Blog posts

Byron Bay – My top 5 highlights

Returning to Byron Bay has been my dream for a while. Luckily for us, Byron lies in NSW, meaning we were allowed to travel there as it’s in the same state as Sydney. Being able to catch a flight was surreal. We had contemplated driving the 8 hour car journey to Byron, however, the flights were too cheap to pass by and it’s only an hour and a quarter journey. Being in the covid era we were wary of taking a flight but taking the necessary infection control measures, we were hoping it would be ok. Also the case numbers are very low here in NSW with none having been reported in Byron for a looooong time. Hands sanitized and masks on (provided by the airline) we were happy enough ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, yes we had been to Byron before, 10 years ago and we were intrigued to see the changes, whilst reminiscing and creating new memories. See below for my top 5 highlights of our trip to Byron Bay. Hopefully, they can provide you with some ideas if you decide to travel there soon (seems like everyone from Sydney has either been recently, is there now or heading there soon!!).

1 – Ballina

When travelling to Byron by flight, you will fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. Most people will catch a coach from here straight to Byron. However, we wanted to stay in Ballina to see what this seaside town had to offer. It did not disappoint and therefore is my first highlight. Just a tip, the bus to Ballina town only accepts cash. I haven’t used cash in about a year so this was a hassle trying to find an ATM. (Covid times I’m surprised cash is still being used but thats beside the point). Otherwise, just grab a cab.

We stayed in the Ramada Hotel and I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. Situated on the Richmond River, the views are spectecular. You can sit outside for food and drinks in a really stunning setting and watch the dolphins swim by. We couldn’t beleive our luck but apparently this happens all the time. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful, rooms are class and the pool area is fantastic.

Best pool ever
Drinks outside the hotel. Such a lovely spot just at the waterโ€™s edge.

Take a walk along the North Wall and you will be in awe of the scenery Ballina has to offer, from little bays and rockpools to the ocean on both sides of the breakwall. You can then walk to Ballina Lighthouse and stop for an ice cream at the Lighthouse Beach Cafe.

Ballina Lighthouse

Best places to eat – The Point Ballina, situated at the Ramada Hotel. Great food, atmosphere and scenery. We also loved the Wharf Bar and Restaurant. This is perfect for watching the sunset and the decor is really cool and chilled out.

Wharf Bar & Reataurant
Stunning sunset

2 – Byron Bay town and accommodation

The actual town of Byron Bay is really cool. It has this really unique vibe of being quite relaxed with a great community spirit. It has that holiday/hippy kind of feels about it. You have the beaches, the quaint shops and restaurants and quirky bars, all on your doorstep. There are so many cool hotels and air bnbs to choose from. We went with Aloha Byron Bay, beautiful villa style apartments in the heart of Byron within walking distance to the town and beaches. We loved it here as the apartment was fully equipped with everything you need as well as having a pool and BBQ.

3 – The restaurants and bars

There are so many to choose from. Just be sure to book your restaurants in advance as they book out quickly due to so many people heading to Byron and the fact that social distancing has to be adhered to. Our favourite was the Balcony Bar and Restaurant. I remember going here 10 years ago so its pretty impressive and a testament to its service that it’s still as popular. Great vibe here and the food/drinks are amazing. Be sure to try the oyster shots! We also loved Miss Margaritas. If you love Mexican food then this is the spot and the margaritias are stunning (as you’d expect). Beach Hotel was our go to bar, you never tire of this place. It has a real Byron Bay feel, chilled out and with everything you would want food and drink wise.

We loved The Balcony ๐Ÿค—

4 – Byron Bay Solar Train

This world first solar train only lasts about 15 minutes but it’s a fun excursion that you don’t see every day. It provides a unique way to see some of Byron’s country side and it allows you to experience the antiqueness of an old train but with the modern twist of being powered by the sun.

5 – Cape Byron Lighthouse

I feel like this lighthouse is the heart of Byron Bay. This is a must see. Not only the lighthouse but the walk to get there is really something else. The scenic route to the lighthouse can be tough enough as there are a lot of steps and it’s a pretty steep ascent but it is totally worth it. Otherwise, you can drive to the lighthouse or walk to it from Byron via the main road. The lighthouse is so impressive I think due to its size and stage presence. It is situated on Australia’s most easterly point on top of a rocky headland. It towers over you and it’s situation really allows for some epic photographs to be taken (I’d say the most photographed thing in Byron).

Ok thatโ€™s my top 5. There is honestly so much more to do and see in Byron. Pretty much everyone these days is heading to Byron if youโ€™re living in NSW. With all the borders closed, itโ€™s the closest thing you will get to feeling like you are on a summer holiday. Since writing this blog we have returned to Byron again there for Christmas and had the best time again. The vibe here is unreal and the people are so so friendly. Big up Byron Bay! It has been our saving grace through the pandemic.

Thanks for reading guys and gals.

Wayne ๐Ÿค—

Featured post

Malabar Headland National Park

If you are looking for an awesome way to spend your day off in Sydney then this is the place to visit. Many people have done the Bondi to Coogee walk but have you done the Coogee to Malabar walk via Maroubra? If that’s too long, you can catch the bus to Maroubra and walk from there to Malabar. The beginning of the National Park is only a 10 minute walk from Maroubra beach.

Maroubra Beach
Entering the Malabar Headland National Park

Malabar Headland National Park boasts dramatic coastal views and walks between Maroubra and Malabar beaches, in the east of Sydney. Follow the path within the National Park. There are many steps, areas of bushland and at times rocky terrain so my advice is to wear comfortable footwear. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Malabar Beach along the western section of the walk. The views on the route are incredible. The beach itself is quite small but has lots of character and is a really beautiful spot. From the beach you then follow the path along the eastern section of the park. This can be closed at times so be sure to check the opening times at https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/malabar-headland-national-park. The views on the return leg to Maroubra are stunning and you can often see whales here migrating from May to November on their annual migration route.

Honestly, this is one park you will want to check out. I had no idea it was there, a real hidden gem in the eastern suburbs that’s right on your Sydney doorstep.

All the best,

W ๐Ÿ™‚

Featured post

Come From Away โœˆ๏ธ ๐ŸŽญ

I want to share with you my experience of seeing this musical and hopefully inspire you to go also ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ. Iโ€™m not sure if you have heard of this one as itโ€™s relatively new so I will give a quick synopsis soon. First of all, being back in the theatre to see any show was such a novelty and a welcome back to normality. Itโ€™s one thing that I have really missed, live entertainment. I used to work in a theatre in Belfast, The Grand Opera House and it was from there, where my love for theatre began and grew. Being able to see every show that entered the Opera House many, many times was such a treat, especially the musicals as theyโ€™re right up my street. Anyway, being able to return to the theatre for a musical that I have been dying to see for ages was a real joy ๐Ÿคฉ (postponed so many times due to covid). Even just having a drink at the theatre bar was amazing!

Come From Away takes place from 11th September 2001 (can you believe itโ€™s 20 years ago?) over a few days and tells the remarkable true story of those stranded after the events that occurred that day. Iโ€™m sure we all remember or know about the 9/11 attacks and the Twin Towers/Pentagon etc. However, you may not be as familiar with the aeroplanes that could not land as they were diverted due to the American airspace having completely shut down.

A total of 38 aeroplanes were told to land suddenly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon (to clear the American airspace). The characters in the musical are based on real Gander residents who rallied around to help the 7,000 stranded travelers that had just landed there. They found them accommodation, provided food for the people and showed great kindness and hospitality. People were stranded there for several days and it managed to double the entire population of Gander temporarily. On a side note, those people not from Gander are known locally as those who โ€œcome from awayโ€. Interesting fact โœŒ๐Ÿฝ.

I wonโ€™t say too much as I donโ€™t want to spoil it for you but the story is really fascinating and one that I had never heard before. The music is amazing, really uplifting and memorable and tells the story wonderfully. It makes you realise also how far we have come from that time space, for example, no one really having mobile phones then, making it harder to call loved ones etc when in a time of panic and uncertainty.

If youโ€™re looking for a night out that lifts your spirits and highlights the kind nature of human beings in troublesome times, then this is the show for you! I feel like we can all relate to this in some way, especially now with us living through a pandemic and needing to be empathetic with one another.

This musical is only 1 hour and 40 minutes long with no interval. So bring your drinks and snacks in with you. We saw this at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, one of my favourite venues so far in Sydney ๐Ÿคฉ.

Please let me know if you have seen this also or if you plan to see in the nearby future.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

Jacaranda season ๐Ÿ’œ

For this post I want to simply show case these amazing trees here in Sydney. I have been a huge fan of Jacarandas since arriving in Australia over 4 years ago. I think itโ€™s the colour of the trees that make them so special and the fact that I had never seen them before. The season starts around mid October until mid November and it really provides that sense of spring being in the air and a gentle reminder that it is almost summer here.

Although itโ€™s easy to think of these trees being native to Australia, they are interestingly a tree originally from South America, predominantly Argentina. If you want some more info on this tree you can find more info here.

These trees, presumably because of their attractive purple/blueish colour have become increasingly popular with social media people, all vying for that perfect snap or selfie. This is great to see people taking such an interest (me included), however, it can prove difficult at times to take some pictures without any other people photo bombing ๐Ÿ™ˆ.

I will show you some of my Jacarandas snaps over the last few years and where they were taken. The good thing is, there are lots of places that Jacarandas can be found ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ.

If youโ€™re looking for a grove of Jacaranda trees, McDougall Street in Kirribilli is a popular spot for bloggers and social media people.

McDougall Street, Kirribilli
McDougall Street, Kirribilli

I think the trees found near Como Hotel in Como, NSW, are pretty special, as are those found at Hogben Park in Kogerah. If youโ€™re simply looking for a random tree or two, you can see these in many different streets in and around Sydney. I see a lot of them where I live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

Como


Croydon

You can find them in lots of other Sydney suburbs, for example, Croydon.

I hope you all have the chance to see a Jacaranda this season and if not, at least you can see them here ๐Ÿค—. Thanks for taking an interest in my love for the Jacaranda tree!!

Take care & stay safe,

Wayne โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Happy Sunday ๐ŸŒบ

The most epic tree I ever did see ๐Ÿ˜œ or is it a plant? Does anyone know what we call this fine specimen? I was honestly so delighted to have seen this today. Itโ€™s a really stunning tree (or plant). I think it also really stands out due to the white wall behind it. Itโ€™s the little things in life, am I right?! โ˜บ๏ธ

Have a lovely Sunday everyone, wherever you are in the world.

Wayne โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Ps. Post update: apparently this tree is in fact Bougainvillea. Confirmed by my WordPress and Instagram friends. Thanks everyone โ˜บ๏ธ

Celebrating my 50th blog post and what I have learned so far โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Ok so I know this might not be a big deal for most people but for me, this is a huge milestone ๐Ÿ˜Š. I normally do not write blogs daily or even weekly. I am more an every month kind of blogger or when I feel inspired to write. I donโ€™t put pressure on myself to write a blog. I just have never seen the point ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ. Itโ€™s an achievement for me as I have been blogging for over 4 years now and I am proud to have lasted the distance of time.

I would like to share with you five things that I have learned over the duration of my 50 posts:

1 – Donโ€™t feel pressured to write a blog post all the time. Itโ€™s your blog and you can write whenever you want to. No one will judge you. Or if they do, donโ€™t let it bother you ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

2 – I know this may seem obvious but it is super important to write about things that interest you. Otherwise it will become a chore.

3 – Always proof read your blog posts or have someone that can check them over before you publish. Weโ€™re human and we do make mistakes. Even if you miss something during a proof read, hopefully someone reading can inform you and itโ€™s really easy to fix your mistake ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ.

4 – Donโ€™t stress about the amount of likes or comments you do or do not receive. I know it can be disheartening when you spend a good amount of time on a post and you receive little to no likes. This concerned me at the beginning. However, I soon realised that many people may still have read my blog and have enjoyed it or been inspired by it. I have had people thanking me for my blogs but maybe were not WordPress users and therefore did not or could not like the post on the WordPress site. This gave me some comfort and reassurance that my efforts were not in vain ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป.

5 – This brings me to my final point. If you want to have people noticing your blog and interacting with you, you have to be social on WordPress. You need to be reading other blogs and showing an interest. This is how you connect, make friends and become involved in the blogging community. I must admit, this is something I have only realised in the past few months. I have a somewhat noteworthy Instagram following and I assumed my Instagram followers would join me on my blogging journey. The reality is, this is just not the case. People perhaps like Instagram solely for pictures and not a lot of dialogue. Therefore, they maybe do not want to read a whole blog piece. It is essential that if you want to grow your blog audience, you need to interact with fellow bloggers and those with similar interests. If you show enthusiasm for other blogs and comment with your own opinions, you will see the same happening for you also โ˜บ๏ธ. For me personally, having people react to my blog posts inspires me and encourages me to write more often. This is something I am excited to be doing now and in the future.

I hope this is some help to other bloggers or those who are beginning their blogging journey. Good luck and happy blogging ๐Ÿค—.

Take care and thanks for reading.

Wayne โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

NSW on a vaccine high โ˜บ๏ธ

90% of people here in New South Wales are double vaccinated. I am so thrilled for everyone here for pulling together, listening to the health professionals and getting their shots. I know it hasnโ€™t been easy with some people divided over having the vaccine. However, the fact that it has been made almost compulsory to have the vaccine has enabled us to be safer in our daily lives and get back to some sort of new normal.

Iโ€™m hoping things continue to improve for us here in Australia and for everyone around the world ๐Ÿ˜ท.

Stay safe and sane everyone โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Covid 19 Booster

This blog is in response to Fandangos Provocative Question #FPQ, which is: If you have already received your initial COVID-19 vaccinations, are you intending to get a booster shot when it becomes available to you? Why or why not? If you have yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19, are you intending to ever get vaccinated? Why or why not?

Although Iโ€™m a travel blogger per se, I think this is such an interesting question and a very topical and divisive topic at present. Personally, I cannot wait to have a booster shot, 3rd vaccine in total to protect against the coronavirus.

Iโ€™m a nurse, so I appreciate the importance in protecting ourselves and others from the virus spreading. I am no medical genius by any means but I trust the medical professionals and the advice they have provided. I know with the vaccines you can still be infected and can still pass the virus on to others. However, the chances of this are significantly reduced and if you do happen to become infected, your risk of hospitalisation is decreased drastically. Very few, if any people here in Australia are hospitalised after having the initial 2 shots of the vaccine. This therefore frees the hospital beds for those people that are sick from other illnesses etc.

I believe a 3rd shot is needed to maintain a high number of antibodies in your system. I look at it like a flu shot we receive every year. Different strains may evolve again as we have seen in the past. Therefore, vaccines may need tweaking in the future again and given again to people en mass.

Even with my initial 2 vaccine shots, I still do not want to get covid 19. So bring on my 3rd shot already ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ. At present we have to wait 6 months for our booster so hopefully I can receive mine next month ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ. I think we should be extremely thankful that we have the vaccines, especially as some people living in third world countries may find it harder to obtain them or some people may lack the education and knowledge of how the vaccines work.

Stay safe everyone and get vaccinated โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

1 night in Manly โ˜บ๏ธ

When you need a break but canโ€™t have more than a weekend off, 1 night will have to suffice. We just wanted to get away for a couple of days for a change of scenery. So we decided on Manly. Although Manly is still within Sydney and easy to travel to, we have never stayed overnight here. You see, you normally would catch the ferry here from Circular Quay and have a day trip in Manly, normally catching a ferry back home at around sunset. There are a few lovely bars and restaurants at the harbour and we would often have a couple of drinks here while waiting on the ferry to come in and take us home. However, when the craic is great and the drinks are flowing, you seem to just watch the ferries arrive and then they depart, without you on them. Thereโ€™s always time to catch the next ferry ๐Ÿ˜‰. This could go on for about 3 or 4 ferries until we have decided, enough is enough and head back home.

Drinks at the harbour waiting for the ferry โ˜บ๏ธ

So this in itself would be a novelty for us to stay here and not have to worry about catching the ferry home. Thereโ€™s lots to do at Manly and we still hadnโ€™t seen all that is on offer. You have the harbour, bush walks, beaches and rock pools, as well as, amazing bars and restaurants. We decided to stay at Hotel Steyne. Itโ€™s a hotel but more so, it is a restaurant and pub, with outdoor areas, a glasshouse bar, whiskey bar and a rooftop with stunning views of Manly beach. It has charm, character and is right in the heart of everything Manly has to offer. We loved this place.

I could not recommend Manly enough for a short stay (more than 1 night would have been amazing) or a longer holiday. It honestly has everything and really feels like a holiday destination. I am seriously looking forward to a longer break but for now, 1 night will have to do ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

We caught up with friends from home at The Ivanhoe Hotel.

The beaches and walks are stunning. We didnโ€™t do any bush walks this time but theyโ€™re really worth checking out.

Is anyone else planning a night away? Whereโ€™s your favourite place to travel for a weekend break?

Thanks everyone for reading!

Keep safe,

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

Halloween anyone? ๐ŸŽƒ

Is Halloween a big deal where you live? I feel like itโ€™s pretty big here in Sydney. Parents go to great lengths to make it fun for the children. They really decorate their houses well and also outside their houses. I once seen hoards of children and their parents travelling the streets en mass here to go trick or treating. I had never seen this before.

Where Iโ€™m from in Northern Ireland, the kids would get dressed up and parade the streets to find sweets and candy from the neighbouring houses (you were devastated if someone gave you fruit or nuts!). I had never seen parents also getting dressed up and travelling with their children. Maybe thatโ€™s a sign of the times.

I used to love Halloween as a student. It was a great chance to be dressed up in anything really and head to a party with other like minded souls. The outfits didnโ€™t have to be particularly scary. I never really understood that part. As I grow older, Halloween means less and less to me sadly. What about you? Does anyone else look forward to Halloween and itโ€™s festivities?

Wayne ๐Ÿง™โ€โ™‚๏ธ

E.G. Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens

I happened to stumble across these gardens when working in Caringbah, within the Sutherland Shire recently. I was trying to walk somewhere pleasant and increase my step count when these gardens appeared like an oasis in a desert. It was such a awesome surprise to find. I just wanted to share some pictures of the gardens and the nearby Kareena Park Reserve. Here you can find an abundance of camellias and other flowers, a quaint tea house, numerous bird species and many sleepy flying foxes. This is the perfect spot for a picnic or simply getting lost in nature. If you want to read about the history of the gardens you can click here.

This is somewhere you should check out if looking for a day trip out of Sydney to see something a little different. It honestly made my day to spend some time here and I felt I should share with others who may not have heard of this spot.

Take care and thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Wayne ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sydney lockdown is officially over ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

We made it guys! After 106 days we are now officially out of lockdown. Boy it feels goodโ€ฆbut also a bit nerve wrecking. Itโ€™s so nice to have our freedom again, seeing people out and about, hustle and bustle everywhere. However, you canโ€™t help but think, the virus is still out there. Iโ€™m still in favour of social distancing and trying to be as safe as possible. Although Iโ€™m double vaccinated, Iโ€™m still keen to avoid contracting coronavirus ๐Ÿ˜ฌ.

People of Sydney, or anywhere in the world that has lived through a lockdown (Iโ€™m sure everyone has), what was the first thing you did when the lockdown was lifted???

For me, it was work as usual. Being a nurse, we didnโ€™t have any time off during lockdown. Yes I am forever grateful to have been in employment and have some sort of normality. At least we could see our work colleagues and chat about the ever changing pandemic days whilst still earning an income. However, Iโ€™m sure I speak for many nurses, it would have been lovely to have a couple of weeks off at home. Not annual leave or being off sick but just days at home to chill out and reset. Alas it wasnโ€™t meant to be and thatโ€™s ok.

Finishing work, it was really amazing to see people out on the streets, seeing people sitting through cafe windows enjoying their soy caps and shopping malls with shop doors finally opened again. There was a real buzz around Sydney today and it felt good, albeit a bit strange. The first thing I did was go to the gym. As much as I was slightly nervous, I couldnโ€™t wait to get back to training and seeing friends. Finally I could lift a heavy weight again ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ and maybe feel the burn the next day ๐Ÿ˜….

I hope you all enjoy the next few days/weeks of having no lockdown. What are you excited to do/see? I personally can not wait to be able to travel again โœˆ๏ธ.

Thanks for reading guys and stay safe ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Wayne ๐Ÿ˜œ

Last weekend of lockdown!

As much as I love my lockdown 5km radiusโ€ฆI cannot wait to spread my wings a little further ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ. Sydney siders we are almost there after 15 weeks of lockdown ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Sydney Lockdown: My 5km radius

Bronte Rock Pool

This week we enter our 15th week of lockdown and hopefully the last, as restrictions will ease here next week. As you may or may not be aware, we have been restricted to moving within 5km of where we live or our local government area. I can honestly say, I have exhausted my 5km radius, having walked almost every area possible ๐Ÿคฃ. I want to display a few photos to show you my 5km radius from when lockdown here began and you will see for yourself how diverse a small area in Sydney can be ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ.

1 – Coastal walks – Bondi to Coogee (or anywhere in between)

Bondi Beach

2 – Centennial Park

3 – Double Bay

4 – Rose Bay

5 – Hermitage Foreshore Walk

This encompasses many of Sydneyโ€™s intimate beaches along the harbour with great views of the Sydney city skyline. Includes Milk Beach, Parsley Bay & Nielsen Park.

6 – Paddington

Thatโ€™s it folks. Thanks for taking a look around my 5km radius. It has been great to be able to show some photos again as it has been a while.

Take care and stay safe everyone.

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

Lockdown week 10 ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ

How are you all keeping out there??? Whatโ€™s happening with covid where you are? We remain in lockdown here in Sydney, Australia. This is week 10, with another few weeks to go. Lockdown will start to ease here when we reach 80% vaccination rates. Currently we are at 70% which is amazing in such a short space of time (we were slow to begin vaccinations).

Iโ€™m getting on with everyday life. Working, walking, exercising, eating, drinking, sleeping and repeat. Iโ€™m still grateful for the little things, fresh air, good company, nice scenery, the ability to still work etc etc. When you look at how Afghanistan is doing, how can we not be grateful for what we have. I honestly think about Afghanistan on a daily basis. Heartbreaking. Itโ€™s even sadder that people around the world (myself included) will get on with life and Afghanistan will slip from our minds on a regular basis, unless we see some fresh news via the media. I hope the people will get some freedom/relief from the current struggles. I donโ€™t know how that will happen ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

Anyway, I just want to remain connected to those in the blogging community. Stay safe for those that are dealing with lockdowns/covid and try to see the good things we have in our lives. Others are not so fortunate.

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

STEPtember ๐Ÿ‘ฃ

Hi everyone and happy first day of spring ๐ŸŒพ. As you may be aware, we are still in lockdown in Sydney. Therefore, I thought this would be a good time to participate in STEPtember, as walking/exercising is the only thing we can really do at the moment ๐Ÿ˜. Iโ€™m aiming for 15 to 20,000 steps a day. If anyone wishes to donate for supporting those with cerebral palsy, I would be really chuffed โ˜บ๏ธ Link posted below. Stay safe everyone and look after yourselves ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

https://www.steptember.org.au/fundraisers/waynecooke

Blogger Interview With Wayne

I had the honour of being interviewed by a fellow blogger that I really admire. Thank you Pooja of Lifesfinewhine! This is my 4 year blog anniversary and it feels fitting that this should appear as my 40th blog post. I am delighted to have made it this far and I am still thoroughly enjoying being a small part of the blogging community and connecting with other like minded people. Have a read of my interview with Pooja below ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ

I would like to thank Wayne for stopping by lifesfinewhine- he has one of the best travel blogs Iโ€™ve had the pleasure of reading so be sure to stop โ€ฆ

Blogger Interview With Wayne

Lockdown 2.0

Hey everyone! I thought I would write a quick blog post without any photographs and just let the writing do the talking (so to speak). Seeing as we cannot travel yet again, this wonโ€™t be too difficult. I actually have no photos to showcase interesting places recently. We canโ€™t even travel locally now as we have been in lockdown since Monday. I think everyone here, in Sydney at least, knew this day would come again.

With the vaccination rate being one of the lowest in the world, this was bound to happen. Covid cases have jumped dramatically from 1 known case. The only way to curb the increase is to go into another lockdown, maintain strict social distancing and wear a mask. Other essential things to practice include hand washing, coughing and sneezing into your elbow and wearing your mask correctly ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

The number one thing people can do here in Australia is to become vaccinated. It hasnโ€™t helped that the media has continually reported on the negative aspects of the vaccines, for example, the blood clot incidents from AstraZeneca. Scare mongering people and creating a fear of the vaccine. Every medicine/vaccine will have some side effects. The odds of receiving life threatening side effects are minimal (yes of course there is a risk with anything). If a person was not vaccinated, would said person have worse outcomes with receiving the virus itself? Who knows ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

The lack of travel is understandable and of course we can live without it for a short time. The main thing is for everyone to be safe and healthy. My only concern is when will be return to some sort of normality? There are so many questions that cannot be answered as yet unfortunately. When we will be able to travel internationally to see our families? Will the Australian border be closed forever? Are the states in Australia more divided than ever before? Will we all be vaccinated this year?

Anyway. Thatโ€™s my little rant ๐Ÿคฃ. I hope everyone will abide by the rules, become vaccinated, stay safe and look after each other. This may get worse before it gets better. I am still forever grateful to be in the position we are in here in Australia and feel thankful to have a premier who has done good by NSW #gladys ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

Travel bloggers question time ๐Ÿค—

A really cool blogger Theredphoneboxtravels that I follow and always inspires me suggested these questions to be answered by her followers. I thought it was a great idea to share travel experiences โœŒ๐Ÿฝ. Feel free to have a read below โฌ‡๏ธ

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging in 2017 when I moved to Australia from Ireland. I initially wanted to share my new experiences here in Sydney and keep people updated with my goings on. However, I soon started to blog about places of interest to travel and explore. I wanted to share trips locally to promote them and show others interesting places to check out. Lots of people ask me about places I have travelled so I thought it would be fun and beneficial to create blog posts about them โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

What souvenirs do you buy on your travels?

I like to buy items that remind me of a place I have been. I especially like items with the place name on them, for example, T-shirts or vests that state the name. I also like fridge magnets that remind me of a certain place.

Name your top 5 cities that youโ€™ve visited.

This is hard as I feel I have seen so many amazing cities from living in Europe most of my life.

Number 1 – I suppose this ought to be Sydney. I lived here in 2009 and fell in love with this city. I had to come back and explore it more. Hence, why I have lived here for the past 4 years. I love the scenery, the weather, the culture and the fact that there is always something new to discover. You have the city life, beach life and bush walks all in one place.

Number 2 – Amalfi. This is more a town than a city but it is my most favourite place I have ever visited. The area is absolutely stunning. The quaint little streets are beautiful and the Amalfi Cathedral is breathtaking. The view of the cathedral and the steps leading to it from the Piazza del Duomo are really a sight to behold. The food, the people, the culture, scenery and infamous coastline make this area simply out of this world.

Number 3 – Paris. The best city to get lost in. Beautiful city, oozing with culture, history and diversity. The famous landmarks do not disappoint.

Number 4 – Berlin. The city that keeps on giving. Steeped in history and offers so many things to see and do. Constantly evolving and so so friendly. To be honest I love any city in Germany!

Number 5 – Barcelona. Never a dull moment in this city. Love the architecture and culture. The food and eateries are stunning. You could walk around the streets of this city all day and night.

Whatโ€™s the best dessert youโ€™ve ever had on your travels?

Limencello. Also not really a desert but this always stands out in my mind and itโ€™s something I would have after a main course so it feels like a desert to me. The first time I experienced this liqueur was in Amalfi. Obviously it was going to be unreal here and it was constantly being offered to you. My love for limencello had begun ๐Ÿ‹.

Have you ever travelled somewhere by boat? (ferries, cruise ships, river boats etc.)

Too many places to mention. Taking the boat from Nadi, Fiji to Musket Cove was an unreal experience and definitely worth doing if youโ€™re over this side of the world.

I once took a small boat trip to Tory Island, just off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. Take the boat from Magheroarty in Donegal and head over to Tory. Not best if you suffer from travel sickness as the waters can be very choppy but it is an amazing island to visit and explore some of the fine art available.

Do you have a favourite travel movie/book?

Life of Pi is one of my favourite books and the story is set in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The movie is pretty epic too with the special effects. I was also fortunate enough to see the stage show at the Grand Opera House Belfast and it was fantastic.

What are you looking forward to when the lockdown/covid-19 restrictions in your country finish?

Travelling home to Ireland to see my family and friends. Itโ€™s been 2 years this week since I have been home and the home sickness is well and truly setting in.

For those of you who are up for participating, here are the rules: provide a link to the creatorโ€™s original award post; answer the questions provided; create 7 unique questions; nominate up to 10 bloggers; ensure that they are aware of their nomination.

My questions:

1 – Why did you start blogging?

2 – Where has been your favourite place to visit on your travels?

3 – What has been your favourite food on your travels?

4 – What is your favourite thing about the country you are from?

5 – Who do you love to travel with?

6 – What is your favourite type of accommodation to stay in whilst travelling and has there been a stand out accommodation experience?

7 – What is your favourite thing to do whilst travelling?

I have nominated 5 bloggers. Please feel free to answer my questions and there is no pressure if you choose not too โ˜บ๏ธ

Emerdblog

My mere musings

The thoughts and life of me

Lifeโ€™s Fine Wine

Love Travelling Blog

The Southern Highlands

Hey guys and gals. I have wanted to write a blog for so so long regarding the Southern Highlands. Having been there three times now, it’s safe to say we have fallen in love with this area. For those of you who may not know where this is, it’s an area of NSW about 110km south west of Sydney. By car it’s an hour and a half away or you can catch a train to a number of towns within the highlands and takes about three hours. The highlands is a district that is centered on the commercial towns of Mittagong, Bowral, Moss Vale, Burrawang, Bundanoon and Robertson, as well as the historic town of Berrima. There are also some smaller villages that include Burradoo, Sutton Forest, Colo Vale, Avoca, Yerrinbool, Exeter and Welby. As you can see, there are quite a number of towns and villages that make up the highlands. I will showcase the ones that I have been fortunate enough to see and highlight some key places that I enjoyed that you may want to check out for yourself. When I talk about the highlands to friends here in Sydney, they all have heard of Bowral as it is the largest town there, however, there is so much more to see and do in the other smaller towns and villages. Please check out my highlights below. Any towns or villages that I have not mentioned are simply due to the fact that I haven’t explored them as yet but they will definitely be on my to do list.

1- BERRIMA

Leafy, historic and full of character, this is a town not to be missed. The main street of Berrima is extremely quaint and has a lovely rustic feel. Lots of quirky shops with hand made goods. If in Berrima be sure to check out Gallery Whitewall Arts Projects. Lots of amazing art on display, some of which is really well known all over NSW.

2 – BUNDANOON (BUNDY)

The village of Bundanoon is located on the edge of Morton National Park. It’s a really lovely and welcoming village, steeped in history and offering character in abundance. The local pub, The Bundanoon Hotel is a great spot for a drink and pub lunch/dinner. As the name suggests, you can also stay there. We have stayed before and loved it. Staff are also extremely friendly. There are many walks and trails, small or larger if you prefer within the national park. This park is massive. We took a short walk to Echo Point where the views were outstanding. Fitzroy Falls is a very popular feature of Morton Park so be sure to check that out too. I feel like Bundanoon is New South Wales’ best kept secret. I can’t even put into words the love I have for this town. It is also home to the famous Brigadoon Festival where you can see plenty of pipe bands, heavy weight championships and all things Scottish. It aims to bring tourists to the area and raise funds for local charities. This is an event that I cannot wait to experience when it comes back next year.

3 – MITTAGONG

This town is known as the gateway to the Highlands and is a good place to begin exploring the area. It has some funky stores and nice places to eat, with Hendriks being a highlight for us. This is a really cool place, Hendriks cognac and wine is a warm and cosy bar that also serves delicious food. Be sure to try the jaffles (see below). For those that have never heard of these (myself included prior to this), a jaffle is a toasted sandwich traditionally made in a jaffle iron (like a toastie maker). This did not disappoint. The fillings you can have are stunning and very filling.

The largest town of the Highlands and is considered the entertainment and business hub. I liked it because it had a lot to offer, yet managed to maintain its character and charm. Dirty Janes was a highlight. This antique store in is home to over 50 different dealers who sell vintage and eclectic items that you may not find anywhere else. This store is huge and you will simply enjoy becoming immersed and meandering around the many, many stalls. Next door is Plantation Cafรฉ. This cafรฉ just has a right feel about it. It’s bright and warm, sells amazing coffee and is situated on Green Lane (which lives up to its name, plants everywhere). Next thing to check out is The Mill. It’s basically a really funky outdoor community hub that has vendors in their own spaces, doing their thing and doing it well. The large area has been transformed from an old timber and hardware supplier from the 1850s. You can find cafes, restaurants, an amazing ice cream store and a few unique stores where you can buy some perfect gifts. You can also hire out spaces if you have an event happening. This space is pretty awesome!

A charming town with lots of stunning scenery. Also known for being the setting for the movie Babe! First place to stop and see for us was The Cool Room Emporium…and who doesn’t love a good emporium!? This is a really cool place if you’re looking for a gift, perhaps something a bit more unusual. There is a real mix of old and new items, from clothing to books, home wares to toys. The building and grounds are pretty spectacular and provide that country Aussie, rustic feel. Next door to the emporium is the Robertson Cheese Factory. If you’re a lover of cheese, this is totally worth checking out. Here they specialize in local and imported ”off the farm” cheeses, as well as providing more sweet items such as fudges or homemade jams. 7km from Robertson you can find Budderoo National Park, home to the well known Carrington Falls. This waterfall is really impressive at any time of the year and has become a very popular tourist attraction.

6 – MOSS VALE

Known as the agricultural hub of the Highlands, this town has grown a lot and has some really cool places to check out, including cafes, restaurants etc. This is one town that I am eager to see more of. We were only able to check out this one place but boy it did not disappoint. I don’t even know where to start with this place. It was absolutely stunning. It is called Mount Ashby Estate and it brings a taste of France to the Australian countryside. Enjoy a glass of wine sitting around the French Farmhouse tables, sample some delicious cuisine and have a stroll around the vineyard for some epic insta worthy photos. There is also a furniture store on site known as Sally Beresford Antiques Shop. This shop show cases restored antique furniture items from Europe. These items are very stylish and definitely worth checking out.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a little more of the Southern Highlands. It really is such a special place in NSW and deserves to be visited. If you want some local insights to the Highlands, check out The Fold Southern Highlands here Home Page | The Fold Southern Highlands. It also has a really helpful App that you can download for free from your App store. Also have a look at Visit NSW, it’s a really good place to have a look for anywhere in NSW and it’s my go to site for new places to visit. New South Wales, Australia | Official NSW Tourism Website (visitnsw.com). You can also check both of these out on Facebook or Instagram too.

I will be 100% heading back to the Highlands as soon as I can too, to see what else there is to be discovered in this amazing region.

Take care and thanks everyone for reading,

Wayne ๐Ÿ™‚

12 months and 12 photos (2020)

What a year it has been. I think most of us will be glad to see the back of 2020. Coronavirus has a lot to answer for…but it hasn’t been all bad. For me personally, it hasn’t been the worst year. It was sad not to be able to go home this year to see family and friends but thank goodness for the internet and learning to socialize online with video calls etc. Here is a look at my year with 12 photos for each month of 2020.

JANUARY

I was starting the new year on a high. We had just completed a cruise holiday for Christmas and I was feeling my best with my weight gain. I was at my heaviest here at 77kg. This was such an accomplishment for me and I was excited to see my progress continue with the gym and eating well.

FEBRUARY

It was AMAZING to have family here from Ireland. When friends and family come to Australia and love it like you do, it’s priceless ๐Ÿฅฐ

MARCH

The pandemic reached Australia and everyone went crazy for toilet roll. (I think this was world wide). We were in an 8 week lockdown and people were panic buying. It was insane, however, this was just the beginning.

APRIL

Celebrating the main man’s big birthday. We were in lockdown so all holiday plans were cancelled. However, we had a lovely party at home Mexican style ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ ๐ŸŒต

MAY

All gyms are closed. Home workouts ensued. They were fun enough but I lost a lot of muscle mass. Sad times after all the work put in but at least I maintained my fitness and you ALWAYS feel better after a workout ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ ๐Ÿค—

JUNE

Hooray! Our 8 week lockdown was over and restrictions started to ease. Pubs opened and we went for our 1st schooner in what seemed like an eternity.

JULY

Visiting Madame Tussauds was awesome. Healthcare workers were given free entry to some venues in Sydney and this was one of them. This was a nice touch! Hiya Oprah!

AUGUST

A little local holiday to Hunter Valley for my birthday. We feel really fortunate to have so many great places to travel to within our state.

SEPTEMBER

We’re still travelling local but Sydney never gets old. I love living in this city. To be confined here is not too shabby.

OCTOBER

Trying to see as much of NSW as possible, as that’s all where we can go. This is Ballina. Make sure to stop here before heading on to Byron Bay (see previous blog post).

NOVEMBER

And after being back to the gym for a few months, I am finally getting back to the shape I was in pre Covid. I honestly never thought it would take so long but hey ho, thankful to be in a position to even visit a gym these days.

DECEMBER

Back to Byron Bay for a 2nd time. Our Queensland trip was cancelled again (3rd time now, sooooo over it) but this was the best place to spend Christmas with close friends. Grateful for small mercies and staying healthy.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2021 be better for you than 2020.

Keep safe everyone,

Wayne โ˜บ๏ธ

Bundeena

Hi everyone. As previously mentioned, due to Covid, we are only permitted to travel within our state of New South Wales (NSW). I’m going to kick off my short trips within NSW with our latest trip to Bundeena. It is just over an hours drive from Sydney and lies within the Royal National Park. Although you are literally only down the road, you will seem a million miles away. You have to drive into the National Park to find this seaside village. Alternatively you can take the small ferry from Cronulla.

This village is really quaint, lies between the beach and bushland and has numerous walks to undertake. My go to website for things to do in NSW is http://www.sydney.com. A simple web address but is really useful for finding the main attractions to see and do and also provides restaurants, bars, cafes etc to check out. For us, the main things to undertake were; checking out the local area, scenery, places to eat etc, explore some of the Royal National Park, see the famous wedding cake rock, explore the walk to the indigenous rock engravings, drive to Wattamolla Beach and stop at the Audley Dance Hall on the return home.

We stayed in a really cool Air BnB, if you want the details you can let me know. We just wanted somewhere cosy and close to all the sights. I really wanted a hot tub (just for the novelty factor ๐Ÿ™ˆ) and the BBQ was a nice touch.

It was really close to the village (10 minute walk) and a 5 minute walk to Jibbon Beach. The local area has a beach found at Berenice Forster Park, just across the road from the main street. It boasts a selection of eateries and a supermarket. Bundeena has a bowling club and RSL, these are the 2 places if you want a beverage (whilst social distancing).

Royal National Park

This park is huge!! There are many walks and trails to explore with varying distances to suit all. With bushland, insane rock formations, ocean views and beaches, this park has it all. We headed to wedding cake rock which is only 3.6 km round trip. I would loved to have explored further but we were racing against time as the sun was going to set in a couple of hours.

Wedding Cake Rock

Amazing landscape piece. Such a shame you canโ€™t get closer but many people have ruined it for others, trying to get that perfect shot. People have lost their lives here trying to sit on the edge. We see this time and time again, those competing for the most daring shot. As a further result the landscape has been compromised and become very fragile. You can even see a large crack in this photo. The area has had to be fenced off as the rock could crumble and fall into the ocean at any time.

Indigenous Rock Engravings

Follow the beach along to the bushland area and follow the directions to the indigenous engravings. The walk takes you along the coast and boasts some really stunning views.
Follow the beach along to the bushland area and follow the directions to the indigenous engravings. The walk takes you along the coast and boasts some really stunning views.

The engravings here are over 3000 years old.

Wattamolla Beach

I have always wanted to check out this beach and it didn’t disappoint. Not only is the beach amazing and quite unique but there were also some really breathtaking waterfalls that I had had been unaware of but pleasantly surprised with.

Audley Dance Hall

This is a great spot to stop on the way back to Sydney. The dance hall is a lovely spot to grab a bite to eat and the grounds here are really beautiful.

These photos are just highlighting the spots that we were able to see in a couple of days. There is so much to see and do in and around Bundeena and within the Royal National Park. Hopefully, I will be able to return here one day to explore the area further.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more days trips in NSW.

W ๐Ÿ™‚

Travel during Covid

As you may or may not be aware, I havent written a blog post in quite some time. I mainly write about my travels and positive experiences in Australia, however, 2020 has been a very strange year so far. Australia had a rough ride at the end of 2019 and entering 2020 with the insane bush fires that were reported all over the world. This coupled with drought was very catastrophic for most of the country. Even here in Sydney the amount of smoke was crazy and pretty scary as you worry about your physical health with regards to breathing and being outdoors ( it was, at one stage, the worst air pollution in the world). You could feel it with every breath, even sitting in your home and sleeping at night. So dear help those who were living in the middle of it all and the poor animals who lost their lives.

This was then followed by severe flooding, which crazily enough, initially made putting the fires out even harder. So when the fires, finally, after many months began to be contained and controlled, people here believed the worst to be over. Enter the coronovirus.

This needs no explaining, as every country in the world and every person is being affected in some way or another. Thankfully, Australia has been doing really well up to this point and long may it continue. I have just been grateful to still have a job and maintain some sort of normality. I think the fact that we can’t travel is the least of anyone’s worries. Everyone just wants to be healthy, both physically and mentally, ensure safety of our loved ones and come out of this covid situation being able to have a new way of normal life.

As we begin to ease out of lockdown here, we begin to live our lives in a new era of social distancing and strict infection control measures. We may not be able to travel internationally here, however, I am extremely grateful that we are now in a situation where we can travel locally and soon to be inter state. For us, it provides the opportunity to see more of Australia, as will be for most people here and in turn will help the economy and the tourist industry. Therefore, I will be continuing to write about day trips to make in and around Sydney for now, with the hope to expand to places more further afield in Australia. We were meant to be travelling home to Ireland this month but that will have to be placed on hold for the time being unfortunately.

Stay tuned and keep safe everyone.

W ๐Ÿ™‚

10 reasons to have a cruise vacation.

Hey guys and gals and welcome to 2020. This is my 3rd year of blogging about travel and lifestyle and what better way to start the year than with a cruise blog. I really want to share with you all my 1st time experience of a cruise holiday that we just completed there last month and show you all why it is the most perfect holiday. A cruise holiday is something I have always wanted to try but was always slightly unsure and skeptical of. Hopefully I can eliminate any of the doubts that you yourself may also have and maybe consider a cruise in the future (if you haven’t already done so). We chose the Royal Caribbean: Voyager of the Seas. It has an amazing reputation, was within our budget, was travelling over Christmas (the time period that we wanted) and it was sailing to the South Pacific!!!! The islands that the cruise would be stopping at were on our bucket list. We were very fortunate that we could hop on the cruise at Circular Quay, just down the road from where we live.

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1 – Not too pricey

By today’s standards, a cruise holiday can be super afforable. I used to think you had to be rich to travel by cruise ship but thankfully there are many different options that cater to everyones budget.  Tip – if you enjoy a beverage, take out the drinks package, you won’t regret it. It’s so nice not to worry about money when you are onboard and it’s really reasonably priced.

2 – Amazing food

People often worry about the food. Will you have enough to eat? Will you be tired of eating at the same places every night? I can honestly say the food was fantastic. You can either eat in the restaurant with table service for your 3 main meals or you can head to the buffet style cantina. You can mix and match these, breakfast at the buffet and dinner in the restaurant. We loved both but definitely preferred the restaurant for dinner. The menu was extensive and was changed daily so you were always able to try something different. There are of course other restaurants on board but you would pay extra for those.

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3 – You are NEVER bored!

There is never a dull moment on board when travelling at sea. The entertainment staff do an amazing job at creating fun things for everyone to partake in. You can choose to attend as many things as you want or you can choose not to and lay by the pool. The entertainments staff are crazily good at what they do and how they entertain you. There are quizzes all the time, karaoke, the hugely popular bingo and there’s even an ice rink, complete with an ice show spectecular.

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Cocktails by the pool. We were there on school holidays, so lots of kids. Fortunately they do have an adults only pool too.

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There is a theatre onboard. They have different shows: comedy nights, musicals, game shows etc and there are 2 sittings. A great way to spend a couple of hours in the evening.

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The staff will leave you an itinerary every evening for the next days activities. The ship also provides an app for your phone that gives you every activity as it’s happening, the perfect way to plan your day and night.

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Napkin folding classes – surprisingly fun and popular.

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The promenade of the ship was home to many activities. You can shop here in the many boutique shops and there is a cool wee traditional style pub. You can grab a coffee along here and there are always snacks on the go for that in between meals period. Perfect if you need a slice of pizza after a night out! From the bridge the entertainments crew will provide entertainment aslo including the very popular zumba. Music is also played here on certain nights if you fancy a dance, it feels like you’re at a really cool street party!!

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Christmas carols in the promenade.

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One of our many strolls around the ship.

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Ocean views at the gym.

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Representing my gym onboard.

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Drinks with a view.

4 – Day trips

We stopped at 4 different islands within Vanauatu and New Caledonia. All 4 of them were stunning. I loved the fact that I was able to brush up on my French language as this is widely spoken here, especially in New Cal and it really goes a long way when you make the effort to speak it.

Noumea

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Mystery Island

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Marรฉ

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Lifou

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5 – People you meet

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Perfect holiday with my partner in crime.

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Beautiful people.

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Such a pleasure meeting the big man.

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Great memories with even greater people.

6 – The Staff

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The stunning cruise director! Loved Michelle, amazing at what she does.

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Loved these guys, amazing staff.

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Big love for Wilbert.

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Our housekeepers were fab! They knew how to make us laugh.

7 – The bars

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The Viking – perfect viewing spot.

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Views (nice to see the pool being cleaned).

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Drinks were unreal at The Tavern.

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Our new fave, brandy and baileys.

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Our most favourite bar – Schooner Bar.

8 – Sunsets

These were just stunning.

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9 – An easy holiday

Everything about this holiday was seamless. Boarding the ship was extremely easy and we were in our room within half an hour.

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Ready for sail away from Sydney, took no time at all to board, see our room, get a drink and head to the party!

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Hopping on and off the cruise to the islands was very straightforward and quick. The tender boats would take you over to the islands when the cruise couldn’t get closer for docking.

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There’s plenty of quiet spots around the cruise if you want some down time.

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I LOVED that you could always get hold of a cup of tea after a night out, perfect before bed. Your room is only a small walk away from any of the bars, making it super easy to get home.

10 – The atmosphere/ambiance

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We really wanted that Christmas vibe and boy did we get it. This cruise was super Christmassy.

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We loved that you could dress casually but also have the opportunity to dress smart on occasion.

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Such a chilled out vibe, being in the middle of the ocean is really special.

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Christmas vibes.

 To conclude, that is my 10 reasons you may want to consider a cruise holiday. As it was my first cruise, I don’t have much experience. However, we found Royal Caribbean to be amazing in every way possible and would absolutely holiday with them again in the future.

Thanks everyone for reading.

W ๐Ÿ™‚

 

12 months and 12 photos (2019)

Hi everybody!!! It has been a while. I haven’t written a blog in about 4 months, sorry for that. To be honest, I haven’t had much to say or write about as there has been no travelling for the past few months (except Melbourne twice but does that even count?!). I have been attempting to lay low and save my pennies/cents for the big year that is to come in 2020. A fellow blogger has been carrying out 12 months and 12 photos and I loved this idea. It’s a great way for me to create a blog and keep me in the game. It’s the first time I saw another blog post and thought, yes, I want to do that. So thanks to Tanja from @theredphoneboxtravels for the inspo. I have picked my 12 photos (not an easy task by the way, if you have a few things going on each month) and added a little caption to each one. I hope you find them of interest ๐Ÿ™‚

January – Taveuni

Taveuni
The holiday of all holidays. We won a trip back to Fiji and we decided to visit the garden island of Fiji that is Taveuni. An absolutely amazing place with the best people. We made memories there that will last a lifetime.

February – Belfast comes to Melbourne

Belfast comes to Melbs
2 of our really good friends Brian and Rachael came to Melbourne. I didn’t want to miss them so I flew over to spend the weekend with them and had the best craic!

March – Meet my parents in Thailand

Thailand
I had the oppotunity to visit my parents when they were in Thailand celebrating their anniversary. I couldn’t miss this, maybe my only ever chance to have a holiday with just the 2 of them all to myself. A really chilled out holiday with memories I will always cherish.

April – 10 years later

10 years later
We love our Sydney walks and for me, my photo opportunities! We sat here to have a photo taken and realised we had sat here 10 years ago also. We have lived in Sydney in 2009 for 1 year and had made it our dream and mission to return. I like this photo as it highlights how far we have came and what is achievable if you want something bad enough.

May – Home

Home
We love our trips back to Northern Ireland. This was our 2nd trip home since leaving for Australia. We had an amazing time as always, plus we attended 2 very special weddings. The landscape in Northern Ireland is stunning, it definitely needs to be seen if visiting Ireland.

June – A time of reflection

Reflection
This is the Chinese Garden of Friendship. The perfect spot for reflection and gathering your thoughts. I was really happy to have been shown this place.

July – Quality time

Quality time
July was a month of spending time with the other half and taking in the beauty of Sydney. Lots of nice walks and this day we were whale watching, a really unbelievable experience!

August – Leura

Leura
This is my birthday month!! I really wanted to head away for a couple of days. We decided on Leura, in the Blue Mountains. I would highly recommend this to everyone. It is a really quaint little town with a lot of character. The Leura Cascades are impressive and amazing walks in the heart of the Blue Mountains.

September – A personal journey

Personal journey
I have been going to the gym for about 2 years now. I am loving it and acheiving results that I am super happy with. This was the month I hit a personal milestone as I had hit the 10kg mark. Thats a 10kg increase in weight (muscle mass). I was delighted. May the journey continue.

October – Wedding dress shopping

Wedding dress
Never thought in a million years I would be doing this but it was an incredible experience. To be there for my best friend on such a huge occassion in her life was a true honour. We had the best weekend and not a bridezilla in sight!!

Novemeber – My cousin

My cousin
My cousin has been in Sydney for a year and we have loved it. To have a family member here is amazing, to share old memories and make new ones is incredible. We were sad to say goodbye as she heads off on her travels and then home but we have had the best year and again made the best memories.

December – Christmas time

Christmas
One of my favourite months of the year. This year we are spending it together, just the 2 of us. We are heading away on what will be our only holiday as a couple since 2014. Keep an eye on my socials for photos to follow. Merry Christmas everyone!!! See you all next year ๐Ÿ™‚

L E U R A

Leura is a small town situated in the Blue Mountains. We wanted to see somewhere different within the mountains as we have been a good few times now and luckily there is still always something new to see. Blackheath, Katoomba and Leura are the 3 main towns and so we had already visited the other 2 towns. It was my birthday at the start of the month, so we thought it would be fun to have a weekend away, a mini vacation. We wanted somewhere that we could travel to by train, so we could save the hassle of hiring a car like we normally would do. Leura has its own train station and is less than 2 hours to get to from Sydney. Perfect spot because you are within the Blue Mountain region, great for stunning scenery and long walks โ˜บ๏ธ. I had heard Leura has lovely cascades with picnic areas, so for me, that’s what I really wanted to see. I also wanted to simply see the mountains and feel a million miles away from the normal daily routine.

We used booking.com to book a lovely cottage in Leura, a 5 minute walk from the train station. The cottage was The Priest’s Cottage at St Raphael (no priests were spotted) and it was really special. Extremely cosy with its own little electric fire and it even had electric blankets that was a really nice touch. It was freezing at night when we were there but luckily you wouldn’t have known staying in this cottage. It was very easy to find and so close to the town. A really quaint little place that was pretty spacious and had all the amenities you would hope to find. Outdoor seating area too that would be great in the summer.

First thing you do on a holiday/mini break, check in and check out your surroundings. We took a walk to the town and had a look around. The main street is really quaint with lots of cafes and really cool shops. Our favourite findings were the vintage shops (particularly The Leura Emporium Vintage Collectables) and the really cool Teddy Sinclair’s Man Cave. This shop was awesome, you could spend all day in it. It smells amazing as you walk in with all the leather wallets, bags, coats, jackets etc and it has lots of men’s accessories from shaving utensils to travel bags, jewellery, watches and gifts.

Flemish Flavours

This is the best spot, in my opinion, for a beer and some food. This bar/restaurant is situated in a heritage listed mansion overlooking Leura. The outdoor space and gardens are stunning. This is a really cool spot to try out some Belgian beers and gourmet food. The beers were delicious and the atmosphere here is quirky and cosy. Be sure to check this place out this month as the restaurant/bar will be leaving the premises here for new pastures.

Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum

If you love tea as much as I do then this is the place for you. You can pay $5.50 in to see the museum or you can be admitted for free in the condition that you purchase a cup of tea after. The museum has the largest collection of private tea ware in the world and boasts more than 5,500 teapots from all over the world and from different eras. The staff here are super friendly and helpful and the atmosphere and surroundings create the perfect place to have a cup of tea, where you can choose from an array of different varieties.

Leura Cascades

I was super excited to see these!! I was just looking forward to heading out for a walk into unknown territory and seeing something a little different. We walked to the cascades, it takes about 30 minutes from Leura itself. We brought a picnic as we’d heard there are lovely spots to sit and have lunch, plus there are no cafes or shops nearby so best be prepared. The cascades themselves are stunning. Not overly big but tucked away amongst the trees and rocks to create a special ambiance. The walking trail is pretty easy to navigate with some steep stairways if you want to head upwards and see the views overlooking the Blue Mountains. Definitely worth the trek up as the views are spectacular. As soon as you see the mountains it’s a truly breathtaking moment. You really feel the vastness of the area and at one with mother nature. There are lots of areas worthy of having a picnic, with some picnic benches also provided. You can walk as far as Katoomba from here but we decided against it. All in all the walk takes about an hour and a half.

We did, however, head to Katoomba later that day as it’s only 5 minutes from Leura on the train. We always feel we have to see the infamous 3 sisters. Although we’ve now seen them multiple times, they still manage to make us feel in awe.

Two places to check out for dinner:

1- Miss Lilian Tea House

This is authentic Asian casual dining. If you want something tasty but not overly fancy or overpriced, this place is the ticket. Food was delicious and the decor is pretty funky with a stress on birdcages. It’s in Katoomba but a bit of a walk to so we travelled by taxi here. Definitely worth the fare ๐Ÿ˜‰

2- Leura Garage

This award winning restaurant and bar has been on my list for a while as I have always heard good things about it. Using all local ingredients and wines, it was really amazing and didn’t disappoint. It is really handy, basically across the road from the train station. It is always busy so be sure to book ahead.

So that’s my mini weekend guide to Leura. Hopefully some of you find it helpful. This little town is most definitely worth seeing and is often a looked over little gem of a find. Next time your in the Blue Mountains be sure to check it out.

Thanks for reading,

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Northern Ireland: An alternative guide – part 2 โœŒ๐Ÿฝ

Hi everyone! As most of you are aware, we have just been home again for a few weeks to see family and friends and of course to attend 2 amazing weddings. Fortunately for us, we were also able to see some new venues and features in Northern Ireland and increase our appreciation for our home country. Keep reading to see if you have visited any of these places and if not, maybe they can be on your bucket list ๐Ÿ˜‰.

Grand Central Hotel Belfast – The Observatory

This is a new hotel recently erected in Belfast and is the second tallest building in the whole of Ireland (second to the Obel Tower, also in Belfast). However, it does boast to have the tallest bar in Ireland. The observatory is on the 23rd floor and has the most amazing view of Belfast. It really is spectacular. You will be taken in the elevator by a concierge and taken to a seating area available. Luckily, we had arrived before most others so we could choose where to sit. You can also take a walk around to see the city from every view possible. The seating areas are stunning and very comfortable. The service is lovely, friendly and welcoming staff. The drinks are pricey, for example ยฃ15 for a cocktail and ยฃ8 for a pint but to be honest, you get what you pay for. The view is outstanding and I suppose it’s not something you would do every day. It’s a really amazing experience for a special occasion and definitely worth a trip if you are visiting Belfast.

Glass of Thrones

I was fortunate enough to be at home at the same time as the Game of Thrones final season. As many of you know, the majority of filming for this amazing show, is in Belfast!!! To celebrate this milestone of the 8th and final season, 6 stained glass windows were erected around the city centre, 1 for each episode. You can walk from Belfast City Hall to Titanic Studios to witness these Glass of Thrones installations, displaying scenes from seasons one to eight of the show. Each window represents the trials and tribulations of a different house, and at the final window you can get a selfie on the Iron Throne. For a map of where to find these, click here. I personally loved seeing a new window being unveiled each week. They are exceptional and if you’re a fan of the show, this is a must see. It’s also a good way to explore Titanic Quarter.

Belfast street art

This was completely accidental but it is amazing to walk through the streets of Belfast and see new street art popping up everywhere. It shows that we are a city to be reckoned with in the culture stakes and we are ever progressing. I did want to find the infamous Belfast mural as I had seen this all over Instagram. Having lived in Belfast for over a decade, I had to see it. You should definitely take a walk through the city to find these art pieces. You can find these mostly in the Gaeltacht Quarter and Cathedral Quarter. Bear in mind these are nothing to do with the peace murals. These would be representative of a more forward thinking and inclusive Belfast IMO.

Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort

Now this is a place that I have been dying to try. So when my sister said she wanted us to go, I was delighted ๐Ÿ˜. The spa treatment here is unreal, even better than I had imagined. It had a huuuuge area with lots of facilities. Leave your clothes in a locker (changing facilities are even impressive) and don a Galgorm dressing gown/robe/house coat (whatever you call it in NI). When I entered the spa area I was overwhelmed. It’s like what you would see in a movie. People walking around in the robes, pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms everywhere, indoor and outdoor. There are chill out areas with relaxing chairs and loungers and even an ice room. I was honestly so impressed. We even had the chance to have a Celtic sauna treatment that was fantastic. It was unbelievably hot in the nicest possible way and you receive a nice cold mocktail afterwards. We had lunch here too and you are invited to eat in your robes. A very surreal experience but you will really feel like it’s a special occasion. I cannot recommend this enough peeps. We even went on a cold and wet day but it didn’t faze us at all. Ps. The photos do not so this justice at all.

City of Derry Jazz Festival

The biggest jazz festival in Northern Ireland is held in the amazing Derry ~ Londonderry City. If you don’t know Derry that well, a bit like myself, then this is the perfect chance to explore the city and see it in all its cultural glory. The festival has been happening yearly since 2001 and it is 1 of the leading Irish music events of the year. There are street performers, food stalls and live music performing in all the bars in the city. As the bars are all in close proximity, you can easily hop from 1 bar to another to experience as many live acts as possible. The lineup is HUGE, far too many artists to mention but you can check out the website here. Details are already up for next years event in 2020 ๐ŸŽท ๐ŸŽถ . Oh and while you’re in Derry, you have to check out the Derry Girls mural, I’m sure you’ve seen the show on Netflix! Hilarious…and the paining of the girls is outstanding.

Portballintrae Causeway Loop

Ok so in my opinion I have saved the best until last. This walk was one of my highlights at home, especially because I was able to do this with my parents. Everybody knows about the Giant’s Causeway but instead of heading straight there and spending a fortune on parking, you can complete a small enough walk from Portballintrae to the causeway and see the breathtaking views the north coast of Ireland has to offer, the best coastline in Ireland IMO, yet often overlooked when people think of the Irish coast. Not only will you see coastline but you also see beaches, rock formations, cliffs, sand dunes, a really old railway line and the most quaint little railway station you have ever seen, bridges, rivers and countryside. It has to be every walkers dream to see all these things!! The walk over the 3 quarter mile bridge is short but it is pretty stunning to walk over the Bush River – apparently so dark as the river runs through Bushmills where they make the whiskey ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ. I’m not very good at directions but you can find them here. This is a walk you will want to experience and you will finish at the Giants Causeway. I still love coming here even though I’ve seen it many times but when Northern Ireland has a blue sky, this part of the world is fantastic.

Thanks everyone for reading. It’s lovely to showcase Northern Ireland. It has a lot to offer and every time I return home, there is something new to discover. Be sure to check it out if ever visiting Ireland or the UK.

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Autumn in Sydney ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ

Hi there! Welcome to my latest blog post. I have been laying low for the past couple of months as I have been travelling a lot and need to build the funds back up again. In addition, we are going home at the end of this week!!! Exciting and definitely worth it, being sensible for the last couple of months ๐Ÿ˜†. Nevertheless, laying low in Sydney as autumn arrives is not too shabby at all. It has been really enjoyable to take it easy, have lots of home cooking, working out in the gym, early nights and wearing some warmer clothes. Therefore, I thought it might be the perfect time to write about activities to carry out when in the autumn season. Things to do that do not require a lot of money or effort. Appropriate for when trying to save for the next holiday ๐Ÿ˜‰.

1 – Spice Alley

I had always heard of this place and people always had a good word to say about it. I had assumed this was a restaurant. I had no idea that it is in fact what the name suggests, an alley way!! It is an alley tucked away in Sydney’s CBD (very close to Central Station) that offers an array of Asian cuisine. There are numerous kitchens in the style of street food stalls and you could be forgiven for thinking that you are entering a street taken right out of the Asian continent. It is a fantastic place, full of life and the smells of tasty Asian cuisine. This is definitely a place to check out for some authentic street food and something a little different and quirky. A very ‘Instagrammable’ place too (this is a thing now). ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿผโ€โ™‚๏ธ You can see the types of food available here.

2 – Gin Lane

If you want to try an array of different gin concoctions then this is the place for you. As part of Spice Alley this place is also a feast for the eyes. Set in an old historic house, the atmosphere is perfect for treating yourself to something a little fancy. The taste, presentation and uniqueness of these gins/gin cocktails is exquisite. The outdoor sitting is pretty cool and provides the sense of sitting in an old backstreet of 18th century London. The happy hours are daily and at different times depending on the day of the week. Find out more at the Spice Alley website above. Unfortunately I don’t have a decent photo to show you as it was quite dark inside and I didn’t want the flash on my phone to illuminate the whole room ๐Ÿ™ˆ.

3 – Vaucluse House

I have always had a love/fascination with old stately homes. Back home in Ireland we have heaps but it was cool to be able to find some here (albeit not as old ๐Ÿ™Š). Living in Bondi, I wanted to check out Vaucluse House as it’s pretty close being in the Eastern suburbs too. We took a tour of the home and thoroughly enjoyed the inside, informative knowledge. It was interesting to learn the history of the home and gardens that had once been owned and lived in by the Wentworth family. I won’t go into the details but it is worth checking out here. The gardens surrounding the mansion are really impressive and the tea rooms are extremely quaint if you are in the mood for a scone or something more substantial ๐Ÿ˜‹.

4 – Seven Shillings Beach

After visiting Vaucluse House we took a short bus ride to a beach in the Eastern suburbs that we had not seen before. It’s called Seven Shillings Beach and can be found by walking through Blackburn Gardens at Double Bay (so many names!!). The gardens aren’t that big but are quite pretty and lead to this spectacular beach. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of this place, let alone see it. It’s a really cool beach as it offers an enclosure for swimming in the sea called Murray Rose Pool. A walkway takes you out to the sea, almost like a jetty but in the form of a walkway and back again to the beach. A really amazing spot to relax with city views in the near distance. There is also a cafe situated here for food with a view. called Red Leaf Cafe. Perfect if you forget your picnic! We cannot wait to return here ๐Ÿ˜.

5 – Angel Place

This street is very much a hidden gem of Sydney’s CBD with many locals having never even been. It is home to a piece of art called ‘Forgotten Songs’ by Michael Thomas Hill and features many, many empty birdcages hanging from a great height. It represents all the birds that were once present and even has all of their sounds playing, changing throughout different parts of the day. It’s a real feast for the eyes and is usually pretty quiet if you are looking to take photos without any other people popping up in the picture (a rare find these days unfortunately). We were able to find this with help from Google maps.

6 – Lavender Bay

This place was a find by chance for me. I was strolling around Milsons Point over in North Sydney when I came across this beautiful bay and gardens. Here you can find Wendy’s Secret Garden, apparently Sydney’s worst kept secret ๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿคฃ. Here you can find many native flower species, stunning flowers and impressive views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is a simple garden but I found myself strolling around here for ages, it’s so tranquil and feels like a safe haven from the busy every day life in Sydney. You can read more about this garden here and find out why it was created by Wendy.

Thanks a lot for taking the time out to read my blog. Sydney remains an amazing city with so much to see and do, not only in summer but also heading into Autumn ๐Ÿ‚.

Ps. I have just returned from Seven Shillings Beach for the 2nd time and I honestly think it is even better again. My new favourite beach area in Sydney!!!

Take care all,

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Taveuni ๐ŸŒบ

Taveuni – The garden island of Fiji. Home to the famous Tagimoucia flower and the international date line. How lucky are we, to have been able to spend time on this wonderful island. Some of you may remember I won a trip to Fiji last year with the help of Fiji Airways. It just so happened that we were also already in Fiji when we heard the news. We were delighted to be able to return to Fiji and use this trip to visit Taveuni. This has been a dream of ours for a while as we have heard many, many great things from our good friend who is from the island. When writing about Taveuni in this blog, you may not be able to envision its true beauty and splendour. Therefore, I will hopefully be creating a video blog (vlog) to coincide in the not so distant future.

I want to provide an insight to Taveuni and highlight a couple of the main sights that need to be seen and experienced. You travel to Taveuni by plane or boat, although the boat will take a long time, around 14-16 hours. By plane it takes about an 1 hour 25 minutes. The views from the plane are spectacular and the size of the plane is pretty small, making it a very unique and exhilarating ride, though you feel completely at ease.

When you arrive in Taveuni you will first be amazed at how small the airport is, yet full of character and friendly locals waiting to greet you. This is when you first witness the beauty of the island, the trees, the colours and its warmth.

We were able to chill out for the first day and gather our bearings of the island. We explored the shops, villages, took in the scenery and landscape as well as relaxing at the beach. We called into Tramonto restaurant for supplies (this would become our favourite place to hang out in the evenings) and check out the amazing ocean views. The staff here are the friendliest people that you will ever meet, the food is exceptional (especially the chilli sauce) and the live music at the weekend is pretty special. You will be dancing for sure.

Food stalls with roti parcels (a must buy!)

Fiji Gold – best beer ever ๐Ÿ˜Š

View from Tramonto restaurant

1 – Waitavala Natural Rock Waterslide

This natural waterslide is a must see and do when in Taveuni. The locals have been sliding down this for years. Try sitting down or even standing up if you’re brave enough, many of the kids can be seen doing this. It can be tricky to find the slide, about 20 minutes from Waiyevo. You can hire a guide if you don’t know the area, luckily for us we had our friends to guide us. It can be slippy enough to reach the slide, especially if it rains. It was lashing when we went. It certainly adds to the sense of adventure if nothing else. I am unable to show a video of the slide on this blog and I didn’t want to take a chance bringing my camera. You will see the slide in action on my vlog. At the end of the slide is a rock pool, perfect for swimming and cooling down in.

On our way to the waterslide

2 – Tavoro Waterfalls

Taveuni is infamous for its waterfalls. This island receives a lot of rainfall annually and creates some of the most scenic and luscious landscapes. Tavoro – part of Bouma National Heritage Park consists of 3 waterfalls, the 1st of which is the biggest and easiest to reach. There is a small fee to visit the waterfalls, slightly more if you’re not a local. The walk to the waterfalls is stunning, passing through what seems like a never ending secret garden. Lots of green, beautiful flowers and many palm trees. It is really something else and when you come across the 1st waterfall you will be gobsmacked. It is out of this world. I honestly have never seen anything quite like it. A definite movie moment. We stayed here for a couple of hours and decided against visiting the other 2 waterfalls today. We swam in the water and jumped off rocks behind the waterfall (make sure you make a big jump as there are rocks close to the edge!). This place has to be seen to be believed.

3 – Korolevu Island

This small island lies off the coast of Taveuni in the Somosomo Strait. There is absolutely nothing on it and most importantly, no other people!! We hired a small motor boat and driver to take us there. The journey was exciting and pretty quick. We packed a BBQ, food and drinks for the trip. When you reach the island you will be blown away by its sheer natural beauty. We were ecstatic to realise we had the island to ourselves (when does that ever happen these days?!). The water is a beautiful clear shade of blue. The sand is white and clean and the green colours of the trees makes this island a true paradise. We were so fortunate to be here alone and have some quality time together, swimming, cooking, chatting, relaxing and really just appreciating the day we were having. You just cannot take these kind of experiences for granted. Once in a lifetime moments that will never be forgotten. Ps. Just be sure to take your rubbish home with you to ensure this island remains unspoiled.

You can swim and walk around the whole island with ease

Our very own cookery class

Quality time ๐Ÿ’›

4 – Lavena Coastal Walk

This also forms part of the Bouma National Heritage Park. This is another route to reach the 2 other waterfalls that I previously mentioned. This trail takes you along the Taveuni coastline through villages and rainforest. This walk is usually relatively straight forward. However, for us the rain was very heavy and we managed to get lost on more than 1 occasion. lucky for us some of the locals loaned us a couple of umbrellas. Failing that you can use banana leaves for cover.

My advice would be to hire a guide if you don’t know the area. You pay and sign in before starting, however, the office had closed by the time of our return. Therefore, no one would know if we would make it back or not. I did find this a bit daunting as the walk was tricky enough. If you managed to get lost like we did, the walk can become scary and uncertain. What should be a 1.5 hour walk each way, became a 3 hour trek one way for us ๐Ÿ™ˆ. You will also have to cross a river with a rope across to try help you. I’m not sure if the rope actually helped but it did provide a sense of security, be it a false one ๐Ÿคฃ. The river has big boulders so just be careful not to over on your ankle! To avoid this, you can take a boat. We were trying to be adventurous. On a positive note, you really do get a sense of adventure and you feel great after completion as you feel you have really overcome something pretty big.

Reaching the waterfall is pretty spectacular. It’s really refreshing to submerge yourself into the water after the long trek. The water is beautiful. Swim up to the waterfall and you will be able to see the other one just out of plain sight to the left hand side. Unfortunately we didn’t stay too long as we had to make the return journey before it became too dark.

This trip is definitely worth a try, maybe just on a drier day and with the aid of a guide. Suitable footwear would be advantageous as our flip flops/thongs ended up lost and we had to walk barefoot (although very liberating). Seeing the locals, their way of life, the livestock and their homes is really special and the people here are extremely friendly. Even helping us across the river at one point ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ.

Feeling fresh before the trek starts ๐Ÿ˜…

Even the streams could be difficult to cross ๐Ÿ™Š

Gorgeous coastline

This river was not as easy as it looks to cross

We were delighted to have survived ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

These were the few excursions we managed to fit into a few days in Taveuni. There is still much more we want to do in the future so I guess we will be returning at some point. The highlight of the trip for me was the warmth and love of the people living here, that really made us feel so welcomed. The bonds you make with people on these kind of trips is extraordinary and the best craic is had at every opportunity. Taveuni, we love you ๐Ÿ˜˜.

Be sure to check out this amazing island, it is one for the bucket list.

Thanks for reading!

W ๐Ÿ’›

Cremorne Reserve ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐ŸŒธ

I had to write a blog post about this place as it is truly magical and has all the elements required for a great day out. Every Sunday we have free, we like to do a new walk around Sydney and see new places. I use this link that gives you a run down of good walks to do around Sydney. It is my aim to complete them all soon. We picked Cremorne Reserve as it is close to us and pretty short at only 3km roundtrip. We had no expectations of this walk although I was looking forward to seeing the lighthouse that was mentioned.

You can get to this reserve by taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Cremorne, it’s the 1st stop. Once there, grab a coffee from the little coffee shop and head up the steps. You have then entered the reserve. Take a left to start the walk. You can also head right to see the Robertsons Point Lighthouse. We did this at the end of the walk so I will mention it again later.

Heading on our walk the first thing you will come to is a path veering off to the left. We were eager to see what was down there and to our surprise we found an outdoor swimming pool. It’s called MacCallum swimming pool. Honestly the walk to the pool through lots of greenery is amazing and to reach a pool at the end makes you feel truly blessed. The pool is really cool with absolutely amazing front row seat views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

After a swim, head back onto the track. The walk along this is class. You have views of the water to your left with pretty houses and many, many boats. To your right are beautiful gardens and really impressive houses (like million dollar homes), how the other half live. If you like architecture, design and all things quaint then you will enjoy seeing these. There are lots of places to stop and sit, appreciate the tranquility here or pack a picnic.

Along the track we stumbled across the most stunning little hand made garden, made by 2 volunteers Lex and Ruby in 1959. The garden has many different plant and flower species and has steps that take you through and down to the waters edge. Such a delight to see and you really feel like you are entering the secret garden.

Having finished the walk and returned to the wharf, we took the path to the lighthouse. I am honestly so glad we were able to see this. I have to say, I think this is my favourite lighthouse that I have seen to date and I have seen a lot. It’s the sheer slightness of it, it’s surroundings and the quaintness that makes it stand out for me. It is like something taken from a movie. Maybe I’m a bit over the top but I really thought it was magnificent ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿคฃ.

Anyhow, if you ever get the chance to visit here, you really ought to. It’s a unique location in Sydney and one that isn’t laden with tourists.

Thanks for reading!

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

9 things to do when visiting Melbourne ๐ŸŒƒ๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‡

Hi there everyone and Happy New Year. I thought I would use my 1st blog of 2019 to provide a run down of things to do in Melbourne when you have more than a few days. This was my 3rd trip to Melbourne and I have yet to blog about this amazing city. Previously I have visited some amazing bars/restaurants, seen some incredible art and frequented some mighty fine vine yards nearby. However, it was great to be able to spend a good amount of time here, especially in summer and experience new things that Melbourne has to offer. Lucky for us our friends made pretty good tour guides, having packed in a lot for us to see and do within 10 days (not to mention celebrating the holiday season).

Sometimes too much information included in lists of things to see and do can become tiresome, so I will just keep things brief so as not to bore you. I will show you through pictures, the trips that we made and give a short overview, so that if you happen to visit or live in Melbourne, you may wish to check them out also ๐Ÿ˜Š.

1 – Holey Moley Golf Club โ›ณ๏ธ

This is a mini golf club with a lot of fun. Think crazy golf but indoors and with bar service. Each hole is designed with a crazy theme that brings humour and life to it whilst drawing you in with your camera for a snap or 2. The fact that you can bring your drinks around the course with you is pretty cool and you end up at the Caddyshack Bar. Definitely a must do, especially if it rains. You can read all about it here.

2 – Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

These gardens are stunning for a walk around, providing great views of the city and numerous areas where you can sit for a picnic. It’s pretty cool to be in the city but be surrounded by greenery. We were extremely lucky to have taken part in the “punting on the lake”, a surprise from our friends. You are taken on a tranquil cruise around the lake with a guided tour, seeing the islands surrounding the lake and all the gardens wildlife and plants. It’s a really stunning way of seeing the gardens and we were lucky enough to have brought on our own champagne for the occasion ๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿพ. I can’t recommend this enough and the staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable of the gardens.

3 – Entrecรดte

This is a Parisian steakhouse and cafรฉ in South Yarra and is totally worth a visit. The thing that really pulled us here was the jazz band…and they sing in French! Our favourite. Plus we had heard they offer some killer rosรฉ wines ๐Ÿ˜‰. The jazz band, La Nuit Blanche was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music. The food was delicious and the ambiance was just on point. Sitting in the little terrace/garden, listening to jazz and sipping on rosรฉ wine in the sunshine = blissful Sundays โ˜บ๏ธ.

4 – Albert Park

This is a great park only 3km from the city. It surrounds a large lake and is a great spot for walking (with or without a dog), cycling, sailing and rowing. It provides a really stunning view of the city behind the lake. The walking track is 5km in distance and there are spots where you can stop for a picnic or BBQ. You can also see a good amount of black swans and plenty of ducks.

5 – Mornington Peninsula

If you leave Melbourne and drive south east for an hour through the state of Victoria, you will enter the Mornington Peninsula. This is a very beautiful coastal spot with Port Phillip to the left. There is lots to see and do with many little holiday towns and beaches that are both sheltered and open-sea.

We stopped at Cape Schanck which is the most southern part of Mornington Peninsula. Apparently here is where you can breathe in the freshest air, blown straight in from the Antarctic! To get here it is a quare walk through the Mornington Peninsula National Park. A really stunning walk but we wary of the many, many steps. Cape Schanck is beautiful, with some rock pools located there too but it is quite rocky terrain to go and have a good look. It is definitely worth the effort. There is also a lighthouse here that is infamous to Cape Schanck and has been here since 1859, as well as a lighthouse museum.

There are numerous vineyards situated in Mornington Peninsula that are worth a visit if you love wine tasting. We visited 3 different vineyards and each of them were sensational in their own ways:

โ€ข Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove – delicious Chardonnay (and I usually hate Chardonnay).

โ€ข Even Keel/Polperro – great to sit outside with a glass of wine by the vines

โ€ข Rare Hare – great spot for lunch

6 – Ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff โ›ด

This is the car and ferry service that crosses Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff. We crossed here in order to continue our journey towards the Great Ocean Road. It’s impressive being able to drive your car onto the ferry. Once aboard you can exit your car and walk around freely. There is a shop and bar onboard with comfortable seating. However, it’s pretty special to stand outside as the ferry sails, often you can see dolphins swimming alongside too!

7 – The Great Ocean Road

For me, this is the trip I have always associated with Melbourne and have always wanted to do it. I have seen many pictures over the years and to be honest, it doesn’t disappoint. The Great Ocean Road was built to commemorate the sailors and soldiers of the 1st world war. The drive along this road is spectacular with beautiful ocean views and many places where you can stop and take photos. We happened to drive on a cloudy day and the views were still spectacular. The main aim of the drive for us was to see the 12 apostles at the Port Campbell National Park. To read all about the apostles you can click here. When you reach the apostles you will not be disappointed. There are a few different locations to view the apostles so make sure you check them all out. There is a map printed at the visitors centre to help you out. Words can’t even describe how amazing this landscape is, so sure to visit soon, as the apostles are subject to some severe weather erosion.

8 – Easey’s Diner

So back into the city of Melbourne and you will find a really cool and trendy diner. You have grab a burger in a tram on a rooftop! Only in Melbourne! Staff are super friendly, food is amazing and you can see great views of the city. The hotdog topped with macaroni cheese is the business.

9 – Melbourne Museum

If you happen to have a rainy day in the city, where better to go than check out the local museum. Melbourne Museum was even better than we had anticipated and we spent a good few hours there. It has everything from dinosaurs to an Australian wildlife exhibition to the history of Melbourne (extremely interesting) to the displays of the Myers Christmas windows. Really worth checking out.

Ok readers so that’s my 9 things to check out in and around Melbourne. Hopefully it will be of interest and you can check them out sometime. There is still so much more to learn about this amazing city!!!

Thanks so much for reading.

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Blue Mountains โ›ฐ

Anyone who knows Sydney will always think of the Blue Mountains. They are one of the most iconic attractions to visit within New South Wales and are less than a 2 hour drive from Sydney. If you want a break from city life, this is one of the best and nearest places to visit.

Stunning scenery, bush walks, trails and plenty of fresh air. The mountains and valleys were formed from sedimentary rock about 100 million years ago when the area was lifted up. For more detailed info on the history you can read here as I am not clued in at all. Also if you would like to know why the Blue Mountains appear blue, click here. I’m not sure if I’ve ever thought they were that blue to be honest but I’m sure others can see it ๐Ÿ™Š.

Whether you visit for a couple of hours or a couple of days, you will be transferred to a land far, far away with Jurassic Park like qualities. It is such a vast area but there are many key lookouts at different points where you can take it all in and get lost within the beauty of nature.

I will show you three popular lookout spots that we just happened to visit on our last trip there.

1 – Wentworth Falls

For postcard views and a cool little waterfall that flows 100m to the valley floor, this is the place to be. It can be found at the quaint little village of Wentworth.

2 – Echo Point

This is without doubt the most famous spot of the Blue Mountains and is where you will see the most iconic landmark, The 3 Sisters. Located in the village of Katoomba, this sight is buzzing with hundreds of tourists daily. It is magnificent to see and provides a good starting point for completing any of the treks or bush walks on offer. There are different varieties of these, for those who like short walks or much longer ones for the more adventurous. Just be aware that you are at quite a height here. Some of the walks will involve you descending a lot of steps, not for the faint hearted but definitely worth trying if able. Katoomba town has a good few shops and eateries that are well worth checking out and there is also a train station here if you happen to be taking public transport from Sydney.

The 3 sisters

3 – Govetts Leap

This is a great lookout if you are after panoramic views over the mountains. You can access some of the more physical walks from here. It is the perfect location to come for a picnic, even on the early hours of the morning you will see couples coming for romantic breakfasts as the sun rises. The only downside for us was the insane amount of flies. Yes you will be tortured by some flies anywhere in the mountains, however, here seemed to be particularly troublesome (but don’t let them put you off coming here). This lookout can be found in the town of Blackheath where we happened to be staying. The town itself is pretty small but plenty of character and a couple of interesting wee pubs.

These are the 3 lookouts that we happened to see, although, there are plenty more. Blue Mountains is a magical place and well worth a visit. Check out https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains for any further information.

Thanks for reading.

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sculpture by the Sea

Hey everyone. This blog post will be short and sweet but I just really want to highlight such an amazing event. Thisย is one of Sydneyโ€™s most popular events, Sculpture by the Sea. It is a free annual event and is situated along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. The area showcases 100 sculptures by artists from all around the world.ย The event is on for 3 weeks in Spring, this year finishing on the 4th November. It is the biggest yearly sculpture exhibition in the world and although a free event, people are encouraged to donate some money at the end of the walk to help with costs.

It attracts around 500,000 visitors so expect it to be crazy busy. It is best not to go at the weekends. We tried to go on a Sunday afternoon and it was disastrous . It is hard enough to see the sculptures with so many people, let alone take a good photograph. We returned on a Sunday morning at 6am and it was much better. I’d say on a weekday would also be not as busy.

The event has taken place since 1997 and really encapsulates the imagination of Sydney and its visitors. It is a really unique event and 100% worth a visit if you are in Sydney at that time of year. We thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciate the amount of work people put into this incredible event. You can see a few of my favourite sculptures below.

Cheers,

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

The Entrance

We wanted to escape the city for a long weekend and were thinking where could we go that doesn’t involve too much time to travel. We decided on The Entrance on the central coast of NSW. It is only about an hour and a half drive from Sydney and it was very cheap to rent a car for the weekend.

This is a lovely seaside spot with water all around you. You have Tuggerah Lake to the left of the Entrance and the Pacific Ocean to the right. We stayed in a motel along the Blue Bay where you have a spectacular beach and ocean view. The motel itself was amazing and the staff were extremely friendly, offering advice on what to do and where to eat in the area. You can check it out here.

Just behind the motel lie 2 ocean baths if you fancy a swim. Unfortunately for us it was a little cold but I’m sure they would be pretty popular in summer time.

The motel also boasts it’s own award winning seafood restaurant, aptly named The Ocean Restaurant. We really wanted to try here, not only because it was on our doorstep but we had heard this place was amazing. The food was delicious and the views were pretty special, even good at night time as we had a few thunderstorms to keep us entertained. The girls working there could not have been more friendly or helpful for advising us which beaches to check out the next day. Definitely worth trying in its own right, if you don’t stay at the motel.

The Entrance town itself has that seaside vibe down to a tee. Lots of quirky shops and cafes and a couple of nice places to grab a scooner or two. We really enjoyed The Entrance Hotel, even for some pub food. The atmosphere was great and seemed to be a popular place to hang out. The thing I wanted to check out the most in the town is the infamous daily pelican feed. The pelicans flock here every day at 3:30pm for a feed of fish provided by a couple of local gents. I had never seen a pelican before so this was a great opportunity not only see one but to be up close and personal to a pod of pelicans. Although they were only interested in the fish, they were magnificent looking birds with different characters shining through. There was interesting commentary and it was very family friendly, children seemed to love it.

While we were at The Entrance, we were fortunate enough to be there when The Entrance Food and Wine Festival was happening. This was held at The Entrance Lake House and was a really enjoyable experience. To be honest we didn’t have any food as we arrived after we had eaten dinner but it was great to try a few different wines from different regions, even some as far as Italy. The location was perfect, great ambiance inside and outdoors with live music playing under the stars. We loved this place so much that we returned the next morning for brunch. It was equally as good and it was cool to see the lake house in the daylight.

Other places to visit near The Entrance:

1 – Norah Head Lighthouse

A really lovely spot and with my love for lighthouses, I was very keen to see it. There are lots of activities you can do here too if you plan to stay such as rainforest walks and whale watching and you can even reside in the lighthouse keepers quarters. For more information click here.

2 – Long Jetty

This little town beside The Entrance is a must see for its many jetties (small piers). There is a cycle path that can take there from The Entrance, approximately 12km. The jetties were previously used for holiday makers arriving by boats. They are impressive to see and have become very popular for budding photographers. The town itself is pretty quaint with trendy coffee shops and vintage shops.

3 – Bateau Bay – Crackneck Lookout

This is a really cool spot if you fancy a bit of a bush walk. Beautiful ocean views can be seen from a height and you can see right across The Entrance shoreline. This is a prefect location for a picnic with a few picnic areas and even a quirky little coffee dock. This was probably my favourite place we visited, it’s really quite special.

4 – Avoca Beach

This is another lovely beach with an amazing seaside town in walking distance. We found this on the drive home from The Entrance and we were glad we made a final pit stop. A very popular place for holiday makers and close to other towns and beaches. Perfect place for a milkshake ๐Ÿ˜.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little snippet of the central coast. It is definitely a place I would love to see again and would advise others to see for yourselves.

Thanks for reading!

W ๐Ÿ˜Š

Northern Ireland: An alternative guide.

I have just returned from Northern Ireland and settled back into Sydney life again. It was amazing to be home and catch up with family and friends. It was also great to see how much Northern Ireland is changing for the better and continues to offer so much to the locals and tourists alike. There’s a reason Northern Ireland was named the top place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet!! I would like to write about a few different things that I undertook whilst being in Northern Ireland that maybe aren’t the usual run of the mill tourist things to do or places to see. Most people who have heard of Northern Ireland will know about the Giant’s Causeway, the newly built Titanic Centre or the many murals on the peace walls to see. However, there are other places to see that also show case Northern Ireland in a great light. There are so many but I will just mention the ones that I was able to see or do.

1 : Manannรกn mac Lir – Celtic sea god ๐ŸŒŠ

I was recommended by a friend to see this statue of the mythical Celtic god of the sea. It overlooks Lough Foyle, found near Limavady at the North Coast of Northern Ireland. According to legend, Manann mac Lir is the Irish equivalent of the Roman sea god Neptune (or Greek Poseidon) and is said that his spirit is released in fierce storms. It really is a marvel to see first hand. You also have great views looking over Magilligan Point towards Donegal. People often visit here for the views alone but the statue definitely adds a bit of character to the area. We visited on a very cloudy day, therefore we couldn’t see any of the views unfortunately. However, the cloud cover did add to the eeriness of the statue. Definitely worth a visit and found using good old google maps ๐Ÿ˜….

2 : Olive Bizarre – Afternoon Tea โ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿฐ

If you’re looking for somewhere extremely quaint for lunch or a cup of tea then this is the place for you. This is an amazing little cafe found in Newcastle, Co. Down, on the main road as you head out of the town towards Kilkeel. The walk to here from Newcastle town is really something else. You have the sea to your left with the Mourne Mountains to the side. It’s not often you get to view the sea and mountains together and it’s a really stunning scene. Olive Bizarre is warm and cosy and would put you in mind of sitting in your grandmother’s living room. The afternoon tea we had was exquisite, plentiful and tasty. The staff were especially friendly and for that reason the experience was made even better. Smiles all round and nothing was a bother to them.

3 : Kinbane Head – Kinbane Castle ๐Ÿ›

This is a hidden find that not many tourists will know about. It is a long, narrow limestone headland projecting into the sea with an old castle ruin still situated there. This can be found on the way to Ballintoy, about 5km from Ballycastle. It would be about 1 km off the Causeway Coast route. This place is tricky to find being off the main road and hard to access for coaches. You can park at the top of the cliff but you will have to walk down quite a few steps to reach Kinbane Castle. The castle is pretty good to see but it’s the views that are outstanding. They are truly magnificent. You can walk around the area and along the headland but this is not for the faint hearted. You are raised quite a bit from sea level and there are no hand rails. I am so glad that I have been able to see this spot a couple of times now.

Many places in Northern Ireland have been used as Game of Thrones locations and this would 100% put you in mind of one of those spots. I’m guessing they didn’t use here as it is hard to access ๐Ÿ˜ฌ.

4 : The Grand Opera House Belfast ๐ŸŽญ

This theatre HAS to be checked out when you visit Northern Ireland. It is steeped in history, having been built in 1895 and designed by the famous architect at the time, Frank Matcham. It has been through many changes over its time and survived through world wars and a few bombings during the troubles. The interior is magnificent, with the auditorium maintaining its oriental theme and vision of opulence. It is quite possible one of the nicest theatres in the UK (from what I have witnessed). We were fortunate enough to watch Evita when it was showing – spectacular! There are a variety of shows to suit everyone’s needs, from musicals, to ballet and opera or drama and local comedy. It would be a shame to not step into this incredible vicinity. Even if there isn’t a show that you want to see at the time, you can take a tour of the theatre or simply have a drink in one of its bars.

5 : Golflinks Hotel Portrush – The Deerstalker Bar & Bistro ๐Ÿ–

Up in the North Coast is the popular tourist destination of Portrush. Most people who visit Portrush will already know that the harbour area has a good few restaurants owned by the Ramore group. This area has become increasingly popular here over the last few years and the restaurants here are fantastic. There are 6 in total, each offering different cuisines. However, when in Portrush I was able to try another restaurant that may get overlooked. On the other side of Portrush on Dunluce Road, you will find the Golflinks Hotel, famous also for Kelly’s nightclub (a very popular nightclub in Northern Ireland, people will come from all over the country!!). We went here for my birthday dinner and boy was it good. The food was delicious, service was great and it had a really relaxed ambiance. I would highly advise to check this place out for somewhere different.