Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

House sitting in the Clare Valley

Auburn, Clare Valley
With Australia being one of the more expensive countries to visit, we opted to mitigate our costs a little with a bit of housesitting. We managed to find a good opportunity looking after two whippets in the Clare Valley in South Australia.

The place we were staying was right on the Riesling Trail, a cycle route that passes a multitude of vineyards and wineries, many of which specialise in Riesling wines - hence the name. Our plan had been to hire bicycles for a lot of the time that we were here, but as my back still hadn't fully recovered, that wasn't really an option.
Auburn, Clare Valley

Auburn, Clare Valley
The property was a few miles out of Watervale, the nearest village, which has a population of around 300 people and the local pub. Nearby Auburn was slightly larger, but not much. It did have some nice old buildings though.

Clare, which had the comparatively large population of a bit over 3,000, was around ten miles away, and had shops, cafes and a supermarket. Thankfully, the homeowner had left her vehicle for me, so we were able to get around.

As well as the two whippets, we had a number of chickens and some geese to look after too. The gander was very protective of his two goslings, especially around Nic. The chickens could be a real nuisance to get in to their coop at night, as one in particular was especially daft and regularly ended up on the wrong side of the fence. the best thing with the chickens was that one hatched out eggs and we were able to watch the very cute little chicks.

The whippets were lovely dogs. One was a little naughty at times, and had to be gently reminded that taking our shoes wasn't allowed. They are sensitive creatures, so all I had to do was show him the shoe that I had retrieved and tell him 'no' and he would take himself off to bed in disgrace; what rather amused me is that the other one went with him. It was a rather nice moment when I saw him go to take my shoe, pause, remember he wasn't supposed to, and run off to get one of his toys instead!

They did rather like to get into bed with us - and I do mean in - so it was just as well the bed was a large one. it was OK until one of them farted really badly. So badly that the other dog had to poke his head out from under the cover to escape from the smell! But in the main, it was lovely to look after them for a month.

Annie's Lane Winery, Watervale, Clare Valley

Walking them around the trails had the added advantage of meaning that we managed to spot a few kangaroos too, although we did have to be careful as, if the dogs spotted them before us and were off the lead, they would go off chasing them. We avoided this most of the time, but there was one occasion when they got early sight of one and tore off after it. They did eventually come back when we called them, but with a kangaroo bursting through ahead of them, right in front of us.

With cycling out of the question, Nic decided to go running along the trails instead; that didn't last long either though, as he managed to bugger up his knee. So much for getting in some exercise; at least we were walking the dogs every day.

Annie's Lane Winery, Watervale, Clare Valley
We couldn't not check out the wineries though, and one of the first we went to was with two of our homeowner's friends, who we enjoyed hanging out with for the month we were there. They took us along to Annie's Lane at Quelltaler, which was having what they called a museum day. This was a fascinating visit, as they were opening up the dusty old bottles of wines that they had stored in their cellars.

Some of the wines were reds, that were more naturally suited to being kept for the thirty or so years that these wines had been cellared for, but others were whites, that you wouldn't expect to keep well beyond a few years. Indeed, some of the wines were only fit for pouring down the sink, but there were a number of rather pleasant surprises. We rather enjoyed this unique opportunity.

Skillogallee Winery, Clare Valley
Aside from that,we drove out to quite a few of the nearby wineries. Of course, for me, that meant spitting it all out again, but at least we could try them, and we ate at a couple too. We had a very nice afternoon tea at Skillogallee, with an excellent Middle Eastern Warm Orange Cake, and some decent scones that were let down only because Australia doesn't do clotted cream - whipped cream on a scone just isn't the same!

Nearby Kilikanoon was good, and we really liked Sevenhill Cellars. The little hamlet of Sevenhill was established in 1851 by a couple of Jesuit priests, who started the winery to provide sacramental wines to local catholic parishes. Jesuits are still involved in the winery today, and they still make the sacramental wines, which are similar to a sherry, which is known in Australia as Apera. They have a good range of other wines too, including more Apera and ports.

Around Watervale, we rather liked Shut The Gate, and Claymore Wines. Claymore's owners are ardent Liverpool FC fans, and have actually formed a partnership with the football club. They also name their wines after some impressive music too, with names like London Calling, Bittersweet Symphony, Purple Rain and, of course, You'll Never Walk Alone.

Another place that we ate was at the Paulett Wines and Bush DeVine Café in Penwortham. The food, the wine and the views were all great, but we especially liked the focus on traditional bush foods. They also sell bush food items, and we bought some lemon myrtle and made a rather nice cake.

Reilly'sWinery, Mintaro, Clare Valley
A little further out, in the tiny crossroads of Mintaro - which was so small that we initially drove straight out the other side before realising we'd even arrived -  we checked out Mintaro Wines and Reilly's. The latter was a very pretty, flowery setting, and had some nice food to go with the wines.

One thing we had learned about buying wine in the Clare Valley, was to seek out the blank bottles. In the bottle shops, they sell wine with very basic labels at considerably cheaper prices, but they can still be really nice wines. At the cellar doors, you can sometimes get wines that are exactly the same as the labelled ones, but sold unlabelled at much lower prices.

Martindale Hall, Mintaro, Clare Valley
Whilst out in Mintaro, we checked out Martindale Hall, which is a Georgian style place built in 1879 for Edward Bowman Jr. He only actually managed to keep the place for eleven years before huge debts caused him to have to sell it to William Tennant Mortlock. The new owner's time wasn't exactly blessed either, as he lost four of his six children, and one of those that lived went on to drown as an adult.

One of the children that died was Valentine, who had disabilities, which in those days meant that he was largely confined to his bedroom. He died at the age of eight years old, but a number of people who have stayed in the room claim to have seen his ghost.

Paranormal claims aside, the Hall is worth a visit if you are in the area. It was also the setting for the 1975 film Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Martindale Hall, Mintaro, Clare Valley
Martindale Hall, Mintaro, Clare Valley

Martindale Hall, Mintaro, Clare Valley

Martindale Hall, Mintaro, Clare Valley

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