Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Australia Trip (Days 5 & 6)

Day 5: Thursday, December 29
After lingering over our final breakfast in Melbourne, we packed our bags and headed to the airport for our 1pm Qantas flight to Sydney. We got to the airport and through check-in quite quickly, so we had enough time for coffee, more souvenir shopping, and snagging some food for lunch before we boarded. Unlike US domestic carriers, Qantas not only allows for free checked bags but also serves actual food on flights that occur near meal time, even the short 1-hour flight between Melbourne and Sydney. What a concept! Unfortunately, the lunch snack offering on-board was a warm lamb turnover, so I was glad that I had bought some sushi hand-rolls to eat during the flight.

We arrived on time at the Sydney airport, collected our bags, and headed to the train station to catch the Airport Link into the city. Disembarking at Town Hall Station onto George Street, we were less than two blocks from our hotel, the Sydney Hilton. Our room is on the 39th floor looking north, and we have a great view of the iconic Harbor Bridge, which was quite a lovely surprise. 

After unpacking, we went downstairs to the full-service Livingwell Health Club, where I swam laps in the 25-meter pool while Mr. E spent time on the elliptical and the treadmill, in addition to trying out the American Ninja-like apparatus.

We were delighted to discover more prawns in the Exec Lounge during the evening reception, not to mention the full bar service including basic cocktails in addition to beer and wine. I also had quite a bit of the green bean and garbanzo salad, which was thankfully free of onions and garlic! We ended up conversing with the folks sitting near us, a single older gentleman from D.C. who works in food and drug law and an older couple from Canberra who have ties to the Navy. The lively discussion ranged over a variety of topics, from travel to politics to economy to the recent deaths of celebrities Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.

Eventually we took our leave from the Exec Lounge to visit the beautiful Marble Bar that’s one level below-ground in the hotel. We had fond memories of the venue from our overnight stay in this same hotel during our previous trip, and we weren’t disappointed by our return visit. 

After a gin and tonic and a couple of glasses of wine at the Exec Lounge, I opted to stick with fizzy water for the rest of the evening, and Mr. E was very pleased with his Manhattan options. We chatted with a friendly young British couple sitting across from us, and I then headed up to the room while Mr. E lingered a bit longer and conversed with a gentleman who had recognized us from the Melbourne Hilton Exec Lounge. Small country! (umm…. Not really….)

Day 6: Friday, December 30
Hunter Valley Wine Country Tour
We had a 7:30am pick-up from the hotel for our full-day tour to Hunter Valley wine country, joining a group of nine other folks (four Americans, two Brits, two Aussies, one Swede) along with our very knowledgeable tour guide, Richard, who formerly worked for many years in the wine industry, including at Pennfolds.

The drive from Sydney took nearly two hours, and we stopped at Buon Cibo café for tea and coffee and nibbles before arriving at our first winery, Tyrrell’s Vineyards. 

The hot and muggy weather followed us from Melbourne, so I opted out of the brief walk into the vines to stay in the slightly-more-comfortable shady environment under a tree. Once we got inside the cellars and the tasting room, the climate was more tolerable, but only until we stepped outside again. Oof! 

We spent almost four hours at Tyrrell’s as Richard led us through a wine appreciation apprenticeship that included eleven (!) wines, from Semillon to Chardonnay to Pinot Noir to Shiraz to Cabernet. I had to sneak out at one point to munch on a stealth granola bar, since we had eaten breakfast around 7am and didn’t leave for our lunch spot until close to 3pm. That’s a long time, especially with wine in the mix, even though we did more sipping than drinking.

Lunch was at Muse Restaurant at Tulloch Vineyards, where Mr. E ordered the pork and I had the fish special, which was a delicious crispy skin Barramundi. The lingering lunch put us a bit behind schedule (apparently the service at Muse was unusually slow), so off we hastened to our second and final stop of the day at Hungerford Hill.Our tasting here was much faster, although we still got to sample eight wines, including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir.

By the time we were dropped off at the hotel, we had missed the Exec Lounge reception hours, so we walked a couple of blocks and found a Subway for a take-away sub for Mr. E and a salad for me. After that, it was bedtime for me while Mr. E went down to Glass Brasserie for a beer.


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