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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Joys of a Sunday Drive - Annie West

Recently I rediscovered one of my favourite pleasures. Not chocolates or fantastic romance novels or movies or chatting with friends. I'm talking about the simple Sunday drive. The chance to escape from the normal routine and get out somewhere different and picturesque.

I know it doesn't sound thrilling or exotic but I realised recently how hectic my life has become. Even weekends seem fully booked with a range of commitments, including writing, and taking a whole afternoon off just to enjoy myself is a real treat.

I grew up in a family who loved getting out in the bush to walk, camp, picnic or just drive and find out what was around the next curve on some quiet dirt road in the country. I always loved the sense of exploration, of being somewhere tantalisingly new, and still have memories stored of forgotten valleys and homesteads glimpsed on a weekend jaunt, which seemed romantic and alluring in the late afternoon sun.

Recently a dear friend, Anna Campbell, came to visit from interstate and we spent a Sunday afternoon driving up to the Hunter Valley of New South Wales (Eastern Australia for those not familiar with it). It was a perfect autumn afternoon and we were pleased with ourselves as we'd worked hard over the weekend and felt we deserved the treat of an afternoon escape.

The Hunter Valley is renowned for its vineyards, its coal and its horse breeding. We focused on the vineyards but no, we didn't stagger from vineyard to vineyard, tasting all afternoon. We were far too busy soaking up the gorgeous day and the terrific scenery. These top two pictures are the view from Tyrell's Vineyard towards the Brokenback Range and then from the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, not far away.

We managed to fit in a scrumptious late lunch at a local cafe, and it was wonderful not to cook or clean up afterwards (one of my fave things about a country drive). After all, if you're having the afternoon relaxing from the usual range of chores, time in the kitchen can't be a priority. Isn't this a lovely setting for a meal? Needless to say, we didn't want to move.

One of the things I enjoyed about our drive was the chance to see some of my fave places in the area. We only tried the wine at one vineyard and I chose Tyrrells. It's impossible to choose one 'best' as there are so many terrific producers in the area. But from here there are marvellous views and I've got a soft spot for the old vineyard, one of the oldest in the area. Instead of being all polished and new, the buildings are old and weathered. When you enter the area where the vats and barrels are stored you walk on old hard-packed dirt floor. It's unpretentious and down to earth and about the reality of wine-producing, not just the glamour.


To finish the afternoon we drove to the sleepy hamlet of Wollombi, one of the oldest in the area. We drove along a scenic river valley, past the cave where ages ago a bushranger (outlaw) had hidden from the police. There's not much of
Wollombi to see but the old buildings are worth a look and so is the gorgeous, peaceful old cemetery where some of the first European settlers to the area are buried.

Returning home very late in the day we were tired but satisfied and best of all, someone else did the cooking! Wonderful. We got fresh air, terrific scenery, some delicious wine, great conversation and a glimpse into the past in some wonderfully peaceful valleys. We felt refreshed and ready to tackle the work of another week.

How about you? Do you enjoy the pleasures of a Sunday drive? Are you a picnicker? Camper? Do you seek out markets or craft stores or antique shops? Or do you prefer to stay at home to relax? What is your favourite place to escape on a weekend?

This month my new release UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH is released in the UK (Australia in May and North America in June). To celebrate I'll give away a copy of UNDONE to one person who leaves a comment. You can read about it or read an excerpt on my website or here at Amazon.



29 comments:

marybelle said...

I do like to go for a Sunday afternoon walk. At other times it's feet up & a great book or DVD and a cup of tea.

Annie West said...

Hi Marybelle. Oh yes, a Sunday afternoon walk sounds so good (and it's great exercise too). We sometimes go for a Sunday walk by the water.

It's only Saturday evening here but it's been a long and packed day and I'm sitting with my feet up and thoroughly enjoying being lazy.

TashNz said...

Hi Annie. Your posts are so inspirational, it's also nice to see a bit of Australia. I love the Sunday Drives, going places, camping etc etc. We always camped when I was growing up. My Dad would pack the boat with everything and off we'd go. Unpacking was not a fave past time, I just wanted to get out and explore. Best memories were when we met up with family and we'd be in some campground by the beach. I dont do it enough with my kids but they do love camping out the back yard over xmas at my parents. There are lots of markets within 90min radius from me, my mother in law takes us all the time. I'm not familiar with other countries in the world but we are so lucky to have what we have in NZ and Oz. :)

Annie West said...

Hi Tash, it's good to hear from you. Isn't it interesting how those family outings stay as favourite memories? The family camping/boating trips sound like lots of fun. I know what you mean about the children enjoying camping out in the backyard too. Same here. It's been a fave with visiting teens for a while. And there's something so terrific about sitting around a campfire too.

I love the sound of the markets around your place. Markets are such fun. There used to be some wonderful ones where we used to live - with so many wonderful treats. I have to agree, I think we're enormously lucky here in Australia and New Zealand. But I know there are lots of terrific places elsewhere to get away for the day or a weekend. Actually, speaking of markets, I found a terrific one in France last year. I might have to do a blog about it some time.

TashNz said...

Hi again Annie. I'd LOVE to see a blog about a French Market :) I'm in Auckland but we're surrounded by rural towns, north south east and west and the markets are a fantastic excuse to get out of the city hussle. My kids both had school camps in March and they both had camp fires, it was in their top three fave stories about camp. Marshmellows... yum!!!

Annie West said...

Tash, I took so many pics of that French market I might have to do a couple of blogs!

The countryside around Auckland is lovely - though I've only seen a little bit of it. No wonder you like getting out and about. My have is damper on an open fire but it always seems to be marshmallows for the kids.

Virginia C said...

Hi, Annie! Thank you for a wonderful post & pix! I so love to hear all about your adventures with Anna C : ) I would adore to go wine-tasting with you two! Congrats on your well-deserved RT Award for "Protected by the Prince". FABULOSO!

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It's such a great family day. My Mom & I often enjoyed a big Sunday brunch-breakfast and then headed out with our faithful canine companions for a road trip. We basically had a one-hour, 60-mile, travel radius, but I am blessed to live in an area where I am surrounded by magical, marvelous places!

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, what a lovely post. I loved revisiting our great day out in the Hunter Valley. And didn't we have beautiful weather? I hadn't done anything like that for a while either. As you say, so easy to get caught up in all the stuff that shouts to you and forgetting how lovely it is sometimes to play hooky.

Hey, anyone who wins UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH has a treat ahead of them. Wonderful story!

Di said...

Sunday drives are definitely more relaxing because there aren't as many places open to stop at and if they are open they close early. I enjoy a Saturday drive where we stop at antique stores and maybe even some thrift & consignment stores. Mostly browsing, but once in a while we find something really good. We be heading to the state of Virginia (USA) next month where we enjoy the vineyards, but do have to be careful to control the tasting. We find it's good to bring some snacks - like hummus & pita chips. Love your pictures - would love to visit there someday - maybe when they invent really fast planes - it's such a long trip from the eastern US.

Annie West said...

Hi Virginia, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Aren't lazy Sundays marvellous. I think brunch is a marvellous meal and so relaxing. We sometimes have a brunch that's part bbq and is eaten on the verandah (close enough to the kitchen to get supplies).

Thanks so much for the congratulations on PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE winning the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award. I'm thrilled by that!

Annie West said...

Hi Anna, I thought you'd enjoy seeing these pics. As you say, we were so lucky with our day out. I liked ending it with the visit to the old cemetery in Wollombi as the shadows lengthened. It's such a lovely area! I think the best part of all was to spend time with a friend I don't get to see often and enjoy being away from other responsibilities. Yippee!

Annie West said...

Hi Di,

Your part of the world sounds like a great place for an afternoon drive. I particularly love the sound of antique stores to visit, even if it's only for browsing. Anna had expressed an interest in antique stores too but we just didn't have time to fit it in. Thanks for the tip on snacks to go with the wine tastings.

Shelley B said...

We love to camp. We like to drive around and find out of the way campgrounds to go to, places we could get to for just a long weekend. Once there we like to take long walks with our dogs. Simple pleasures can't be beat!

Annie West said...

Hi Shelley, you know I've never been camping with a dog! It must be a whole new experience. Do they wake you at night, I wonder when they smell or hear something you're oblivious to? I love long weekends away too. There should be more of them! That break away is such a treat and so refreshing.

Jeanne M said...

Annie -

I just went to your website and loved the excerpt from Undone By His Touch and the last line was definately not what I expected but I absolutely have to read this book!

We live in a beach community and when our boys were small use to go camping in a quiet town near by to get away from all the people driving down the highway to the beaches!

On the other hand when we're traveling from New England to South Carolina to visit our grandchildren we love taking the "way less traveled" and instead of taking the interstate highways go out of our way to wander through small towns instead. We love stopping at the small local restaurants to eat instead of the "chain" restaurants so prevalent on the major highways and finding those out of the way treasures they have. We're often surprised by the historical sites they have of lesser known battle fields from not only the American revolution but also the Civil War.

Instead of driving the mad rush of the highways we wind down country roads at a slow pace and stop and talk to people in the small towns that dot the road. We love stopping in at the local farmstands on the outskirts of town and stop by the side of the road to eat our purchases. Several times during our trip we have stopped to get homemade lemonade from enterprising children who have set up a stand and stopped in at local bazaars being held at the local schools and picked up "treasures" made by the local schoolchildren. In an out of the way Quaker town in Pennsylvania my husband even picked up a homemade Pecan pie that he still raves about!

So the next time you know someone who wants to get away remember to tell them to take "the road less traveled"!

Annie West said...

Hi, Jeanne, I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Declan was such a great hero to write - that scene and some of the others just zoomed along - I think because of his intensity.

Oh, your trips sound marvellous. I know exactly what you mean about the road less travelled. I think we're often in such a rush it's hard to remember the joys of just meandering, which is what Anna and I did. The pecan pie and the home made lemonade sound wonderful. I've never been to that part of the world but I've seen photos and heard people speak enthusiastically and it's somewhere I'd love to experience for myself. I recently had a trip to the mountains just for the weekend and one of the treats was going to a tiny Country Women's Association 'fete' in a tiny hall and stocking up on gifts ranging from home made jams to crochet work and hand made cards. Thanks so much for your comment. I'm sitting here sighing.

Melanie Milburne said...

Hi Annie,
Lovely post and yes, I love Sunday drives. And I adore tea rooms!
Looking forward to reading Undone by HIs Touch.

*yadkny* said...

Sounds like you had a great Sunday, Annie! I remember when my parents would pack all of us kids up and take a Sunday drive through town since we lived out in the country it was nice to just watch people going about their day. We'd always end the day by taking a picnic to the park and lounge around until early evening and then go home. Great memories.

yadkny@hotmail.com

Chrisbails said...

Love to do picnics with the kids. Love going camping also. Love walking the trails. Love sunday driving with no place in mind to go. Love lazy sunday afternoons.
christinebails@yahoo.com

erin said...

Thanks for a fun post and giveaway! Your piece of the world is lovely! I live literally in the middle of the US and all we have is cornfields so a drive is a bit boring. My city is pretty large so there is a lot to do, I'm just lazy. My idea of a relaxing Sunday is a good, long walk in the morning with my puppies and then an afternoon sitting in my fav recliner w/ a good book and a now tired dog in my lap ;)

Annie West said...

Hi Melanie,

How are you? You mentioned the magic words: 'tea rooms'! I loved them, especially in cooler weather. I love sheltering in a quaint tea room somewhere, preferably one that has books on sale while it's wet or foggy outdoors. Just perfect!
I hope you enjoy Undone when you get it. I'm way behind with my reading but telling myself I'll catch up at the end of this book...

Annie West said...

Hi there!

I love the idea of a town drive instead of a country drive on a Sunday. I'd never thought of that but it makes such sense if you're not in town. People watching is always a great way to pass an afternoon, and of course a picnic just adds to the fun. They do sound like great memories.

Annie West said...

Hi Chris,

It sounds like picnics and camping are popular. As for walking trails, that's a have of mine. In fact the setting for UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH was inspired by walks in the gorgeous Blue Mountains of Australia. It's a shame there aren't more lazy Sundays to enjoy!

Annie West said...

Hi Erin,

Thank you. I think it's a lovely area, especially now when we've had rain and there's some green. You must notice a huge difference in your scenery depending on whether you've got crops growing or whether they've all been harvested - I'd imagine it would change the look of the place a lot. Oh, I do like the sound of sitting in a recliner with a good book and a tired dog!

Eli Yanti said...

i'm prefer stay at home and again reading my pile of book and sometimes online fb, twitter to chat with my friend, what book they read and see post they review of book they had read. And today actually i will go with my friend but i got a sick (woman montly's sick), really hate it and i cant go and stay at home reading book and visit this blog and show your post and congrats Annie :)

Annie West said...

Hi Eli,

You have my sympathy. It's hard to get enthusiastic about going out for a drive when you feel unwell. I hope you have a marvellous day instead, at home with your books and your computer. That sounds like a terrific pan.

Annie West said...

Argh - I just lost my post!

Thank you everyone who stopped by for a chat about Sunday drives. I've had a lovely time here with you. I've drawn a random winner from all the comments posted. And the winner is...DI! CONGRATULATIONS, DI. If you email me at annie(at)annie-west(dot) com with your postal address I'll send on a copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH.

Carol L. said...

Hi Annie,
Loved your post and pictures. Growing up we always went for Sunday drives with Mom and Dad. We would picnic and laze around the lake or mountains and then we'd drive and look at all the scenery. I'm a grandma so many times over now and I still love those Sunday drives. But we drive to a Historical Village an hour away and visit all the Antique stores and restaurant/tea rooms they have.I love looking back on the past and touching the things that have been around longer then I have. :)
Carol L
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

Carole said...

Very nice post. The Hunter Valley is on My Travel Bucket List