ro­mance is alive

Travel Digest - - FRONT PAGE - Scott McRae is a writer, pro­ducer, pre­sen­ter and singer. www.scottm­

Most of the cou­ples I ask about trav­el­ling away with kids for a ro­man­tic break, ba­si­cally laugh in my face. You have to be kid­ding don’t you? You know they will be for­ever ask­ing to go and do things, that they are hun­gry, or bored! They will want you to be there at their side con­tin­u­ally. There won’t be a minute’s peace! Now hang on there, I do be­lieve it is pos­si­ble, but it will take some re­solve on your part, as you know kids can be ma­nip­u­la­tive even be­fore they know how to be. Most of you would be fa­mil­iar with the Hunter Val­ley re­gion of New South Wales – a com­fort­able three-hour drive from Wol­lon­gong and a slightly shorter trip from Syd­ney. The Hunter re­gion is of­ten fre­quented by groups on bucks and hen’s nights, end of sea­son sport­ing trips, boys on golf week­ends or the girls on wine and whine and spa ad­ven­tures – all great fun and the per­fect ex­cuse to get away from those ap­pendages and let you hair down. But what if mum or dad couldn’t help you out? What if Aunty Kel­lie was busy and couldn’t take the kids off your hands this time. What if the kids had al­ready alien­ated the next-door neigh­bours to break­ing point af­ter the latest footy through the win­dow in­ci­dent? What if you had to take ’em? I do be­lieve all is go­ing to be okay and I do be­lieve that you can still have some ro­mance even though you have your time anchors along for the ride. It’s all about bal­ance. Some me time, some you time and some us time. But you have to set the bound­aries and you have to be strong! The place I have cho­sen for you to make this all hap­pen is at The Mer­cure Re­sort Hunter Val­ley Gar­dens and there are many rea­sons for this choice. A lot of it has to do with where it is si­t­u­ated. Right in the heart of the Hunter, and within walk­ing dis­tance to many of the winer­ies, at­trac­tions and ser­vices that you will want to take ad­van­tage of – kids or no kids. The re­sort sits nicely on the cor­ner of Broke Road and McDon­alds Road, Pokol­bin and has 172 beau­ti­fully ap­pointed rooms of var­ied styles, with all the mod cons that you’d ex­pect from a Mer­cure ho­tel, in­clud­ing ca­ble tele­vi­sion, in­ter­net ac­cess, lux­u­ri­ous bed­ding, mini-bar and clean spa­cious bath­rooms. The re­sort sits amongst a lovely gar­den set­ting and has an on­site day spa, state-of-the-art gym­na­sium and a gor­geous Mediter­ranean pool area that has a nice lit­tle un­der­cover spa. It also has a charm­ing lounge and li­brary area that is equipped with games, books and all the daily pa­pers. The re­sort is home to one of the prime restau­rants in the Hunter Val­ley. With a name like The Hunter Val­ley Steak­house, the res­tau­rant ob­vi­ously fea­tures a great range of lo­cal grain-fed and pas­ture-fed beef, but that is not all that master chef Jean Marc Pol­let cre­ates. Lovers of pasta and seafood are equally catered for and his desserts are just wicked. There is much to do in the val­ley be­sides pe­rus­ing the many winer­ies and all within a short stroll of the Mer­cure you will find The Hunter Val­ley Vil­lage and as sad as the say­ing goes, it does have “some­thing for ev­ery­one”. Mums can pe­ruse the an­tique stores, artist gal­leries and spe­cialty cloth­ing stores. Dad can check out the amaz­ing ar­ray of beers in the Hunter Val­ley Cel­lars, which also stocks a fine range of pro­cured meats and de­lec­ta­ble de­lights…! The kids, well they can check­out the Hunter Val­ley Cho­co­late or the Bri­tish Lolly Shop. They can also en­ter­tain them­selves (god for­bid) at the chil­dren’s play­ground that is also in the vil­lage. If dad was keen for some one-on-one kid time there is Putt Putt or Aqua Golf on hand as well. Now I wouldn’t say that I was a great lover of gar­dens, I en­joy sit­ting in them of course, but it’s not like I would go out of my way to visit one. How­ever, the world-class Hunter Val­ley Gar­dens are one that I would and have made an ex­cep­tion for. These gar­dens are spec­tac­u­lar and depend­ing on what time of year you visit, I think you will find them amaz­ing as well. The Story Book Gar­den is a treat for the kids as much as you and I guar­an­tee you will be singing some of your favourite nurs­ery rhymes, like it or not! A nice bonus is when you stay at the Mer­cure you get two for one tick­ets. When it comes to some you time, you still don’t have to drive any­where. En­joy a walk­ing wine wan­der and ex­pe­ri­ence the de­lights of some of the re­gion’s best

winer­ies. McGuigans is lit­er­ally 30 sec­onds from your room. Bro­ken­wood is within 500 me­ters. Tem­pus Two is also just down the road and not only fea­tures fine wines, but has the de­light­ful Gold­fish Cock­tail Bar and Lounge for that pre or post din­ner drink maybe? Through­out sum­mer they also have com­edy nights and I re­ally don’t think we laugh enough! There are some fan­tas­tic world-class golf­ing op­tions for those who like to chase the lit­tle white ball around, in­clud­ing The Vines and Cy­press Lakes. If you are won­der­ing how you are go­ing to be able to jug­gle the me, you and us time, then don’t fear. The Mer­cure will or­gan­ise on-site baby-sit­ting for you at rea­son­able prices and due to the fact that ev­ery­thing is within walk­ing dis­tance, you can feel safe that your lit­tle cherubs are just around the cor­ner. All righty then, it’s all up to you now. The choice is yours. Oh to help you make an ed­u­cated de­ci­sion, I have in­serted two itin­er­ary op­tions. The choice is then all up to you … do you Take ’em or Leave ’em?

Her­itage Trail, Hunter Val­ley.

Hunter bal­loon ride; kan­ga­roos amidst the vine­yards and wine-tast­ing with canapés at the end of the day.

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