Results tagged “Hotels” from Kazza the Blank One

So it took me *hours* to get to sleep last night. Spent too many hours stressed and upset :( And woke up several times during the night as well. *yay*

Breakfast was much the same as yesterday.

Our first stop this morning was Riversleigh. I'd first heard about the place in 1992 - first year biology lectures with Mike Archer. So it was great to finally see the place. Well. A tiny fraction that the tourists are allowed to see. Actually I'm sure I came super close to many of the fossils taken from Riversleigh when I was working at uni - the basement had compactus after compactus of bags of dirt and rock, probably from here. Anyway, had a short walk around the tourist loop then headed off.

Had morning tea at the Gregory River crossing.

Then onto lunch on the Barkly Highway.

And finally into Mt Isa mid afternoon.

Our room here is quite nice. The lighting is a bit dim, and we have a view of a wall one metre opposite, but it has a desk! First desk I've had to use in days. Although there's not actually a power point anywhere near the desk, so I don't know where you're meant to plug in the kettle. The floor over by the wall? Bedside table? Bathroom? hrmm.

Mum and I headed out for a bit of a walk. It was pretty hot, and the flies were super annoying. And the GPS on Stu's phone was playing up, so I was having difficulty hacking portals. And checked the intel map and there was lots of blue goo west of Cairns, so I couldn't link from here across to there. Oh well. I put some link amps on the eastern-end portals, in case someone else can use them.

Walked up to the lookout to have a look down on the town and the mines.

Had a nice shower before heading down to dinner. I had slow-cooked pork cheek which was super tender and tasty, a huge steak that was a tad overdone on the edges but not too bad in the middle, and a lovely poached pear. All very nice, and I am *very* full now!

Oh, we heard the 8pm mine blasts go off too, at 8:10pm.
Also, static electricity is back with all the carpets and the super dry air here.

My Dad turned 70 on Sunday.

So we trundled up to Sydney.

And I figured if I was going to be in Sydney, I'd try and catch up with some of my Sydney friends for part one of my birthday bash.

Stu wanted to fly (to get points so he can get Virgin lounge access).  So we spent obscene amounts of money on flights and a hotel.

But let me backtrack a minute.

I'd decided that we should go to the Löwenbräu Keller, as it was central for everyone, it had pork, and it had beer.  I thought that we could have a lunch, and people could stop in for a drink afterwards if they weren't able to make it to the lunch.  Except when I made the tentative booking they said that they were a restaurant and everyone had to be dining.  This they underlined.  Well actually they said that everyone who made a reservation had to be dining.  And they wanted a $20 deposit for everyone.  And we had to order off one of the very restrictive set menus.  So that was my drama last week.  Anyways.  I got my RSVPs and made the final booking and paid the deposit, and fortunately on the day everyone showed up who said they would, and no surprises.  But more on lunch later.

So Saturday morning we got up and got ready and headed to the airport.  And after complaining a couple of weeks ago about Stu getting to fly in one of Virgin Australia's ATR 72-600s, I got to go in one :)

Virgin Australia ATR 72-600 VH-FVP

Took off to the north, with a view of Canberra and the new Majura Parkway, but a lot of fog around still (delays all over the place because of heavy fog in the morning, and was a bit stressed that our plane would be late or cancelled).

Majura Parkway

Majura Parkway

Actually to say was a bit stressed was putting it very mildly.  I was totally stressed out all morning - about the lunch, who would/wouldn't turn up, the restaurant being bumheads, getting to the airport on time, the plane being on time and on and on.  Was feeling quite queasy until we got to the airport and our plane was going to be on time .. 

But carrying on ..

Because it's such a little plane, they don't have the full food service where they sell food/drinks.  Instead they have complimentary drinks and snackages for everyone!  So that was pretty nice of them.

Virgin Australia in flight snacks

Flew almost right over the top of River Island (it was on the other side of the plane)

Wollondilly River

Then up over Campbelltown and in from the south-west.

M7-M5 junction
M7-M5

Holsworthy
Holsworthy

Look Mum I can see your house from here.. and mine (under the clouds).  Looking into the sun, so not much more in the way of good shots for the rest of the flight.
Shire

Bate Bay looking very blue
Bate Bay

So off the plane and onto the Airport Train.  I've never actually taken this train before.  Reason being: it's a complete rip off!  $31 for the two of us to get to the city.  Absolutely ridiculous.  And of course, there was trackwork, so we had to change trains at Central.  At least there *was* a train to Circular Quay - when Stu went a couple of weeks ago, there were no trains at all in the CBD.

Carnival Spirit
Carnival Spirit

Walked up to our hotel, and were able to check in.  Fairly basic hotel room, but very nice and a pretty decent view.

Shangri La hotel

Shangri La hotel view

Then we wandered down to the Lowenbrau, and even though we were fifteen minutes early, we were only *just* the first ones there heh.

James and George

Liz and Luc

Chris and Stu

Fiona, Stu and Me

Peter

Sami and Cathy

Fi and Daniel

No good photos of Marc/Ryan and none at all of Emma/Charlotte.. doh!

So everyone arrived and they brought out meat.  So. Much. Meat.  This times four!

Lowenbrau meat

We got the "Schmankerlplatter" which was $39.50 and the cheapest of the options we were forced into having by the Lowenbrau.  I was really annoyed by this, as it meant people couldn't go for a lighter lunch if they wanted to.  One thing's for sure - I'll *never* be booking to go to the Lowenbrau again.  If opportunity arose I'd still go there, but I'd never organise an event there again.

*Fortunately* they were happy to package up all the leftovers, and Stuart R and my brother took them home.  So at least a quarter of all that food didn't end up going to waste.

And the pork was pretty damned good.  And there was other meat too.  For those that wanted it ;)

The band

So after lunch, since the Lowenbrau were being buttheads about not wanting people to drop by casually, we headed up to the Argyle for drinks.  Fiona, Stu, Chris, Daniel&Fi and me and the sweetie went, and were joined by Fran, Jake, Ric, David and Yvonne.  Where we stayed til early evening :)

The Argyle

The Argyle's unisex bathroom.  The funky pods at the far end are the urinals!
The Argyle's unisex bathroom

Fran

Jake

So all in all it was actually a wonderful afternoon.  I hadn't seen Chris in twenty years, and I'd never even met Stuart R (except online, and he had actually thought I was a boy which gave everyone a good laugh ;) ).  And all sorts of lengths of friendships in between.  The only sad part was not having enough time to catch up with everyone for as long as I'd have liked.  Oh well.. will have to make more effort on future trips!  And convince people to come visit ;)

Stumbled back to the hotel.

Argyle Cut

Picked up some snackages on the way back to the hotel, thinking we might get hungry later on.  But we never did.  Too much meat!

However the hotel had put out a little bit of cake and a macaron for my birthday - how sweet of them :) (when they asked at checkin if I was up for a special occasion I said I was :) )

Hotel cake

Enjoyed the view briefly before collapsing into (a very soft) bed.

Hotel view

Hunter Valley

| | Comments (2)

Day 1

The day after boxing day we made our exit from Sydney.  Since we had to be back on the 30th for my cousin's wedding, the options were to stay in Sydney, go home, or have a couple of nights somewhere else.  We decided to go to the Hunter Valley.

We let the GPS guide us out of Sydney, and we managed to avoid the most horrible piece of road in Sydney, which is the five kilometres between Gordon and Hornsby, where it's just stop start the whole way.  The GPS took us round the north of all that, and it was much less stressful.

It's amazing the number of L-platers that were out.  I reckon they should either be banned from highways altogether or allowed to do the full speed limit.  Because forcing them to slow down on the freeways just makes everything slow for everyone else.

Learner drivers

We decided not to go up the Sydney-Newcastle freeway, opting to get off at Peat's Ridge and take the back way.  We mostly had the road to ourself, and it was a much prettier and less stressful drive.

Driving

Bucketty!
Bucketty!

Coming down the valley along the Great North Road was very pretty
Driving

Spaceman in a sculpture park north of Wollombi
Alien

Cessnock is very pretty at the moment with all the trees in bloom
Cessnock

As it turned out, we probably should have gone up the freeway, because we decided to go out to Minmi, which is right next to the freeway.  So it was a bit of a detour, but we weren't in any hurry so that was ok.

Crazy big house on Richmond Vale Road
House

Minmi Courthouse
Minmi Courthouse

Caboose in Minmi
Caboose in Minmi

I want a liqour shelf like this!  Pretty!  Popped in here to get a (non-alcoholic) refreshing beverage
Liquor shelf

Then out to the cemetery to find graves of Stu's rellies

Minmi Cemetery
Minmi Cemetery

Stu hunting
Minmi Cemetery

Found one!
Minmi Cemetery

These guys found their own rellies
Minmi Cemetery

Then onto the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.  A little pricey, but very nice.

Crowne Plaza reception
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

We got a hotel style room in the main building.  There's a tonne of self-contained units around the place that hold quite a few people.  They looked lovely, and people were out with deck chairs sipping wine, which totally looked like the life :)  They're a bit further away from the main building, and something like $800/night - ouch!
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

View from our room - not that exciting
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

What I did love about the place was the abundance of power points.  Something like 14 of them around the room, in nice useful places, like right next to the bed. 10 points right there!
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Settled in and got ourselves freshened up, then went for a walk around the place

The huge pool.  A bit emptier at this point, but it was full of people a little earlier.
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Giant chess set (there was a checkers set in the main building too)
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Beach volleyball court
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Waiting in the Vista Lounge before dinner
Vista Lounge, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

The Red Salt restaurant (also the breakfast buffet)
Red Salt, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Our view for dinner
Dinner view

We started with this lovely Adina (a local) Pinot Grigio
Pinot grigio

The sweetie enjoys the wine and the view
The sweetie

Stu's entree.  I think this was "Caramelized Tart, of golden shallot and baked locally sourced goat's cheese, witlof salad"
Red Salt Dinner

I had "Warm salad of lobster, kipfler potatoes & frisse endive, poached quail eggs & black truffle dressing"
Red Salt Dinner

For mains Stu had "Coq au vin free range chicken, braised in Hunter Valley pinot, golden eschalots & smoked bacon, roast garlic puree, fried bread crumbs".  This thing was delicious - and look at that huge chunk of bacon!  Yum!
Red Salt Dinner

I had "Confit duck leg with cassoulet of white beans, lovedale smokehouse sausage & bacon, poached quail eggs".  The duck was nice, but too many beans for my taste.
Red Salt Dinner

We also had a side of "Sauteed mixed mushrooms with garlic and sherry vinegar (Swiss Browns, Buttons, King Oysters, Enoki)".  Omigosh this was so delicious!  One of my favourite parts of the meal!
Red Salt Dinner

We also had an amazing Rosehill shiraz - so smooth!  Yumm!
Red Salt shiraz

For dessert we had some Brokenback vintage cheddar (we were too full to eat any more!)
Red Salt Dinner

After dinner I was so full I went for a little walk around the place.

Took this nice HDR shot from the entrance area on my phone
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

 

Day 2

We had breakfast the next morning at the resort.  A pretty decent buffet of food.  Was quite crowded though, even though we were there near the end of service.

Breakfast

At 1pm we piled into a little minbus with a family of Swedish people and headed out on a winery tour (stopping to pick up some other people on the way).

Stu in the minibus

Our first stop was Peacock Hill Winery.  This was quite a small winery, and was much like the tours we did at Yass last year with a very small cellar door and crowds of people.  I found it a bit stressful, but the lady was reasonably well organised, so it wasn't too bad.

They have dinosaurs, which kept the two little Swedish boys amused
Peacock Hill dinosaurs

Peacock Hill dinosaurs

Peacock Hill selection of wines
Peacock Hill wines

Yeah being driven around the Hunter Valley tasting wines is a lovely way to spend an afternoon
Winery tour

The next stop was McGuigan's.  Having heard of this winery it wasn't surprising that they had a much bigger cellar door.  And they have this whole room setup for tour groups that looked pretty amazing.

McGuigan's

Tour group wine tasting room
McGuigan's wine tasting

Us at McGuigan's
Us at McGuigan's

This cork stool looked pretty cool (but $249 and not particularly practical)
Cork stool

McGuigan's also make and sell cheeses.  We might have bought some, but didn't have a cooler bag or a fridge at the hotel.
Stu inspecting cheese

Sunflowers at McGuigan's
Sunflowers

Next stop was the Pokolbin village for chocolate and cheese tasting.  The chocolate tasting was ok (half a dozen nibbles of chocolate), but the cheese tasting wasn't really anything special.  First you had to find the store that was doing it, then you had to ask for the cheeses to taste.  Yeah, not ideal.  

I did buy this cute little chocolate penguin from the chocolate place.
Chocolate penguin

Our last stop was Brokenwood.  This had a medium-sized cellar door and we sat around barrels to do the wine tasting.  We even got to taste a wine which was normally only opened for people paying to taste the wines.  So that was very nice.

Brokenwood

Brokenwood

On the way back we got up close to some kangaroos, which I think all the tourists liked :)

Kangaroo

Kangaroo

Kangaroo

So a very nice (although somewhat expensive) afternoon, with half a box of wines and fortified wines acquired :)

For dinner we went to the Grapevine bar for beer and pizza

Beer

The sweetie

This was the "Truffled Mushroom" pizza, which sounded nice on the menu (swiss brown, button and enoki mushrooms, white sauce, confit garlic parmesan, thyme and truffle oil) but was a little bland
Grapevine pizza

This was the "Italian" pizza - pepperoni, capsicum, mushrooms, olives, mozzarella, parmesan & chilli, sour cream, thyme and rocket.  This was much nicer (I think the sour cream was a winner!)
Grapevine pizza

After dinner the pool was looking nice so I wanted to go for a swim.  But a change had come through which made it quite cold.  So we didn't stay in long.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley

 

Day 3

So our final day.

First stop (after breakfast at the Scottish Restaurant in Cessnock) was a trip to Morpeth to look for more of Stu's relatives in the cemetery.  We didn't find any.  Just some harness horses trotting by.

Trotting horse

Then to St John's College, only to find the whole place has been turned into a retirement village.  So far the historic buildings remain, but who knows for how much longer.

St John's college

Walking around to the chapel
Chapel

The organ is still there, but the chapel is now a little community hall
St John's chapel

And the garden out the back has a gazebo, and the cross has been removed.  A bit different to last time we were here.
St John's chapel

And instead of a nice view out to the floodplain, all you can see is houses
St John's college - retirement village

So that was all a little sad.

Kept wandering.

This is the bridge at Hinton
Hinton bridge

And we found another probable relative of Stu's in the Hinton Cemetery
Hinton cemetery

Next up the sweetie thought it might be nice to head to Port Stevens, and Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay.

Nelson Bay sign

As apparently did the rest of New South Wales
Nelson Bay

It was so crowded it was painful.  We didn't stop anywhere along the beachside.  Couldn't have anyway - no parking!  Just snapped a pic out the window.
Nelson Bay

We did stop at the lighthouse though (only because a super huge 4WD couldn't fit into a half sized parking spot, so we got it)

Nelson Bay Lighthouse

Nelson Bay Lighthouse

Nelson Head

Carried on.  Shoal Bay was just as crowded.
Shoal Bay

Shoal Bay

Eventually ended up at Fingal Bay where we stopped for lunch a few streets back from the beach, where there was actually parking.  Fish and chips and potato scallops.  Because that's what you do when you go to the beach.  Even though we were nowhere near the beach.
Fish and chips

So left the craziness behind and headed back to Maitland to meet up with Margie at the Fox Bar.  This a nice little wine bar.  We had the whole front area to ourselves, but it was only when I went to the loo that I saw the lovely little garden they have out the back.
Fox Bar, Maitland

And finally headed back to Sydney.  Would have been uneventful except a horse float overturned on the freeway near Kariong killing two horses and completely closing the road.  The GPS saw it coming and we took a detour around it.  No idea if it worked out faster (it probably did) but it was certainly less stressful and no stop-start traffic for us.
Trouble

Finally made it back to my parent's place and crashed into bed

Woke up in the middle of the night from hurty, and was delirious enough to stress over the time - 2:43 but in what time zone?  Probably the first 2:43.

Aimed to leave the hotel at 9am this time (since it was "really" 10am), giving us an extra hour in Melbourne :)

Decided that we were going to go do the super duper expensive hotel restaurant.  Turns out it was an all you can eat buffet for $35 each.  I only managed to get two plates worth of food in (I never get good value out of all you can eats!)

Breakfast
Went back to our room and packed up, then checked out and left our bags with the concierge, and Nat and I did a quick photoshoot of the hotel.

Stamford hotel
Went for a wander up Exhibition St.  Saw sushi burgers and a sign saying nothing happened.

Nothing happened
Then wandered up through Exhibition gardens (Carlton Gardens) to the Exhibition Building.

Exhibition Building
Bird of paradise
Exhibition Building
Garden of Unity
I was most surprised when we got around to the north side of the building because there was a whole museum that wasn't there fifteen years ago!  Made taking photos from the north a little difficult heh.

Decided that we'd actually go into the museum and have a look.

Melbourne Museum
Pygmy blue whale skeleton
Whale
Dinosaur skeletons
Pterodactyl
Flutterbies?
Flutterbys
Big taxidermy room "Wild" .. at least a lot better organised than the one in Japan
Taxidermy
And we have a thylacine too!
Thylacine
Wolf
I had a long wander through the body exhibit, and then a quick run through the mind exhibit (would love to have spent longer there) before meeting up with the others to decide on a plan.  While everyone decided what we were doing next, I raced up to take some photos of Phar Lap (would liked to have looked through the whole Victoria exhibit there as well)....

Phar Lap
So went back to the others and we walked up to Lygon Street.  Although we didn't have time to sit down and eat, Nat got some take away pasta from one place.  Next time we'll organise ourselves better to actually eat here properly.

And then it was back to the hotel to pick up our bags, and hop in a taxi to head off to the airport. 

Our plane back - Virgin Blue 737-8Q8 (VH-VOU)
Virgin Blue 737
We didn't get much of a view during the flight because it was dark, but we did get a nice sunset from the plane on the tarmac
Sunset
So arrived back in Canberra and Andrew drove us home.

Totally great weekend away, lots of fun, and even a decent amount of exercise :)  
We want to come again next year and organise ourselves better to see some of the comedy festival and have a proper meal on Lygon Street :)

Kazza's "Boring Life Of a Geek" aka BLOG

IT geek, originally from Sydney, moved to Canberra in 2007. Married to "the sweetie", aka Stu. Prolific photographer, Lego junkie and tropical fish keeper.

Kazza the Blank One home