Embrace expense for a romantic break in the Hunter Valley
YOU don't go on a long, romantic weekend in the Hunter expecting not to spend money or fill your cup with the promise of fine wine.
You especially don't expect that, if you buy VIP tickets to see Neil Young at A Day on the Green.
But as my wife and I were celebrating our second wedding anniversary we decided to hang the expense and embrace the experience.
That meant checking into Tonic Hotel on Talga Rd, Rothbury, for three nights to enjoy the concert, wine and Hunter Valley hospitality in style.
Tonic is a modern hotel with small, luxury pods.
All have stunning west-facing views over the Hunter Valley.
We had done the Day on the Green - at the grandiose Bimbadgen Estate Winery - seven years previously and had a fabulous day on the hill watching John Fogerty launch into all the old Credence Clearwater Revival classics.
This time however, the only tickets available by the time I got my act together were the $400-plus each VIP tickets.
They included a three-course meal in a marquee and prime seats for the show.
I loved the experience, but I can happily enjoy myself just as well among the hoi polloi.
However I think now my wife has had a taste of the VIP action there may be no going back.
Our table was a mix of a lawyer couple, an ex-policeman and his step-dad, a pilot, an equestrian enthusiast and a New Zealander.
As the wine sank in conversations loosened and by the time we were set for the main act we were laughing and cavorting like old mates.
Neil Young may now be 71, but he still rocks hard, setting the scene with a five minute guitar jam with his Crazy Horse bandmates to open proceedings.
But I felt privileged just to watch the living legend strut his stuff.
I must admit we, in our late-30s, were among the youngsters at the concert and my wife was more than slightly peeved she couldn't dance in the grass aisles, between the rows of plastic seating.
It was a small drawback on an otherwise fantastic event at the end of which we filed off happily to the bus for the ride back to Tonic.
Waiting for us when we got off the bus was Tonic host Ian.
He made my life a misery (the following morning) by continually filling my cup as we reviewed the evening into the early hours.
We cleared the fog from our Sunday morning heads with a drive to Broke, 20km west of Rothbury, and lunch at the Nightingale Winery restaurant, with a spectacular view of the bluff that looms above Broke like a brooding sphinx in the midday sun.
After lunch we drove to the beautiful Krinklewood organic winery, then it was off to Sabor, a restaurant exclusively devoted to desserts.
If we hadn't nudged the decadence-meter into the red before then we certainly had after our hot chocolate and Portuguese chocolate mousse.
I've got to say there is something about the Hunter Valley that makes you think it might be worth packing it all in and moving there to live the idyllic lifestyle.