Tag Archives: tourism

The Recovering Teetotaller: Gotta love a free wine tour

Last year my friend Annie and I won a D-vine wine tour of the Swan Valley. Last month we took our tour.

I’m not a big drinker. In fact, in my 32 years on this earth I have only ever been drunk twice. Still, free wine is free wine, so I was quite willing to make it a hat trick this time.

It was a private tour of just Annie and I being chauffeur driven by our tour guide, David.

Now, regular readers of my blog will know that I always walk as though I have just consumed an entire bottle of vodka. So, I decided to take my wheelchair along with me. I thought it unlikely that copious amounts of alcohol would actually make me walk straight. Turns out I was right. Bugger!

I felt guilty about bringing it along as I cannot push myself and thus, Annie would get stuck with the job. I also feared what the ride would be like after she had a few drinks (only joking Annie). As it turned out I needn’t have worried. David did all the hard work (One of the many perks of a private tour).

Our first stop was Windy Creek Estate for cheese and wine tasting. We decided to sample their array of white wines. And, for a while there I almost looked as though I knew what I was doing. I nodded knowledgeably when the lady explained the characteristics of each one and remembered to sniff and swirl the wine around a bit (I’m sure I saw someone do that on TV once) before taking a sip.

Then we were asked if we would like to sample a dry white wine. This is where my facade came tumbling down.

“How can it be dry?” I said. “it’s liquid.” Poor Annie almost choked with laughter and the lady said, “You don’t drink very often, do you?” Dammit, I was doing so well.

For the record, Google tells me that a wine is considered dry when all the grape sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation.

With my tail between my legs it was on to Houghton Winery for more wine tasting. But this time I was going to keep my mouth shut. I did learn something though, I like liqueur. I like liqueur a lot. I even bought myself a bottle which I had intended to take to my parents, but that somehow had never made it there.

Lucky for us it was a beautiful winter’s day so with the help of David we went for a quick walk around the grounds. It was so pretty. If you’re ever in the area it’s definitely worth seeing.

With my newly acquired bottle of liqueur and a very light head (we had probably sampled about 20 wines by then), it was off to Jane Brooke for more wine tasting and (thankfully) lunch.

This time I recognised the dry wine. However, it was a sweet rose that I chose to accompany my delicious antipasto meal with the yummiest gluten-free bread I think I’ve ever tasted! Took me ages to eat it though. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 6 months so Annie and I spent most of the time talking. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows us…

This, sadly, was where my alcoholic journey came to an end as our third stop, Elmar’s in the Valley, had no gluten-free beer for me to taste. They did offer to make me a cocktail instead, but I decided it would be better to stick to my regular tipple… Coca-Cola. I did get to experience their live music though, which was cool.

Finally, we found ourselves at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Of course, the chocolates were delicious (especially the free samples) But, as it was smack bang in the middle of school holidays, the place was packed and we decided to buy our souvenirs and make a quick getaway. I bought some dark chocolate Rocky Road for anyone who is wondering

By the end of the tour I was still a bit light-headed and very, very giggly. Although still completely coherent (I think). I am definitely keen to do that again. Annie is a fantastic drinking buddy!

* I should add here that although I have done a lot of namedropping in this blog, none of the companies mentioned have had anything to do with the comments.



Nina does Rottnest

How is it that I have been to all the Australian capital cities (some more than once), travelled extensively throughout Tasmania (if you haven’t been there you must go!), toured my way around Italy/Sicily and been to Canada (again a must if you haven’t been there yet). But in my 31 years of existence I have never been to Rottnest (a major tourist drawcard) despite having lived in Western Australia for my entire life?


I’ve even been to the “big” banana in Carnarvon (the lamest tourist attraction ever) before going there. By the way, for those of you who may think that Australia only has one tribute to our favourite potassium-filled fruit, the one in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, you are wrong. Western Australia has one too. If you’re really bored, you can Google it and then you’ll see why it doesn’t get much attention.


For those of you who don’t know, Rottnest is a small island off Perth that is surrounded by pristine white sandy beaches and is the home of the quokka (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo). I had never seen one of these notoriously cute marsupials before and as it is almost a rite of passage for Western Australians, I was eager to see one. So, using my birthday as the excuse I finally got there last week.


After disembarking the ferry from Fremantle and being on dry land for just a few minutes I met my first quokka, and my second, and my third and my…you get the idea. The place was teaming with them. It became clear that it would have been more noteworthy not to have seen one. It was cuteness overload! Strange then, that the island was named Rottnest (Dutch for “Rat’s Nest”) because the European explorers thought that the quokkas looked like giant rats.


We (Mum, Dad, Geoff and I) did all the touristy things. We went to the old churches, the cemetery and did a tour on both a bus and a train which took us to all the notable sites around the island. Including the Wadjemup Lighthouse, the tallest one on Rottnest. We saw the cannons used to protect the Fremantle port from the enemy during the Second World War and I saw the projectiles they could fire which were nearly as tall and wide as I am.


It was beautiful and very interesting but not what I would classify as exciting. Other than being pushed around in my collapsible wheelchair (I can walk but I’m not built for speed) at break-neck speed by my brother that is. That was fun.


While lining up for the ferry to go home I got chatting with a guy who had just arrived. He was on the same “make disability cool” crusade that I am on and had come to Rottnest to check out how accessible the island is for people with disabilities. We were deep in a very engaging conversation when my Ferry began boarding and sadly, we didn’t get a chance to exchange details which was a bit disappointing. With that said I have read the book “He’s just not that into you” and I am sure if he wanted my number he would have asked for it. Oh well.


After the events of my birthday for which I had been doing a daily countdown and the aerobatics flight I had done 4 days earlier, I felt a bit deflated.


Then there was “Titanic: The Exhibition”…


Armed with a boarding pass containing the name and details of a real passenger (mine was 18-year-old First Class passenger Jean Gertrude Hippach for those of you playing along at home), I walked up the gangplank and into a first class corridor that smelt like fresh paint and had the plushest carpet I had ever walked on.


From there I entered the display showing the setup of first, second and third class cabins, the difference in which is massive. As I approached the opulent first class set up the scene sprang to life behind what I thought was a giant motion activated video screen where the “unsinkable” Molly Brown was sitting in her suite drinking tea. Molly chatted away to no-one in particular and then suddenly got up from her chair, walked toward the edge of the display and right out of it, brushing past me in search of the Captain who just happened to be walking past. It startled the hell out of me!


With her now gone, I moved onto the foyer with the grand staircase and domed glass ceiling just like the movie, walked through the boiler room and along the starlit deck before coming to an iceberg that you could actually touch.


Although there were stories of notable passengers on display throughout the exhibition it wasn’t until this point that the actual sinking of the Titanic was fully addressed. You learnt about the efforts made by the crew to try and attract help. The desperation of those trying to gain access to a life boat or the bravery of those who gave up their place to save others and the professionalism of the band who went right on playing throughout it all. Then you get to a board listing each of the people on board and what became of them after the sinking. It really gave me a sense of them being real people and not just people who existed way before I was even thought of.


Thankfully Jean did survive but the 35-year-old First Class passenger my Mum had, and the 25-year-old Third Class passenger assigned to my Dad, both perished. Here I was moping because my fun was not adrenaline-inducing enough and these three, who I assume were looking forward to a pleasant and uneventful journey to America got far more of an adrenaline rush than they bargained for.


Perhaps I don’t need any more adrenaline after all.


Oh who am I kidding? Yes, I do!