Last week, we disappeared down to Albany for a week. Thank goodness. It has been a record hot summer here in Perth, weeks of unrelenting heat and unforgiving Aussie sun. Albany is about a five hour drive to the south, which makes it significantly cooler. It was cool enough to cause Ellie to exclaim, "It's wintertime!" when we stepped out of the car (and by Perth standards, it nearly was). Albany experienced a bit of unseasonably strong wind and some rain, dropping the temperature from Perth by half. Good thing we packed our fleece jackets, pants and sneakers! We were actually cold sometimes. Amazing.
Our good friends and previous neighbors have been encouraging us to make a trip down to Albany for almost as long as we've known them. Alan is from there, and his family are mostly still there. His sister owns some vacation properties, and they set us up in a fantastic spot for the week. It's called Parkfarm, and it is beautiful. It's a free-standing house (four double beds in four bedrooms, two baths, big common spaces and a kitchen) with a wrap-around porch set on a big piece of property just outside of Albany.
Waking up each morning to the wind in the trees, looking out across fields and seeing no other houses (his sister's house is hidden by the trees) and instead seeing their pet emu, Enoch, some kangaroos in the distance and some cows and horses milling about...sooooo relaxing! A week down there was just what the doctor ordered. The girls couldn't have been happier. Markus and I wanted to explore the area, but they were happy just to stick around the house most of the day. There was a child's swing hanging from the porch rafters and a perfect-sized table and chairs with Play-doh toys set out and ready for us.
They also enjoyed meandering over to the family house and helping to collect eggs from the chooks.
About half of our trip down wasn't great weather, but we didn't mind too much. We simply enjoyed being away and keeping life simple for a week. Albany does have some fantastic pristine beaches that we weren't able to enjoy nearly as much as we would have liked, but the beach here at home is none too shabby. We did join Alan and the boys at Mutton Bird Beach one morning, and the kids had a blast paddling in the shallows and climbing on the rocks, despite the grey skies and cool temperatures.
Each day, we drove around the coastline to Middleton Beach and enjoyed early lunch at the Bay Merchant Cafe. Fantastic spot. I highly recommend it. They serve breakfast and lunch all day, meaning we could actually eat lunch when we like to (around 11am) and the sandwiches were inventive and excellent. We went so often that the owners introduced themselves. We're on a first name basis now. We also made a visit to Whale World, a museum about the now-defunct whaling industry and its base in Albany. The girls really liked exploring the whaling ship (especially Ellie, much to our surprise).
Along the way, we stopped to see two natural rock formations made by the sea, a natural bridge and a deep sheer drop cut into the bouldery coast over the ages.
On Sunday, we went to the Albany Boatshed food market and picked up some beautiful crabs (my first!) and some fresh produce to serve alongside it. Alan and Rosemarie and their boys joined us for dinner. They dug up some potatoes from the family garden just before coming over. That dinner was fabulous! There is nothing to compare to the taste of super-fresh food. I made three dipping choices for the crab, and we didn't use a single one. The crab was so fresh and wonderful just plain. Another night, Alan brought over some fresh marron and we had another big meal. Hooray for good food!
On our last full day, we drove 30 minutes over to Denmark to explore. Our first stop was the famous Greene's Pool swimming beach. Oh. My. Goodness. So beautiful! I had a touch of a headcold that day, but I wasn't going to pass a chance to swim there. It was crystal clear, shallow and well-protected from waves. A wonderful spot!
Then, we drove around and discovered The Lake House winery for lunch. It is very small and the lunch menu is limited to (expensive) sharing platters, but the quality was fantastic! The girls were happy too, and we were surprised to realize when we got back into the car that we spent nearly two and a half hours enjoying lunch there!
The drive back was long and not too fun, but the trip was completely worth it and very relaxing! Thanks again, Rosemarie and Alan, for enabling such a great vacation! If you would like to see more pics (just in case I didn't put nearly enough in this post), there are tons in our flickr pool if you click on the sidebar.