There is nothing like a couple of days spent down by the water and away from home to help you really relax. I'm one of those people that once I've finished work and am heading off on a holiday, I spend the first few days in a groggy semi-concious state...my body tends to switch completely off, and then just as quickly it switches back on again and I'm a much more relaxed, un-wound person, ready to sight see and of course...eat!
For these Christmas holidays, we headed up to Newcastle in NSW which is where I was born, staying at my aunty's home (who was travelling around Thailand at the time). It was a holiday to be spent by the water but also visiting places and faces from my past. I don't remember a lot from living in Newcastle (in fact I remember nothing except sitting on a wooden step on a really windy day - whose step, I have no idea?)
We arrived ready to enjoy Christmas Eve, which was spent munching on fresh prawns, oysters (with a little eschallot dressing), and scallops sauteed with chorizo and roasted capsicum, and finished off with fruit mince pies, Haighs chocolates (yes, I brought them up especially from Melbourne) and fresh cherries all whilst watching old cheesy Christmas movies......I've told you many times before that I'm corny!
The next day, we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning which we spent drinking cups of tea and eating crossants with jam out in the courtyard, before heading off to Lake Macquarie for a seafood feast!
This was our view from our table we had sitting on the restaurant's deck - can't get much more perfectly Australian than this!
We overdosed on more prawns and oysters along with smoked salmon and a whole lobster as well as gorgeous fresh fruit all while sipping on glasses of bubbles.
Boxing day was spent in the Hunter Valley (about an hour drive from Newcastle) on an overcast, drizzly sort of day. Located in the Hunter Valley is the Hunter Valley Gardens. Quite expensive to enter, but well worth the visit.
When we first arrived, we jumped on the little train that takes you on a 30 minute tour right around the whole gardens giving you an overview of when and why they started - this was a great way to get a snap shot of what was out there (as the gardens are huge), and it highlighted where I wanted to re-visit afterwards.
The Storybook Garden...
After all that walking - a cup of tea was needed!
Of course....no day out would be complete without some yummy food...
...which on this day consisted of a Ploughman's Lunch - ham, corned beef, cheeses, fresh bread and pickles....perfect for a drizzly summer's day.
The following day we headed up to Port Stephens and around Nelson Bay. Such a gorgeous area and a wonderful drive, however as you can imagine everyone was up there too! It was just a little too crowded for me, so after munching on some fish & chips by the water, we headed out of Nelson Bay for Soilders Point where we sat down at the marina with our cup of coffee and more food.....scones with jam and cream.
Check out the size of them!
I could barely fit one in, let alone the two they provided on the plate. One question I need to ask here....why is there never enough cream provided? I've been eating devonshire teas for a loooong time, and my one gripe is that there is never enough cream provided. I'm not saying that I want to pile a whole carton of whipped cream on top of the scone, but surely a little more than a teaspoonful is not too much to ask?
The following day, some of my cousins came to visit from Sydney. Unfortunately, due to the public holiday's nothing was open....so I cooked...
I made asparagus with fetta cheese, warm lemony potato and spinach salad, and prosciutto wrapped chicken stuffed with butter, lemon and sage.
Followed by a Blueberry and Almond Cake (more to come on this little baby later).
Our last day was spent wandering around Newcastle itself - this is the little church my parents were married and all my brothers and sister (and me) were baptised in. I've seen it in so many photos, it was wonderful to finally see it with my own eyes.
The foreshore of Newcastle is wonderful. They've added over the years lots of little restaurants and coffee shops (yes, that's me in the reflection).
With the sun shining and the gorgeous blue sky above us, it was a perfect way to finish my little holiday down the coast.
Thank you to my Aunty V for letting us stay in your home and have use of your car! I hope you had a wonderful time in Thailand and I'm looking forward to seeing your photos.
Can you believe it, another Christmas over (sob sob) and a new year almost on us. 2010 has been a wonderful year for me, and I hope for you too.
See you all next year!