Day out in Berrima

Today we went out for a driving day trip, my wife, Scully, and myself. We’d booked a lunch at the restaurant Eschalot in Berrima, which is about 90 minutes drive from home, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

It rained overnight here in Sydney, and cleared up around breakfast time. I checked the rain radar and saw a few showers lingering around the Southern Highlands area, so I suggested we should take umbrellas just in case. We took the M5 motorway out of Sydney, heading south-west and then on to the Hume Highway. Where it started to rain. Heavily.

Really heavily. It got so hard that all the traffic on the freeway slowed down to about 50 km/h for a while, with visibility down to maybe 50 metres or so. The temperature also plummeted. I was expecting warm weather, since it’s summer and it’s been warm in Sydney. But by the time we got to Berrima, it was only 15°C. And pouring rain.

We were there just after 11:00, and so had an hour to kill before our lunch reservation. Normally we’d walk around the small town, but with rain pelting down we used our umbrellas and dashed into a shop to browse around indoors a bit. Then, because the town is spread out, we raced back to the car and drove down the street to find a parking spot closer to the restaurant, where we could dash inside a few other shops. We also tried to get Scully to do a toilet on some grass, but given the rain and wetness and unfamiliarity if the surroundings with people walking by, she was reluctant.

We went into the restaurant and they had a table set up for us outdoors (so we could sit with Scully), under a marquee which was very well protected from the weather by clear plastic sheeting. It was a really nice set up.

Rainy day table at Eschalot

They had a few tables out there, but we were the only ones eating outside.

Scully

We had a selection of dishes, including pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas:

Pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas

And dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate:

Dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate

For dessert I had lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd:

My loves lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd

The rain eased a bit as we ate, but didn’t stop. I did manage to take Scully out to the grass and get her to toilet though. We scrambled back into the car, trying not to get too wet, and headed off. We stopped at the nearby town of Bowral to check the Gumnut Patisserie and grab some sweets to take home. I really wanted a vanilla slice, as this bakery has won prizes for theirs and it really is amazingly good. But unfortunately they were sold out, so we left empty handed.

We drove back to Sydney via a different route, crossing the mountains to the coast via Appin, and then north from there. This was an interesting drive, on a road I’ve never been on before. We arrived home about 5:30pm.

Total distance driven: 282 km. Here’s a map of our driving route:

Map of route

New content today:

European travel diary and photo updating

Today I worked on finishing off that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips I started writing yesterday. I completed the writing by lunch time and then spent a few hours this afternoon photographing the strips. I still need to assemble the strips and write annotations, but I’ll do that over the next few days.

I also spent some time doing a task I should have done months ago: formatting my travel diary from my trip to Germany and the Netherlands in June and uploading it to my website. Ive added just a few photos to one of the days. I still have to go through all the photos from that trip and process and upload selected ones.

I did find a problem looking through them briefly today: I forgot to change the time on my SLR camera while overseas. So all the photos were timestamped with the incorrect time, saying I took daylight photos in the middle of the night (which it was back in Sydney). Fortunately I have exiftool! This is a neat little command line script that can edit image files, including camera RAW files, and update the EXIF tags which record things like the time the photos was taken. So I went through my folders of photos from the trip and adjusted all the “DateTimeOriginal” fields by the correct number of hours.

Now I just need to format my diary for the trip we took to Orange last month! Oh, and do all that photo processing stuff.

Also this weekend I fit in a couple of 2.5k runs. Oh, and the weather has been warming up the past few days. We broke 25°C on Friday, for the first time since back in May. It’s starting to feel like spring, finally – much later than usual. We know this summer is predicted to be very wet again, with the third La Niña in a row, so it’s likely to be cooler than normal too. Locals are thoroughly sick of it, but also in dread of when it’s over and El Niño returns, bringing scorching hot summers and fire weather.

New content today:

Orange Trip, Day 5

There’s not too much to say about today, as it was a driving day, heading home from our short trip to Orange.

We got up in the morning, had breakfast and showers, and took Scully for a walk over to the cafe where my wife got her morning coffee again. The forecast for today was showers, but the day looked bright and sunny… except as we left for the walk it started raining, out of an almost clear blue sky! It didn’t last long though.

Back at the hotel we packed our bags and the car, and then headed off for the drive home. We headed east straight through Bathurst and to Lithgow, where we stopped to have a light lunch, at a cafe where we’ve eaten a few times on previous trips.

From there, we drove straight through to home, crossing the Blue Mountains via Bell’s Line of Road this time, rather than the Great Western Highway which we’d taken west on Tuesday. This road is more scenic, but a bit slower. We passed through large areas of burnt-out forest, from the huge fires in 2019-2020, which threatened Lithgow.

We got home around 3pm, and unpacked the car. We took Scully for a bit of a walk, up to the supermarket so I could get some vegetables and fruit, and also some eggs, to last us a few days until I can do a full grocery shop.

At home I went through my SLR photos, mostly of birds from the wetlands and reservoirs we visited in the past few days. I haven’t uploaded them all yet, but here are a teaser of introduced species before I do all the native birds: Common starling:

Common starling

And a spotted dove:

Spotted dove

New content today:

Orange Trip, Day 4

I woke up about 6:30 this morning and got up to use the bathroom, which prompted Scully to get up and want to go outside. So I got dressed and took her out. Fortunately the rain had stopped overnight and the morning was clear and sunny. Then I had some muesli for breakfast while Scully crept back to bed and my wife slept in a bit more.

This morning we decided to go and explore a park where we could take Scully for a walk. We headed out of town to Gosling Creek Reserve, which is a large park next to Gosling Creek Reservoir. It has a network of walking paths which are used for the Orange Parkrun, going around the edge of the reservoir and then back through a mix of scrub, eucalyptus trees, and lawn areas with picnic tables and playground equipment. I took my camera and got a few shots of birds, including some eastern rosellas, which were very cool. We spent a good hour or more walking around and enjoying the scenery and bird life.

After this we headed back into town briefly to pick up a couple of apples that we’d got from the hotel reception desk earlier. The plan was to use these to supplement the cheese platter that we were going to get with our wine tasting at Word of Mouth Wines, which my wife had booked before our trip. We chose them because they were dog-friendly, but they said they didn’t serve lunch – only a bit of cheese and crackers as a snack.

At Word of Mouth we were greeted by a friendly man and his large labradoodle Artemis. He showed us to a sunny room out the back, looking over a field with a couple of alpacas in it. We did the wine tasting, which was a series if white wines, a rosé, and just one red. My wife liked it better than yesterday’s at Brangayne, and we bought a couple of bottles – resisting more because we don’t have a lot of room in the car. A problem was that what we expected was an optional cheese platter which we could buy, and which would be at least moderately substantial. But what we got was a complementary plate with just a couple of crackers with cheese on them and a couple with slices of sausage, which the man said was to clear our palates between the wines.

Here’s Scully at the winery:

Scully at Word of Mouth Winery

So we had our apples and then when we left the winery we drove further along the road to Lake Conobolas, where there was a cafe at which we hoped to get something else to eat. Lake Conobolas is a reservoir in Lake Conobolas Reserve, another large park with picnic areas. The cafe had indoor seating, but it was attached to a kiosk doing take-away food and there were plenty of picnic tables around. We grabbed a table and got some wraps to eat, pumpkin for my wife and Moroccan chicken for me.

After eating we walked around a bit, crossing the dam wall, which was spilling water down into Molong Creek below. This was the result of all the rain we’ve had this year, plus the 40 mm extra added just yesterday. News today was reporting more flooding in parts of regional New South Wales, including roads cut at Bathurst, which we need to drive through tomorrow to get back home to Sydney. And although today was dry, more rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Canobolas Dam spilling

Leaving Lake Conobolas, we drove back a little along the same road to the Pinnacle Lookout, which the guy at Word of Mouth Winery had told us was a beautiful place with amazing views. We climbed a steep set of wooden steps from the car park up to the lookout, which was perched atop some granite boulders at the top of the hill. It gave us a panoramic view of the landscape below, sweeping from the west through north to the east. It was very windy and cold on the exposed lookout, so we didn’t stay too long.

View from Pinnacle Lookout

From here we drove back to Orange, taking a loop around further west and north than we’d been before, so we got to see some new roads and scenery. The connecting cross-roads were nice and slow, especially because there were a lot of nasty potholes full of rainwater which I had to slow down and dodge to avoid damaging the car. It was really a case of veering all over the road and taking it slowly. Some of the potholes looked very deep and nasty indeed, but we managed to avoid anything like that.

We relaxed a bit in the hotel before heading out for dinner in the evening. We walked over to Lolli Redini, which had told me that we could walk-in for a table outdoors, depending on the weather. However when we got there the waiter seemed surprised that we wanted to sit outside and said they hadn’t got any tables set up. He kind of said he could set up a table for us, but he clearly sounded reluctant to actually do so and was trying to talk us out of it. He recommended we go down the block to Birdie, a more casual restaurant and bar operated by the same owners. So we did that.

It turned out to be really nice there, with several tables outside under the wide awning – all empty until we grabbed one. My wife wanted to know if they could make the seafood spaghetti into a vegetarian version, so I asked when ordering at the bar, and the woman there went to check with the kitchen, coming back to confirm that it could be done. I ordered the grilled salmon, and we also got some bar nuts to snack on. My wife had a glass of Pinot Noir while I had a cocktail called a Budgie Smuggler, which was sparkling wine, absinthe, apple juice, and something else that I forget. It was very nice, and the food was really good. The chef had added mushrooms, zucchini, and pumpkin to the pasta sauce, which was very nice rather than just making it without the seafood.

Summer Street night

The dessert special sounded good, being a citrus chocolate mousse with churros, but just next door was an amazing looking gelato place called Spilt Milk. It was clearly popular, with hordes of people there getting scoops to eat, at times queueing out the door. I walked over there and got two scoops: salted caramel, and ricotta with honey. I ate it sitting back at our table at Birdie, and it was really good.

Then we waked back to the hotel for our last night here in Orange before heading home tomorrow.

Orange trip, day 3

We all slept a lot better last night. Scully was much more settled, which meant my wife and I could get a good sleep too. We were so tired after not sleeping the previous night that we slept in until after 8:30. When we got up, it was raining steadily outside, as forecast. I took Scully down to the grass for her toilet, which was wet but not as cold as I expected.

We had breakfast (mine was the leftover pizza from Parrot Distillery), then had showers and got ready to head out in the wet. M. wanted to go to Ever Coffee Roasters cafe, which we’d spotted yesterday on the other side of the railway station. It’s a short walk from our hotel, just over the railway line. They had some tables outside under a wide awning, so we could sit while my wife had her coffee, though it was pretty chilly. While we sat there, we could see through a window into the home decoration shop next door, where a toddler was crawling around and sitting in a display box of little coloured samples of carpet.

Rainy day in Orange

We walked back through the rain to the hotel. Then we hopped in the car to drive out to Spotlight, so my wife could look through some of the fabrics there to choose some for making dog bandanas. This was a backup time filler while it was raining heavily. The car navigation system tried to take us along a road that had been permanently blocked off, and then when we went around we ended up on a brand new road that didn’t exist in the navigation database. Fortunately I had a good idea where we needed to go, so we ended up there without too much trouble. Scully got to explore the store while my wife found a bunch of fabrics she wanted to buy.

From there we drove over to the Nile Street Cafe, where we’d booked lunch. Earlier my wife checked by phoning up that they had somewhere we could sit outside but out of the rain, which they confirmed. The cafe was a converted house in the middle of a residential street. It looked nice and had a fairly fancy menu. I had the battered barramundi with chips and salad, and then a slice of a Persian tart, which had lots of almonds and pistachios in it, topped with dried rose petals, and infused with rosewater, which was really nice. As we ate these, the rain eased off and stopped, and the sun came out, filtering through the clouds. We decided it would be a good chance to walk Scully around the block to get some exercise before leaving. But as we packed up to go, the rain started up again, and it was heavy by the time we went back to the car and climbed in.

Ask for Mayfields

While at the cafe, I found and contacted Brangayne Winery, which was the first one to come up for dog-friendly wineries in the region. I left a message and a woman phoned back to confirm that yes, we could bring our dog and do a wine tasting, indoors out of the rain. So we drove over there through the rain and entered the vineyard, which had a nice view over a broad valley looking back towards Orange. The tasting was in an old apple storage shed, which the woman there told us was used to store fruit from when the property was originally an orchard, growing apples and stone fruits. It converted to a vineyard in the 1990s.

Brangayne Winery, Orange

We did a full tasting of the wines: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, and the winery’s signature “Tristan” blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. The Chardonnay was named “Isolde”, as the winery itself was named after Brangayne, a handmaiden of Isolde as told in the Arthurian legend. We bought a half dozen bottles to take home, mostly the Merlot and the red blend, which were the best in our opinion.

The rain had started again heavily while we were inside, so we decided to wait a bit before braving it to get back in the car. After a while, I realised that there was a loading ramp under cover, and I could go get the car and back it onto the ramp and then we could load the car without having to deal with the heavy rain. So we did that and then headed off back to Orange.

Brangayne Winery, Orange

At the hotel, the rain had stopped again, and we set out for a bit of a walk to give Scully some more exercise. But it started raining yet again, and we decided to keep it short, just going around the block. For dinner we decided to order take-away from an Indian restaurant. I chose The Upper House, which was highly rated online. We had dhal tadka and malai kofta with rice and a piece of roti. I considered some of the meat dishes, but after having duck two nights ago and lamb last night I didn’t feel like any sort of meat tonight, so went for the extra vegetarian option. I went out in the rain again to pick it up, leaving M. and Scully in the room to stay dry. The food was very good, with the dhal being a bit spicy even though I’d asked for mild when they asked how spicy we wanted it.

It’s still raining steadily. Checking the Bureau of Meteorology, I see we’ve had close to 40 mm of rain in the Orange region today. The forecast is for it to continue until about 7am but then start clearing up. So hopefully tomorrow we’ll have some better weather.

Orange trip, day 2

We had a very restless night last night. Scully was on edge all night and kept wanting to get up and look around the hotel room, and twice she wanted to go outside to toilet. So I had to get dressed in multiple layers of clothing to survive the polar temperature outside and take her out in the middle of the night. I don’t even know what time it was, but maybe midnight and around 2am. And in between she was almost constantly moving around or growling at noises outside in the street. I think overall I got maybe an hour or two of sleep.

My wife and I were up before 7am as Scully got up with the sun. I took her down to the grass across the street again for the usual morning toilet. After that I went for a walk a couple of blocks to the nearest supermarket to buy some muesli and milk for us to eat in the room for breakfast. I paused to take a photo of this gorgeous Art Deco hotel on the main street:

Royal Hotel, Orange

After eating, we went for a drive to check out some of the local wetlands for bird life. I took my SLR and long lens and we stopped first at the Brooklands Wetlands. This was a bit disappointing, being a creek running behind a row of houses, and accessible only by a strip of muddy grass. I didn’t see many birds at all, and got my shoes wet enough to soak the socks. After a bit we gave up and returned to the car to try driving over to the Coogal Park Wetlands. This was much better! There was a paved path running along a stream lined with bullrushes and other wetland vegetation. We followed it north for about a kilometre, and spotted a dozen or more different bird species. I managed to get some hopefully decent photos of a crimson rosella parent and a juvenile still in the nest, and a grey fantail.

We stopped to fill the car with petrol on the way back to the hotel. Then we went for a walk through the centre of Orange, checking out the main street and one of the small parks, where we let Scully play in the grass a bit. We wanted to get her walking a lot today to wear her out for tonight so she sleeps!

Now it was approaching noon and we walked over to Parrot Distillery where we’d booked a lunch. We found the distillery and they welcomed Scully inside, where there were several tables in the shed where they did the distillation, with a bar and a pizza oven on the side. I got a tasting board of three of their exotic gins: sloe gin, oriental gin, and bush botanicals. They were all very different and good. To go with the drinks we ordered a rosemary bread, which turned out to be a pizza crust with rosemary springs and large flakes of salt, which was good. Then we ordered a margherita pizza and a pizza with local pork and fennel sausage and potato on it. They were both really good. We took a few leftover slices back to the hotel.

After lunch, we decided to take Scully out to the Orange Botanic Gardens. I didn’t feel like driving after all the gin, so we walked. It was a fair way, over 4 km each way. The gardens were very nice, but a little bare coming out of winter into early spring.

Orange Botanic Gardens

There were some magnolias in flower, and wattle trees, but not much else.

Orange Botanic Gardens

We walked back, with Scully walking all the way home. She should be really tired tonight!

We stopped in at the hotel briefly before heading out again for dinner, at the Union Bank restaurant. We sat in the very nice courtyard, which was not as cold as sitting outside at the Peacock Lounge last night. We shared a cos salad, a cheese platter, and the lamb dish, sliced and served with baba ganoush and some pickled vegetables and chilis. It was good, but not as good as last night’s dinner. Then we walked back home to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow will be interesting. The forecast is for up to 40 mm of rain in the region, and catching the evening news tonight we saw that authorities are concerned about potential flooding.

Orange trip, day 1

This morning I woke up, had breakfast, and packed our things in the car for our driving trip out to Orange. We left just after 9am, hitting the road: my wife, Scully, and me.

We drove west, taking the Great Western Highway across the Blue Mountains. Over the other side of the mountains we descended towards Lithgow, and stopped briefly at a highway rest stop to stretch our legs and let Scully use the grass. From there we continued west to Bathurst, where we stopped for lunch just a few minutes after midday.

We found a cafe with outdoor seating, although all the other customers were sitting inside in the warmth, because it was 12°C outside. My wife had q quiche and I had a chicken wrap, both of which came served with chips (“fries” for the Americans). We also got one of the home made caramel slices – the sort of rustic, obviously hand-made dessert you expect in country towns. It was all reasonably good.

After lunch, we continued, turning south to the town of Cowra. This was a detour to go visit the dog breeder where we got Scully four years ago! We hadn’t seen her since we got Scully, and my wife said we would be in the area and asked if she’d like us to drop in. The breeder said yes, so we went. “In the area” here means within 120 km, because that was about how far out of the way we had to drive!

We expected that we might be able to see Scully’s mother and litter-mate brother, who the breeder had kept for breeding future generations. But when we arrived, she said that Scully’s brother, Presley, had actually grown too large, so didn’t have ideal genetics for breeding, and so she’d given him to a family as a pet. But Scully’s mother, Paige, was there!

Scully and her mother Paige

Scully and Paige hadn’t seen each other for over 4 years, and it seemed as though neither of them recognised the other. They had a bit of a curious sniff, but then were happy to mostly ignore one another. But the breeder was delighted to see Scully and hear our stories about her.

After spending close to an hour chatting with her, we continued on our way. We stopped briefly at the Cowra Japanese Gardens, which is the largest Japanese garden in the southern hemisphere. I’ve never visited here before, and it was a good chance to pop in briefly, though we didn’t have time to really do it justice, just taking a quick walk around the garden on one of the walking paths.

Cowra Japanese Garden

Cowra Japanese Garden

The gardens were lovely, although it was perhaps a few weeks early for most of the flowers. Some magnolias were in bloom, but the cherry blossoms needed a bit more spring.

From here we drove back north again to Orange. We arrived just after 5pm and checked into our hotel for the next few nights. It’s nice and central in the town, and a nice room we have, with a kitchen and dining area. The next issue was where to get dinner. We’d had trouble finding places in Orange where we could take Scully, because apparently very few places here have outdoor seating for dinner. We had one place in mind for tonight, but checking their website showed that they don’t open at all on Tuesdays. So we had to find somewhere else. My wife called a few places, and found one that had a beer garden, but they said it wouldn’t be open for business until October. But when she explained why we wanted to sit outside, they agreed that we could eat out there, if we came inside to order our food at the bar, rather than them send a waiter out.

So we did that, showing up at The Oriana, where we ordered our dinner from the Peacock Lounge. This was a pretty fancy place! I had duck cooked two ways, while my wife had a beetroot tart, and we had some green beans and broccolini on the side, and some house baked sourdough bread. The meal was really good, washed down with glasses of some local Orange wines.

(No comic content updates while I’m travelling.)

Finding dog-friendly dining

I mentioned briefly last Saturday that my wife and I are taking a short trip next week, to the country town of Orange, west of Sydney. I said we had dog-friendly accommodation, so we can take Scully.

We’ve been trying to book places to eat that have outdoor dining areas, where we can take Scully as well. (In Australia, dogs—other than assistance dogs—are banned from indoor seating areas of establishments serving food, but are okay in al fresco areas.) But we’ve run into a bit pf a problem. There are many cafes with outdoor seating that serve lunch, but they are all closed for dinner. And despite a couple of days of searching, we’ve found only two places in all of Orange that serve dinner and have dog-friendly seating options. Neither of them take bookings either, so we just have to show up and hope they have a free table.

A friend of mine’s parents live in Orange, and he’s contacted them to ask if they have any other suggestions, but he hasn’t heard back yet. I suppose if worst comes to worst we can get take-away food from somewhere and eat in our hotel room. But oh well, we have other things planned and I’m sure we’ll enjoy the time away!

Today I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school. We talked about cheating in sports, and it was a really good and lively discussion. Several of the kids had pertinent examples for the questions, some from professional sports they have seen, and some from their own sports that they played at the school. One girl said that in one netball game they played against another school, the opposing team were being really physical, making a lot of illegal contact, and the referee wasn’t calling penalties. So she said her team “had to” start doing the same, in order to be on an even footing. She said she doesn’t even remember who won, but that it was most fun game of netball she’d ever played in!

New content today:

Claiming travel compensation

Today I worked some more on my previously mentioned secret project, which is approaching completion.

I also filed a request for compensation with Lufthansa over our flight that was delayed by 23 hours in Singapore. Because it was operated by a European Union airline with a destination within the EU, the EU Flight Compensation Regulation EC No 261/2004 applies, and my wife and I are entitled to compensation of 600€ each, plus reimbursement of additional expenses incurred due to the delay. So I wrote up a request for this compensation plus expenses, including details of the hotel accommodation (in the Changi Airport transit hotel), train tickets, and COVID tests that we had to pay for because our plans were disrupted. I submitted this with all of the receipts via Lufthansa’s online claim form, and have received an acknowledgement email. Let’s see how long it takes for them to process and pay out.

The main news today here in Sydney is the weather, once again. After a fairly and blissfully dry June, we have another major rain system hitting us. The rain began late last night, and today we were forecast to get up to 90 mm of rain, with another 150 mm tomorrow, and 80 mm on Monday, followed by up to 20 mm each day until Thursday. Severe weather and flood warnings have been issued. It has been raining non-stop all day, light on occasion, but often heavy. Sydney has recorded 70 mm of rain in the last 24 hours, and some suburbs are up to over 150 mm. Tomorrow is going to be much worse, with strong winds also predicted.

New content today:

Jet lag day

I tried to get a good night’s sleep last night, staying up until about 11pm so I was tired and could hopefully sleep the night through, But your body clock is a funny thing. I woke up around 4am and felt wide awake, despite still being very tired. I stayed there but got up about 05:30 to start the day. I’ve now been awake all day and am very tired, so hopefully I’ll be able to sleep through to around 07:00 or so tomorrow.

I went to the supermarket as soon as it opened at 7am to buy groceries: milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables to restock on perishables, plus a few other things that were on the shopping list. I processed a few photos and put together a small album from the trip. These are all photos from my phone. I copied about 300 other photos off my SLR, but haven’t started going through those yet.

My wife and I took Scully for as long walk at lunch time. She’s settling back into the normal routine quickly.

And tonight I just made a quick and easy pesto pasta for dinner. I’ll cook more ambitious things in a day or two. Oh, I refreshed the sourdough starter, and it looks like it survived well.

New content today: