Where to go in Saskatchewan

Accomodation 

We were here to visit relatives so had somewhere to stay, but in Regina there’s plenty of chain hotels where you can stay. 

Regina town  

It’s not a huge city but you can head into town to explore. Find the “I love Regina” sign for some photos and stroll through the park or around the lake.

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You can find some farmers markets on a Sunday in town and a shopping Mall. We also found a good coffee shop called 33 1/3 coffee roasters.

33 1/3 coffee roasters

 It is a shared space for a coffee shop and a brewery called Malty National, love the name. It’s 90’s cool, be sure to bring about some nostalgia for Gen X and plenty of fun for all. There is outdoor/patio seating and plenty of room inside.

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With free arcade games including street fighter, there are also some old school board games like operation and hungry hungry hippos which makes it fun for everyone.

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33 1/3 have good specialy coffee, including filtered and milk based coffee.

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A great spot to get your caffeine fix. Malty National brewery have their brewing equipment on site, fully visible so you can also geek out on that if you are a beer nerd. A beer tasting flight will set you back a measly $5 and is good value to sample some interesting beer.

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 Regina Beach 

It’s not a proper beach as such, but it is a beach beside a lake. It’s a resort town where you will find plenty of people swimming, out on their boats, paddle boarding, jet skiing and more. 

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There’s places to rent equipment and also a local bar, club and a few little stores including an ice cream shop and a Mexican restaurant.

Moose Jaw 

A surprisingly unexpected place to have a good day out. It is your classic historic town which is still living those historic days out.

Moose Jaw tunnels  

This is a tourist attraction where guests buy a $15 ticket and get taken on a 50 minute tour through the recreated tunnels of Moose Jaw to teach us about the 1920’s – 1930’s days of Al Capone and the underground bootlegging era during prohibition days. It’s quite theatrical with the guides as ‘actors’ and is an interesting place to visit and learn something at the same time. 

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Mac the Moose 

 Located at the visitor centre, you must visit the giant moose (32 ft tall) for a photo!

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Temple Gardens 

In central Moose Jaw, the Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa is a huge hotel where you can stay. It has conference rooms, a spa and also the famous geothermal mineral water pool (largest in Canada). We didn’t stay at the hotel, but paid a $17 entry to use. The spa is about 32 degrees and is good for relaxation and to help soothe aching muscles and sore joints. We enjoyed our visit here and you can stay as long as you like. 

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Casino Moose Jaw

Located opposite the temple gardens hotel and spa, you can visit the casino to use the slot machines, play the table or poker. There’s dining and entertainment there too. 

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Jade Garden restaurant

A Chinese restaurant located on the Main Street in Moose Jaw. It is super cheap – $15.95 for a buffet. The buffet has mostly noodles and fried food, as well as desserts. You can also get banquets and we got one for $99.95 for 8 people which is a bargain. They were super helpful in accomodating gluten free needs. They have beers and cocktails too, although the cocktails aren’t on point. 

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Yvette Moore Gallery 

We really liked visiting the Yvette Moore Gallery as it has beautiful art, ceramics and jewellery on display. A lovely place to look around. They also have a cafe inside with friendly staff and comforting food. It is super healthy, homely and fresh. We had the salad – with candied pecans, carrot, apple, feta and Canadian maple dressing and also added chicken. It came with a bowl of soup – a beautiful beef and barley soup, as well an awesome cheddar herb biscuit. There’s a range of sweets too like bread and butter pudding or Saskatoon pie to finish off your meal. We also enjoyed a latte and a Saskatoon Berry Iced tea for our drinks. You can tell they take care in making their food. We loved our lunch here. Be sure to book if you’re going to visit.

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Shopping 

There are some cool Thrift shops where you can grab a bargain. Rings and Things specialises in jewellery but also has some other interesting knickknacks and home decor items. There are a few sports stores with some well priced merchandise.

Regina is a small place and everything we went to is within a one hour drive. If you’re here to visit relatives, like us, then this will keep you amused for your stay. 

 

Where to go in Toronto in only 3 days

We chose to go to Toronto, primarly becuase it is the gateway to Niagara falls. It’s also a bustling city and a very interesting place. A very wide mix of people, personalities and quite a few odd characters. This makes for an eclectic city.

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Kensington market 

More of a street full of interesting stores than a market as such. Packed with people having a good time, you will find a few streets of small foodie joints from Empanadas to sushi to gelato, you will definatly find something to satisfy that hunger. There’s also a brewery and a number of bars throughout the streets. Mixed with this are vintage stores selling old ripped jeans, leather jackets and tees as well as Nepali gear and a few tattoo parlours.

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We bought a few things like an old school Hawaiian shirt as well as some food. We had the most amazing ceviche to eat, as well as a Mexican bowl and an empanada. Superb! We recommend a visit here because it’s quite an interesting look around.

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Graffiti Alley

A great place nearby Kensington Markets and just off Queen St West. Perfect for tourists, artists and instagrammers alike. You’ll find an alley a couple of side streets pimped with array of incredibly artistic graffiti. It’s colourful and outright cool. Get those cameras ready.

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Baseball – Blue Jays 

We were keen for a game and seeing as though they play for about three days straight, it was easy to get to a game. Downtown, at Rogers stadium, the stadium is covered so it even runs in the rain. There’s also a hotel overlooking the field, so if you’ve got the money, that’s an incredible thing to do.

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We recommend getting tickets via stub hub if you’re buying last minute like us. They have a range of options and prices and you can snag yourself a good deal. We got club tickets that have a private entrance, private toilets, buffet accessibility, and seat drink service. We got these at only $50 a ticket. The tickets were in Club 224B and had an incredible view of the diamond. Right behind catchers plate, we had a great spot – shame the team weren’t so good on the night.

Once there, we realised there was a buffet where you can dine and watch the game. We bought this for $50 each including tips and taxes. The food was awesome: roast brisket, turkey, lamb, Mac and cheese, roast veggies, soup, antipasto and a dessert bar. We think it was worth the price tag. Table service of drinks too.

Where to eat and drink

We mostly ate cheaply here, like at the markets a a few little cafes. We tried Easy Rider on Queen street West, for Mexican inspired breakfasts and also a Vegan cafe called Fresh.

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Versus Coffee 

Great cafe downtown. It is reasonably sized with outdoor seating. Open late (til 6) and weekdays later. They do some interesting Coffees like the campfire (maple syrup and marshmallows), beetroot and turmeric lattes as well as beautiful coloured latte art. Loved it!

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Take a trip to Niagara 

Worth a 2 hour bus ride. You’ll need to stay overnight though.

– see our blog on this here

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Where else?

Now we planned to go to all of these places listed below, but unfortunately our American Airlines flight got cancelled and we had to head to the airport a lot earlier than expected to reschedule. Here’s a list of what we researched up on and were going to go to:

The Distillery district – for food, drinks and boutique stores.

St Lawrence market – a food market and stalls for shopping.

Bata Shoe Museum – an interesting display of all things shoes from Manolo Blanik to Nike and more

Hockey Hall of Fame – all things NHL

Steam Whistle Brewery – for a brewery tour and a few drinks

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If you visit Toronto, we hope you have a great time.

Where to go in Niagara in less than 48 hours (from the Canadian side)

Your best bet is to head from Toronto to Niagara. Go online and buy a bus ticket to Niagara Falls. A regular bus (which takes about 4 hours and only $16) or a Greyhound (approx 2 hours and $40 round trip) and make your way there. The bus seats are comfortable, having charging devices and supposedly wifi (though it didn’t really work). Bus drivers are friendly and departed on time.

The town 

It is like a mini Las Vegas with its hotels, strip mall, entertainment quarter and larger than life concept.

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On Clifton St you’ll find a barrel of activities. Whilst we didn’t engage in any of the activities there, if you’re in Niagara with your family, there is mini golf, go karting, Ripley’s believe it our not, wax celebrities, mini golf, haunted houses, bowling and more.

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Food wise, don’t expect anything too special, Niagara is primarily chain restaurants or cafes. Most of the food is fast food, like Ihop, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, ice cream shops, fudge shops and more.

Where to stay

It is a big tourist town, so naturally there’s plenty of hotels from holiday inns to the Hilton. We chose to stay at an air bnb – the host John runs a bnb called Archie’s bunker. It is a short walking distance to the falls and is a great location. John and wife Trish are so hospitable and were super good communicating with us prior to coming. When we arrived, the Australian flag was flying high. Our room was the Oh Canada room and it was dressed with all Canada themed decorations. Kitted our with towels, cups, gowns, slippers, a kettle and more, all you need for your stay. We liked the special touches of a chocolate by the bed, 2 souvenir pins and a bunch of brochures to read on the area. He also prepares breakfast and it was an amazing spread of granola, yoghurt, fruit, pastries, juice, coffee and he made us eggs Benedict! We loved this. What a marvellous place to stay. Only $100 a night, it is a bargain.

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At Niagara Falls 

Walk along Niagara Parkway and you see two parts of the falls. The horsehoe falls is the most spectacular.

In the evening the falls are illuminated and the colours change. It is super impressive. Fireworks also take place from 10pm, be sure to get in early for a prime spot.

Mist Rider Zip line 

The zip line is super fun to do. This is $60-$70 depending on whether you go at day or night. We did the night version at 9pm where you get a light up wrist band and zip line when all the falls are lit up with coloured lights. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush and we enjoyed it! They have fireworks at 10pm so you can also see those!

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Journey Behind the falls 

For an experience in the tunnels below and behind the horseshoe waterfalls themselves. Pay your $25 entrance fees and head down in an elevator (about 35 metres below). You’ll be up and close to the falls in the two viewing platforms and behind falls when traversing the tunnels behind. You will get wet – but they will give you a recyclable poncho.

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Hornblower Niagara Cruise 

We booked one of these cruises to get close to the falls. It is $25 plus tax for the trip including the poncho. Line up and you’ll find yourself herded down to the deck to board. They pack it to the brim. The boat round trip takes about 30 Mins and you get close to the horseshoe falls. It’s worth it for the view. You will get wet. Very wet. Be sure to wear that poncho.

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Skylon tower 

Perfect for an awesome view of the city and above the falls. Pay your $15 entrance fee and get the lift to the top. Once you’re there, walk around and get your view of the entire city. Take your photos and that’s about it. They do have a revolving restaurant and buffet if that takes your fancy.

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Where to eat

The food in Niagara isn’t great. It’s mostly a mix of chain restaurants focusing on big and greasy: think burgers, wings, ribs and more. If that’s your thing, you’ll be sorted. We found it hard to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at a Turkish restaurant for a salad and meat skewers to share just to stay healthy.

Apparently the buffets in the casinos are good value and you can also eat in the revolving restaurant in the tower.

Queen Victoria Place Restaurant 

A large restaurant with a great view of the falls. In the evening there’s also music playing on a stage nearby. The restaurant serves western food, relatively healthy with entrees, mains and desserts. They’re quite pricy but the food looked really good, like antipasto, salmon and risotto to name a few. We had drinks here only – a beer paddle and a local wine paddle to sample a few of the variations. We enjoyed sampling these. Service was a bit varied. When we ordered, the drinks came out fast, but it was hard to get the waiters attention. Despite this, I’d recommend visiting here because a drink with this view is worth it.

Hope you have fun if you visit Niagara! We did!

Where to go for 48 hours in NYC

Having been to NYC before, we have done all the tourist stuff like Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Empire State, 9/11 Museum, shopping, Times Square and more. This blog will not be about those. These are all amazing things to do but you need at least a week to do all of that. Here’s where to visit if you are revisiting or just have a small amount of time like us.

Accomodation 

We stayed in SoHo in an AirBnB because hotels are super expensive. We like Soho for the cool boutique shops, restaurants and cafes and you can easily get a subway uptown or walk, like we did.

Food

Milk

Well known to instagrammers and foodies alike, this small milk bar is famous for its cereal milk and birthday cake ice cream, cookies and crack pie, it is certainly worth a try. Get over to their Brooklyn store, they are offering these flavours in shakes with booze added and they are pretty cheap too. We tried the cereal White Russian with vodka and Kahlua, it’s definitely worth requesting sprinkles on top.

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Dominique Ansel

A patisserie like no other. It is famous for cronuts and beautiful patisserie goods. Get in early because they do sell out of the cronuts. You’ll also wait in a line of about 20 Mins or so for everything else.

We tried then frozen s’mores – quite possibly best dessert ever. Frozen cake and chocolate on a stick covered in Marshmallow and torched in front of you. It was delicious! I also had a cookie milk shot which is essentially a soft cookie cup with a chocolate lining on the inside then milk is added. An awesome dessert too. So many good things here, you’ll find it difficult to pick just one.

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Supermoon Bakehouse 

Over near the Williamsburg bridge they do pimped croissants, famous for their creamy fillings and artistic toppings

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Dr Smood 

A super healthy cafe with protein snacks, juices, salads and other breakfast and lunch meals. There’s also a number of products to go. I tried the hot oatmeal – topped with nuts and dried fruits and also poached pears. I really enjoyed this. It’s also great to see this place recycles.

The Bombay Bread Bar

This is a modern Indian restaurant with a cool fit out. The Bombay Bread Bar delivers their own interpretations of traditional cusine and some great cocktails. Service here was excellent.

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The cocktails here were stiff. We tried the ‘Bollywood Swingin’ made with Beefeater gin, bay leaf, lime and passionfruit. Quite nice, bitter taste with a hit of fruity notes. We also shared the Duplex Complex.

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The bacon and cheese naan was out of control amazing. We can’t even explain it. You must order this. Like a thin naan filled with cheese and bacon.

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Kurt was keen for the monkfish as we don’t get this in oz, but he was sadly told they didn’t have it when he ordered. The fish curry was instead striped bass, the fish was nicely cooked but the curry had no bang or oomph to it, flavours seemed a little underdeveloped.

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The Dutch

A cool Bistro with a great drinks list, the sevice at this establishment was on point, allowing a sample of the whisky before purchasing a dram. We ordered a summer crusher cocktail and were sipping away, only to be informed the wrong cocktail was delivered. This turned out to be a blessing as this mystery cocktail we enjoyed more than the actual summer crusher, that was also provided to make up for the error. Having eaten prior to visiting, we ordered a beef tartare to share, a very good version of this dish and we were also impressed with the house made bread, the jalepeno corn bread was the bomb!

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Katz Deli

What can we say, this place is a favourite of many for a reason. Grab a ticket and mosey up to the counter, request a sample of the different sandwich meat on offer.

It is almost impossible to go past their pastrami. We ordered the Pastrami Reuben, possibly the best sandwich ever and would usually serve two.

This sandwich was so good, Kurt got very protective of it and almost ordered a second. There is alot of foreplay involved in getting the meat so tender and moist. It is pickled in brine for 3 weeks, smoked for 3 days, boiled for 3 hours, then steamed at the counter and seved in a generous portion.

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To do 

Musical lotteries 

Although we didn’t win one this time, sign up for all the lotteries for the musicals. If you win, you buy a ticket at roughly $40 instead of the face value price of the ticket. This is an incredibly good deal. Some shows do this online, others you need to be at the box office 2.5 hours before to put your name in the barrel. Make sure you have your ID.

Sports 

Not really the right season for much sport, but if you go to NYC, be sure to get to a NYC Knick’s basketball game, Rangers hockey game or the Yankees or Mets baseball game. You can also get to Chelsea Pier to participate in some sport, by hitting golf balls toward the Hudson River, stepping into the batting cage for some baseball action, there is an indoor track and a number of courts including basketball and beach volleyball.

Brooklyn

Walk the bridge to Brooklyn via Brooklyn Bridge or Williamsburg bridge for a look around an eclectic area of boutique stores and cafes.

That’s all we could fit in 48 hours – but keep in mind this is a lot. We did walk for about 20kms each day!

Phuket – for a beach and training holiday

Phuket

Phuket is that island known for a relaxing holiday destination, but also these days a party destination too (think Patong). See a show, visit the old and dilapidated zoo where you can stand in an enclosure with a crocodile,    Go parasailing or tour to a nearby island. We were here primarily to relax, eat, get massages and do a bit of training!

Where we stayed

The Mercure Phuket is lovely and clean hotel, close to the heart of Patong. Whilst the area is in the busy part of Patong, the hotel is quiet. It is very big and has a good gym, huge pool and cafe. When you arrive, the complimentary welcome drink and choux pastry was a nice touch. Our room was small so I’d recommend the ones on the ground floor with pool access. They have good cocktails and they’re cheap in happy hour. The dinner buffet is absolutely outstanding and we’ve written a blog on this alone. See here for the blog https://aroundtheclockfoodie.com/2017/10/02/2056/


Naka Muay Thai

Naka Muay Thai is run by a Westerner from Amsterdam Tony (or Darryl) and his partner Noi. There are other professional trainers, including Thai’s working there too. Tony is a professional Muay Thai fighter and is currently also training for fights. The gym has been open around 3 years.

It is a small gym, but has a boxing ring, boxing bags and weights, perfect for a training session. It is very clean and also has a bathroom to get ready.

The gym is close to Karon and Kata beach, but you will need transport to get there. Tony was kind enough to pick me up from the hotel for only 100 THB, much cheaper than the taxis. I also got a lift back. He was extremely flexible with arranging my session and replied via email very promptly.

I chose to do personal training for 600 THB, which is extremely reasonable given that many of the group classes in the Chalong area are around 400 and this provided 1:1 training. It began with a warmup, stretching, and then some technical work, 4 rounds pad work and warm down. It was a marvelous session and Tony is a really technical fighter and teacher and was able to correct my technique, offer suggestions and I find this  a valuable session. I have trained at a couple of places over Thailand and found this was a hard session (which is a good thing!), and although I went in with experience, I’m certain beginners would be suitable too as he’s a great teacher.

Highly recommended for your next training session in Phuket.

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Chalong

Chalong is an area that has grown a lot since my first visit more than five years ago. About 30 Mins from Patong, it’s a suburb in itself with plenty of villas, hotels and air bnbs to stay in. It’s lined with Muay Thai gyms, the most famous and commercial – Tiger, as well as some others and many types of gyms for the fitness enthusiast. To accompany your solid training sessions, you will find plenty of restaurants and cafes with a healthy and protein focus. You can also get a massage easily and cheaply to recover from your hard training. A trip to Chalong is perfect for those wanting to get fit and lose weight in an enjoyable and relaxing location.

Tiger Muay Thai

When I first went to Tiger Muay Thai, it was such a new and exciting experience for me. I went to lose weight, get fit and learn a new skill. It was a small place and It has grown a lot since then. Tiger Muay Thai intends to teach quality traditional Muay Thai to people. It now has a range of other fitness activities like mma, boxing, yoga and more.

They have professional fighters living and training too, so you’re able to learn from the best. Classes are segregated into beginner, intermediate and advanced to suit each level.
Classes are 2 hours with running, technique, bag and pad work. The trainers are really technical but also fun too!

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Tiger is a huge set up – accommodation, a grill restaurant and a shop selling gear and merchandise. Its getting pricy but still cheaper than training in Aus.

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Chockchai Muay Thai

I trained at Tiger Muay Thai many for years and did some PT with Chockchai a number of times. He was such a great trainer, kind and helpful and I was disappointed to see he’d left. But when I enquired, I learned that he had in fact opened his own his own Muay Thai gym and stadium, so we went to check it out. Smaller scale, but offering the same type of training in a more comfortable, friendly and less commercial atmosphere, it was also less expensive. I was thrilled to train with Chockhai again. Classes were 2 hours with running, technique, bag and pad work. It was extremely enjoyable but still tough. We really liked that each day something different is added like boxing sparring, Muay Thai sparring or cultural component, the Wai Kru. Staff are lovely too. You can rent rooms if you plan to stay a while and also head with them to a match at the Chokchai stadium next door.

Chockchai stadium

This is a new stadium named after the legend Chokchai. It holds fight nights on Monday, Thursday and Saturday nights in the Chalong area, just 30 minutes from Patong. The stadium is an awesome local place to watch a few fights.

The stadium is amazing, brand new, comfortable seats, flashy lights, score boards and a great walk way for fighters to enter from. There’s a bar to purchase food and drink.

The show begins with a traditional Muay Boran fight and then a range of Muay Thai fights including children. The standard of fights was extremely high. At only 800 THB and to sit in the front row was extremely good value. You can buy tickets at the door or via Chokchai gym. We loved our visit to the stadium.

Food in Chalong 

Mostly a mix of Local thai restaurants selling your regular thai fare on the cheap, there’s a number of muscle/protein type smoothie shops as well as a cafe grill inside Tiger Gym itself. We were recommended to go to Ali’s grill too.

Ali’s bbq

We tried Ali’s bbq which is an expansive bbq, roofed but open walls and heaps of space to sit and enjoy your meal. Selling heaps of grilled meats, salads, wraps and more – it’s perfect for the protein eater trying to bulk up. Portions are massive and it is extremely affordable for what you get!

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Old Town 

In Phuket Old town, you will find this old Thai provincial capital, reflective of the heritage of this area. It is historically rich with temples, old houses and tea houses which have remained outwardly authentic, whilst being used for modern purposes like hotels, cafes and galleries. We enjoyed our stroll through these streets, admiring the beautiful scenery and trying a lot of street eats and exploring the local markets. It’s easy to get a bus to Old town and worth a trip for the experience of culture and history.

Be sure to take a trip to Phuket sometime – it’s an awesome holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short getaway @Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula

After the rush of Christmas, I was in need of a short break and having some friends in Melbourne, I took the opportunity to head to Victoria and out of the city to some tourist spots. Ordinarily I’d go to the city, shop up a storm, test out some up and coming cafes and scope out town for some good bars and restaurants. On this occasion, my friend picked us up and off to the Mornington Peninsula we went for a day trip. The Mornington is known for beautiful beaches, eateries and a great place for the city folk to head for a holiday. We stayed inland and lunched at Merricks General Wine Store.

Mornington Peninsula

Merricks General Wine store

The General store has wine tasting, gourmet goods to purchase and also a gift store. Out the back, there is also a take away coffee window. I was keen to go to the restaurant for lunch and although it was really busy, we waited and got a table. My friends and I each had a glass of wine which accompanied the food well. My friends ordered the oysters, salmon and linguini. Food was beautifully cooked with delicate flavours. I had the poke bowl; a really fresh and healthy poke with tuna sashimi. We all really enjoyed our food. It is really popular, and a great place to eat. I would recommend booking.

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http://mgwinestore.com.au/

3460 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks, Balnarring, Balnarring, Mornington Peninsula, VIC

Peninsula Hot Springs

The Peninsula Hot Springs are a natural hot springs and day spa less than 90 minutes from the Melbourne CBD. Make sure you book as it is extremely busy! $40 and unlimited time at the springs. Enter, pop your things in your locker and head outside. There are lots of pools, ranging in temperatures, from the ice cold plunge pool to 40 degrees! There’s also a sauna and turkish steam bath. The baths are in the middle of wide open spaces, with a beautiful outlook. A great place to hang out with your family, friends whilst relaxing and rejuvenating.

http://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

Springs Lane, Fingal, 3939
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

Yarra Valley

The next day we headed down to the Yarra Valley to sample some of the regions beautiful wines.

We stayed at the Yarra Valley Lodge which is a huge resort on the site of a golf course. There is a member’s club for golfers, but guests can also play. You can take short trail walks around the site and see plenty of kangaroos. Rooms are spacious, they have comfortable beds, well stocked bath rooms and mini bars, TV’s have movies you can pay to watch and room service is also prompt. Breakfast was included, and although very busy, food was all you need at a buffet. On site there is a bar, day spa, pool and tennis court. All you need for a lovely weekend is here.

The next day we took a tour with Wild Wombat tours. We were picked up at our hotel, taken to 5 wineries (normally 4, but the lovely driver added in an extra), for $110, a full day tour including lunch and a glass of wine with lunch is very reasonable. Drivers are friendly and knowledgeable and tours always change depending on customers and area you are staying.

Wineries and breweries

Chandon

In particular I loved the tasting at Chandon. Although this place costs $10 to taste, you can try 6 different sparkling wines and they have a few you can’t buy in store. One of my favourites was the “orange bitters” – pour in a glass of ice and it is like a spritzer. Amazing to have on a hot day!

Levantine Hill

Ezard at Levantine hill was also great. Huge site and it is a restaurant and cellar door that was rated Best Cellar Door in the 2016 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine. We did a tasting, bought a few wines and had lunch too. Chef of the famed Ezard, I knew the food here would be good. As it was lunch, my friends and I shared a few dishes. The mac and cheese croquettes were a standout, as well as the mini sliders, linguini and cured salmon. It was an amazing lunch and I would certainly be keen to visit for a degustation.

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Four Pillars gin was another top spot to visit. You can take tours of the site or undertake gin tastings. We did a tasting paddle; they have rare dry gin, navy strength gin, spiced negroni gin – try these with the matching garnish or add some tonic and you’re set for a great afternoon.

Melbourne CBD

Sheraton

For NYE, we stayed in the city. A lot less busy than city, it is a good choice for your new years’. I booked the Sheraton on Little Collins street. Great location, 5 star luxury not far from the shopping mall, sports grounds and plenty of restaurants to eat. A very new and stylish hotel, rooms were fancy, huge bathrooms and certainly very comfortable. They have a great spa, pool and also deck bar where they had a DJ and small event for NYE. The buffet was also excellent. Check in was easy and I would recommend the Sheraton to stay.

http://www.sheratonmelbourne.com/

27 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000, Australia

Phone: (61)(3) 9290 1000

Magic Mountain Saloon

For our drinks and dinner we went on the recommendation of Zomato to Magic Mountain Saloon. A pretty young and trendy place with thai inspired modern food, we tried a range of meals – great combination of flavours, a bit spicy but worth checking this place out. A huge range of cocktails and perfect for a date or catch up with friends. It also opens for breakfast.

http://www.magicmountainsaloon.com.au

62 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9078 0078

 

Service in action @Camps International – Camp Tsavo Kenya. Part 1

Camps International is an organisation running in the UK and Australia, offering ethical service programs. This social enterprise runs trips in Africa, South America and South East Asia and trips are available for schools, gap students, families and individuals.

What appealed to me initially was the ethical mindset of the company. I’m extremely passionate about service learning and helping others and when I saw the promotional booklet, I was extremely interested. Running school trips is something I regularly do, and as a Service Education Coordinator, I thought this would be perfect for my school.

I joined a teacher Recce (or research trip) headed for Kenya to see what the company and experience was like, as a means to be able to see it first hand and have genuine personal knowledge to guide my decision making and teaching when back at school.

From the word go, Tanya from Camps was extremely efficient and helpful in organising my flights and providing me with helpful information. Not long after the end of Term 4, I flew from Sydney to Kenya via China on China Southern Airways. I met my fellow Reece travellers in China and off we went. Despite an extremely long journey on planes, and a scheduled refuel in Bangkok, we arrived in Kenya (minus my baggage?!) ready and raring to go.

We were met by Yusura who led us for the entire journey, had some breakfast, stocked up on supplies for the bus and began our long bus journey to Camp Tsavo.

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After the trip in a bus and on an interesting highway drive (think millions of trucks wanting to overtake each other and seeing zebras on the side of the road), we found ourselves at the Camp Tsavo site.

The area is incredible, in a small place an hour from the town of Voi. It is village life with the locals living in minimal houses, many made from mud. It’s also very green, they have amazing produce. They have large families and so eager to see locals, coming outside to wave to the passers by. I’d happily just drive up and down the road all day. The children walk to school and quite far to get water. I’d love to see water filters be built or provide bicycles some day.

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At the camp, we’re met by the local staff, introductions made and we are shown around the site and settled into our rooms – the camp style cabins have beds and blankets. Rooms (for 3) have electricity and charging facilities mosquitos nets, there’s drop toilets and cold showers. So, it’s actually quite like glamping.

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There’s a dining hall where food is cooked for you and the food is incredible – think local food like meat and vegetable curries and Ugali. They also made some western food and in particular an amazing bolgonaise and the most tender meat patties I’ve ever eaten. Coming from a foodie, this food was superb. Filtered water, tea and coffee was also available.

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The site itself and out look is absolutely incredible. It’s like you’re featured in part of the lion king and “circle of life” is constantly replaying in your head.

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The trip includes a safari in a private game park. We visited this for approximately 4 hours and managed to see giraffes, elephants, warthogs, zebras and more. Unfortunately they aren’t prone to regular visitors and the sound of the vehicle scared them off. I’m keen to revisit Africa to go on Safari to a National Park or even to see the Great Migration.

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Following this, we visited the Voi Wildlife Lodge, where groups are taken for a bit of R&R. An incredible resort overlooking animals in their habitat and this is amazing to watch the animals drink from a watering hole whilst having a drink or bite to eat yourself.

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However, this is not the prime reason we were on camps. We were there to see the Service work projects and participate in these ourselves. This will be continued in the Blog Part #2.

 

A wonderful day on the sea @Ocean Spirit Cruise

Ocean Spirit Cruise 

We arrived at the reef terminal and checked in received our ticket to board the ship. A large boat, you can sit indoors on lounges, outside or on the deck.

As you arrive, tea, coffee, muffins and focaccia are available.

As the boat departs, we are given a safety briefing and collect the gear to use for the day of snorkelling. You are also able to pay extra for guided snorkelling tours or scuba diving.

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The journey to the outer reef is approximately 2 hours. Whilst on board you can relax or learn about whales!

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Whale Presentation 

According to the staff, dolphins are part of the whale family. Sometimes in small groups, some in larger packs. There are also whales with teeth and whales with baleen. One single blow hole for toothed whales. Bottlenose dolphins are the most well known.

There are also false killer whale, head end like a torpedo and uncommon in Australia. The Sperm whale is one of the biggest toothed whales. There are also Southern right whales because they are slow moving and were in past times, the right whales to “go after”. There were whaling stations at Tangalooma near QLd and Albany, Qld.  90% of the species were whales in earlier times but fortunately whaling is no longer conducted in Australia. In 1980 a new species was found – dwarf minky whale. Different colours on their bodies.

Humpback whales, most common in east Australia, are very distinctive with long pectoral fins up to 6m, weigh 30 tonnes in average, 13-16 m length, with long pleats to expand when they eat. Tubicles (giant hair follicles on the head).

In July to September is when you may see Humpback whales migrating. It is the biggest migration of a mammal. The round trip is over 5000 km. They make journeys to breed. From Cairns to Antarctica (and other journeys in WA and Beneath South Australia). It is too cold to breed in Antarctica so they come north. They then breast feed, producing 500-600 litres a day to feed their babies.

Great Barrier Reef and Michaelmas Cay

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site and is one of the worlds largest single living organisms and can be seen from outer space. It extends approximately 2600 km off the east coast of Australia. It is a network or different coral reefs and a marine park.

Captain Cook called it the Barrier Reef as to him it was a barrier between there and the open water. 1774 Matthew Flinders called it the Great Barrier Reef.

We travelled to Michaelmas Cay, a sand cay formed my fragments of plant and animal skeletons that are collected on the reef. A sand cay emerges when birds bring seeds and fertiliser.

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The boat anchors near Michaelmans Cay, a small low lying vegetated sand cay, surrounded by the reef. The boat transports guests to the cay in a small boat. You then have the opportunity to snorkel and see the beautiful coral, plants, fish and other marine animals in the area. Over 1590 different types of fish are in the Great Barrier Reef. It is simply incredible. One of the most beautiful places you will witness in Australia.

You can buy some extras like guided snorkel tours or introductory scuba dives. Whilst anchored, you can also take a glass bottomed boat to see more marine life or have lunch.

A lunch buffet is offered with hot options; rice and curry or ratatouille. There’s prawns, cold meats, salads and bread rolls. They also offered dessert; fruit and chocolate and carrot cake with tea and coffee.

After a few hours at the Cay, the boat set sail back to the marina. On the journey home, we were offered a glass of sparkling wine and cheese and biscuits.

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The staff on this boat were extremely professional and knowledgeable and some of the best we’ve seen. It was also evident they loved their jobs.

This was extremely good value at $202, let alone the $165 we got it on special for! A must do if in Cairns.

Ocean Spirit Cruise 

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A retreat in Queensland @Palm Cove

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Palm Cove is located in tropical North of Queensland,  Australia and is about 25 minutes north of the airport. You can get a taxi, an Uber or airport transfer, though we found Uber was the cheapest.  Palm Cove is south of Port Douglas and a smaller location. It has a boutique feel, with hotels, apartments and a number of restaurants. Walk along the esplanade and the beach or enjoy some fishing by the water. There’s a few shops and a grocery store to grab the necessities.

It’s in a good location to get picked up for any tours you book, and a number of travel agents who can make these arrangements for you.

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Where to Eat

Portobello

A restaurant on the esplanade selling breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were super hungry after our flight and went here for dinner. We all ordered a protein dish – lamb shanks, barramundi and chicken. All meals were perfectly cooked, amazing taste and came out very quickly. Quite expensive, but it is a holiday town.

Vivo

This place is on the esplanade and has a wonderful menu! So many choices and lots are inspired by asian flavours. We ordered the pancake – full of greens, herbs and prawns. Huge size, very flavoursome and value for money.  We also ordered the special – a healthy egg white omelette with a beetroot relish, enoki mushrooms, a slice of rye and greens – this was awesome. We also got a few juices (these were expensive, about $9-$10). Staff were friendly and service was extremely fast, which was good considering that there was heaps of people there. Worth a visit if if in area.

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Chill

Chill is a cafe and bar on the esplanade in Palm Cove. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We wee there for a couple of drinks on a Sunday night. They also had a cool band playing which was great entertainment. Staff were pretty fun and dealing well with the crazy crowd. They sell food in the form of tapas like tacos or oysters or larger mains like fish and burgers.

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Jack and Shannan’s 

Jack and Shannan’s is in the lobby area of the Imagine Drift apartments. It is a cafe, restaurant and bar. We went there for our morning coffee as they did a great coffee, brewed chai and not too much of a wait.

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Cactus

We decided to go here for dinner as the food seemed a bit cheaper than most places in the area. Selling your typical mexican food, like burritos, quesadillas and fajitas, we all decided on the fajitas. Select beef, chicken or pork and that comes sizzling on a plate. You then get three wraps, a few small bowls of black beans, tomatoes and cheese to make your own wrap. It was a nice meal. Clean and tidy restaurant and friendly service.

Nu Nu

This is a lovey restaurant on the esplanade, open, with views of the ocean. They do breakfast, lunch, tapas and dinner. We were here for dinner and ordered a range of things to share; dumplings, mixed greens, an OUTSTANDING gorgonzola infused wagyu, kingfish sashimi and prawn schnitzels. The food was all excellent and no critiquing here! It is expensive, so go for a special occasion. The staff were efficient and friendly, but there did seem to be a noticeable feeling stress amongst them.

Williams on the Nard 

A fairly basic looking cafe from the outside and the menu makes it appear like an average dining venue. However this was certainly not the case. The food was incredible and presentation was like fine dining. This is not only true for what I had, but what I saw when other diners had their dishes come out. I was after something remotely healthy so ordered a beef tartare. It came out on a board,  topped with a raw egg, some capers, crunchy bread, some mustards and sauces and beautifully presented with edible flowers. Coffees were also good!

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What to do?

Cairns Active Explorer

Take a trip to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest

Where to stay?

There’s plenty of hotels and apartments along the esplanade for you to choose from. We stayed in the Imagine Drift Apartments. Large rooms, we had a 2 bedroom, with a kitchen and lounge space. The kitchen was fully set up and came with some tea and coffee making facilities. There were two bathrooms and a laundry in one. Big balcony overlooking the large pool. The pool is in a leafy area so it doesn’t get much sun. There is also a spa and a basic gym. It is all you need for a week away and perfect to travel with your friends and family.

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Hope you all have a great time if you choose to travel to Palm Cove!

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Out and About @Cairns

Where to eat?

Waterbar and Restaurant

Located at the Marina Pier, this is a steakhouse selling different varieties and sizes of streaks. Its selling ribs and seafood, it is perfect if you’re hungry! I went for a 200g steak with baked potato and salad. You have to pay an extra $3.00 for sauce. The meat was good quality and perfectly cooked. The staff were fairly new and thus our waitress had difficulty taking the order and made a mistake or two, but is fair when people are starting out, so it didn’t really bother our experience.

Boatshed

A restaurant on the marina just by the Reef Terminal. Offering lunch specials for $22.50 with a drink or 2 courses and a drink for $35. Pretty good deal and the restaurant had good ambience. We just went for coffees which were great and service was friendly.

Tha Fish

This seafood restaurant is in the pier of the marina. There’s a number of restaurants along this pier, but this one was quite busy comparatively, so presuming that translates to it being good, we decided to go. Unfortunately it was full, but the lovely man said to put our name down and come back in 45 mins. We went for a drink and did just that.

The menu has starters, entrees, mains and a fish selection. We shared the whitebait, lightly dusted and was nice start to the evening. We all couldn’t go past the fish option where you select a fish and your choice of cooking. One of us got the trout, with a lovely Indian flavour which was the staff suggestion – incredible. I went for a barramundi which sat atop udon noodles in a broth and lotus chips, this had gentle flavours and a lovely combination. My friend also had the barramundi with a butter sauce and snow peas and potatoes. The fish was beautifully cooked and our dinner was outstanding. Staff were excellent, particularly the front of house who was extremely accommodating and friendly. The waitstaff were excellent and gave good suggestions. Prices are reasonable for seafood. Worth a visit.

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Prawn Star

Recommended by a friends, The Prawn star is a trawler that sells platters of fresh seafood; prawns, oysters, bugs, crayfish or combos. We got a plate of beautifully fresh tiger prawns and seafood sauce, as well as a glass of wine. A good option for your lunch or dinner as it is open until 8pm! Ranging from $25 – $80. You have to shell your own, but that’s part of the fun, right?

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Pier Hotel

Went here for food and drinks on a Friday night. It was pumping with customers of all ages. We had some wines and an amazing salted caramel espresso martini. One of the most amazing drinks was their ‘mini beer shot’, liquor topped with white chocolate. We also ordered food – the barramundi, a little lacking in flavour and presentation. The Caesar Wrap was excellent. Food wasn’t too pricy. They also had live music on Friday night.

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Salt House

We Went here for a couple of drinks and tapas food. Happy Hour is good as drinks were $5 and the food was 2 for 1 plates. We tried the pull apart bread, tuna sashimi, squid and fried chicken. The food was all excellent. The location is great, just by the marina and they have Trivia on a Thursday and live music on Friday nights.

Where to get beautiful?

Honey

Honey is a place to get a tan, wax, or relax with a facial or masssage. I went for a 2-4 tan which was $30. It was extremely natural and gave a nice bronze colour. I also got an eyebrow shape and the staff member did an excellent job. The lady there was also extremely nice and helpful; giving me tips about what to do in Cairns.

What to do in Cairns?

Lagoon

In the main part of town along the esplanade is a lagoon where you can swim, as there is no beach or accessible ocean in this area, plus there could be crocodiles or dangerous jellyfish. The lagoon or fake beach is perfect for a swim to cool off.

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Active Living activities

The town offers free fitness activities which some gym equipment, yoga, rock climbing, aqua aerobics or box fit. I decided to do the box fit class which began at 6:30am. 15 minutes of a warm up which included sprints, push ups, burpees etc and then boxing combinations for the last 45 minutes. It was physically hard, but you can take it at your own pace. The instructor was knowledge and friendly and i’m impressed that Cairns council offers these activities for free.

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Bungee or Bungee Swing

If you’re an adrenalin junkie that wants something exciting and fun to do, make sure to check out AJ Hackett Cairns. At 140 m above sea level, and a 50m jump, you can take a bungee jump in the rainforest! Your jump can be taken in many ways; swan dive, water touch, titanic, backwards, tandem, jump off the roof, handstand or even off the roof with a BMX. Different levels to suit you the less kenmore experienced. It’s $179 for the jump and prices are less for extra jumps.

For those looking for something a bit different, they also offer the Minjin Swing, which 1,2 or 3 people can take. In a body harness, you are taken up high (higher than the bungee) and pull the cord which drops you for a few seconds and then you’re let swinging. It drops from 45m-1 metre in 3.5 seconds at speeds of up to 120km an hour and is for those seeking thrills! I did this with a friend and absolutely loved it. Scary as you’re rising, but exhilarating! Next time, real bungee for sure.

There’s purpose built platforms for friends and family to watch and a licensed bar selling drinks and some snacks. You can buy t-shirts or media footage to remember your experience.

The company pick you up and drop you home from Cairns or the Northern Beaches.

 

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Visit the Great Barrier Reef

Visit Cairns and Mossman Gorge