Apr. 1st, 2012

crazyjane: (Default)
Day 3 dawned a little later than usual due to the end of Daylight Savings, not that the kookaburras cared. I'm not sure what the joke was all about, but surely it could have waited until a decent hour. When everyone finally surfaced, there was just time to shower and grab some breakfast before gearing up to head out to the animal feeding. Armed only with cameras for the inevitable unbearably cute pictures, and machetes so that we could hack our way through the dozens of other kids who had mysteriously appeared from nowhere to block our access to the gate, we waded into the fray.

Or, at least the girls did. I was given camera duty, and stood sadly outside the fence watching everyone else feed the geese, and distribute hay to the larger animals. It was, of course, wonderful to see how much pleasure the girls got out of it all, but ... but ...

After they all trooped off to the chicken house, though, I carpe-d the diem and nipped inside the gate to spend some time with the horses, goats and donkeys. The emu was playing hard to get, but I think I can safely say we reached an understanding - or at least kept a respectful distance from each other. That beak is quick. One of the horses, Peg (short for Pegasus - ugh), is a beautiful chestnut, with one white sock and a few scattered spots of white on her forehead. She's not an original inhabitant of the farm, having been rescued by the owners of the Country Club. Apparently she was skin and bone when they found her, and they were told they were welcome to take her off the old owner's hands.

She's much, much healthier now, although still underweight, and a little head-shy. Personally, I'm hoping that owner is even now suffering from a really nasty skin disease that makes him smell, itch and look something like an overcooked goanna.

Egg-hunting was moderately successful, with the girls scoring one each. Meglet wanted to keep hers until it hatched ... well, that led to a delicate discussion. Sadly, I still don't know what breed the excessively fluffy chickens might be, although investigations continue.

We learned from the owners that there are yellow-tailed black cockatoos that come out at sunset, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled out of my front door as I write. One woman from the units near the back reported seeing tawny frogmouths, and there's a huge flock of galahs that fronts up for feeding every morning. No possums yet, although apparently there are kangaroos around - and I'm beginning to believe the alpaca is, in fact, an imaginary one, since no one's seen it.

After animal feeding, we revised our timetable for the day. I suppose it was unrealistic to expect we could get to seven wineries ... so we decided on two, with a visit to Gentle Annie's Berry Farm for the kids.

We ended up at nearby Bellbrae Estate, which is on the Great Ocean Road about five minutes from here. After sampling the wares, we - of course - massively overspent on wine purchases. The haul included a 2008 Shiraz which manages to be wonderfully rich without being inky and heavy at the same time, a 2010 Chardonnay that appears to have spent very little time masquerading as an oak tree, a rather wonderful 2008 fortified Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (which is not quite a port) and a lightly carbonated, sweet Moscato that even I like (and I'm notorious for hating 'lolly' wines). The big indulgence was a 2004 Shiraz just brought up from their cellars, which we may cellar for another five years - if we can restrain ourselves.

By this time everyone was ready for lunch, so we ate at the Estate Cafe - a simple ploughman's lunch, with local produce (Apostle Whey cheese, Debra's organic chutney, Zeally's Organic Bakery sourdough bread). Realising that we wouldn't make it to the other winery and the Berry Farm, [profile] fire_wuff and I decided to make the greatest of sacrifices, and forego more booze in favour of berry-picking. So off down the Great Ocean Road we went.

It's the cost road, right? It's scenic, right?

Well, it is ... in fact, it's breath-taking. I was glad I wasn't driving, as I would have taken us right over the cliffs in my fascination with the view.

It's also very, very twisty. And that wasn't helped by our unexpected stop in Anglesea.

We needed to visit an ATM. Unfortunately for us, that ATM was located right next to ... an ice cream shop. A home-made, quirky flavours, ice cream shop, right in the middle of the main street. Really, what were we to do?

It's called Nordefine, and the ice cream is rich, tasty and, well, quirky. Exhibit A - 'Revenge of the Nerds', which is simply vanilla with the aforementioned lollies mixed through it. Ditto 'Red liquorice and white chocolate' - that one nearly forced me to go without my usual favourite, 'Choc Chip Cookie Dough'. For the more discerning palate, there was 'Blood Orange Sorbet' and 'Rosemary and Basil Gelato'.

Full to the brim, we set out towards Lorne. Oh, dear. I'm usually very good at stubbornly ignoring my sensitivity to dairy products, especially where ice cream is concerned. The Great Ocean Road, though, might charitably be called a roller coaster. And my roiling stomach didn't respond well to Wuff's gleeful anecdotes about near-misses and accidents that he'd seen during high school cycling excursions in the region. It was white-knuckle time all the way to Lorne - and then we hit the unsealed roads. Joy.

After a further twenty minutes of mind-numbing terror - capably assisted by Meglet, who asked every few metres if we were absolutely sure we were going the right way, and what if we broke down or had an accident, and wasn't there going to be burning off in the area - we reached the marvellously named Pennyroyal Valley, and Gentle Annie's Berry Gardens.

A name like that conjures up all sorts of mental images, and most of them would be right. It's a little piece of the English countryside buried deep in the bush, where the lush green of an orchard butts hard up against white trees whose leaves are that grey-green colour that somehow automatically suggests 'Australia'. Arguably, Spring might be a better time to visit, since the roses would have been in bloom, but when we turned into the drive late on an Autumn afternoon, it just looked ... perfect. The lowering sun cast a gold tinge over the fields of brambles and bushes. The gardenias, blazing white in the light, intermingled with glowing deep green silverbeet taller than the kids. And here and there, peeking out from the bushes, were the beautiful, deep red berries.

Because of the time of year, only strawberries and raspberries were in season, although Lilygirl did manage to find a lone blackberry - which she promptly ate. Wuff and the kids wandered up and down the rows, picking the organically grown fruit to their heart's content, while I rested in the cafe.

Of course, given where we were, I simply was compelled to sample the cuisine. I mean, really - it would have been rude of me to do anything else! I was thoroughly regretting the ice cream indulgence of an hour ago. Nonetheless, I rose to the challenge, and ordered - what else - a Devonshire tea.

Now, you'd think scones, jam and cream is pretty easy to get right. Alas, this is very much not the case. Too often, the scones are far too sugary, the jam is processed into a smooth jelly utterly lacking in character (and tasting suspiciously of artificial sweetener), and the cream - the horror! - comes from a can. A good Devonshire tea, then, is the test of a really good tea-house.

It was heavenly.

The scones were half-and-half white and wholewheat flour, freshly baked and warm from the oven. The jam was home-made from blackberries picked on the farm, the berries only partially dissolved, and they were served with lightly whipped pure whole-fat cream.

I pause for a moment's envious whimpering - or, if you're unfortunate enough to have gluten or dairy problems, muttered cursing.

I spent a little time talking to the owners, and discovered they'd only just taken over the business, renovating it completely in the last year. The cafe was completely restored to a comfortable, rustic area with open-air dining as well as indoor tables for cooler days. They now source all their produce from local businesses, as well as selling their own jams, chutneys, berry syrups (dear god, blackberry syrup, I may expire from the glroy of it all) and relishes.

We ended up with two large punnets of each berry, plus a third of cherry tomatoes. As I write, there is a chocolate muffin beside me, with fresh strawberries as accompaniment. Life is good.

So, today was pretty much entirely devoted to indulging our tastebuds - for which I am sure we will pay the price somewhere down the line. But was it worth it?

Not just yes, but hell yes.

Tomorrow the plan is to wake up early for a communal pancake breakfast with the rest of the resort. Hah. We'll just see how that goes. In the afternoon, it's time for what - in my opinion, anyway - will be the highlight of the trip.

That Magnificent Wuff in his Flying Machine.

It's possible you'll hear the screams.

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