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Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Feeling just vine

Call it luck, but I can’t imagine Bruce and Fran could have picked a better time to cruise into the Yarra Valley. With Autumn finally setting it, the vines may have been yellowing and threadbare, but were more than compensated for by the glorious shades of red, orange and yellow that were swarming over the tree-covered hill sides.

Pulling up outside their apartment in Healesville (thanks to a welcome tip off from Sam in the Prince Wine Shop, off Fitzroy Street. He’s a lovely man), it was remarkable to think this was little more than an hour from central Melbourne, well, if you can resist the urge to stop for a mid-afternoon Hungry Jacks en route – Fran couldn’t. What was as remarkable was that it turned so lovely so soon after the outer suburban horrors of places like Ringwood – Home of the Hoon TM.

Healesville itself is no real charmer; its setting is all, cradled in the arms of a valley and populated by hundreds of noisy cockatoos and galahs. It is home to a number of delights, however, from the Healesville Hotel (which had the one off Coopers Vintage Ale on tap – 7% alcohol and a meal in itself) with its log fire lounges and top class restaurant, to the delis lining the main street and its own winery – Giant Steps – just before the road leaves town for Marysville.

Should have cleaned the glass first, perhaps...

Wine tasting

Sadly, expecting Bruce or Fran to hold off the booze for a day’s wine-tasting is like expecting Hillary Clinton to stop being a poisonous, lying cow – you can’t teach these old dogs new tricks – so $90pp had to be handed over to Yarra Valley Winery Tours for the pleasure of being driven around for the day. Five wineries were included: Boat O’Craigo, where Bruce was surprised by his love o’Chardonnay; some full-flavoured reds at Riverstone; lunch and a blistering family argument between some of the fellow day-trippers at Domain Chandon; the discovery that Viognier is a white grape and tastes like peach juice at Punt Road (they’re such amateurs… (Bruce and Fran, that is, not the guys at Punt Road)); two wonderful $75 reserves – Pinot Noir and Shiraz Viognier – at Yering Station thanks to an earlier visit by a renowned wine writer. By the time they staggered back from Giant Steps to the apartment (armed with a 2001 Shiraz and a fortified vintage red), Fran was in need of a three-hour pre-dinner kip.

Bruce is not one for advertising (the unstoppable curse of modern media), but the Healesville Apartments, where they stayed deserve a glowing mention. The Treetops apartment, for just $140 a night, contained a king sized bed under Japanese style decor, comfortable lounge and outdoor balcony with great views of the surrounding hills, dining room set up for two, well-equipped kitchen, spa bath for two and matching his and hers robes. Oh, and great fresh bread and locally made preserve and granola for brekkie.

Fran post-wine slumber

They’re sweets, not “lollies”

The following day took in the spectacular drive to Marysville, through awe-inspiring corridors of towering trees and dozens of scurrying lyrebirds (like scuzzy peacocks). What Healesville lacks in beauty as a town, Marysville makes up for, reminiscent of the New England havens scattered around Vermont and New Hampshire. A smattering of waterfalls, forest walks, an incredible sculpture garden and an old school sweet shop (OK, lolly shop), where Bruce learnt that Victorian health and safety rules prevent Aunty Val from mixing two types of sweet in one bag. Government weirdos. And for a real drive into the wilderness, you can head practically offroad to Yarra Glen from just west of Marysville, but expect a bumpy ride (we didn’t).

Bruce and Fran have 21 more Victorian wine regions to check out yet, but will be back in the Yarra Valley soon enough. The only way it could have been better was if we’d had a teetotaller or obedient Muslim with a driver’s licence along for the ride.

American Beauty, but with winter clothes

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I’d completed my north / south sweep of the city centre for Fran’s birthday gifts, picked up a couple of local wines from a retailer in Prahran and was heading home down Chapel Street when the first raindrops in months began to fall. One of the city’s few remaining rusty, dusty yellow and green trams came rattling past the market so, dodging through traffic, I hopped on board.

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As I took my seat, I heard a man’s voice: “OK if I squeeze up next to you?”.

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In the corner of my eye, a woman shot up from the bench opposite and scurried to the back of the tram, leaving behind a tall, grinning ginger 20-something slouched in her wake. Turning after her, he grinned: “What’s wrong? Does no one want to sit with me today?”

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You couldn’t fault her judgment, or those who had apparently gone before. If his appearance wasn’t enough to scare off his prey – he wore a thick layer of grime, particularly on his polo shirt and trousers, which were combined with sockless feet in trainers – the smell that arose from him as soon as the scurrying woman’s tailwind had settled would have seen to it.

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Not so much come on Eileen, as WTF Kev?

Not so much Come on, Eileen, as WTF Kev!?!?!?!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS THE MOST VISITED POST ON THIS BLOG. I ASSUME PEOPLE ARE COMING TO LOOK AT THIS PHOTO. CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN IN THE COMMENT BOX BELOW WHY SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO SEE THIS PHOTO? THANKS. 20/11/08)

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Before I had a chance to consider moving myself, the tram began to pull off, only to be halted by four loud thumps on its side. On the pavement was an outcast from Dexy’s Midnight Runners (see above) locked in confused conversation with a passer-by clutching a CD. They too had been startled by the banging and were looking at the cause of the noise.

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“Wait up,” came a cry from outside as the wooden door creaked slowly open. “I’m trying to get on here.”

“The door’s open, you bloody idiot,” replied a passenger sat midway down the tram. He was in his fifties and dressed in shorts, shades (sunnies) and a skimpy blue and white sports vest.

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Eventually, the banging man’s hand appeared on the rail and he slowly pulled himself and his shopping on board. Little more than five foot tall, his blistered, pockmarked and screwed-up red face a living testimony to skin cancer, he stumbled across the aisle and landed on the bench next to his erstwhile abuser.

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“These old trams are bloody useless. They should burn the lot of ‘em,” he muttered.

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After a brief pause, the man in sports vest piped up.

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“Don’t be too harsh on yerself, mate, you’re not that old,” he said.

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“Ey?” said the old man.

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“I said there’s no need to set fire to yourself. You’re don’t look that old. Or useless.”

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“I wasn’t talking about myself. I was talking about these bloody trams, you idiot. They’re awful. The need to be burnt. The city only keeps them for the tourists. And what tourists do we ever get here anyway?”

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Another pause.

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“Well,” came the reply. “There’s the folks in Footscray.”

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Ah, humour and racism in one perfectly formed package. And the Aussie government claims it wants to make such people a relic. Shame on them.

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