We were excited to be going to Adelaide for a three-week visit with family and friends. The flight home with Emirates went as per usual – comfortable but very long. Michael loves the 380 on the Nice-Dubai leg particularly for its great bar, where he always meets interesting people. This time we met Ella Houston, a wonderful South African lady. She and her husband spend half the year at their home near Grasse in France and the other half at their home near Durban. They have sailed the Med extensively and she’s certainly a fabulous 80 year-old with lots of fascinating stories to share.
It was fantastic to arrive back in Adelaide and be picked up by Lindy and JB and to settle into their wonderfully comfortable AirBnB apartment in Norwood. They are so generous to put us up every year! Sue celebrated being back in Australia with a Melbourne Cup lunch with the girls: Lindy, Nina and Karin. As well as drinking nice champagne and catching up on all the news, she also won the sweep!
Our first item on the agenda was to visit Michael’s parents who live in Victor Harbor about an hour south of Adelaide. We stopped on the way to visit Tim and Amanda Geddes and congratulate them on winning the Best Grenache in the Melbourne Wine Show. We also stopped in to see Erin at Penley Estate and picked up a couple of nice bottles of wine there, as well.
For our European friends, Victor Harbor is an hour or so south of Adelaide and is a lovely sleepy village in winter that is often called ‘God’s waiting room’ because so many retirees have moved there. In the early days of South Australia it was a busy whaling station, but now it has whale watching. It has pristine beaches and some great fishing spots. In summer it goes crazy with everyone flocking to their beach houses or to the camping grounds. Michael’s parents have lived in Victor for nearly 40 years.
Michael’s dad is 92 and suffers from dementia but is cared for at home by Michael’s Mum who is 88. She’s an incredible woman and we were glad to meet with her and the carers she had organized. We were able to plan the ‘next steps’ together and left feeling much better that she had the support she needed and could organize help at any time.
Michael’s sister Jo drove down to Victor while we were there and we all went out to lunch at Hector’s Wharf at Goolwa. Jo drives to Victor every week to see Phyl and Geoff and it really reassures Michael that his parents are so well cared for. It was a fun family lunch and a time to be treasured.
While we were at Victor we stayed with Chris and Sue Greening who live at nearby Goolwa. They are fabulous hosts and terrific cooks, plus they have the cutest little dog, Chalky. It was relaxing to have the time to talk. They are keen gardeners and we enjoyed the walk around their property noting how much things had grown and changed since out last visit.
On our way back to Adelaide we stayed overnight with Craig Schilg at his property near Wistow, in the Adelaide Hills. He and Michael have a tradition of ongoing banter and plenty of sledging. Recently, much of it had been about the expected standard of our accommodation. Craig went over the top to have the last laugh and definitely won. He went to so much trouble! Our room was complete with all the touches such as pillow chocolates and a full range of toiletries. We had aperitifs on the deck, a dinner party with his son Henry and friends Janet and Doug Allen, complete with bottles of Woolly’s Bar and Grill wines that he had been cellaring for a few years. We had a lovely breakfast with a view of the golden paddocks and huge gum trees. It was just as well we had a limited timeline or we may have moved in!
One of the main reasons we come back to Adelaide every year is to catch up with family and friends – it prevents us from getting totally homesick. Not long after we arrived we had a lunch with Trudie and Kevin, who had travelled Australia for several years in a Winnebago. It was great to hear of their continuing travel plans including exotic locations in Eastern Europe next year.
We did come back to Adelaide with a business agenda too – doctors and medical check-ups, changing banks, completing tax returns etc. We spent quite a bit of time in the city central of Adelaide and love using our ‘Seniors Card’ for free transport. November is an interesting time in Adelaide because the temperatures fluctuate by as much as 20 degrees from one day to the next. Normally there are streets full of flowering jacaranda trees but this year we were disappointed, as it’s been so cold they were still not in full bloom by the time we left.
Michael has been having what he calls a ‘Christmas Lunch’ with his mates, held late in November every year for at least the last 15 years. It started with 4 blokes – Sandy, Fred and Thomas Hardy - and every year it seems to get a little bigger. It’s always held at Parisi’s on King William Road. So much bullshit must be told and the wines are more important than the food. This year 9 blokes attended and the lunch continues to grow in legendary status. Sue took the opportunity to have a civilized girls lunch with her friends Michele and Deb at Martinis on the Parade, where no bullshit was told!
Sue’s sister Louise came over from Melbourne for the weekend, so the Merrett sisters were together. Scary! They had a terrific night at the Central Market (called a covered market in France) being very diligent about exploring every stall in every aisle. Friday night is really busy in the Market, with lots of tastings and samples. Lindy’s son Sam, winemaker at Alpha Box and Dice was conducting a tasting in conjunction with our favourite butcher Marino Meats. He looked up from his work and said, “Here come the weird sisters!” Naughty boy!
We ended the night at Wasai, our long-time favourite Japanese Restaurant.
The weather was kind, so we took the opportunity to resurrect the Merrett family picnic tradition. Sue’s family were great ‘picnickers’ and we all have such wonderful family memories of picnics in the local countryside. When Sue’s father died, the heart went out of the endeavor and it fell by the wayside. It was fantastic to revive it on a beautiful spring day with a new generation of picnickers - learning to play finska, eating picnic food, drinking great wines and watching our new grand-nephew Hugo.
On a lovely Sunday we drove south of Adelaide along the coast to Aldinga so we could check on a friend’s beachside property, before going on to The Victory Hotel at Sellick’s Beach. This place is famous for its great coastal view and excellent wine cellar. It didn’t disappoint and we had a terrific lunch.
Thomas Hardy owns the Maison de l’Ecluse, our base in Jarnac in France. We really enjoy our times together in France and always catch up with him when we’re in Adelaide. This time we met at the Kensington Hotel, were joined by Tom and Marnie Raggatt and then moved on to Thomas’s house across the road for an impromptu meal.
One of the highlights of our stay in Adelaide was a dinner we organized at Lindy and JB’s house in Norwood. All the people who attended had visited us at some stage while we’ve been in Europe. It was a great fun night with terrific food (cooked by Lindy, with Sue as sous-chef) and some spectacular wines. The conversation didn’t stop but it was a bit much to finish up at 1:30am on a Monday night, especially for those still working!
Michael enjoyed a great lunch with his media mates, some of us go back 30 odd years ago. When that lot gets together - watch out! A quick lunch to catch up lasted all day and left Michael a little the worse for wear.
Nina and Bruce, our long-time friends and frequent travel buddies had visited us in Northern Italy last year, meeting us in the Italian lakes district. We had two lovely meals at their house while we were in Adelaide, catching up with their news and sharing travel plans for 2020.
It’s amazing how fast three weeks can fly by! Soon it was time to thank Lindy & JB for accommodating us and to get back on the plane to Nice.
We had the usual Emirates flight with good food that you personally order and so don’t over-eat, some sleep and some movies and a time of propping up the bar for Michael.
We hopped off the plane and were driven to pick up our camping car. Everything had been done and it was as good as new. Then we were on to pick up Grubie, in the little village of Biot. Michael had to cope again with our very large camping car, driving on the other side of the road and in the tiny narrow streets. Grubie was pleased to see us – an understatement!
It rained very hard the first few days we were back in France, so we took the opportunity to sleep and relax. The sun eventually came out and we were able to enjoy the promenade and to inspect the amazing amount of damage the ocean can do. Michael rode into Nice one day to do some banking business and snuck in a quick dozen escargot.
We eventually left Nice on the last day of November and drove to stay overnight with our friend Patrice Ryder and his wife Francoise. They live in a large house with land in a little village on the outskirts of Avignon, even though Patrice owns and commutes to a business in Nice. They had lived in Australia for 15 years after riding a tandem bicycle from France to Australia and then circumnavigating Australia. What an achievement! They eventually settled in Queensland and had a French restaurant, along with two children. They still miss Australia and have returned a few times.
As you can imagine, Francoise is an amazing cook so we had a wonderful meal of her signature dishes – a fresh salad with charcuterie, boeuf au poivre and tarte tatin. Fabulous! Francoise taught Sue how to cook the boeuf au poivre, one of Michael’s favourite meals. We’ll give it a try soon.
We stayed overnight in our van, parked on Patrice and Francoise’s land. It rained like you would not believe! Hours and hours of torrential downpour. But we left early the next morning and had a smooth run to Barcelona. We love Sunday driving (no trucks) and can’t imagine driving right through Barcelona as we did, on a busy weekday.
We timed our exit from France very well as they are now in a situation of fuel shortages, lorries blocking the motorways and general strikes.
We’re happy to be dodging the cold while in Spain.