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Trip Report So much good wine, so little time; South Australia's Limestone Coast

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After much debating about how best to utilize a coveted week of vacation (in the dead of the Australian winter no less), our little family of two finally agreed to return to South Australia. We’d thoroughly enjoyed a trip to SA in 2009, and while there we’d heard references to the Coonawarra, one of Australia’s finest wine regions.

Once we settled on which state to visit, it seemed only sensible that two enthusiastic wine drinkers investigate this cold climate wine region and its mysterious terra rossa soil.

The next hurdle was arranging flights. Living in the forgotten land of Western Australia, our airline choices are rather limited. Attempting to book the only daily flight to Adelaide on Jetstar drove us to utter teeth-clenching, hair-pulling despair. Just when we thought we were making progress, we were led to another inane choice with yet another fee...Starter Fare, Plus Bundle or Max Bundle? Oh, you want to take luggage? That’ll be another $18.50 for 15 kg, $20.20 for 20 kg, $27 for 25 kg, blah, blah, blah. Oh you want an assigned seat? That little convenience will be another $. The process was so infuriating that my usually sedate spouse came very close to cancelling the trip altogether. Instead, we slept on it, got back online the next day and booked with Virgin Australia instead. Best idea ever. Take that Jetstar.

Our VA flights were about $400 each round trip; same price as Jetstar, but without the considerable hassle factor. The quoted fare included those frivolous little extras like checked luggage and assigned seats. Dealing with VA was a breath of fresh air.

Then came the hard bit, crawling out of bed at 3 am, fingers crossed that our pre-booked taxi would actually turn up at our door at 4 am. It did! We were checked in at Terminal Three of the Perth Airport drinking coffee and nibbling on a weird doughy bagel by 4:35 am. As the Aussies say, “too easy”.

For those who’ve never had the pleasure of flying domestically within Australia let me tell you, it’s a wonderful thing. One only need arrive 30 minutes prior to check in for most flights; there are actual people at the check-in counters (!) and security is a breeze. Want to take that 1.5 liter bottle of water? No worries, just pass it through the scanner with your cabin bag. Want to keep your shoes and belt on? No worries, no stripping necessary. Want to maintain ownership of that tissue and wad of lint in your pocket? It’s all yours. For us travel worn Americans accustomed to being bullied by TSA, it was very civilized indeed.

Our 5:40 am flight to Adelaide left on time – nice new 737, friendly crew, mercifully turbulence-free. Because the plane was only half full, they’d left the middle seats empty, nice touch. It took just under three hours and a weird 90 minute time change to reach Adelaide. VA is our new friend.

We were on the road by 10:30 am in our little red Ford Focus, booked with Thrifty through Vroom, Vroom, Vroom - $312 for nine days. I’m not known for my navigating skills, but I managed to get us from the airport to Hahndorf without too much drama. We celebrated our success at Chocolate @ No 5, a little slice of heaven we discovered in 2009 and have dreamt about ever since. This unassuming little chocolate café (yes, an entire café dedicated to chocolate, what’s not to love?) has the best hot chocolate either one of us has ever had, full stop. Sipping a mug of their decadent liquid chocolate is a near religious experience. (I’m almost embarrassed to admit that we visited them four times during our stay, and consumed roughly two million calories each).

After dessert we sought out lunch, ending up at The Haus for no other reason than their vast menu of German grub looked promising. We shared a plate of wurst, washed down with some lovely German wheat beer ($52).

We poked through kitschy Hahndorf for awhile (Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement), surprised at how busy it was at 1 pm on a Friday afternoon. As we mulled over the olive choices at the IGA deli, the young man working the counter offered us a taste of a particular olive. I turned to my husband and said,’ yeah, taste it’, wherein the young man popped the olive into his mouth and proclaimed it good. It didn’t dawn on him what he’d done; so we just smiled, selected some of the olives he’d approved, and went on our way. Ah, youth.

http://hahndorfsa.org.au/

To be continued...

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