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Our own English rose

The Sunday Age

Sunday March 27, 2011

Jane Reddy - Jane Reddy is deputy editor of The Age's Traveller.

Jane Reddy finds a weekend wonder.There's no surer way to kill the afterglow of a spontaneous weekend interstate trip than to find - at check-in - that the return flight is booked for a Sunday too far away.That was the situation last month when the travelling partner and I faced another 24 hours together.Handing over the credit card to secure the last seats on the right flight, I calculated what else that eye-watering amount would have bought had we stayed closer to home.The Werribee Mansion and Spa made the list. There's a mixed bag of activities within the hotel and on the grounds of the Werribee Park precinct. Connected to the grand 1800s Italianate mansion built by the Chirnside family, the former seminary - now a five-star hotel - has 91 rooms, restaurant and day spa.Our intrastate break might have started with a morning walk around the State Rose Garden, where more than 5000 plants - maintained by volunteers - form a stylised version of the five-petaled Tudor rose. The Dark Lady, Scentimental and the newly planted Love Potion are here, and although November is prime rose-viewing time, there are plenty of blooms until April. Allow at least 90 minutes to enjoy the garden.Meanwhile, the travelling partner might have saddled up for a polo lesson.I might have foraged in the kitchen garden with executive chef Marcus Levy, picking mint and tarragon before taking afternoon tea in the cool, dark quiet of the library.The travelling partner might have headed to the Werribee Open Range Zoo to feed a giraffe while I had a private wine tasting at Shadowfax Winery.After a pre-dinner dip in the hotel pool, I might have chosen prawn wontons with salmon and prawn caviar for starters, and charred pousiin from the seasonal menu at Joseph's.The vegetarian travelling partner could have had the watercress soup with poached egg followed by the stuffed heirloom vegetables with honey labneh. And we both would have toasted the fact that we were a 30-minute drive from the city: no airport check-in required.ContactsWerribee Mansion and Spa 9731 4000lancemore.com.au/mansion

© 2011 The Sunday Age

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