Dayyymn Amsterdam

I am just going to get it out of the way: I went to Amsterdam and didn’t get high. I must admit I had my hesitations before coming to this city due to the expectation that often accompanies it, but once again I was reminded of how the best thing that travel teaches you is to throw all preconceptions out the window.

I did get high on Amsterdam, though. How can you not? The energy is contagious. It’s uber-stylish sprinkled with a touch of grunge that just gives it character. And when you’re staying in the boutique district on Haarlemmerdijk, in a studio that looks like it’s from a page in a magazine I’d normally have to wipe my dribble off, how could I not fall in love.

He’d been to Amsterdam before with the boys, so instantly I knew I had to shake things up to make sure it was completely different to his last trip. I think the mere fact that it took us until the third night to visit the infamous Red Light District cleared that up though. And that we got up early each morning and went for brunch at places like TOKI and The Breakfast Club. Surprisingly though, the best coffee we found was from the cafe inside Urban Outfitters, served by a guy from Manchester that was up for a chat. Shame we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Apparently it’s still considered English?

Apart from the free walking tour we did on the first day to get the gist of the city, Amsterdam was the city we just lived in the most. We walked the boutiques for hours, got snacks from Stach to keep us going through the day, wandered from one side of town to the other to get lunch at the Foodhallen, dodged through the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum and their teems of tourists, and scoured vintage markets we found dotted around the city. All things I do in Sydney, but it just felt so much cooler over there.

With absolutely no itinerary, we just did exactly what we wanted to each day, even if that wasn’t a lot. Subsequently days rolled into one another and before long I felt like I lived there, or at least that I really wanted to. I’m pretty sure one afternoon was spent looking into both of our ancestry to see whether or not he’d have to pop a particular question for a visa. All I can say is: damn you, Brexit.

With this being my last blog of the trip, I’m going to cut to the chase and just give you the good stuff you actually want to read about. Without further ado, I present to you: Amsterdam.

Where to eat //
We had dinner on the first night at Pizzabakkers which was awesome, recommended by our host and just down the road from where we were staying. I had a margherita with burrata (because I promised myself a while back that if burrata is on the menu I have to order it) and because it was delicious. We sat near the kitchen and enjoyed the staff playfully switching their conversations between Dutch, English and Italian and felt very…inadequate. As the man at one of the markets told me “come on, even a three year old can speak Dutch!”

Another one down the road was Le Sud, a cheeseboards heaven, with the best falafel wraps I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. And trust me, it was pleasurable.

If you’re into burgers, you must try Cannibale Royale. Stacked burgers in a stacked restaurant, I’d recommend booking if you can. Oh, and the elderflower gin and tonic. Served in a glass a goldfish wouldn’t mind swimming around in. Yes, please.

To finish off we treated ourselves to a fancy night out at Bak. We got lost at first, but found it at the top floor of a massive and empty warehouse in a very quiet area of Amsterdam. The food was unreal – think hare-blood sauce and a dessert made from carrot. Worthy every and all the pennies it cost.

Where to look //
I’d honestly couldn’t recommend the area we stayed in more – Haarlemmerdijk, located in the Jordaan district. The street was lined with boutiques like Restored, Six and Sons, Store Without A Home, Sukha, and so many more I would have to rent six apartments to be able to fit all the things I could have bought. Plus the street was lined with vintage shops that sent me spiraling back to when I had time to thrift.

What else //
Yes, I feel like Amsterdam is the sort of place that will always have little hidden secrets waiting to be discovered. One of them for us was The Movies, also located on the same street (yes I know, it’s starting to sound like a plug now), which was the oldest cinema in Amsterdam, and where we escaped the drizzle on our last afternoon to see Bohemian Rhapsody.

To be completely honest, I couldn’t have planned our Amsterdam trip more perfectly than it happened. It’s just the beauty of travel. And I can’t wait to do it again.

Where would you recommend?

E x


Melbourne Musts

“Do you know anywhere good to eat in Melbourne?”

This message has been popping up in my inbox more and more frequently over the last few years. Maybe it has something to do with millions of pictures of meals that consume my mobile memory, or the somewhat mad ramblings of my love-affair with the not so distant city, but I thought it about time that I officially share my list of musts for Melbourne.

Up until this point, with everyone I have shared the list I have done so with one condition attached: if you go anywhere new, add it to the list.

The same remains for you, whoever you may be. If you have a favourite place to dine or sip, shop or see, please share it with me.

To caffeinate //

Everyone knows Melbourne is no place for mochas, hazelnut lattes or things adorned with cream. It’s about coffee.

So you’ve got Dukes Coffee Roasters, Axil Flinders Lane, Brother Buba Budan, Market Lane and Patricia’s to start with. You get the idea? There are heaps.

Industry Beans is an institution, and also serves food that looks as good as it tastes. Kettle Black, Higher Ground, Top Paddock are all owned by the same people and trust me, those people know what they are doing. I’ve ordered the coconut-set chia from Kettle Black the last four times I’ve been, which is unusual for someone with the level of #FOMO I have, but it’s the only chia I’ve ever liked. It’s that good.

St Ali is an awesome space that makes you want to go home and expose the beams in your ceiling and strip the paint off your walls. It also has perfected the ‘green bowl’. And Proud Mary’s will always be special to me because of that time I was craving hot cakes and they happened to have a hot cake special on that day.

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To eat //

You can’t talk about dinner in Melbourne without dropping Chin Chin. I’ve never actually been though. It was too obvious for me. Instead I found Rice Paper Scissors, an Asian-tapas restaurant with no reservations and no regrets.

Still not sure what I did in a past-life to deserve it, but I was treated to a meal at Lûmé on one trip to Melbourne. A multi-sensory dining experience where the food looks more like artworks. Google ‘Pearl on the Ocean Floor’. Oh my god, I know right. How amazing is it.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, you can’t go past Pellegrini’s. We did a quick google search before we went last time, which prepared us for the service, or lack there of. Unsure of whether we were meant to sit down or be seated, an understanding regular informed us it’s different every time, depending on the mood of the waiters. Lots of yelling, lots of attitude, no menus, and goddamn delicious pasta. Ask for the watermelon frappé when you go.

Oh and then there is Belleville, Gingerboy, Seamstress, and Easey’s – the most Melbourne of all meals; loaded burgers served in a graffiti-covered tram on top of a warehouse in Collingwood. It just tastes better that way.

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To drink //

Espresso by day, espresso martini by night. A lovely waiter once told me that the best bars in Melbourne are found either underground or on rooftops. These are my favourite stairways to find.

Berlin Bar is located, you guessed it, upstairs. Knock on the door and be met with the eyes of your waiter through a peep-hole, requesting the password to enter. Once you’re in, you have the choice between East and West, and with it the choice of capitalist opulence or communist austerity.

I walked past Eau de Vie three times on my first visit. Down a nondescript laneway furnished with overflowing bins and coats of graffiti. Not until a couple emerged from an unmarked door and jazz momentarily filled the air, did I believe I was in the right place. A prohibition-themed bar with a twelve page cocktail menu, and whiskeys in the hundreds, it’s a must. Simple as that.

If the best bars are found up high, then Rooftop Bar must be a good one. A local haunt for the hipsters, it’s got amazing views, cheap drinks and an open air cinema in summer. Plus, if you don’t make it up the seven stories it takes to get there, each one on the way is home to an equally cool venue – like Cookie, with it’s 600+ heavy wine list. Yeah. Not a typo.

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This is just a tasting plate of what Melbourne has to offer the senses. A tasting plate that over the years will undoubtedly turn into a banquet. So now back to the rules, because everyone knows I’m a stickler for rules; if you have a ‘Melbourne Must’ that isn’t on my list, drop it in the comments below.

E x

Drifting to Palm Beach

What do you get when you take ten Drifters, two days, too many drinks and sweet digs in Palm Beach?

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Thanks to Josh for everything, Olly for the dance moves, Clem for the chaos, and everyone else for totally bringing it.

Merry Christmas, kids.

E x

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

Traveling through Tokyo

They say there is no rest for the wicked, so then wicked we must be. It was day three already and with a morning up our sleeves we headed out and stumbled upon the Tokyo Skytree. Actually I’m not sure if stumbled is the right word, the thing is 350m high. But with the day (and the queue) being relatively clear, we thought the likelihood of seeing Mount Fuji were pretty good, and finally odds I’d be happy to pay.

Once we reached the top, we opened up to an incredible 360 degree view of Tokyo, a beautiful blue sky, and a view of Mount Fuji as crystal clear as the water that runs off her. We smiled, we selfied, and we were satisfied.

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Next up was meeting the crew at Asakusa, which was actually my hood last time I was in Tokyo. As another blast from the past, it was fun showing everyone where I got my ninja license, where I used to eat, and exploring all the incredible Temples and Shrines that were flowing with people. We got food and fortunes at the market, and then hurried off in search of a knife for him. As a keen cook and after seeing the knife that I brought back from the last trip to Japan, he’d looked up where to go and led us directly to the most stunning damascus steel knife shop. It really is more of an art than an appliance when you see it in this form. Worth every cent. Ed wants one now too.

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Before he tried to shave his arm with his new blade to prove how sharp it was, we headed to Akihabara to be reunited with the gang again. Affectionately known as Electric City, this is the center of the bright lights and the more unconventional novelties. We found Roman and John outside the technology department store having a vape, Brandon on Level 3 professing his love for a $9000 camera lens, and Romy and Michelle on Level 6 checking out BeyBlades and every other gadget and gizmo you didn’t realise you needed.

Once presents were purchased we headed out into the cold to somewhere Akihabara is famous for – the seven story sex shop, where things really started to heat up. Most things I had no idea what they were, most things I never want to know what they were, but an enlightening experience by the city of lights nonetheless.

With a rumbling in our tummies, Roman nailed the dinner choice for the third night in a row. Or was it Brandon? I forget. We went to a Tempura Tsunahachi, and we went hard. Each of us armed with about ten different bowls, some for touching, some for putting, and some for dipping all of the salts and powders and sauces on our tempura. To wash it all down, we headed to Golden Gai – a shanty-town-esque maze of bars big enough to fit up to four people. Some of them were members only, some of them only had the tiniest window to poke your nose through from the alley, and most of them were full. We managed to find one that we all fit in and made it rain cocktails. John trusted Dan’s advice and ordered a Mint Choc-flavoured cocktail, Brandon looked modish with his Margarita, him and I both had Rosemary-infused Gin & Tonics, and Romy was salty with her Salty Bull that didn’t quite hit the spot.

Well watered and surviving the steep staircase out of the place, we headed for Karaoke. Bumping into some fellow Aussie travelers (one of which he remembered from Uni, and the third person he knows that he has bumped into this trip so far), we were recommended the best Karaoke joint, which also happened to provide incredible costumes free of charge. Dressed as a carrot, I saw everyone’s favourite Drunk Dan turn into a Nek Level Drunk Dan who we ended up losing until 7.30am the next morning, I saw Brandon and John serenade each other with screamo, I saw him in a dress, I saw Romy bust a rhyme or two dressed as a microphone, and Michelle shaking it off to Taylor Swift.

The next morning, after being woken up by Dan at 7.30am on his way home from a spontaneous trip with John to the Tsukiji Fish Markets that morning (it was 5am and they were still out, so why not?), there was no surprise that we all woke a little late that morning. Determined to not let a day go to waste, him, Ed and I got up and headed off on an adventure suggested by the Aussie we’d met the night before – to Shim-Kitazawa. Described as the ‘hipster’ part of Tokyo, it lived up to all expectation. Much quieter than Shibuya, every street corner was dotted with Op Shops and second-hand clothing stores. There were murals all over the walls, and the street lamps were playing smooth jazz. We’d been recommended a few cafes, one of which advertised ‘Melbourne-style Coffee’ and spent most of our time wandering around trying to find it. After introducing the boys to the magic that is Muji, and a quick stop off at one of the many games arcades and a game of Luigi’s Haunted House, which involved a lot of me pointing my gun at the screen and screaming, we headed back to Shibuya for an early night.

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An early rise to make the Tsukiji Fish Markets, which we were disappointed to find wouldn’t let us in until 10am, we instead roamed the outer markets and bought jumbo shrimp and freshly grilled scallops, as well as sashimi bowls for breakfast. Disappointing that we didn’t make it far into the actual market before we were stopped by security and escorted out, but understandable with all the trolleys and workers rushing around at full pace.

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This afternoon we are off to Nagano to see the Snow Monkeys and maybe a few onsen before we head off on the rest of the trip. Can’t wait to see the snow.

How’s your heatwave going, Sydney?

E x

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Messing around at Messina

Now before you say anything, yes I know I am breaking code with this post. It’s not travel. But those of you who know me could probably argue that to get me all the way to Darlinghurst on a cold, rainy night takes about as much planning as a overseas trip.

Plus, this experience seemed far too good not to write about.

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It was his birthday on Tuesday, and as a present I took him to the Gelato Messina Creative Department’s new degustation restaurant. There are eight seats per sitting, and seven courses, all paired with a complementing drink. Sounds good already, right?

Course One
We started with a Feijoa and Lemon Geranium Granita served in an ice bowl and drizzled with olive oil. What? Yum.
Course Two
Tarragon sherbet, lemonade fruit compote and finger lime gel, accompanied with a cold pressed pear and black cardamom juice. Now we’re talking.

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Course Three
Olive oil sorbet, confit fennel and crispy fennel with a black truffle sauce. This was served with a cold pressed roasted beetroot, rhubarb and pine tree oil juice. It was at this point that I started losing my mind. How the hell did they made ice cream taste savory?
Heston Blumenthal, eat your heart out.

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Course Four
Almond gelato, potato and brown butter cream, porcini crisps and caviar, served with an organic Ahinsa Estate Orange Peko Tea. This one felt like an interesting take on the classic steak and mash meal, but about a trillion times better. I think it was by this course that I worked out that the smile plastered across his face wasn’t going anywhere quickly.
*self high-five*

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Course Five
Goats milk yoghurt gelato, persimmon aged for three weeks and soaked in sake, inside a mannitol egg shell (alcohol sugar). Definitely the most theatrical of the courses, we got to smash open our eggs to reveal the most ridiculous #eggporn known to man.Willy Wonka, are you missing your golden goose?

This course was also paired with what we both decided was the best of the drinks. A cold pressed smoked red apple, mandarin zest and bayleaf juice.

Smoking seems to be the bee’s knees these days. Recently we’ve tried smoked avocado, smoked salt and now smoked red apple. It’s no surprise then that he has decided he wants a smoker, and I have decided I definitely want him to get a smoker. Shame he didn’t mention it before his birthday.

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Course Six
Honeycomb gelato made from infused bee’s wax, financier sponge, and crisp bee pollen honeycomb, accompanied by a bubbly house-made ginger beer. Disclaimer: no bees were harmed in the making of this dish. All collected from the same hive, the only thing not used was the actual bee.

It was sweet, just like my date, and this wasn’t even dessert.

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Course Seven
A tonka bean gelato, with vanilla mousse, coffee soil, and chocolate paper, served with a caramelised ameretto infused milk reduction. Yuuuuuuuuummmm. Thank god dark chocolate doesn’t trigger migraines, and I’m fully capable of consuming milk.*

*That was an in-joke, just in case you are confused.

All in all, it was an excellent night. Even though the food was of such high quality, the service was really relaxed and casual and they even invited you to walk around the kitchen in between service. Each course was served with more exciting utensils than the previous, and you got to keep the menu at the end of the night. Being the first night of the new menu, we were lucky enough to be treated to some petit fours at the end of the night – think candied eggplant with blackberry jam, soy sauce and siaoxing pepper, stracciatella cheese with olive oil and smoked salt, and flash frozen goats curd with lemon and licorice gel.

An unforgettable experience, and a high standard set for birthdays. No pressure, though.

Here’s hoping he had the most amazing night.
There is nothing better than seeing him smile.

Love,

E.

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@gelatomessina #messinacreativedepartment #messinadessertbar

 

 

 

 

Moving to Melbourne

I exaggerate, I exaggerate. But after spending a week here I really do wish I could just pick everything up and relocate. Even the cold weather doesn’t put me off. Anyone who knows me well, knows that me and my pale skin loooove the cold and any excuse to snuggle up in a thousand layers, eat lots of food and drink lots of coffee. The things we do to stay warm, right? It’s just survival.

But seriously, after making the conscious (albeit regrettable) decision not to travel over the Christmas holiday, I got to April before I called it. I thought that was a pretty good effort. And I only went a little bit mad.*

*debatable

There is another reason that sparked the trip: a newly acquired travel companion. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I have found the equal match to my coffee, food and travel addiction. Call him my partner in crime, the mascarpone to my hotcakes, or the mac n cheese to my burger (yes that’s a thing), the idea of a week exploring one of my favourite cities without work or uni or any other distractions with him was a no-brainer. And after being spoiled on the first night by a surprise dinner to Shannon Bennett’s Bistro Vue I knew I had made the right choice. Delicious drinks, phenomenal food. He even let me get the famous warm chocolate orange mousse for dessert. Google it. I still haven’t stopped smiling.

What followed was four days of non-stop eating. I’m going to be completely honest with you, the holiday was so relaxing my memory is somewhat of a blur, and I am not even going to pretend that the following list was completed in order. Nevertheless I am going to provide some insight into the weird and wonderful ways my brain remembers things.

Patricia’s
He almost swept me off my feet when he suddenly whisked me off the main road down the small alley that leads to an inconspicuous and unsigned door that is Patricia’s. So #melbourne. Had it not been for the line of people gathering in the alley, I would not have believed what lay behind the door. A standing coffee bar who means business.

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Duke’s Coffee Roasters
One of my favourites, I couldn’t wait to show him. Oh the lights, the timber, the mosaic tiles, two coffee machines. Its fair to say I am in my element when a place nails the design as well as the coffee. Yeah, I will stay here for a while, thanks.

Industry Beans
I have eaten here before but this time we stumbled upon Industry Beans on a food-dazed coma/trance following a feast at Easey’s so the thought of eating again was just not on the table. Watching the boys roast beans out the back while enjoying an aeropress did give him the chance to talk coffee which always impresses me, and from memory at this point I just sunk into a deep blissful state of serenity.  FYI, I haven’t stopped smiling yet.

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Easey’s
Speaking of Easey’s, all I am going to say is: tram carriages…on a roof top…burgers…with mac n cheese…and chicken…and bacon…and beer. Shut the front door. The only thing more #Melbourne is posing ‘candidly’ in front of graffiti. But so good. Oh so good.

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Proud Mary
Anyone who knows me well will know that I have the weirdest and strongest food cravings that can hit anytime and anywhere. He is particularly good at identifying these cravings and locating the quickest and best place to satisfy them, probably more for his sake than mine. But how perfect is waking up craving pancakes and promptly being taken to Proud Mary to find that the night before they changed their menu to include Ricotta Hotcakes with honeycomb, cardamon sour cream, butterscotch sauce, half poached pear and chocolate crumble. Maybe a little too perfect. Probably planned. Definitely planned. By someone who knows me too well.

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Rice Paper Scissors
Cocktails at lunch are a requisite here and it doesn’t take me too much convincing. Five dishes for $59, asian-fusion tapas. Consider me sold. Beef rendang with roti, chargrilled wagyu beef, soft shell crab banh mi, lime cured kingfish ceviche, and mekong whiskey marinated lamb ribs. If you need more convincing then there is something wrong with you.

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Eau de Vie
Obviously with all this eating you need to throw in a few drinks to wash it all down and where better to go than the best: Eau de Vie. Located a hop, skip and a jump away from our AirBnb, between the garbage bin and the carpark entrance is an unassuming black door that leads to a dimly-lit whisky wonderland. Here cocktails are nothing less than a work of art. The Smokey Rob Roy: a mix of single malt whiskies, cigar infused Zacapa rum, vermouth and orange bitters served under a cloud of wood smoke. The Pop Corn Flip: salted popcorn infused cognac paired with curaçao and white chocolate and served with a popcorn basket on the side. And don’t forget the 1984 nip of whisky for $420. Yes.

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The Kettle Black
Now sit back and think of every cafe you have been to in the last 6 months. You can bet your bottom dollar that every single one of them is trying to be like The Kettle Black. Or at least they should be. The coconut-soaked chia with fresh fruit, dehydrated mandarin and maple syrup is too much goodness to handle. I almost lost my place in the Clean Plate Club but alas, he helped me. What are baes for. Ladies, ammiiritttee?? He had chilli scramble with goats cheese and cured wallaby, and yes, he finished his and then helped me with mine. We spent the next hour or so ambling around the streets of Melbourne walking off a mother of a food hangover, but so so worth it.

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St Ali
Home of barista champions and the most delicious salted caramel and sea salt chocolate biscuit sandwich that we scored for free after he did some smooth talking, St Ali is good enough to give you heart palpitations. He got the potato hash for maybe the third time this trip? And I ventured out and got chilli scramble with merguez spicy lamb sausage. After 17 or so coffees on this trip, I decided to skip it this time so he made up for it and got three.

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Tall Timber Eatery
One of our final stops *sad face*, buttt we got to see the Block! He saw it first and presumably instantly regretted it when I started screaming and trying to take a selfie with it. Tall Timber had a lot of hype and breakfast was good, but the best part was getting to see the lovely Sarah again, a friend of his who I have adopted as my own. That and having him alter my latte art of a heart to boobs. That was good too.

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It wasn’t all eating and drinking though. We managed to find time to visit some awesome places like the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei exhibition (which was incredible) and the Queen Victoria Markets where we bought fresh pasta and vegetables to make for dinner. Also, and arguably most importantly, we spent a lot of time getting me hooked on Game of Thrones before the sixth season comes out. I think I have 47 hours left to watch and about 72 hours in which to do it.

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All in all it was an amazing and totally refreshing trip. Only complaint was that my face started hurting by the fifth day from smiling too much. Can’t win them all though I guess.

Until next time,

E.

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Why I travel

Every time the thermostat even remotely reaches close to 40 degrees, and I find myself lying half-naked/half-conscious as close as possible to the nearest fan, I can’t help but find my mind racing back to the six weeks I spent running around South East Asia wearing horrendous happy pants, a ton of sweat and the biggest smile.

As those of you who know me well could vouch, I don’t care to dwell too much on all things emotional but that trip is somewhat of a trigger for me. Coming on two years later, I can still remember it vividly. The nerves, the smells, the heat, and even the things that were weighing on my mind back then. To me the trip has become a time capsule, and a landmark from which I base many of my present-day decisions. Would it have worried me then?

See, that trip changed my mindset immensely. It brought out a version of myself that I had never met before, and a version of myself I loved. Whether it was traveling that I fell in love with, or the person that I was when I traveled, is irrelevant. I wore the same outfit for days at a time and no make-up. I was constantly sweating and no doubt smelt. But for some god forsaken reason I was the most confident I had ever been. Things that normally worried me at home had no significance while traveling. I met people who completely changed my way of thinking, and whom to this day still bring a smile to my face when I think about them. I did things I would have never considered doing at home, which have left me with the most incredible stories to tell. And I love telling them.

So when people ask me how and why I travel as often as I do, the answer is simple. Travel has been the best investment I have ever made. It’s self-investment. And while I know that my first adventure will probably be impossible to beat for the very fact that it was my first, I will always endeavour to beat it. To find greater meaning and greater happiness. So far I have already been fortunate to have had so many amazing adventures, and have learnt something new and different from each of them. They have each shaped me into who I am today, and will no doubt continue to shape me as I journey further.

So while I sit under my fan, half-naked/half-conscious in the blistering Australian summer, thinking about travel and my conscientious decision not to do it this summer, I also think about the voucher to Flight Centre that my beautiful friends gave me for my birthday this year, and smile.

 

E.

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