Sunday, February 20, 2005

Australia: Day Three...

...and the saga continues. Again

Thursday, October 9, 2003

I'm lying in my train "bed" and still not sleeping as the sun begins to show itself. The land is flat, red, and spotted with bushes. There's nothing to see for miles. It's barren and desolate. I'm in the Outback. It's absolutely beautiful! Shades of pink, orange, and crimson are bunching at the horizon. The colors of the morning sky intertwined with the wispy clouds are really beyond words. It looks as if the sky has a textural quality and I can't wait to touch it, but the horizon proves limitless. It's really quite surreal. The light, powdery blue of the sky teasingly mingles with the bright, glowing, warming shades of the Australian morning sun. If I weren't in such cramped, uncomfortable quarters this would be heaven on earth. I can't believe that I'm watching the sunrise in the Outback from a moving train. As I'm gazing into the vastness of it all my eyes fixate on something in the distance...kangaroos. Yup. I'm officially in Australia. Reality is kicking in at this point. My life-long dream has come true. I'm in friggin' Australia! I saw three kangaroos in the distance. I think they were "reds". Wow! I'm dead-tired, but still running on adrenaline. That gorgeous sunrise and the sight of the kangaroos gave me an extra boost. I folded my "bed" into the wall and sat down in my seat and took it in for a while. I changed clothes without showering. I'll save that for Adelaide. I sauntered down to the lounge car for some coffee and conversation. Brittney saw kangaroos too. No one else did. The others still have some time to see a kangaroo.

It's early morning and the train has a stop to make. We stopped in a town called Broken Hill. Broken Hill is a small outback town in New South Wales. It used to be a booming silver town also known as "Silver City". The mining is mostly gone, but it still seems to get by. There are the occasional tourists and films being made. There are some scenes in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert that are shot in Broken Hill. (If you haven't seen Priscilla, it's a must. It's a fabulous film with Terrance Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce. It's funny, colorful, and touching.) Nichole is the only person in our group to go on the bus tour as the rest of us walk into town. It's early (probably around 7:00AM). There's not much open, but we've got about an hour and a half or so. There is a bakery open. I get myself a "short black" and a Vegemite roll. (Vegemite is a substance that is made from the residuals of brewers yeast. It's salty and has sort of a concentrated bouillion character.) Jan from the AWB watches as I take my first bite. Vegemite is an acquired taste, let's just say. I like it. Apparently I've acquired the taste on the firts bite. The breakfast concoction somewhat resembled a cinnamon roll, but with cheese and vegemite. Good stuff. Jan was a little surprised, but pleased that I liked it. We sort of split up into small groups and walked around a bit more. Broken Hill is big enough for a Happy Jacks (Burger King). Apparently someone already had the rights to the BK name in Australia, so there are lots of Happy Jacks around. They're exactly the same except for the name. The Chinese restaurant is closed. Everything is closed. It's too early. Everyone is still sleeping. I find the infamous Palace Hotel from Priscilla and have my picture taken in front of it. I can't believe I'm posing in front of one of the locales from one of my favorite movies. We walk around a bit more as there's not much to see this time of day. Walking back toward the train we discover that there's a cafe that has opened. I have another coffee and order a sausage roll to tide me over until breakfast. We sit and read one of the tabloids until it's time to head back to the glorious Indian Pacific. We board the train and wait until it's our car's turn for breakfast. Breakfast is lovely with a great view of the Outback. After breakfast we head to the conference car for further seminars. We pass the time with discussion and tasting with the occasional Willy Willy (dust devil) sightings as we push our rattling glasses back into place on our paper tasting-placemats.

At approximately 3:15PM we arrive at our destination...Adelaide. We are to stay in Adelaide for a few days. We deboard the train, gather our luggage, and are whisked away by bus to the fabulous Adelaide Hilton. Adelaide is a beautiful city at first sight. We get off the bus at the hotel and check-in. I have a room on the top floor of the Hilton with a view of the city and the ocean in the distance. Awesome! My room is incredible. The bed is huge and super comfortable and the bathroom is unreal. I have a gigantic shower with a rain-head in the ceiling and shower-massager and a large and inviting bath tub on the other side of the bathroom. I like this place... a lot. The first thing I do is get out of my train-clothes and take one of the best showers of my life (the best being in Sydney after getting off the plane). I like this place. I have a grand view of the city AND my window actually opens. I open the window and the most comforting, soothing breeze takes over me. The air is clean, fresh, and embracing. I like this place. I've stayed in a few Hiltons and Adelaide is by far the nicest that I've encountered. I freshen up and put my clothes away as I've got a few days here. I even take advantage of the laundry services. I iron a couple of shirts in the room, get dressed, and head out to take on Adelaide. Luckily, the Adelaide Central Market is right next door to the hotel. The Adelaide Central Market is a glorious gathering of assorted fruit/coffee/bakery/seafood/meat/gift/etc. booths and shops. It's really wonderful. I run into Sara and we walk around a bit enjoying the smells, sights, and sounds. We separate and I walk around a bit more until it's time to meet in the hotel lobby. It's time to head to dinner...

We take a bus to Chateau Reynella in Reynella for dinner. The sun has almost set as we arrive and the sky again is full of a surreal palette of colors. The air is cool and crisp and utterly refreshing. We make our way to the Chateau and get a mini-tour of the grounds and then we're led inside. There's a weird noise eminating from inside. We enter the Chateau and then turn into a fairly large hall where we're greeted by a mini menagerie. The winery has arranged for us to meet some of the local animals. Workers from a local wildlife/zoological group have brought a python, a cockatoo, a koala, and a baby wallaby for us play with while we enjoy some sparkling wine and passed hors d'oeuvres (including an amazing truffled celeriac soup shooter). That was really cool. I got to pet a koala, a wallaby, a python, and a cockatoo. I took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the bubbles until we were led into the dining room. The table setting was truly incredible. A gorgeous and inventive floral arrangement on the table was further accented by a crackling fire in the fireplace. Oops. I forgot to mention something. While we were in the hotel lobby waiting to leave I saw someone that I recognized. I mentioned to Philippa that I thought I knew that guy. Turns out that a gentleman I knew from the wine business was in town on holiday with his fiance. Small world. The company that he worked for at the time actually represented Chateau Reynella and he'd be joining us for dinner. We were joined by he and his fiance, representatives of the winery, and Marty from Starvedog Lane. Dinner was sensational! The courses are listed as follows...

S.A. Baby Squid Stuffed with Shellfish & Chorizo, Soft Polenta, Zhoug Dressing & Crayfish Oil.

Hahndorf Venison Loin, Parsnip & Sage Puree, New Season Asparagus, Fondant Potatoes, Kumquat & Anise Reduction.

Heidi Raclette (Tasmania), Matisse Fig Bread, Cherry Paste, Muscatels

Callebaut Dark Chocolate Fondant, Pure Jersey Cream, Orange Zestt White Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Pistachio

Coffe and Petit Fours

Some of the wines we enjoyed were...

1998 Arras Chardonnay Pinot Noir (Sparkling)
2001 The Lane Sauvignon Blanc
2003 Brookland Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2001 Starvedog Lane Chardonnay
2000 Yarra Burn Pinot Noir
2000 Yarra Burn Cabernet Sauvignon
1997 Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec
1998 Eileen Hardy Shiraz
1999 Ebenezer Shiraz
1999 E&E Sparkling Shiraz

We had a damn fine evening and an amazing meal. We had an opportunity to share great conversation, laughter, insight, and most importantly each other's company. I had an opportunity to meet the Irish-born chef and talk to him for a bit. He's young and very talented and has a very bright future ahead of him. Eventually it was time to bid farewell to our gracious hosts and we headed back to the hotel. A large chunk of the group decided to go to a pub after dinner, but I thought that I'd stay in. A few of us retired to our rooms. I would have gone to the pub, but I figured that I should have ONE earlier night. Plus I haven't slept yet. I went to my room on the top floor (I don't know how, but I was the only person in our group to get an executive suite on the top floor. I do have a very good relationship with a certain importer involved with our trip, but I doubt that was it.) and drew myself a bath. I hadn't taken a bath in a very, very long time (No jokes! I shower daily.) I was completely relaxed. I then watched a little TV and went to bed with the window cracked...and SLEPT in the most comfortable bed ever.

To be continued...



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