We had a busy, busy weekend.  Judith, our friendly tour organizer, made sure we had a lovely place to stay for the weekend.  We were billeted with Doug and Bev, exchange teachers to Alaska 1993.  After a lovely 4.5 hour drive north, we were greeted with a lovely dinner of Boeuf Bourguignon, much better than my own recipe.  The next day we went over the border to NSW to visit a Botanical garden run by volunteers, among which Peter, a former teacher himself, who took us for a tractor train tour of the grounds.  The rose garden and the local flowers (Sturt Desert Pea) were a sight to see on a lovely sunny morning.
From there, we were off to the Trentham Estate Winery for a long lunch overlooking the Murray River.  I ate a meal of scallops on a sweet chili cream sauce with candied balsamic vinegar and jasmine rice.  I splurged on the bread and local olive oil since I was driving and couldn’t drink.  I had to compensate somehow!  Leon tried the Yabby mousse with a local salad.  Yabby looks like a small fresh water lobster.  It’s a big stronger in taste than lobster, but quite good. On the way back to Bev and Doug’s, I stopped at the local olive grove for some gourmet olive oil while Leon continued on with the men to a local footy game and a few beers. All weekend, I was conscious of marking and report cards that needed to be addressed.  So each day, I tried to sneak away for a few hours of work.  What a dull girl am I?
Dinner that night was at Doug and Bev’s – homebaked pizza in their new outdoor wood fired oven.  We ate and ate and ate!!!  A few glasses of local wine too.  Most of the guests were teachers, many of whom had been on an exchange at some point.  Leon held his own anyway.
Sunday was a quick shopping morning as I tried in vain to find some warm boots.  I gave up on that plan when only one store was open and started wearing 2 pairs of socks instead.  It’s amazing how cold the ground is, in spite of the 16C weather in the full sun.  From there we were off to Jane and Don’s on Kings Billabong for a lovely luncheon with yet more new friends.  Judith and Milton are former residents of Mildura, so they tried to visit as many of their friends as possible.
After a very long and delicious lunch (still driving, no drinking), I went back to the house for more marking while Leon went on a short visit of a local military museum and a quick tour of the city before it got dark.  Mildura was where 2 Ontario boys – the Chaffeys – came to install large irrigation pumps to permit modern farming in this fruit growing area.  So the town has a very Canadian feel to it with streets numbered like in Calgary and a waterfront reminiscent of Brockville, ON.  We didn’t get to visit the large pumps this time but you can only plan so much in one weekend.
Finally, on Sunday night, we met up at Peter and Margaret’s at their home for a lovely casserole dinner followed by cheese and assorted chocolates for dessert.  Yum!!!  Quiet conversation followed and Leon and I retired early for the night, knowing we had to leave right after breakfast the next day so I could get back to my planned school work.
On Monday, after a quick breakfast, we left Bev and Doug’s house, but not before picking a bag of fresh lemons from their yard.  Bev suggested I make a lemon meringue pie, which I know will please Earl immensely.
We are now back in Bendigo.  Leon has already left for a short trip to Sydney and Canberra accompanied by a Canadian friend.  The flight conditions have been odd here.  A volcano in South America is sending over ash clouds which has caused the grounding of several flights out of Melbourne and Tasmania.  Luckily, Leon was driving to Sydney today.  I anticipate he will have arrived by now.  Leon and his friend, Rob, are already planning to watch the 7th Stanley Cup game somewhere in Sydney.  Go Canucks, Go!!

sturt desert pea
Judith and me in the rose garden - Botanical Gardens Mildura
Murray river at Trentham Estate Winery
the mighty Murray river
lunch at Jane and Don's
dessert pizza made by Bev on the firewood pizza oven
lemon tree at Doug and Bev's - our hosts in Mildura
king's billabong - sort of like a large pond
Jane and Don's house for lunch on Sunday - on the billabong