Views of the lake frm outside the Hunter Valley Gardens.
You may recall that last year, I flew over to Australia to spend a week with my aunt, uncle, cousins and my nan. Well, everyone was back in Sydney again so I decided to hop on a plane and join them, although this time just for a long weekend.
My nan had her original flight disrupted by the Icelanic volcano which meant she arrived in Oz 2 weeks later than planned but happily this meant I would be able to spend Mother's Day with her during my visit. I flew into Sydney on Friday evening and was one of the first people to make through baggage claim and into the arrivals hall. I must have been a bit too quick though as my uncle Kev was still 15 minutes drive away!
It transpires that my aunt's house exchange this year was not in Sydney itself but rather the Hunter Valley, almost 3 hours' drive away into the Blue Mountains. Having driven all that way to pick me up from the airport, Kev suggested that we stay the night at my cousin Steve's place in central Sydney and then head off to Hunter Valley first thing in the morning. This
Hunter Valley 2
How blue is that sky!
would then free us up to go down the pub for a few cold beers and who was I to argue with that? After enjoying the hospitality of one of Sydney's Irish Bars along with some live music and good company (Kev seemed to know a fair few of the regulars!), we made our way over to Steve's place and sat chatting away late into the night.
The next morning we were up and out of the door nice and early and had a smooth journey out to Hunter Valley. The sun was shining and my nan was already in the garden working on her suntan when we arrived. She was looking even better than when I saw her last year, no doubt thanks to having a new man in her life. It was the first time I had met George and I liked him immediately. My aunt was busy preparing lunch and running around after her 3 year old grandaughter, Akasha, who is every bit as mischevous as she was last year. Over the next hour or so, more family members arrived including my other cousin Danny and his partner Sharmilla, Sharmilla's parents Lydia and David along with
Hand in Hand
Young love :-)
their 2 dogs and lastly my cousin Steve and his wife Elettra. That made it 13 people and 2 dogs - quite a houseful!
We whiled away the remainder of the day chatting away and enjoying some fabulous food - lunch courtesy of Margaret and later a delicious Indian dinner prepared by Lydia and Sharmilla. I even managed to find time to fix Kev's laptop for him - it's the first time I have ever done a proper technical repair job so I was very proud of myself. I didn't even have to call Glynn for advice!
The next day was Australian (and NZ) Mother's Day. The weather was glorious once again so we drove out to the Hunter Valley Gardens to make the most of the sun and the special day. The gardens were lovely, with different styled areas such as the Indian spice garden, a man-made waterfall and an ornamental rose garden. I particularly enjoyed the topiary - you can't beat a horse shaped hedge to add a little something to an otherwise nice but ordinary garden!
Without doubt my favourite part of the gardens though was Storybookland, a huge area dedicated to bringing to
Happy Mothers Day
Jish has a little something to give his mum for Mothers Day.
life old fashioned nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep and Hey Diddle Diddle. Each nursery rhyme corner contained figurines of the characters involed in the story with a musical redition of the rhyme playing on a loop. It might sound a bit naff but was actually done really well. Jish of course was having a wonderful time playing about in all the different sections although I suspect George was having just as much fun too!
After a spot of lunch in the cafe, we took a stroll through the Japanese gardens. In the pretty red pagoda we found some ladies offering free Mother's Day pamper sessions. Margaret and Lydia treated themselves to a shoulder massage and mini-make over while I had my nails painted.
Next to the Gardens is a little shopping complex featuring a variety of unusual boutiques. I couldn't resist popping into the British Sweet Shop
and gazed wide eyed at the walls lined with jars upon jars of old fashioned sweets, just like the ones I used to have when I was little. I scanned the shelves and was delighted to find my old favourite, Kola Kubes. I had
We Are Family
l-r: George, Betty, David, Lydia, Jude, Margaret & Kev.
barely mentioned this to my nan when she was off talking to the shop assistant and came back wielding a quarter pound bag for me. They tasted as just as good as I remember :-)
With a long drive ahead of them, Steve, Elettra and Akasha said their goodbyes and made their way back to the Big Smoke of Sydney. The rest of us journeyed home and relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon. Later on, Kev offered to drive me to the nearest big supermarket 30 minutes away to hunt for a few things that I can't get in NZ. On the way, we passed a small supermarket so I popped in just in case I could save us the long drive. Surprisingly, the small supermarket had a good selection of products but alas not what i was after. I had a feeling though that i was unlikely to find what I wanted in the big one either so when Kev suggested that we pop into the pub next door for a quick beer, I naturally agreed. Well, one beer turned into 5 and 30 mins turned into 3 hours. Needless to say, my auntie Margaret was not
One of the lovely sculptures in the Hunter Valley gardens.
impressed with us when we came home a little worse for wear.
On Monday it was time for me to head back to the airport. I suggested catching the train back to Sydney to save Kev the long drive there and back but then we realised that Lydia and David would be driving back to Sydney. I hitched a lift in the back along with Frodo the Border Collie. We stopped briefly at their beautiful home for tea and cake before it was time for me to check in at the airport. I had a really fun weekend and feel blessed not only to have such a wonderful, welcoming family, but to have also got to know my lovely extended family better too.
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