Hot Chocolate at The Farm Café (Collingwood Children’s Farm), Melbourne, Australia

IMG_4412

I remember once hearing about a survey that was conducted in the US that showed that few kids knew where milk came from. Whether that story is true or an urban myth who knows, but I suspect there is a little truth in that. If you’ve never seen a cow being milked, or a real cow for that matter, how could you know?

In Melbourne Australia, I suspect it’s a little different, as kids there can bring their parents to see how to milk a cow (her name is Heather) every day at 10am and 4pm at Collingwood Children’s Farm right near the centre of the city.   Located on a bend in the beautiful Yarra River are seven hectares of paddocks, gardens, orchards, shady trees and, of course, animals. Established in 1979 the farm is a not-for-profit community space where visitors can wander around, feed animals, help with farm chores if they like, walk into the paddocks with the sheep and goats, feed the chickens or just watch the wind sway the river gums and silver wattle trees along the river banks.

IMG_4362

IMG_4372

IMG_4373

IMG_4381

The farm puts a major focus on biodiversity and sustainable farm management, using organic methods of pest and weed control and using a lot of indigenous plants. The Farm produces a wide range of food for the animals and also sells to us humans at their weekly Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market attracts 70 other producers from across the state. They also have a large space dedicated as a community garden where several dozen small plots are filled with a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.

There are, of course, also the animals. There is shy Mickie the donkey and his best friend Joe the pony. Charlie, Brandy, Zac, Ted, Tyson and Harry are all horses. Then there are the pigs Typhoon, Greta, Maybelle and Myrtle. There are too many goats, sheep to introduce them all and same goes for the multiple breeds of ducks, chickens. If you are lucky you might see Maggie, Toki, Pebbles, Oompala or Mash the cats hunting for mice. The farm also has its own bee hives (honey sold regularly at the Farmer’s market) and two varieties of earthworms that are sold to the public for their home gardens or as pets if desired. Oh and I almost forgot you can get guinea pig cuddles every day from 11.45-12.15 because we all know that everyone needs a good guinea pig cuddle every once in a while.

After milking cows, guinea pig cuddles, wandering around and petting the animals, take a break by sitting on one of the numerous wooden tables of The Farm Café. Immersed in the middle of everything here you feel like you couldn’t be further away from the city if you tried. The space is beautiful, so beautiful in fact it is regularly used for receptions and even wedding ceremonies. The food is beautiful too and takes cues from the farm while being very modern, creamy goat’s curb, house beetroot relish, avocado, poached egg and herbs on toast with a side of bacon, french toast with strawberry and mint salad, maple syrup and vanilla labneh. Oh and of course, a hot chocolate.

IMG_4403

IMG_4405

IMG_4409We grabbed a table between the main café and the chickens. The resident peacock walked by, like he owned the place, followed by half a dozen toddlers and their parents trying to make sure the toddlers didn’t get too close. If it hadn’t been so darn hot outside today I would have really liked my hot chocolate. Made using Schulz Organic Milk (the Farm Café sources from several local organic producers) it was simple but very enjoyable.

You can easily turn your day at the farm into a full day. A morning at the farm (starting with a hot chocolate), lunch at farm café. When you have had enough of the chickens, just outside the front entrance to the farm is Abbotsford Convent, an equally fantastic place (I’ll be back soon to find a hot chocolate there and review it separately) with live music, galleries, outdoor cinema and a really good organic pay as you feel restaurant.

IMG_4413

IMG_4421

IMG_4426
IMG_4431

IMG_4430

Verdict: Come here just for the café or take the time to also take a wander around the farm. I’m planning a trip back to order that goat cheese toast.  The Farm Café and Collingwood Children’s Farm, 18 St Helliers St, Abbotsford, Melbourne, Australia

 

February 27th, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Melbourne, Victoria|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate with the Koalas, Paynesville, Australia

IMG_0219

Paynesville is a pretty little town with really nice harbour and like most coastal towns the population swells in summer with holiday makers then lays almost dormant all winter long. Being the middle of summer Paynesville was very busy. The car parks were filled with cars, the boardwalk packed with people and the docking areas busy with boats. We had some really good fish and chips along the main street (a couple of times), an incredible vanilla slice, and one shop was so popular that we had to wait almost an hour for our food. But the real reason we visited was to see the koalas.

Yes koalas, those little cute teddy bear like animals that are only found in Australia and almost always on trees (or as roadkill on the side of the road as Rich says…terrible.) It usually isn’t easy to spot koalas in the wild which is why there are so many koala sanctuaries you can visit to see them up close and personal. But Raymond Island, situated right next to Paynesville, is full of them.

IMG_0211

IMG_0212

IMG_0215

From the main street in Paynesville you can catch a ferry (free for pedestrians) across to Raymond Island (only about 5 minutes away). Once off the ferry you then follow the little koala footsteps painted on the ground to get to the start of the Koala Walk. This 1.2km walk created by local inhabitants, brings visitors on a very pleasant walk through the leafy residential neighborhood on the island that many Koalas call home. Walk looking up into the trees and you are bound to see your first Koala within minutes. On the full walk we saw about 20 without even trying, along with an echidna hanging out digging for ants on someone’s front lawn.

There are about 300 Koalas on the small island today, a number which is actively monitored to ensure it’s sustainable, as well as about 500 people living on the island. There are signs that clearly mark the trail and provide additional information about koalas.

IMG_4193

IMG_0198

IMG_0206

IMG_0208

IMG_0209
IMG_4203

When we returned to the mainland I did what I sometimes do, but most often regret doing in order to share with you fantastic places to see, I ordered a hot chocolate from a random café. Sometimes this works brilliantly and I discover new unexpected gems. But sometimes it backfires, which unfortunately was the case this time. I was travelling in a group with 7 adults who all desperately wanted a coffee fix, so we chose the café that looked most likely to have decent coffee. I had a sip of my hot chocolate, took a picture and threw it out. It was something hot chocolate like but not convincing enough for me to finish.

I also don’t often say this on this blog but where I wished I had gone for my hot chocolate was a little further down the street at Kelley’s Tea Parlor.  By the time I got here I just couldn’t stand the thought of having another bad hot chocolate so I didn’t order anything but had plenty of time to enjoy the café while others did and by the end of our time there wish I had. The Tea Parlor used to be a flower shop but now is a colourful tea parlour. Because of her location away from the main street she doesn’t get as many people, especially in the quiet winter months, so she is thinking of selling and then opening a pop up tea room every summer. If she does I plan to visit and encourage you to as well because her current tea room is a magical place.

IMG_4214

IMG_0224

IMG_4212

Verdict: I’ll say it, my hot chocolate was at Captovation so if you are a hot chocolate lover I might think twice. But if you happen to be over that way I highly recommend the little side trip to Paynesville to visit Kelley’s Tea Parlor and as an added bonus, they have real koalas in trees just across the water on Raymond Island, doing real koala things. Fantastic.   Paynesville, Victoria, Australia

February 23rd, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Paynesville, Victoria|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club, Anglesea, Australia

IMG_4183

One of the reasons I had a baby (of course there are a lot of other, perhaps more important reasons too, but still) was so that I could sign him or her (in this case a him) up for nippers. I would first need to live near a beach which isn’t too hard in Australia since there are 25,760 km of coastline (Canada has the longest coastline, 244,781 km, but who would ever want to swim in any of it…). I’d have to move to Australia first of course. I’d also have to wait a few years for baby boy to get big enough to join. Details. The point is I’m a fan of the little nippers programme which in Australia is over 62,866 kids between 5 and 13 years old who regularly meet on the beach to learn how to swim, body board, dolphin-dive, spot a rip and general water safety. They wear little caps and run up and down the beach while their parents socialize in the background and eat egg and bacon rolls (my favourite part of this whole scenario), oh and drink hot chocolate.

IMG_4159

IMG_4161

IMG_4169

Nippers programmes are run by local Surf Life Saving Clubs of which there are hundreds across the country. These clubs also have buildings on the beach, not surprisingly with incredible views, often with a restaurant and/or café/bar. The view at the Angelsea Surf Life Saving Club is so beautiful the friends that we were visiting had their wedding ceremony here.

Each Surf Live Saving Club has its own rich history. This one was first formed in 1929 but closed in 1931 with attempts to restart the club failing. A dramatic surf ski rescue by June Baker in November 1951 of three people in rough seas was the catalyst to the founding of the current Angelsea Surf Life Saving Club in 1952. The club took on the colours green and white so the little caps the members use when swimming use are white with bottle green hoops on either side.

In the café I sat next to the beautiful Caitlin who just a few minutes before had made me this colourful bracelet using a kit of beads she got for Christmas. She ordered a bubba cino, a small cup of warm milk served with a marshmellow and sprinkles.  My hot chocolate ($4) was equally colourful. It was a nice hot chocolate for watching the waves and spending time with old friends.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.52.23

IMG_4172

IMG_4175
Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.52.33
IMG_4189

 

Verdict: Surf Life Saving clubs also have programmes for older kids and adults of all ages…and they all get to wear the little hats and eat egg and bacon rolls after. Bonus. Angelsea Surf Life Saving Club and the deck café & Bar, 100 Great Ocean Road, Angelsea, Australia


 

 

The Deck Cafe on Urbanspoon

February 16th, 2015|Anglesea, AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Victoria|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at the Geelong Boat House, Geelong, Australia

IMG_4132

I hear about Geelong constantly at home because my husband is a supporter of the Geelong Football Club (the greatest Australian Rules Football team of all apparently). I half expected the whole town to be painted white and blue (it isn’t).

While passing through on the way down to Anglesea, we headed straight to the waterfront to the Geelong Boat House to grab some lunch, which is located in a 100 year old barge right on the water and opened in 2012. It has all the fish and chip options you would expect. Blue grenadier, whiting, calamari rings, lemon pepper squid, dim sims, big boxes of freshly fried chips with lots of salt. It filled the spot

IMG_4134

IMG_4131

The weather was perfect not just for fish and chips, but for a hot chocolate too. Even though it was the middle of summer in Australia, it was cold out, so cold, and windy, and raining, and even though we were sitting in a covered area, because it was covered in clear plastic you still felt like you were outside, in the cold. My little hot chocolate appeared in a take away cup and was … sad. Did I say it was sad? It tasted like water with something in it. It did smell like chocolate, it smelt ok actually. So I closed my eyes, used the water from the thin paper cup to warm my hands and took a few breaths in and then threw it out.

IMG_4138

IMG_4140

IMG_4143

IMG_4144

IMG_4145

The rain thankfully stopped just as we finished up so we took a quick walk along the waterfront. The sidewalk is lined with all sort of interesting wooden figures, 103 in all, that feature iconic Geelong characters painted by local artist Jan Mitchell. The wooden pylons used were recovered from the Yarra Street Pier which was destroyed by fire in the 1980’s and later removed. The pylons represent characters that played a part in Geelong’s history, from the original indigenous inhabitants to more contemporary characters. These include a handful of swimmers representing the Western Beach Sea Bathing Company, some pretty bathing beauties from the 1930s, captain of the steamship S.S. Edina, glamorous musical comedy start Carrie Moor born in 1882 and many many others. We only saw a handful of them but the full walk along the waterfront to visit them all takes about 2 hours and seems like it would be well worth the time (on a warmer day).

IMG_4150

IMG_4151

IMG_4153

IMG_4154

IMG_4156

IMG_4139

Verdict: Awful hot chocolate, good fish and chips, but save as much time as you can to walk along the waterfront and take selfies with the ballards. On a sunny day the upper deck the Geelong Boat House looks like it would be a great place to enjoy lunch. Geelong Boat House, Geelong, Australia
The Geelong Boat House on Urbanspoon

 

February 13th, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Geelong, Victoria|0 Comments