Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia

Ya, so we’re not getting out much lately…this saving for a wedding malarkey is REALLY cramping our travelling style!!

However we are getting out of Sydney a little bit and just took a Valentine’s trip to the Hunter Valley, 2 hours north of Sydney. More specifically, we spent time in oh so lovely Pokolbin. We stayed at the beautiful Convent Hunter Valley Resort (which used to be Peppers Convent but was recently taken over by the Escarpment Group who run some pretty nice spots in the Blue Mountains). Randomly, this beautiful building used to be  in Coonamble in western New South Wales – they moved it more than 600km! The grounds are beautiful, full of pepper trees, a lovely swimming pool and fairy lights for the evening. Give me a few fairy lights and I’m sorted.

Here’s the Convent Hunter Valley:

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Nestled away up there

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Convent Hunter Valley

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So pretty

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The life!

On arrival we went straight for a dip in the pool as it was 44 degrees celsius. Ridiculously hot!! We then took a little wander (about a 2 minute stroll) to Pepper Tree Wines and had a wine tasting for about an hour. 6 bottles out of the bank account later and we were back to the hotel for the loveliest of naps. I’m so old. There’s exactly zilch better than a day nap.

We took a little wander around here – there’s a fine dining restaurant called Circa 1876 housed in the historic Halls Cottage right next to Pepper Tree Wines. There was a wedding on so unfortunately we couldn’t have dinner here (how rude!) but we had a little mosey around anyway (pre-wedding…we didn’t crash). They grow their own produce, they have hens and lots of little quirky rooms with antiques – it’s trés romantic.

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Just look at that!

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The entrance to Circa 1876

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Circa 1876’s Garden

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A little church on-site

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Circa 1876

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And obviously some church vines

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Pepper Tree Wines

Post nap we required some dessert so took off to sample Sabor in the Hunter. #worththecalories

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Lemon Meringue Pie and Black Forest Gateau

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Suuuper cheap cookies

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Heart Art

So, what DID we do for dinner you ask? We actually ended up having THE BEST DINNER OF OUR ENTIRE LIVES. We ended up booking 2 seats at the chef’s pass at EXP. HOLY CRAP. Part of the Oakvale Winery, EXP. provides you with either a 5 or 8 course tasting menu ($85 or $110 per person plus drinks). I’m generally not that adventurous when it comes to dinner…when you’re hungry you want to eat something you’ll absolutely enjoy right? Not to worry here – we devoured every single morsel put in front of us. Like Savages. There’s very little wait-time between courses. Chef Frank Fawkner is a god damn genius. Ever heard of crab custard? Me neither, but my life will never be the same again now that I’ve tasted it! I don’t think I’ve ever used the word sublime before…but that’s what dessert was – Australian made chocolate mousse (made from Daintree Estates cocoa – from the Daintree rainforest region in Queensland) with the softest honeycomb. Melt in the mouth.

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Ham on Toast

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Chia and Honey Beer

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Heaven

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And a nice romantic moon to end the evening

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Byron Bay, NSW, Australia

Hello!!

We’ve taken a few trips to hippie-haven Byron Bay over the past few years and it’s a nice spot to stroll around. You can easily do it in a day or you could chill here for a week. While the beach is definitely not Australia’s best, there’s plenty of room to get a bit of personal space and the little town is great for wandering around, grabbing coffees, ice-cream and engaging in some light or back-breaking retail therapy.

Obligatory Graffii shot

Obligatory Graffii shot

Byron's Beach

Byron’s Beach

The Farm Byron Bay, is worth a visit, it’s about a 5 minute drive from the town or just off the motorway on your way to town. It’s a working farm with a great restaurant (Three Blue Ducks), boulangerie (Don’t you just love that word, the Bread Social), and also the Produce Store. We had breakfast here and oh God, delicious. So fresh too. They have a lovely sunflower patch (I’m gonna say patch because of what we saw in the Dordogne region of France recently but for kiddies it would be an endless sunflower field), black pigs – happy as larry lounging about in the mud, cattle, chickens…and snakes. There are signs everywhere saying watch your step. Yowsa! If you don’t have a car then you can take the Farm Bus, $15 and you can hop on and off all day and see some local hot-spots.

Where first?

Where first?

Sunflowers

Sunflowers!

Chia Pudding

Amazing Chia Pudding

Coffee was had by himself at the little hole in the wall Barefoot Roasters, you’d have to go looking for this spot, it’s down a little lane and you’ve to sit sipping on the footpath. Quirky little spot.

Byron Bay Lighthouse sits overlooking Byron beach on one side and the absolutely stunning (and much quieter) Tallows Beach. Up here is the most easterly spot of Australia’s mainland – you’re basically looking out at Chile. Kinda cool.

The Bluesfest (music festival) is on here every March and there are markets on all year round. There’s lots of signage all around town promoting yoga classes if you fancy getting all chillaxed and the Cape Byron walking track is a great spot to work up and appetite…so you can go back to the Farm for lunch!

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Tallows Beach

Tallows Beach

Setting up a life in Australia

Well, here we are again, back in Australia mate. This was definitely not something we considered when we were shipping all of our stuff back to Ireland. We had expected to set up a little closer to home after our stint in South America but alas Australia called…again. It’s definitely easier the second time around but I thought I’d note a few things in case our experiences could help anybody else out there 🙂

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Bank Account

This is obviously one of the first things you’ll need here. We actually set up an account before we even left Ireland back in 2011. The process was simple. There are a few big hitters in terms of banks in Australia and we went with National Australia Bank/NAB, mainly because they offer fee-free banking. We didn’t need a Sydney address to get our cards either. Really helpful. The other main banks here are Commonwealth Bank of Australia/CommBank/CBA and Westpac.

Finding a Home

Sydney is known as the City of Villages and picking a place to live is exceptionally difficult! I came across this City Hobo site, which has an (awesome!) index of all of Sydney’s ‘burbs, and includes an ‘if this suburb was a shoe it would be…’ section. Hilarious…and bloody true! Paddington = Jimmy Choo; Newtown = Converse/Campers; Woolloomooloo (just wanted to type that to be honest) = Puma.

Honestly, finding somewhere to live was an absolute nightmare first time around. We went to loads of estate agencies and it’s seriously like they can’t get you out of their offices fast enough. It’s quite a stressful experience coming to a new country and staying in a hostel waiting to find your ‘home’; they definitely don’t make it easy for you… We actually ended up in our first apartment in Sydney by accident. We went to see an apartment and saw a sign outside the building advertising another open viewing so we went along and ended up being the only people viewing it. Obviously the agency had done just put the sign up outside and hadn’t done a thing online! Thankfully though…one week later it was ours. So we didn’t move until we left Sydney 3 years later… This time around things couldn’t have worked out better. I spotted a place on Domain (a pretty good site but it’s very easy to get sidetracked and start looking at million dollar listings) on a Tuesday, we went to the open-house on Wednesday, applied on Thursday about 1.30pm and got it about 4.30pm – unbelievable! The word delighted doesn’t even come close. We move in this Saturday – soooooo excited 🙂 RealEstate is another great website for finding accommodation. If you’re looking for a share-house then gumtree is the way to go.

Finding a Job

Before looking for a job you’ll need to apply for a Tax File Number/TFN…otherwise you’ll pay waaay higher tax than necessary. Seek is probably the most used job search engine – they also have a pretty useful app. LinkedIn is excellent if you’re looking for a professional role. Indeed and ApplyDirect are also worth checking out. Recruitment agencies definitely have Sydney employers tied up in a bow here – many roles honestly don’t even get openly advertised (I work in HR so I know this is true!) so it’s absolutely worth signing up with agencies. Generally, I find that specialised agencies are better to deal with as they know the roles and businesses they’re dealing with inside out so they’re more likely to do more for you…It’s also important to find a recruiter that you’re comfortable with – they’re working for you as well as the employer.

Some recruitment agencies I’ve had experience with in Sydney are:

General – Chandler Macleod, people2people, Hays, Robert WaltersMichael Page

Administration – OfficeTeam

Construction – Constructive Recruitment

Human Resources/Learning & Development – Tandem Partners, The Next Step

Financial Services – Robert Half

Next: You gotta get out there and do things! Time Out Sydney and What’s On Sydney are pretty good for diary dates 🙂

Sydney’s Best, an A – Z Guide

As we lived in Sydney for over 3 years and I only managed one post (ridiculous) I thought it was about time to share our favourite spots of this oh so beautiful city. Ya so it’s mostly food because apparently that’s what our lives revolve around.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Vivid Sydney Festival

Vivid Sydney Festival

Sydney’s Best…

A

Afternoon Tea. I definitely consider myself a connoisseur of Afternoon Tea. It’s my absolute favourite thing in the world. After shoes, obviously. The Langham in the Rocks area of the city does a pretty good afternoon tea. I also love the Tea Cosy in the same area, an Irish themed tea spot located in a lovely building (with a balcony) and the scones are delicious. They even have lamington (chocolate and coconut sponge cake) scones in celebration of Australia Day (January 26th). The best afternoon tea isn’t actually in the city though, it’s in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, in Lilianfels Resort and Spa. Glass of champagne in hand, fire crackling in the background and live piano music. Perfection in the winter. Yes, Sydney gets a bloody cold winter. Not Ireland cold but definitely scarf and woolly hat cold.

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B

Beach. Obviously need to include a beach in a Sydney post. There’s no situation where Palm Beach doesn’t win this medal and it’s less than an hour from the city. Don’t miss brunch from the Boathouse. Bondi Beach is obviously world famous, and it’s great for people watching but if you’re looking for a city beach then I’d go for Maroubra. It’s way quieter than Bondi so you’ll always get a spot to yourself, although there aren’t many food options at the moment so it’d be a good idea to bring a picnic. It’s up and coming though so there’ll definitely be more foodie options in the next few years. Bookstore. Another B I know but I have to share! Hands down, the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in the city for choice – they stock everything but it is a little pricey. Berkelouw in Paddington has a nicely curated selection as well as a cafe. Sappho Books (and cafe and wine bar!) in Glebe is a little like Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, a warren like maze of a store brimming with secondhand and rare books.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Maroubra Beach

Maroubra Beach

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C

Coffee. No joke, John has actually sampled every single coffee shop in this city. Morning coffee was had and loved from MLC Grind in the MLC Centre in the CBD. Weekend brews were most enjoyed from the tiny Reuben Hills in Surry Hills.

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D

Drinking Spots. My absolute favourite bar is Grandma’s in the city. It’s a tiny basement bar (and well hidden) but the cocktails here will knock off any cobwebs. John loved the Button Bar in Surry Hills and the Barber Shop in the city. The Wild Rover, actually a small bar in Surry Hills and not a crazy college scene Irish bar like the name would suggest, is a pretty nice spot too. Shady Pines Saloon is hilarious and located in Darlinghurst. What you see in movies and expect a bar in the Wild Wild West would have looked like.

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E

Eggs. It’s really easy to find fantastic breakfast spots in Sydney – you’ll find poached eggs with avocado on sourdough toast pretty much any time of the day. Our favourite hang out was Baffi & Mo in Redfern. God, their sweet potato hash browns. Unbelievable. VargaBar Espresso in Newtown used to have the most delicious eggs benedict but they went and changed their menu. Rude. They can still cook an egg though. Surry Hills is your best bet in terms of breakfast in general. Plenty of places to choose from.

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F

French Fries. Although it’s a hotdog spot, Snag Stand has the tastiest fries made with Tasmanian potatoes no less; an Irish girl championing potatoes that aren’t from Ireland? Yes! Also Fish and Chips from Doyles on the Wharf in Watsons Bay is really tasty and is the perfect place to watch a Sydney sunset.

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

G

Gelato. Actually this one’s a tie – Gelato Messina (a few locations) or Anita (Chippendale). Both heavenly.

H

Hot Chocolate. I’d probably have to say the mint hot chocolate in the Hyde Park Barracks Cafe but I’ll give Max Brenner second place since you get it in a hug mug. Aw. Hair Salon probably needs a mention here too – Renya Xydis in the city is bliss.

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I

Italian Food. One of the cheapest and tastiest places you could eat in Sydney is Bar Reggio in Darlinghurst. They can do no wrong. No wrong. Jamie’s Italian in the CBD is pretty good – there’s always a queue though. Unless you go on December 26th. Random.

J

Jewellery store. Lovisa. They’re everywhere and super cheap.

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K

Kept Secret. The Golden Age Cinema and Bar in Surry Hills is a tiny cinema, which was the former screening room of Paramount Pictures in the city. Pre-cinema cocktail? Pretty cool spot.

L

Lunch Spot. Most of my beautiful Sydneysider ladies adore Din Tai Fung (plenty of locations but we frequented the one in Pyrmont) but I’m not a dumpling lover so I generally favoured a hole in the wall sushi spot closeby. My actual favourite place to grab a sandwich is in the Met Centre/Wynyard train station in a hole-in-the-wall spot called La Petite Expresso. Fantastic chicken and walnut sandwiches. John’s favourite spot was pretty much anything from the David Jones Foodhall or steak from the Fairmont Restaurant in the Occidental Hotel.

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Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

M

Market. I love love love the Flower Market in Flemington. A pain in the ass to get to for sure – and you’ve got to get there early but waaay cheaper than stumping up CBD prices. The Rocks Market probably needs a mention if you’re looking for an Opera House Christmas bauble or any form of souvenir you could possibly dream up. Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont is also great; this is where you’ll find most of Sydney’s population on Christmas Eve stocking up on prawns for Christmas Day barbecues (the market has a 36 hour marathon (opening hours) to keep up with demand).

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N

New Year’s Eve Spot really depends on how much you want to cash out. Observatory Hill is a fantastic free spot for a view of the fireworks behind the bridge and the suburbs up along the harbour (you can’t see the Opera House from here though). Lawn with the View within the Royal Botanic Gardens is located on a hill just behind the Opera House so you see the Opera House and the front of the Harbour Bridge (the epicentre to be honest). Tickets are close to $300 per person which is ludicrous but this is Sydney. The good thing about a ticketed event is that you don’t have to get there super early but honestly we loved the atmosphere at Observatory Hill and we didn’t get there until about 10pm. The water around Pyrmont would also yield some good free firework watching spots of the Harbour Bridge.

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New Year's Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year’s Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year's Eve view at Lawn with the View

New Year’s Eve view at Lawn with the View

O

Oatmeal or Porridge. Served at the always delicious O Organic Produce cafe in Surry Hills. Everything they serve is amazing.

P

Pizza. Ok there’s a little contention over this one. John adores Lucio Pizzeria in Darlinghurst and Pizza Mario in Surry Hills and I’d likely give up my first born for Il Grappolo in Rozelle.

Q

Queen Victoria Building (QBV). The architecture, shopping, those beautiful clocks, Santa. Wonderful.

R

Rainy Day Spot. Time spent in the Art Gallery of New South Wales is time well spent. Free entry, a cafe with lovely scones, a great museum shop and jazz evenings make this the perfect spot to spend a rainy day in Sydney. And that does happen more than you might think!

S

Suburb. No question here – Surry Hills. Where you’ll want to roam every Sunday. Beautiful tree lined streets, fabulous people, shops and cafes. Whilst we’re in Surry Hills, I’ve got another S for Supermarket. Thomas Dux is a great place to find things not readily available elsewhere like CoYo or baking ingredients. They have lovely homemade chocolates and beautiful fresh bouquets too.

T

Tea. The Tea Centre in the Glasshouse Shopping Centre. So. Many. Options. Delicious soups too.

U

Utterly Awesome Experience. The Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park every summer is a fantastic evening out – black and white movies and a bottle of vino under the stars. Perfection.

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V

View. This isn’t a difficult decision at all. Walk aross the Harbour Bridge and set up shop beneath same. If you take the train you’ll need to get off the train at Milson’s Point. Take a wander around the very residential Kirribilli for views like this:

Wowsers!

Wowsers! Also a good New Year’s Eve spot…

W

Wandering Spot. One of the most beautiful places you can take a stroll in Sydney is within the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Rose Garden is a beautiful place to chill out with a book, watch a wedding (yep) or catch a glimpse of the Opera House. You also cannot go to Sydney and not walk from Bondi to Coogee along the coast. It’s stunning.

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View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

Coogee Baths

Coogee Baths

X

What the hell am I, Scrabble Champion? Nope.

Y

Yogurt Spot. Frozen yogurt spot to be precise. George St. is yogurt avenue. Yogurt everywhere. Yogurtland was my favourite, the perfect post-power-yoga stop off (and they always had discount deals for some reason or other).

Z

Zoo. One of the most spectacular locations on earth. Good for you Taronga Zoo! Bring the credit card though – a $46 admission price ain’t cheap ($23 for kiddies).

Note: You can hop on the 555 bus for free up and down George St., this will take you from Central Station all the way up to Circular Quay/The Rocks area.

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Most useful Travel Apps

Most useful travel apps

Just thought I’d mention some travel applications that we’ve been using to make travelling a little easier. Get them whilst you still have wifi!!

Duolingo – Handy little app to learn Spanish if you have none. Super annoying reminders about how long you’ve spent not looking at it though. It’s a bit of a smart ass of an app to be honest but it gets a job done.

Google Translate – with offline language pack (don’t think the offline pack is available on iPhone but John has it on his android phone). This is so useful when you have no idea how to communicate with a local – just show them the screen!

Maps.me – Google Maps hasn’t been great in South America. Maps.me had come up trumps for us on a number of occasions – it even has a map of within the grounds of Macchu Picchu! You just need to remember to download each country to your phone before you get there. It’s not great at pinpointing your exact location if you don’t have wifi but it’s very detailed.

OneDrive – 15GB of storage for free (more if you pay). We upload all our photos here just in case we lose our camera/camera card. It’s useful to get the space back on the camera card anyway.

Pinterest – I wasn’t going to add this in but it’s useful to search for the country you’re in to see pictures of the places you’d like to visit (also I’m addicted to Pinterest). Same goes for Instagram.

Pocket Expense Personal Finance – We’ve just started to use this to keep account of our budget. Bit late I know but what you gonna do. It’s very simple to use and you can see charts of where your money’s going. You need to play around a little with this when you get it first but it’s very handy once you’re used to it.

Skype – As we have an Australian account for Skype we got an amazing deal of $38 for 12 months with 300 minutes of calls to landlines and mobiles per month. This has been very handy for calling banks when we’ve had issues! (again wifi permitting).

Spotify – You can download your favourite songs to your phone; it’s an easy way to keep up to date with new music or listen to oldies even if you’re in the jungle.

WhatsApp – I use WhatsApp every single day, wifi access permitting, to keep in touch with home.

XE Currency App – Very useful when you have currencies with many zeros…my head isn’t great for maths so I’d have no idea what I was paying for anything if it wasn’t for this current currency exchange guru of an app…and John.

Perth and surrounds, Western Australia

We’ve just had a lovely long weekend in Perth. Our base was the Hyatt Regency in East Perth – great location for exploring the city and surrounds. First impressions of the city were pretty good, it’s really picturesque with some beautiful architecture and most importantly so many places to eat! Everything seems really well finished and clean. It’s a compact city and the public transport seemed pretty good although we had a car.

We had some scrumptious breakfasts on our trip, particularly at the Secret Garden café in the CBD and also at Perth City Farm. Perth City Farm is a market, café and garden in East Perth, which is definitely worth a visit for a wander around (open Tuesday to Saturday). We had another breakfast at Small Print in the Print Hall. It was jam packed – definitely in with the locals. We also spent an evening at Bob’s Bar on the roof of the Print Hall – had some well needed outdoor heaters and the tastiest Pimms punch – perfect evening! We also happened upon Bar Lafayette, an old school bar across from the Print Hall just off St. Georges Terrace in the city. We went to the Crown Casino one evening to gamble a little…and had some drinks at La Vie, the champagne lounge in the huge foyer – nothing to write home about to be honest…even though I am…

There’s plenty to see wandering around the city streets and shops. London Court (Hay Street) was one of the coolest things we came across – it’s technically a shopping arcade but it’s like walking through Tudor England, a nice surprise and definitely worth a wander through.

Perth City Farm

Perth City Farm

Bob's Bar at the Print Hall

Bob’s Bar at the Print Hall

Fremantle or Freo as it’s known to the locals…

Fremantle Market

Totally thought Freo was just another way of the Aussie’s saying freeway since they just add o’s to everything! Anyhoo… Fremantle is a beautiful place to visit just about 20 minutes drive from the city, the colonial architecture is just amazing. The University of Notre Dame seems to own the whole town! We spent a good bit of time in this area – there’s just so much to see and do. The Fremantle Market is on every Friday to Sunday in the centre of the town – about 150 stalls selling all things imaginable. Great spot.

We had some awesome wood-fired pizzas from the Little Creatures Brewery down by the Boat Harbour, definitely a destination in itself. Weekend brunch from 9am – 11am!!

Fremantle Ports houses the Maritime Museum too if that floats your boat; and some more markets actually.

The Docks, Fremantle

The Docks, Fremantle

Margaret River

Margaret River is both a town and an area just over 3 hours south of Perth. There are plenty of wineries to visit, it’s actually quite similar to the Hunter Valley in NSW.

We started our trip with breakfast at Dew’s Berry Bar in Mandurah – took away some brownies for latter in the day – delish. The Margaret River Chocolate Company is a must visit destination. They’ve just opened a store in Perth city so obviously we visited that too. The town of Margaret River is really cute, I was sorry we didn’t spend a night here – the Settlers Tavern looked like a great spot for an evening. We got ourselves some coffee and a peppermint hot chocolate from the Brew Shack (awesome spot) and went to the beautiful Prevelly Beach to watch the sunset.

Margaret River Chocolate Company

Margaret River Chocolate Company

Sunset at Prevelly Beach

Sunset at Prevelly Beach

Busselton

We stopped at Busselton on the way to the Margaret River – thankfully! We had a fabulous walk out along the Busselton Jetty (for $2.50 each) albeit with the rain literally slapping our faces! It’s actually really long so the lunch we had sitting next to the open fireplace in the Goose Beach Bar + Kitchen was well-deserved and quite possibly the best food we’ve had in ages – John had some breaded mackerel and I had the cauliflower and pancetta soup – just delicious. 

Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty

York
We took a trip c. 90km inland from the city to to historic town of York for an afternoon trip out of the city. Quaint. Quiet. Worth the trip if you’re happy to just chill. We had some soup to warm us up in the York Mill Café. That was pretty much all we did in York…

Old school sweet shop in York

Old school sweet shop in York

Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

Ah, the culture capital of Australia. We went for the food…

Stayed for the week at the Park Hyatt located just behind Parliament House near the Fitzroy Gardens, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a short stroll to the CBD. Our lovely king room had a great bath – complete with TV! I basically spent a week watching E! from the bath. Awesomes.

We did a lot of laneway wandering and coffee-spot-hopping for the most chilled out of weeks. Obviously our first port of call was Pelligrini’s (66 Bourke Street) for their fantastic lasagne and watermelon crushes (we visited more than once…). Tutto Bene following a stroll around Southbank (and some losses in the Crown casino) is a really lovely spot for a bite. We just came here for some post-Pelligrinis dessert – John got a cheese board (as he’s now such an adult) and I got an amazing Tiramisu and a Bellini. Perfetto. We did go back for their award-winning gelato another evening (also good but not as good as the Anita experience in Sydney).

We spent a lot of time wandering around the shops in the CBD and checked out the new Emporium shopping centre. Not everything is open here yet – Topshop is coming in July but Uniqlo took the top spot for queues and seemed to be a crowd-pleaser as all of Melbourne seemed to be carrying their logo-laden shopping bags. H&M (which also sells their home range) just opened in the old GPO building. Oh Lord the queues – insane. Melbourne Central shopping centre is connected to the back of the Emporium and is probably a nicer shopping experience. David Jones and Myers had sales on so we took advantage (a little bit since we’re currently trying to save save save for South America later on this year). Just things we needed you know.

Melbourne skyline from Southbank

Melbourne skyline from Southbank

Melbourne Laneway

Melbourne Laneway

Audrey graffiti

Audrey graffiti

Prahran Market

Prahran Market

There are plenty of shops around the Prahran/South Yarra area which kept us busy (read: Topshop, Witchery…), only a short tram trip from the city. Chapel Street Bazaar is the coolest retro and vintage store – it’s huge and we whiled away quite a bit of time in here. The Olsen and Cullen Art Series hotels are out here too and I think in a great location for a girlie weekend away. Prahran Market (closed Mondays and Wednesdays) is a great spot for a potter round. Not a huge food market but nice for a wander and some photo opps. Market Lane Coffee at the back of the building sells their own roasted coffee beans and brewing equipment. They also host some roasting classes and I think cupping classes too (all these coffee classes are a huge deal in Australia these days). Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio up near the Olsen has lovely little cakes too.

We took the tram to Brunswick for a few hours to check out the area; hipster spot if ever I’ve seen one. It was pretty drizzly so we checked out Code Black Coffee Roasters, which does a fabulous gluten free muesli with coconut yoghurt and berry coulis and eggs for John. No matter what time we get out and about we have to search for a spot that sells eggs on toast with avocado. Men! This is such a large space with a huge area at the back of the building for roasting. Very unassuming from the outside; kind of like walking into a car tyre changing spot to be honest! Amazing spot though. Had to purchase more coffee beans here…our luggage allowance back to Sydney was pretty much entirely taken up by coffee-kgs! We took a stroll over to Brunswick East via some cute side streets to check out the Brunswick East Project – for yet more coffee…and more to take home. The Lost Weekend vintage market is out here but sadly we weren’t there at the weekend; it’s housed in a pretty cool spot.

ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is hosting a Dreamworks Animation exhibition at the moment, which we obviously went to since we have a combined maturity age of 12. So amazing to see the work that goes in to animations – new appreciation for sure. Virgin are doing concession tickets for Velocity members so that was a nice little surprise.

Some Culinary Spots

1000 £ Bend on Little Lonsdale Street is a bustling café and gallery with lovely bircher muesli. We’ve been to the Manchester Press (8 Rankins Lane) on most of our Melbourne trips. They do really nice bagels and there’s often a serious queue waiting to sample them. We tried to get in to Hardware Société (120 Hardware Street) a few times but the queues were of astronomical proportions and ain’t nobody got time for that. The Journal Café in the CAE building on Flinders Lane is a lovely spot for a chai latte. The macarons in the Little Royal just off Bourke Street mall are amazing. Better than Ladurée. There, said it. The Switchboard Café (220 Collins Street) is in a blink and you’ll miss it spot but is so cute. Ca de Vin in Postal Lane next to the GPO (now H&M) for a charcuterie plate and some vino. Tasty. The Mess Hall (across from Pelligrini’s on Bourke Street) is a really nice dinner spot. We both ended up with the beetroot tagliatelle. We had a quick catch up lunch with a friend at GAZI on the day we left, run by Masterchef’s George Calombaris. Pretty tasty.

We had all these plans to go to Daylesford to check it out (really cute spa town about 90 minutes drive from Melbourne) but café life took over. Such is life!

Tasmania, Australia

We decided to take an extra long weekend to check out Tasmania. We were very lucky with the weather as the sky stayed so blue for the entire trip! Bit chillier than Sydney-side but still about 20 degrees so not too shabby.
 
We flew in and out of Launceston. Started the trip with a quick lunch on Friday at the Milkbar Cafe and Workshop which was very cute. Followed this with a coffee in Velocci on Balfour Street. We checked out Cataract Gorge and took a drive up around the beautiful houses overlooking Launceston. 
Melita Honey Farm

Melita Honey Farm

Next on the agenda was Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm in Elizabeth Town. I had read about it in a number of reviews but it wasn’t the most amazing spot to be honest. Where was awesome though was the Melita Honey Farm in a tiny little village called Chudleigh. Definitely worth a visit – they have a little museum at the back of the shop and SO many different types of honey to taste. Great ice-cream stop too!!
We drove around the Highland Lakes area for a few hours before making our way to Hobart for our stay at the Amberley Guest House. Really cute guesthouse in the Sandy Bay suburb of Hobart. We had dinner and drinks in Smolt in Salamanca Place. Seriously tasty.
 
Saturday morning started with the Salamanca Market which happens every Saturday morning rain or shine down in Salamanca Place. Hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and flowers to vintage tea sets. Really great market. 
 
We pottered around the historic Battery Point for a while after the market. It’s quite similar to the Rocks in Sydney but probably a little bit bigger. Some beautiful sandstone cottages nestled around the area with amazing views out over the River Derwent.
 
On to the most important part of Battery Point – the food…
 
Jam Jar has apparently got the best coffee that John has tasted in quite a while. Shame I knocked that out of his hand…funny though!!! I had a Chai Latte at the Pollen Tea Room which is a tiny little cafe – they make their own chai in there – really good. Hot drinks followed by AMAZING goodies from the Jackman & McRoss Bakery. 
Salamanca Market

Salamanca Market

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Started on the road to Port Arthur which is a former convict settlement about an hour and a half drive from Hobart. We went with the Bronze Pass which was $35 per person. Close by we checked out the Tasman Arch and Blowhole in the area.
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En route to Port Arthur

En route to Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

We stayed at the Piermont Retreat which is 3km from Swansea for 2 nights. Pretty remote but absolutely beautiful. We had breakfast at Kate’s Berry Farm which was literally across the road from the Piermont on Sunday morning – crépes and scones. Yum! Continued on to Freycinet National Park for the day. We started off by getting some H2O supplies in Coles Bay (which is another tiny little village) for the hike to see Wineglass Bay. It’s only about a 30 minute hike each way but it is uphill so quite strenuous. Totally worth it though as it’s an absolutely beautiful view. Our next stop was Cape Tourville Lighthouse just to check it out. Pretty. We then stopped at Richardsons Beach for a lovely walk along the beach. The beaches are so long in Tasmania – absolutely beautiful. We went to Freycinet Lodge overlooking the beach for a bite to eat.

We ended the day with a trip to the 
Friendly Beaches – one of THE BEST beaches I’ve ever been on. The sand was white and the water crystal clear. Just beautiful.
Funny place-names we came across: Bust Me Gall Hill and Break Me Neck Hill. Also a gn for the Wye River had a sign under it saying ‘coz it’s bigger than a creek. HA!! Oh ya, and we passed through the Walls of Jerusalem and Baghdad…
Kate's Berry Farm

Kate’s Berry Farm

 Wineglass Bay

Beautiful Wineglass Bay

Friendly Beaches

Friendly Beaches

Blue Mountains, NSW

So we’ve taken many a trip up to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. We’ve done day-trips and some fancy weekends. Katoomba is the main town and a lot of tours etc. start out from here.

We have stayed at the loveliest hotel on occasion – Lilianfels. It’s very old school, billiards room and the like, but such a nice place to spend the weekend. We recently took Mum and Dad there for Afternoon Tea and they loved it too. It’s right next to Echo Point, the look out point for the Three Sisters.

A trip worth doing close if you’re in the area is to Scenic World to do the Katoomba Scenic Railway – the steepest incline railway in the world. Yep. And you’re effectively in a cage. For the adventurous amongst us.

My absolute favourite town in the Blue Mountains has got to be Leura, known as the Garden Village. It’s got quite a French feel. There are plenty of shops to look around and cafés to visit too. Leura Garage is a great spot for food up the top of the town. Leura also houses the cutest store called Papinelle, really cute gifts and sleepwear.

There is a Leura Gardens Festival on in October each year where you can visit some gardens for a fee, which goes to some charities in the area.

Another area worth a visit is Wentworth Falls. There’s a small village right next to the train station so a very accessible spot. Nice cafés to while away a bit of time and there’s a cute antique store too. Wentworth Falls lake, about a 2 minute drive from the village, is also worth a trip to for a picnic or just for a quick look.

If you don’t have a car then it’s easy to get to the Blue Mountains by bus or train. The train stations are in the centre of both Wentworth Falls, Katoomba and Leura.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Pretty spectacular, eh?

Pretty spectacular, eh?

Graffiti wall in Leura

Graffiti wall in Leura

A beautiful waterfall

A beautiful waterfall

Broken Hill and the Outback, NSW

So we literally spent ALL of Easter weekend sitting in the car, half needed a hip transplant after this trip I tell you. Totally worth it though, mostly just so John could say he’s driven some 3000km in one long weekend. 
 
Started the trip first thing on Good Friday morning and drove south something or other towards Canberra (along with the rest of the population of the city) and on to the ski resorts (Jindabyne and Thredbo) via Kosciuszko National Park to Shepparton in Victoria. No snow yet so it was a pretty uneventful drive, you do have to stop the car on the way into Kosciuszko just to get a sticker to say you’re just driving through (it’s a 2 hour pass essentially and it’s free) or you can pay c. $16 for the day to drive around the park or camp there overnight. The scenery on this section of the trip was pretty spectacular in all fairness. The absolute best part of this section of the trip was driving through Kosciuszko with the windows wide open and the amazing smell of pine trees coming in the window. We only got lost once on Friday so that’s pretty great too. Not the worst view to come out of a detour though:

Nice views along the way

We ended up overnighting in Shepparton, VIC to break up the stay a little. Stayed at the Best Western – we actually had a huge room (gotta love those accessible rooms!) and the owner was the nicest chap ever! The people are so nice in the countryside in Australia, always up for a chat and really helpful.
 
So onwords and upwards (haha up the country quite literally) and all day Saturday in the car driving to Broken Hill (probably took about 8 hours driving time). We didn’t stop too many times on this section of the trip; just wanted to get to Broken Hill to be honest. P.S. Get your petrol in Mildura or you’re well screwed! You do not want to get stranded in the place they make all those scary murder movies!!

The gist of the entire trip!

The gist of the entire trip!

They're EVERYWHERE!

They’re EVERYWHERE!

Hi guys!

 

Broken Hill

Did a bit of time-travelling and landed in Broken Hill half an hour early (different time zone so 30 minutes earlier than the rest of New South Wales). We checked in to the ‘Royal Exchange Hotel’ on Argent Street. Felt like we were in an episode of Casper the Friendly Ghost checking in here – don’t think there was anybody else staying there and the lady at reception was definitely just waiting for us to check in so she could disappear. The foyer is pretty small but the staircase looks pretty grand (if not a little creaky) and it’s a bit dusty too…probably was great back in the boom mining times. We settled in pretty quickly and popped out for dinner at ‘The Astra’ just up the road from our hotel. Pretty good food to be honest.


Up bright and early on Sunday morning and we took a drive to Silverton just outside Broken Hill. Silverton has been in many films and there’s actually a ‘Mad Max’ museum here with a replica of a car from the film sitting just outside the pub. It’s a really tiny spot but well worth a visit for some great photo opportunities. We actually drove a little further into the Outback from here and the vista is just unbelievable – you’re literally looking at nothing as far as the horizon – just flat red land.

Silverton’s Church

Silverton Hotel with the Mad Max replica

Silverton Hotel with the Mad Max replica

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Outback

Mad Max Museum

Max Max Museum and me!

 

On the drive back into Broken Hill we decided to stop and take a tour of the family run ‘Day Dream Mine‘. It’s probably a 20 minute drive off the main road down an actual red dirt track and you do have to open and close a couple of gates on your trip. We paid for a tour ($30) which included a trip around the surface of the mine and a c. 20 minute trip underground – hard hat with headlight and harness included! This mine was actually mined back in the 1880’s and again in c. 1980 for a few years by one man and some friends. We were told that he had worked there in the past and was sure there was more mining to be done so he spent his weekends pottering away.

We had some scones and tea after our underground expedition back in the Tea Rooms (basically like your Grandmother’s kitchen back in old time Ireland!). They have some pictures in there looking out at a dust storm from a few years ago, pretty cool.

En route to the Silverton Mine

Safety First!

Safety First!

Now, more food. I had read about this place called ‘Bell’s Milk Bar‘ which is infamous for malted milkshakes and syrups for milkshakes. It’s on Patton Street, a little drive outside the main hub of Broken Hill. It was truly amazing; very 1950’s and you would absolutely expect to meet the Fonz in there! We had some lovely Coconut and Vanilla milkshakes with apple pies, awesome! You can also buy the syrups and cordials here to do it all at home. There’s also a funky little museum at the back of the bar which is worth a walk through while you’re waiting for your drinks.
 

We left Broken Hill for Cobar in the late afternoon, it’s nearly a 5 hour drive so we wanted to drive before it got dark; there are way too many kangaroos and goats on this road so it’s really only advisable to drive in daylight hours. We just had some pizza and stayed in some motel for our overnight trip in the not-so-happening Cobar.

Easter Sunday and we had set off at the crack of dawn again in the direction of Orange (true story). We drove through Dubbo but didn’t stop as that’s probably another trip all on it’s own. We seriously stopped in a place called ‘Nevertire’ – no joke! (Coffee break!) We thought it might be nice to stop in Orange as we had heard great things but I think you would probably need a weekend in Orange on it’s own to see the vineyards and just chill. Instead, we continued a few kilometres out of Orange and ventured to Millthorpe.

Hands down THE cutest village on the planet. We parked up and spent a little while rambling around this little village. It’s literally untouched with some beautiful architecture and restaurants, antique shops and a really cute old-time sweet shop called ‘Galvanised’. We were only famished and ended up in an Irish run bar/restaurant called ‘Gerry’s at the Commercial’ run by Gerry from Galway. Of course.

Cannot wait to go back to Millthorpe and just spend a weekend there chilling. The scenery is just like Ireland (only some bit warmer) so it’s very homely! I don’t actually have any pictures of the village as yet but here’s an idea of the scenery in the area.
Then back to Sydney via the Blue Mountains. We must have stopped the car about 10,000 times just to see kangaroos in the wild. I don’t think the novelty will ever end!! Great weekend away!
Area around Millthorpe

Area around Millthorpe