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It’s 11:45 in the evening and the temperature is still well over 30 degrees so I’m going to write up my final entry to the blog from Melbourne whilst I wait for the promised cool change and for sleep to come to me.

Today was one of the few planned out days that have been in the diary since before arriving in Melbourne. We were picked up by Gayathri and Daniel at half nine in the morning and went out to Claire and Adam’s house in Lower Plenty, about 30 minutes north east of Northcote. We met up with Jane & Bec all friends of Amy’s from her school days. The group had hired a minibus and the plan was to drive up into the Yarra Valley to visit a number of vineyards and go wine tasting.

Once everyone had arrived and Jane and Adam had returned with the bus we set off on the road out of Melbourne. The scenery changed from the leafy suburbs and deep gum tree lined city creeks that run throughout Melbourne to hills which the road would wind around until we reached a wide valley not too dissimilar to the Dordogne valley. The valley is at the very end of the Yarra Ranges and so the outlines of larger features are silhouetted in the distance. The grasses were very dry in stark contrast to the luscious green vines. The vineyards had started appearing in a similar fashion to the way that they appear in France, you suddenly realise that you are driving through them and have been for some time. (I still don’t think I’ve ever seen the first vineyard as I always have the same realisation!)

Our first port of call was Domain Chandon, a large vineyard which mainly produced sparkling wines. The usual setup seems to be that vineyards have a large trendy wine bar that you can go to, all of them are filled with people and for the first time on the trip I don’t think that they were tourists because they didn’t have the badge of a video camera or a selfie stick – a great relief! The bar area was light and airy with a large window at the gable end which looked straight out onto the vines. It was a really nice place to sit and have our first drink. Most of the group sampled the produce. I decided to try the Lemon, Lime & bitters option and was pleasantly surprised by a much lighter colour, organic offering that seemed to have hints of apples, very nice! Several times now I have seen sparkling reds and they have been quite popular here. This was one such vineyard which produced these sparkling red wines. They certainly seemed to smell fairly pleasant although I’m not completely sure it was quite right – nobody was going to order a whole case of it today either, although the enjoyed the glass they had.

On leaving the large Domain Chandon our next port of call was at Train Trak, for lunch. Again along side the large bars, every vineyard had a good restaurant attached (with a large wine selection available – of course.) this particular restaurant had a very Italian theme and we all ate delicious Pizzas. Each one was very thin based with scatterings of the various toppings. As in all the other vineyards, the glass walls looked out onto the vines which all appeared to be very well kept and had roses planted at the to signify the different grape varieties.

The interior of all the vineyards were beautifully air conditioned which was very much appreciated in the near 40 degree heat that we were experiencing. At the next stop, a cider house called Napoleone (and yes I have spelt that correctly – he says having checked it three times!!!) Amy, Bec and I took our drinks for a walk through the orchard. The temperature was really pushing into the low forties, thankfully the humidity was almost 0% so it felt almost bearable. Even so, after 10 minutes it was definitely time to retreat back into the cool air conditioned bar area. Napoleone’s bar area was quite funky as it had glass windows onto the exterior with views of the orchards and also glass panes through to the brewery areas. This gave a really interesting feel and really made it feel like you were part of the brewing process. There were 9 different brews available and having ‘checked in’ on Facebook I was entitled to try one. I went for a cloudy apple. It was very dry and actually quite nice. I managed a good couple of cm from the top of 1/4 pint glass before passing it on to someone else to finish!

Whilst running around the area we had seen signs to a cheese producer with a cafe and after a little research found that it was definitely worth visiting as it offered – nearly – free tastings (it was free if you bought anything…) we decided to take a trip into the unknown and drove back round to it. I’m really glad we made the decision as the cheese was delicious and I even enjoyed a Brie like cheese which was beautifully creamy. Each cheese was was handed around the group with an explanation of what is was made with and whether it had been matured or how it was preserved (they used ash for preserving one cheese, it looked odd, but tasted incredible!) I wish I were able to bring some back, but there is no way that it would ever survive the 24 hours of travel.

Having tried small quantities of all the cheeses we felt it would be rude not to enjoy some more and decided to have a cheese board and tea. This was a very good call as the cheeses were even better on bread. The tea was also grown in the Yarra Valley so it was all very locally produced. The tea was delicious but became quite strong after a while, we also noticed that the milk was very fresh and also tasted quite different because of it.

After leaving the cheese makers we returned to Melbourne to make supper. Adam had been checking his weather ap all day as a cool change was expected any time along with massive thunderstorms. Temperatures had started to plummet much further west of Melbourne and it was definitely making its way towards their home. Adam started up the BBQ shortly after arriving home and I was introduced to several Aussie customs including VB (or Victorian bitter – I wasn’t particularly taken by the beer but it is a must for a BBQ meal apparently!)

We cooked snags (Oz – English translation: Sausages) and chicken and lamb kebab skewers. Gayathri had prepared a selection of salads and I pile my plate high with the potato salad which had some hard boiled eggs in too. I was informed that there is only one way to eat BBQ snags and that is to lie one diagonally in a piece of sliced bread (ideally white, the whole grain nonsense that we were eating to day had to do, but I will have to return to sample this delicacy properly!) it is then essential that you run tomato sauce (not inferior ketchup) along the top of the snag. I have no idea why any of this was important but it tasted good! After filling ourselves with supper we sat outside for a bit and Bec managed to catch a small lizard, she’s a lizard expert and handles them lots so she was able to tell us a bit about him.

Claire had cooked deserts, a creamy baileys fondue with strawberries, apples and bananas. The fondue was served in tall cocktail glasses and made it look very nice indeed. It also helped that it tasted fantastic! It was getting quite late after the desert so we started to leave, not before we managed to exchange gifts. I had some teas for Claire & Adam and Jane and Adam gave me a very cool cap of his favourite Aussie rules football team, Collingwood (or the Pies). Daniel was not very impressed, apparently they are not very good, cheat lots and has warned me not to wear it in public or people will just assume I’m a bit weird for not wearing the Adelaide team cap…

Bec kindly drove us back to Northcote where the cool change had come in – apparently! The temperature had now dropped to a chilly 28 degrees which has also become very humid and that is why I’m still up, having packed ready to go to the airport too. I’m currently sat outside on the deck whilst the rain falls softly on the garden, it is starting to cool down, but I don’t think I’ll be in bed any time soon!

Tomorrow I’m leaving for the airport fairly early in the morning so this will be my last post from this holiday. It’s been absolutely amazing, I’ve met so many fantastic people, seen so many places, so much wildlife and had a fantastic time. The Christmas week was really different, but I’d certainly recommend a warm Christmas and one where everything can come fresh straight from the garden every now and again! Everyone has been so friendly out here and it has really made the last few weeks fly by very, very quickly. I shall certainly look forward to my next Australian adventure and hope to return soon to see more of this amazing country, there’s certainly a lot more to explore!

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