A Long Time….and Qantas Saves the Day….

It seems like it has been a long time since we talked about our travel adventures. I guess  life can get in the way of the fun things we task ourselves with. Funny how that happens. If you have been following us and our travels, or if you are just joining us,  Lloyd, and I have had the opportunity to travel quite a lot in the last several years and began finally began sharing our photographs from our most memorable adventures with those following our blog. Thus far we have shared three series’ from our yearly travels in Egypt, Belgium, and Holland. I had combined or ordered the trips in such a manner as our last trip to Belgium we were actually on-route to Egypt, and stopped on each leg of our trip in Belgium to rest up. It might not make a lot of sense, bu we often do wacky spur of the moment trips. It’s how we role, sometimes. That adventure was a trip of a lifetime for me, taken merely a few months after our last travels to Australia. So I though it would be fitting to share the next series of articles from our adventures in Australia.

Before you get all excited, we generally spend a lot of time in Australia because that is  Lloyd’s home. Well it was until he married me. 🙂 So we have tried to get return as often as possible so we can check in with the family, relax, refresh, and explore the countryside.  Sadly this years travel plans were unexpectedly interrupted due to our three year old Tuxedo cat, Mr. Perkins, giving us quite the scare. A  month of running back and forth to the kitty hospital. Who even knew there was such a thing? There is, and we the good parents that we are, practically lived there for a month before Mr. P., went under the knife in a life or death operation.  No kidding. I wish I were then I could be writing this post from somewhere like Tahiti or Fiji, or Phuket, on our way to Australia, or …..the list goes on… It was horrible. Sadly for us, Mr. Perkins expunged our travel funds for the year. No holiday’s. Boo…..But it was worth foregoing our travels knowing Mr. Perkins is happy and back to his normal pampered self, rejoining his sister Lady Morgana. And our family is again complete.

A Camera Shy Mr. Perkins

Phew… with that in mind, I sit and write this post while the Thunderbirds roar over head causing the cats to bolt to their respective hiding places, and me, wishing the f-ing planes would just go away.  We hate the airshow, pretty much since a plane crashed in the field a few blocks from our house a couple of years ago. That, and loud roars of the fighter jets freak the the hell out of the cats which is so, not cool. Poor Lady Morgana, she races off to her favorite hiding spot in a tall (three foot tall) Mexican vase we have in our living room. Last year we looked all over (she is only two) for her and alas we found he in the last place we looked she dove in. We know this as we have witnessed her acrobatic maneuvers on a number of occasions when something freaks her out. Its quite impressive. Mr. Perkins on the other hand generally runs for our bed where he used to hide. Now, his 15-pound body no longer fits. Instead he gets stuck head first. No kidding. Ass hanging out tail flaccid.

A Happier Lady Morgana, Who Jacked Mr. Perkins Throne

Yikes! Where was I, traveling. Darn planes! I now have a head ache.

This post will be the first of several dedicated to Australia, which is likely where we would be heading about now….sigh… That said, our travels brought us to Melbourne, a wonderful not unlike Portland, the weather is the same, the size is comparable, very metropolitan, the weather is the same, and it also boats wineries a short drive to the countryside.

In Melbourne, we hooked up with our cousin Cathy, who happened to be living there for the time being before taking her new job up in Macau, working for the Venetian Hotels.  And thanks to Cathy we ended up staying at the luxurious Park Hyatt Hotel.

We love having someone in the family in the hotel business. She totally hooked us up. Now generally I am the one who takes photos of the hotel, our room, the lobby, the grounds, food, etc. Admittedly,  I turn into a crazed travel-photographer on our trips, I can’t help it. This time however, was a bit different.  Who knows why, but, I experienced some of the worse jet lag in history, well maybe not in history, but for me, it was horrible. I tasked Lloyd with taking the photos of the hotel while I went and crashed until we met up with Cathy and another cousin for a nice lunch.

The weather during our stay was cold, rainy, and pretty much like Portland when we left. This wasn’t what I had in mind. Crappy weather and horrible jet lag. Good grief. I was on holiday for crying out loud. Give me a break. I can deal with the rain, I don’t like it but I will soldier though it. On holiday, the weather can suck and you are still on holiday, so no matter what, one is bound to have an awesome time. Besides, we are from Oregon. We were having the same weather back home.  I felt right at home, almost.  Our hotel sang classy and luxurious the second the door opened, then screamed giraffes just as quickly. Seriously, giraffe motif, really? Really. Okay, well large bubbles, in giraffe colors. Yet, no where else but the Hyatt could anyone pull off wearing orange and red marble.

Lobby to Paradise, Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

I love this vase. It was exquisite. It would go very nicely in my living room. It of course stayed at the hotel.

Checking Things Out, Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

Lobby and the Giraffe Printed Marble Floors, Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

The Grand Staircase, Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

It would have been fun to slide down the banister. The hotel staff would frown. Just a thought.

Purple Haze, Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

This photo reminded me of  high school. Who ever thought that purple neon would accent the decor was off his nut! Bring on the Jimi Hendrix and Purple Haze. But, hey it was the Hyatt and for the next three days it was our home. We took advantage of the VIP passes to the VIP lounge on the upper floor of the hotel. Free adult beverages of your choice along with another drink you might think of, all you can eat happy hour snacks, and late night drinks and snacks. We could live here it was so great. Little did I know the best was yet to come.

Our own studio apartment. Holy crap! The king size bed was spectacular complete with down comforters, down pillows, and Egyptian cotton threads. Oh ya. I was in heaven. It was almost like I never left home, only better. Pish. Who was I kidding, it was freaking awesome!  I was going to sleep like a baby. Say bye bye jet lag. Since I had tasked Lloyd with the photos, we never took photos of the room. It truly was like a studio apartment with a full living space large bathroom the size our my office back home. Wow.  I was sold on the Hyatt. They really know class and comfort. The room seriously was very swank, a total hook-up, we had everything one might expect to see in an upscale studio apartment. It was great! awesome! And I did sleep like a baby. Just sayin’.

But the grand finale of our stay, at least in my opinion, was the result of having Lloyd take the photos: the next image.Lloyd out did himself.

I don’t know about anyone else, we fell in love with this image of the infinity pool the moment it was hot off the printer.  In fact we loved it so much we printed out a 20×30 image that has a home in our living room above the fireplace. We can always remember our stay in Melbourne. It looks great and it matches beautifully with a 26.5×30.5 size papyrus we purchased Saqqara, Egypt we matted and framed that also found a home on our living room wall.  Who would have thought that we would have a picture of a hotel pool as a showcase photo hanging in our living room. I would have laughed. The cool part is people always ask where in Egypt did we take that shot? We cringe then giggle a bit when we tell them Lloyd took it of the pool at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne. They seem shocked.

Back to our trip. While in Melbourne, we actually spent zero time ‘in’ Melbourne. Rather with the exception of happy hour and our hotel, we were out to see the sights around the city. Our first day we spent an afternoon in St, Kilda a short drive from our hotel, where we enjoyed walking along the boardwalk after a nice long lunch at a little Italian Bistro nearby, with another cousin. Yes, another cousin the first two of many. So, many in fact they seem to multiply like rabbits kangaroos.

St. Kilda Boardwalk, Victoria Australia

Along the Boardwalk, St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia

Beach, St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

People on the Beach, St. Kilda Boardwalk, Victoria, Australia

After spending the afternoon in St. Kilda we crashed. We had to rest up as we were off to the countryside for a tour of some wineries.

On our day trip to the Yarra Valley, we had great fun! Cousin Cathy served as designated driver and gave us a grand tour of some of her favorite wineries. We probably visited ten or so in two days, while in the Victoria state. I will spare you all of them, rather I have included some of the more memorable moments of our wine tasting adventures. First stop Coldsteam Winery.

Balloon over the Yarra, Coldstream Winery, Yarra Valley, Australia

At Coldstream Hills Winery we had this spectacular view of the Yarra Valley and the balloon floating in the distance.The winery is owned by well known wine author, James Halliday. The winery produces cool climate wines including: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a great time drinking their wines and talking with the folks in the tasting room. Their wines are great and very different from either Oregon or California style wines. When we arrived I expected to see the huge Shiraz’s I so dearly like love; when I realized we were not even remotely in the neighborhood of the Shiraz grapes, I had to reprogram my brain for something new and refreshing. My palate was fooled as Australian Pinot’s taste nothing like Oregon or California Pinot’s. It took a few tastings to get used to fruity in your face Pinot’s and the idea that Australia produces Pinot Noirs, and Chardonnay’s. I have always drank Shiraz from Australia and fell in love with the bold rich tannins, the jammy feel on your tongue and the strong robust flavors. I never payed attention to the fact they made other wines. The exception Cabernet’s.. That said, the wines were very good. In fact,I  actually preferred the white wines of this region much more. That coming from an enthusiastic red wine drinker.

Yering Station, Yarra Valley, Australia

Yering Station is a premium winery in the center of the Yarra Valley, roughly one hour east of Melbourne and not far from Coldstream and a few others inbetween. The winery was established in 1839, as the first vineyard in Victoria. The wines here were very good, we purchased a number of bottles here. I could feel the weight of our luggage with each bottle we purchased.

Stonier Winery, Yarra Valley, Australia

Stonier Winery is a beautiful winery situated next to riding stables (I found this very cool. Girls in proper riding gear were practicing their show jumping skills) was established at Merricks, on the cool southern rim of Victoria’s picturesque Mornington Peninsula. The winery was the first in the region to plant Chardonnay vines back in 1978, followed by Pinot Noir a number of years later. The vineyard had expanded significantly by the late 80s, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the primary wine varietals and what Stonier, built its reputation on. These wines were exceptional. I was amazed by the complexity and diversity among grape clones. We purchased several bottles here. My favorite winery we were to see. The others all had great features, but the wines here were far superior. They didn’t need the swank buildings to draw people in. They relied on their reputation as superior grape growers and winemakers. A must see if ever in the area.

Port Phillip Estates, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Don’t let the bunker, grand cement looking structure fool you, inside Port Phillip Estates is gorgeous. And it boasts a spectacular panoramic view of the vineyards with the sea off in the distance. Truly it is amazing. We stopped in for wine and a spot of lunch. Everything about this winery spelled class and elegance, despite of the cement like facade. I say cement like as the structure was actually constructed of pressed soil.

Port Phillip Estates Vineyard and Winery, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

The wonderful view of the ponds, vineyards, and sea in the distance.

Vineyards, Port Phillip Estates, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Port Phillip Estates, situated at Red Hill in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula, roughly one hour south of Melbourne and is family owned by the Gjergia family. Sandro Mosele is their winemaker who is fantastic at his craft, making excellent Pinot Noir wines among others. This winery was most impressive for us as were their wines. The winery describes themselves as “a dramatic curved sculpture made of rammed-earth. Inside is a large cellar door and tasting room and a light filled restaurant open out to an expensive expansive outdoor deck. Underneath the tasting room and restaurant is state of the art wine making facilities.” The winery also includes six luxury accommodation suites complete with a private deck and a panoramic view of the vineyards and sea. It truly is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. Their wines are fantastic and we had a great time sitting at a table overlooking the property,  talking with their winemaker who happened to be in the tasting room that day. The restaurant has a wonderful chef who prepares a great selection of amazing dishes. The word I would use to describe everything is impeccable. We had a great time having lunch while drinking one of their great wines that they paired with the food. I love that little touch. That little something extra that makes a great dining experience a fabulous dining experience.

So, here is the story of our wine making adventures. I can’t make this up. So here we are at maybe our third winery. You must first realize we are truly wine snobs. I hate to admit it but its true, we are. And when we go wine tasting, we typically purchase at least one bottle of wine depending on how well we like the wines. Problem when traveling is where do you put the wine you buy. You either drink quickly and a lot or don’t buy any. Well, we have a problem with that. It doesn’t happen. We can’t go to a winery and not buy wine. It simply doesn’t happen. Wineries love us. We didn’t plan this trip very well. As Melbourne was the first stop on our journey. We didn’t have room to pack a ton of wine in our bags. So, at our third or so winery, I forget,  after purchasing maybe three or four bottles, or six bottles of wine, one of the gals we spoke with over hears our conversation and speaks up  “you can take wine on the airplane as a carry on in Australia, we even have bubble packs to put your wine in so it won’t break, in case you wish to put some in your packed ports.” We looked at each other and said “Really! Well that changes things.” Long story short, we ended up at the airport for our next stop Brisbane loaded. I mean really loaded. The magic number being thirteen, yep thirteen bottles of wine we attempted to stuff, yes stuff into every possible crevice we could locate. At the airport, I told Lloyd it wasn’t going to work we needed an extra bag to put some of the wine in. We were, well I was, frantically searching dragging my bags and well we ended up finding a luggage store in the airport in Melbourne. And wouldn’t you know, they had these great back-packs on wheels made by non other than Qantas bag, for which we proceeded to in the store mind you unstuff and restuff our wine into the newly purchased Qantas bag with wine. It was awesome! In the store, customers watching, we had a line up of people trying to figure out what we were doing. Suffice it to say, the bag held nearly a case of wine. Our problem was solved thanks to Qantas.

We hope you enjoyed our journey through a little part of Southern Australia, we had a blast! We were quite the sight at the airport I am sure, but that was nothing, stay tune for more of our Australian adventures, as they only get better.  And for those who don’t know, Aussies love to consume large quantities of adult beverages, wine included, beer preferred.