Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Hello everyone,

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.
I'll add some new blog posts in a couple of weeks, once all the end of year craziness has finished and I can catch my breath again.
I hope you find some inspiration in the posts I have already published and get the chance to visit some of my favourite places around Victoria.
Enjoy the sunshine.

Gabby x

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

I've been on Puffing Billy many times over the years - as a kid, and with my own kids, but had never considered any other passenger options other than sitting in the back carriages with all limbs flying in the breeze out of the open windows.
That's the only way to do Puffing Billy, right?

Fast forward a couple of years, to a kid-free day, which happened to fall on our 10th wedding anniversary, and a very different option came to mind.
Putting together two of our favourite activities, exploring Victoria and eating, we booked the Steam and Cuisine Luncheon on Melbourne's most famous steam train. 

We got dressed up, put on some lippy and high heels (well, one of us did) and set off into the mild Spring weather. Arriving at Belgrave, we found parking on the high side of the road. Really, really high. So high,  I had to take my heels off and walk barefoot down the steep, wet footpath -  like I was on my way home from the races. 
By this time, the mild Spring weather had headed elsewhere and wet, windy Winter had taken its place.
My getting 'dressed up' outfit was totally inappropriate for the temperature outside and I all I could think about was the warm jacket and boots I had chosen not to wear.
But enough about me...let me tell you about this guy, Puffing Billy.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

We were seated in the First Class carriage at one of the larger tables, usually reserved for 4 persons. It meant we had plenty of room on our seat to put our bags and jackets if we had brought the darn things.Waaaahhhhh!
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing BillyLuckily, it was lovely and warm and cosy in the carriage and soon thoughts of my jacket faded away with the puffs of smoke coming from the train.

Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy
We had made our menu choices a few days prior to our journey and had each chosen a different entree, main and dessert. 
Whilst waiting for passengers to board the rest of the train, the dining staff delivered entrees and drinks to all seated in the two dining carriages.
Our Arancini Balls served with Seeded Mustard Aioli, and Hearty Vegetable Soup with crusty bread were both delicious and were a great start to our meal. We chose a Yering Station Shiraz Viognier to accompany our meal, just one of the many Yarra Valley wines on offer.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy
After 30 minutes journey, our Mains were served as we stopped at Menzies Creek Station for a few minutes, allowing a Belgrave bound train to pass at the point where the tracks are divided.  We were very happy with the tasty Baked Chicken w' Pesto and the most comforting of comfort foods - Field Mushroom Cottage Pie. Yummo!
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing BillySteam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

Our plates were cleared as we approached Lakeside Station. Here, we were able to walk off (Or I could have, if I'd worn sensible shoes and that damn jacket!!)  our hearty fare at the 45 minute stop.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

We got back on board after only a short time outside, and we were glad to find the carriage still warm. Our tables had been set in readiness for dessert and beverages. 

I loved the ambience of the century old dining cars. The ornate ceilings, decorative glass, solid timber and leather trims made me feel like I was enjoying train travel from another era. The whistle echoing throughout the hills and the smoke billowing out of the engine added to the atmosphere.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

Dessert was served as we left Lakeside. A decadent duo of house made Key Lime Pie and Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce. Tea and coffee accompanied the sweet treats and it was a struggle to finish off the food on our plates, we'd eaten so much.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

The rain fell as we chugged along back to Belgrave, but it didn't detract too much from the great scenery outside. Overall, it was a really good outing and I'm glad we chose it for our special day.
Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, Puffing Billy

Where: Belgrave
When: Daily 12:30pm                                                      
Why: historic train, dining
How much: $98.50 (The Entertainment Book has a 25% off coupon)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

I can't visit a town with a lighthouse, without climbing said lighthouse. There's something eerie and spooky, yet warm and welcoming, about these sentinels that stand guard on our treacherous coastline.
The blindingly bright whitewashed walls and fire engine red trims add to the glamour of these seaside beauties.
Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet We joined a 45 minute tour and climbed the narrow, steep spiral staircase to the top. OUr guide told us about the history of the lighthouse, its keepers, the workings of the light and the area around us. It was an informative  tour and well worth doing.
Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

Split Point Lighthouse, known affectionately as The White Queen, has shone her light out to sea since 1891, guiding ships away from the rugged cliffs and rocky formations along the shore. The lenses and prisms form a horizontal light, warning nearby ships of the dangers around them.
Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet
From the top of the tower, a dazzling rainbow appeared. Stretching from the viewing platform on our right, across to a huge rock jutting out of the sea. Maybe signalling a pot of gold, lost on a sunken ship in bygone years?

Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys InletSplit Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

The coastline spread out before us, stretching towards Lorne in the distance and meeting the mouth of Painkalac Creek in the foreground.Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet

We finished our visit with a walk around the grounds and down to the Mouth River, then jumped in the car and headed off to Fairhaven, the longest beach on the Great Ocean Road. We stopped at the official start of the Great Ocean Road, the Memorial Arch...

Memorial Arch, Great Ocean Road...before turning back for one more look at the White Queen and her younger neighbour, the famous Pole House. Pole House, Great Ocean Road
What: Split Point Lighthouse
Federal St, Aireys Inlet
When: Tours Daily 11am-2pm                                                      
Why:history, ocean views
How much: $14
Nearby:  Bells Beach

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bells Beach

Victoria's most famous surf beach, Bells Beach, near Torquay, is world renowned for its surf breaks and the long standing annual surfing event, the Rip Curl Pro. 

Leaving the surfing to the professionals, we were more than happy to just watch the action from the viewing platform on the clifftop...
Bells Beach, Torquay...while the endless set of waves rolled in from Bass Strait.
Bells Beach, Torquay
As the sun rose over 'Bells'...
Bells Beach, did the numbers of black wetsuits in the water
Bells Beach, Torquay Each surfer waited patiently for the perfect wave...
Bells Beach, Torquay take them and their board on a wild ride across the water.
Bells Beach, TorquayBells Beach, Torquay
Some chased waves... 
Bells Beach, Torquay...some had waves chasing them...
Bells Beach, Torquay
 ... and others were somewhere in between.
Bells Beach, Torquay

And if surfing isn't your thing, you can strap yourself into a paraglider and take a running jump off the clifftop at nearby Southside Beach. The runway juts out at a a pretty spectacular spot for soaring above the sea, allowing the bravehearted to take a flying leap  into the great beyond, with a bird's eye view of all the action below.
Bells Beach, Torquay
What: Bells Beach
Bells Beach Rd
When: Daily                                                             
Why:walks, ocean views
How much: FREE

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Surf Coast Walk, Torquay

This walk started at the end of The Esplanade, where  we followed the beachside path and headed behind the Surf Club.
We crossed the tidal channel via a wooden boardwalk over Spring Creek...

...where a lone pelican had his own private island all to himself. 
It was an easy walk to Rocky Point and its fabulous views.
The timber lookout was rebuilt last year and features two viewing platforms; one looking East to Torquay and the other looking West towards Bells Beach.
Stone seating is layered to represent the rocky reef breaks offshore...

...and information signs tell the story of the waves and the wind.

Torquay Surf Beach had boards flying across the waves from dawn to dusk...

The walk back to the car offered a different aspect, as the sun was higher and sending a million sparkles down onto the water.

What: Surf Coast Walk, Torquay
The Esplanade, Torquay 
When: Daily                                                             
Why:walks, ocean views
How much: FREE

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay

You can't go anywhere in Torquay without seeing a surfboard, especially when you park outside the Surfing Museum.
Iconic surfware brand, Ripcurl was founded in Torquay and their huge store is worth a visit for the  historical photos that adorn the walls.
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay 
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay
The footpath outside is paved with bells that feature the footprints of surfing pros such as Barton Lynch and Tom Carroll.
Australian National Surfing Museum, TorquayThe Museum holds a collection of memorabilia from across the years, from boards to wetsuits, clothing and photos. A wooden boardwalk allows you to see the vast display of surfboards on the wall, from longboards of the 50's and 60's, to the sleek fibreglass models of recent times.
A shaping bay allows you to watch as a board comes to life.

Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay

The Hall of Fame features replica boards used by surfing legends, along with a detailed history of those surfers. Among the many male surf champions featured, there was a few high profile females as well, such as Layne Beachley and Pam Burridge.
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay

The blank canvas of a blackboard surfboard was too tempting to ignore, so I grabbed a piece of chalk to write my name on one...
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay...but another Gabby (younger, prettier, Spanish speaking), chalk in hand, wrote her name instead - before my very eyes. My kidlets were amazed at the coincidence and had a giggle about it. Not to be outdone by my namesake, I drew a Frangipani on the other board.
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay We sat and watched some jaw-dropping thrills and spills in the theatre as surf films played throughout the day.
Australian National Surfing Museum, TorquayThe famous Bell Trophy plaque was on display, with names etched into it from as far back as 1962's Bells Easter Rally.
The Rip Curl Pro began in 1973 at nearby Bells beach, and the plaque features names like Americans Tom Curran, Kelly Slater and Andy Irons,  and Aussies Mark Occhilupo and Mick Fanning, to name just a few.

Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay
The ultimate surfers vehicle, this Kombi was decked out in all sorts of gear and cut out in the middle to create a walkway. Totally rad, dude.
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay My favourite exhibition of the Museum was this collection of Storyboards by local artist, Gordon Stammers. The front of the board has a letter from a young surfer, Maurice, to his father, detailing his adventures on the road. On the reverse side, Maurice's Dad responds to his son, with advice and stories from home.
Incredibly funny - make sure you allow at least 30 minutes to stand and read them all.
Australian National Surfing Museum, Torquay

What: Australian National Surfing Museum
77 Beach Road, Torquay 
When: Daily  9am to 5pm                                                            
Why: surfing history
How much: $12