And so it begins…


I’ve finally left the cold climes of Melbourne and whilst I will miss the beautiful city, I am so excited to start my East Coast adventure.

First stop was Port Douglas and a meet up with my Dad and his partner Gill after 8 months away. Boy, was I  excited. All visions of a Love Actually style airport scene  however were completely dismissed after we managed to walk straight past one another in arrivals. Smooth.

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We were staying at Oak Lagoon Resort in a self catering apartment which had queen size beds and patio doors which opened right onto the pool. Not bad at all.

Home to the some of the great natural wonders of the world, we had plenty of trips planned during our time here in Queensland. My favourite and possible most memorable was a snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef. A first attempt to the Low Isles was slightly under-whelming. With cloudy skies hiding the sun, it meant that we were caught in blustery weather and poor visibility. Not quite what we had in mind. Therefore we decided that we simply had to see the Great Barrier Reef again on a sunshine filled day. Now this trip, was amazing. We went with Silver Sonic which took us to three different points in the outer barrier reef. The snorkelling was magical. With close up views of colourful corals, reef sharks, multicoloured fish and silvery clams,   it literally is another world hiding underneath a torqoise sea. On the boat ride over to the outer reef, we even saw a group of whales which caused the whole boat to stop and stare as we waited for a flick of their tails and spurt of water. On a side note, what do you call a group of whales? A herd? A clam?

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The 10 day reunion also involved a trip the the Daintree rainforest and Cape Tribulatuon which included a river cruise on the Daintree River. A brilliant boat trip with a informative and chatty guide, we caught glimpses of some small crocs and some not so small crocs and even some tiny little baby crocs! We also had a trip on the Skyrail. Flying over the rainforest in a cable car was a truly amazing way to see the rainforest – with its brocilli trees and vast greeness, it’s a unique way of seeing a tropical masterpiece.

After bidding farewell to my Dad after a brief pit-stop at Palm Cove, it was time for me and my travel buddy to move onto Cairns and back to the budget hostel lifestyle. Sigh. My days in Cairns mainly involved lounging around the lagoon as Beth saw the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. In all honesty, I am not impressed with Cairns. It’s a fairly unattractive place with not a lot to do….a muddy marshland makes the sea look grubby so the only place to really hang around is the lagoon. Which to be fair, is quite a nice place to chill. Not for 3 days straight though. Gets a tad boring is all.

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My time in Cairns also involved a trip to the waterfalls. We went with On The Wallaby and lucked out with a super friendly and informative and generally fun tour guide called Bart. Stops included the Cathedral Fig Tree – also saw my first snake here which was pretty exciting, Lake Barrier equipped with a rainforest walk, Millaa Milla waterfall (Herbal Essances anyone?) where we enjoyed a toe numbing swim (so awesome though to swim under the waterfall and look up. It was almost worth the potential frostbite), McHugh viewpoint and Mount Hypipamee with its crater lake and Dinner Falls. At Dinner Falls we saw 2 tree kangaroos which pleased our tour guide a lot as he explained they are actually very rare with only 2000 of them left in the wild.

Millaa Millaa

Not a bad start at all to our East Coast trip. Incredible fish, deadly snakes, rare kangaroos, massive crocs, whales, snorkelling in torqoise seas, walking through rainforest and even seeing it from above. Phew, all this sightseeing is exhausting.

Whats next East Coast? You best keep the good stuff coming…

 

 

 

Daytrippin’ in Melbourne

It’s nearly time for me to leave Melbourne and continue my Australian adventure as I make my way down the East Coast. My 7 months here have been action-packed and memory filled and I will be sad to leave this incredible city where there is always something going on. Even if it is a tad chilly sometimes.

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The bucket list we made when we first arrived in Melbourne has slowly but surely been ticked off one by one and new things were added as we discovered more adventures that this region had to offer. Honestly, there’s so much to do and see. And eat. And drink. Sigh. Melbourne, I do love you.

Here’s a collection of some of the best day trips I have been on during my time here in Melbourne….

Skiing at Mount Buller

I heard that Melbourne was colder than the rest of Australia, I just didn’t know it would be this cold. I imagined it to be a bit cooler, maybe a bit of breeze fluttering through my hair, not the arctic temperatures which forced me into buying a woolly jumper and winter hat. Another thing I did not know was that it snowed in Melbourne. Real life, actual snow. It’s crazy. And more than that, you can go skiing. In Australia! Nuts.

A work friend drove us up to Mount Buller, a mountain range a few hours out of the city, so we could enjoy a day on the slopes. The drive up in itself is pretty stunning. It’s all soft sunshine and rolling hills dotted with farmyard animals (and the occasional roadkill. But let’s not talk about that) easing into a winter wonderland of frosted trees and white mountain tops. Feeling like I had never seen snow before, I felt like a kid at Christmas time as we made our way up the mountain half expecting to come across Rudolph and his little red nose.

The last time I went skiing was over 2 years ago and I wound up getting abandoned at the top of the mountain so naturally, I was a tad nervous. And despite the thick fog which made it impossible to see where we going and the slight concern that my toes had fallen off due to frostbite, it was so much fun and definitely something I’d recommend you doing if you’re in Melbourne over the ski season.

Skiing in Australia! Now that’s something I never thought I’d do.

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Peninsula Hot Springs

The Peninsula Hot Springs, a few hours from Melbourne, is the perfect way to spend a day relaxing. I came here on a cool, crisp winters afternoon but was pleased to find that the sun was shining and blue skies were peeping out between the clouds.

Peninsula Hot Springs, who work alongside Mental Health Australia, offer a huge range of different baths and treatments in a tranquil and stunning surrounding. From the plunge pool (of course I plunged. Well eased in slowly) to the sauna, to the hilltop pool offering panoramic views of Mornington, this is a magical way to spend a day out of the city whilst simultaneously absorbing the beautiful landscape of Victoria and relaxing yourself into a hot bath coma.

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Grampians National Park

We saw Grampians National Park with Autopia Tours –  a tour group which can take you on all sorts of adventures around Melbourne. Grampians is around a 3 hour drive from Melbourne but is definitely worth the hours spent in a car when you see what it has to offer.

This mountain range offers beautifully rugged views of endless countryside and greenery as well as the chance to glimpse some of Australian’s favourite local friends – lots and lots of kangaroos! With amazing view points such as The Balconies as well as a trek down (about a million flights of stairs. The climb back up was fun) to McKenzie Falls, it’s hard not to be impressed by Australian’s natural beauty. I went on a cloudy day – which meant we were caught in hail showers and a layer of fog settled over the landscape – and whilst that was disappointing, it didn’t mean the view was any less mesmerising. I can only imagine what they would be like on a clear summers day…

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Wilsons Prom

Just another of Melbourne’s many National Parks, Wilson’s Prom offers view points of spectacular beaches and masses of green forestry. And most importantly, lots of local wildlife – kangaroos, emus, koalas and wombats (such funny little creatures, wombats).

A road-trip here meant a long day with not much time to spend properly looking around (due to having to have the rental car back in the city by 5pm) so I would recommend you do this as a weekend trip, finding a nice spot to set up camp and ensuring you have plenty of time to explore the region.

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Yarra Valley Wineries

Read more about my adventures in the Yarra Valley here.

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I’d really love to stay Melbourne but the East Coast is calling and I’d really quite like some sun now please..

Only In The Outback..

 

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The first thing I noticed when I landed at the airport at Uluru was how friendly everybody was. From the man at Thrifty car rentals who offered us a lift into the city after we missed the shuttle, to the people at the reception of Outback Pioneer Lodge who dealt with our bombardment of questions with a smile and a solution. The second was the heat. Having spent the winter in Melbourne where it is cold and windy and generally finger-numbing, this heat was a welcome change and so the fact that we couldn’t check in till 3pm did not faze us – it meant that we just had to lie by the pool in the sunshine filled blue skies. Sigh. Such a hardship.

Spending time here at Ayers Rock Resort was like something I’ve never experienced before. It was worlds apart from the busy people-clogged streets of Melbourne and a breath of fresh air from the usual tourist stuff I have been doing. The resort itself is a little strange – it’s like one big campsite in the middle of nowhere – a huge tourist spider web. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great location for visitors all over the world who want to marvel at Uluru but I can’t help but feel a little sad for this once deserted area so sacred to aboriginal culture which is now being trampled all over by truck loads of tourists. Me being one of them.

Up bright and early on our first day, after a rude awakening at 3.30am by some girls who appeared to be having a competition as to who could make the most noise, we picked up our rental car, stocked up on snacks, got some music on and set of to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. We decided to head over to the Kata Tjuta part first, knowing that we had plenty, perhaps too much, time to see everything. After a brief pit-stop to view the sight from afar, we found a car park and went on a short walk to see Walpa Gorge. Now, if we thought this was impressive, it didn’t prepare us for what we thought when we started the hike at Valley of the Winds. It was incredible. We couldn’t help but stare in awe as we slowly walked the circuit, taking in the empty landscape, the huge walls of the rock formations, the feeling that we were suddenly very small in a very big world. The hike took less time than expected, despite the numerous stops to take in our landscape and the obligatory camera shots. Although, the camera doesn’t really do this piece of geographical masterpiece justice. At all.

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It was then we decided to head over to the sunset viewing spot in order to see Uluru at sunset. Only 3 hours earlier than scheldued..

With only 100km allowed a day with the car we rented (the only issue I had with Thrifty in an otherwise perfect service. And pretty snazzy car – and that comes from someone who knows nothing about cars), we decided that rather than wasting km driving back and then in again, we may as well set up camp and wait for sunset. And despite the cabin fever, the sugar rush from too much chocolate and the general boredom, it was most definitely worth it. As the sky changed into a beautiful smear of pinks to yellow to light blue, Uluru lit up in all its amazing orange glory. And that kids, is why I travel. Where else can you see something like that?

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Day 2 consisted of a well deserved lie in before setting off and eating some breakfast with a picture perfect view of Uluru. By now, we had seen it from so many angles but it was still just as impressive as it was the first time. Today, we were going to walk around the base. A 10km walk which offered an up close and personal viewing of the rock and its many distinct patterns and crevices.

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Feeling like I was in every geologist’s Heaven, it was amazing to see so many different textures and layers of the rock and it was interesting being able to point out the aboriginal meanings behind some of these markings which we had read about briefly at the Cultural Centre. The walk was windy and hot and tiresome on our already tired hiking legs, but in all aspects, pretty damn cool. (Although, I think personally that whilst it was impressive up close, the view of Uluru from afar is far more incredible).

My few days in the Outback is something I think I’m probably going to remember forever. I’ll be that Grandma that fondly tells their Grandkids about that time they spent a year in Australia and saw some awe-inspiring things that you just have to see to believe. If you are travelling in Australia, a visit to Uluru should be on your agenda. You may as well right? Why come all the way to Australia and not truly experience it. That’s my reasoning for spending all my money on travel anyway. I think it works…

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Winter in Melbourne

Currently in the realms of Winter, Melbourne is a very cold place to be. With wet feet, shivering limbs and a big woolly jumper that I now call home, it’s not exactly what I had in mind for my year in Australia. But hey, I shouldn’t dwell. If it was hot, I’d only be complaining about the heat – this cold, rainy weather is perfect for my pale Welsh skin.

So whilst I may not be sunning myself on the beach or wandering around bright green parks, I have found plenty more to occupy myself with in Melbourne. Check out below some things to do during Melbourne’s winter months….

Soup on Degrave’s Street

Melbourne is filled with nooks and crannies and alleyways hidden with cute restaurants, cafes and shops. Degrave’s Street, located seconds from Flinders Street station, is a favourite of mine. One rainy Saturday, fed up of the constant rain and wet feet (I really should invest in some shoes which don’t have holes in), myself and a friend made our way to The Soup Place. I tried the spicy Moroccan chicken soup, my friend the Greek style chicken and we sat outside, wrapped up against the battering rain and sipped on our soups, dunking in fresh bread and enjoying the contrast of deliciously hot soup and the wet and rainy street. The Soup Place also do a $3 pay it forward for the homeless which is a lovely way to think about all those people who are living outside in this harsh weather.

Musicals

There are so many musicals on at the moment in Melbourne. Matilda, Singing in the Rain, Rocky Horror, The Sound of Music….What better way to spend a cold day than warm and toasty in a beautiful theatre watching some great shows. If only they had Dirty Dancing here. My life would definitely be made.

Mulled wine at Madame Brussels

Usually, I save a space in my heart for mulled wine at Christmas time. However, spending winter in Melbourne, I have had to make extra room. What a shame.

Madame Brussels is a unique bar on Bourke Street specialising in fancy cocktails and winter warmers. You can stay snuggled up inside or sit outside on the roof terrace all the while warming yourself up with a teapot of mulled wine. What more could you want? They also do a whole range of tempting cocktails and delicious food! Definitely going to head there soon to test out the menu…

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National Gallery of Victoria

A gallery is always a good way to spend a few peaceful hours hiding away from the cold and this was no exception. I spent a quiet few hours here wandering around and learning more about the city I am living in. And what more, it’s free!

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Coffee and Cake

I love cake. And living here has forced me into loving coffee. Melbourne, famous for its coffee, is filled with cute cafes where you can spend time soaking up the coffee beans and enjoying delicious fancies. Melbourne has forever ruined me for cakes and sweet treats. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I go back to the UK.

Any who knows me knows of my love for afternoon tea. Upon my arrival in Melbourne, I came across Hopetoun Tea Rooms and knew it was a place I just had to go too. And recently, I finally had the chance to walk on inside rather than pressing my nose against the window and wondering what it was like. With colourfully delicious cakes enticing you inside, we queued (it’s a very popular place this) for little under ten minutes and were eventually led to a table where we sat down and promptly stood back up again to choose our cakes. Raspberry Sponge, Pear Tarts, Orange and Almond, White Chocolate and Chocolate Mousse, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet…the choice was overwhelming. We recently went back here for lunch too where we over indulged in burgers and soups before buying more cake. In our defense, we took it home to have later. Cake for dinner is always the best sort of dinner.

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Skydeck

The Eureka Skydeck, the highest public view point in the Southern Hemisphere, is, to be fair, pretty damn impressive. Standing 297m above Melbourne, this tower offers incredible views of the toy-town city. I went here one cool, crisp late afternoon and enjoyed the clear views of the city before the sun started to set and turned everything orange. It was beautiful and definitely worth a visit at sunset. Maybe not when it’s raining or cloudy though. Probably won’t be much of a view then. Pick your winter day wisely.

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So just because Melbourne is all kinds of cold and windy at the moment, doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors cooped up in your duvet. The best part of being cold and wet is the steaming mug of coffee/mulled wine or a bowl of toasty soup you can use to warm yourself up with! It’s all part of the Winter in Melbourne experience..

 

It’s Wine Time

I truly believe that wine is an essential part of life. And that is why as soon as I heard about the magical Yarra Valley and its wine tours, I decided a trip out of the city was definitely in order.

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Me and my fellow travel buddy had booked a wine tour which promised spectacular views, free chocolate and of course, the most important part of it all, wine. Cafe Bus Winery Tours picked us up early from central Melbourne. This early start was true commitment from someone who cherishes their weekend lie-ins after spending the week waking up at 5.30am for work. The things you do for wine, honestly.

We were at our first stop by 9AM – Gateway Estate Farm House – a family run shop and cafe full of freshly made produce. After a brief tour of the strawberry picking and giant pepper trees, we traipsed back to the cafe where a spread had been put on for us. Boy, was I excited. Even at 9.30AM, I was able to fill up on meats and cheeses and crackers and grapes and chutneys and delicate servings of different alcoholic beverages. This was shaping up to be a grand day.

Next stop at 10AM was Napoleone. I loved it here – a peaceful building surrounded by acres of vines and greenery. It encompassed everything I never knew I wanted in life – a quiet and laid back family run estate full of charm, vine yards, cider and beer. What a life. Our little tour group were treated to a range of different beverages including apple cider, pear and apple cider, lager and pale ale. Then, we had time to wander around the estate taking in the acres of beautiful landscape and wondering how we could become creators of alcohol and live a life as peaceful as this.

Yarra valley

Yarra valley

By 11AM, we were at our third stop – the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie (and ice creamery). Like a bloodhound, I was magnetically pulled into the building by the delicious smells of melted chocolate oozing out into the countryside. Like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, this shop was filled to the brim with everything you could possibly want in a chocolate shop. After ambling around, my mouth watering, I decided the prices were slightly too high so stocked up on the freebies at the front of the store. A girl’s gotta eat.

This Chocolaterie was again in such a beautiful location, I didn’t have time to question my decision not to buy any chocolate. Surrounded by fields, rolling hills, we had a pleasant time enjoying the view and blue skies in the little bit of sunshine which was starting to make an appearance. The ice-cream was also extremely tempting with lots of interesting flavours – pancake and maple syrup, rocky road…however after a rather boozy breakfast and one too many scoops of the free chocolate samples, I simply had to say “no” (I just don’t know who I am anymore).

Yarra valley

Next on our adventure was a stop at Dominique Portent winery. This winery again is a family run establishment in the heart of the Valley with a father-son duo keeping everything, especially the wine, running smoothly. With the day still clear, we partook in a game of Petanque (a game a bit like Boules) which offered the chance to win a free bottle of wine. This was my time to shine. I mean, the only time to be competitive is when free wine is at stakes right? However, I failed in an abysmal fashion. 

Then, it was time for the wine tasting. We were introduced to some exquisite wines which we enjoying swirling around and taking delicate sips before knocking the whole thing back (old habits die hard). After a spot of lunch, it was time to leave to go back to the cafe bus and head to our next port of call.

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We arrived at Rochford Winery and were instantly shown to our wine tasting session. Sat at tables, we listened to the holder of the wine as he told us of the history of the establishment and what kinds of wine we were going to be sampling. We enjoyed a Chardonnay, a Cerberus, a Pinot Noir and even a dessert wine, the Rochford Rutherglen Muscat. They were all beautiful and nearly almost tempted me to stop buying the $5 stuff I got from Aldi and instead try and be a bit more sophisticated. That was until I saw the prices of course. Aldi, you’ve always got my back.

Rochford Winery was also a restaurant and store with lots of lovely knick knacks and books. There was also a balcony which you go up too to catch some incredible views of the Yarra Valley.

Our last and final stop was possibly my favourite of them all. However, I am looking back at my notes whilst writing this and I seem to have not written down the name of this particular establishment which is annoying but just means that you will have to go and find out for yourselves..
This wine tasting was hosted by a super friendly and informative guy who chatted easily to us whilst his enthusiasm for his wine shone through. We tried four different types of wine, each as tasty as the last, whilst overlooking the endless vines and catching glimpse of the kangaroos which were bounding between them. We stayed at this spot for a while, enjoying some snacks and watching as a herd of kangaroos jumped through the vines as they escaped a dog walker and his dog. Oh Australia.

The day was beautiful. Filled with chocolate, wine, stunning views and enthusiastic and friendly wine connoisseurs, I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who is after a day of exploring. If you are a lover of wine and of chocolate, you can’t really go wrong with heading out of the city, delving deep into the countryside and experiencing the true authentic tastes of Melbourne.

In fact, I am more than tempted to never leave Melbourne, and stay in the Yarra Valley drinking wine and eating cheese and watching Kangaroos. Now, that’s the dream.

Yarra valley

I’m A Social Mess

I’m a worrier. I’ve always been a worrier. My head is constantly whirling with thoughts and concerns – what I need to do, what I haven’t done yet, what I’ve done wrong. Sometimes it renders me incapable of being myself in a social group. I get nervous, anxious, like the spotlight is on me. And then I blush. No no, not a cute little blush which gently sprinkles my face with a rosy hue – it’s a full amber alert which heats up my entire body and dampens my face which of course people comment on which in turn makes me flush an even deeper colour. Call it social anxiety, call it shyness, call it me just being stupid, but I can’t stop myself from turning into an anxious, mute, red-faced goon when I’m faced with new people. It’s probably me being an over-thinker – I think too much about what other people are thinking – what response will I get if I say this? Will they think I’m weird? Funny? It’s exhausting. I’ve never really been the type to care too deeply about what other people think of me – I have my friends, I have my family and that’s all I’m really concerned about. It’s just the whole meeting new people that I have this internal struggle with. I admit myself, I’m probably not the most interesting of person when you first meet me – I turn into an awkward and fumbly mess of a human being which makes people think that I’m boring and got nothing interesting to say.

Thing is, I don’t remember feeling this feeling as great as I do now. I was shy I guess in school, I was slightly awkward and not someone who was full of confidence but I don’t recall having a constant overload of thoughts whirling around my head. I guess I first noticed it fully when I went to university. The whole being in a big group thing terrified me. I was surrounded by people who shone confidence, who were funny and quick witted and able to join new social groups quickly. And I found that difficult to do – I found it difficult to integrate myself that quickly into something new and it slowed me down. I’m much better at finding my feet first, meeting a few new people, forming attachments, rather than hurtling myself full speed into huge groups of people.

Being in Australia is amazing. And in some ways it has improved my confidence but it hasn’t really improved on my social awkwardness. But I am out here for another 8 months and I am working on it – I’m trying to do new things, and I’m trying not to let my head control my social interaction.

However, it’s getting to that point where I should start thinking about applying for jobs for when I get home. It’s not going well. I read job descriptions of the particular industries I want to go into and I tell myself that there’s no point in applying for that – I won’t get anywhere, I’m not confident enough, haven’t got that charisma, that charm.

Overthinking is never good and anxiety is awful. Your brain works a mile a minute forcing you to believe that you’re not good enough, that people don’t really like you, you’re going nowhere. I don’t want to be this person anymore. I want to be that person that has confidence shining from their pores, who can walk into social situations and be charming and full of fun and laughter. I feel like I’m throwing myself a little pity party at the moment. I guess everyone overthinks. And not everyone is as confident as they perhaps portray. I just need to get a hold of myself – there’s a world out there which I am going to be part of someday. I will be that person. It might take some time, but I am working on it. Or if all fails, I’ll just live out my days in the Australian outback. At least then you won’t be able to see my blush through all the sunburn….

A Night at the Theatre

When we first arrived in Melbourne, we started making a bucket list of things we wanted to do there before we left. Granted most of them included restaurants or cake shops or roof top bars, but the very first one was a trip to the theatre to see Matilda The Musical.

And last night, we finally got around to doing it.
Matilda the musical

We bought tickets a few weeks ago and at only 55$ they were quite a bargain. We were told they were on the ground floor close to the stage but had restricted seating. However, upon arrival we found that we had a pretty clear view.

There can’t be many people who don’t know the story of Matilda, and having grown up with Roald Dahl books myself, I was excited to see how they produced a play from a much loved children’s book.

Tucked up with our grapes and sweets (we’re really working this whole “balanced diet” thing), we eagerly waited for the lights to go down. And as the chatter halted and the lights started to dim, some shadows approached on the stage, the first note of a song, and Matilda had begun.

The show was full of laughter, music, and not a dull moment was had. Tim Minchin is a genius who can create a story out of a song and make it catchy, funny and memorable. The cast were all enthusiastic and you could just tell they were having a great time. Honestly though, it’s just unfair how talented these kids were – what happened to my talent? Why wasn’t I cast in an international play as a child?

Throughout the play, there was barely a minute to pause for breath. Each second was jam packed with music, movement and laughter. And it was great. I found myself staring at the stage, unable to tear my eyes away for fear I would miss a crucial moment. I love how even the sad parts of the book, the loneliness felt by both Matilda and Miss Honey were still prominent but dealt with in a light-hearted and comical way.

The characters were definitely brought to life throughout the play and you found yourself rooting for each and every one. Even Miss Trunchball who is cast as the evil enemy got one of the biggest cheers at the end of the play only reinforcing the fantastic way the story was adapted.

It’s always tricky turning a much loved book into a film or play but this performance just aced all my expectations. Children and adults alike were grinning from ear to ear throughout the night and the whole theatre echoed with cheers and laughter in every scene.

Seriously, leave your house right now and go see it. It’s amazing. And it’s only here in Melbourne for a few more weeks! Quick! Quick! You’ll only regret it…

Matilda the musical

 

The Great Ocean Road Trip

So I just got back from a little place called The Great Ocean Road. And it was pretty darn Great.

A windy day on the Great Ocean Road

Me and my fellow road trip buddies set off in our rented car late Friday afternoon all bushy-tailed and bright eyed, equipped with camping gear – albeit limited camping gear – snacks and more importantly, a cheeky bottle(s) of wine.

With darkness approaching, we found a campsite in Anglesea and set up for the night. We all piled into one tent and sat around our piles of snacks and wine munching away and gradually getting sleepier by the minute. We retreated to our respective tents and squeezed inside and fell asleep listening to the sound of the wind and the sea and in my case, the sounds of some pretty hefty snores coming from my tent buddy. Just adding to the camping experience…..Beaches on the Great Ocean Road

We awoke the next morning ready and excited for the day.

But then we looked at the sky.

The grey grey sky stretching for miles which threatened rain and oozed general misery. Fab. What a good start.

We set off and alas, the rain came. Our first few stops comprised of soggy views and soggy feet but to be fair, if in the rain the views looked like they did, can you imagine what it would look like with blue skies and dazzling sunshine? We decided to see the silver lining of the rainy situation – I mean we are road tripping down the Great Ocean Road. We shouldn’t really complain. There are worse things we could be doing.

12 apostles We gradually made our way up to the 12 Apostles and by that time, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared up oh so slightly. The 12 Apostles are a defining feature of the Great Ocean Road’s landscape so of course some obligatory tourist photos were in order. Because if you don’t take photos and put it on social media, did you even go there?

Rather than setting up camp there, we decided to start driving back down to Apollo Bay so that we would have more time in the morning to check out the things we missed at the start of the Road because of the rain. Upon arriving at Apollo Bay, we took our tired and freezing limbs to a local pub where we enjoyed a well deserved beer and some pizza. That went down very well, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

beach at sunsetWe found a cheap campsite and quickly set up our tents like the camping pros we are before retreating to the car to drink wine and eat crisps and talk about life. And of course scare ourselves silly by looking into the darkened trees and convincing ourselves there were people standing in them. Thanks for that Beth. We eventually admitted defeat and took ourselves to our tents and settled down listening to the fierce sounds of the waves which honestly felt like they were about to rip through the tent walls. Rather cosy sounds though, the sounds of waves is one of my favourite sounds. See? Silver lining.

 

We left bright and early the next morning eager to check out the areas we missed out on before we had to return the car. stones on the beachWe were happy to see that the sun had decided to make an appearance and there was even a sprinkling of blue skies peeking out between the clouds. We set off happy and excited and marvelled at the beautiful beautiful beaches which looked like they had come straight from a holiday catalogue. After a brief stop for breakfast in a cute little cafe by the Wye River to fuel up and prepare for more Ocean Road antics, we continued on our journey.

We caught up on the Erskine waterfall, more amazing beaches, the Great Ocean Road sign and a trip to the golf course in Anglesea to see the kangaroos. The kangaroos which were oh so laid back but also rather menacing at the same time.

kangaroos at AngleseaThe Great Ocean Road is definitely worth a trip. With great company, amazing views, good music and sufficient wine and food, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. Even if it does rain and the skies are grey, there’s still some stunning views which are pretty hard to forget.

Can we go again please???

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Brunching in Balaclava

Sunday mornings call for a spot of brunch and a good cup of coffee. Which is exactly what my Sunday morning consisted of.image

Aftet extensive research into good Melbourne brunch spots and a vigorous scroll through Instagram, we finally, finally decided on a local St Kilda place called Lava in Balaclava.

Firstly we ordered coffee which arrived almost instantly and we casually eyed the menu, as we enjoyed our caffeine hit. There was a lot of menu choice – from muesli and yoghurt to pancakes with fresh berries to bacon and eggs. And that was just the breakfast options…

Lava in Balaclava, as well as offering all day breakfast, also offer a huge number of lunch and dinner options and even fresh smoothies and juices. Situated on Carlisle Street in St Kilda, this is a great local place and only a short five minute walk away from where I live. The staff were all attentive and food service was surprisingly quick despite the busy-ness of the place. They even do a delivery service which is potentially dangerous news for two people who enjoying eating food as much as me and my flatmate.Lava in Balaclava

Since leaving the UK, I have lived without bacon and eggs. It’s been tough living without but today at Lava in Balaclava, I finally got the opportunity to indulge in my favourite fatty friends. Bacon and fried eggs with croissant French toast and a small dish of maple syrup. If I’m having brunch, I’m going to go all out.

The food arrived quickly and it really was delicious. My brunch buddy ordered the Eggs Benedict with salmon and I hear that that too, was also rather tasty. We greedily scoffed our food – the sweet maple syrup against the salty bacon and fried eggs really was something else and mopping it up with the French toast just added to the taste sensation.

Pushing our plates away, we agreed that brunch at Lava in Balaclava was definitely a good Sunday treat and definitely worth spending money on. Even though we are not supposed to be spending money. And I’m supposed to be eating healthily. But who can say no to brunch? Sod the diet. I want my bacon and eggs dammit.image

But anyway, Sunday calories don’t count right?

 

Rococo, Acland Street

Rococo restaurant St KildaI may have mentioned that Melbourne is jam-packed full of delicious looking food. It’s everywhere. There’s literally no escape. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I should probably say bad because I seem to be eating it all but at the same time, come on, who am I to say no?

As I’ve said, I have decided to settle in St Kilda for a few months before I can even think about being able to afford to travel up the East Coast. I say that like I will be able to afford it after a few months but with the amount of money I’m spending on rent paired with my inability to say “no” to food, it looks like I’ll be heading home poor and slightly on the chubbier side. I’m choosing to think positively that maybe I’ll start to get sick of all the cakes and the donuts and the brownies and the burgers and the paella and the noodles. Doesn’t seem likely though.

Anyway, I am going greatly off topic……….

Whilst settling down for a few months has given me a chance to relax and unpack my bags, it also means there’s not much travelling for me to write about on this so called “travel blog.” Therefore today will be a post on a delicious meal out at a local St Kilda restaurant that I’m still dreaming about.

My fellow travel buddies parents were in town and they decided to treat us on a meal out in St Kilda. Having walked past on many an occasion and commenting on how nice it looked, we made a bee-line for Rococo, an Italian restaurant on my favourite street of them all, Cakeland Street. Ahem, I mean Acland Street.

St Kilda Rococo

Inside it was lively and busy with windows opened onto the people-clogged streets outside. Despite the business of the restaurant, the atmosphere was great. Lots of people – friends, family, co-workers, couples – talking animatedly and enjoying their meals as tasty smells wafted from the kitchens.

It took some time to decide what we all wanted to eat. There was seriously a lot of choice and making a decision on what to eat is always a tough one for me. It’s up there with deciding what University to attend and what I should be doing with the rest of my life. Don’t want to make a wrong decision and then be jealous of everyone else’s meal. Don’t lie, you do it too. We decided on a starter of mixed dips with fresh bread which was divine and definitely warmed our stomachs up for the big event: main course. Washing our starters down with fresh, crisp white wine, we all (finally) decided what we wanted to indulge in next.St KIlda Rococo 2

I went for the pumpkin and caramelised onion risotto. And my God, I don’t mean to brag, but it really was one of my best decisions. I’m fascinated with Australia’s love for pumpkins. It’s everywhere here. Unless I’ve just been completely oblivious to it in the UK, the only dish I know of that has pumpkins in is pumpkin pie. But here, it’s all over the place – I see it advertised in literally every place I walk past. Where are all these pumpkins coming from? Are they even in season? Is the vegetable of Australia..the pumpkin? I should do some research on the matter.

Anyway, this pumpkin risotto was literally perfection. It was flavorsome and gooey and all kinds of yummy. I tried to take my time and savour every mouthful but it was hard to do that when the food is as good at this pumpkin risotto.

Too full for puddings, we regrettably finished our wine and pushed our cleared plates away from us, each of us repeatedly claiming how delicious our dishes were.

Rococo is a lovely little place for a nice dinner with family and friends. The staff are so friendly and know a lot about their wines – I was tempted to apply for a job there but thought I wouldn’t get very far into the process due to my only knowledge on the subject of wine is where to get the cheapest ones. (Aldi – $5. Bloody delicious. You’re welcome).

So with a lively ambience, gentle chatter filling the room, helpful and friendly staff and great company, this restaurant is one that I will definitely be attending again. There were some pretty good pastas I was eyeing up….and those puddings….

Till next time Rococo.

A special thanks to Christine and Nigel for wining and dining us two lowly travellers. Very much appreciated!

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