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A Slice of Melon

Western Queensland Road Trip #1 Chinchilla

Australia is renowned for its collection of “big things” – there are more than 150 over-sized objects scattered across the country.

Goulburn, New South Wales, is the centre of a prosperous wool growing district and there you’ll find the Big Merino.

In the fruit growing region of northern Victoria is the Big Strawberry, on the Goulburn Valley Highway at Koonoomoo.

The Big Rocking Horse is located at Gumerach in South Australia, outside a wooden toy factory.

And the Big Galah, on the Eyre Highway at Kimba, South Australia, is located exactly halfway between Sydney and Perth.

Have you heard about Australia’s newest “big thing”?

In 2018, the vacation booking website Wotif launched a nation-wide competition, asking Australians to help select their next big thing. The finalists included a big kilt in Glen Innes, a big peanut in Kingaroy and a big tulip in Mittagong, all reflecting each district’s community or industry. The winner, voted by the Australian public as their favourite, was The Big Melon in the western Queensland town of Chinchilla.

With a warm temperate climate perfect for melon farming, Chinchilla is the centre of Australia’s most productive melon growing region. Every second year, the community celebrates their love of melons during the Chinchilla Melon Festival. Activities during February’s four day event incorporate everything melon related, including pip spitting, melon tossing and melon skiing competitions.

If you’re travelling on the Warrego Highway and you pass through Chinchilla during melon season, make sure you allow a little extra time. Once you see The Big Melon, you’ll be wanting some of the real thing.

 

Canada’s Best

Canada #45

“What was the best thing about your trip?”

We’re often asked this question when we return from a holiday and it’s always difficult to give just one answer. After five weeks in Canada, here are the things we loved best.

The Best Party 

The Best Airbnb View

Vancouver, from our 21st floor apartment – by day,

at night,

and early in the morning as the cruise ships arrived at Canada Place.

The Best Water View

Pitt River

The Best Mountain Views

Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot, Coast Ranges, Squamish BC

Fitzsimmons Range, Whistler BC

The Best Wildlife Encounters

chipmunk, Whistler BC

raccoon family, Mount Royal, Montréal QC

and the squirrels, who were everywhere!

The Best Food

20 flavours of hot chocolate, enormous ice cream sundaes, chocolate pizza! Even the ceiling was all about chocolate at Chocolato, Montréal QC

The Best Garden

Jardins Gamelin, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal QC

a free community garden with a cafe, space for games, music and family activities

and several themed gardens, educational for both adults and children

The Best Adventures

For me, a birthday trip to Niagara Falls

For Glen, EdgeWalk – 356 metres above the ground at CN Tower, Toronto ON

So many wonderful experiences in a truly amazing country. Canada, we’ll be back!

Let’s Go Shopping!

Canada #39 Montréal

With fresh produce of all sorts in bountiful supply in Canada, it’s no surprise to find wonderful markets everywhere. While St Lawrence Market in Toronto has been declared the world’s best food market, Jean-Talon Market in Montréal lays claim to being one of North America’s largest open air food markets.

Located since 1933 in the Little Italy district of Montréal, this market is open all year round. In summer the stalls are filled to capacity by more than 300 vendors. Fresh seasonal produce sold by local farmers is complemented by delicious treats from bakers, butchers and fishmongers and stallholders selling cheeses, spices and international foods.

With such a wide selection shoppers take their time, sometimes seeming almost perplexed by the choices on offer.

There is even a book shop dedicated to recipe books; when the decisions are finally made, there’s a good chance of enjoying a delicious meal later in the day.

Competition can be fierce among the vendors and samples of food are on offer at most stalls. Visitors can easily eat their way around the market, tasting everything from freshly harvested berries to aged salami.

At one stall, the farmer is happy to discuss the difference in sweetness in his two varieties of corn and shares a piece of each, hot and steaming straight from the pot.

Along with all the food sellers there are stalls packed with cut flowers and potted plants.

Flowers of all varieties are ready to take home to decorate the table or the garden, while other plants offer more edible options.

Some even boast of their ability to repel unwanted visitors. Mosquitos, squirrels and cats beware!

With an abundance of wonderful food at Jean-Talon Market, there’s no need to leave hungry.

 

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To Market, To Market

Canada #30 St Lawrence Market, Toronto

On Front Street the façade of St Lawrence Market has an almost stately appearance. The red of the bricks is enhanced by overflowing tubs of begonias, shady market umbrellas and a line of Canadian flags flapping in the breeze.

Step through the wide timber doors and the feeling of calm elegance disappears, as the bustle of vendors selling their wares is matched by the urgency of shoppers in search of the freshest produce and best bargains.

There has been a public market on this site since 1803, first in the north building and, since 1845, in the south. Today more than 120 specialty stores sell fresh foods – fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, bakery and dairy products.

As well as filling their baskets with fresh food to take home, hungry shoppers flock to the restaurants and cafés to fill up on local delicacies and traditional treats.

In April 2012, St Lawrence Market was declared by National Geographic as the world’s best food market.

After devouring our lunch of freshly made crêpes filled with fruit and cream, we could understand why!

A Sandwich With a Difference

Canada #7 Canoe Brewpub, Victoria BC

If you’ve heard about #Kevtoberfest, you’ll know Glen enjoys a beer or two but I’m not so keen. When Glen wants to try a new brewery, I’m happy to go along and usually I enjoy a cider or a hot chocolate. Sometimes if there’s cake on offer I’ll have that too.

At the Canoe Brewpub on Victoria’s Upper Harbour, Glen enjoyed a Helles Bavarian-style lager and an Amber Ale. After a long afternoon walk I was ready for something more substantial than hot chocolate, but there was no cake to be seen. Luckily our friendly barman Steve came to my rescue.

“We serve dessert. I recommend the ice cream sandwich,” he said. He went on to describe it – ale ice cream sandwiched between an oversize choc chip biscuit with chocolate porter sauce on the side.

Ale-flavoured ice cream? Chocolate sauce infused with beer? I queried the beery taste thinking it might be too strong, but Steve was reassuring. “A few of my customers say the ice cream tastes too much of beer, but I think the subtle flavours are just right.”

I couldn’t ignore his recommendation – with crossed fingers, I ordered the ice cream sandwich. I needn’t have worried; it was delicious! The ice cream, tangy with a hint of malt, was perfectly complemented by the sweet biscuit. The chocolate porter sauce was thick and rich, and I made sure to scrape every last drop from the little jug.

Ever since our afternoon at the Canoe, I’ve been thinking about their tasty ale-flavoured ice cream. The good news is that as well as having a complete beer-brewing set-up, Glen also owns an ice cream maker! Does anyone have a recipe for ale ice cream?

 

Party Party Party!

Kevtoberfest #21

After months of planning and brewing by Kevin, his 60th birthday party finally arrived and in the spirit of Kevtoberfest the day had a distinctly German theme.

We made pretzels. Most pretzel bakers take years to perfect their skills, but after some meticulous research and a few hours’ practice, Kevin had mastered the techniques needed to produce these tasty treats. We rolled and shaped the dough in typical Bavarian style. Then our pretzels were boiled, sprinkled with salt and baked until the crusts were crisp and golden. They were delicious!

We ate German food. Kevin loves to cook and he created a feast: tender pork knuckles, bratwurst, green salad, potato salad and potato peanut puffs, followed by apple strudel for dessert. The birthday cake was a Black Forest gâteau, rich and sweet; dark chocolate sponge layers filled with whipped cream and cherries.

We drank German beer and cider. Kevin’s home brews included Kevtoberfest heavy and light, served on customised paddles made by his friend Frank. Traditional Bavarian Märzenbier, Paulaner Weißbier and European apple cider were also on tap.

We listened to German music. Frank brought his bespoke alpenhorn and treated us to a one of a kind performance.

Happy Birthday Kevin!

Taking a Break

Kevtoberfest #18 Narooma to Mallacoota

Long distance driving can be tiring and it’s important to take regular breaks every couple of hours. When the route we’re taking passes through pretty country villages and coastal towns, we don’t need an excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

After leaving Narooma and continuing on our southward journey, our first stop was at the little village of Central Tilba. Located at the base of Mount Dromedary, Central Tilba and its neighbour Tilba Tilba are heritage listed, with beautifully preserved period cottages and shops.

It was early morning and the galleries and cafés were still closed. The only inhabitants we saw were some noisy rainbow lorikeets, breakfasting on the flowers of melaleuca trees.

Luckily, the ABC Cheese Factory was open and we joined some other keen customers, sampling and purchasing a few delicious cheeses. 

It wasn’t far to our next stop – we travelled just 20 kilometres to the coastal town of Bermagui. Situated on the Bermagui River where its wide natural harbour enters the ocean, the town is best known for its deep sea fishing industry.

Leaving the car and caravan at Dickinson Park, we walked past the marina and the broad sandy beach at Horseshoe Bay to Bermagui Point.

From the lookout on the headland we could see the coast from north to south, and inland to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

All this exploration gave us an appetite so, another 72 kilometres south, we stopped beside Merimbula Lake for a picnic lunch.

After so many scenic stops, our last break for the day had no connection to nature or history and was an unexpected surprise. Just south of Pambula on the Princes Highway, I spotted a sign – for a brewery! Of course, we turned off the highway and followed the directions to the Longstocking Nano Brewery, located alongside a café, gallery and garden centre.

The beers brewed onsite have 1920s themed names and are only available on tap, so Glen enjoyed a tasting paddle while I sampled the handcrafted ginger beer.

That was enough to sustain us for the rest of the afternoon and we continued to our final destination, just over the Victorian border at the seaside town of Mallacoota.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 7/Craft shops 3

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