We left the cold winter of home for a week away in the warm and sunny Hunter Valley, north west of Newcastle, home to a myriad of vineyards, eateries and attractions.

 

We stayed at The Vintage  -  a complex of Grande Mecure Apartments at Rothbury - only a few minutes away from everywhere  -  and so close to everything! Including that golf course designed by Greg Norman and advertised as such

We were there while the Tour De Franc bicycle race was on - made for a relaxing time watching those strong athletes.  Chris Vroom won the race, in contrast to 2014, when he abandoned after breaking a collar bone on the cobblestones of an early Stage.

The most disturbing architectural feature of the Apartment was the picture window between the bedroom and the bathroom.  Luckily, the toilet was one (solid) wall away

Soaking in that tub was quite relaxing, as Mara discovered

 

Lunch at Peppers  -  a delicious introduction to the Hunter

We had duck terrine followed by pork belly

 

On Saturday 25 July we went to the "Meet the Makers" Market to relax, sit around in the sun, and taste the local produce (Wine, of course)

 

With a label like this, tasting the port was a priority  -  and was well worth it!

The Poppet Head reminds us of home - where the mine works on top of the hill behind our house were dominated by one until 1963 (when Lake George Mining Company closed the operation)

 

Sunday Brunch - we booked for the late sitting of Breakfast with Bubbles at Petersons

Richard decided on the basic "Big Breakfast"

Finished with coffees - and another glass of Bubbly

 

A pleasant Sunday afternoon drive to a few viewpoints

with different aspects along the way!

 

And a few strays on the road! (thankfully not kangaroos this day)

 

 

Monday 27 July - brought one of the highlights of our stay - a full day wine and food tour with Two Fat Blokes.  Only ourselves and one other couple had booked for the day, so we had an almost private tour, and tasted the best local delights of the Hunter Valley including: wines, beers, cheeses, chocolates and a  gourmet lunch meal

We turned up at 10 am for the first stop  -  and tasted!  then on to De Iuliis winery for a wine and cheese tasting experience with 9 cheese - sheep, goat and the more conventional cow cheeses.

 

Lunch at a table set up amongst the vines of the Audrey Wilkinson Winery consisting of a generous antipasto platter made up with locally produced cheeses, smallgoods, organic chicken, smoked trout, pickles, breads and olives.  And a bottle of wine, because we really hadn't tasted enough in this Winery's tasting room

 

Then came a stopover at the Gundog Hunter Cellar - had to wash down that lunch!

A good selection and we tasted most of them, as can be seen from the bottles lined up on the shelves

Just in time for a Wine and Chocolate pairing at Tullochs

 

The interior is quite different:

You can taste off the back of a truck

And of course - the chocolates  -  some of which came home with us for further pairings with dessert wines

Eyesight not good enough to read the instructions:

Try this link for a larger picture

 

Followed by a quick drive (thankfully not by any of the Tour participants) to catch the 4 pm start time of a brewery tour of the Hunterís own Hunter Beer Company

Always marvel at these brightly polished copper vats

Yes, there was a range of beers to taste  -  Mara preferred the ginger beer (which is ginger infused beer, not ginger beer)  Confused?  By this stage of the Tour - we sure were!

And, just in case you needed further inspiration - check out one of these:

 

The next day was a shopping day - and not for wines!

We stopped for coffee and waffles at a chocolate factory

Something sharper if you don't have a sweet tooth!

 

 

By Wednesday, we were ready for the range of top shelf spirits offered at the Hunter Distillery

So many choices - from flavoured Vodkas, schnapps and liqueurs - infused with flavours from coconut to turkish delight, and a range of fruits

We took home a bottle of Honey Vodka:  Solid honey aroma, with sugary light honey and spiced fruit notes. Rounded mouth filling honey taste, almost cloying, pronounced sweetness balanced against the spirit. Very long finish, pleasant fruity/spiced honey after taste lingers . . .

 

On Thursday 31 July we took ourselves to Stockton Beach, north of Newcastle.

Started with Lunch at the Beachside - mixed seafood - and it almost seemed as though those beady eyes were watching us

 

Stockton Beach - 32 kilometres long, stretching from Stockton to Anna Bay.  The length of the beach, its generally hard surface and numerous items of interest along the beach make it popular with 4 Wheel Drive  enthusiasts.  Four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive on Stockton Beach., on payment of a registration fee (of course)

 

Some sand dunes are over 30 m high, and they migrate north up to 4 m every year.

The dunes are the largest continuous mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

A warm and pleasant final day to fully relax us!