My 9-day stint in Madrid was a resounding success, every day starting and ending on a high. But as the old saying goes, what comes up must come down. I was struck by a nasty gastric bug just four days after I landed back in Sydney. Feeling exhausted, jet lagged and drained, I needed another weekend away from home like a hole in the head. Despite my fragile state, however, I didn’t have the heart to cancel our two-night weekender in Berrima (NSW), where we had been invited to attend the wedding of our dear friends’ son. Thankfully, we were traveling to a part of our state known for its heritage villages, lush rolling hills and gentle pace.
Berrima is a historic little village in the Southern Highlands located on the Old Hume Highway. Situated between Canberra and Sydney, it was e stablished in the 1830s during a time of great exploration and expansion. A major town in its heyday, it is much smaller in scale today, although still widely renown as being the best preserved example of a Georgian village on the Australian mainland.
Leaving Sydney around 11 am, we had turned off the main highway and were slowly driving along Berrima’s main artery by 12:50. We spotted a quaint little eatery called The Magpie Cafe, located next door to The Surveyor General, Australia's oldest continuously licensed pub . Parking our car and stretching out our stiff legs, we made our way to the cafe, which absolutely brimmed with old world charm. We fell instantly in love with the outdoor white linen table setting and wisteria lounging languorously over the colonial-era structure. A look at the menu, offering w holesome nourishing homestyle food, sealed the deal for us. Warmly greeted by the waitress, she found us a table underneath the flowering crabapple tree out the front.
Despite my risotto and Peter’s chicken pie taking an eternity to arrive - “Could you please follow up on our order as we have a wedding to attend in two hours.” - our meals were delicious and well worth the wait. Wandering inside The Magpie Cafe to check out the restaurant’s ‘Old World’ stylish interior on the waitresses recommendation, my positive experience was somewhat dampened by the owner’s prickliness, taking an exception to my coming inside for a look. Realising that she must be sick of people eyeballing her gorgeous decor without ordering anything, she thawed slightly when I explained that we’d just finished our meal outside and that it was delicious. She drew my attention to all the sweets on display, which were all made on the premises from scratch and looked divine. Without any room left for dessert and conscious of my delicate tummy, I photographed them instead (with her permission, of course).
Studio 12, Berrima
After settling our bill, we rushed off to our ‘home’ for the next two nights, Studio 12. Within easy walking distance from Berrima village, we had to ring Robyn, the proprietor, a couple of times as the street numbering system didn’t make sense and we kept missing the property. Talking us through until we finally arrived - “it has painted white rocks at the entrance, you can’t miss it” - our relief turned to delight as we crunched down the pebbled driveway and cast our eyes over the delightful and well tended garden on the site. Set back from the road, the studio was deceptive in its appearance as a rustic garden shed. As we opened the main entrance to the studio, we let out a mutual cry of delight at the marked contrast of the inside to the outside. Light, airy, spotlessly clean, the “all white” stylish interiors emanated a calm and peaceful vibe.
The accommodation at Studio 12 featured a large room with a queen and single bed (sleeps 3 comfortably) and a generous lounge area with double french doors that opened out onto the lovely garden. The kitchenette was well supplied with pots, pans, utensils, microwave, kettle, toaster, bar fridge, electric wok and grill (not that we’d be doing much cooking on our two-night stay). Linen, towels and basic toiletries were supplied, along with milk, tea, coffee and cereals. The mattress was a decent one so we knew that we’d get a good night’s sleep here. As for the bathroom, it was spacious, clean, and the water pressure was good. An important factor for someone like me who loves their showers. All in all, a very class act. Getting dressed in record time, we hightailed it to Bendooley Estate for the wedding.
Bendooley Estate, Berrima
Bendooley Estateis a magnificent 200-acre property owned by Paul Berkelouw, a sixth-generation antiquarian book dealer, with his wife, Katja and their family. Together they have created a rural Paradise that boasts glorious, well established cool-climate gardens, vineyards, a private lake, and spectacular rural vistas that the Southern Highlands are known for. Run by a dedicated team, Bendooley Estate offers cottage accommodation, beautiful spaces for weddings and private events, wine tasting and delicate meals at the Cellar Door, and the iconic Berkelouw Book Barn filled with full of new, secondhand, rare and antiquarian titles. When not managing their burgeoning book business, juggling their four gorgeous children or overseeing the running of Bendooley Estate, and its farm and vineyard, Paul and Katja enjoy pursuing a passion for paddock-to-plate food and permaculture.
As for our friends’ wedding at Bendooley Estate, it was graceful, elegant and memorable, the setting idyllic. Families and friends were ecstatic. Best of all, my tummy held out and yours truly hit the dance floor, along with my better half Peter, with the best of them until the night ended.
With the whole of the following day to spend at our leisure, we hung around Bowral and indulged ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t at home: by going to the local cinemas and watching two blockbuster films in a day, punctuated by a delicious Thai meal in between. I had done my fair share of touring and sightseeing for the month and I wasn’t up for any more. Despite our pedestrian, some might say wasted, day in the Southern Highlands, it was exactly what I needed to get my equilibrium back and become recharged after a fast and furious overseas trip. Thank you, Berrima, for bringing me gently back down to Earth.