Day one of the #GreatAustralianWineAdventure. You’ve just arrived on the 5.00am flight from London, how do you fill your first day? Visit the most exclusive wine bars? Eat at the best restaurants? Buy the worst souvenirs? Absolutely not. Here are six much more interesting but much more unusual things to do. Mostly beginning with the letter B.
1. Buy Boots. Specifically, buy Red Back boots. It may be an urban (well, I suppose “rural”) myth, but I’m sure a winemaker told me they won’t let you in Australian vineyards without high-sided boots. “Snakes and spiders” was the explanation, although I may have made that up. Either way, it’s an excellent excuse to buy a practical and comfortable Aussie classic.
Why Redbacks, and not Blundstones? Well this I do remember. They’re 100% Australian owned and made. Unlike Blundstones which come from China, India, Vietnam and Mexico. Australians love homegrown things. Your clumpy footwear will attract admiring glances from the winemakers you meet once you head out of town.
Where to buy them? Lots of places. But I particularly recommend workwear shops. Especially this one if only for the name.
2. Bob along from Brontë to Bondi Beach. It’s a bracing seafront walk and will keep you awake. Watch the surfers, marvel at the sunbathers (I’m here in winter and they’re still at it) and meander through the ornate graves at the huge cemetery overlooking Brontë Bay.
When you arrive in Bondi, you can have fish & chips on the front. Or for the more metropolitan, go to the excellent Birichina Bondi for hole-in-the-wall coffee and sandwiches.
3. Bottle shop for something bizarre. The Australian Wine Centre on Pitt Street is a great place to find a less-well-known bottle of wine.
Michael Frost in the store is an enthusiast for all the wines you DON’T know. He casts a sweeping arm across shelves filled with old vintages of Grange and Hill of Grace saying “we have all these wines... and there’s a market for them” before turning to a Western Australian Fiano and King Valley Tempranillo and saying “...but what we really like is introducing people to these more exciting discoveries.” Visit him en route to...
4. Be a tourist. Youre thinking “this isn’t unusual or bizarre... this is what EVERYONE does”. But then you weren’t going to do it because you thought it would be a bit naff. Well stop it. You’re in Sydney. There are 5000 other people doing the same thing and you know you want to. Stop pretending you’re an “independent traveller” and above this sort of thing. Get your selfie stick out and start clicking.
5. Get into containers. How did your last bottle of Australian wine get to you? If you’re not in Australia it almost certainly came in a container. And “Container: the box that changed the world” is a surprisingly fascinating series of exhibits (in containers) about containers. I can see I’m not winning you over. Seriously, just go. It’s in Darling Harbour.
6. Do NOT feed Kenny the Beagle. In fairness you are unlikely to bump into this legend, as he lives in a quiet street in the suburbs. But Kenny has already become an internet star several times over thanks to his “feed me” face and “don’t feed me” sign.
Every morning Kenny sits on his porch and trots our to greet every passing visitor. And hopes for a snack from each one. But ever since this sign appeared, life had been a long disappointment for Kenny. Poor fella.
Coming tomorrow... Day Two: The Hunter Valley