The Retirees visit Bungendore for the Meeting of Tribes

Bungendore is a dormitory village outside Canberra in the Queanbeyan district first settled by Europeans in 1837. It is now home to 4,000 plus people and has many of its earlier buildings under heritage protection. These buildings give it the charm of history and a rural past.

It is 37klms from Canberra and is surrounded by vineyards cattle and sheep. Kerry and I went there as a meeting of tribes to celebrate our second son’s wedding, welcome our new daughter in law and meet the many members of her family. They had chosen Bungendore as neutral territory and a pleasant village for the gathering of tribes.

We arrived in advance of the of the others and together with brother Greg and his partner Gillian we sought out two of the more pleasant of those vineyards with a welcoming cellar door. Well truth be told we went looking for a place for lunch and without doing any research selected Larks Hill Vineyard. We drove out into the hills surrounding Bungendore and found Larks Hill just off the highway hiding amongst the scrub. Some of the trees were in full flower and reminded me of the cherry trees in Orange  Whilst the others rushed the restaurant I scouted the cellar door. There were a number of other visitors so I went to join the others at the restaurant which is closed on Fridays. Go figure!

By the time we had reconciled our disappointment the cellar door had been evacuated, so we shuffled in. Greeted by an elderly silver haired lady, we sampled a number of wines (the dedicated driver abstaining of course) and finding a very good Sangiovese and Pinot Noir purchased one of each. The good lady of the Cellar door then guided us to one of the better “watering holes” for lunch – the Lake George Pub in Bungendore.

And very good it was. The girls enjoyed a Beetroot salad with pepitas and walnuts while the boys shared a pizza with jalapenos chilies adorning.

Now fortified we returned to the wine trail to search out Summer Hill Cellar Door. The evening was approaching and the weather was taking on the traits of springtime in Canberra – bloody chilly. We traveled the length of the Kings Highway and not a sign of the vineyard anywhere (because Greg had turned on his “maps” once we had past it) so once we hit the freeway out of Canberra we all knew we had missed it. (Kerry had forecast that it was in the other direction and there were plenty other signs that we had missed it all ignored of course) This time Google directed us to the door. The vineyard had changed name under new ownership which had confused us.

On arriving we noticed a group amongst the barren vines (just budding into life) seated with an array of wines in front of them and Mrs Winemaker spruking the virtues of their bottled produce. We joined the group for the wine tasting in the vineyard at Summer Hill. This was a first for us. In all of our wine travels we had not sat amongst the vines tasting the pleasures of the fruits. But for the cooling breezes, it was most enjoyable but sadly the wines were not as enjoyable as Larks Hill in my view.

The fading sun and chilling breezes of the late afternoon forecast our return to the motel in Bungendore. There is a twilight effect (as well as daylight saving) in Canberra at this time of year so we were able to walk through the two streets that made up the village before we chose the only café open for dinner that night – Café Woodwork. Interesting interior but my choice of meal was not the best and I suffered indigestion for the rest of the night.

Next morning – wedding day, we had a couple of hours before the wedding so we decided to take a drive to Braidwood another village about 1/2 hour away. It is a much bigger village with many more historic buildings but laid out in the traditional fashion – a main or high Street with residences behind the commercial strip. A veritable plethora of coffee shops and cafes lined “Main Street” but behind all that was the history of a rural town told in its buildings – the Literary Society building now the HQ for the area authority and library, the Courthouse with the Police station behind, the old hotels now converted to a new use and the theatre now a hall with the Saturday Farmers markets occupying it today. Across the road and down a lane is one of the earliest stone houses now accommodating a bakery and some of the old cinema chairs from across the road. Standing prominently at one end of the village is the Catholic Church. Like the cathedrals of Europe, it looks the most successful building (even though it is not adorned anywhere near the opulence of the European cathedrals).

Before leaving the village we drop into the converted CBC bank (Commercial Banking Co of Sydney). It is a bizarre collection of craft and fashion but in this jumble, I find the replacement for my credit card tool confiscated by Australian border security after surviving in my wallet throughout Europe.

Back to Bungendore to prepare for the Wedding. After a short kip we shower and dress, meet with Greg and Gill and walk to the ole Stone House. There are already guests milling around and soon the garden fills, the ceremony commences and in brilliant sunshine and a cooling spring breeze Adam and Fasheena become husband and wife. Tears of joy, photographs with family and the reception follow. A perfect start to their wedded life.

The day is concluded with dinner at Le Tres Bon and a very happy Adam is presented with the electric power saw I have carted from home so I don’t have to cart it back. I am one happy and proud dad.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.