As much as I would joke about it after a bad break up or as a result of yet another man not calling me, I really didn’t think I’d actually end up in a convent anytime soon. Nor did I think it would be with my current boyfriend.
However, Peppers Convent in Hunter Valley afforded us an extremely comfortable stay in a turn of the twentieth century converted convent from 600km away in Coonamble, NSW. Yes, you did read that correctly, this convent was originally built in 1909 on the other side of the state to where it now stands grandly in front of a tree-lined drive as if this was the only land it has ever looked up.
They do say the Lord moves in mysterious ways, well so apparently do his houses as this one made its way to Hunter Valley in 2009 and was beautifully refurbished to start welcoming guests to one of Australia’s most famous and well-visited wine regions. I'd love to shake hands with whoever had the vision to move this building as inside and out I was immediately struck by its charm and character. It is quite fitting that this hotel review follows my previous write up of our stay at Cocora Cottage in Eden as it reinforces my joy in confirming that there are many old, character-full, charm-ridden hotels and B&Bs in Australia for the European tourist who is itching to stay somewhere solid but creaking. You just may need to seek them out because let's face it although I now know that buildings can move many miles they still probably won't go looking for you!
Our room was grander than expected, more comfortable than we required and had a little terrace from which we drank and ate local produce. I can’t say it was quiet because of the cicada festival that was occurring in the trees of the grounds, but I am confident that his festival was a multi-venue event with loud cicada concerts taking place throughout the Hunter Valley.
Complimentary welcome drinks were served at dusk in the large lounge area and we enjoyed them with an air of sophistication that doesn't usually bestow NewMan and I, particularly in Oz where we'd all too quickly got used to a "tinnie and a sambo" as a quick, cheap and easy dinner during our (expensive) stay in Sydney. The breakfast the following morning was the kind that could see off a hangover, unsurprisingly, and we enjoyed knocking a few balls around on the tennis courts. There was a swimming pool, though sadly this and the jacuzzi had seen better days.
What couldn’t be improved upon though was the staff. They were kind, friendly and happy to help. At the risk of sounding older than my years, you just don’t get that enough these days particularly in tourist heavy hotspots like Hunter Valley. Two women especially were so sweet and genuine I half wondered if they were nuns left over from the buildings original purpose.
NewMan and I really struggled to find affordable, well-located accommodation in the Hunter Valley and though not cheap by any stretch of the imagination (room rates start at around $200 AUD low season), we felt we got our money's worth staying at Peppers Convent both in terms of comfort, experience and age-old, can't-knock-it-but-you-can-move-it-600-kilometres-across-state charm.
Frances M. Thompson
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