Australia Travel/holiday

Hey Mona!

(If the title of this post doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s a lyric from Craig McLachlan’s song Mona).

Hobart loftAnyway, Alex and I went to Tassie! We flew to Hobart mega-cheaply, and even wangled emergency exit seats AGAIN! We stayed in yet another amazing Airbnb place – this time a nice family’s garage converted into a funky loft studio.

The location on Liverpool Street was great – a short walk to the CBD, shops, coffee shops, the ferry to Mona (more on that later), a bus that takes you to Cascade Brewery/Mt Wellington, Battery Point and more.

On our first day we decided to walk up the aforementioned Mount Wellington. We hadn’t gone far when the rocky ground beneath our feet turned to snow, and the air temperature dropped to ‘very chilly’. At one point the map told us we were underneath the magnificent Organ Pipes, but in actual fact all we could see was cloud! After climbing over some boulders and essentially wading through a stream, we reached a picnic spot called the Chalet (at 1000m) and stopped for a much-needed cereal bar. We then decided to head back down along the road, rather than risking a slippery climb up the final 270m to the Pinnacle – mainly because we knew there wouldn’t be a view from the top (and it seemed silly to clamber up there just so we could tell people we’d done it!).

The view from Mount Wellington
The view from Mount Wellington

Even though we didn’t complete the climb, it had still been pretty good exercise, so we rewarded ourselves with dinner at Hobart’s best BBQ joint, Crumb Street Kitchen, that evening. It was mmmmm tasty good.

Cascade Brewery
Cascade Brewery

The next day we walked along the Hobart Rivulet (rivulet: noun. 1. a small stream of water or another liquid) to Cascade Brewery for a tour with tastings! Our tour guide had a big beard and was very funny, and it was cool to see all the current beer making equipment housed in the original brewery building dating back to 1824. After our tastings (4 for Alex; 3 for me) the rest of the day was a write-off! We went home, had a nap, and then ordered takeaway food (Crumb Street Kitchen again) for dinner! In our defence, it was incredibly stormy and rainy outside, so a cheese burger, a glass of wine and a DVD were just what we needed.

The pièce de résistance of our Hobart trip was our day at Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s the largest privately funded museum in Australia, and all the pieces are from millionaire gambler David Walsh’s collection. But this is no Tate Modern. Walsh has described the museum as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’ and that sums it up pretty well!

The Mona ferry
The Mona ferry

To get there we hopped on Mona’s very own ferry for the 30 minute journey along the River Derwent. None of the artworks have labels, so all visitors are given iPods which use GPS to figure out where you are – and then you can read all about the painting/sculpture/poo-machine (more on that later) that you’re standing in front of, as well as listening to some commentary. One of the first pieces we saw was bit.fall by Julius Popp, which takes words from information sites on the internet and briefly ‘translates’ them into drops of water as, in the artist’s own words, ‘a metaphor for the incessant flood of information we are exposed to’. It was amazing, and we could easily have stood in front of it all day. One of the words I saw was ‘MH17’ – very topical seeing as a memorial for the victims of Flight MH17 was taking place at the same time back in Melbourne.

bit.fall by Julius Popp

For me, the highlight in terms of interestingness (but lowlight in terms of smell) was definitely the installation Cloaca Professional (2010) by Belgium artist Wim Delvoye – also known as the poo-machine. According to the Mona blurb, the ‘gastro-intestinal’ machine works like this: ‘It is fed and maintained at body temperature while food travels through a kind of mechanical and chemical assembly line involving ‘organs’, enzymes necessary for digestion, farting and a smelly solid end product. Cloaca is a work of art that produces works of art’.

The smell really is horrendous.

Anyway, here are some more photos from Mount Wellington:

Clockwise from top left: A tree in the way!; Snowball fight!; Snowman; Visual representation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place
Clockwise from top left: Oh no, there’s a tree in the way!; Snowball fight!; Visual representation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place; Snowman (‘s head)!
Adventure Australia Travel/holiday

Lord Howe Island and the trek of doom

After our amazing weekend in Sydney we swapped city life for 5 nights on world heritage listed Lord Howe Island. We flew in on a tiny plane and were immediately greeted with blue skies and bright sunshine – a welcome change from the chilliness of Melbourne and Sydney. Fun facts! Lord Howe is located 600km east of the Australian mainland in the South Pacific. The island is just 11km long and 2km wide at the widest point. And there are just 350 permanent residents, with tourists restricted to 400 at any one time.

Our studio at Beachcomber Lodge had everything we needed for our stay, and was just a short walk from some of the island’s shops and restaurants, as well as their much loved Ned’s Beach (where we later squeezed in a scuba dive).

Mount Gower
Mount Gower

One of the first things we did was sign up to the Mount Gower trek taking place on Wednesday. I perhaps foolishly decided to read lots of TripAdvisor reviews about the trek, so I pretty much knew what to expect:

  • a tough trek/climb, not suitable for anyone with a fear of heights (and only suitable for moderately fit/very fit people)
  • very steep sections which would require the use of ropes (ropes??!!)
  • an 8 hour return trip at the very least (starting at 7am).

I was not happy about any of this (especially the bits in brackets above) and by the time I woke up on the morning of the trek I was actually just hoping it would be cancelled due to the rain we’d had during the night! But unfortunately for me the trek went ahead, and before I could say ‘maybe I should stay behind and have a massage instead’ we were starting out.

Pretty early on we were already using the aforementioned ropes. But it wasn’t the sort of climbing seen in survival drama movie 127 Hours; rather than each person being attached to their own climbing ropes and doing all sorts of things with carabiners, these ropes were permanently fixed to the rocks and we just grabbed onto them when needed to pull ourselves up.

The next section was interesting though – we had to don helmets and then edge sideways along a very narrow path (holding onto a rope of course!), with the mountain towering above us and a 100m drop below us. The only redeeming feature was the incredible view of the entire island in front of us. I began to wonder if there was any point carrying on – how could the view from the top possibly beat this?!

Ball's Pyramid
Ball’s Pyramid

Next our guide Jack Shick showed us how to shimmy up a palm tree with just a foot strap thing (as you do), and then we ditched our helmets and did some normal, surprisingly flat walking. Jack provided some interesting commentary about the vegetation on the mountain along the way (but only when he wasn’t talking to his friend, who had joined the trek sporting a flowing grey beard and flip flops!), and then we had a lovely little morning tea break by a creek. After that there were some more steep sections, including a couple of really tricky ones, but we also got an amazing view of Ball’s Pyramid (the world’s tallest sea stack).

View from the top - just before the rain!
View from the top – just before the rain!

Before we knew it we were at the summit, enjoying our lunches with a breath-taking view of the island below us. The plan was to start our descent at about 12.30pm, but as if on cue the sky completely clouded over and it started pouring with rain just as we got up to go! This made the journey down very difficult – not only were we negotiating the usual rocks, tree roots and ropes, but we were also trying to avoid slipping and tumbling to our deaths. And the really tricky sections going up were 10 times harder on the way down. At one point Alex told me to ‘hold onto the rope and lean back as if you’re abseiling’ – interesting advice given we’ve been together for 9 years and have never been abseiling once! But he redeemed himself by grabbing my arm, Indiana Jones style, when I accidentally lost my grip on the rope and so nearly fell a long way onto a very hard surface!

Needless to say, I was really hating the trek by this point. It was just so slippery and scary, and the group had separated out quite a bit due to the one-at-a-time rope sections. Then Alex slid into me and knocked me over – leaving me with a big bruise on my thigh and a HUGE bruise on the left cheek of my bottom (still there over a week later!). Although plenty of other people were struggling too (I was relieved to hear I wasn’t the only one swearing from time to time!), a man who was probably in his late 70s and had had both knees replaced was as agile as a mountain goat!

Finally, finally we got to the bottom, a mere 9.5 hours after we started out. I was damp, sore, covered in mud and bruises and totally exhausted, but I’d done it!

View of Mount Gower
View of Mount Gower (the mountain on the right!)
Australia Fun Travel/holiday

Sydney vs Melbourne

Melbourne coffee snobWe finally did it – we departed our beloved Melbourne for a few days in Sydney to see what Australia’s most iconic city has to offer. And it turns out the answer is HEAPS!

We were staying in a funky studio in Surry Hills, courtesy of Airbnb, and the location was perfection. There was a fantastic independent coffee shop just up the road (very important for a Melbourne coffee snob like Alex!) and everything we needed for the weekend was right on our doorstep.

On our first afternoon we had lunch at said coffee shop, then walked to and through the Botanical Gardens, and before we knew it we were on the steps of the magnificent Opera House. After taking plenty of photos we decided to celebrate our 9th anniversary in style – with a lovely glass of sparkling wine overlooking the Harbour Bridge at sunset!

Harbour Bridge at sunset
Harbour Bridge at sunset

Later that evening we stopped for a cocktail at Hinky Dinks – highly recommended for the 1950s decor, attentive service and tasty concoctions. So far we were loving Sydney (sorry Melbourne!) – everything was just so picturesque and iconic and interesting and breathtaking.

The next day we hopped on a bus to Coogee and did the coastal walk up to Bondi. Although we were fully prepared for an off-road hike, clothed as we were in walking shoes and outdoorsy attire, the walk was actually paved and pretty flat, so we felt pretty daft. We stopped for lunch at Bronte, another lovely little beachside suburb (but with BIG waves that day!), and then carried on to Bondi. The beach was practically deserted (as you’d expect on a chilly winter’s day), but we did see the lifeguard station from Bondi Rescue, which reassured us that this was in fact the same beach that is famously packed all summer long!

That evening we found ourselves in need of another cocktail, so we dressed up a bit and headed to Eau-de-Vie – in their words ‘an intimate, dimly lit, jazz infused speakeasy’. The cocktails were delish and it was indeed dimly lit and very atmospheric. One of the hosts/waiters was a bit pretentious, so it was a good job that he wasn’t around when we tried to pay and our card was declined! (Fear not, we quickly used our trusty banking app to transfer some money from our savings account – what are savings for if not to be spent on delectable cocktails?!). We found a great little sushi place for dinner (not unlike Melbourne’s Ichi Ichi Ku), and then rounded off the night with a handmade choc-top (as seen on MasterChef Australia) and sundae from Gelato Messina – pure ice creamy heavenliness.

Gelato Messina choc top
Gelato Messina – sundae and choc-top

After waking from our food coma the next morning, we decided to hop on a ferry to Watson’s Bay for another coastal walk. I completely fell in love with Watson’s Bay – it’s absolutely beautiful, with amazing views over to Sydney Proper and some lovely beaches (plus signs of scuba diving and some interesting history to boot!). This time we wore normal shoes and clothes, but it turned out the walk was actually much longer, more off-road, and hillier than yesterday’s – ooops! When we finally got to our destination (Bondi again), our first stop was Matt Moran’s North Bondi Fish for a beer and some seriously good fish and chips. But we couldn’t indulge too much because dinner was already booked…

Billy Kwong
Billy Kwong

Just before 8pm we left our Surry Hills pad for the wonderfully short walk to Billy Kwong, Kylie Kwong’s super famous restaurant. The restaurant doesn’t look much from the outside – you might not give the place a second glance if you didn’t know what was inside. And in fact the interior is very simply decorated and understated too. But the food is spectacular! We loved every mouthful, from the pork belly special and stir-fried organic warrigal greens, to Billy Kwong’s signature crispy duck dish, which has been on the menu for a whopping 14 years.

The next morning it was already time to leave, even though we had barely scraped the surface of what’s on offer; we didn’t manage to check out The Rocks or any of the museums, there wasn’t time for a trip to Manly or the Blue Mountains, and it was too chilly to attempt surfing at Bondi. But we’re already planning our next trip, so there will be another chance to tick those things off our list, and more!

We’ve since come to the conclusion that Sydney is one of the best cities in the world to visit, and it’s impossible not to love it and constantly marvel at the sights. But we’ll never regret choosing to live in Melbourne – not just because of the better coffee, but because we arrived as strangers 9 months ago and yet somehow felt at home right away 🙂

Australia Fun Travel/holiday

72 hours in Brisbane

If you spend any time in Melbourne in the winter you’ll get pretty chilly and rained on, so I would heartily recommend a weekend away to warm and sunny Brisbane.

Our weekend started on a high note when we found ourselves sitting in row A of the aeroplane! Amazing. (From this vantage point you actually get to see the cabin crew ‘arm all doors and cross-check’!) Then before we knew it we were in Brisbane – a good few degrees warmer than Melbourne even at 10pm. We were staying with our lovely Melbourne house-mate, SJ (temporarily in Brissie for some research), and her apartment block was awesome – part hotel, part flats, very art deco – and slap bang in the heart of the city.

Glad rags

The weekend was a hoot from start to finish, especially our hilarious dinner at the United Service Club on Friday. We were SJ’s guests and attempted to dress snappily for the occasion, but upon entering the dining room it turned out Alex was not quite smart enough! The waiter/maître d’ almost let him off because we were the only people in the dining room, but then some other people turned up so Alex was sent off to find a jacket and tie from behind reception. It was just like Pretty Woman.

Alex returned some time later wearing a black blazer jacket thing and a grey striped tie, and then we tucked into a delicious meal incorporating a crisp white wine and some tasty lobster. It was only when we came to leave and Alex was doffing his borrowed clothes in order to return them that we realised he’d actually picked a ladies’ jacket!

On Saturday we headed upriver to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and it was fab! Apart from a plethora of koalas, including adorable little ones, we also saw kangaroos, emus, Tasmanian devils, crocodiles, goannas, wombats, kookaburras, platypus, snakes, frogs and dingoes! As far as I understand it, the only Aussie animals we didn’t see there were echidnas and sharks.

That evening it did in fact rain – as in a truly torrential downpour – but luckily we were in a restaurant at the time and it had stopped by the time we finished our meal, so we didn’t get in the least bit chilly or damp. In your face Melbourne!

The next day was beautifully sunny as we hopped on the city’s free bikes for a cycle along the impressive Brisbane River. Our first stop was brunch in James Street (with some spectacular views of Story Bridge on the way), then we scooted along under the Kangaroo Point cliffs, before finishing up at QAGOMA (the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art).

Story Bridge
Story Bridge

After checking out Richard Godfrey Rivers’s iconic Under the Jacaranda painting and seeing some beautiful Aboriginal art, we returned to SJ’s for a sit down and some cheese, and then hopped on the plane back to Melbourne. We managed to pack quite a bit into our 72 hours in Brisbane and left feeling enriched, inspired and most of all, warm!


Adventure Australia Travel/holiday

Surfin’ V.I.C

Last weekend Alex and I went surfing! Why we chose to go just as Melbourne’s weather was turning decidedly wintery, as opposed to during the 30-40 degree summer, will forever be a mystery, but we figured better late than never!

We went with Great Ocean Road Surf Tours thanks to a leaflet I’d picked up in the Official Neighbours Tour office last month. We were promised two days of surfing, plus some scenic lunches and a trip to Victoria’s famous Bells Beach. Due to the location of said leaflet I had a slight sense of trepidation that we’d be in a group with a gaggle of 18 year old backpackers (having been one myself once, I could think of nothing worse!), but in fact it was just us – wahey!

Before we knew it we were in lovely Torquay, changing into our wetsuits, rash vests and booties in a beach car park with our surf coach, Al. And then we were learning the techniques of how to stand up on a surf board – first of all under a pouring rain shower on the beach, and then in the actual ocean (still under a pouring rain shower)! Somehow it wasn’t actually that cold in the water, and soon I was managing to stand up the cheat knees-first way, while Alex was managing to stand up the real surfer way (for anyone in the know about these things!). Although we both managed to fall off a lot, we feeling pretty pleased with our progress.

This is how we do it
This is how we do it

After quite a few rounds of standing up/almost standing up/falling off/falling over, we then disembarked the sea, hopped in the van, and drove off to another beach. This time the waves were bigger so we had to paddle out quite a bit to get in the best position for the surf. Some of the waves were so big I was knocked right of the board and swirled around under the water for a bit before re-surfacing, but being no stranger to life underwater I remained mostly unperturbed. Around this time a search and rescue helicopter was busy practicing searching for and rescuing someone in the sea nearby. I’m pretty sure the team had one eye on me, just in case!

Soon the waves were getting bigger and bigger, and it was getting harder and harder to paddle back out in order to catch more waves. And then a particularly rough ‘n tumble moment caused my leash to be ripped from my leg so my surfboard and I were no longer attached! Luckily my board washed ashore (or perhaps that always happens?), but it seemed like a good time to end the lesson and have some lunch!

That evening we were exhausted, so we chilled out in our cabin, ate lots of pizza, watched Jerry Maguire and had an early night. Thanks to these simple steps we actually felt pretty energised the next day, and even the rain did nothing to dampen our spirits. We went to the only beach that was suitable for beginners given the conditions, and in fact most of Torquay’s surfers seemed to have the same idea. For some reason I kept doing lots of things wrong, so for every time I managed to stand up, there were a dozen times when I totally failed. It was soooo frustrating, especially as I had so much help from our expert coach, so there really wasn’t any excuse for being so rubbish. The only consolation was that two of the times I did stand up, I also managed to almost turn!

After changing out of our wetsuits in the beach car park (not an easy task for a woman I can tell you!) we paid a visit to Bells Beach, which features in the greatest surfing movie of all time, Point Break! Of course, a cursory glance at Wikipedia will tell you that the well-known final scene of Point Break was actually filmed in Oregon, America, not Victoria, Australia – but nevertheless it was top to see one of the world’s greatest surf beaches in the flesh!

We got back to Melbourne feeling salty, sandy and sleepy, but already starting to plan our next surfing adventure – maybe Lord Howe Island in July? Watch this space…!

Australia Travel/holiday

Mornington mud and gin

A couple of weeks ago we headed down the coast to the lovely Mornington Peninsula for a weekend of mud and gin!

We borrowed our friends’ car in Brighton, scooted along the Nepean Highway past Frankston, and arrived at our Airbnb apartment in McCrae in no time at all. After grabbing some lunch at the Blue Bay Cafe (the walls adorned with autographs of Neighbours cast members!) we jumped back in the car to Peninsula Hot Springs for the mud part of the trip.

First we sampled all the thermal mineral pools, with temperatures varying from 37 to 43 degrees celcius (apart from the cold plunge pool which was bloody freezing). The spa pool water contains a range of naturally occurring minerals including sulphur, calcium, magnesium, potassium and others – providing all sorts of therapeutic benefits! We managed to stay in the hottest one for longer than we intended as we got chatting to a friendly chap from Geelong! Then we discovered our favourite pool of all – the wouldn’t-be-out-of-place-in-Hobbiton wine barrel:

The wine barrel
The wine barrel

Next it was time for our private mud bath! Neither of us had any idea what to expect, although we both secretly imagined it was going to be a giant bubbling pool of thick, gloopy mud. In fact it was a normal bath, filled with the same water as the thermal spa pools, and we smeared mud onto our bodies before hopping in. Then we lay back and relaxed as the mineral-enriched Dead Sea mud did its work – “regenerating the skin, restoring a youthful radiance to body and soul”.

The next day was Gin Day! But first of all we popped to Foxeys Hangout (chosen purely because of the excellent name!) for some wine tasting and tapas. The tapas was a good move, because over the next couple of hours there was plenty of gin-tasting to do!

When we arrived co-founder Bob told us all about Bass & Flinders Distillery, including how they make the basic gin (using grapes and a triple distillation method) and how they add the botanicals to make the tasty flavours. We then got to sample a gin & tonic! from their range, and while we were drinking we heard where all the botanicals come from and what they add to the gin.

Then it was our turn to invent our very own bottle of gin! We all started with the basis for any good gin – juniper and coriander. Then we could add whatever we felt like from the range of vapour infused botanicals at our disposal, which included: lime, orange, cassia bark, chilli, cardamon, lemon grass, angelica and many more. We used syringes to measure small quantities of each flavour into our mixing cup, then kept tasting the neat booze and adding more botanicals until we were happy with the overall flavour.

By the end of the session I had created a traditional, fresh, limey gin, while Alex went for a more exotic and oriental-inspired blend (at least that’s what we were aiming for!)

In a couple of weeks the bottles of gin will be delivered to our door, and we’ll be able to see whether our concoctions worked, or if the end results are more ‘interesting’ than delicious. Either way, we’ll look forward to sipping a bespoke gin & tonic while we reminisce about our weekend of mud and gin!

Australia Travel/holiday


At the footie - a Saints fan
Saints fan Emma!

Last weekend we did proper Aussie things. We went to see Aussie rules football and we visited places outside of Melbourne!

First the footie. As we’re living in St Kilda at the moment we’ve become Saints fans, so we headed to the Etihad Stadium to see them in action. They were playing the Sydney Somethings and somehow managed to win, even though there was plenty of fumbling and dropping the ball at every opportunity. It’s possible even I could have managed some of those catches!

Footie games seem to go on for a while – 4 quarters of 20ish minutes each – but with 18 players on each team there’s always lots to see. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that because I can’t remember any of the rules or anything particularly exciting that happened. (Let’s face it, I’m probably never going to be a sports journalist!)

The very next day we headed off on a Great Ocean Road coach trip and literally and actually left the confines of Melbourne for a whole day. First stop was Colac, a town famous (as far as I’m concerned) for being the hometown of the Rebecchi crew in Neighbours. We only stopped for half an hour, but that was long enough to get a good coffee and to sample a delicious Aussie delicacy, the coffee scroll. It’s basically an iced bun with currants, and even though I hate currants, I thought it was pretty good!

Next stop was the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, where we enjoyed a lovely stroll along an elevated boardwalk high up in a temperate rainforest, peering down at the massive ferns below. It was the perfect day for this experience – slightly damp and chilly but with glimpses of dazzling sunlight and touches of warmth through the branches.

After Otway we were on the road again. We took a slight detour, when our incredibly lovely coach driver accidentally went the wrong way and ended up at a dead end, so then had to do a 27 point turn – in a coach – in order to face the right way again!

But we made it to our next stop without further delay – the incredible Twelve Apostles. By this time it was gloriously bright and sunny, and with every step along the boardwalk there was yet another awe-inspiring view to greet our eyes. Next we headed to Loch Ard Gorge – the site of a 19th century shipwreck with a beautiful beach and a cove (where the only two shipwreck survivors sheltered all those years ago).

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

Our penultimate stop was the small (but perfectly formed) town of Port Campell. After a dash to the Surf Club loos SJ and I ate a tasty Magnum by the sea, while Alex watched teams battling it out on the beach as part of The Amazing Race Australia. We look forward to seeing whether Alex will be visible in the background whenever the show airs!

Finally we carried on a short way to London Bridge – another beautiful rock formation that is actually no longer a bridge because it collapsed into the sea in 1990 (while two people were standing on the other side – ooops!).

We arrived back in Melbourne a few hours later, feeling exhausted in that way people often feel after sitting on a coach for hours on end. But it was a fantastic day, packed full of breath-taking views and spectacular sights, plus our coach driver was a real treasure. I’d definitely recommend this tour to anyone who wants to experience the Great Ocean Road (and why wouldn’t you?).

Our specific tour was actually organised by the University of Melbourne’s graduate students’ association, but the coach and driver were from AAT Kings. Find out about their Great Ocean Road tour.

Adventure Travel/holiday

South Africa Part 2: Camps Bay and Cape Town

After a night in Swellendam, 7 nights in Plett and 2 nights in Twee Riviere, Alex and I headed to Cape Town for the final instalment of our holiday.

We had two nights at Ocean View House guest house – situated a short jaunt from Camps Bay proper and just down the hill from Table Mountain. The first evening we had a very tasty dinner at Hussar Grill – chateaubriand for me and a game kebab thing for Alex.

The next morning we got a taxi up to the Table Mountain cable car, but instead of hopping aboard we walked right past it and began hiking to the top instead. (The hike was of course Alex’s idea, but agreeing to it meant I could have a day of guilt-free shopping in Cape Town the next day!)

Me hiking up Table Mountain
Me hiking up Table Mountain

I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t love the experience of hiking to the top of Table Mountain at the time. It was hot, steep and tiring, and I found myself looking something like this:

But once we got to the top everything seemed ok again. I realised that the hike hadn’t been too long after all (just over an hour and a half), and the view over Cape Town – including Robben Island – made it all worthwhile.

That evening we had an amazing dinner at The Codfather in Camps Bay. All they serve is sushi and seafood, and we created a delicious platter of grilled butterfish, calamari, crayfish and dorado – with chips, rice and garlic butter. It was sooooooo good. One of the best meals I’ve ever had ever.

The next day we headed into Cape Town for the piece de resistance of our trip – a night in an airstream trailer on the roof of the Grand Daddy Hotel. Our trailer had been decorated in a Goldilocks & the Three Bears theme and was totally awesome inside and out.

Our trailer on the roof
Our trailer on the roof

I’d highly recommend staying in one of these beauties, but one night is plenty as they are quite small inside! Plus there’s a bar on the roof, so you might find drinkers/tourists trying to peak in the windows!

Adventure Travel/holiday

South Africa Part 1: Swellendam + Plett + Twee Riviere

On 8 February Alex and I embarked on a 24 hour journey to South Africa for a family holiday with the Hyphers! We arrived in Cape Town the following day, and in no time at all found ourselves in stunning Franschhoek, enjoying a delicious lunch at Ruben’s with parents, my sister and Alex C – the first time the six of us had been together since October.

After lunch Nicola and Alex C went west to Cape Town for a night, while the rest of us headed east to Swellendam. We stayed at the beautiful Schoone Oordt Country House hotel and were looked after magnificently by the very friendly and helpful Fidney. The whole experience was nothing short of wonderful – from the luxurious room and impeccable service to the sumptuous breakfast and picturesque gardens. It was a shame to only stay one night but we had an itinerary to stick to, and the next stop was Plettenberg Bay!

Adorable baby giraffe
Adorable baby giraffe

Our accommodation in Plett was a villa on a secure estate that can only be described as ‘show-home-esque’ (if such a word existed). We stayed for a week and loved every minute of it. It was the first time in years I’ve managed to sit down and read a novel in under a week! And the indoor braai proved very handy for grilling the fish that Alex, Alex and I managed to catch on a 6am fishing trip!

Handily we were just down the road from the small but perfectly formed Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. We trundled along on a drizzly Friday morning, and our expert guide made sure we saw hippos, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, buffalo, impala, lions, rare wild dogs and a cheetah! The only exciting animal we didn’t manage to spot was a rhino, but we were so pleased to have seen all the other wildlife. Surely no visit to Africa is complete without lions. And look at this adorable baby giraffe!

After Plett Nicola and Alex had to head back to Ethiopia, but the four of us travelled further east – to a small town called Twee Riviere. We were there to see some family friends who had recently moved down from Jo’burg. Jaco had incredibly built most of their new house with his own bare hands and Alet was now teaching at the local school. We stayed in a tiny cottage at The Belfry – the town’s only accommodation and eatery, as well as the post office!

Alet and Jaco's house
Alet and Jaco’s house

Driving uphill from the 250 year old town took us into the mountains, with wild tortoises and proteas at every turn, as well as houses so remote the local children couldn’t go to school and instead played in the dirt roads. This seemed a million miles away from the touristy glamour of Franschhoek and Plett. 

For Alex and me it was then time to head back west to George – for a short flight to Cape Town before our final three nights in South Africa.

Adventure Travel/holiday

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

We’re currently in Cornwall on a family holiday and I’m loving it here! My sister Nicola and her boyfriend Alex (yes another Alex – confusing I know!) were here until Monday morning, so now it’s my mum, dad, dog Tasha, and Alex, plus my unofficial godmother, Rosie.

So far we’ve been on walks along the cliffs and beach in Porthleven where we’re staying, visited St Ives, Land’s End, Penzance, Padstow and Truro, and been to Falmouth twice to get contact lenses for Alex in preparation for a certain water-based activity!

Surfin' Cornwall
Surfin’ Cornwall

Now that we’re moving to Aus in less than a month I decided a surf lesson was definitely in order, and there just happened to be the Dan Joel Surf School in Poldhu, right along the coast from where we’re staying. (It was only later that we found out that Dan Joel used to be the UK champion – he was far too laid-back, friendly and modest to admit that to us in person!)

In my mind I’ve always been an excellent surfer who just doesn’t yet know how to surf. But in reality I was just like any other beginner (if not worse!) – I spent most of the time floundering in the sea with water up my nose. Alex and the other guy in our lesson were better – I reckon partly because they were stronger and so found it easier to get into position to catch a wave and then stand up quickly. By the end of the lesson they could stand up pretty easily and were even starting to turn!

But alas I have no upper body strength, so when it came to trying to stand up on the board I really struggled to hoist myself up onto my feet. The few times I nearly managed it, the wave died and I had no choice but to fall off! Until the last wave of the lesson, when I actually did stand up, and basically surfed all the way into the beach like a total pro (as I assume I must have appeared to on-lookers).

I found the lesson completely exhausting, and was slightly disappointed not to be a complete natural at this sport I’m so desperate to be good at, but I still massively enjoyed it. Dan was a fantastic instructor and I can’t wait to make surfing a regular part of my new life in Aus!