Listing off London

You will never believe the following occurred in just over twenty-four hours. But it did. Because if you’re going to do it, do it right. And do it all.

Day one / we rose and walked all of three meters to The Watch House, a cafe-come-bar that I’d been ogling through the windows the night before, as it was closed on the weekends. Not amazing, but warmed our fingers while it lasted. With a bit of pep in our step, we headed for the Tate Modern. We may have been up and at it early that morning, but a little research would have warned us that London doesn’t actually wake up til 10am. So save yourselves our wait and stay in bed until things open.

A visit to the Crying Room installation let out some of the tears that I’m sure wanted to at the reunion a few nights prior, and the new viewing deck at the top dropped jaws all round. Some eyebrow-raising art and some powerful pieces. Whether you’re a lover or not, the building is impressive enough to warrant a visit. And don’t get me started on the gift shop. Sorry for the wait, boys.

A wander through the Borough Markets on the way back to the tube, we ended up showing Henry something he’d never heard of (when the guide becomes the guided), and he outdid all of our lunches with a loaded pie that I can still taste on the tip of my tongue. Plus I recognised chips with beef dripping from dad’s stories.

Next stop the National History Museum, which he’d hyped up quite a lot. While the dinosaur bones that originally hung in the main hall appeared to have wandered off, they had replaced them with a whopping blue whale that swam through the monumental pillars of the museum. Not sure which part to take a photo of first, I could see how you could get lost in this place for days. And considering entry was free, why not? But if museums aren’t your thing, they also had an ice rink out the front where we watched two girls nail the perfect ‘gram, so there is that too.

It was Harrod’s for a juice (that’s all we could afford), and then off to find  the fairy lights I’d been dreaming of since I was a little girl. Yes, we walked it, and I’ll leave you and Google Maps to work out the distance. Coincidentally, or not, at both Regent and Carnaby Street there were also football shops. I know right! Ehh, everyone’s happy.

A beer at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese where it took longer to find a seat in one of the nooks and crannies of the pub than it did to drink it, and a lot of talk about ordering the three-week old scotch egg sitting at the back of the fridge, but luckily no action taken there. And like the ending to a fairytale, we feasted like kings on beers and burgers at the joint across the road from our apartment until I was hot enough that I was sitting at the bar in my thermals.

Day two – yes, that was all one day / we headed to Angel as I’d been told it would transport me to the ‘101 Dalmatians’ world that my seven year old self would have probably cried over. Row upon row of neat white terraces, I looked in eat window for a puppies face to pop out as we walked to Brother Marcus for breakfast. While we didn’t spot a puppy in the window, he did spot a fancy coffee machine so we stopped for another one, and with a neat thumbs up to the barista we were on our way again.

Covent Garden ticked another off Henry’s London List, and with another hundred photos taken of Christmas decorations, we were on the move again as we had somewhere to be at 3pm. Sketch. Yes, I’m still excited about it. The weirdest and most fabulous afternoon tea I’ve ever had, we were wined and dined by a waiter in a boilersuit, a caviar man in a panama hat, and waitresses that look like the stewardess of a flight to Mars. Pink walls, velvet chairs and toilets that looked like the eggs of the dinosaur who has gone walkabout from the National History Museum, it was an experience that will be relived through stories for a long time. And with a cake wishing ‘Sydney’ a happy birthday at the end, it’s endless thanks to Jane and Peter.

Grabbing Henry again, we headed to Ye Olde Mitre for one last beer in a place where Queen Elizabeth is rumored to have danced around a cherry tree. With sore feet and heads full of fresh memories, we hugged and separated once again, this time knowing only for a month. Not giving ourselves time to think, we raced off to a late night showing of The Book of Mormon and laughed until we collapsed back in bed.

So to London, the city where there always seems to be masses of people walking somewhere on the street, where there are no bins anywhere, and the subway conductors sing Christmas carols to the commuters on the platform as they remind you to watch the gap, thanks for helping me get my steps up this week. I’ll be seeing you again soon. No doubt. Definitely.

E x

Venturing to Kangaroo Valley

Growing up sometimes means awful things like annual leave. But saying no to a summer in Europe doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to home detention. And if you’re clever enough to pick a keeper like I did, a surprise weekend away might even be on the cards.

The clue: eggs and meringue.

The answer: unyoked.

IMG_0073

In words I wish I’d written myself, it was boring in the most exquisite of ways. Located in the unused paddock of a farm in the Kangaroo Valley, the solar-powered, out-of-signal cabin is the perfect excuse to switch your emails to out-of-office. There’s nothing to do and it’s perfect. Hours spent staring at the fire that will later cook your dinner, flicking pages of your book like the light through the trees around you.

IMG_0043

IMG_0032

It had everything you needed and not a thing more. Luxurious linen, stunning scenery, torches to spot the wombats at night, and windows to reach the stars. You and me.

IMG_9971

IMG_0116

IMG_0113

Waking up to a frost that sparkled in the morning light and stumbling my way through a yoga flow as the steam rose from the sloping valley around us. Utter nothingness.

IMG_0065

IMG_0069

A holiday where photos speak a thousand words, but those words could never quite capture it.

IMG_0014

Thank you for the most magical escape.

IMG_0027

E x

 

Hack: what to pack

Have you ever arrived late at your hostel and had to creep into your dorm in the dark and wished you’d packed a torch? Or found yourself draping the clothes you’ve just washed in the sink over every dusty corner you can find in your hotel room and teared up over your washing line at home?

Every time I travel, I learn new hacks on things to pack to make my life easier on the road. But come the next trip, I never seem to remember them, so I thought it was about time I wrote them down.

The list doesn’t contain the essentials (ie. passport, duh), but possibly a few things to add to your letter to Santa.

1. Powercube

Say goodbye to scrambling around that dusty drawer of international adapters looking for enough plugs to charge all your devices. Forget organising a schedule stricter than school camp to make sure your phone, GoPro, laptop and camera are all fully charged for the next day. A powercube has four plugs and two USB ports in one nifty little device. Say hello to filling all your devices with power, in the time it takes you to shower. (That is not an ad, but it should be).

2. Pegless washing line

A lot of places in Europe won’t let you hang your washing out on your balcony, and there is nothing worse than losing your limited stock of underwear after it flies off the precarious perch you hung it over to dry. A pegless washing line not only looks cool, but ensures the delicates you quickly washed in the bathroom sink the night before are actually dry before you stuff them in your bag and hop on the train the next morning.

3. Flexlible travel lock

This is a tip I got before my first backpacking adventure around South East Asia. Locks become much more than just security on long-haul flights. Particularly when you’re backpacking, locks are your life. Passport, money, that scarf you really love. Lock ’em up. But what happens if your lock doesn’t fit into the latch that’s been dented and deformed from years of abuse. Get a flexy lock. With bendy arms, it’ll hug any catch. Nawwwww.

4. A shampoo bar

I’ve never actually used one before but I saw a video on Facebook recently (pretty much how I learn about everything these days), and it looks pretty cool. Save yourself the room big bottles take up and the risk of everything exploding over your limited wardrobe and grab yourself a shampoo bar. Just like soap, only shampoo. Plus, any excuse to head into Lush is one I’ll take.

5. Rechargeable phone case

Forget carrying around heavy power batteries and just slip your phone into a rechargeable phone case. Practical, powerful and yep, you guessed it, packed.

2015-07-02 13.21.06.jpg

So what do you never leave without?

E x

Off to Orange

Not a fan of driving? Not a problem. As I’ve found out, catching the train to the country is easey peasy, and actually aesthetically-pleasing, thanks to TrainLink. So when the parents went up again and I found a couple of days to spare (literally), I hoped onboard and headed out west.

There is nothing more alluring to a city slicker than the promise of rolling brown hills, stunning sunsets, and a paddock of alpacas just metres from your bedroom window. And that’s exactly what I got. Oh, plus an overflowing garden with more vegetables than your local Harris Farm, the most adorable pup called Fergus, heritage-listed barns, and a neigh-bourly horse. Sorry, I had to.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping everything and moving to the country, but haven’t quite been able to muster up the courage, I’ve discovered the perfect solution. It’s a website called TrustedHousesitters. But it’s not just your average house-sitting gig, it’s better. It comes with pets. With worldwide stays available, it can open the door to some amazing opportunities. Like looking after three alpacas and a pup on a small property in Orange.

As a bonus, once you find yourself there, Orange has heaps to enjoy, even if most of it is closed over the long-weekend. And with the Taste Orange food festival headed their way in the coming weeks, Orange has never tasted so good.

From homewares to housebrew, find a few of my favourites from the last trip below.

To eat //

Arriving in late on the first night, I was spoilt and treated to dinner at Lolli Redini, Orange’s very own hatted restaurant. The portions are small but the flavours are strong, and if you’re a girl after my own heart, just read the dessert menu and you’ll know. Creamy fig, rhubarb and honeycomb frozen parfait, with squashed caramalised puff pastry, whipped mascarpone, honey jelly and fresh figs. Yeah.

I know I’ve mentioned Byng Street Local Cafe before but this time I ate there. Simple but delicious, hearty food, plus I hear they’ve started a Supper Club every Thursday with a four course menu for $40 per person. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Finally you can’t go to Orange without visiting Racine Bakery. The hole in the wall in the corner of a carpark that serves up croissants and tarts and bread and quiches and all manner of good baked goods. I’d recommend the portuguese tart, or three.

To shop //

For lovers of pretty petals, you can’t go past Botanica Florist. Located in a heritage-listed turned crisp, modern warehouse, the space is part art gallery, part woodland fairy dream. With rich herringbone floors, and crisp white walls, colour bursts from the canvases hung on the walls, and the flowers stuffed in vases along the bench. If you’re into the weird and wonderful like me though, you’d probably be drawn to the seed pods and cotton tree branches. A flower that doesn’t die? Yes please. And just in case you’re not already salivating at the thought, it has a boutique clothing store and cafe attached. Ahhhhrmmm yes yes yes.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

I’ve written about it before but I love it too much not to mention it again. Jumbled is where I’m floating off to when I die. I’d have to spend hours in there just to try and find a piece I don’t like, but I’ll spend hours in there anyway. After visiting again, my new goal in life is to be able to have a house big enough to have walls to fit all the art on, beds to cover in their sheets, and shelves to fill with all their bits and bobs. If you’re ever in the market for a present for me, visit here: https://www.jumbledonline.com/

Finally, for all the things you need but never knew you did, there is Eclectic. Giant wooden dice, old salvaged leather suitcases, and refillable soy candles, it’s got that cool ‘oh this old thing?’ vibe that my dreams are made of. And apparently a lot of other peoples dreams too, as they’ve recently opened a second store.

On the bucket list //

Someone wise once told me that you shouldn’t worry about not doing everything a city has to offer the first time, because it just means you have a reason to go back.

I spotted a new restaurant being fitted out while I was there, called Frida’s Mexican. A little research led me to learn it’s being done by the guys behind the Union Bank and the Lord Anson. Needless to say, I’ve got my eye (and stomach) set on this one once it opens.

On one of the ten minute drives it takes to get anywhere in Orange, we flew by the Village Bakehouse. From the outside it looked like everything I like – polished concrete floors, subway tiles, large open spaces and exposed beams. Plus freshly baked breads and pastries. Those I really like. Definitely adding this one to the to-do list.

Down the main strip, in between the chemists and shops with big yellow ‘sale’ signs, I noticed a cool-looking bar called Washington & Co. Apparently a whisky saloon, a quick scroll on Facebook sent it straight to the top of my list.

Until next time, Orange.

E x

 

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

 

Kandy is good for you

Let me see, where did I leave this?

We’ve gone a few days with little to no WiFi, and equally little to no downtime to write blogs. It’s nice in a way to disconnect, but after a while makes reconnecting a little exhausting. So let me recap.

On the sixth day, we headed to Kandy, the cultural cooking pot of the country. On the way we stopped off at the Dambulla Cave Temple, following yet another steep winding stairway lined by monkeys to up above the clouds. In five separate caves, a series of sculptures sat forged into the stone, dressed in colourful paint and dust from the two thousand years since their creation. With our wrists wrapped in yet another prayer band from the temple, we stood before the forty-seven foot Buddha statue in absolute awe.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetFor lunch we stopped off at Ranweli Spice Garden where we found all of our favourite spices – vanilla, ginger, turmeric, pineapples, cocoa, lemongrass, sandalwood, and more – hanging from vines or growing in bushes in a neat little demonstration garden. We were then taken through how each is turned into oils for ayurvedic practice…while getting a neck massage. Oh, and lunch was thrown in too. So cool.

Arriving in Kandy that afternoon definitely picked up the pace. Bustling dusty streets, people hanging out of buses, and the constant tune of beeping tuk-tuks playing on repeat. Quickly, we were ushered through the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha by a short, beetle-leaf chewing guide. With another group to see shortly after us, he swiftly picked our jaws up off the ground in front of the elaborately designed temple, and directed us out.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetFor dinner that night we found our first opportunity to venture out alone, into the wilderness that is Kandy, for dinner. After perusing TripAdvisor, to ensure our first handpicked meal was a winner, we settled on the Muslim Hotel. Chicken and cheese paratha fry and chicken kottu (like a stir fry but using cut up roti) to share. Oh, and with a side of mango lassi. All for a whopping $11. A+ from us.

The next morning we took a mosey around the Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, world class throughout Asia, where some of my highlights included the four puppies I found running through the bamboo garden, who I named and sat for a good half an hour thinking about how I could smuggle home; the lawn collection, yes it is exactly what it sounds like; the cactus garden, obviously; and the seventeen couples we saw having their wedding pictures taken, as it was an auspicious day in Sri Lankan culture.

On we went to a gem museum where we saw the incredible traditional process of gem mining, that hasn’t changed since it was first established. I ogled over a Sri Lankan blue sapphire ring resembling Kate Middleton’s, while he claimed to have misplaced his wallet conveniently. While in the frame of mind for learning, we headed to a batik studio and saw a group of ladies, laden in wax-coated aprons, drawing and dying strips of cotton cloth into wicked works of art.

With a rumble in our tummies again, we went rogue and ventured off on our own for lunch. We settled up in the hillside at a place called Slightly Chilled. Sounded like a pretty good sales pitch to us. Run by an British ex-pat, who had two of the most well-fed dogs we’ve seen in Sri Lanka so far, we headed there in hopes of something that didn’t resemble rice and curry. We ended up sharing noodles, clay-pot braised eggplant and a sizzling beef and vegetable plate.

That night we were entertained by a traditional Kandian dance performance, followed by some spiritual fire walking. The dance was a laugh and a half, and the fire walking sent us running for air-con. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetWe dined that night at The Empire Cafe, where we’d enjoyed smoothies earlier that day. Him, a chai and jaggery smoothie and me, a passionfruit and kitul juice; we’d both decided to pick a flavour where we didn’t recognise one ingredient. Both turned out to be different forms of sugar syrup. For dinner we feasted under the colonial arches of the flamboyant pink restaurant on a mezze plate to start and swordfish served with a mango salad to finish. Just what the doctor ordered.

Having spent most of the trip so far in the safety of our tour van, we shook things up a bit the next day with a train trip from Peradeniya Station to Nawalapitya. R25 for a ticket (that’s a whole whooping twenty-five cents) for a one hour train ride, we piled on the loaded carriage, and made friends with the strangers we were sardined against. He even managed to be invited to hang his legs out the door of the train for some fresh air just as the hawker came by spruiking his pungent dried fish delicacies for the third time. Lucky.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetAfter reuniting with our driver at the station (I’m sure he was never so glad to see us), we headed to the Kalani River, which flows from Adam’s Peak to Colomobo, for some white water rafting. The perfect GoPro fodder, we bumped and thumped our way through some pretty decent rapids until we reached relaxed water…where our guide then flipped the boat. All of a sudden I was much happier about the lack of crocodiles I’d managed to spot on the banks of the river.

Waking at 1am the next morning in the sleepy town of Delhousie, we chased the sun up Adam’s Peak, but that’s a story for the next blog.

E x

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Archiving the Ancient Cities

A day exploring the ruins of the ancient cities of Sri Lanka will surely not ruin your day. Okay, now I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll continue.

The history of Sri Lanka is long and winding. With each site we visit, we learn of a new king, a new invasion by South Indians, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the British, each meaning a new city, capital, temple or palace. The last few days have been a jungle of information, steep steps, breathtaking buildings and sweat.

Instead of attempting to explain the serpentine story of the two hundred and sixty-something kings and five ancient cities of Sri Lanka, as guide books tend to do a much better job at that than I ever could here, I’ve decided instead to archive some of the most bloggable* facts that lingered with me at the end of each day.

*I’ve also learned that bloggable is actually a word. And I’m lovin’ it.

Anuradhapura
The fortunate thing about having a car for this trip is that we’ve had the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track that many tourist don’t know about or can’t be bothered to journey out to.

Our first stop was to the ancient Buddhist library building in Padeniya Temple; a beautiful wooden temple encased in intricate carvings, from the lion heads guarding the walls to the swirling patterns scored into the doors of the temple. A small complex used by the King when he needed to escape the capital, it was definitely off the tourist-map. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetNext, we ventured on to Yapahuwa. All that remains now is a stairway so steep you have to crawl, that rises out above the clouds and is guarded by monkeys. While seemingly small, this rock fortress became the capital of Sri Lanka for eighteen years from 1272.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetFinally we reached the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka and home to the oldest tree on record – the Sacred Bo Tree. Along with our guide, Channa, we bought the most beautiful lotus flowers from the stall surrounding the temple as offerings. Channa explained that the reason we offer flowers is reflective of Buddha’s teachings about life – as the flowers that we offer today will be dead tomorrow, reminding us that we should live in the present and not the past or future.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetNext we moved on to Jethawanarama, or the brown stupa, believed to be the largest brick monument in the world following the pyramids in Egypt. Channa explained that using the ninety-three millions bricks that make up the stupa, you could build eight thousand and four houses. The whopping structure took forty-five years to build, but only seconds to take your breath away.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThroughout the day we visited the ruins of architecturally astounding ponds used for water meditation (some could remain under water for up to two hours meditating), hospitals, kitchens and toilets, all of which demonstrated an incredible level of irrigation for the fifth century. Even I was impressed. About drains. Yeah.

There were stupas everywhere, some still remained submerged in soil yet to be rediscovered, all with unique quirks and designs. We had king coconuts and roti for lunch, and found many the stray furry friend along the way. One of my highlights, however, was a special place Channa took us, where no tourists go. It was a functioning monastery that had a tree which had built a cathedral with its roots. Pictures cannot do it justice.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset
We ended the day at Mihintale – a hilltop complex heralded as the place where  Buddhism was first introduced into Sri Lanka, plopped atop one thousand, eight hundred and forty-three steps. At the very top you can pull yourself up a sun-drenched rock to an incredible view across the hills and valleys, even making out some of temples we’d seen previously. As the sun began to set, it all felt very Lion King-esque.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetPolonnaruwa
In the eleventh century, Polonnaruwa rose as the capital after many an invasion at Anuradhapura. Apparently, there were also less mosquitoes. Bonus.

After driving through leafy national parks, we met our guide, Rahul, who took us through our paces. The Royal Palace, where the King lived with his five wives…and five hundred concubines. The Quadrangle, where each King built a new temple to house the tooth of Buddha. The lake, which is surrounded by electric fences because on occasion  the water drops low enough for the elephants way across the bay to walk on over. And the Gal Vihara, the most impressive monument we’ve seen yet. Across one granite stone, standing seven metres high and over twenty metres long, four different sculptures of Buddha have been carved. Immense, inspiring, inconceivable. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetSigiriya
Woah, you really don’t realise how much you can achieve in a day until you try to write it down.

That afternoon, we headed for Sigirya. The giant rock that someone once upon a time had the splendid idea of building a kingdom on top of. Surrounded by the ruins of what sounded like an opulent ‘pleasure’ garden with ponds, pools and fountains (‘like a nightclub’ our guide told us), Sigirya was once the epicentre of the kingdom of Kassapa. We climbed rickety staircases that gripped casually to the side of the rock, passed by frescos painted god only knows how, and finally reached the summit. And what a view.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

My legs may be aching but my smile is wide.

E x

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Be Mine, Melbourne

You know you’ve got it good when you find someone who is equally as prepared, and even happier, to spend their every last cent on good food and wine. Well, that’s what I’ve got in him. So a post-exam trip to Melbourne for some serious eating, drinking and then a bit more eating, is always on the cards.

It began as any good trip to Melbourne should: $7.80 dumplings in Chinatown. We had arrived in the afternoon, and with only our two new leather weekender-bags we’d been dying to have an excuse to use, we made it to our Airbnb apartment with ease. It did help that our apartment was located right in the middle of Chinatown and no further than a block from almost every establishment on our ‘must go’ list.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

What’s on that list, you might ask? Well it’s a funny story really. We went down with no real plan of what were going to do. I say that knowing though that he definitely had places he wanted to go, and I was just happy to be, well, easy breezy.

But on our first night, he took me to Lûmé, the most incredible restaurant with a blind, experimental ten-course menu. There we met Orlando Marzo, barman extraordinaire and the man responsible with providing some of the best liquids either of our taste buds had ever had the pleasure of. As it was, he also happened to have just competed in the World Class competition for Bartender of the Year, along with our friend Christian Blair, and as if that little surprise wasn’t enough, he, along with all the staff of Lûmé, including head chef Shaun Quade, composed a list of ‘must-go’ venues especially for us. Speechless.

IMG_7437.JPG

I’d recommend the restaurant based on that alone. The service was second to none. They all knew our story and cared. They were fun and professional, and didn’t make me feel embarrassed when I slipped on basic etiquette of “fancy” restaurants. I’m sure we all know the story there. They pushed your chairs in whenever you sat down, and escorted you to the bathroom each time. Speaking of the bathrooms, the ladies’ was stocked up with perfume, bobby pins, and makeup wipes, and I’m informed the men’s had aftershave and beard wax.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the food. Each course could only be described as absolutely beautiful, if not the definition of sexy. We ate in total over twelve different meats, none being the classic beef, chicken or lamb. We tried scampi roe, and emu bone broth. We enjoyed apple-fed duck, and artichoke bread with cured eel butter. We even got to dine on a meal that looked like my dream succulent garden. Each meal inducing a jaw-drop; each meal a work of art.

I’ve attached the full menu that we were sent afterwards here.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

The next morning we jumped out of bed, only to get straight back in once we realised how cold it was. Whether we mustered the courage on the second attempt or our stomachs were starting to rumble, we made it to Higher Ground for breakfast, the sister of infamous Kettle Black café. A minced lamb fry up for him, and a roasted quince bircher for me. YUM.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

A quick stop off at Patricia‘s (because #duh), on the way to the Queen Victoria Markets to pick up ingredients for my best cheese board yet that was to come later that night. We took a stroll through the streets of Melbourne as the weather starting turning it up and the jackets started melting off. I’d introduced him to the television show Rake this holiday, and that had quickly become the go-to activity while digesting food between meals. But just around the corner, like most things, was Belleville, a place serious about their seriously-good chicken, and our next meal of the day. Think Philly cheesestick spring rolls, three cheese mac n cheese, and chargrilled watermelon salad. Mad.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

More Rake, more coffee (courtesy of Brother Baba Budan), and more feasting that night. There is nothing quite like sharing a bottle of red wine in bed to make you ditch your plans to go out in a heartbeat.

IMG_7445.JPG

Saturday we headed South to St Ali where, after asking for advice from the waiter on which meal to choose, I decided I wished I’d picked the buttermilk griddlecakes instead. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I may not be the best at picking meals, but I know I’ve picked a good partner. Knowing of my regret, he managed to order the griddlecakes without me knowing and even offered to finish my meal for me, knowing I’d need the space for my second breakfast. Find yourself someone who would do that for you.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

By chance, the Swans were playing at the MCG that afternoon, so we met up with his cousin and her husband to see the game. The stadium was insanely big and the game was insanely awesome. Go the Swaaaaannnnnniieeesss! A few drinks at the Boilermaker House and Heartbreaker Bar that night topped it all off.

The next morning we ventured out of the free-tram zone, requiring us to top up our MyKi cards for the first time. First stop was Industry Beans, in Fitzroy – my future post code. He had the truffle eggs with pea panna cotta, and I had cinnamon dusted brioche. We wandered the streets for a bit, while I took photos of every bit of street art and googled every ‘for sale’ sign we walked past. Needless to say, we were there for a while. We did end up at Proud Mary though, where he got a $10 long black that was “worth every cent” apparently, and there is a lot of cents in $10. To finish off our Fitzroy adventure we meandered through the Rose St Artists’ Market and dreamed of things we’d love fill our homes with. If we ever have a home in Sydney’s real estate market.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

That afternoon we met up with Sarah, a friend of his from his time back in London. Always good company, she told us stories of her latest adventures and once again put forward a great argument for me switching my allegiance from the Swans to Carlton. Looking at you, Marc Murphy.

We had coffee at Top Paddock, and then a walk along the Yarra River. Considering the stunning weather, she drove us to Bridge Street where we walked some more and talked for hours. When dropping us home, she mentioned a raffle system that the theater show The Book of Mormon does, where two hours before the performance you can enter to win $40 tickets. It would have been the most incredible way to finish the trip, but we will know for next time. Thank you so much for your hospitality, Sarah!

We visited an institution for dinner: Pellegrini’s, and what an experience that was. An Italian diner with no menu, and a ‘no-f#@k’s-given’ attitude. We weren’t sure how to get the waiters attention until a lovely couple next to us just told us that they’d come over eventually. I don’t really think there is a fixed system though, the staff seem to just yell orders back to the kitchen and then drop massive bowls of pasta in front of people. When going to pay, we told the waitress what we’d had and she stared back at us blankly for a second before responding with “ahh, just make it $55.” We handed the cash over and she threw it on the bench behind her before continuing to clean dishes. It was amazing.

IMG_7455.JPG

That night we went to Berlin Bar, which to get in to you have to climb a flight of stairs and ring a doorbell – an obstacle that he hadn’t managed to pass the last time he’d come on his own. The bar is styled around Berlin, split into an East side and a West side, and is pretty cool.

The next day was the last. We explored the streets one more time and talked about how much we wanted to come back already. We walked through alleyways and got a coffee at Dukes. And finally, we finished the trip the same way we had started; with dumplings. It really was the most incredible week. We did so much but felt so relaxed and rejuvenated at the same time. It was the best way to celebrate finishing exams for the semester.

Now to start planning the next trip.

E x

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

I’m a Traveller

To be able to write for the Traveller…yeah, that’s pretty up there on my list. So when a competition was released with the chance of winning a Gecko Tour Adventure around either Central America, Africa or South East Asia, as well as the opportunity to write for Traveller, I got writing.

Here goes nothing:

On the first day we didn’t make it. Some friendly, (and much more experienced) climbers found us lost halfway up a mountain, covered in sweat and scars. We didn’t know we were lost though. “Lagoon? No, there is no lagoon here” they told us. 

The best part of this holiday was that the water was never more than 50metres away, and when we made it down the mountain, we were quite literally dropped straight into the waves. Floating inches above the soft sand in crystal clear water, it was evident that any disappointment from not finding our lagoon that day had simply washed away. How could you be upset in Paradise?

Railay Beach, an island accessible only by long-tail boat, is located not far from the infamous Phi Phi Islands of Southern Thailand. The pristine beaches that line each side of the island are wrapped with overhanging limestone cliffs, that are often dotted with experienced climbers. You can kayak through caves, hike through forests, and borrow long-tail boats to go island hopping for the day. There is also, as we were informed by a local, a beautiful lagoon known as The Princess Lagoon, hidden somewhere on the island. 

With ten days there we were determined to find it, and it wasn’t until our second last day that we happened to stumble upon a track. At least I think it was a track. Around a bend, down a path, take a left and then a right, we arrived at the side of a mountain. There was a small clearing in the trees and the ground was slightly worn. After pausing to look at it for a few seconds we started to realise that the exposed roots lined up the bank resembled somewhat of a staircase. Not quite structurally sound, the fraying ropes that dangled down from the occasional root, however, made us slightly more convinced that this was indeed the way to our lagoon. 

Slow and steady we made it up the bank, and if the humidity wasn’t enough, the concentration it took made it impossible not to break a sweat from every inch of your body. Did you know it was possible to sweat from your elbows? This was the furthest we’d been from the water this entire holiday, and we could feel it. 

Reaching the top we were faced with a choice – left or right. We took left and were taken to a lookout. Not the sort of lookout you’d find at home, though. This lookout had no railing, no fence, no ‘Unstable Cliff Edge” or “Risk of Falling” warning signs. This lookout was as if someone had simply taken a machete to a tree, revealing a coast-to-coast 180° view out across Railay Beach. I reiterate, Paradise. 

Pulling ourselves away, the sweat dripping down our bodies reminded us of our lagoon. Walking back passed our previous climb, the thought flicked through my head of how we would get down, but any concern was completely stifled by what we found next. Getting to the lagoon required climbing down three almost vertical cliff faces, using nothing but a fraying rope to lower ourselves down against the slippery clay. From Paradise I’d found myself in the middle of an assault course through the jungle. 

By the time we reached the bottom we were covered in streaks of mud that not even our sweat could budge. The tread of my shoes was so caked in clay that I all but slid to the edge of the lagoon. What we found, however, was stunning. A large body of water, completely enclosed by overarching limestone cliffs, entangled with shrubs and vines that trickled down into the lagoon. The subdued light that flowed through them danced on the top of the sparkling water. The mud underfoot was no deterrent and rather only acted as an incentive to remain there floating for hours. 

If you go to Railay Beach, find the lagoon.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Off to Osaka

It’s interesting how this trip has ended where my last trip to Japan began – Osaka, Tokyo’s odd little brother. Slightly grungier, slightly sleazier, love hotels dotted on every street corner and the first sighting of any litter scattered in the streets. I can’t remember what I found quite so magical about this city last time. Perhaps it was just that it was my first taste of the country? The first time is always special. We struggled to fill our three days here with activities that rivaled those of the previous cities. If anyone has any idea of what I missed out on, please fill me in. Or maybe don’t. #FOMO

We arrived in the middle of day, a short trip from Kyoto, and spent the afternoon walking the streets of Dotonburi, the district I remembered most clearly from my last trip as being the very essence of what you expect, and want, from Japan. Bright lights, bustling streets, loud noises. We couldn’t wait to come back at night.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

After extensive research the next morning, we made our way to the Osaka Castle, which looked pretty cool compared to what else was on offer. Tall, white and clear, the Castle shone against the beautiful blue sky we were greeted with. The detail used in the roofs of Japanese buildings continues to astonish me. And he seems to always love capturing beautiful photos of it too – every time I look over and see him leaning all the way back with his camera pointing straight up in the sky I know we’re all in for a treat. We went into the Castle Museum and to the viewpoint at the top, but to be completely honest it wasn’t really worth it. And yes I know how bad that sounds, but we’ve been spoiled.

Processed with VSCO with m3 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

With afternoon plans to rent bikes and ride around Tennoji Park, the fact that it was the end of a full on trip hit us and instead all the energy we could muster was put towards an afternoon nap. A well deserved one though. Having tried puffer fish (or fugu) for lunch, a local delicacy that if not prepared perfectly becomes lethal, I was convinced that that nap was going to be my last and just let the ‘toxins’ take over.

Overjoyed to have woken up at the other end of it, we all celebrated by taking ourselves to Mizuno, a Michelin starred okonomiyaki restaurant. Huddled around our hotplate, we watched on as our chefs prepared the top three voted okonomiyaki that we had coincidentally ordered. No cameras allowed, but I assure you it was worth the wait.

Fried chicken and giant soft serves for dessert before an early night in, as we were headed for Hiroshima the next day.

A massive change of pace from the weird and wackiness of Japan, my second trip to Hiroshima still felt chilling. And that’s not just because it was the first time we’d been caught in the rain on this trip. Walking out of the station, it all came flowing back to me. Even the city bus we’d taken to get to the main historical sites came back to me. I don’t know whether studying Hiroshima quite extensively at school helped or not, in that I had some idea of what to expect, but I don’t really think anything can prepare you to see and feel what you do when you walk through the Hiroshima Peace Museum. Not even seeing and feeling it before.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

To lighten the mood, we made a hop skip and a jump over to the island of Miyajima. Last time I’d only stumbled upon this gem last minute, and so was very limited with my time to explore. Not this time. This time we had time to slurp up some lunch, buy more souvenirs, throw coins at the world’s largest rice spoon, pat the cutest Shiba, watch Miyajima’s famous maple biscuits be made and try some, pat some deer, pat some more deer, and of course visit Itsukushima Shrine – Miyajima’s floating torii. When I was here last, the tide was out and so it wasn’t really floating, but this time the water was lapping up at its base and it was clothed in a fine mist. It felt like exploring a new place.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

As our last night in Japan, we knew we had to take it out with a bang. While the party started in our apartment, it went next level with a run through Dotonburi to find an awesome looking ramen shop that was always busy, day and night. I wish I could tell you the name, but I was in no state to remember.

Luckily, considering our condition, we didn’t have to try to order with a person that night, and instead Japan had the answer with their vending machine ordering system. All we had to do was either press the ‘Noodles in Soup’ button, or the ‘Noodles in Soup with extra pork” button. Simple enough, right? I was pretty happy, Michelle was playing catch ups, and Ed couldn’t stop staring at the chef. All was well.

We bought soft serve for dessert, and Romy bought some fried chicken for a stray cat on the street, who promptly ran away before she could feed it. Yes, it was one of those nights. A quick stop off in a photo booth where we produced some truly terrifying images, before a 7Eleven fridge-to-fridge on our way to find a bar. This is where things got interesting. We’d seen a bar close to home that morning that was offering ¥200 drinks, but when we turned up turnt that night, not surprising at all by this point in the trip, we didn’t all fit in the bar. Wait just there, our host told us, as he went back inside to grab his flip phone and a suspicious unmarked bottle of coke. We then proceeded to follow him along the street to another bar that had already rejected us that night, so it was no surprise when they did so again. Never you mind, however, with a quick call on his flip phone, we were off again, this time down the street, over the river, around a corner, across some lights, up an escalator that wasn’t on, down a dark corridor and through a tiny door. With pages and pages of weird and wacky cocktails, all costing ¥200 each, we decided to order for each other. I got Dan ‘Old Pal’ because we were celebrating our one year Facebook friend anniversary that day, Brandon and Michelle both got Romy an ‘Angry Cat’ because…well, she loves cats. He got me ‘The One’ because he is adorable, and anyone who got Ed a drink got him one with milk because DEdward.

All in all, it was an awesome trip, and very different to my last time in Japan. But that’s good, that’s what I wanted. I learned a lot, I saw a lot, I ate a lot, I laughed, I cried, I shivered and I sweat. It was a good holiday, and not even having our flight cancelled a few hours before we were due to leave, having us wait around at the airport for hours hoping to get on the last flight of that night, running through the airport like a scene from Love Actually, and somehow magically scoring two seats next to each other with an extra seat to curl up on. That just doesn’t happen on normal holidays.

Bye for now, and thanks Japan fam.

E x

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Getting Kultured in Kyoto

They may be spelt using the same letters, but Tokyo and Kyoto are very different places. From the second we stepped out of the station, we noticed the change in pace. More space, less people. This was looking good.

After a long day of traveling, and having had our first chance to flash our flashy new JR Rail Passes and ride the Shinkansen, we arrived at the food capital of Japan, ready to get ‘kultured’ (trademarked by Dan). Ever the man with the plan, he had already researched what Kyoto was good for, and off we headed to find burnt miso ramen – a specialty in Kyoto. With a thick caramelized teriyaki taste, it was one of the best meals I’ve had this trip. And that’s saying something because I’ve had a few best meals. But just ask Romy, she thought it was so good she decided to pour it all down her front just to make sure she smelt like burnt miso ramen for the rest of the trip. #dedicated

We opted for an early night that night as our next day was going to be as full as our stomachs were as we stumbled home.

First up, we hit the subway and headed out to Aryashiyama to the Bamboo Forest. Hundreds of meters of thick bamboo groves towering over the path, it was the perfect place to take your photo, or someone else’s if you’re Brandon. I can’t blame tourists coming up to us and asking up to take their photo though. Out of the seven of us, five of us are walking around with enormous SLR cameras around our necks.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

After a singalong led by DJ Michelle to the likes of Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar and some random Japanese boy band while walking the backstreets of Aryashiyama, we made our way out to the temple of the Golden Pavilion. When it comes to popular tourist destinations like this one, we’ve come to really start to appreciate our height difference. Apart from selfie-sticks, there isn’t much that interrupts our view of the landmarks. And I’ve never considered myself tall before.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Chasing the sun, we headed off to the Fushimi Inari-taisha, one of my favourite shrines from the last trip. Considering my favourite colour is orange, it shouldn’t really be a surprise. The shrine is made up of long rows of orange torii, and running through it is something of a spectacle. Even better is watching the sun set over it. And playing with a little kitten we found running around.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

But with such a successful day, and with so much achieved, we couldn’t possibly let it end there. Sponsored by 7 Eleven, our night ended with Suntory Highballs, Smirnoff Ice, cup noodles, nuts recommended by a friendly stranger, and a nightclub called Butterfly.With odds lost, the boys faces were caked in makeup – a sight I can’t wait to forget. But the worst thing we lost that night was Ed (or more appropriately DEdward), who hit the road while the rest of us hit the dance floor, and ended up walking an hour and a half in the wrong direction. Good one, DEdward.

A late start for some, and an even later start for others, we woke the next morning and headed off to the Nishiki Markets. Anything and everything pickled and the smell of fresh fish would have been welcomed, had we not all be recovering from our previous night. A short stroll over to Gion, where Ed realised he had ended up the night before, we really found the kulture in Kyoto. Beautifully preserved, the streets got smaller, the gardens became more zen, the houses quaint and traditional. Geisha’s packed the streets and shrines hid in every corner. It was so much fun to just walk around, popping into little stores and just waiting to see what we’d run into.

We did have a mission though, well at least I did. I’d heard that you could do pottery classes in Gion, and was determined to find one. Thankfully the boys were very patient and persevered until we did. After a quick lesson, we considered ourselves masters and hit the clay. He made a beautiful plate, Ed a sake bottle, and I just let the clay do what it wanted. I ended up with a bowl/vase/cup thing that I really liked. The best part about it is that we all got to choose a colour which they will paint for us, fire, and then send home for us. I can’t wait for that little surprise to arrive in the mail when I’m back in the slug of reality.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Even better though, we accomplished another mission when Ed darted into a little side store after spotting a beautiful damascus knife, similar to the one that he had bought. Actually, turns out it was exactly the one that he bought. Just #bffl things.

We saved the best ’til last for our final dinner in Kyoto – flaming ramen. More of a show than simply a meal, it was nothing short of a seamless operation. Clad in aprons and led through strict instructions like “don’t run away, your seats are soiled in oil”, we had our cameras collected and connected to a series of purposely positioned selfie-sticks behind the bar. Leaning back, our chef walked along the bar pouring flames into our ramen like some kind of fire chief. It was mad. And very delicious. Within half an hour we had been wowed and then chowed, and were back on the road again.

Controversial I know, but I think Kyoto has been my favourite so far. Osaka tomorrow.

E x