Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Back home...

...with a suitcase full of goodies from Eureka Miniatures that I will write about in a couple of days, as soon as I have finished some research on AWI cavalry uniforms and gathered my photos together. I also have some photos from the Auckland Museum and the recreated gold-rush town of Sovereign Hill in Victoria, Australia, to post and write up. I hope readers will forgive these holiday excursions while I finish off the units I am currently working on. Posted here are a few pics of Antipodean scenery (in fact all are of Victoria), a couple of which feature the 15-month old scamp who, when he feels like it, answers to the name of Hugo. We spent a week in New Zealand, a few days in Auckland and then a trip down the west coast of North Island to Wellington; then flew to Melbourne for a week in the city suburbs with my sister-in-law and family, before driving out west to the Pyrenees and Grampians wine regions, then finishing up east of Melbourne with 2 days in the beautiful Yarra Valley.

Little Hugo did his best on the long journey there and back (26 hours in the air and up to 7 hours in transit in each direction) but he hates being cooped up and finally had a complete meltdown on the last flights on the way home, refusing to sleep or take a bottle and simply wailing for long periods. This prompted several "dirty looks" from our fellow passengers and at least one then complained to the cabin crew on the final Dubai to London leg. I'll happily admit that a crying baby is never a pleasant experience, but I've found that recently I've become rather millitant and unforgiving towards those people who find children an irritation and who object to their presence. Until airlines take a policy decision to ban children from their flights (which will never happen) or create special "family" cabins (which might), infants and kids of all ages have just as much right to be on a plane as anyone else and all passengers play the same lottery of whether they have to end up sitting near a child. We also had to deal with the idea, which is a hot debate in the UK at the moment, that it's somehow wrong to bring a child into the Business Class cabin. We dug into our savings to fly Business largely in order to enable Hugo to sleep on us in a fully reclined position and have at least a bit of space to move around and play in. I appreciate that others in the cabin would have been on their way to work meetings and wanted to sleep and relax in a peaceful environment, but the lottery point still stands - if you don't want to be around children then stay at home. Moreover, I'm sure many of our fellow passengers didn't actually have to pay for their own tickets......Anyway, rant over and, if I'm honest, I wouldn't recommend travelling from one end of the world to the other with a 1-year old.

As usual with our holidays we spent a decent amount of time as wine tourists. We had learnt our lessons from last year's trip and ensured that we planned winery touring routes that accommodated Hugo's 50-minute naps at 10am and 3pm. One common feature of Australasian cellar doors is that they are spacious and usually have a fenced outdoor deck, sometimes even children's play areas, which helps entertain little ones. We didn't visit any wineries in New Zealand, but drank a fair few wines while we were there. The new kid on the Kiwi block is sparkling sauvignon blanc.; it's an interesting drop and obviously a great way to use up all those surplus sauvignon blanc grapes. After our stay in Melbourne we headed west to the Pyrenees, Macedon Ranges and Grampians regions in Victoria. These areas contained many acclaimed wineries that I have read about but whose wines are unavailable in the UK. Initially I felt it was difficult to get a feel for these regions, as the vineyards are very spread out and the range of wines made differed from winery to winery. However, it is clear that shiraz/syrah and chardonnay rule in these cooler climate regions, with cabernet doing respectably too and pinot noir enabling the production of some decent sparklers. The sauvignon blancs and rieslings I found a bit hit and miss. We then drove back through Melbourne to Yarra Valley, a more well-known Victoria wine region and home to some of the country's best pinot noir and chardonnay. That region's Big New Thing appears to be sangiovese, barbera and other "Italian" varieties, to give customers something a bit different. All these regions have had a tough time recently due to a combination of above-average rainfall and high humidity. The Pyrenees seemed hardest hit - one producer told us that 90% of their crop would be lost to mildew and rot. Incidentally, another Pyranees winery-owner incurred our wrath by proudly proclaiming that "New Zealand is far too cold to produce decent wine" - a truly bizarre statement, taking protectionism too far I think. I also squeezed in an afternoon visiting 3 wineries in the beautiful Mornington Peninsular, in the company of Melbourne wargamer (and ace painter) John Baxter. In total I managed to visit 28 wineries this holiday.

So for those who are interested in such matters, wine highlights were as follows. In New Zealand: Seifried Gewurtztraminer 2010; Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Stonyridge "Larose" 1999; Te Kairanga "Runholder" Pinot Noir 2007; Jules Taylor Rose 2010; Hunter's Chardonnay 2009; Man O'War Chardonnay 2008; anything by Villa Maria. In Australia: Witchmount Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003; Tahbilk Riesling 2009; Granite Hills Knight Riesling 2010; Guilford Reserve Shiraz 2008; Mount Avoca Shiraz 2008; Warrenmang Estate Chardonnay 2008; Blue Pyranees "Richardson" Cabernet Sauvignon 2004; Seppelt Drumborg Chardonnay 2008; Redbank "Sally's Paddock" 2007.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Yes, long flights with your small children can be difficult as I've had to do it and so you have my sympathies. However, to be fair my daughter has done a pretty darn good job on the visiting flights back home and so I really can't complain. I agree btw that children have a right to fly as well.:-)
Glad to have you back Giles!


Sire Godefroy said...

Admittedly, I'm one of those grumpy fellas. So thank God, I've got a massive fear of flying. :-D

Anyway, a nice trip it seems. And thank you for the oenophile insights, very useful.

But now I'm keen to see what comes next from your painting desk.


legatus hedlius said...

Welcome back, Giles! I'm currently in Singapore about to get on one of those epic flights myself (although not as epic as yours!)

I don't have a problem with babies on planes. What I can't stand are adults who stand in the gangways chatting to their friends whilst everyone else is trying to sleep!

Wine reviews much appreciated as ever. We really must meet up soon!

Anonymous said...

Been there done that. When my girls were younger we were, I'm afraid, the classic family from hell. Whenever we got on a plane you could almost see the stampede in the other direction. If hot coffee had to be spilt on a child it was us. If someone was throwing up like the girl in the horror film, it was one of mine. For years I only risked short flights to the Med or the Alpes etc as I was certain the pilot would divert to another airport to have us ejected. Only last year now they are older did we risk a longer flight to China. You have my total sympathy and the mutterers be damned. They can always choose to go economy.

Facinating stuff on the wines.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Bugger the wine - what did the beer taste like???

Welcome back, Giles... :o)))

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Giles you and the family had a great trip, enjoyed the wine in Oz, visited Nic at Eureka and made the journey home safely.

I've had some of the wines you have mentioned and quite nice they are too. I spent five years in Ballarat with the army so I was very fortunate to enjoy the wineries in Victoria.

Good to see you back on air.


Der Alte Fritz said...

I used to give parents that dirty look on airplanes, and then I had kids too and now I understand. What the other passengers don't realize is that the parents of the screaming child in full melt down mode would like nothing better to have their infant stop screaming and crying and instead, go to sleep.

BTW, welcome back Giles. Nice piccies of your trip too.


Betts-Davittovich said...

i'm a coward and as yet have avoided flights with my delightful little angel, its been british holidays for the last two and a half years. i must just grasp the nettle.
nice wine info, and welcome back



Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Ay Giles - any chance you can turn your spam traps on??? :o))

Roger Smith said...

Shocked at your choice of NZ wines :-) I lived on the South Island for4 years and have my views on the best. Flying back for a month in May let me know Sav or Pinot and I will bring you a bottle. I owe you that for single handedly introducing me to the AWI.
Great Blog.

Stewart said...


I have been trawling your blog avidly - especially the "Carlist" posts. Whilst I'll never match your painting I'd be really interested to know which blue you used for the Isabelino uniforms. Regards - Stew

Anonymous said...

When my kids were babies, the max journey time on any flight was only about 4 hours and having experienced the long and tiring flights to Oz myself, I can understand why both baby and the grown up 'kids' reached the end of their tether. To take a baby to Oz, you are either very courageous or "have qualities akin to the leader of the assault squad on Hereford, one Berrow, whose resolution was answerable and yet his understanding not so piercing as to affright him of the enterprise" [source: The English Civil War 1642-1651, P. Haythornthwaite]


Doc said...

Hey Giles - glad to see you survived the long trip out and back with the gorgeous little Hugo - how he has grown! Bugger the grumblers on long-haul flights - while some screaming kids can get on your nerves my usual reaction was one of sympathy for their poor parents who would be praying for a break themselves! Having travelled by air with small (tired and cranky) children myself - I feel your pain!

Great to see you had a good tour of the Victorian wines - try and get up Mildura way next time - the Brown Bros wineries are some of the best. If its reds you're after you are really spoit for choice. You COULD spend a few weeks just touring Aussie wine country in just about every state! Or you could just go north to Canberra (dry Meditteranean climate, some great local wines) and get to see the War Memorial as well ;-)

You've had your holiday - now time to get painting all those Eureka minis you purchased!