Last week, Paul and I went on an adventure to Wangaratta....so it wasn't quite wonderland!But, it is extremely beautiful in north east Victoria and the highlands during winter. There are small hints of the autumn that's past with leaves wilting on the ground and naked tree branches that are tinted orange after their leaves have fallen. The days are very different to the usual wooly winter weather of Melbourne. Days are sunny and mornings are chilly before the earth warms up. I didn't wear a jumper once while we were away. It's humid just before it rains and the nights are so cold that a cup of tea and hot water bottle are more than mandatory.We went away to spend sometime visiting my family who lives there and some friends who were celebrating their birthdays. It was our first little road trip together as Paul only just got his license last month. We took the longer drive, through small country towns with hidden beauties. We passed a little village not far from Macedon that has beautiful blue stoned bridges over little windy creeks and train lines and houses that have seen many, many lifetimes. Something that I always notice when I return to the country is the quiet life. City life is busy and bustling. You need to leave at least fifteen minutes to half an hour before any sort of appointment compared to a quick five minute drive through the sleepy streets of Wangaratta. Our mornings were spent drinking tea and eating cheese toasties by the warm heater. Despite the chatter from the television, the only other sounds were those of the kookaburras and galas chirping gleefully in the bare trees in the back yard. It was blissfully quiet and still. We stayed with my best friend, Cait and her family. Her bounding black labrador greeted us every morning by jumping up to our shoulders and we took him for long walks on windy river paths. We went to one of my favourite places, Beechworth for lunch one day. We ate at a beautiful white walled restaurant that has seasonal and local produce on the menu. The area is famous for so much delicious food. Figs, apples, cheese, honey, mustard, wines (just to name a few). A lovely waitress greeted us at the door and we spent time talking with her about our adventures and about their food as I photographed our delicacies and the pressed tin roof. Little hidden gems with gourmet food and light filled rooms excite me. Paul ate a rigatoni dish with red wine braised duck and I stuck to a corella pear and cheese salad as I'm eating gluten free. It was delicious. So many rich and fresh flavours. We were more than satisfied. We visited Beechworth honey and taste-tested so many sweet treats. We purchased creamy honey with cinnamon and a creamy honey with ginger jars to take back for Paul's parents and tried some amazing honey mineral water. They sold beautiful beeswax candles that I was tempted to buy but they were a little pricey for my liking. One day. We also visited the old Beechworth Sweet Co. and bought some lollies to eat. We went to my favourite park where there is a mountain made of rock you can climb up. We admired the view from the top and munched on peppermint chocolate hard boiled lollies.
Later in the week we visited the Miliwa Gourmet Region, a place we need to go back to and explore more. We ate a very hearty lunch at the Cheese Factory. It was a rotten, rainy day outside and the lamb shanks warmed my core. We tasted cheeses of all sorts and had a competition to see who could eat the most blue cheese. Along with the Cheese factory, there was also an art gallery and winery on the site. The gallery was filled with precious jewellery and beautiful three dimensional paintings on reclaimed wood by an artist I definitely now consider to be one of my favourites. There were little models made of found objects like trumpets and other musical instruments that were incredibly intriguing. We tried some sweet wines at the winery before we went home to rug up in our track pants and jumpers with content bellies and hearts.I always find it refreshing to go back to Wangaratta every now and then. As I moved around a lot when I was a child, Wangaratta was my home for six years and I associate my childhood and growing up with the tired streets. I often get nostalgic about my time there and visiting again will often help me to slowly let that more simple part of my life go, eventually. Thank you to everyone who generously gave their hospitality to Paul and I during our time there especially Cait's lovely mother Bernie and my Aunty Marg. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and create new memories.
Ps. I'm posting this because we rarely take couple selfies and although Paul looks a little silly, I still like it :)