Having family in Brisbane provided Iggy and me with the strongest motivation to visit this Queensland city. Somehow I had formed the impression that the city was a stop-off point for Surfers Paradise and Noosa – a transit lounge for melanoma seekers. I did not expect Brisbane to become one of my favourite cities in the world. And – apart from the lure of family – why has Brisbane become a favourite destination? Because of South Bank.
South Bank is on the site of the World Expo 88. It opened to the public as a cultural precinct in June 1992. A pleasant ride on the Brisbane River by City Cat is an easy way of reaching South Bank, where there are shops, a beach, an auditorium, a conservatorium, a gallery of traditional art, a gallery of contemporary art, a library, café, book shop and more.
As we were heading from Hamilton, NZ, to Perth, Australia, it seemed like a good idea to visit Iggy’s daughter Amanda in Brisbane.
We left Hamilton at 2.30am and, expecting not to be served breakfast on our budget fare flight, had McDonalds for breakfast at Auckland Airport. We were then served a delicious breakfast midway between Auckland and Brisbane, followed by our magnificent meal at Shucked. Good thing that a hearty breakfast is considered to be healthy!
Just a couple of minutes from Club Paihia is a wonderful variety of scenic treats – historic buildings, the sea, and some peculiarly Paihia features.
We weren’t in Paihia to shop – so it was something of a sad relief when a gloriously hued jacket made of handwoven fabrics and felt, displayed in an art gallery window, proved to be the wrong size. Go to Creative Get Up to see Sandra Thompson’s finely handcrafted wearable art.
We were happy to fend for ourselves food-wise. However, an advertisement for seafood chowder lured us back to The Pier one evening. The chowder was packed with seafood and served with crispy garlic bread and a generous bowl of steamed fresh mussels. Washed down with a large glass of the house red, it was a most satisfying and economic dinner out (less than $30 for us both for food and drink).
We seem to be up and down the road between Hamilton and Palmerston North quite a bit for various reasons – chiefly Iggy’s granddaughter, perhaps :-). I think we’ll have to make a habit of dropping into Brown Sugar up a side street at the northern end of Taihape each time we travel. The menu is different each time we drop in, the food divinely home-made tasting and the décor is fun. I really like the kids’ play area here – the kind of play area that would keep my brothers engaged for hours and hours when they were little boys. It’s not a red and yellow plasticky thing that adults think should be appealing to children, but a genuine play area where kid’s imagination can roam free and parents watch from a discreet distance while they enjoy Brown Sugar’s excellent coffee.
Having worked hard for most of Sarah’s visit from the USA, we decided it was time for a spot of glamour and steered the trusty old Corolla towards Gordonton and the Zealong camellia plantation.
Zealong has an interesting history. To precis the story from the Zealong website – A lush camellia grew next to Tzu Chen’s Hamilton house. A lover of oolong tea, Mr Chen was struck by the similarities between tea plants and the camellia. From this he deduced that Hamilton would be the perfect environment to grow oolong tea. With his son, Vincent, Mr Chen imported 1500 tea seedlings from Taiwan in 1996. Only 130 made it to the plantation. Careful propagation, however, has resulted in over 50 hectares of tea plants. The tea is chemical-free and processed to the highest standard.
Kiwicommunicator was interested to hear the story when the tea house opened. Zealong has become one of her favourite destinations for impressing visitors to Hamilton. The plantation tour and tea-tasting is informative. Being more into indulgence than education on social occasions, when I take friends and family to Zealong it is to sample their high tea.
There are two pick-your-own blueberry farms on the outskirts of Hamilton, just past Ohaupo. I drove the trusty Corolla and gave VJ the GPS (well, actually, the plastic folder carrying the map and directions provided by our expert blueberry picking friend Judy). Judy was keen for us to visit Monavale Blueberries and their Cafe Irresistiblue. When I checked out Monavale’s website, I could understand her recommendation. Every item in the comprehensive selection of sweet and savoury offerings featured blueberries somewhere in the ingredients.
Navigation seems to suffer when both navigator and driver are engaged in enthusiastic conversation. Somehow we arrived at the other blueberry picking destination on Judy’s sheet of perfectly explicit directions. While there was no Cafe Irresistiblue to be seen, we were delighted with the bubbly reception we received at Orchard Cafe at the Jury Road blueberry farm. The smell of blueberry muffins was enticing, too. The lunch menu was more basic, but incredibly well-priced. Traditional Kiwi toasted sandwiches with plunger coffee was just what we felt like. Orchard Cafe’s swirling blueberry icecreams appeared to be part of the blueberry picking tradition as families came in with buckets of blueberries to be weighed.
Half an hour of blueberry picking yielded an ice-cream container of fruit for VJ and a slightly larger container of fruit for our household. Much of our produce is in the freezer for later enjoyment. The total cost of our blueberry bonanza was $24 – a blueberry bargain!
We worked up a serious appetite while walking the Karangahake Gorge in the morning and were keen to discover the old railway station converted into a cafe for our lunch – specially for our visitor, Spence, whose lifelong interests have included railways. I think the railway station cafe may have been the information centre straight across the road from the carpark. Imagining a building that captured the romance and charm of a bygone era, we failed to notice what was right in front of our eyes and set off in the car on a railway cafe hunt. In the process, we happened upon the Falls Retreat Bistro in Waikino, a few kilometres up the road from Karangahake Gorge. Up a tree-lined drive and into an ample carpark. This was the shady summer lunch spot of our dreams.
We had a great waitress, all the way from Scotland, who provided just the right level of friendliness and service. The frequently topped up water was especially welcome.
Well rested and refuelled, we set off for our afternoon Karangahake adventure. That’s a whole new post …
It’s the talk of town, and I can see why. Milk and Honey is a new concept in the Hamilton cafe scene. Milk and Honey is quite literally – priceless! You choose from the food on the table or in the cabinet, order your coffee and – here’s the eye-opener – pay a donation that you believe will cover the cost of your food and throw in a bit extra. All the profits go to charity.
It wasn’t just the coffee that warmed the heart. Milk and Honey profits go to the TALKINGtech Foundation. I picked up the promotional material for just two of the organisations supported.
Books for Babies aims to improve the bonding between parents and babies using books and story-telling to encourage the interaction. The organisation was founded in Auckland and now runs in the Waikato. In 2011, 5400 babies and toddlers benefited from the programme. Working in collaboration with the Well Child services enables Books for Babies to keep programme costs minimal.
Milk and Honey’s support extends way beyond the Waikato. The TALKINGtech Foundation supports mobile health clinics in Chennai, India. A 42-seater bus is refitted as a mini hospital on wheels. A doctor and supporting staff carrying stocks of medicines visits various areas six days a week providing medical assistance to the poor. In addition, a dental clinic on wheels provides dental hygiene education, oral examinations and dental treatment.
I’ve mentioned the cause, the ambience, the coffee, the view, and the entertainment. You’ll be wondering about the food. The food should be right up at the top. The selection was not wide and it did not need to be. The offerings were perfection. I had a wonderful grainy roll filled – not too large and bready – covered with pumpkin seeds. It was filled with a generous serving of meat, tomato, cucumber, camembert and a delicious dressing, accompanied by chutney which I think had pomegranate seeds in it.
I am avoiding sugar right now so passed on the slices. However, a big bouquet to Milk and Honey in this department, as well. A small triangle of a sweet slice is just right for rounding off a delicious lunch. Milk and Honey provided what my grandmother would have called “an elegant sufficiency”.