Monday, October 31, 2011

Leaving Town

A couple of days ago we skipped town. I drove Nicola down to Wellington airport, dropped her and the luggage off, then drove back home, parked the car, and walked down to the airport myself. A couple of hours later we were winging our way across the Tasman to Melbourne.

When we landed in Melbourne it was raining. Undeterred, we went to the car hire shop and collected a Toyota Corolla, and drove up through the Macedon Ranges to Castlemaine, there to crash Jason’s birthday party, which was in full swing as we pulled up a little before 8pm.

There, it sounds like we did all that just on a whim. But no, it was all part of a carefully pre-arranged plan! We’re staying in Castlemaine for 6 nights before heading up to Brisbane for a long weekend, then going further north to Palm Cove near Cairns, where we’ll be staying a further 6 nights.

On our first night here, and despite the rain (which we thought we’d left behind in Melbourne, but had doggedly followed us all the way), we had an al-fresco dinner with around 20 people, which went on long into the night.

The following morning the weather had cleared, and we walked down the road to Tog’s for a spot of breakfast, before collecting some tourist guides from the Castlemaine tourist information centre, and deciding to go out for a drive to Daylesford and Ballarat. Daylesford was pretty busy as it’s a holiday weekend here in Victoria, but we found somewhere to park down by the lake and had a light lunch at the lakeside cafĂ© there. We then walked around the lake, finding a mysterious native bird…

…and spotting some rosellas in flight, which I was unable to capture on film. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other opportunities!

We then headed down to the Goldfields museum in Ballarat and had a wander around there, learning the history of gold mining in the region and seeing replicas of some of the large nuggets that have been found in this area, including the Welcome Stranger, the largest gold nugget ever found. It’s enormous!

Back to Castlemaine, and Jason and Elissa had a long-standing invitation to a birthday party for one of their staff, so we were parked at The Good Table for dinner whilst they went off down the pub. We had oysters, stuffed zucchini flowers, quail and duck, all cooked beautifully. The chef used to work at Movida, apparently, and the food is presented tapas-style so you can have a bit of everything. Afterwards we walked back up the road and had an early night.

Morning Tea

During the tournament, the bank I work for have been running various competitions for tickets to matches, merchandise etc. In the final week, the Risk department held a competition to host a morning tea. “Morning tea” is a New Zealand tradition and usually consists of sausage rolls, served with the inevitable tomato sauce (never ketchup!) Each team within the department were allocated a pair of countries around whose cuisine their offering was to be themed. We were allotted Scotland and Italy, so prepared a table for each country. Scotland cuisine included a haggis, Irn Bru, shortbread, and a microwaved Mars bar (as we had no deep fat fryer to prepare the Mars bar in the traditional Scottish way).

The Italy table had pasta, pizza, biscotti (made by me) and cupcakes decorated with Italian flags.

It all came together remarkably well, and at the end we were judged the winners of the competition, and were rewarded with the respect and admiration of our peers.

After the judging, we scoffed the lot in pretty short order.

Return Of The Blog

Yes, I’ve been remiss and ignored this blog for too long. Whilst I’ve been away, there’s been a small matter of a sporting competition here in NZ, you may have read about it in the papers. It was the Rugby World Cup, and New Zealand won it. We managed to get to one game in Wellington, watching the Tongans hammer the French. Unfortunately, the French knew that they were pretty well due to qualify in their group anyway, unless Canada managed to pull of an enormous upset and beat the All Blacks by a considerable margin which, needless to say, they didn’t. So the French stumbled on and through on their way to the final, where they were defeated again by the ABs, who marched on to claim their victory.

Victory parades were held in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Naturally, we went down to Lambton Quay at lunch time, to watch the team parade past, accompanied by the band of the RNZAF.