Cradle comforts

Last time we spent the weekend at Cradle Mountain Lodge we promised ourselves we would make it a regular treat, perhaps once a year. Nine years on, we returned last month for a mid-week stay, the impetus being Michael’s birthday. After a leisurely scenic drive of just over an hour, we felt compelled to inspect the new, controversial, Visitor Centre. With all the negative publicity, I wasn’t expecting to find, in my opinion, a rather impressive construction.

Once the hundreds of plantings have grown, I think it will blend well with the environment.

The lodge looks stunning with a new face lift

and the reconfigured reception area has lost none of its welcoming charm.

We checked in to our Pencil Pine cabin, surrounded by wildlife

with a distant view of Cradle Mountain,

and returned to the tavern for lunch.

The guest lounge is cosy and comfortable

and there were two chairs by the fire that definitely had our names on them.

Our cabin was an easy stroll from the lodge, passing many contented furry residents along the way, obviously used to the comings and goings of the human variety.

The next day brought rain, a soothing constant downpour with not a breath of wind.

After a hearty breakfast, we retired to the guest lounge for a couple of hours of enforced relaxation before making our way to Waldheim Spa for a spot of pampering. Michael savoured a sixty minute Aromasoul massage by the lovely Eka, while Kayoko treated me to a Tension Tonic Ritual – a delicious hour of body massage, foot treatment and scalp therapy.

Anticipating a sumptuous dinner at the Highland Restaurant, we returned to the cabin for a cheese platter and quiet afternoon, hoping the forecast snow would materialise. Despite -4°C overnight, snow didn’t eventuate but a heavy frost and ice greeted us the next morning.

We couldn’t resist a final indulgence with a cooked breakfast followed by an easy walk in the crisp, clear air before departing for home, vowing to do this more often.

Matamata

Much as we enjoyed our time in Auckland, after three nights we were ready to leave the confines of the city and breathe the country air. A scenic two hour drive south of Auckland, we arrived at Matamata. Established as a Māori pā in 1830, the name means ‘headland’ and the position on a ridge of high ground was perfect for the defensive settlement. The town is now recognised as the home of The Shire, anyone who is familiar with The Lord of the Rings will know what I mean. There was no doubt we were in Hobbit country when we located the information centre.

1.information centre2.information centre

We were very fortunate to have booked accommodation only 4km from Hobbiton, it wasn’t difficult to see why Peter Jackson chose this area for the filming of his movie.

3.countryside4.countryside5.countryside

The setting of Buckland B&B couldn’t have been more peaceful,

8.Buckland B&B

the spacious living area was a welcome contrast to our cramped city apartment. It is amazing how a section of this American barn has been so tastefully transformed.

9.interior10.interior11.bathroom

The outdoor area was perfect for a late afternoon aperitivo,

12.outdoor setting

undisturbed by the amiable neighbours.

15.sheep16.neighbours

Scrumptious homemade bread was delivered to our door daily, what didn’t get eaten for breakfast was enjoyed with our Rangihoua olive oil at dinner.

We stayed four nights at Buckland, not only is it close to Hobbiton it is a great base for day trips west to Hamilton and east to Rotorua. Thank you Tracy & Kevin for a wonderful experience.

Wrest Point

Michael’s gig at Cascade Brewhouse in January gave us the opportunity to stay in Hobart overnight and the perfect excuse for a belated wedding anniversary celebration. We hadn’t been to Wrest Point since a holiday in 2007 when we enjoyed a fabulous evening in the revolving restaurant, it was time to revisit. Not only did Wrest Point become Australia’s first legal casino in 1973, its fascinating history dates back to 1789 when a chap named Thomas Chaffey was transported for life to Norfolk Island. He married Maria Israel, was made a constable and given 39 acres of land. When the settlement on Norfolk Island was closed, he received 62 acres of land in Hobart and built a house on land at Queensborough which became known as Chaffey’s Point. Thomas’s son, William, built an inn on the site called the Traveller’s Rest in 1839 and it was later purchased in 1939 to create a prestigious international hotel, the Wrest Point Riviera. The current Wrest Point hotel was built on the same site and is still the city’s tallest building at 64 metres.

1.Wrest Point Tower

The complex has been extended over the years and now includes a conference centre as well as a range of bars and restaurants and three accommodation options depending on your budget. We had booked a Water Edge room but were upgraded to a newly refurbished Harbour View Deluxe  King on the sixth floor of the tower. The décor was tasteful

and the view stunning, although we didn’t have much time to spend admiring it.

5.river view6.river view

After the Brewhouse, it was a quick freshen up and change for our reservation at The Point on the top floor of the tower. A selection of breads were presented, followed by a delicious venison taster.

For entrée, we both chose the Rannoch Farm quail breast, house made falafel, onion, Cygnet mushrooms, herbs & red wine jus.

11.quail

We differed on main course with Tasmanian slow cooked lamb rump & braised neck, cauliflower, sweet potato, snow peas, almonds, green raisins, herb salsa verde & dukkah seasoning and honey glazed duck breast, braised red cabbage, parsnip, bread dumplings, caramelised chestnuts, duck & orange jus.

Had we not opted for the table d’hôte menu, we would have declined dessert, not realising the meals would be quite so generous. We soldiered on. I had textures of rhubarb & berries, honey crème brûlée, elderflower, milk crumble, lemon sorbet, pistachio sponge & meringue, while Michael managed the walnut & maple syrup tart, buckwheat pastry, red wine poached pear, sauce Anglaise & yoghurt sorbet.

With no room for another morsel, we were presented with a mist shrouded platter bearing chocolates and a congratulatory anniversary note. How could we refuse?

16.Happy Anniversary

The following morning, a spotlight of sun pierced the clouds, illuminating the Derwent River and the cast of players waiting in the wings.

17.morning light18.rowers

A group of rowers appeared on the stage

followed by a lone paddle boarder, obviously confident enough to carry a backpack.

It wasn’t long before a seaplane landed then cruised downriver and disappeared from sight.

With the water entertainment over, we wandered through the venue to explore the immaculate grounds.

32.lawn31.pond

Cormorants preened on mussel crusted rocks,

with an enviable view of the Tasman Bridge and Mt. Wellington beyond.

35.Tasman Bridge

Vegetables and herbs are grown in the gardens, a ready supply to serve the patrons.

Boardwalk Bistro

39.Boardwalk Bistro

overlooks the marina.

40.marina

It is no surprise that Sandy Bay has the most expensive real estate in Hobart.

41.Sandy Bay

Our only disappointment was that we weren’t staying for longer but there is always a next time.

42.Wrest Point Tower

Podere Montepozzo

Our journey from Pienza to Montepozzo took a little longer than anticipated. The route selected by the satnav came to an abrupt end with, what appeared to be, a missing bridge.

1.missing road

A quick re-programming found a suitable detour and we arrived at the farmhouse late afternoon. I have previously published a post on Podere Montepozzo but it is so beautiful, I am sharing it again. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

The Mansion Hotel

One of the places on our list to visit while in Werribee was the historic 19th century mansion and gardens. When we discovered the estate included a hotel, we decided to indulge and stay the night. The Mansion Hotel evolved from the former St. Joseph’s Seminary adjacent to the mansion itself. Created in 1926, the college lay derelict for nearly thirty years from 1972 when students were moved to a new campus. Rescued and restored, the boutique hotel opened its doors in June 2000.

1.The Mansion Hotel

Period features have been retained, with a contemporary twist for the lounge areas of the reception foyer.

2.lounge3.lounge

The library was once part of the chapel, the original stained glass windows complement the rich surroundings,

4.library

8.library

the snooker room is equally inviting.

9.snooker room

It was a little early to sample something at the opulent bar

10.bar

and the setting of tables in Joseph’s restaurant was imminent.

11.Joseph's Restaurant

The hotel comprises classic heritage rooms as well as deluxe accommodation in the new spa wing.

12.spa wing

Up the stairs

13.staircase

and across a walkway

14.walkway

we found our very comfortable room.

15.room

The shadows were lengthening as we set off to explore,

16.terrace

the evening sun highlighted the mansion in all her splendour.

17.The Mansion

Magnificent sweeping lawns and formal English gardens make up the ten acre estate.

A rather stunning door

21.back door

leads to the rear and a  different perspective of the palatial buildings.

22.rear view23.bluestone outbuilding

We returned to the hotel

to prepare for dinner in Joseph’s Restaurant, named in honour of the seminary. The menu changes with the seasons to take advantage of the produce grown in the heritage vegetable gardens of the estate as well as the wild and native foods available. Sprouted rye sourdough was accompanied by smoked organic butter and pepper-leaf oil from the Mansion’s ancient peppertrees.

26.sourdough

Our first course choices were Black Cobia with bug dumplings, shiso, shitake, kombu & lemongrass broth and Seven Hills goat ‘brik’ with preserved lemon, wheat, pickled chayote & goats curd.

Second course followed; Yarra Valley pheasant with bread & butter pudding, wild nettles, lardo, pine mushrooms & onion soup and local barramundi with Jersey royal potatoes, warrigal greens, quail egg, black olive & scampi anglaise.

The Musquee De Provence pumpkin pie was divine

31.pumpkin pie

and, even though the servings weren’t huge, we barely had room for the warm mulled wine.

32.warm mulled wine

Fortunately, the perfect end to a fabulous day was only a staircase away.