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On the road to Jugiong & Melbourne via the picturesque Yarra Valley.

Oh gosh this constant rain has been giving me the heeby jeebies. It has now rained for more days in Sydney this year than the number of days that it has been sunny. It’s been so constant I’ve actually contemplated moving to Melbourne to enjoy some good weather, which is why a week down south was just what the doctor ordered.

On Wednesday we packed the car and set off early heading south down the Hume Highway. Being the middle of the week the roads were reasonably quiet. We took a short break in the town of Moss Vale for a cup of tea before heading on to our first destination, a village called Jugiong, just north of Gundagai. Jugiong is a place we discovered many years ago when we would often travel south to the Victorian Alps to enjoy the ski season at Mt Hotham. One year as we were heading towards Albury on our way to the snowfields, I was comfortably asleep in the car when my significant other decided to take a detour when he saw a sign to Jugiong. Rumour has it that I woke up abruptly as he left the main road and in a rather terse voice questioned where the hell he was going. Back then I was the type of traveller that wanted to arrive at the set destination as quickly as possible, whilst he was always more of an adventurer that liked to enjoy the journey and discover new places along the way. On this particular occasion my grumpy mood dissipated instantaneously when we discovered the most homey little cafe called The Long Track Pantry, and forever after Jugiong became our stopping off place for a cuppa when we were travelling south. In more recent times, Jugiong has become more of a destination in itself, for day trippers from both Canberra and Sydney who enjoy both the pantry and the recently renovated pub, The Sir George Hotel with its fine food, beautifully manicured gardens and accommodation. On this trip we had decided to embrace the town and all it had to offer, drop down a gear into holiday mode, relax, and spend the night resting in one of the beautiful new cabins. We were smitten as soon as we walked into our ‘home’ for the night, not only because of the quirky and warm decor, but also because a loaf of freshly baked sourdough had just been delivered to our room. The smell of the bread was amazing and we both immediately treated ourselves to a slice or two smothered in butter and Vegemite. Is there anything better than fresh bread and Vegemite? I think not! I can still remember having a buttered crust with Vegemite as a treat after school and even way back then it was soooo good! Leaving the room and the sourdough behind us, we donned our warm coats and ventured out for a walk around the town, first visiting the Long Track Jam Factory kitchen, where the smell of Tomato Chutney cooking on the stovetop was tantalising our taste buds so much that we left with a jar or two before heading off to the pub to enjoy a glass of red by the open fire. In the evening we headed back to the same pub dining room for dinner where we enjoyed locally caught trout with hot chips and vegetables for dinner. What we hadn’t anticipated was that we would run into an old neighbour who we hadn’t seen for many years and who was also staying at The Sir George for the evening. He joined us at our table and we rejoiced in much banter and a good laugh reminiscing about old times.

Cosy corner in the bar at The Sir George Hotel, Jugiong, NSW

Arriving in the picturesque Yarra Valley the next day we couldn’t get over how beautiful the yellow and orange tinged vineyards looked in Autumn. Sitting on the deck enjoying a cool climate Chardonnay paired with unique Victorian cheeses whilst looking out over the vines at Oakridge Wines, the view was simply breathtaking. We took in a few of the eighty plus Yarra Valley vineyards in the afternoon, including Yering Station, the oldest vineyard in Victoria, opened in 1838, and housing the stately Chateau Yering in the midst of its established gardens, the award winning Tarrawarra Winery and art gallery, voted the best cellar door in 2021, before heading off for our final wine tasting and dinner at Balgownie Estate where we were also checked in to one of its boutique hotel villas for the evening. The buffet style breakfast of locally grown and freshly sourced food was the perfect fuel our bodies needed before departing the foggy valley and heading into Melbourne via the quaint country village of Warrandyte.

Victorian cheeses and Chardonnay at Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley, Victoria.

Our long overdue visit to Melbourne was much about catching up with family, in particular my sister and young niece and nephew. So excited were they both to have us come to Melbourne we were under strict instructions from our four, almost five year old niece to pick her up from her preschool in Caulfield at midday, and “not to be late.” Who were we not to listen? When the four year old gives instructions, we oblige. That’s what aunties and uncles do, right? We arrived with time to spare and when our eyes met as she headed back into the classroom after play time with her mates, she quickly averted them away from us and promptly marched by like a foot soldier. Once she was dismissed by her teacher she ran up to us with open arms for the most welcome embrace. We were so happy to be reunited again and as we headed off to our hotel near the city to check in, the incessant chatter began. Zagame's House, a boutique hotel on Lygon Street in the trendy inner city suburb of Carlton would be our home away from home for the next five nights. The vibrant decor fusing flavours of 1960’s design and bold colours, retro inspired lounge settings and bar tables was playfully unique, warm and inviting and the staff were welcoming and friendly. Our cosy room in the corner on the third floor offered a calm oasis to relax with iconic furniture pieces, a retro style bar with pre-mixed cocktails and a big comfy bed that the four year old immediately made herself comfortable on as we unpacked our suitcase.

The foyer, Zagame House, Carlton

We headed out for a walk along the infamous Lygon Street, known for its many eateries. We were on the hunt for an ice cream shop. Pidapipo Gelateria with its authentic, artisanal, Italian style gelato did not disappoint. After heading to Italy to attend Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, yes, it’s an actual thing, the owner, Lisa Valmorbida serves up gelato scooped from lidded stainless steel containers with a wooden paddle, the ice cream made on site from the best ingredients, fresh fruit, never frozen, no artificial flavouring, a uniform creamy texture and intensity of flavour. After sitting on a metal stool on the footpath delightfully savouring every lush lick, we ventured back to Zagame's House joyfully swinging our niece with both hands as we navigated our way past the pedestrians coming in the opposite direction. We can only imagine how much our little treasure would’ve enjoyed playing Pidapipo with her Italian nonna back in the cobbled streets of Italy.

We had busy Aunty and Uncle duties over the coming days including Auskick training and sausage sandwiches, our nephew is quite the AFL player, under 7s Saturday morning soccer and jelly snakes, trips to the South African butcher to buy Biltong, my niece loves it, potato and roasted garlic flatbread for lunch from The Flour House, gymnastics and strawberry and rhubarb Danish, also from The Flour House, an outing to the movies to see The Bad Guys, Disney movies at home and watching Matilda with the princess, visiting Legoland and fun activities at Chadstone, and dinner at The Stomping Ground. It was a sad goodbye after a few fun days, as our nephew asked us “when were we moving to Melbourne” and said he was sad that we had to go home. Hopefully now that Covid lockdowns are a thing of the past we can look forward to catching up more often.

My significant other and I also managed to sneak in a few scrummy breakfasts in the Zagame's House cafe, including poached salmon and eggs with quinoa and grapefruit, warm porridge and breakfast ramen, a stroll through the Fitzroy Gardens, and room service dinners including pork bao, cheese and charcuterie, and crunchy hot chips befitting of the cold Melbourne nights. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the negroni?! We also managed to peruse a few designer furniture shops in Armadale, Richmond and Abbotsford to gather some ideas for furnishing our soon to be finished apartment back in Sydney.

Porridge at Zagame's House cafe, feeling cold outside but warm inside.

Returning home to Sydney, we enjoyed blue skies for about a minute before the shades of grey returned. As I headed out early on Saturday morning to the fresh food markets at North Sydney to stock up for the week ahead, it was cold and miserable and the rain tumbled down. Negotiating the markets with an umbrella and numerous shopping baskets is never easy, however it was well worth the effort to be rewarded with an array of fresh veggies, the miniature cos lettuce so fresh I’m sure they were picked from the garden at Darling Mills that morning. I was overjoyed to discover La Tur cheese that I had been lusting for since trying it on our Hunter Valley excursion, and the most luscious smoked and roasted pumpkin dip and cashew nuts with smoked salt which I would enjoy with my children on election night. I treated myself to the best cup of smoky seafood and corn chowder from the Brilliant Foods store for breakfast, before heading home via my favourite Flour Shop bakery to purchase handmade pork and fennel sausage rolls which would become my version of the Election Day democracy sausage, enjoyed at home for dinner rather than at the polling booth.

Produce, North Sydney Fresh Food Markets

It had been a fun week of travel, adventure and catching up with family, and a welcome diversion from the mundanity of everyday life back in Sydney.

Oh, and for all those Wordle addicts that would also enjoy a culinary adventure, have you discovered the new word game called Phoodle? Much like Wordle a new word is released each day and the word chosen is related to food, chefs, cooking utensils or cooking techniques. Like Wordle it’s addictive and fun, albeit in my opinion, a little harder.

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.


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