Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Trip to Orange / Part 1

Our extended long weekend away started with the drive to our nation’s capital, Canberra, usually about 2 hours west over the mountains. This trip lasted a lot longer with at least eight road work sites holding us up. We shouldn’t complain as the Kings Highway is our main connector west from the coast and is notorious for accidents so any improvements are welcome.
Our main aim in Canberra was to get the co driver’s permanent residence visa renewed. This is a 5 yearly chore which could be avoided by her taking out citizenship and she is now seriously thinking about that.
Apart from dealing with the Department of Immigration and their foibles (they tend to continually move the goal posts), we also fitted in a couple of quilt shops and a quick visit to the city centre mall. 

Sydney and Canberra are our only ‘big smoke’ experiences.
We also spent a couple of pleasant hours in the National Botanic Gardens with its huge collection of native Australian flora, a lot set out in simulated regional environments.
We stayed overnight in Canberra’s newest hotel, the Aria, which was at bargain basement promotional rates and is very nice. It is in the suburb of Dixon well known for it’s eateries but we chose Pulp Kitchen in Ainslie which was a simple bistro style with excellent food.
After a huge breakfast at Debacle in Braddon, we headed north west through the country towns of Yass (quilt shop) Boorowa (quilt shop), Cowra (quilt shop) and then Millthorpe (quilt shop) for a late lunch at the Old Mill Café.                                                                                                                                        

This part of the country looks great with all the rain we have had. They struggled for years through the drought but now the sheep and cattle are thriving and the winter crops were in. The rolling hills and distant mountain ranges with their bluish haze look great in the winter light.
After a wine tasting at Angullong Wine’s cellar door in town, it was onto Orange where we met up with our neighbours from down the road at our Edwardian cottage accommodation.
Orange has a population of around 40,000 and is a major provincial centre.
Main industries include agriculture (fruit, vegetables and wine), mining, health services and education.
Originally called Blackman's Swamp and established as a convict settlement in 1822, it was proclaimed a village and named Orange by Major Thomas Mitchell, famous explorer and surveyor of South Eastern Australia, in 1846 in honour of Prince William of Orange (later to be the first king of Holland).
Apparently Thomas had served with William in the Peninsula War (1807-1814) in Spain.
Obviously this is a little more romantic than being named after a citrus fruit.

I know Orange fairly well. I studied horticulture there in the 1990s at the University of Sydney on an external basis but had to attend residential classes three or four times a year over four years. It is now a campus of Charles Sturt University. The city has certainly changed since I was last there in 1996 for graduation.
Dinner that night was at Lolli Redini regarded as one of the ‘best places’ in town and which has a national reputation. It lived up to the hype. Food was great, wine list extensive (and expensive) but, to be picky, the service is maybe a little too formal.
Orange is at around 900m elevation and a long way from the sea. Temperatures in winter are below zero in the mornings and struggle to make double figures during the day. Snow falls are not unknown. As the car was covered in ice in the morning and the wineries don’t open until 10am, there was no need to make an early start.
But there were three quilt stores in town and they were all on the itinerary for our first day.
So began our combined quilt store visiting and wine tasting day.

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