On running and writing

In the last couple of months, while I’ve been very quiet on this blog, I have actually been doing a lot of writing – and next month, I’m about to do a lot more. 50,000 words more in fact.

After thinking about it for a long time, in September I finally signed up for the Australian Writers Centre Magazine and Newspaper writing course. I had been thinking about doing this ever since the blog post about the photo-shopped school photos went viral and I saw large chunks of my blog post being reproduced. I decided that if I was going to write, perhaps I could get paid for it.

The five-week online course equipped me a lot of useful information and tools, including how to pitch articles, how to structure an article, how to analyse a publication and how to interview. It was delivered via audio each week, with a weekly task which was shared in an online classroom and for which we received feedback. I really enjoyed interviewing a classmate and writing a profile. Completing each of the weekly exercises meant that by the end of the course, I almost had a complete article and pitch ready to use. Most importantly, the course gave me the confidence to give freelance writing a go.

A week after the course ended, I pitched my first story. I decided I was going to participate in the Runaway Barossa half-marathon that I had entered back in June, despite having spent the winter injured or sick. The day before the race, I decided to pitch the story to the local paper and set myself a somewhat unreasonable deadline of providing an article “on-spec” by Monday morning. The editor came back to me and said that while there was unlikely to be space in the weekly print version of the paper, they could run it online.

I survived the 21km, which started with a 4km jog, moved to a jog/walk,  a walk and finally a stagger towards the finish line (and Riesling). After spending Sunday in Adelaide,  I left my story to the last minute (something I will not be making a habit of) and spent Monday morning frantically putting something together. Within an hour of providing it to the editor, it was shared online and while I was disappointed in the lack of proof reading and by the fact I hadn’t pushed for payment, it was still a good experience. I was feeling bad that I had worked for free until a number of people who had graduated from the course said this was still good experience as long as I was clear about why and when I would work for free.

While I have a couple of ideas about features I would like to write, my next step is to speak to a couple of editors and see where there is scope for paid work. One of the big lessons I have learned that unlike blogging, feature writing is not about my opinion and in fact, the trick is to keep yourself out of it.

Launching a freelance writing side-career would probably be enough to keep me going for the rest of the year, but NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and I am giving it another go. The National Novel Writing Month (which started in the US and is now international) is a month long “competition” with the aim of writing 50,000 words. I lasted a day in 2014 (which probably had something to do with trying to write fiction on the barest of outlines) and got about 10,000 words done last year before moving in and setting up our house took over.

I had initially planned to start a novel/memoir of Dad’s life but given the interviews and research it will require, I have instead decided to try a work of fiction. I’m going to have a go at writing the sort of family/inter generational saga/romance that I’ve enjoyed since I first read the Thornbirds as a teenager. Tentatively titled “Budburst”, it will be set here in the Barossa and I’m hoping to weave some historical stories alongside a modern story. I’ve been having a lot of fun plotting it out and I’m making the most of free access to the Scrivener writing app to draw up a rough outline of the chapters. I’ve also been doing lots of research about local history although once Wednesday rolls around, my aim will be to write 1667 words every day and finish the month with a basic story – and a long list of questions to follow up.

I have a few friends who have done it in the past, including my friend Emma, who wrote her novel Unrequited (published by Harper Collins and is being performed as a musical in Canberra this week) during NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. I went along to the Adelaide kick-off party for NaNoWriMo and have also connected with a few other people I’ve met through a couple of podcast groups,  that are planning to do it – so hopefully we’ll be able to keep each other motivated.

Given how long it has take me to write this post, I can’t promise I’ll be blogging in November, but at the same time, once I’m back in the daily habit of writing, knocking out a quick blog post might actually be welcome relief from working on my manuscript. After surving that half-marathin, I’m feeling like anything is possible!

A beach holiday in Normanville

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I have often wanted to blog about places we have visited but then I  get overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to include all sorts of details and reviews.

As my word count on my Vietnam book increases and I start to think that I might actually write a book, I’ve started to research travel writers and especially those writing memoirs. Last week I came across this post, about how this travel writer was no longer going to blog, and it struck a chord. I do want to share stories about the places we visit but I don’t want to feel I need to provide pricing or details or tell you why I liked the food or the wine. She made the point – and I think this goes for all of us when we share about our holidays, that we can’t miss being in the moment and enjoying the holiday just because we’re too busy recording and writing down details. I have always taken lots of photos, even back in the days of film that cost precious savings to get printed, but I definitely take way more on my iPhone now, and I need to make sure that I don’t miss the experience of the holiday because I’m too busy recording in – and as another aside – must get myself in more photos – no matter how I look.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share a bit about our week in Normanville towards the end of the school holidays. We went as friends have been visiting there a lot and I loved her photos. My sister and her family were also joining us for a week and so I wanted us to have options if the weather was bad.

We were able to book 2 side by side cabins at the Beachside Caravan Park, and while it’s a little out-of-town, it was super quiet and our back corner position gave us lots of space. Our cabins backed onto the sand dunes so we also had some great views

Here are some of the we did during the week:

– lunch at the Victory Hotel on the way down to Normanville from the Barossa

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Lunch views at the Victory Hotel, Sellicks Hill

– beers and chips at the beautiful Normanville Surf Life Saving Club high above the beach (run by volunteers, it’s always great to be able to support an organisation that keeps us safe in the water)

Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club
Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club

– dinner at the Normanville Kiosk and Cafe right on the beach – great wine list and enormous (and tasty) meals with a fantastic kids option

– cloudy cool day adventures visiting Second Valley climbing over rocks, Rapid Bay and then to Victor Harbor to watch the Tour Down Under

– snorkelling with friends at Second Valley – and discovering the great work Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries are doing. Free, guided snorkel tours with all equipment provided teaching people about the local marine life in various parts of South Australia

– A couple of visit to McLaren Vale that included Paxton Wines, lunch at S.C Pannell (the best duck curry, great wines, more good kids options and fantastic service), d’Arenburg (saw the almost complete cube and had a great tasting) and Beach Road Wines (excellent pizza).

– lots of sand castles and beach walks

 

– a crazy windy walk along the beach felt like a scene from Star Wars

– watching the horse riding groups passing past the cabin window and along the beach

– totem tennis and games on the deck

– awesome cousin time (and a few late nights spending some quality time with my sister)

– delicious treats from Yankalilla bakery, op shops galore and great coffee from 21 Junk Street and One Little Sister in Normanville (must go back for a meal)

– first run in months to Carrickalinga and then back along the beach with my sister

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It was everything a beach holiday should be. Lots of relaxing, exploring and just hanging out together. The cabins were simple but all we needed and worked well as my sister and her family were only there for 3 of the 7 nights. I think Normanville will definitely be a regular holiday spot in the coming years, especially as it’s an easy two hour drive away.

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Second Valley, January 2017

What did we miss? Any recommendations for next time?

I’d love you to leave your comments below. What makes a truly great beach holiday? Where are your favourite beach destinations?

 

My Whole 30 Experience

My Whole30 countdown. Felt so good to put that red cross through each day
My Whole30 countdown. Felt so good to put that red cross through each day – The green words reflect the Whole 30 “timeline”

I am the first to admit I suffer from shiny object syndrome. I get bored fairly easily and so while Michelle Bridge’s 12 week body transformation had worked for a number of years, it had lost it’s appeal (and let’s not even get into her recent ads about people growing their own stuff being freaks – what the?). I was really struggling to get my eating (and drinking) in the right place and to find the right balance with exercise. I’d beat myself for not exercising 6 times a week – by not doing anything. Exercise had also become more social for me  – walking a couple of times a week with different friends – which was far more interesting than just the gym. But then I’d feel like I was’;t doing enough and my weight wasn’t shifting.

I’d looked into the Whole30 earlier in the year but to be honest it all seemed too hard. No grains, sugar, dairy or alcohol for 30 days. It didn’t really sit right with the food lover in me and I have always subscribed to everything in moderation. It wasn’t until I heard one of the founders of the Whole30, Melissa Hartwig on my favourite Being Boss podcast (and learning that the podcast hosts Emily and Kathleen had both done Whole 30s) that I reconsidered giving it a go. I quizzed one friend that had done it, starting reading up and read the first book Melissa and Dallas Hartwig wrote called It Starts with Food. It was interesting to think about how our diet has changed and that perhaps especially as we get older, there might be some things that our bodies find harder to deal with. I’m no scientist, but a lot of their ideas made sense.

On the flip side, I really wasn’t keen on another “fad” diet or eating style. However, what I did like about the Whole 30 was that it is very much about giving up these things for 30 days and then reintroducing them and working out what works for you. I also liked that the focus was on 3 solid healthy meals a day, cutting the snacks and most importantly not replacing one less than healthy item with something made with supposedly more healthy items. If I’m going to eat cake, I want cake. If not, I’m happy to go without it.

For me, giving up alcohol was a big deal. Simon works in a tasting room, many of our friends work in wine, I live in a region that is sustained on wine production but I combined my Whole30 with the Ocsober fundraising challenge so it was a little easier. Looking back, I am surprised I took friends wine tasting, had friends come for dinner and celebrated our anniversary – without a drop!

In the weeks leading up to doing my Whole30, I started to eat as compliant with the Whole30 as I could – which made starting much easier. Day 1 was after we’d been out with friends for a 16 course, wine fuelled degustation at one of the Barossa’s best restaurants. I’d tasted the most amazing food, was still full and so it made it easier to start. I’d also prepped a few things like making my own whole egg mayo (so easy with a stick blender I will keep doing it – recipe here), as well as some other sauces. I’d also shopped and planned out a menu.

I’d signed up to a daily email from the Whole 30 which had lots of great tips and advice and it was motivating to click the – yep, I did it link each day. They have a pretty strong – if you slip up, go back to the beginning approach, so I was determined to stick with it.

A selection of my Whole30 breakfasts - eggs, mince, salmon, sweet potato and greens - and sometimes leftovers featured pretty heavily
A selection of my Whole30 breakfasts – eggs, mince, salmon, sweet potato and greens – and sometimes leftovers featured pretty heavily

They also have a bit of a “tough love” approach – this isn’t hard – fighting illness is hard etc etc. And to be honest, I had to agree. I focused on what I was eating (rather than what I was missing) and I gave myself challenges to come up with new tasty meals. Yes, I missed a glass of wine and there were times where I thought it would be easier to make a sandwich or a bowl of cereal but overall it wasn’t too hard. There is a Whole30 timeline on the website and I have to say it was pretty spot-on.

In the first week, I realised my bacon and cold meat weren’t really complaint (they are pretty strict on sulphites, sugar, additives etc) so I ended up eating a lot of chicken, mince and smoked salmon. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick of eggs. I bought a new non-stick pan before I started and it was definitely my new best friend. While I like to think I’m fairly health conscious, and in recent years had done away with most processed, low-fat food, I was still amazed to realise the things that did contain additives that we could just as easily make at home. I made taco seasoning that the boys declared was the “best ever”. I started cooking with fat (olive oil, ghee or clarified butter) and I wasn’t hungry because I was eating a decent meal.

Whole30 lunches - lots of salads, chicken, salmon and grated vegetables with mayo or vinegarette a
Whole30 lunches – lots of salads, chicken, salmon and grated vegetables with mayo or vinegarette a

There is a lot on the various Whole30 Facebook pages and forums about how much time food prep takes on the Whole30. Given we were already pretty well eating food from scratch, it didn’t make much difference – and I have to say, it did get me thinking about the modern diet and sadly how much is pre-packaged. I decided during the whole30 if there ever came a time (and I’m not talking a few busy days here and there), that I didn’t have time to prepare a meal and sit down and eat it, something was definitely wrong with our lifestyle.

For me, one of the biggest challenges was having food prepped if I was going out, and it’s made me think more about having things like poached chicken, tuna, salmon or beef rissoles in the freezer if I do need something on the run. Improbably ate more nuts, date based bars and fruit for this reason.

Whole30 dinners - roast meat and roast vegetables, lettuce wraps, taco mince with sweet potato mash and bolognaise with zucchini noodles were some of the regular meals
Whole30 dinners – roast meat and roast vegetables, lettuce wraps, taco mince with sweet potato mash and bolognaise with zucchini noodles were some of the regular meals

Day 30 was last Sunday and it was also the day I helped run the major fundraiser for my son’s Kindy. I decided I would finish the day with some bubbles because for me, my Whole30 experience was more than just one day. In the last week I’ve had a couple of ice creams, some naan bread, put milk in my tea and had pasta. Given that I didn’t have any major health concerns before the Whole30, introducing these hasn’t been a big deal. That said, I proved I was happy to go without a lot of these things, so I see them being special occasion food. If I’m going to eat bread, it will be the once a week freshly made artisan loaf from the Farmer’s Market. Same for cheese – it has to be good. I’ll probably have a wine most days but I’ll go back to a chocolate as a special occasion rather than picking one up every time I shop. I’ve come to love my black coffee but I missed my morning tea with milk, so that will come back in some days.

Over the 30 days, I lost about 3 kilos and about 2 per cent body fat. But the big change was my shape. Most people I saw commented and most thought I’d lost more than I did. I lost about 6cm off my bust, 3 cm each of my waist and hips and a couple of centimetres off my arms and thighs.

The Whole 30 “rule” is that you don’t weigh yourself. I broke that rule and was happy to see how my weight (and body fat) fluctuated over the course of the month. But I can see why you perhaps shouldn’t be weighing yourself – especially as for some people, it might take a little longer for the benefits to come.

I definitely enjoyed more energy but I still probably wasn’t sleeping as much as they recommend, which was worse during the period where I found myself swapping the habit of an afternoon snack when the boys came home, for a coffee. And because I had so much energy, I found myself a little wound up at nights. So this month, while I’m aiming to continue to eat Whole30 most of the time, I am going to aim for more sleep and more exercise. I’ve got a new gym program to balance out my walking days and I’m trying to just focus on enjoying it instead of getting annoyed if I don’t hit 6 sessions.

Would I recommend Whole30? Definitely – if for no other reason that giving your body a change of scenery and forcing you to be more mindful about what you eat and drink.

Would i do it again? I’m not sure. As I’ve said, I didn’t really miss anything on a daily basis so I’m happy to continue to eat a diet based on lots of vegetables, fish, meat and eggs and some fruit and nuts plus lots of healthy fats. But there may well come a time, particularly after holidays or travel where sticking with the Whole30 – for a week or even the full 30 days is the right thing to do.

After my Whole30 - only 3.1kilos gone but the centimetres made the difference. I hadn't worn this dress in over a year
After my Whole30 – only 3.1kilos gone but the centimetres made the difference. I hadn’t worn this dress in over a year

12 months in the Barossa – and some tips for making a lifestyle and career change

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Today marks 12 months since we arrived in the Barossa Valley. As is often the case with milestones like this, in some ways it feels like we’ve been here forever, but at the same time, the year has flown.

Looking down over Tanunda - the place we now call home
Looking down over Tanunda – the place we now call home

When we decided to make the move to South Australia after our 3.5 years in Hanoi, we didn’t really know what we were in for. For me, it was about leaving a career of 15 years behind to do something new. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted a more flexible lifestyle and that I wanted to be doing something that made a contribution to my community. For Simon, it was about getting back into the wine industry after being the stay-at-home Dad for most of our time in Hanoi. For the boys, it was about embracing life in Australia, the outdoors, fresh air and friendships. We chose South Australia because the cost of living seemed low and there were numerous wine regions to choose from.

Don't think I'll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards
Don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards

12 months on, I think we can honestly say we made the right decision. We’ve got some great friends, we’re doing work we love and we have 2 happy kids (and a happy cat).

Boys at Mengler's Hill soon after we arriving - the sculpture park is still a favourite spot
Boys at Mengler’s Hill soon after we arriving – the sculpture park is still a favourite spot

Some of the highlights from the last year include:

  • starting a business from nothing that I really hope will contribute to the local community
  • making lots of great friends – from Mum’s at school to work contacts and friends of friends

    New friends and exercise buddies
    New friends and exercise buddies
  • being involved in the Vintage Festival parade – being part of the community and connected to the history of the place

    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade - which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade – which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
  • getting involved with the Kindy
  • starting this blog
  • getting involved with the Spence Club – writing content for the blog and nominating for the board
  • having time to cook, knit, sew and read
  • having family and friends come and visit and love the place

    First Barossa Christmas with the family
    First Barossa Christmas with the family
  • shopping local – the Barossa Farmer’s Market Facebook posts for about 6 months before we arrived were a big influence on my feeling that this was the place – and I love that we can buy local, meet the people we buy from and contribute to the community

    Our first visit to the Farmer's Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
    Our first visit to the Farmer’s Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
  • the power of social media – as in Hanoi, Twitter andInstagram have been great platforms to learn about theBarossa but also to connect with people and make friends

    New hobbies in the Barossa - playing German bowls - Kegel
    New hobbies in the Barossa – playing German bowls – Kegel
  • the beautiful scenery and history that surrounds us – from old buildings and churches to living a 5 minute walk from the oldest Shiraz vines in the world – and of course, lots of great wine

    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

It hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops, and there have been some big adjustments.

  • being at home – without the household help – and trying to balance studying then starting a business with cleaning, cooking, school pick-ups etc
  • losing my identity – so much of who I was, was tied up in my job and it was strange to not have that
  • not earning disposable income – and not being able to find the “bridge” job I thought I could have because
  • stress of the early days – no one to call if I was running late for pick-up, crying myself to sleep because Xavier didn’t have many friends to invite to his party and feeling like an outsider at school
  • doubts of starting a business for the first time

But the highs definitely outweigh the lows and there is so much that we’re looking forward to in our next year here. – Finding our own house – but given gardening abilities haven’t been as I’d hoped might need to find a compromise between the rural idea and the ‘burbs – but I do want chickens

  • Getting my business off the ground
  • More great adventures with family and friends as we explore theBarossa Valley and more of South Australia

    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
  • Getting to know even more of the fantastic people that bring us our great food and wine
  • Seeing our kids continue to thrive
  • More cooking, crafting and maybe even some preserving
  • Getting my health and fitness back on track and running the Barossa Half Marathon next year

    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch
    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch

And for anyone thinking of making a big, bold lifestyle and career change, here’s a few things I have learned:

  • it takes time – there will be good days and bad days but stick with it, and know some days you just have to cut yourself some slack
  • knowing why you want to make the change makes it a lot easier to cope with the challenges
  • be open to new stuff, say yes – but don’t completely overwhelm yourself.
  • If you’re a planner, you’ll still need to plan. I realised I still need menu plans, to-do lists and I still need to get up early because even though I I’m working full-time and be flexible with my day, part of my career change was about having time to do other things like cook, exercise and craft – and there are still only 24 hours
  • Coaching and networking is so valuable – especially if you’re starting a business. It’s great to have someone keeping you accountable and cheering you on, especially when you are doing something completely new and don’t know that many people.
  • Enjoy it! Celebrate the little victories, get to know your new town and focus on the good stuff!

IMG_3269 Finally, a huge thank you to Simon and my boys, our family and friends – old and new, who have provided so much support along the way. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Our first South Australian holiday

It’s a very hot day here in the Barossa and I can’t help but wish the warm weather had appeared this time last month when we headed off to Victor Harbor for our “beach” holiday!

View from our apartment in Victor Harbor
View from our apartment in Victor Harbor

Not long after arriving in Tanunda, it suddenly seemed like people around me were booking summer holidays. Fresh from 3.5 years of regular breaks (due to the need to escape Hanoi’s pollution, chaos and weather), I figured we had better book a beach break too. As it turned out, we now have a lifestyle where we don’t need to escape so often and we probably didn’t need the expense of a holiday, but the idea of the beach sounded great.

Unfortunately we left Tanunda in pouring rain, and I tried to tell myself it would improve. Unfortunately the weather forecasts proved right, and apart from a few beautiful days, we shivered through most of the week away.

Still beautiful on a stormy day - Victor Harbor
Still beautiful on a stormy day – Victor Harbor

But we were determined to make the most of it. We had a nice apartment with a view of the harbour and the steam train going past a couple of times a day. It was only a quick walk to the centre of Victor Harbor so we visited many of the tourist attractions. And with the Fleurieu Peninsula being rich in food and wine, we of course enjoyed some day trips to taste wine in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek (which I’ll post separately).

Here are some of the highlights of our time in Victor Harbor:

Harbor or Harbour?

Victor Harbor was a former whaling port so there is a lot of history around the whaling industry. It was interesting to realise that while Australian’s generally use the English spelling of “harbor” Victor Harbor is still spelt without the “u” – unless you’re on the train.

An explanation of the spelling of Victor Harbor
An explanation of the spelling of Victor Harbor

Steam Train to Goolwa

Watching the steam train go past our apartment every day, we had to go for a ride. Unfortunately we chose a freezing cold day for the trip to Goolwa, so after a quick beer at the Steam Exchange brewery it was back on the train back to Victor Harbor.

Craft beers at the brewery in Goolwa
Craft beers at the brewery in Goolwa

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We did visit Goolwa again later in the week and found a beautiful beach – although the first time I have seen a warning about snakes on a beach!

Goolwa Beach
Goolwa Beach
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Rough surf and strong current are fairly normal at an Australian beach…but snakes?

SA Whale Centre

A great rainy day activity and a so well set up for the kids. While the boys weren’t particularly keen about posing for a photo in the shark cage, they loved the digging for fossils activity and the kids corner.

Shark exhibit at the Whale Centre
Shark exhibit at the Whale Centre
Great kids activities at the Whale Centre - digging for "fossils"
Great kids activities at the Whale Centre – digging for “fossils”

Granite Island, Horse-drawn tram and the Penguin Centre

We left this excursion until the end of our week and were lucky to have some good weather, although it started out quite cool. The horse drawn tram was great fun and having walked across the causeway myself, I realised that while the tram was running this was the best option with kids as the “footpath” on it is quite narrow. The penguin centre was amazing. The main keeper Dorothy was so passionate and worked their 6 days a week. She knew all the 10-11 penguins by name. I was really surprised and sad to hear that they are only allowed to care for the penguins and are not permitted to breed the penguins. This is despite the population dropping to around 40 in recent years, no doubt due to decreasing fish stocks.

Horse drawn tram to Granite Island
Horse drawn tram to Granite Island

The penguins themselves are gorgeous and it was the first time I had been close enough to see that their fur is actually a shiny blue colour in the water. I was also blown away by these tiny little things devouring whole fish. Well worth and hour to listen to Dorothy and watch the antics of these beautiful endangered creatures.

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After a windy walk around and up to the top of Granite Island, we enjoyed beers and ice creams as the sun came out and we were even treated to a bit of a show by some dolphins. It was a beautiful spot and we were disappointed to hear that the lease on the restaurant and kiosk had not been renewed. It really should be a premier tourist attraction for Victor Harbor, so hopefully this changes and someone can come in and make the most of this beautiful location.

View from the deck at Granite Island
View from the deck at Granite Island

Beach and bakery at Port Elliot

The beach at Port Elliot and the fish and chips from Flying Fish Cafe on the beach were my favourite. It is a really pretty little town, about 5 minutes from Victor Harbor and would be my pick for our next beach holiday in that part of South Australia. Lots of beautiful old buildings, great shops and restaurants and amazing views. Thanks to Instagram, we discovered the Port Elliot bakery and made several trips back for the most incredible donuts. The boys also had a great time in the surf, although us grown-ups decided it was way too cold to swim!

Beach at Port Elliot
Beach at Port Elliot
Old Council Chambers in Port Elliot - just one of many of buildings in this gorgeous seaside town
Old Council Chambers in Port Elliot – just one of many of buildings in this gorgeous seaside town
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View from Port Elliot back towards Victor Harbor and Granite Island
Amazing donut from the Port Elliot bakery
Amazing donut from the Port Elliot bakery

Drive to Cape Jervis

One afternoon, I decided we should go for a drive to Cape Jervis where the ferry takes people across to Kangaroo Island. I probably underestimated how far this drive around the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula would take but it was worth it for some beautiful views starting at the Bluff near Encounter Bay and heading down to Cape Jervis, glimpses of Kangaroo Island and back past through Carrickalinga and Yankalilla.

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View from Encounter Bay towards Victor Harbor
Ferry to Kangaroo Island
Ferry to Kangaroo Island

Relaxing with the family

Although the weather meant we weren’t on the beach every day as I’d imagined, it was great just to spend time together as a family. One of the best things about our location was being across the road from the harbour and having 2 great playgrounds so afternoons usually involved a trip to the park while I did 30 minutes of exercise as part of the World Vision 30-for-30 challenge that I was doing to support child and maternal health.

Great spot for an afternoon run
Great spot for an afternoon run

So while we weren’t on the beach each day as I’d imagined, it was great exploring a new part of South Australia. I thought we’d actually covered quite a lot of ground, until I looked at the map of South Australia againand realised there are many more adventures out there waiting for us

Was there anything we missed in Victor Harbor? Any recommendations on where we should visit next?

Clare Valley Day Trip

We decided to make the most of the beautiful weather on the last day of the last school holidays and head up to the Clare Valley for the day. My husband was also keen to use his day off from pouring wine to do some tasting.

One of the advantages of the Barossa is its proximity to several great day trips being only an hour away to Clare, Adelaide or the Adelaide Hills.

Clare Valley countryside
Clare Valley countryside

Our first stop was O’Leary Walker, which we’d visited on our last trip to Clare back in 2007. Back then they were still doing tastings in the large shed, so we were excited to see the beautiful new cellar door. It was a good start for all when pens and paper were offered to the boys who could sit at a low table close to the tasting bench. They soon decided that running outside under the sprinklers was more fun, but either way they were amused for long enough for us to taste some really great wine. The riesling was as good as I’d remembered as it was interesting to taste new release 2014, 2013 and 2008 wines.

Tasting wine at O'Leary Walker
Tasting wine at O’Leary Walker
View from the cellar door at O'Leary Walker
View from the cellar door at O’Leary Walker

Next stop was Crabtree Wines which is one of the prettiest cellar doors I’ve visited, and had a great set up with individual tasting “stations” atop barrels with the cellar door person moving between groups. A beautiful cellar door dog, a Whippet named Tiger kept the boys happy along with some chocolate from the lady running the tastings. As expected, the riesling was good and we also came home with some nice clean skins.

Cellar door at Crabtree Wines
Cellar door at Crabtree Wines

Lunch was our next stop and we all had great meals at the Seven Hill Hotel. Great service, tasty kids meals, a cellar to view (where you can select wines to open there or take away), wines by the glass and great service made it somewhere we’d happily return to.

After lunch we drove further on to visit Knappstein, a beautiful cellar door and brewery. Apart from the rieslings, the standout for me was the 2008 sparkling shiraz (which kicks off our collection for Christmas lunch). The beer was also really nice – but I think part of that was my excitement of having an ice cold beer fresh from the tap, rather than a bottle or the warm beer I was used to in Hanoi. We also brought some beer home with it and I am happy to report it was just as good from the bottle!

Knappstein cellar door and brewery
Knappstein cellar door and brewery

After a quick detour to a great shaded playground, we visited Mr Mick. I love the story behind this. Veteran Clare Valley winemaker Tim Adams took on the old Leasingham site on the edge of Clare, and renamed it Mr Mick in honour of his mentor Mick Knappstein.  I really enjoyed the Rose and the tapas menu looked great, so I think we’ll be going back there in the future.

Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen
Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen

Finally, on our way home we stopped in to the Clare Valley Brewing Company were we tasted a few beers and the Good Catholic Girl Riesling, which I’d actually had in Wollongong on my 40th. I’m not sure how I feel paying to taste, but the beer was nice, and we brought home a 6 pack of the Red Ale. I also liked the Miss Molly cider which I was surprised to find out was made with grapes. I was curious how it was then cider and not wine but the brewing technique and the alcohol content for the cider is much lower than for wine.

Clare Valley Brewing Company
Clare Valley Brewing Company

All in all it was a nice day out, and while the boys got a bit bored at the end, most places had somewhere they could either sit to draw or play on the ipad or they could run around outside. There is definitely a lot more we would like to explore in the area, including a few cellar doors that are only open at weekends, so I think it will be a regular day trip for us and probably something we’ll do with family and friends come to visit.

Have you been to the Clare Valley? Any tips for our next visit?