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WHILE there’ll be plenty to eat and drink at this year’s Spring in the Valley festival, getting to the Swan Valley requires a skipper, someone who is sensible enough to not drink and is prepared to drive festival goers from winery to winery. The best way to overcome this problem is to charter a bus or coach complete with driver.

The big tour operators, Black Swan Tours, Bells Coach Tours (formerly Boat Torque) and Feature Tours all offer the option of chartering a bus or coach alongside their organised tours. However, given the popularity of the event (and the fact that it’s also the wildflower season), you may also want to look at companies that operate solely on bus charter.

International Stage Lines has a fleet ranging from 22-seat coasters to 54-seat high deckers and a range of ex-Transperth buses which, operations manager Ken Graydon says, are good for those on a budget.

“We have a range of ex-Transperth buses which are more economical,” he says.

The benefit of using an International Stage Lines charter, and those offered by the tour companies, is that they can pick you up from a convenient central location. You’ll find most of the companies are fairly accommodating and, if you and your social team happen to be a bit scattered, they can usually arrange a few stop offs.

“We can pick up from a central location and include up to three different pick up points. But depending on the itinerary we can generally arrange something that accommodates your needs,” Mr Graydon says.

From Gusto’s inquiries this week we’ve worked out that for a full-day hire of a 5-star coach (seating around 50 people) you’re looking at $900-$1000, double deckers (seating around 65 people) are around $700, and there is the alternative of the ex Transperth buses. But there are a host of options with regards to the amount of hours you can book, pick up points, and the quality of the bus/coaches, so ring around.

Maps and details of what all wineries, restaurants, cafes, and heritage and cultural places are doing over the Spring in the Valley weekend can all be found in the festival brochure. Download a copy from the Swan Valley Tourism Council’s website at www.swanvalley-holiday.com.au or ring their information line on 1900 999 900. Plan the journey before you jump aboard!

Tips

p Plan the itinerary beforehand (and give the bus driver a copy).

p It is illegal to take alcohol aboard coaches/buses. However most companies do permit you to take bottles on board provided they are sealed.

p Book now. The festival is huge and there are only so many charter coaches and buses in Perth!

p Plan a lunch or arvo tea food break – there are some fantastic cafes and restaurants in the valley, which should get a look in while you’re trekking from winery to winery.

Following are some of the places you might like to have a look at. They’ve all got wine tastings, entertainment, and activities for the kids.

Bells Estate (formerly Mulberry Farm). Free bush band outdoor concert. Sausage sizzle, hot roast beef rolls and chips. Kids will enjoy this one with Connie the Clown making an appearance, a bouncy castle, mini zoo, camel rides, and hot air balloon rides. If you’re after wine tastings, Gloucester Ridge tastings will be available, but only on Sunday from 12-4pm.

Ironbark Brewery. The newest brewery to the Swan Region is a must see to those who venture to the festival year-in-year-out. Mix up your itinerary this year and taste some naturally handcrafted beers.

Henley Park Wines: Storyville Jazz Band will play from 12-4. The café will be open.

Merrich Estate. Information sessions on olive oil will take place on the hour between 10am and 6pm.

Taste a selection of oils from the estate.

Houghton Wines. Two True will perform 60s and 70s hits. Bouncy castles, small ferris wheel and mini jeeps will keep the kids happy. The Jacaranda Café will be open to serve wood-fried pizzas, strawberries and cream, hot carvery rolls etc.

Sandalford Caversham Estate. Ruby Tuesday will be performing. 2001 Sheraton Award Winning wines will be available for tastings as well as a seafood BBQ, gourmet hampers, homemade cabernet and berry ice cream.

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Oh no, the secret’s out – Cocos was officially slapped on the wrist from Liquor Licensing Courts back in April, but they’ve made a front page appearance in the latest issue of the Liquor Licensing Bulletin (which goes to just about all hospitality venues in the State). Cocos received an official reprimand from Judge Greves for selling liquor without an accompanying “substantial meal”. The liquor licensing guys have used it as a nice shining reminder to restaurants with liquor licences to remember, a substantial meal has to be served with alcohol.

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The 2002 Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) Festivals of Festivals poster has been launched. The poster is the first stage of promoting the celebration of the 50th Perth Festival and part of the organisers’ process of creating Australia’s Festival of Festivals (modelled on the leading multi-arts festival in Edinburgh). Organisers hope to have a mass of mini-festivals, each dedicated to an art form or geographic region. The 2002 festival will take place from January 25 to February 17 2002.

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Support the Leukaemia Foundation and enjoy Manjimup’s Chestnut Grove’s ’98 Cabernet Merlot and the Platinum 2000 range at the Smales Jewellers Ball of Exquisite Delight. While indulging in a three-course meal served up by the Parmelia Hilton’s chefs, make sure you take a look at the exquisite black pearl choker (designed by Smales Jewellers). It will be auctioned, along with a Toyota Rav4 and Celica. The evening is a black tie event and will be held on Saturday October 6.

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Spring, it’s the birth of many new things, including menus. This week, Gusto has been informed that Altos has a new lunch menu and the Oriel has got some sensational new dishes on their new spring menu.

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Beaufort Street is alive and buzzing with the Anne Marie Banting, Russel Blaikie, and Garry Gosatti consortium scheduled to open the wine bar, Must Wine Bar, at the end of October. And when it opens it’ll be a “must” to taste some wines on their extensive wine list. We’re told they’ll always be a sommelier on deck, so you’ll be able to get some sound advice on whatever wine you may happen to be drinking. Gusto will keep you posted with all the plans over the next few weeks.

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