide Wayne aka 'Crocodile Dundee' (he was a dead ringer) who was going to be taking the group around the wineries.

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The first winery was called Chruchview and we were entertained by a guy called Denis who taught us some of the etiquette of how to taste wine including how to hold glass by the foot/stem and how to swirl the glass in order to release the aromas and flavours in the wine.

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He also explained how to determine the age of the wine by its colour. For white wine the lighter it is the younger it is whereas for red wine the lighter the older it is as it deposits sediment as it ages. The idea is to look for the clarity in the wine to check the quality. To get our tastebuds going he suggested we take two sips of each wine. The first one to coat the mouth to prepare it for the second which is where you ll get all the flavour. It was good to get some coaching but we felt he was also a little bit too keen emphasise that we were novices, and it was slightly annoying that he constantly referred to prices but then again this is what a typical salesman would do.

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We tried 8 different wines of red and white and including mixtures of Semillion and Sauvignon which are two different types of grapes and depending on which comes first when labelled it represents the higher ratio of grape in the mixture and ultimately the flavour that it contains. We also tried a Chardonnay that Sarah particularly liked, which is not the norm for her. Denis explained that the reason this is better in Margaret river is that French oak barrels are used that cost $2000-3000 dollars each and can be used about 3-4 times. So those bargain wines at Tescos which are given a manufactured oak taste which is quite harsh are the ones to avoid. Of course this basically means Sarah's tastebuds must only enjoy the finest (expensive) Chardonnays one can buy. We enjoyed the wines we tasted and Sarah even liked the Cabernet Sauvignon red which was a complete surprise as she doesn't like reds normally and so we bought a bottle.

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A great start and Sarah also made a friend

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Moving onto the next winery we stopped at Hayshed Hill and met Bec, our wine expert and Becky the dog...

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who was proudly featured as Miss December 2014 for the winery dogs calendar.

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Bec was very good at explaining the wine and was an expert fly swatter, literally mid speech she smacked a fly on the table witout a blink. We started off with bubbles before trying more white, pink and red wines.

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The added bonus of this stop was that we were going to do some wine blending to make our own glass of Cabernet Shiraz blend to have with our lunch. Like a science class we had our wines and measures and set work to make the best combination.

Some of us concentrated a little too much.

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And some basked in the ambience.

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I went for recommended 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Shiraz.

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It was during this time were the group got to know each other a little more and let their hair down, making a bit of a mess with the wine pouring. We found out the one of the couples Sarah and Steve lived off Lavender Hill in Clapham only minutes away from our old place. Totally bizarre. They were really friendly and we had a good time gas'ing away whilst devouring the gourmet pizzas the winery had supplied.

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Sarah liked this quote on a tea towel..."wine is to women what duct tape is to men, it fixes everything!"

Then we went to our next stop, The Grove, a liquor place with crocs in their pond and drop bears in their trees.

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Steve the proprietor, with an impressive moustache, was very funny and gave us all liquor cocktails and was a lot of fun.

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There were some delcious mixtures of liquor that everyone enjoyed like Cookies and Creme, using white chocolate and raspberry liquor and creme. Butterscotch and dark chocolate liquors, Turkish delight was a favourite, and in between we would freshen palette with 'vodka' (actually water but at first we weren't sure). By this point we were all well oiled and so the laughter was infectious.

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We then went to chocolate factory... Free chocolate!

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Sarah got the marzipan delights yum and I tried chi chi chilli and an almond one.. Amazing!

We made a quick stop at a cheese factory where we all sampled some cheese but no one was really interested in buying any so we jumped back in the van to go to the last winery. Its a tough task to keep a group of people entertained as they have all been drinking but the girl did quite well and we sampled some of their mulled wine which was great.

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The last stop was at a brewery where Steve and I shared a palette of beers and the two Sarah's chatted and we found out they had gotten engaged on their trip so a toast was in order.

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It was such a good day out, and we got picked up by John and he was nice enough to swing by the local golf club so we could get a glimpse of the Kangeroos hanging out on the fairway. Apparently the golfers just play through!

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John picked us up and kindly allowed us to drop off our goods back at the campsite and took us back to Margaret River centre where we went for dinner with Sarah and Steve and he joined us as well. We shared some more excellant wine which John got for the table. He was a stand up guy, and really honest about how things work telling us his aspirations for the company and was keen to get our feedback which is quite refreshing if you ever get to meet him. He had some fun stories about the different characters you get on tour and seemed to know everyone in town frequently pausing to say hello to passersby. He told us how the area had changed and where the good places were to hang out, it seems like a fun community to live in. It was a great way to end a perfect day sharing stories with some new friends.

We would definitely recommend the tour to anyone looking for a laid back winery tour!

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 04:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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