|Posing on the veranda at Capers before our dinner at Margan|
We considered returning to one of our favorite destinations, Hawaii (a 10 hour direct flight from here), and I even entertained thoughts of travelling to SE Asia where some of my TA friends are now living and working. At 33 weeks pregnant, though, long hours in any seat (especially an airplane seat) does a number on my back and getting immunizations and trying to avoid a stomach bug in Asia didn't sound like a picnic either. So, we opted for a holiday much closer to home.
We hired a car and drove an hour and a half north of Sydney to Toowoon Bay, a coastal town just south of The Entrance and just north of Terrigal. We chose this spot because Thor and Jennie had recently raved about Kims Beachside Retreat, a resort there in Toowoon Bay whose accommodation packages include gourmet buffet meals. Did someone say buffet to a pregnant lady?
|Pregnant lady at a buffet|
As you might guess from the name, Kims boasts a spectacular location directly on the beautiful beach. Though beach bungalows were available, Mickey and I opted for a terrace which was slightly cheaper and afforded more privacy. The decor in our bungalow was dated and not especially stylish and thus left a bit to be desired considering the price, but it was comfortable, clean and had the best shower I've used. It was large enough for two, complete with two overhead nozzles and six side nozzles for spraying jets of water at the rest of your body. I felt guilty about the amount of water we wasted when we turned on every nozzle, but consoled myself with the knowledge that Sydney's drought is long over, right?
This past summer, like the last four, was pretty wet and we didn't once make it out to Bondi or Manly for a swim in the ocean. The weather gods must have smiled on our babymoon, though, because we enjoyed lots of sunshine and I insisted that we get in the water every day that we were staying at Kims. The temperature felt brisk at first, but it was lovely once you got in. I savored every moment of my buoyancy in the salty waves.
Mickey and I prepared ourselves for these massive buffet meals by swimming of course, and taking bush and coastal walks. These were fun, but I felt sorry for Mickey in that I could only go so far before getting too hot and tired and needing a rest. He was a great sport about taking it easy.
|Handsome man on the beach at Toowoon Bay|
After spending three nights at Kims, we packed up and drove along a country road to our next destination, Wollombi in the Hunter Valley. I'd driven through Wollombi several times, but had never stayed there. It's a very small town (consisting of pretty much just a 't' intersection) south of Cessnock and the tourist center of the Hunter Valley.
I chose a B&B there, Capers Guest House, that had a fantastic host, but was ultimately a disappointment. The spa room with a fireplace sounded delightful, but it was too warm for a fire and the spa tub didn't hold a candle to the bathing luxuries available at Kims. Likewise, the room didn't have a television and almost every piece of furniture was upholstered in the same granny floral print. Worst of all, I had an allergic reaction to something in that room and sneezed all night despite the best efforts of my pregnancy-approved antihistamines. Again, the food and friendliness were top-notch at Capers, but I can't get over my disappointment with the room or the dead frog I almost bumped into with my mouth in the pool there. Yuck.
Fortunately, there was plenty to do, eat and sip outside of Wollombi in the Hunter Valley. Mickey tasted some excellent wines at Iron Gate, a winery whose managers are very defensive of their decision to use corks instead of screw caps, the norm here in Oz. We brought home a couple of bottles that Mickey generously won't open until a glass of wine becomes part of my life again. Later, we enjoyed a fantastic lazy lunch at Bistro Molines, a mod Oz/French bistro with excellent views over the Hunter Valley and a charming shabby chic/French country interior punctuated by bunches of gorgeous fresh flowers. (Kims and Capers, take note!)
|Charm at Bistro Molines|
Mickey didn't seem to mind that I wasn't up for lots of wine tasting so we spent another afternoon poking around the shops and playing mini golf near the Hunter Valley Gardens. As it was Easter weekend, this area soon became packed. We tried to have lunch at a cafe in the shopping center, but the managers had literally locked the doors because they "had too many customers." They told us to try again in thirty minutes. Oh, Australian customer service, you never cease to astound me.
The highlight of this leg of the trip was our dinner at Margan. The 15km stretch of road from Capers to Margan in Broke was windy, partially unpaved and especially treacherous in the dark. Mickey and I left the music off and gave all our concentration to looking out for roos and turning the highbeams on and off when we encountered other vehicles (which was rare). Fortunately, we made it safely to and from the restaurant and the meal we enjoyed there was worth all of the trouble. The focus of the menu is seasonal, locally-produced food (some of it grown/raised right there at the winery), the service was excellent and the price was very reasonable considering the quality of the food.
|Very happy at Margan|