Yarra Valley From The Sky With Global Ballooning Australia & Balgownie Estate

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MELBOURNE | Wake up in the morning in Melbourne and it’s not uncommon to see several hot air balloons floating around the city and beyond. One of the main companies behind these hot air balloon experiences is Global Ballooning Australia, who, in conjunction with Balgownie Estate, recently invited us to try the experience for ourselves.

We arrived at Balgownie Estate on Sunday evening, and relaxed in our hotel room for a while. There are 70 accommodation suites on the property, including spa suites overlooking the Yarra Valley. On this occasion we stayed in a standard queen room. It’s got all of the essentials and, most importantly, a very comfortable bed and pillows. You also get access to access to the indoor heated swimming pool, gym and steam room. We’ve stayed in one of the spa suites before and can highly recommend them too if you’re looking for a bit more luxury.

After a bit of a rest we headed to Rae’s Restaurant, which is the restaurant at Balgownie Estate. New Head Chef Grant Flack has put together a simple menu of dishes created using fresh, seasonal produce. For starters we went for the Little Creek Cattle beef tartare with pickled shallot, crisp potato, herb oil, and confit egg yolk, and the Yarra Valley Goats cheese and chive terrine with beetroot and chervil. Both were tasty, but the beef tartare was particularly delicious.

For mains, we both went for the 200g Pasture fed Gippsland beef striploin with carrot rosti, summer squash and zucchini, and grilled peach jus. A good quality piece of steak cooked medium rare is always hard to go past, and the one at Rae’s had a great texture and flavour. For sides, we had to get the twice cooked duck fat potatoes. We tried them when we dined at Balgownie’s Bendigo winery restaurant last year and they were one of our favourite things. At Rae’s they’re just as good.

For dessert it was the flourless chocolate cake with crunchy honeycomb, raspberry sauce, and blood orange sorbet. Simple flavours and diverse textures done well. We enjoyed a pinot noir cocktail at the start of our meal and several wines matched to each dish during the meal. The 2015 Balgownie Estate Shiraz was particularly delicious. Stomachs suitably full, it was off to bed to get some sleep before the early start the next day.

Everyone going on the hot air balloon with Global Ballooning Australia meets up at Rae’s restaurant at a set time, which differs depending on the time of year. For us to be launching at sunrise in early March meant meeting at 6:00am. You register and are assigned a pilot, then hop into a coach which takes everyone to a suitable paddock. The balloons are set up as the sun rises, and it’s a pretty spectacular sight. Gas fills the balloon which goes from being a small, limp thing to a huge balloon when full. Flames create a dramatic scene as they help the gas do its thing. While the balloon is inflating, you can see kangaroos hopping around the field and birds flying above.

Once things are good to go, there’s a brief training and safety run through, and they you’re up. There are six people in each of the four compartments of the balloon, and as it slowly rises from the ground it’s surprising how smooth things are. It’s also actually a few degrees warmer than it is on the ground which was unexpected. For about an hour, the balloon floats around the Yarra Valley, the pilot pointing out landmarks and interesting things along the way. The balloon remains at a good height so that you get a birds eye view of things below without being so high that you can’t recognise things. Wineries, mountain ranges, groups of animals, and Melbourne’s CBD are all seen with a different perspective.

After about an hour, a suitable paddock is found for landing and down you go. Then it’s all hands on deck as everyone chips in to help push the air out of the balloon and pack it all up. Once everything’s packed up it’s back to Balgownie Estate for a buffet breakfast and wine tasting.

We really enjoyed our overnight stay at Balgownie Estate and Global Ballooning Australia hot air balloon experience. The food and wine at Balgownie are always top notch, and the accommodation is very comfy. The ballooning is a unique experience, surprisingly calm and relaxing. It literally provides you with a different perspective of the Yarra Valley.

To find out more and to book a hot air balloon experience of your own, visit Global Ballooning Australia’s website. For info on staying at Balgownie Estate and dining at their restaurants, visit the Balgownie Estate website.

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Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences.Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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