Thank you from Mary Jo Drew

Hi Karen,

My entire foodie trip in the Lands Down Under went off with nary a hitch. The business class flights were the best splurge I’ve given myself in years!

MEL - Downtown from Mary Jo Drew

Photo Credit to Mary Jo Drew

The Hotel Lindrum in Melbourne was well positioned with easy access to shopping and attractions.  The Lanes and Arcades tour is an absolute must for anyone visiting Melbourne for the first time. As our guide pointed out, by not knowing to look down the city’s narrow alleyways many Americans would walk right past them and miss out on so much vibrant local culture.

There is so much colorful history in Melbourne.  At our guide’s advice, I even stopped in and had a drink upstairs with the famous Chloe in her namesake bar across from Flinders Railway Station!  The Yarra Valley winery tour was great fun. I really enjoyed seeing the Chandon Estate and didn’t realize Chandon had a vineyard in Australia!

Hobart in Tasmania was a really nice respite after the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.  The Old Woolstore Hotel was so close to the downtown area and harbor that I was able to walk virtually the entire downtown during my stay.  My private tour and lunch at the Morilla Estate was fantastic though the artwork at MONA came as a bit of a shock!   The trip to Bruny Island was great.  The weather started out very rainy but by noon everything cleared out and I had a lovely day.

ZQN view from Mary Jo Drew

Photo Credit to Mary Jo Drew

And then came Queenstown in beautiful New Zealand. The Dairy may have been my favorite accommodation – had I not stopped at The Manse later!  The view, room, breakfasts and staff service were all superlative.  I also enjoyed the hot tub on the back deck – a great place to sip wine while enjoying the view!  Although the weather was on again, off again, I had mostly great weather for my wanderings about town, the public garden, and the narrow streets.  I also enjoyed great meals at a couple of unique tapas bars on Lake Wakatipu.  The Doubtful Sound trip was quite majestic, but as The Sound is so remote it was a very long day. The winery tour to Otago was great and the charcuterie lunch was quite good.

NPE - The Manse view from Mary Jo Drew

Photo Credit to Mary Jo Drew

Lastly came Hawkes Bay. I knew I was in for a treat when I saw the plane I’d be flying on the leg from Christchurch to Napier – a regional aircraft not unlike some I have been on in the Pacific Northwest!  After staying at The Manse and being totally spoiled by the fantastic accommodation, the pool, the drinks before dinner, Gary’s sumptuous meals, and his and Dietske’s hospitality, I can only say that I wish I had had spent more time there!  My guide on the winery tour had spent years in the business himself, and it showed in his insights into the various wineries and producers.  My tour of Napier with Gary on the last day of my trip certainly cemented my wish to spend more time in stunning Hawkes Bay.

The trip was spectacular and I will have great memories to share for years to come.  Thanks for all your help in making this happen!

Best wishes,

Mary Jo

A Traveler’s Notes from Australia

My trip to Australia seems ages ago but my memories run deep.  The land down under is indeed full of beauty and spectacle and amazingly friendly people.

Here are a few of my favourite places and things unique to Australia:
  • First there’s the delicious lamington! (Ha! Did you think I would start with the Sydney Opera House? Not focused on the uber-tourist trail with this little blog post. Besides food always comes first!) If you’ve never had a lamington, you must try one (or two) immediately…if you can find a place that makes them…or you’ll have to make your own. Lamingtons are sponge cake cut in cubes and dipped in a light chocolate frosting and sprinkled with coconut. They are divine!
  • The spectacular Great Ocean Road! (Yes I know this is on everyone’s list but there is good reason!) The highlight of my very long but incredible day was a helicopter ride to see the Twelve Apostles and Shipwreck coast from an unforgettable vantage point!
  • Lots of great wine! From the three wine regions (of which there are plenty!) that I visited across Australia and the few wineries that I was able to experience in each area, here are the standouts…
Margaret River:
There are the bigger, more well known estates like Voyager and Vasse Felix that are consistently good so I will focus on the houses that offered me the most memorable experiences and wines that were fantastic in my opinion (not to mention some interesting names!)
+Laurance – excellent reds in particular the Icon Cabernet
+ Evans & Tate – loved their whites and a beautiful pink Moscato
+ Wills Domain – excellent whites especially their Semillon
+ Knee Deep – fantastic, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc
+ Swings and Roundabouts – great reds and a beautiful Chardonnay
Yarra Valley:
+ Yering Station – this is a popular and quite commercial estate but they had a Shiraz Viognier (2008) that was amazing
+ Rochford – lovely, elegant wines especially their Chardonnay (2001)
Barossa Valley:
+ Schild Estate – very nice, smooth whites like the Semillon, Frontignac and Chardonnay and there was a fabulous blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre (GSM as the Aussies love their acronyms!)
+ Hentley Farm – fantastic Zinfandel and a Shiraz called The Beast (2010)! It was to-die-for…much more complex and interesting than The Beauty!
  • If you find yourself in Melbourne and you’re a huge fan of sushi, then you must try Jamon ( which is a little sushi place in the charming suburb of South Yarra. The owner and master sushi chef (be prepared to meet Charles, a long-silver-haired Harley Davidson type dressed in black) prepares everything for you fresh that day – the menu is omakase so the chef will make whatever he chooses from the fresh fish, mushrooms and vegetables that he had gotten from the markets that day (you can just tell him what you may not prefer). It was like an opera watching him prepare the whole fishes and creating delicate pieces of sashimi from various parts of the fish, slicing the beautiful shiitake and enoki while grounding fresh wasabi root and sprinkling some of his homemade mustard. Oh, and in that tiny space of sushi bar for 7 and 2 tables for 2, they project Japanese animation on the large white wall in front of the
    bar. It was a lovely, spontaneous and unforgettable experience!
  • Kangaroo Island is a spectacular place where you feel like you’re at the edge of the world…and you are! It’s on the Southern Ocean and there’s nothing between you and Antarctica! The island was bigger than I expected with so much nature to see…of all the beautiful natural surroundings, I would have to say that the Remarkable Rocks were a highlight and of the few man-made places, there is nothing more amazing than the Southern Ocean Lodge ( which is an eco-friendly resort that caters to your every whim! The rooms, food, guided tours, spa and hospitality are all absolutely second-to-none! If only we could have stayed longer…
  • Finally, after seeing so much natural beauty, I was ready for a big dose of urban culture when I reached Sydney. And the Art Gallery of New South Wales didn’t disappoint. The gallery is at one end of the beautiful Botanic Gardens and surprisingly had on view the works of some of my favourite modern and contemporary artists. It was the perfect closing to a fabulous holiday.