Roo crossing sign

We’ve been away for two weeks in a sunny, warm, and strange land, with hyper-friendly people, excellent wine, and exotic creatures and plants. Saw a giant ‘roo, I did, leaping over a fence on our friends’ farm/vineyard. We were in Lowden (near Donnybrook and Balingup), Western Australia, about three hours south of Perth. We just got back on Saturday; I’m a bit shocked at the transition back into winter, back into the Japanese language, and wondering what Banjo and Henry are doing (woof, woof).

Grenache leaf and view

Drank our friends’ wine (the 2007 Grenache) and got to see it finally bottled after some time in French oak. More to come on that.

Balingup gourmet

Ate a lot of really great cheese and grilled lamb and bread and olives and beetroot pickles and homemade jam. My face is flaming up with rosacea from all the meat and cheese and wine. Carlos is drinking cranberry juice and eating dried cherries in hope of avoiding a flare-up of The Gout. Worth it, all very much worth it. I hope to blather on about my first trip to Australia once I get all the laundry done and make my to do list for the week.

Totally off topic:

Today, we wandered up to Yokohama Chinatown hoping to eat at a great noodle place I know (a cut noodle place where they slice the bits off the dough right into the boiling water). It was closed, but we ended up at a Sichuan place called Kyokarou Honkan and ate stir-fried soybean shoots with garlic, “homestyle” spicy tofu (jia chang dou fu), and chicken with chilies (la zi ji—that amazing dish that always stuns me, the gorgeous red chilies, the crispy chicken, the Sichuan pepper). The Chinese food jones came from our being on a Fuschia Dunlop kick (we bought her Hunan and Sichuan cookbooks with some Christmas gift certificates). We needed some ingredients to get going on the Sichuan Home Cooking Experience and had a good time showing shopkeepers (some Japanese, some Chinese) my approximation of the characters for fermented black beans and ya cai (preserved mustard greens).

After that super lunch and shopping for Chinese ingredients, we came home to wander the streets of Taura looking for an open barbershop. Carlos needs a haircut after all that hard yakka of bottling wine and grilling meat and checking the marron traps in the dam. Two salons were too busy (people in all the chairs, getting perms), one beautician said she doesn’t cut men’s hair, one guy was in his shop, but apologized profusely that he was closed and that he was only there to do laundry (the place was piled high with white towels), and eight, no kidding, eight other barbershops—just in our little town—were all closed. From the barbershop signs, we’ve learned that “the third Monday of the month” is a bad day for a man to try to get a haircut in Taura. Just FYI.