Our Anniversary Weekend Away Our Anniversary Weekend Away

Matt's Story (the first part of our weekend):

Kirsten was searching on the Internet for places for us to go away to for our anniversary, and came across Ninderry Manor. What caught Kirsten's eye were two things: the breakfasts on the menu, and the 'Oriental Experiences' package that is offered. The former for obvious reasons (who doesn't like great food!?), and the latter because Kirsten knows I like just about everything to do with Japan. Kirsten booked us in and we eagerly awaited the day we would leave. Eventually, Friday came around (I had taken the day off work so that I could get everything ready, go and pick Kirsten up from work as soon as she finished work, and head straight off to the Manor) and soon we were on our way to a fantastic weekend. Ninderry is just a short drive from Yandina (Coolum and Noosa are also in the same general area) in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. We were worried we might not get there in time for dinner, but even with a petrol station stop and some pretty bad traffic in several places on the way, we still got there in just over two hours.

our bedroom at Ninderry Manor

The view from our bedroom window!

Ninderry Manor is run by a wonderfully friendly couple, Miyuki and Aki Kitabatake. Miyuki welcomed us and showed as around, introducing as to Aki on the way. We had a little bit of time until dinner so we sat in our room and looked at the wonderful view out over the mountains. We were scheduled to be out in the dining room around 6:00, so we came out a little early - and were asked by Miyuki to feed the kookaburras! In fact there were about four of them. And a couple of magpies, a crow, and a butcher bird. I had a little plastic container of finely chopped fish meat which I got some out of and threw to the birds. The kookaburras were particularly tame - I was able to go right up to them and they ate out of the container. Once that was over, it was inside for sunset cocktails (yum!) and nibbles (also yum!).

This also gave a chance to chat with the other couples who were staying there. One couple in particular we got talking to quite a bit - they were a young couple like us, he was a games developer working in the Valley, she was a primary school teacher. What is it about IT Guy/Primary School Teacher couples??? We seem to know a few...

This night was also our night to do our Japanese cooking lesson, which was included in part of the package. Aki took us through the process for making sushi (tuck, don't roll hard!), tempura, and beef teriyaki. All the dishes were suprisingly easy to make, however sushi making does require some skill in the application of the correct technique. Kirsten outdid me there (though I still can cut the rolls better!). Apparently we didn't do too badly - Aki was full of praise, and the other two couples who were dining in that night didn't complain either :) It was a delicious and filling meal - two kinds of sushi (shiitake mushroom and California rolls), tempura vegetables and prawns, beef teriyaki with salad, *and* ice-cream and sweet bean paste. Plus a bottle of wine that we brought with us. After all the food and wine, it was time for some well needed sleep.

Saturday was a fairly lazy day for us. Most of the time when people go away on holiday, they are so focused on doing *something* while they are away that they forget to *relax*. So we had a nice easy day. Starting off with with a big breakfast: watermelon juice with mint, toast and coffee! So filling - so very nice! As we were so full, we decided to just go back to our room and sit and admire the view while we read some of the books that were in the room. This was a pleasant experience in itself. After a while, breakfast had digested sufficiently that we felt like going for a swim. So we did. The pool also had a spa built in - which was very powerful. It was a nice way to cool off, but then somehow we felt a little hungry again, so we decided it was time for lunch. We didn't want to have too much, as we knew we would probably be having a big dinner again, so after drying off and getting changed, we hopped in the car and drove about 5 minutes to a restaurant called Picnic at the Rocks. We both decided upon crocodiles wantons for lunch. Neither of us had had crocodile meat before, but had been told that it was like a cross between chicken and fish. Well, I can confirm that, and I'd say chicken is the more dominant flavour. The wantons were very nice, and not too filling.

We headed back, as we were scheduled for a Japanese calligraphy lesson with Miyuki at 3:00. Our 'mirror' couple had also booked in for the lesson as well. First we had to make ink, and so about 5 minutes and many sore forearms later, we had ink. Next we had to choose what we wanted to write. Kirsten chose 'love', I picked 'friendship'. We all had a number of tries at writing our selected characters. I think we did OK for absolute beginners. After the lesson, we were both a bit tired, so we went and had a nap for a while before dinner.

At 6:00 it was sunset cocktails and nibbles again, much to our delight. As Aki had complete control over the kitchen this night, we had some time between cocktails and dinner, so we played one of the boardgames that were available with our newfound Ninderry friends (the IT/Teacher couple). Soon enough, it was time for dinner, and tonight it was French cuisine. For entree, salmon and salad; main course was steak in brandy cream sauce with vegetables; dessert was boysenberry ice cream with chocolate flakes and cherry brandy. We also took with us our bottle of '97 Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon that Nat bought us for our engagement present (thanks Nat, it was great!). Somehow we managed to make our way through all the fantastic food, and after dinner we retired to the blue lounge (there is also a yellow lounge) to watch Iron Chef (our friends also watched with us and got plenty of laughs from the dubbing and Chairman Kaga). Once it was over, we continued our boardgame from before. After losing to the other guys, none of were really tired yet, so we sat and chatted for a few hours over tea and coffee. Strangely enough, teaching seemed to be the dominant topic... :) It was almost midnight, and we decided to call it a night.

Sunday started with another tour-de-force culinary experience. Pineapple juice with mint; poached pear compote; cheese souffle with wavy bacon; and of course, toast, coffee and tea. We ate so much food during our stay, it's amazing we managed to eat it all! But we really had no choice, as it was all so delicious :)

And then it was time to go. We packed out bags, signed the guestbook, and were ready. Before we left, Aki took a Polaroid picture of us standing in front of the entrance to the Manor, which we were given as a nice reminder of our stay. To top it off, we got hugs and handshakes from Miyuki and Aki - I've never had that at a B&B before! We really felt welcome at Ninderry Manor, and we didn't want to leave. Miyuki and Aki, if you are reading this, thank you both so very much for helping to make our anniversary weekend away so wonderful! We're looking forward to coming back again :)

Kirsten's Story (the second part of our weekend)

After leaving Ninderry Manor, we drove to Kondalilla National Park to do some bushwalking. We stopped at a couple of lookouts along the way and stocked up on some water (and I'm glad we did - we needed it!) before arriving at the National Park.

We chose to walk the Kondalilla Falls circuit, a 4.6km track which took us from the car park, down to the rock pool at the beginning of the falls, then down to the base of the falls and back up again. So even though the track wasn't really that long, it was steep hills or steps the whole way, so was very tiring! It was definitely worth it though - the falls were beautiful and so was the view. It is always nice to walk in places like that where it is nice and shaded by trees and you can listen to (and see) the wildlife. We saw a couple of lizards but no snakes luckily! The only bad part was when I smacked headalong into an overhanging tree branch! I was so preoccupied with looking at where my feet were going on the very uneven ground, and my hat was down low, so I didn't see it. I smacked my forehead straight into it and fell over backwards. It wasn't very funny at the time to me but I can laugh about it now! I think I was more surpised than hurt, although I did have a bit of a headache for the rest of the walk. Luckily Matt was there to help me up, and he didn't even laugh at me even though I'm sure it was a funny sight!

After the walk I was in need of a sit down and a cold drink. We decided to have lunch at the Little Morgue Winery. I had heard about the place before and was intrigued by the idea - an old Morgue which has been turned in to a winery. The wine tasting bar was packed when we arrived so we sat down for lunch first. Unfortunately the whole place was being run by only two people - one at the bar being swamped by wine tasters, and the other having to waitress and cook the four tables having lunch. It took them a while to get our meal out but they were very friendly and apologetic, and they got us some cold water when we first sat down so I was happy to sit in the shade and drink that for a while! When our meals came out they were delicious! I had grilled prawns on jasmine rice with sweet-chilli cream sauce. YUM!

By the time we had finished eating lunch, there was no-one at the bar, so we were able to taste the wines in peace. And what wines they were! They were all really nice, but we liked the "Subtle Departure" - a wooded Semillon, which was quite ununual but really delicious, and the "Supreme Afterlife" Shiraz. I don't normally like Shiraz much, but this one was to die for. All the wines have similiarly themed names, which we thought were cool.

After the winery it was unfortunately time to go home. We had a fantastic weekend away, and like Matt said on his blog, we definitely want to go back again!