Sunday, April 14, 2013

Give me some of that sweet vino

I don't travel enough in Australia.  I am stricken by an affliction that impacts most people.  We sneer what is local and we revere what we consider to be exotic.  It's a great shame and it's something that I am keen to redress.  My friends from overseas who spend time in Australia have almost all seen far more of Australia than I have, and I in turn have usually seen more of their own homes.

So one weekend, a group of us who play social football together decided to travel north to the Hunter valley.  We rented a house in the countryside for a fun weekend of wine and cheese tasting in one of Australia's premier wine growing regions.
It was an opportunity for us all to see a new place, but it was also an opportunity for some quality time together.  We had arrived at the house late, but the night kept going and it was the early hours before we finally decided to settle in for some sleep.

The next morning, we woke up early to begin our tours of the local cellar doors.  After nearly setting myself on fire trying to light the BBQ to make breakfast for everyone, we were amazingly ready to leave when the driver arrived to take us on our tour.

Each cellar door we visited gave us a free tasting and the opportunity to explore their grounds.
It was a beautiful part of the world.  The rise of the tourism trade in the Hunter Valley has made it important for each of the cellar doors to ensure that they offer immaculate grounds to attract the bus loads of wine hungry tourists.
It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.  Moving slowly from cellar door to cellar door, the journey loud as everyone became increasingly "happy".
This was a relaxing way to travel and to see something new.  I have never been overly excited or impressed by tours, but there are definitely situations where they are the most appropriate and effective way of seeing a place.  Their structure and timing make for an efficient way of sight seeing and reducing the amount of thought needed is actually quite liberating.
We drove back to Sydney with sore heads, but it was worth it.  Simply being able to leave the city and all the worries of work and responsibility behind for one weekend is something is never quite appreciated until it is experienced.  Yet I find it amazing that I constantly seem to forget how important this can be.

Monday, April 01, 2013

We ain't moving

I drive between Sydney and Newcastle frequently.

The drive should normally take me from door to door in around 2 hours.  If I am lucky and the traffic is favourable I have even been able to do the drive in under 2 hours.  It is a boring drive and when you consider that Newcastle is only 160km away from Sydney, it is too long.  It is a poor reflection on the infrastructure of New South Wales that a distance of 160km takes 2 hours by car to cover and a two and a half hours to cover by train.

It gets even worse if there is traffic.

I found myself in one of this wonderful situations where the highway reached a complete standstill.
It's an unnerving feeling being completely motionless on a highway.  My paranoia kicks in and I begin to imagine different doomsday scenarios as the reason for why we have stopped.  Is it the zombie apocalypse or is everyone trying to flee from a comet heading towards the earth?

What is most bizarre is that eventually everyone starts to move again and it's never even clear what the cause of the delay was to begin with.