Time away with friends is precious. A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to spend three whole nights and four, yes four, days away with some long time girlfriends. One of these gorgeous women has a mum-in-law with a beautiful 100 acre property outside of Bathurst in the NSW countryside in Rock Forest. We have been lucky enough to visit there before and were excited to get the chance to go there once again.
We travelled up on the Thursday, kidlets tucked safely away in school. Us womenfolk giddy with freedom and hedonistic joy, crammed ourselves into a car and headed up towards the Blue Mountains. There may have been whooping, I cannot deny or confirm that.
First stop is Leura, a delightful Blue Mountains town. We wandered happily through craft, homeware and vintage shops. Lunch was at the Red Door Cafe where we ate a superb salmon fillet with crispy skin, preserved lemon, capers, nut butter sauce on a bed of mash. People, this dish was the bees knees. A yummy goats cheese tart with rocket, balsamic and caramelised onion was also consumed without complaint. Then, a few groceries were purchased and we piled back in the car.
Before we knew it we had arrived. The gate is opened and we drive onto this rocky and glorious landscape. (This area ain’t called Rock Forest for nowt.) We organise ourselves with military precision and a brisk walk up the driveway settles down the crazy car leg spasms we have all contracted.
The inaugural fire is built by our very own talented fire starter. This spacious log mansion has a spectacular open fireplace and a mantlepiece that is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Fizzy wine is popped, whilst cheese and bikkie snackles hit the spot. Yes, we now know we are on holiday.
Cold, cold country nights with clear sparkling skies. The night song of the river rocks me to sleep and is a salve to my citified soul.
Friday morning we ventured into Bathurst town to the divine Legall Patisserie once more, where toffee choux and other assorted delights were the order of the day. We ate patisserie for our breakfast, oh yeah. A quick squiz at the well cool Keppel Street shops, then a takeaway Fish River coffee from the Hub and back to the farm for some more hard work chilling out. Lunch was silky scrambled eggs and crunchy bacon with a side serving of tomatoes and mushrooms. Why? Because we can have breakfast for lunch if we damn well please.
Shadow sister figures on rocks, movies that made us cry until our insides hurt and caused eyes to swell up like stepped on puffer fish. We revel in this time to be just ourselves without being mums, wives or employees. We are not ungrateful for these roles but it’s good to feel the form of ‘just yourself’ once again.
Rocks in the shape of particular body parts that made us guffaw our way back down the hill. Our raucousness causes kangaroos to jump and sheep looked at us askance as they once again followed each other (as sheep will do) away from the insanity of five women laughing like their lives might just depend upon it.
Cliff the alpaca stood his ground and guarded the sheep because his life might very well depend upon it.
Steaming hot bowls of slow cooked Chilli Con Carne for dinner shore us up until the next feed. And who knew that it also makes a great breakfast dish on toast?
This trip is free from animal attack. On a previous trip a
baby giant bat flew into the hair of one of our number in a vicious nighttime attack. It’s hard to explain the horror of being awoken by a high pitched squeak and a rustle across the top of your head. The brave woman valiantly fought off this flying rat with wings but vowed never to sleep in that particular bedroom again. To this very day, she never has.
Reading books that have been greedily hoarded for this occasion in the sweet knowledge and safety that there is no ‘Mum, Mum…I need, want, would like…’ The sunny, funny days warmed every vertebrae in our spines as we sat and read on grassy knolls overlooking the Macquarie River. The temperature at night dropped into the minuses but winter weight doonas soothed and lulled us into a satiated slumber. (As did a good side serving of nougat, chocolate and the odd glass of wine.)
Homemade chicken soup made by one of us, really is good for the soul. Friendship with these women isn’t always about seeing eye to eye. The longer we know each other we sometimes speak truths that are softened by good food and the solid love that underpins these conversations. The sounds of the crackling fire is the only musical backdrop we need on this long, lazy weekend.
Naturally, all good things must come to an end and as my wise mother always says, you can’t come back if you don’t leave. The blow of going home is softened by a lunch visit to the Apple Bar in Bilpin. We had booked weeks in advance to ensure we got a table. The food here floats our boats. A glass of Pinot Gris from Orange sets the tone, as does the glow from the fireplace.
This simple, rustic restaurant has an eclectic group of diners ranging from our sweet selves to inner city hipsters, from country folk to grey nomad travellers passing by. Choices are made from a menu overflowing with good sounding tucker. This Cheergerm gobbles down an amazing wood grilled pork loin cutlet with Patomaki’s messmate honey, black pepper, garlic, soya glaze, avocado salad with chips. I kid you not, this was the best darned pork I have eaten in years. Juicy and tender with a sweet spicy glaze. The assumption is that Patomaki’s messmate honey is a honey from bees that hang out near eucalypts but whatever it’s story, it tastes darned good.
Other dishes included a glorious woodgrilled salmon fillet with Lombok ‘Honeymoon’ sauce and a tasty version of fish and chips using lightly battered mirror dory.
The good news is that I married my dessert and we are now living happily together in a two bedroom bedsit in the inner city. Churros with a caramel mou and Belgian chocolate ice cream. Crunchy batons of deep fried batter with a melting interior accompanied by a fancy caramel sauce with hints of salt. The chocolate ice cream is to die for, it’s bitter undertones the perfect foil to the richness of the sauce. Other desserts tasted were a decent caramelised upside down orange and poppy seed cake and a rather wonderful gluten free local raspberry, coconut, white chocolate and almond clafoutis. (Try saying that five times quickly.)
Satiated we said adios to the Apple Bar and continued on our merry way back to the bosoms of our beloved families, who were waiting with bated breath for our return. (Hello, I’m home….hello…anyone here?)
Goodbye dear shadow sisters, until next years trip.