Three years among the vines

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The view over the Barossa from Mengler’s Hill – 29 July 2017

Three years ago today, a family of four, including two little boys aged three and five, left their motel in NSW, drove through Victoria and arrived in South Australia. In the early afternoon, with two children asleep, they drove into Tanunda, the place they had decided (with only some online research, two friends and a handful of visits) was going to be their new home. Leaving the boys to sleep, they drove by the school (where they were meeting the principal the next morning), and the house they were hoping to rent. The weather wasn’t great and as they arrived at the motel, they were a bit worried about that choice, but it was exciting. Besides, since leaving their house in Hanoi six weeks before, they had already stayed in eight different places. A massive storm hit as they were picking up supplies from the supermarket and as they put together a meal of pasta and sauce on the floor of their motel room, she was grateful they were together – even if they didn’t know what would come next.

That family was us and I still can’t believe it has been three years since we moved here. We have had our share of ups and downs, but I don’t think we have ever regretted the decision to move here. It still surprises me how quickly it all happened. We arrived here on the Tuesday and moved into our house on the Friday, with the stuff we’d had stored in Canberra arriving that same day. The boys started school and childcare that day and Simon started work the following Monday. Suddenly I was at home alone, the reality of my career and lifestyle change slowly sinking in.

I wrote this post a year after we arrived and I think a lot of it still rings true. Probably the one thing I didn’t expect was while you can make friends and feel settled quite quickly, there are still days where it doesn’t come easy. People often joke that you need three generations of Barossan family buried here to call yourself a local. While we have made incredible friends through school, work, the kids and their sport and more recently through Crossfit, there are times when you can’t help but feel like an outsider. I think it’s for that reason we’ve tried extra hard to learn about the history, explore places to eat, find our favourite cellar doors and get involved in the community.

We’ve really appreciated the friends who have provided job opportunities for us both, got our  boys playing hockey and basketball, invited us to social activities and made us feel welcome. When Simon had surgery in early 2016 to have a cancerous tumour removed and 20cm of titanium inserted in his arm, we were blown away by the support that was offered to us. The boys consider this their home, and after we bought our place last year, I have to say that I feel truly at home here.  A wardrobe full of too small clothes is also evidence that I’ve heartily embraced the best the Barossa has to offer, but fortunately in the last year, I’ve started to focus on exercise again and I’ve started running again.

After three years, I still find the juggle of part-time work,  housework, the boys activities, trying to develop a writing career and have a social life can become overwhelming and I think I’m just coming to terms with what a big change it was to leave a 15 year career. Deciding to wind up the consulting business I started was a difficult decision, but it has been great to just focus on  my part-time job in the wine industry while I try and write more. Leaving my career and not knowing what I would do next has probably made settling down more difficult, particularly as it isn’t something my friends here have experienced. I am only just coming to terms that making such a big career change also necessitates a big lifestyle change. There is the odd pang of jealousy when I see a Facebook post from a friend on an overseas posting enjoyable some fabulous travel experience but then I remind myself of the beautiful place we’re living and the opportunities that we have on our doorstop.

One of the highlights of living here has been visits from friends and family as it always provides a great opportunity to explore new places and revisit and share our favourites. It is hard being away from family, especially when they might be unwell or missing important birthdays and other activities, but it has also made me appreciate friends and family more. We couldn’t have made such a massive change without their support.

Reading back over my post from the first year (and a post from one of my favourite bloggers about her tree-change seven years ago), I was trying to think whether there was anything I would have done differently and I honestly can say, I don’t think there is. I think had we thought too much about our decision, the enormity of it all probably would have caused us to chicken out. I feel like three years on, we are all starting to feel settled, having our own house has given us a base to build on and there is no question this is where we want to be.

And while the locals might not see us that way (and the Swans remain my number 1 footy team), this is our home and we’re pretty happy about it.

 

 

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Farewell to Hanoi – 3 years on

Today marks 3 years since we left Hanoi at the end of our 3.5 year posting. We have been back in Australia for almost as long as we were there.

Our life has changed so much since then. Our little boys who were 3.5 months and 2 years old when we arrived in Hanoi, were still so little when we left – and are now school boys. We’ve had our ups and downs adjusting to a new life in the Barossa. There are days where I do miss the challenge of my public service/diplomatic career and I wonder whether leaving it behind was the right thing to do. But then I think about our wonderful lifestyle, the new friends who have welcomed us into this community and supported us and the opportunities we have been presented. I look at two little boys thriving in this beautiful rural town, playing sport and learning so much and I appreciate the fact I do have the time to spend with them and create my own new career.

The photos below were just a quick sample, uploaded in between the boys Crossfit class and basketball yesterday. It would be lovely to sit and browse through the albums of thousands of photos we took during the years. But how do you sum up 3.5 years of your life in photos or even words. We grew as parents and as a family and made some big decisions. We had the most incredible experiences and we made friends from all around the world. There are so many wonderful people from Vietnam and beyond that really should be in the photos below.

Its been cold and rainy here in the Barossa today and so I can’t help but miss the Hanoi summer. We are so grateful to have had the chance to call another place home and while it was only 3.5 years, it will always be a very special part of our family’s story.

 

A beach holiday in Normanville

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I have often wanted to blog about places we have visited but then I  get overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to include all sorts of details and reviews.

As my word count on my Vietnam book increases and I start to think that I might actually write a book, I’ve started to research travel writers and especially those writing memoirs. Last week I came across this post, about how this travel writer was no longer going to blog, and it struck a chord. I do want to share stories about the places we visit but I don’t want to feel I need to provide pricing or details or tell you why I liked the food or the wine. She made the point – and I think this goes for all of us when we share about our holidays, that we can’t miss being in the moment and enjoying the holiday just because we’re too busy recording and writing down details. I have always taken lots of photos, even back in the days of film that cost precious savings to get printed, but I definitely take way more on my iPhone now, and I need to make sure that I don’t miss the experience of the holiday because I’m too busy recording in – and as another aside – must get myself in more photos – no matter how I look.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share a bit about our week in Normanville towards the end of the school holidays. We went as friends have been visiting there a lot and I loved her photos. My sister and her family were also joining us for a week and so I wanted us to have options if the weather was bad.

We were able to book 2 side by side cabins at the Beachside Caravan Park, and while it’s a little out-of-town, it was super quiet and our back corner position gave us lots of space. Our cabins backed onto the sand dunes so we also had some great views

Here are some of the we did during the week:

– lunch at the Victory Hotel on the way down to Normanville from the Barossa

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Lunch views at the Victory Hotel, Sellicks Hill

– beers and chips at the beautiful Normanville Surf Life Saving Club high above the beach (run by volunteers, it’s always great to be able to support an organisation that keeps us safe in the water)

Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club
Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club

– dinner at the Normanville Kiosk and Cafe right on the beach – great wine list and enormous (and tasty) meals with a fantastic kids option

– cloudy cool day adventures visiting Second Valley climbing over rocks, Rapid Bay and then to Victor Harbor to watch the Tour Down Under

– snorkelling with friends at Second Valley – and discovering the great work Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries are doing. Free, guided snorkel tours with all equipment provided teaching people about the local marine life in various parts of South Australia

– A couple of visit to McLaren Vale that included Paxton Wines, lunch at S.C Pannell (the best duck curry, great wines, more good kids options and fantastic service), d’Arenburg (saw the almost complete cube and had a great tasting) and Beach Road Wines (excellent pizza).

– lots of sand castles and beach walks

 

– a crazy windy walk along the beach felt like a scene from Star Wars

– watching the horse riding groups passing past the cabin window and along the beach

– totem tennis and games on the deck

– awesome cousin time (and a few late nights spending some quality time with my sister)

– delicious treats from Yankalilla bakery, op shops galore and great coffee from 21 Junk Street and One Little Sister in Normanville (must go back for a meal)

– first run in months to Carrickalinga and then back along the beach with my sister

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It was everything a beach holiday should be. Lots of relaxing, exploring and just hanging out together. The cabins were simple but all we needed and worked well as my sister and her family were only there for 3 of the 7 nights. I think Normanville will definitely be a regular holiday spot in the coming years, especially as it’s an easy two hour drive away.

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Second Valley, January 2017

What did we miss? Any recommendations for next time?

I’d love you to leave your comments below. What makes a truly great beach holiday? Where are your favourite beach destinations?

 

Leaving on a jet plane – an exchange year begins

Leaving Sydney - 6 January 1992
Leaving Sydney – 6 January 1992

25 years ago yesterday I started my first overseas adventure without my parents. I flew out of Sydney with a group of other Rotary exchange students, bound first for Melbourne (where we would pick up another big group), then Singapore and then Copenhagen. Arriving in Denmark, we flew on to Odense, where we would have a two week crash course in the Danish lanuage – not to mention the art of Danish dinner parties, nightclubbing, eating and walking in the cold and ice.

I can remember the day as clearly as it was yesterday. My parents and sister were there, along with friends, my Grandparents, and other relatives. After checking in, we met with the Rotary area coordinator to receive our HSC (final year of high school) results three days early. This was almost a bigger deal than leaving our families for the year. Opening mine to receive a score of 96/100, I could breathe easy knowing that entry to my prefrred course of Commerce/Law was pretty well guaranteed and that I could enjoy my year knowing I had a place to come back to. I knew the small group from our Rotary district as we’d had various get togethers and from memory, we were all pretty happy – although I remember one friend holding out until we were outside Australia to open her incredible result.

I was so excited that I didn’t even cry saying goodbye to everyone the first time, but then my sister’s best friend (who was like a little sister) started crying setting Dad off and then it was on. I vividly remember doing the rounds of the group a couple of times before deciding that I really had to go.

Excitement soon took over as the NSW crew met on the plane. We stood out with our bright blue or green blazers with big yellow name badges and the beginnings of our pin collections. We swapped business cards and the addresses of our host families and settled in for the flight to Singapore which included a trip up into the cockpit. In Singapore our numbers grew, and from memory, the 52 Australians all flew into Copenhagen together. It was on the flight that I finally met the gorgeous Olivia – who I would go to school with in Vejle and who is a friend to this day. It was hard to believe she was only 16 and had just finished year 10 because she had more confidence and spunk (and could dance better) than most of us.

Olivia and I at our first school party
Olivia and I at our first school party

We were billeted to various Rotary families for the two week language course.  I stayed with a lady called Inge together with a girl called Nicole from Sydney. Inge’s daughter, who had died in her mid-20s a few years before, had been an exchange student with my Rotary Club in Australia and so she liked to have students from my clubs. He husband had also been involved in the exchange program and so the two weeks was a whirl of dinner parties as she introduced us to lots of exchange students, past and present. She even entertained the head of the Rotary  Program in Denmark – “Onkle Arnie”who was ultimately responsible for all of us – and would enforce the rules – “no dating, no driving, no drinking, no drugs” (to which we may have added, “do have fun, don’t get caught” – but then Denmark was pretty relaxed compared to Australia. We would soon learn the concept of “freedom with responsibility”.

I’m sure I put on five kilos in that two weeks – the food was exciting and new, I couldn’t understand a word so I took second and thirds during dinner parties and Inge was determined to feed us up. Nicole and I would also buy danishes on the way home and then eat chcoolate cake with hot chocolate (with cream on top) for afternoon tea when we got home. Dinner usually involved large amounts of pork, fat, butter and potatoes – and dessert.

My first dinner party in Denmark - the day after I arrived - January 1992 (and have just realised I now have some of those wine glasses I bought here in the Barossa)
My first dinner party in Denmark – the day after I arrived – January 1992 (and have just realised I now have some of those wine glasses I bought here in the Barossa)

We had two weeks of lessons and I can picture my classroom so clearly. Like many of my classmates, I had never learned another language which put me at a disadvantage as we struggled with the grammar, not to mention wrapping our Australian accents around the complex Danish vowels. Lunchtimes were spent eating hot chips, drinking beer and mucking around on the frozen lake outside school.

My Danish Class in Odense, 1992
My Danish Class in Odense, 1992

We went along to Rotary and made speeches, were introduced to the now trendy concept of “hygge” (which is probably closest to cosy and comfortable – think open fires, low lighting, candles and Scandinavian design), before parting ways and getting on trains to head to the towns we’d call home for a year.

Dinner with our host Rotary Club, January 1992
Dinner with our host Rotary Club in Odense, January 1992

This was the era before email and mobile phones, so we swapped addresses and telephone numbers of our host families and planned to catch-up at the first exchange student catch-up in March. Unfortunately I missed that thanks to a school excursion to Italy! Imagine Mum and Dad’s reaction when I rang after my first day of school to get permission – and the funds – to head on a week long tour to Italy the following month. Apart from Olivia and a few people close by, we’d next meet up on our crazy European Tour in May – 50 exchange students, a yellow bus, 2 chaperones and 8 countries in  a couple of weeks – aka – a recipe for disaster! Might save that story for another post.

At the Vatican, March 1992
At the Vatican, March 1992

Before I finish, a note on the title. Danes are big performers and a few weeks after arriving at school, all the classes in my year performed at assembly in advance of our upcoming study tours around Europe. I’d never heard John Denver’s Leaving on a Jetplane, but by the end of the first verse, I was in tears for the first time since leaving Sydney two months before.

For the first time, I realised that not only did I miss my family, but that at the end of the year, I’d being saying goodbye to all these amazing new friends and host families who had made me feel so welcome. Now whenever I hear that song, I’m reminded of how bittersweet travelling and making new friends can be – but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I still consider my Danish host families as family, and I’ll be forever grateful for the experience they provided a young girl from Wollongong.

Farewell party with some of my host families, January 1993
Farewell party with some of my host families, January 1993
My first visit to the little mermaid, Copenhagen - April 1992
My first visit to the little mermaid, Copenhagen – April 1992

My exchange year developed my love of travel, gave me the confidence to travel and live overseas on my own and would eventually lead to my diplomatic career (and coincidentally, yesterday also marked six since years since our first adventure as a family when we headed off to Hanoi). 

P.S: When I set out to write this post yesterday, I thought it would be a general post about expat life and friendships – instead, I took a lovely long trip down memory lane. So over the coming months, I’m going to share a few more posts about my exchange year – going to school in a foreign countries, living with my host families, travel, turning 18 and making friends. Maybe they’ll inspire a whole new generation of exchange students!

 

A new home in the Barossa

A couple of months ago, we got the keys to our new house in Tanunda. It all happened quite quickly and two months after looking at this property (the weekend after we got back from Vietnam) we had our very own place after renting for the past 2.5 years.

Our new house
Our new house

We spent a few weeks doing a few things to freshen up a 50 year old property that had been empty for five years – new lights, new paint and ripping up the carpets and lino and polishing the beautiful floorboards. Then at the end of October,  just before our 10th wedding anniversary, we moved in.

That was six weeks ago and yesterday, I finally unpacked the last box – if you ignore a few boxes of books and the “stuff” in the carport. We are slowly finding space for everything (we’ve lost a bedroom but gained linen cupboards and a pantry, lost wall space but gained amazing windows). We’ve gained an incredible established garden that continues to throw out surprises – like the discovery of some peonies last night. We’re trying to get on top of it and plan for how it should look, but we’re taking our time as we work out what is actually out there.

The peonies I discovered in our beautiful but overgrown garden
The peonies I discovered in our beautiful but overgrown garden

We had three plumbing disasters in two weeks – the final one being a leaking pipe that will eventually see the whole bathroom replaced. And a couple of weeks ago, our beautiful cat died suddenly which has made the house a little emptier than it was before.

And while we still don’t have pictures on the walls, and there is still another wardrobe to paint so we can hang all our clothes up, and there are curtains to be hung and weeds to be pulled, the most important this is it feels like home.

Put the tree up before all the boxes were unpacked
Put the tree up before all the boxes were unpacked

I wrote the words below the night before we got the keys back in September (almost a whole school term ago):

As I went to bed last night, I thought about the last 2 months, and the long process from looking at this house “just to see what’s out there”, to buying a house that will be the closest to a forever home since I moved out of Mum and Dad’s (the house I’d been brought home to as a baby).

Since then, houses had been transient – even though I settled in and made them home, I always knew they had a limited lifespan. Host families in Denmark, a share house in Sydney, a dorm in Slovakia, the Palace in Canberra, my apartment in Beijing. Even coming back to Canberra, I rented, not willing to commit to buying a place of my own, although it would turn out that Simon moved in within the year. After we got married, we bought our own place but even then we knew a 3 bedroom town house was not forever. But it was  the home we brought both boys home to, and the home we left for Hanoi, so selling it last year, even after 5 years away was strange.

Our first Hanoi home had seemed great on paper – 4 levels, multiple bathrooms and bedrooms – but the reality was the neighbourhood was isolated and there was no living space. Our next home in Hanoi was special – it was where our babies grew up, parties happened (often impromptu) and decisions were made about the next stage of our life.

Arriving here in the Barossa, we just wanted to unpack our stuff, and as we arrived on the Tuesday afternoon, I basically took the attitude that as long as this place was livable, we’d sign a lease. We saw it the next day, said yes on the spot and signed a lease on the Thursday night.  It was only lying in an uncomfortable motel bed that night that I realised I’d not only be without a housekeeper, but also a dishwasher.

But apart from this, the house was just what we needed. It was on one level, had a backyard and there was sky. We were living walking distance from vineyards, I had a great running tracks, and lovely neighbours and school was 5 mins away.While it was perfect for our introduction into the Barossa, today we get the keys to a place we can call our own. More importantly, for the first time in my adult life, I’m getting ready to unpack and throw away the packing boxes and say, this is it. This is home.

Reading this again two months later, makes me quite emotional because as someone who has spent most of the last 24 years travelling (or at least thinking about where to live next), it is a strange feeling to finally unpack and say, this is home.

But, as strange as that feeling is, it is both comforting and exciting and I can’t wait to see what unfolds in the coming years here.

Roses in our backyard
Roses in our backyard

 

 

 

Rolling with tradition

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The Tanunda Kegel Barn – the oldest wooden kegel barn in the Southern Hemisphere

It’s almost 8pm on Day 3 of my 24 days until Christmas writing challenge and this is the first chance I have had to sit down and write today.

For the first time in ages last night, I was back at the Tanunda Kegel Club for the Ladies night. Kegel is a little like ten-pin bowling but using 9 pins and a very long narrow alley. It’s a game that was brought out by some of the original German settlers and the Tanunda Kegel Club is the only wooden kegel barn in the South Hemisphere. (You can watch a video about it here). The original barn was started in 1858 and some of the pins and balls are the original wooden balls. Many school groups visit, especially German schools from around Australia and overseas visitors, like the Barossa China Wine School group are treated to a night in the Kegel Barn as a unique Barossa tradition.

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Women weren’t allowed to play until the 70s but now a group of us “roll” on Wednesday night with a mixed group playing on Fridays. It’s a chance for a laugh and a catch-up, usually accompanied by wine and some food. Last night we ate Chinese dumplings – true multicultural Australia.

The scoring system is fairly complex and each player rolls 3 times per turn, one of which has to be an old wooden ball (the others are regular bowling balls). There are loads of different techniques and styles but the old wooden track certainly makes for some challenging bowling. It definitely changes after periods of wet weather too!

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Unlike the modern Kegel clubs in Germany, a pinsetter is still required to re-set the pins after each roll and send the balls back down.

As you can see from my scores, I am definitely still a beginner but I love being a part of something that has been going in Tanunda for over 150 years (and it gets written up in the local paper). It’s also funny that the Barossa Living magazine we picked up in Sydney soon after arriving back in Australia that inspired our move to the Barossa also featured the ladies kegel players on the cover. Certainly can’t say I expected to join them but definitely glad I have!

 

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First match report in the local paper – a “pudel” is a gutter ball

 

My Barossa – Part 2 – all about the food (and coffee)

It’s a couple of weeks since part one of my newcomer’s guide to the Barossa (me being the newcomer). Work, school holidays and the realisation I’d deleted part two has delayed this post. But school is back and thanks to the computer back-up, I have been able to resurrect the post and share some of my other favourite things to do.

One upside is that I have been able to sample a few more places, so I have a few more tips to add.

Fresh Produce and Food

Our first visit to the Farmer's Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
Our first visit to the Farmer’s Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since

It’s probably no surprise that the wine culture and German heritage in the Barossa means that food is an important part of the Barossa lifestyle. If you visit on a Saturday morning, be sure to head to the Barossa Valley Fanmer’s Market to pick up great produce, coffee, treats and even breakfast. I also love that our local supermarket support so many local producers by stocking their products, which means that even if you can’t get to the Farmer’s Market, you can still try products like Jersey Fresh milk, Barossa Roasters coffee, Careme Pastry, Steiny’s mettwurst, Wiech’s noodles, Barossa Valley Ice Cream, and many more. I love the fact our local supermarkets get behind local products and make sure they are available if you can’t make it to the Famer’s Market.

Chicken and Leek Pie made by me with Careme Pastry
Chicken and Leek Pie made by me with Careme Pastry

In an era where many cities have lost their butchers, we’re lucky to have butcher’s in most towns in the Barossa including Thornby’s in Tanunda, Schultz in Angaston (home to the famous Schultz bacon) and Linke’s in Nuriootpa.

Right next to Thornby’s in Tanunda, is the Apex bakery which has been baking bread since 1924.

Maggie Beer’s Farmshop is definitely worth a visit – you can enjoy a light lunch overlooking the dam, an ice cream or stock up on amazing condiments, jams, sauces and other cooking items. I am slightly obsessed by the Salted Brandy Caramel and Dark Chocolate Vincotto. Great spot for kids with nature walks, birds (including a couple of beautiful peacocks), turtles, ducks and sheep.

We watched for ages as this peacock (name King Fu peacock by the kids) put on a show for us at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop
We watched for ages as this peacock (name King Fu peacock by the kids) put on a show for us at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop

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Coffee

The options for coffee are expanding weekly it seems and it is hard to believe that a decade ago there was hardly a coffee shop in town. Being in Tanunda, I tend to get my daily fix at Keils, Nosh or the recently opened Mac Shac (which all serve a good range of sandwiches and meals). I have yet to try out the new Beans and Cream which is using my favourite Barossa Coffee Roasters– as does Harvest Kitchen and the kiosk at Seppeltsfield. Another popular newcomer on the Main Street of Tanunda is Darling’s Food with Passion cafe right next to Ironstone Cottage (which along with Elemental, Seasons and Alabaster are some of my favourite places to shop, especially for gifts).

Soul With Zest and Casa Carboni make great coffee in Angaston, I’ve heard good things about Barista Sista Beanery in Nuriootpa. Bar41 in Wiliamstown makes a great coffee as does That Little Café in Stockwell, which is open Thursday-Saturday with an ever changing menu

Dining out

Once you have enjoyed all the wineries and cooked up a storm with local produce, there are also some great restaurants to try. Here’s the list I share

  • Fino at Seppeltsfield – award winning and just as good as the original Fino in Willunga (McLaren Vale) and set in the recently renovated Seppeltsfield building

    A selection of the dishes from Fino at Seppeltsfield, May 2015
    A selection of the dishes from Fino at Seppeltsfield, May 2015
  • Appellation at the Louise – amazing food and also does a “locals night” (although you don’t have to be local) on a Tuesday night) which is a 3 course menu $59 – bookings essential. We went for our anniversary last year and it was great not having to order and just enjoying the dishes the chef had designed to showcase great local, seasonal produce
    Entree at Appellation
    Entree at Appellation

    View over the Stonewell Vineyard from Appellation
    View over the Stonewell Vineyard from Appellation
  • Ferment Asia in Tanunda is rated really highly with Chef and Owner Tuoi Do preparing Vietnamese style dishes using local South Australian produce. It also has a great wine list and has been recently extended
  • Harvest Kitchen at Artisans of Barossa – run by Tracey Collins and Pete Little, I have eaten here several times since they opened in February and can’t say a bad word – except for the fact I am slightly addicted to the salted caramel popcorn sundae! I also recently tried the Feed Me Like a Barossan lunch, which for $49 provides a fantastic selection of all the small plates, mains and desserts on offer. If you have the time, settle in and enjoy. Open 7 days for lunch, they are also open on a Friday night for dinner – but make sure you book.

    The Salted Caramel Popcorn sundae at Harvest Kitchen is amazing
    The Salted Caramel Popcorn sundae at Harvest Kitchen is amazing
  • Casa Carboni – coffee is fantastic and Fiona and Matteo offer great meals and cooking classes. On Friday evenings they offer wines by the glass with a menu of seasonal, local small plates.
  • Greenock Creek Tavern – great old pub with beautiful courtyards and grassed areas. We were spoilt with a huge sample platter of homemade icecreams from the chef the day we went. The lemon meringue pie ice cream had actual pieces of pie in it and was delicious.
  • Hentley Farm – this is definitely something to put on your Barossa bucket list! We were very lucky to be taken there by friends recently and enjoyed the Discovery menu with paired wines. The service was impeccable and the food was amazing – incredible flavours and very innovative without being over the top. It’s decsrived as “about” 7 courses and while there were 7 mains, there were also 5 small “snacks” to start, a dessert and 3 different petit fours. Save your pocket money and book in advance!

    A selection of the dishes we enjoyed recently at Hentley Farm
    A selection of the dishes we enjoyed recently at Hentley Farm
  • First Drop/Home of the Brave – great tapas, daily specials and a funky setting. Service is fun and the wine is pretty good too.
  • Barossa Valley Brewing – apart from local brewed beer and a beer garden perfect for the summer months, there is a great menu

1918 Bistro and Grill and Vintners Bar and Grill (which recently won the SA Best regional and Contemporary Restaurant) are two restaurants on my must visit list which are popular with locals and visitors alike.

There are also pubs in most of the towns serving up good local pub food.

For families (especially with younger kids), the options for dinner are more limited, but given the number of new restaurants that have opened since we arrived, I don’t think it will be long before there are more options. I often suggest to friends travelling with kids that they make the most of lunches out, and then stock up at the market, butchers and supermarket (and cellar doors) for dinner – and of course, get a babysitter and book one fancy child-free dinner out.

One gap that I hope is filled in coming years is a really good, upscale Chinese restaurant that showcases Australian produce and most importantly wine from the Barossa with dishes cooked from a variety of Chinese regional cuisines. I think this would be a valuable addition from both a tourism and wine point of view.

And it could hardly be a post about Barossa food without mentioning all the brilliant home made and home grown produce. We have be spoiled by friend’s bringing us cherries, lemons, eggs, almonds, apricots, preserves and chutneys. I’m also learning that the country roads are filled with wild fruits and nuts, and I’m looking forward to my first foraging trip. I’m also going to give jam making another go, although I think the winners from this year’s Tanunda Show are safe for a little while yet!

Tanunda Show Produce Display, March 2015
Tanunda Show Produce Display, March 2015

Transport

There are loads of options for tours so that you don’t need to worry about driving yourself. There is not much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, book in advance.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

I’m sure there are many more places I could include, but these are just a few of the places we’ve enjoyed since we have been here or been told we should try. If there is anything I’ve missed, please let me know.

My Barossa – a few of my favourite things – wineries and other things to do

View over the Steingarten Vineyard
View over the Steingarten Vineyard

In recent months, we’ve had visitors, done a house-swap and been asked to provide suggestions for friends of friends coming to visit. So I thought I should write a blog post with the various emails I had sent. However  I have been procrastinating over this post for weeks because every time I work on it, I think, “now I should just visit a few more places” and then post.

The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

The reality is, when you decide to call a place home, it can sometimes be too easy to slip into a local’s, “I’ll do that later” attitude and forget to play tourist. On the positive side, writing a list like this is a good reminder about all the places I still want to visit and to make time to do so. So Mum’s visit last week was a good excuse to tick a few more of the “must-dos” off my list which means it’s become an even longer and I’ve split it into two parts.

This is by no means a definitive list, in fact, if I ever get to a point where I say I have seen everything there is to see, and done everything there is to do, well, I should just up and find a new place to live. But I doubt that will ever happen because there are always new restaurants to try, new vintages of wine to sample, new shops and new exhibitions. Not to mention the fact that the Barossa is one of those fabulous places that thanks to the vines and fruit and almond trees (think blossoms), actually has seasons that you can see.

Wineries

Of course this is one of the main reasons people come to the Barossa and there are so many options. I have promised myself that in the coming months, I am taking myself of to do more wine tasting so I can expand my list of recommendations. I am no wine expert – so I’m not providing tasting notes – but I’ve included a link for all of them

  • Artisans of Barossa – 7 small winemakers in one of the most picturesque spots looking out over the vines towards Tanunda. Usually great art and jewelry on display, space for kids to run around or play soccer/cricket and the fabulous Harvest Kitchen (which I’ll include in next week’s post on places to eat). You might even get to enjoy a tasting with my husbandIMG_3716
  • Langmeil – great wine, fantastic history and a lovely platter (see my post on a day of wine tasting for more of the history about Langmeil)IMG_0515
  • Peter Lehmann – great tasting room, loads of beautiful space outdoors to enjoy a platter while kids run around and toys inside if the weather isn’t so great
  • Rockford – great wines being made in a winery that looks like it is a museum. Great insight into how wine is made

    Rockford Wines
    Rockford Wines
  • St Hallett – another beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic or a platter – I think they still do a fantastic duck platter
  • Whistler – a great one for families with BBQs, swings etc for kids and you can build your own platter
  • Thorn-Clarke – beautiful property out at Angaston and some great wines
  • Grant Burge – beautiful views up on a hill overlooking the Krondorf area, platters and lovely bubbles

    View from Grant Burge Wines
    View from Grant Burge Wines
  • Jacob’s Creek – a huge tasting room, excellent museum with history about the Barossa and wine making, a restaurant and beautiful outdoor areas. Also the opportunity for tours and cooking classes in the Jacob’s Estate cottages

    Jacob's Creek
    Jacob’s Creek
  • Two Hands – beautiful tasting room and a big focus on Shiraz

    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
  • Seppeltsfield – a huge tasting room with circular tasting benches, the opportunity to try a fortified wine from your birth year, s and beautiful architecture (plus the fantastic Fino restaurant and the Jam Factory – where you can see artists at work)

    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
  • Chateau Tanunda – celebrating 125 years this year, it’s certainly one of the most iconic landmarks in the Barossa Valley
  • Pindarie – won one of the top tourism awards, giant hay bales to climb (which has made it my boys’  favourite winery to visit) and a recently renovated tasting room. Great wine (especially the 2015 Riesling) and one of the most fantastic views out over the Barossa. The food is also great – we had a saltbush lamb pie and one of the best platters I’ve had in the Barossa in the time we have been here when we visited with Mum recently.
    Lunch at Pindaric
    Lunch at Pindaric

    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
  • Home of the Brave/First Drop wines – finally visited with Mum last week. Wines we had with our incredible tapas lunch were great so must get back for a tasting soon.

    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
  • Yalumba – one of the oldest family owned wineries in Australia and a beautiful property with it’s iconic clock tower.

    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival
    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival

Places I’m off to visit soon

  • Yelland and Papps – run by Michael and Susan Papps who are lovely people (which makes it even worse that I haven’t visited). First generation winemakers making great wine and with a tasting room that always gets rave reviews
  • Tscharkes
  • Turkey Flat – visited years ago, drive past on a weekly basis – must make time to stop!
  • Elderton
  • Taste Eden Valley – a tasting room in Angaston showcasing around 12 Eden Valley producers

This is just a tiny selection of the 170 wine companies in the Barossa. More details and a history of wine making in the Barossa, check out the Barossa.com website

Don’t forget, tasting a few wines at a few different places can add up. So unless you can spit like a professional, you’ll need a designated driver or the services of one of the local transport companies. There are lots of options from taxis, to private cars (including beautiful vintage cars), buses and even a three-wheeled motorcycle tour.

However there is much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, you’ll need to book in advance.

Other Things to do

Of course, it’s not all about wine tasting and there are a number of towns throughout the Barossa with great places to eat, beautiful shops, parts, galleries and other sites.

I tend to spend a lot of my time in Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston but there are lots of other great towns to visit including Lyndoch (where we have spied a number of restaurants, a bakery and most importantly a park for the kids), Eden Valley, Kapunda, Springton and Williamstown (close to the Whispering Wall)

The Whispering Wall
The Whispering Wall

And while we’re on parks, favourites in our family include the Sculpture Park at the Mengler’s Hill lookout, Tanunda Oval, Angaston and the train park at Nuriootpa.

Mongrel's Hill and the Sculpture Park - great views out over Tanunda
Mongrel’s Hill and the Sculpture Park – great views out over Tanunda

There are also loads of great antique and second-hand stores full of furniture, home wares and other curios that provide a fantastic insight into the history of the Barossa.

Finally, the Barossa is a fabulous place to just walk or drive around. This place is a photographer’s dream, especially if you love landscapes dotted with old stone churches, farmhouses and the ever-changing colours of vineyards and paddocks.

IMG_4901

As I said at the outset, this is just a sample of the things we have enjoyed or have on our wish list to explore in the coming months.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources here (and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

If you’ve been to the Barossa (or live here), I’d love to hear your tips for wineries I might have missed.

I’ll try share and my list of favourite places for lunches, dinners, food and coffee soon, so be sure to tweet or email if there are places I should include.

12 months in the Barossa – and some tips for making a lifestyle and career change

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Today marks 12 months since we arrived in the Barossa Valley. As is often the case with milestones like this, in some ways it feels like we’ve been here forever, but at the same time, the year has flown.

Looking down over Tanunda - the place we now call home
Looking down over Tanunda – the place we now call home

When we decided to make the move to South Australia after our 3.5 years in Hanoi, we didn’t really know what we were in for. For me, it was about leaving a career of 15 years behind to do something new. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted a more flexible lifestyle and that I wanted to be doing something that made a contribution to my community. For Simon, it was about getting back into the wine industry after being the stay-at-home Dad for most of our time in Hanoi. For the boys, it was about embracing life in Australia, the outdoors, fresh air and friendships. We chose South Australia because the cost of living seemed low and there were numerous wine regions to choose from.

Don't think I'll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards
Don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards

12 months on, I think we can honestly say we made the right decision. We’ve got some great friends, we’re doing work we love and we have 2 happy kids (and a happy cat).

Boys at Mengler's Hill soon after we arriving - the sculpture park is still a favourite spot
Boys at Mengler’s Hill soon after we arriving – the sculpture park is still a favourite spot

Some of the highlights from the last year include:

  • starting a business from nothing that I really hope will contribute to the local community
  • making lots of great friends – from Mum’s at school to work contacts and friends of friends

    New friends and exercise buddies
    New friends and exercise buddies
  • being involved in the Vintage Festival parade – being part of the community and connected to the history of the place

    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade - which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade – which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
  • getting involved with the Kindy
  • starting this blog
  • getting involved with the Spence Club – writing content for the blog and nominating for the board
  • having time to cook, knit, sew and read
  • having family and friends come and visit and love the place

    First Barossa Christmas with the family
    First Barossa Christmas with the family
  • shopping local – the Barossa Farmer’s Market Facebook posts for about 6 months before we arrived were a big influence on my feeling that this was the place – and I love that we can buy local, meet the people we buy from and contribute to the community

    Our first visit to the Farmer's Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
    Our first visit to the Farmer’s Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
  • the power of social media – as in Hanoi, Twitter andInstagram have been great platforms to learn about theBarossa but also to connect with people and make friends

    New hobbies in the Barossa - playing German bowls - Kegel
    New hobbies in the Barossa – playing German bowls – Kegel
  • the beautiful scenery and history that surrounds us – from old buildings and churches to living a 5 minute walk from the oldest Shiraz vines in the world – and of course, lots of great wine

    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

It hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops, and there have been some big adjustments.

  • being at home – without the household help – and trying to balance studying then starting a business with cleaning, cooking, school pick-ups etc
  • losing my identity – so much of who I was, was tied up in my job and it was strange to not have that
  • not earning disposable income – and not being able to find the “bridge” job I thought I could have because
  • stress of the early days – no one to call if I was running late for pick-up, crying myself to sleep because Xavier didn’t have many friends to invite to his party and feeling like an outsider at school
  • doubts of starting a business for the first time

But the highs definitely outweigh the lows and there is so much that we’re looking forward to in our next year here. – Finding our own house – but given gardening abilities haven’t been as I’d hoped might need to find a compromise between the rural idea and the ‘burbs – but I do want chickens

  • Getting my business off the ground
  • More great adventures with family and friends as we explore theBarossa Valley and more of South Australia

    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
  • Getting to know even more of the fantastic people that bring us our great food and wine
  • Seeing our kids continue to thrive
  • More cooking, crafting and maybe even some preserving
  • Getting my health and fitness back on track and running the Barossa Half Marathon next year

    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch
    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch

And for anyone thinking of making a big, bold lifestyle and career change, here’s a few things I have learned:

  • it takes time – there will be good days and bad days but stick with it, and know some days you just have to cut yourself some slack
  • knowing why you want to make the change makes it a lot easier to cope with the challenges
  • be open to new stuff, say yes – but don’t completely overwhelm yourself.
  • If you’re a planner, you’ll still need to plan. I realised I still need menu plans, to-do lists and I still need to get up early because even though I I’m working full-time and be flexible with my day, part of my career change was about having time to do other things like cook, exercise and craft – and there are still only 24 hours
  • Coaching and networking is so valuable – especially if you’re starting a business. It’s great to have someone keeping you accountable and cheering you on, especially when you are doing something completely new and don’t know that many people.
  • Enjoy it! Celebrate the little victories, get to know your new town and focus on the good stuff!

IMG_3269 Finally, a huge thank you to Simon and my boys, our family and friends – old and new, who have provided so much support along the way. We couldn’t have done it without you!

A day of wine tasting in the Barossa

Two Hands Wines
Two Hands Wines

One of the advantages of not having a full-time job is being able to make the most of the opportunities when they come along. So when the opportunity arose to help a friend out by playing chauffeur last week, I jumped at the chance. The guest was Kamal Malik, the Head Sommelier from the Conrad Resort in the Maldives. Kamal was in Australia as the guest of Teusner Wines, as he was the winner of the Hilton Hotel Group’s South East Asia Sommelier Cup, which Teusner had sponsored. I met Kamal on his last day in the Barossa, picking him up in one of the big black Teusner utes (a definite highlight for this city girl who has only recently moved to the country). On the way to our first stop, I learned that Kamal had started in hospitality and after being assigned to the bar in the hotel he was working, decided that wine was more interesting than cocktails and decided to make a career of it. After several years in India, he moved to the Maldives where he has been for about 9 years, the last 4 with the Hilton.

The bakehouse
The bakehouse

Our first stop was Two Hands Wines in Marananga, one the prettiest villages in the Barossa. We were met by Daniel Hill, who recently joined the Two Hands marketing team. Daniel showed us around the winery before taking us up to the old bake house for a private tasting. The cellar door is in a beautiful old farmhouse and the bake house was apparently where the locals all came to bake their bread. The bake house also has a glass floor so you can look down into the cellar of back vintages below. Being the designated driver, I enjoyed a coffee while Kamal tasted, although I did taste a couple of the Flagship wines as I figured this was a special opportunity. While Shiraz is definitely the focus (including single region wines from six different regions and single vineyard wines), we were able to try a yet to be released white from the Flagship series as well as a Rare Muscat in one of the coolest bottles I have seen.

A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands

After Two Hands, we drove over to Langmeil, which is literally around the corner from home and was the first Barossa winery I visited on my first visit to the Barossa in 2007. We met Cellar Door manager Jonathan for a tour around part of the vineyard. We started in the blacksmiths forge and I learned that my street is named Christian Auricht. He was a blacksmith and founded the village of Langmeil in 1842. The other old buildings on the property were home to the butcher, baker and cobblers shop and I learned that Langmeil Road was actually the main street. The original “Freedom” vines were planted in 1843, and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving Shiraz vineyards in the world.

Kamal in the old blacksmith's forge
Kamal in the old blacksmith’s forge
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil

I was also excited to hear about the Orphan Bank vineyard. Vines planted in 1860 were transplanted from what is now the Langmeil housing estate (where I live) in 2006 and replanted on the Langmeil site. We were also lucky to see the new underground cellar being built in the old water tank. A local carpenter has built a beautiful circular rack around the walls and the wheel from an old machine for crushing grapes has been transformed into a stunning light fitting.

Underground cellar at Langmeil
Underground cellar at Langmeil

After our tour and history lesson, we escaped into the warmth of the cellar door for a platter of Barossa produce (including mettwurst from Steinys and cheese from the Barossa Cheese Company ) and a tasting. While Kamal was taken through an extensive tasting, I limited myself a taste of the Sparkling Shiraz (such a Barossa specialty and often referred to as Barossa Berocca), and the Valley Floor, Orphan Bank and Freedom Shiraz. The history buff in me loved that I was trying wines from such old vines, and while they don’t necessarily make better wines, the history behind them does make them very special.

A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil
A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil

Our final stop was Rockford Wines. I have driven past several times, but hadn’t been in to visit. We were met by Operations Manager David who gave us a brief history of Rockford as we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine in the courtyard.

Courtyard at Rockford Wines
Courtyard at Rockford Wines

In 1971, winemaker Robert O’Callaghan purchased the property and set about collecting various bits of machinery and old granite tanks and set up a winery that David told us was described by a journalist at the time as “a new 100-year-old winery”. It really did look like a museum, with a small window that grapes are hand loaded in through, the old crusher (the wheel of which was the same as the one now part of the light fitting at Langmeil), granite tanks and the iconic basket presses. All the reds are made on-site and I am definitely going to visit next year during vintage. There were so many great stories and things to see – from the new basket presses made by a customer who became a friend that are now exported around the world, to the very old solera storing fortified wine and the impressive barrel stacks.

Basket press at Rockford
Basket press at Rockford
The crusher at Rockford - with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil
The crusher at Rockford – with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil

After soaking in the history and stories, we went up to the Stonewall Tasting Room. Being the last stop for the day, I tasted more than I had at Two Hands and Langmeil, but I did work on the art of elegantly spitting. I tasted my first 2015 Vintage – the White Frontignac that had been released that day. I really enjoyed it, probably as it was quite light and zippy and at about 8.5 per cent, I could see it becoming a summer favourite. The Riesling and Semillon were also great and it was interesting to try the Alicante Bouchet – which looks like a rosé but is actually a red-fleshed grape. The Sparkling Shiraz was the first Rockford wine I had tried on my first visit to Adelaide in 2000, so of course I had to taste, and I would have to agree with it being seen as one of the benchmark wines of its type in the region. A tasting at Rockford wouldn’t be complete without tasting the Basket Press Shiraz, which was very enjoyable too. Finally, after managing to taste and spit without embarrassing myself, we finished with the 2005 Shiraz VP, a fortified wine that is made from a friend’s family vineyard before we farewelled Kamal who headed off to Adelaide, while I returned the ute back to Teusner.

Rockford's Black Shiraz
Rockford’s Black Shiraz
2015 White Frontignac - my first 2015 vintage wine
2015 White Frontignac – my first 2015 vintage wine

It’s probably fairly obvious that I am no expert when it comes to wine – I can pick varieties, I can usually pick a couple of key flavours and I can tell if a wine is from an older vintage, but mostly, I either like it or not. I think the thing I enjoy most about wine tasting is the stories behind the wine. Apart from having the chance to taste some pretty special wine, I really enjoyed seeing the diversity in the wine industry in the Barossa. There is such a range of wineries – from large-scale big name brands to small batch producers, wineries with long histories and new players – and something I realised was that they are all important and all have a role to play in ensuring the longevity of the industry and the region. The other thing I have come to appreciate the longer I am here is the importance of the grower. I think before I moved here, I thought of most wineries owning and working their own vineyards, but the reality is, the region is made up of hundreds of growers and vineyards, many of which have been in the same family for generations. In some ways, they are the unsung heroes, perhaps overshadowed (at least in the average wine drinker’s mind) by the brands and big name wine makers. One of the great things about living here has been meeting the grape growers and seeing that at least in this part of the world, they aren’t just faceless or nameless farmers but an integral part of the winemaking life of the Barossa.

With a husband that works at a tasting room (Artisans of Barossa, which is a group of 7 like-minded wineries, including Teusner), we probably haven’t done as much wine tasting here as I would like. So after my day out with Kamal, I’m going to aim to go and visit a new spot every couple of weeks, if only just to learn more about the history of the Barossa and the importance of winemaking to the region.

View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa
View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa

I’ve included a link to all the wineries we visited in the blog, but you can also visit Barossa.com or Barossa Dirt to learn more about wine in the Barossa.