Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock, Woodend, Victoria, Australia

Today I fly into Melbourne to start my journey of Victoria and South Australia. I am arriving in the early evening so I decide to book a hotel near the airport for the evening and pick up my rental car in the morning. When I walk outside to meet my hotel shuttle I am very happy to be greeted with temperatures of 680F (200C). I am in heaven. I spent the last couple months sweating non-stop but now I am finally in my favorite temperatures. I love Melbourne already and I haven’t even left the airport.

I have a dinner in the hotel restaurant and then leave early in the morning to pick up my rental car. A new adventure is starting, I have never driven on left side of the road nor the right side of the car. I am nervous but I am up for the challenge.

I take a little while to make sure I am familiar with the car and all the gadgets. I have also sprung for the GPS like I did in Spain; I make sure to have all my coordinates inputted.

Soon I am off on the road. I am nervous but I drive slower and stay in the slow lanes. Traffic gets thick in some places but luckily it is not too bad. My drive is less than an hour. I can do it!

It is almost mid day when I arrive at Hanging Rock, my main destination for the day. I could have visited this site on my way to other travels but I don’t like to rush my travel – especially when I am traveling alone. I plan to visit Hanging Rock and then stay the night in the area.

Why do I choose to visit Hanging Rock do you ask? Besides it being a very interesting looking rock structure, I also have a family connection of sorts. I recently have lost my aunt who died a horrible slow death at a relatively young age. In the 1970’s she went to see the mystery movie Picnic at Hanging Rock in the movie theater with my grandmother and they both loved the film. My aunt had communicated that to me in the past so I watched the movie on my own and was drawn to the film as well. Viewing the movie made me want to visit the sight where it is filmed. I spent some time helping my aunt convalesce in Las Vegas in the year prior to this trip. Unfortunately she died a couple months later but during my time with her the new series Picnic at Hanging Rock came out. I was able to watch the series with my aunt not knowing that is the last time I would get to spend any kind of quality time with her before she died. So you can say I have an emotional connection to this place and the visit is a pilgrimage of sort.

I walk up a concrete path where the view of the rocks gets clearer the closer I get. In the movie the girls walk through brush and cross streams. I have a nice paved path that takes me straight there.

Once at the top I enjoy the views below.

I notices the crevices between the rocks so I do some exploring.

I also do a slight bit of rock scrambling but really it is just me sliding down some rocks on my butt.

I come to an area where I am alone and only hear bees buzzing, it is very ominous. This is where I feel like I could have been part of a movie scene.

bees buzzing

More crevices….

Some rocks to sit on to enjoy the view. I see farms and maybe alpacas or llamas in the distance.

I start my descent back down where I actually see hanging rocks. I chose the smooth flat uphill path on the way up and taking the stairs on the way down. I am glad I chose that method.

There is a short trail around the rock formation. I take the trail around the loop. I seem to be the only one taking the trail. I hear nature and get other views of the hanging rock.

As I drive away I stop to take photos from another angle.

It is a nice visit. I wish I would have brought a picnic and bottle of wine to truly live out a picnic at hanging rock. If you haven’t see the original movie it is an interesting watch.

I check into my guesthouse twenty minutes away at Lancefield Guest House. I do a self check-in and don’t see another soul there until the next morning. I feel like I have the whole place to myself for the night.

At the guesthouse I see a list of the activities in the area and I spot a couple wineries close by that are still open for the day. I rush out to visit some cellar doors (cellar doors are what tasting rooms are called in Australia).

Here is my little note about what I know about Australian wines: In my opinion the majority wines we import in the United States from Australia are the most horrible wines ever. I am coming into my wine journey of Australia with low expectations.

WOW am I surprised!

I start my tasting at Cleveland Winery.

I am pleasantly surprised with my tastings. The first two are sparkling wines which I generally avoid due to headaches but they are quite good. I even like the chardonnay I sample and it is hard for me to find a chardonnay I like. Even though I didn’t think I am a fan of the style, the shiraz wine is pleasant to me. I pick up a bottle or two of wine to take back with me. I wouldn’t normally buy bottles while I am traveling but I will be traveling by car for about a week so no worries about carrying bottles on my back.

The hostess at Cleveland recommends a couple more wineries in the area. I only have time (and alcohol tolerance) for one more so I visit Curly Flat.

It is a terrific recommendation. The wines are more expensive but pretty good. I also pick up two bottles here – one I mean to take to my cousin when I visit him in Sydney. Sadly (for him) the wine never made it to Sydney. I couldn’t resist opening it a week later.

I head back to my hotel and walk to get dinner.

my hotel in the distance

I walk to Lancefield Hotel to get dinner. They are all booked for the night at their nicer sit down dining (reservations only) but I am able to order food at the bar. I order the not so healthy prawn and chicken in garlic cream sauce. It seems like it might be the Australian version of comfort food. I sleep well after that meal.

Garlic Prawn Chicken

I am staying in a sleepy area so there is not much to do after dinner. I head back to my room and get some rest.

Tomorrow I start my road trip!

Tuscan Towns : Cortona & Chiusi

During my last trip to Italy I was able to spend a few wonderful days in Tuscany. I shared a villa in Foiano della Chiana near Cortona with some girlfriends (and Carlos). We were required to rent a car to get from town to town to explore. We had to get one of the larger cars with trunk space due to the the requirements to hold luggage for 4 women (and 1 guy’s backpack). It proved challenging at first to try to maneuver the car around the roads but we soon got the hang of it. We made sure that enough of us got international driving permits so the driving was distributed among us and not one taking the brunt work of driving everywhere.
Trying to find our villa was very difficult. The directions were vague, and in kilometers (we are not used to the metric system). After a detour down a bumpy dirt road through someone’s farm (my friend swears we were supposed to turn down that road) we eventually find our villa. I wish I had taken more pictures, it really was a great and relaxing villa to return to after sightseeing all day.

Our first night this happens.

This guy is staying with us as well.

The villa contained 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths and a full working kitchen that we used a few nights to make our own dinners. The weather was perfect for open windows and outdoor dining. Out by the resort style pool was a magnificent view and rows of rosemary and lavender bushes in bloom. It really was blissful lounging by the pool, hearing the sounds of bees and nature in the background, and smelling lavender and rosemary while you are reading a book. I can’t think of too many better things in life….except maybe food. Food is kind of great too. I would say my only complaint was the washer that took took 2 hours to wash clothes. I didn’t mind hanging them to dry (I prefer more environmentally friendly) except we did have rain one day and all our wet clothes got more wet.
Exploring near by town of Cortona was fun.

Cortona

Chiusi

One of the day trips we took was to Chiusi. Chuisi has some of the best Etruscan tombs. Unfortunately I did not take any photos but I do have video that I will hopefully upload one day. During our visit to the city center we got to witness a day of games from the bell tower.

National Archaeological Museum