Off to Orange

Not a fan of driving? Not a problem. As I’ve found out, catching the train to the country is easey peasy, and actually aesthetically-pleasing, thanks to TrainLink. So when the parents went up again and I found a couple of days to spare (literally), I hoped onboard and headed out west.

There is nothing more alluring to a city slicker than the promise of rolling brown hills, stunning sunsets, and a paddock of alpacas just metres from your bedroom window. And that’s exactly what I got. Oh, plus an overflowing garden with more vegetables than your local Harris Farm, the most adorable pup called Fergus, heritage-listed barns, and a neigh-bourly horse. Sorry, I had to.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping everything and moving to the country, but haven’t quite been able to muster up the courage, I’ve discovered the perfect solution. It’s a website called TrustedHousesitters. But it’s not just your average house-sitting gig, it’s better. It comes with pets. With worldwide stays available, it can open the door to some amazing opportunities. Like looking after three alpacas and a pup on a small property in Orange.

As a bonus, once you find yourself there, Orange has heaps to enjoy, even if most of it is closed over the long-weekend. And with the Taste Orange food festival headed their way in the coming weeks, Orange has never tasted so good.

From homewares to housebrew, find a few of my favourites from the last trip below.

To eat //

Arriving in late on the first night, I was spoilt and treated to dinner at Lolli Redini, Orange’s very own hatted restaurant. The portions are small but the flavours are strong, and if you’re a girl after my own heart, just read the dessert menu and you’ll know. Creamy fig, rhubarb and honeycomb frozen parfait, with squashed caramalised puff pastry, whipped mascarpone, honey jelly and fresh figs. Yeah.

I know I’ve mentioned Byng Street Local Cafe before but this time I ate there. Simple but delicious, hearty food, plus I hear they’ve started a Supper Club every Thursday with a four course menu for $40 per person. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Finally you can’t go to Orange without visiting Racine Bakery. The hole in the wall in the corner of a carpark that serves up croissants and tarts and bread and quiches and all manner of good baked goods. I’d recommend the portuguese tart, or three.

To shop //

For lovers of pretty petals, you can’t go past Botanica Florist. Located in a heritage-listed turned crisp, modern warehouse, the space is part art gallery, part woodland fairy dream. With rich herringbone floors, and crisp white walls, colour bursts from the canvases hung on the walls, and the flowers stuffed in vases along the bench. If you’re into the weird and wonderful like me though, you’d probably be drawn to the seed pods and cotton tree branches. A flower that doesn’t die? Yes please. And just in case you’re not already salivating at the thought, it has a boutique clothing store and cafe attached. Ahhhhrmmm yes yes yes.

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I’ve written about it before but I love it too much not to mention it again. Jumbled is where I’m floating off to when I die. I’d have to spend hours in there just to try and find a piece I don’t like, but I’ll spend hours in there anyway. After visiting again, my new goal in life is to be able to have a house big enough to have walls to fit all the art on, beds to cover in their sheets, and shelves to fill with all their bits and bobs. If you’re ever in the market for a present for me, visit here: https://www.jumbledonline.com/

Finally, for all the things you need but never knew you did, there is Eclectic. Giant wooden dice, old salvaged leather suitcases, and refillable soy candles, it’s got that cool ‘oh this old thing?’ vibe that my dreams are made of. And apparently a lot of other peoples dreams too, as they’ve recently opened a second store.

On the bucket list //

Someone wise once told me that you shouldn’t worry about not doing everything a city has to offer the first time, because it just means you have a reason to go back.

I spotted a new restaurant being fitted out while I was there, called Frida’s Mexican. A little research led me to learn it’s being done by the guys behind the Union Bank and the Lord Anson. Needless to say, I’ve got my eye (and stomach) set on this one once it opens.

On one of the ten minute drives it takes to get anywhere in Orange, we flew by the Village Bakehouse. From the outside it looked like everything I like – polished concrete floors, subway tiles, large open spaces and exposed beams. Plus freshly baked breads and pastries. Those I really like. Definitely adding this one to the to-do list.

Down the main strip, in between the chemists and shops with big yellow ‘sale’ signs, I noticed a cool-looking bar called Washington & Co. Apparently a whisky saloon, a quick scroll on Facebook sent it straight to the top of my list.

Until next time, Orange.

E x

 

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A Christmas in the Country

Off to Orange we go, after a quick pit stop in Thirlmere for his family Christmas (it’s on the way, right?). Loaded with ham, turkey and all the trimmings, plus some pretty sweet Santa sacks, we messaged mum to get the Christmas pudding in the oven and hit the road.

It would be the first time in a while that the whole family would be together again and with the parents considering moving to Orange permanently, it was kinda sorta a big deal. I’d been promised wine, wineries and warm weather, which sounded like a win to me.

Day 1.
A second round of Christmas was toasted with an early coffee from Byng Street Local Store, a meander around Cook Park, a fiddle with my new drone, plums freshly picked from the trees lining the streets outside, and a table set with a 1986 Penfolds. Adorned with Santa hats we cracked crackers, swapped stories, mesmerised with magic, and drank a drop or two. Or three. Okay, it was five.

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Day 2.
Once more shops had begun to swing open their doors again after the Christmas break, we headed to the new local Omar by Academy Coffee where we ended up staying much longer than expected after he started talking to the two guys behind the machine about coffee. No surprises there. But with the promise of a menu filled with bagels to start in the next few days, we promised to be back again soon.

A breakfast big enough to fill our Christmas-stretched stomachs at The Agrestic Grocer, followed by a visit to Thornbrook Orchard to try our hand at fruit picking (one of the last surviving forms of slavery in Australia, according to Jack). If the kilo of apricots we got for $6 didn’t fill us up, the trip to Lake Canobolas for a picnic of Christmas leftovers surely did.

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It was a chilled afternoon in front of the cricket, as he was getting a withdrawal headache from being away from it for too long, followed by a pub crawl with the parents. First stop was to the Union Bank, sitting in the beer garden staring up at the ivy covered building while sipping on a lychee spritz. Then just around the corner to the Lord Anson, an old-school English pub where we feasted like kings on chicken parmys the size of our face, which I managed to finish much to his surprise and pleasure for not having put money on it. Last but not least, we ventured to the Greenhouse, a new nine-million dollar wonderland on top of the Orange Ex-Services Club, where mum tried to sign in using her library card, and we considered buying a beer tower each but settled on a wine just because of the way the Spanish guy behind the bar said it.

Day 3.
Rise and shine and off to Racine Bakery for a breakfast of baked goods, before heading back to Omar by Academy where we are now ‘known’ enough for him to get a free coffee thrown in to his already three-shot coffee order. Convincing ourselves that it’s definitely 5pm somewhere in the world, we headed to Ross Hill Wines for the 10am tour and tasting, and were taught all the tricks of the trade by owner James Robson himself. Having tried ten wines by twelve, and now be able to talk about tannin, comment on climate and organise oak from tank, we learned that not all chardys are crap and that white wine can be cellared (if you can wait that long). Oh, and that Ross Hill is the goods.

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Next we headed to Heifer Station where I not only got introduced to my spirit animal, the llama, but also two baby llamas, along with the most randomly awesome chickens I have ever seen, a Shetland pony, and a solid-looking sheep called Brutus. Oh yeah, and there was wine. Orange is definitely starting to grow on me.

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With the hangover starting to kick in around 2pm, which is never a good sign, we headed to Groundstone Cafe for some hip food before a solid siesta in the afternoon. You know what they say – start early, end early. Just in this case it was very very early.

Having become regulars at the Racine Bakery, for dinner that night we headed to Racine La Colline, the restaurant behind the institution. Up a winding, vine-lined dirt road we found the beautiful restaurant sitting atop the hill, picturesque water tank dripping in ivy, a garden overflowing with roses and lavender, and the smell of fresh hay. Three beautiful courses were enjoyed with the sun beating softly against my city skin. Best of all, Thursday night are training night, so we both enjoyed ourselves for only $50 a pop.

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Day 4.
We made pack-up day a picking day by heading to Huntley Berry Farm on our way home. A non-for-profit farm run to support those with a disability where visitors are free to roam the paddocks of produce, picking from the plentiful berry trees and vines and pay by the kilo at the end. We scored strawberries, the best blueberries, the ripest raspberries and my first mulberries. There is heaps to choose from, even vegetables. Highly recommended.

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So Orange, with your wine and your weather, your coffee and your croissants, your rolling hills and restaurants, you’re a place I wouldn’t mind calling my second home.

You have my tick of approval, mum and dad.

E x

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Finding Florence

I can’t believe how fast I have settled into this trip. Normally it takes a week or so to acclimate into my new reality, but this trip just feels so normal already. I even think I convinced the man I bought a punnet of strawberries off (or should I say fragole) that I was a local. And that’s super impressive because I didn’t even learn Italian at school…not that I really learnt any French either.

I wish I could say arriving in our second city Florence was a breeze. But it wasn’t. There was no breeze at all; it was just really ridiculously hot. Our hostel (Archi Rossi) had given us good directions though, and with the help of Catherine’s trusty app City Maps 2Go (which doesn’t require wifi) we were inside in the relative cool before long.

First thing on my agenda as always was to get lost. We wandered the streets and realized what a difference having roads and cars makes to the dynamic of a city. Still not sure whether there are any road rules in Italy or whether pedestrian crossings are really pedestrian crossings, we managed to maneuver ourselves through Florence to arrive in the Piazza della Signoria. Littered with statues and tourists, we were disappointed to find the Neptune Fountain was running dry. It was gorgeous nonetheless, and after a picture and peruse around the numerous statues and the Palazzo Vecchio we wondered through the Uffiizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio. Wow, just a few name drops in that sentence. How bloody convenient is Florence!

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The sun was a perfect backdrop for a photo on the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge, shining almost as brightly as the gold that adorned the shelves of the shops lining the road across. After ensuring we had got the very best angle on our #selfies we headed towards home as while the sun didn’t mention it, our stomachs were starting to make more than a slight grumble. Must be 6pm.

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On the way back we stopped off at the Basilica e Chiostri Monumentali di Santa Maria Novella, which we both agreed was the prettiest we had seen. My favourite part about it is the fact that the incredible green and white marble facade is merely that, a façade. Once you turn the corner, the basilica is just a huge brick building. At least one couple agrees with me though, as they chose to have their wedding photos outside the basilica. While attempting to photobomb a few photos we couldn’t help but notice the sweat absolutely pouring down their faces in the close to 40 degree heat. Ahhhh, love conquers all obviously.

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On our second day we decided to do the Duomo. A convenient all included pass allowed us to climb the Campanile (bell tower), descend into the Santa Reparata (Crypt), behold the beauty of the Baptistry, and of course see inside the Duomo. Learning from past experience we dressed appropriately and were let in relatively quickly to the Duomo considering the length of the line when we arrived. The Campanile, a measly 414 steps was a great work out, and I think its safe to say I sweated out at least three pizzas. The views were fantastic though, right on top of the Duomo. Ahhh, I love me a good aerial view. The Duomo is enormous and breathtakingly beautiful. I can’t help thinking in all of these churches why they built them so big but only have five rows of pews in them. Does anyone know the answer?

To avoid the midday heat, we headed home for our siesta. Yes, this really has become something we do EVERY day. Showered, slept, but still sweaty we headed off on a mission to walk across the Ponte Vecchio to find the beautiful Giardino fi Boboli and Bardini (that’s gardens for all you non-fluents). I am pretty sure we got terribly lost but we ended up walking through some of the most beautiful and tranquil streets that looked like the scene from a movie. All of a sudden I really felt like I was in the Tuscan countryside. Bellissimo! We ended up stumbling across a free art exhibition by Anthony Gormley called Human, which was held at Fort Belvedere and boasted some of the best views of Florence. And this is why I love getting lost when I travel. Moreover, the kind man who lured us into the exhibition was also able to explain to us that the €10 entrance fee to the garden actually gave us access to both gardens and therefore it was not worth going to the garden that afternoon as we would not be able to visit both and get our moneys-worth. Some valuable advice indeed.

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Instead we opted to trek it to Piazzale Michelangelo. Actually opted may be an exaggeration. The only downside to a map is they don’t tell you when that short distance you can see from A to B is actually a huge, massive, gigantically long hill. Needless to say once I got to the top I didn’t think any copy of the statue of David overlooking Florence with a sunset in the background could be as beautiful as the man selling cold lemon granite (crushed ice drink), but once again I was mistaken. The granite was pretty darn good though.

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On our descent we realized there was actually a bus that goes from literally outside our hostel to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo…and so we rewarded ourselves with a sweet ride home. I guess karma is a bitch though and the universe wanted to send us a sharp message about walking off all those pizzas we’ve eaten, as we got slapped with a huge fine by the ticket inspectors who explained that buying your ticket from the driver is not enough and that you actually have to also put the ticket in the machine and validate it. No leniency for tourists. The inspectors were dicks, the fine was a dick, goodbye €50 each. Dick, dick, dick. Oh well, we will put that one down as an important learning experience and will make sure to double, triple check that our tickets are validated before we get on any form of transport. BEWARE OF THE DICKY TICKET INSPECTORS.

In order to cool off we distracted ourselves by a fancy dinner out. Ha, what am I talking about, we go out for dinner every night. But distract us it did, as I spent the night sitting across from Catherine who giggled every time one particular waiter walked past to the point that at the end of the night he asked us if we wanted to go for drinks. I pinky-promised we’d come back the next night…I’ll let you know how that goes. Should be interesting.

Ciao for now.