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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 – People you meet
6 – The Staff
7 – The bars
Our most favourite bar – Schooner Bar.
8 – Sunsets
These were just stunning.
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.
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
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 absolutelyholiday with them again in the future.
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 😆. 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 😉.
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). 💁🏼♂️ 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 🙈.
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 🙊). 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 😋.
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 😁.
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 🙊🤣. 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 🍂.
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!!!
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.
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, we bought them all 😁)
Fiji Gold – best beer ever 😊
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.
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 famous 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 💛
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 🙈. 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 🤣. 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 🙏🏼.
Feeling fresh before the trek starts 😅
Even the streams could be difficult to cross 🙊
This river was not as easy as it looks to cross
We were delighted to have survived 🙌🏼🙌🏼
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 😘.
Be sure to check out this amazing island, it is one for the bucket list.
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 🙊.
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.
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 😝.
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.
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 : Manannán mac Lir – Celtic sea god 🌊
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 😅.
2 : Olive Bizarre – Afternoon Tea ☕️🍰
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 🏛
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 😬.
4 : The Grand Opera House Belfast 🎭
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 🍖
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.
6 : The Merchant Hotel 🏫
Now this hotel is something else. Built originally as a bank, it boasts an imposing image of grandeur. Visually impressive and steeped in history, this 5 star hotel lies in the heart of the historic Cathedral Quarter, a real hub for tourists and locals alike. It had always been a desire of mine to spend a night in this hotel and experience the rooftop hot tub that they have on offer. Both did not disappoint. The room was exceptional and the hot tub remarkable whilst providing great views over Belfast. In addition, the staff were extremely friendly and the breakfast we had the next morning was out of this world. If you want to treat yourself while in Belfast, this is the hotel to make you feel a bit special 😬.
Hopefully I have provided you with a few different things to do if and when you visit Northern Ireland. It really is a great little country and has a lot to offer everyone.
Can you believe we have been living here a year this month? It has really flown by and doesn’t feel like a year has passed. (Technically this is our 2nd year in Australia completed, having done a year many moons ago).
I feel like I haven’t blogged in 10 years. I thought it was because I didn’t have much content to talk about. However, I think the real reason is I just haven’t had the energy or the drive. Basically, I’ve been lazy or maybe I’ve just been living life 😆. Anyways, I thought I would use this blog to tell you all what we have been up to in the last few weeks. We have been fairly quiet of late for a few different reasons. We have just moved house and we actually ended up living in Bondi Junction. If you have read my last couple of blogs, we had been debating whether to live in the city or by the beach. We thought we had decided on Bondi, however, the daily commute to work and the gym etc was becoming a real chore. Therefore, we made the decision to move to Bondi Junction. It is the next suburb to Bondi and we can travel there to the beach within 10 minutes by bus. Living in the junction makes travel to the CBD and anywhere really in Sydney much easier as there is a main railway station here. We are close to all the amenities needed including the massive Westfields shopping mall. It is so handy and means less time spent on painful daily bus commutes.
It’s winter here in Sydney now so you don’t feel the need to head out all the time. It’s the time now for getting cosy at home, warm winter clothing, blankets and bowls of stew. Being cooler you are more than happy to sit at home, watch Netflix and drink lots of tea. It’s also a good time to hit the gym and work on that summer body for next year 🙈😁. Luckily in Sydney there are still plenty of things to do in winter. I will list a few that we have completed recently.
We just had the yearly Festival of Lights in Sydney known as Vivid. There are many light installations all over the city, illuminating Sydney’s most iconic features, for example, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There are light projections at Darling Harbour along with a pretty impressive firework display and local light performances at Barangaroo. The botanic gardens has a trail of different light features that takes you on an exciting journey throughout. It is very impressive but extremely busy. My advice would be to attend during the week as weekends are chaotic.
I recently saw a post on Facebook about a really cool Japanese garden in Sydney. So thought it would be good to check out. It is a good 20km or so outside the CBD in the suburb of Auburn and is located within Auburn’s Botanical Gardens. It is a really quaint garden that is one of Sydney’s hidden gems. If you want to see a really stunning area with tranquility and a feeling of being immersed in nature, not far from the city, then you should check this place out. It also contains a very small little animal sanctuary, housing some of Australia’s most famous animals in their Australian Native Gardens section.
We love to find walks in and around Sydney that showcase the beautiful scenery the city has to offer. One that I had never completed or even knew about is the walk from Barangaroo (just past Darling Harbour) to Circular Quay, bridging the two giant tourist locations together. It is a really stunning walk, not overly long and gives you another angle (there are hundreds) from which to see the Harbour Bridge. Having never been here before, it was magical to find a new path to trek around right in the CBD. Definitely one to check out.
Another walk that we only happened to do today was that from Taronga Zoo to Chowder Bay. I had heard and seen friends doing this walk but only managed to find the time to do this today. Boy, what a walk! It did not disappoint. I think the weather made it to be fair. Although winter, the sun was out in force and the blue skies definitely add to the setting. It was cooler which was probably a blessing in disguise as there are many steps through bush terrain and we ended up walking about 5km. The views of the city are stunning and the coastline is out of this world. I have carried out a few walks around Sydney, all beautiful but it was pretty cool to still discover a new one to us. At the end of the walk we reached Chowder Bay where there is the most quaint little coffee dock called Bacino Kiosk. I would highly recommend everyone to check this out, one of the best coffee places I have been to in Sydney!!! We will be back 😉.
To conclude, yes it’s winter here in Sydney now and things slow down a little, for us at least. However, there is also somewhere new to discover or something always happening to keep you entertained. One year has passed for us here and we are excited to be heading home this month for a holiday. After that, bring on year 2!!
I don’t even know where to start with this holiday to Fiji. It was one of those really epic trips away that you just wish didn’t have to end. I have had so many people commenting on the photos about how amazing Fiji looks and it is true, it is absolutely stunning (the photographs don’t even do it justice!!). Lots of people are also wanting to know where we stayed and can I offer any recommendations. I hope I can share some insight into this amazing country and encourage others to go and visit. Fiji, unbeknownst to me, is made up of around 300 islands, therefore, I can only speak of the areas that I have experienced.
We had traveled to Fiji many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it as a couple. However, this time was much more different, as we were heading to Fiji with our native Fijian friends and had already met a few others before arriving to Fiji. I cannot stress how amazing it is to know people from the area, whereby, doors will be opened that you never even knew existed.
HILTON FIJI BEACH RESORT & SPA
Having left Nadi (pronounced Nandi) airport, our first port of call was to the Hilton Hotel, located on 2.5 km of beach on Denarau Island. It is only a short taxi ride from the airport. This luxurious hotel offers floor to ceiling windows, and your own balcony, from which you will see spectacular ocean and beach views. There are 9 swimming pools including 2 adults only pools. The resort itself is stunning, rooms are comfortable and offer that tropical holiday vibe. Staff are extremely friendly and helpful. It is a HUGE complex so a shuttle service runs continuously to take you from your room to any other location within the complex. The pool areas and views are really extraordinary, especially when he weather is good (unfortunately not for us on this occasion 🙈).
Following our stay here, we made our way (through the thunderstorm!) to the next location.
MUSKET COVE ISLAND RESORT
To get to Musket Cove we took a ferry service from Nadi to the island, just beside Plantation Island. The trip takes about 45 mins to an hour and provides stunning scenery of ocean and landscape. On arrival to the island, be that Musket Cove or Plantation Island, you will receive a welcome like nothing you have seen before. It is the warmest, friendliest and most heartfelt welcome I have ever experienced. The staff from the hotels will greet you as the boat draws near the pier. They sing and give the biggest smiles. You feel very privileged to be in their company and be welcomed to their island. You cannot help but smile and get that warm fuzzy feeling 😊.
Musket Cove Island Resort
Stepping off the boat you will normally be given a shell necklace as a welcome gift and we also received fresh coconut juice and hot face cloths. These little touches really go a long way 👌🏼. Here we stayed in our own villas. These are designed beautifully, are extremely quaint and provide that welcoming island vibe. From the furniture to the decor and pictures, to the views and the little extra touches, these villas feel like being in paradise. The villas are situated along the lagoon or the white sandy beach. The lagoon views are stunning and you can even jump in and swim here if you so wish! Not that you need to as there are 2 swimming pools in close proximity, with 1 being a stones throw from our villa 👍🏻. All accommodation offers traditional and rustic Fijian decor and a separate living area, with some offering a private pool, hot tub, or fully equipped kitchen. There are 2 bars, a restaurant and a day spa.
The 2 bars are quite different, 1 is a bar and bistro, offering à la Carte Fijian cuisine and the other is a more informal bar – Ratu Nemani Island Bar is situated more outdoors and provides spectacular lagoon and beach views.
Ratu Nemani Island Bar 👌🏼
This spot was truly magnificent! Not only because we had many new and old friends to enjoy our time with but also because the location is truly breathtaking, with super friendly and accommodating staff. This place will hold special memories for not only me but my friends also and we would whole heartedly NOT hesitate to return to this fabulous location in the future!!
Furthermore, we took a day trip to the infamous Cloud 9 – a pontoon in the middle of the ocean. This is Fiji’s only 2 level floating platform with a cool little bar and pizzeria, surrounded by turquoise blue water and picturesque views. I honestly have never seen water quite like it. This place is magical 💫. Good music, vibes, staff and the option to dive/jump/belly flop into the water to cool off, swim around or snorkel until your heart’s content 🐠. This is well worth the trip if staying close by. The boat trip to the pontoon is great craic too…expect lots of sprays of water and your bum to be smacking off theseat 🤣!!
THE FIJI ORCHID
Our last stop was a short stay close to Nadi Airport, however, this isn’t your typical nearby airport hotel. This place can be described as a sanctuary 😇 – where you can relax and refresh before or after a trip to the Fijian islands. For me, I felt like I had entered a tropical garden/rainforest. It is surrounded by luscious greenery and numerous plant species (namely Orchids), which were all new to me. It is simply beautiful. You really experience that sense of calm and serenity, a place where you can unwind and reflect as soon as you enter the vicinity.
The Fiji Orchid was once the home to Hollywood actor Raymond Burr. It has since been converted to a stunning lounge, bar and restaurant. The accommodation is in the form of bures. A bure is the Fijian word for a wood and straw hut, something quite similar to a cabin. However, these are luxurious, completely out of this world. If you are seeking an extravagant stay within a tropical garden environment, then this is the setting for you! It also boasts a really stunning swimming pool and lounge area in a serene backdrop – a complete contrast from the usual beach hotel spots.
Also, nearby, is the town of Lautoka. Here you experience and witness Fiji in its every day traditional life. It provides an amazing market, boasting various foodstuffs, fresh fruit and vegetables and even hand crafted gifts to take home and help you remember the wonderful memories you will have made. For any traveller, this is a real gem – the opportunity to escape from all the other tourists and bask in the hustle and bustle of real Fiji life.
The Fiji Orchid is most definitely another place I will have to frequent again. If you want time out, privacy and exclusiveness, this little haven is right up your Fiji Orchid street.
To conclude, I have simply detailed where we stayed – in 3 very different locations in Fiji. This country has so much to offer and I have only begun to scratch the surface. If you have ever thought, “I wonder what Fiji is like?” – go and experience it. You will not be disappointed. I look forward to my next trip here soon. My only difficulty is the emptiness you feel when you depart Fiji and return to your everyday life 🙈🤣.
Hi everyone! I really want to tell you a little about this place as it is a really beautiful spot in Australia and I am so glad I got to experience here with my parents. We were here last month for the main reason being to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef 🐠.
Port Douglas is a small town on the Coral Sea in the tropical far north of Queensland, Australia. It is famous for its beach resorts and provides a good base for visits to both the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system, and Daintree National Park, home to an amazing rainforest and Mosman Gorge. The main street in Port Douglas has many little boutique shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It is a quaint little place with lots of character and summer feels. The people here, from what we had seen, were extremely friendly and hospitable.
We took a flight from Sydney to Cairns. From there we hired a car and drove to Port Douglas. It is only about an hour away by car from Cairns and the journey is spectacular. It is very much a coastal drive with amazing ocean views. You will find yourself wanting to stop, take in the views and capture a few photographs (seems to be the norm).
There are tons of roundabouts on the way to Port Douglas but it’s more or less straight the whole way and there are sign posts everywhere. Google maps is also helpful for when you arrive in the small town in order to find your place to stay.
We decided to stay in an Air BnB that we had found using the app. It was a fantastic 2 bedroom tropical town house. It couldn’t have been better and was located perfectly, only a short walk into the town. The hosts were easy to contact and very accommodating. I would definitely stay again and use the Air BnB app again. Having your own pool is a real bonus, considering the humidity in tropical North Queensland 😅.
So asides from chilling out, checking out the town for shopping and exploring, dining out and having some sociables, the 2 main things we wanted to do in Port Douglas were snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the rainforest.
For snorkelling we went with the company Low Isles Sailaway. You find details of their tours Here. The team were amazing, very friendly and knowledgeable. The boat itself was pretty cool and lots of room onboard.
They provided you with tea and coffee on arrival, a hot buffet lunch, snorkelling equipment and tour (2 tours in water and an island tour) and a glass bottom boat option if you prefer not to snorkel for a second time. I wanted a company that offered smaller tours in order to have more interaction and gain a better insight of the reef. I think this could have been the case had there not been so many kids or parents who hand over their responsibilities of the kids to the skippers🙊🤦🏼♂️.
The reef itself is exciting to see and explore, however, it isn’t all that you would expect it to be. Yes there is coral and yes there are fish. We didn’t see any coral bleaching that seems to be a hot topic at the moment but rather the coral was dull and nowhere near as colourful as you see on Finding Nemo. The main reason for this is that under the sea is not like a Disney movie. It doesn’t appear as colourful as the glossy magazines would show either. I think this is the reality that things often don’t appear as they seem. I compare this to the time we were on the Amalfi Coast. The buildings there were amazing but nowhere near as colourful as photography would have shown. I guess photos and videos can be edited to show more colour. That isn’t to say that you wouldn’t see more colourful and lively reef elsewhere. It just wasn’t the case for us. We did, however, manage to see a few turtles and swim in their vicinity. That was awesome 🐢. Being underwater, the boat, blue skies, the wildlife, the ocean, all make the trip to the reef so worth while and I’m stoked we were able to glimpse part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Daintree Rainforest is something we also wanted to see, being the oldest rainforest on the planet and largest tropical rainforest in Australia. Not too far from Port Douglas you can enter Daintree National Park. It provides access to the rainforest, tour guides, buses to the rainforest and access to Mosman Gorge.
We decided to do our own thing and opted for one of the shorter walks through the forest. Even at that, it seemed like a long enough trek. Some the views were really outstanding and it was an exciting experience to be walking in the middle of an actual rainforest 🤣.
At times when you find yourself alone with no people about, it can be fairly daunting. You wonder if you’re continuing on the right path and pray there are no dangerous animals or creepy crawlies in your midst 🙈. It is tropical so prepare to get sweaty. The best way to cool down is to take a dip at Mosman Gorge. The water is so refreshing and provides a great location to swim in the wild but remain in safe waters. To be honest, for us, this was the highlight of the rainforest.
For more information about the gorge and rainforest click here. It is definitely worth a visit when and if you ever head to North Queensland.
Overall this was a great trip and we can now say we have seen the Great Barrier Reef and been to the Daintree Rainforest. Something else checked off the bucket list ✅.
Hello everyone! Sorry it has been so long since I’ve written a blog. Over the Christmas and New Year period it is always busy, plus I had the pleasure of having my parents here for a few weeks. On the plus side however, I have plenty of things to blog about.
We went to see Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical last week presented by the Sydney Theatre Company and I cannot stop smiling every time I think about it. I always loved the movie and being an Aussie classic, I thought it would be great to take my parents to the stage show. I didn’t really have any expectations as nobody I know had been to see it yet. The reviews have been good so far and boy were they right. It is one of the best musicals I have seen in a long time. It really follows the movie well, updating the 90s classic to the modern day time. The story follows a girl named Muriel Heslop on her quest to be popular and find the man of her dreams, all so she can have the “perfect” wedding. She leaves the fictional town of Porpoise Spit and heads for the big lights of Sydney. As you will find out, things don’t always go to plan for Muriel 🙈. The music written by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall was phenomenal, very catchy and full of emotion and energy. The musical also incorporates many of the Abba songs that were used in the movie. It really is hysterical and will keep you entertained the whole way through. We all thoroughly enjoyed the show and it received a standing ovation at the end.
The musical is performed at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney and really is a beautiful place to host such a show. Having never been here before, it was refreshing to step inside a theatre that is so welcoming and full of character.
Unfortunately the show is now sold out until its run ends later this month. However, you can now download the album from Apple Music and become familiar with the songs before it returns no doubt. I’m sure this will be a musical that will be around for a very long time and could be in a theatre near you before you can even say “You’re terrible Muriel”.
Well done to all the cast and crew who put together a fantastic show and Maggie McKenna who was sensational as Muriel Heslop. I will look forward to seeing this again in the future!!!
So it is only in the last week or 2 that I have even realised that Christmas is soon upon us. Back home in Northern Ireland Christmas season begins as soon as Halloween is over. Actually people start thinking of Christmas even before that 🤦🏼♂️. However, for me, I usually start to get into the spirit of Christmas at the end of November. Although not this year. It is so hot in Sydney (summer time) that the idea of Christmas seems a million light years away. There has also been a lack of Christmas trees and Christmas tunes…or maybe back home we are way over the top with it all. Even when you do spot a Christmas tree, it just doesn’t seem to fit into your idea of Christmas.
I was chatting to an older lady the other day about not feeling like Christmas here and she rightly said that summer is all she knows at Christmas and for her it would be strange to be freezing, never mind seeing snow. I guess it is just what we are used to and opening up to the idea of seeing it from another perspective, like anything really.
With that in mind, I have been looking out for Christmas feels. We took a walk this evening in Sydney’s CBD as I had seen that the street had reopened to the public following tram line work. It has been decorated beautifully for Christmas and provided me with my first Christmas feeling🙌🏼. It really is something special to behold and gives Sydney a Melbourne/European feel.
Following some Christmas shopping (where I noticed Christmas songs playing 🙏🏼) we headed over to see The Lights of Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral. Here a choir sings Christmas carols for an hour which was really lovely. Afterwards the light show commences, displaying an array of images and storytelling projected onto this magnificent cathedral. It was amazing to watch and 100% made me get into the Christmas spirit. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in Sydney. It is a free event and open to everyone.
Now that I am finally and officially in the Christmas spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
So I already knew how amazing Watson’s Bay is and how it is renowned for its fish and chips at Doyle’s on the Beach. I had been a handful of times and always to the same spot. As amazing as it is, I had assumed that was all that was there. However, I had heard recently that there was more on offer at Watson’s Bay if you only walked a little further past the main strip. Last weekend we decided to take a trip and explore the area. Even on the bus ride to Watson’s Bay we could hear locals telling a couple of tourists about the lesser known spots and how amazing the beaches are. We were even more intrigued.
Arriving at Watson’s Bay, we were dropped off at the usual spot. We walked with the other people and when the 2 tourists branched off on their own path, we decided to follow suit. Walking along were some really stunning houses, typical to this wealthy part of Sydney. You can only but dream of ever owning one. They could even be simply used as holiday homes for the rich and famous. Walking for 15 minutes we thought maybe we were lost as the 2 tourists in front had vanished from sight, due to us being too engrossed in the surroundings. But alas, we turned a corner and there it was, the beach we had heard of and it was packed. I guess other people HAD heard of this area. We found out from google maps that it known as Camp Cove. It really was spectacular, as are all the beaches and walkways belonging to Sydney Harbour National Park.
Adding to the beautiful beach setting was a little pier that you could walk onto and a little hut at the end. It just gives you that extra “je ne sais quoi” 👌🏼🤣.
To the right of the beach were lots of trees that lead into a small bush walk. These bush walks are very popular around Sydney. They’re unbelievable and what you may find at the end of a small trek can be really rather rewarding.
So off we trekked and to our amazement we indeed found another little hidden beach. This is known as Lady Bay Beach. It really is picturesque with its lovely tropical trees, white sand and clear blue waters. We were just about to descend the stairs to get a better view when we spotted a naked person standing at the bottom of the stairway 😳!! I had heard that nudist beaches were popular in and around Sydney but I just hadn’t expected to stumble across one. We thought it couldn’t be but as we scanned the area, there were only handful of people there and yes, they were ALL naked. Now each to their own, it must be very liberating to go for a skinny dip or just walk around freely but definitely not something I could do, even if I had the perfect body! We took a few snaps (of the scenery!!!) and briskly carried along the walkway.
I had heard there was a lighthouse at Watson’s Bay and I love a good lighthouse so we headed in that direction, remaining on the walkway. You really do see some amazing views of Sydney and with the summer weather finally here you just can’t beat it. You have to take a moment and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.
I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed by the lighthouse but it is pretty in its own right. It was a popular hit for tourists getting selfies with 🤦🏼♂️. I would have done the same 🤣 but couldn’t be bothered waiting for people to get that perfect snap.
So that was 2 more beaches found in Sydney over the weekend. I wonder how many more are yet to be explored? Sydney, the city that keeps on giving 👏🏼👏🏼
Hello to all my blog readers 👋🏼. I can’t believe I have made it to blog number 10, where has the time gone. I have decided for this blog to share with you some photos that were taken to help promote marriage equality in Australia. I was disheartened to hear that it hadn’t been legalised here in Australia as Sydney is often seen as being forward thinking and holds one of the biggest Mardi Gras in the world. However, tomorrow the result from a large scale postal vote will be revealed. The “Yes Equality” campaign has been working for a long time to broaden people’s horizons and talk about equal marriage for everybody. It is a national campaign to win marriage for all Australians through a vote in Parliament.
Many photographers across Australia have chosen to offer free mini photoshoots for all LGBT people in the hope to spread love and provide positive images of love that may not always be seen. It aims to display love of those couples who are often under or misrepresented. This is part of Fox and Kins #rainbowloveau initiative. Having selected a photographer from Sydney, Bruria Hammer Photography, we were able to pick a time and location. Photographer Bru made us feel relaxed in a situation that is normally outside our comfort zone. Showing affection or even holding hands is not something we would normally do in public.
Thought provoking 🤔
Many pictures were taken in a number of different settings. Luckily for us, Rose Bay Park could offer pictures with greenery, as well as pictures by the water. It was a great experience for us, to be involved in such a great project and to be able to help in some way, no matter how small it may appear. Plus it was great to have some professional photos of us 😉
We can’t thank Bru enough and for the #rainbowloveau campaign. Hopefully more images of love being seen will help to ensure others that this can be normal and possible in today’s society. Let’s hope the result tomorrow will be a positive one. And if not, the campaign of mini photo shoots will be running until it is legalised.
Thanks for reading. See some photographs below. #loveislove #allyouneedislove #rainbowloveau
Living near Rushcutters Bay and having already been to Double Bay and Rose Bay, it was time to take the plunge and walk further around the coastline of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I really wanted to see Nielsen Park after hearing so many good reports. I’m afraid to say we got the bus rather than walking (quite a jaunt from Rose Bay especially in the heat 🙈). Even from when we got off the bus, there was still a bit of a dander. In saying that, it’s a really pleasant walk through lovely Aussie suburbia. There are many amazing houses and properties en route and you really do see how the other half live (it baffles me how anyone can ever afford to live here 😳). However, seeing these awesome abodes with their glistening swimming pools is like torture when you’re being baked alive and are craving for a nice cool dip!
Arriving at Nielsen Park (part of Sydney Harbour National Park) it really doesn’t disappoint. It is a really lovely little beach that is a refreshing change from the busier and more popular eastern suburb beaches. The sea has an area that is protected with shark nets so you can swim without that fear of hearing the Jaws music when putting your head under the water 🦈😱. There is also a cafe for some refreshments or if you are prepared, there are areas for picnicking. If you are after a more secluded beach experience with beautiful waters then this is the place for you. It is quite family orientated and no dogs are permitted.
Having seen Nielsen Park and lapped it up with a flat white, we decided to keep walking until we found another beach area, Parsley Bay, both of which are in the suburb of Vaucluse. We just happened to find it on Google maps and only took 25 minutes to get to. It’s easy to miss the turn off for this beach, after walking back and forth and consulting our map, we luckily found the sign down a little street. It really does add to the sense of adventure of finding somewhere new and unexplored (by us anyway).
At the end of the street you stumble upon a really impressive bridge. Not a massive bridge but it has a lot of character. When you walk across the bridge and turn, you discover the beach. The first sighting really is breathtaking and you would totally forget that you are in Sydney. Absolutely stunning!
Having spent some time walking around and taking in the area (there’s also a little bush trail that takes about 20 minutes 👌🏼), it was time to get some lunch. We decided to head to Watson’s Bay for some fish and chips. Easily accessible by bus from here and only takes about 10 minutes. Having lunch would have made me more than happy, however, as we arrived in Watson’s Bay, we were pleasantly surprised to discover there was a cider festival 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. As we 💚 cider, we were in our element. You could taste about 15 different ciders when you purchased some tokens. We opted for 6 ciders each (60ml taste!). The cloudy ciders were our favourites. They were really delicious and the atmosphere was very relaxed and happy, that sunshine on a Sunday feeling 😉. I would definitely recommend for next year. Finally we had our fish and chips from the famous Doyle’s and really didn’t disappoint. The end to a perfect day 🙏🏼.
Hi everyone!!! Sadly my latest blog has taken a while to come about due to being pretty busy with life, working and having finally joined the gym. With a rare weekend off we decided to undertake the Spit to Manly walk in Sydney. It is a 10km walk/hike/trek that has some breathtaking views of different beaches and harbours, providing the chance to experience some of the bush whilst remaining in the capital city. The walk is pretty well sign posted and took us about 3 hours to complete.
Ready to begin our trek 👌🏼
I have always wanted to complete this trail, mainly to experience the bush without having to travel too far but also to see some of the scenic landscape on our doorstep, all on offer for free. It’s really lovely to catch a bus 20 minutes from your home and feel like you are in a completely different setting. To be honest, we hadn’t planned to walk the whole 10 kilometres, however, when you begin the walk, you become totally immersed in the environment and don’t even see the time passing by. The views are out of this world and you really look forward to what you may see around the next corner. It is a popular route to walk but not as busy as other Sydney walks, considering we went on a Saturday too. It is always nice to see some people about, especially when walking through the bush. You just never know what could jump out at you! We did manage to see and hear a water lizard rustling in the bush that caused quite a startle 🙈🦎.
You have to cross a couple of beaches along the way. Lucky for us the tide was out and we could cross with no problem or having to wade across. If the tide is in, you can move out towards the road until the area is passed. There are local residents about if you do happen to take a wrong turn along the way or in our case, get a little confused when you pass through a very prosperous area of housing ( you feel like you are off the beaten track, apparently fairly common!). When travelling through the bush area there is an opportunity to see some very old aboriginal rock engravings made by the regions Indigenous inhabitants.
I would highly recommend this walk if you have a love for fresh air, luscious scenery and the feeling of adventure. Really outstanding. You can find all the details you need, including how to get there from http://www.sydney.com.
I am extremely happy that spring has officially arrived in Sydney. Apparently it has been the best winter here on record and it has been really dry (it has rained twice since we have arrived) but by gosh can it get cold here. Not the same kind of cold as Northern Ireland but the wind here would cut you in two. With it becoming warmer, it is great to get out and about and really enjoy Sydney and all it has to offer. I have to say, we are really enjoying the outdoors. Even simple things like taking a walk after work or grabbing a coffee is so much more pleasant when it is dry and warmer.
Last weekend we took a return trip to Toronga Zoo. It’s a really impressive zoo and great for seeing the city from another angle. You can take a cable car to the height of the zoo meaning you avoid trekking up a huge hill (not too bad on the way down). It also provides you with spectacular views overlooking the city as well as the elephant enclosure that it towers over.
You could really spend hours at this zoo. I won’t bore you with all the animal pictures as that kills me too but I do love the Australian ones, like the kangaroos and koalas. There were a good few animals I had never seen before too so that was a nice surprise. They also had a great wee sea lion show. Normally I’m not a fan of these type of shows as it seems cruel but these creatures appear to have been rescued and given the chance to be ambassadors for those less fortunate, helping to educate people about the importance of backing safer waters and maintaining a cleaner marine environment.
Let sleeping Aussie animals lie 😴
The best way to travel to the zoo is by hopping onto a ferry at Circular Quay. These ferries can take you to lots of places that are accessible by water. Yesterday we took another of these ferries to Cockatoo Island. We hadn’t planned to go here at all but we were waiting on a ferry to take us home when this ferry arrived first. It seemed an omen that we should go and pay a visit to the island while we had the chance.
The island has that feeling that you have just entered Alcatraz or equally found yourself in an episode of Lost where you might find ‘The Others’. This island had previously been used for ship building, housing prisoners that had re-offended and as a bunker during WW2. Nowadays the island is used as a place for open air concerts. There are lots of tents on the island already pitched for people to camp over night and holiday on the island for said concerts.
It is also a very popular venue for New Years Eve as it provides an amazing view of the Harbour Bridge and therefore, the infamous fireworks display. There are also small but really quaint apartments on the island for those wanting a more pampered overnight stay. Shower facilities are provided on site too.
Besides from the Blair Witch feel to the island, there are a lot of seagulls. The island should be called Seagull Island, certainly no cockatoos were seen! They’re pretty freaky as they sleep here on the island and will give you a large squawk if you approach them 😰 Not for those afraid of birds. It is definitely a place I would love to return to, moreso in a large group (safety in numbers).
If you are fans of a wee TV show called Home and Away (a long running Ozzie soap, pretty big still in the UK and Ireland), then you have to visit the beach where it’s outdoor scenes are filmed at, Palm Beach (otherwise known as Summer Bay). We caught the bus from Sydney CBD and the journey took about an hour and a half to the northern beaches suburb. Palm Beach prides itself on being the jewel of the Northern Beaches and is the most northernly suburb of Sydney. We had seen this beach before but it was a really cloudy day then. We really wanted to see the beach on a blue sky kind of day. It is a stunning area that sits on a peninsula at the end of Barrenjoey Road. It is the home to many a wealthy people, as can be seen by the distinctive and deluxe housing. We got off the bus a stop early as we couldn’t wait to see the scenery. The water, blue skies, clouds, boats, trees and pier just make this a beautiful and tranquil location that photos just cannot do enough justice.
We then walked about 10 minutes along the roadside (no footpaths!) to Governor Phillip Park. This green area is the main entrance to the beach. Walking towards the beach you really do get a sense of being in a scene from Home and Away. The beach itself is breathtaking and you will instantly notice one of the most famous buildings to your left, being that of the Surf Club. Unfortunately it was closed on the day we visited, which was a Friday. Perhaps as it is still winter or maybe because no filming was taking place. Apparently if you want the chance to glimpse some filming, you are best to visit on a Monday or Tuesday (early in the morning). Opposite the Surf Club is a short walkway to the beach, often used in scenes from the show.
Having seen the beach once more, we took a walk to the Boat House and Alf’s Bait Shop. The exteriors are used for the outdoor shots. A really lovely spot if you want to grab something to eat or have a coffee overlooking the water. This is also an area where you can take a tour of the surrounding area with a seaplane. We were lucky enough to see one taking off. I’d say the tours on offer would be pretty special. It’s something I would definitely consider in the future. Have a look at http://sydneybyseaplane.com
There is also a really lovely walk up to Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse. You can see Palm Beach from a great height and the views are spectacular. I also have a love of lighthouses so I couldn’t wait to reach the summit and see it. Although there were a good few steps to the top 😓😓 But well worth it for the views you will see.
I would highly recommend checking out this suburb/beach, you don’t have to be a Home and Away to fan to appreciate its beauty. I for one will definitely be back.
My 4th blog is simply to share with you all how I spent my birthday last weekend. Not an exciting age by any means but 34 years on this earth is definitely something to celebrate. I love birthdays, the fact that they only happen once a year and it’s the 1 day in the year that you can do what you want (within reason!) with those nearest and dearest (also within reason…considering many friends and my family are at home). I was fortunate to celebrate with my other half, good friends here in Oz and I got to make some new friends too which is always an added bonus.
On Friday night we headed to the restaurant named Portēno in Surrey Hills. This is Argentinean food at its best. Really tasty small plates of food to share with a delicious accompanying wine list of exclusive Argentinean, Italian and American wines. Great food to encourage active social dining experiences and the service was on point. We particularly enjoyed the “wood fired animal of the day” which for us was porkbelly. I even received my own slice of birthday cake from Portēno, albeit wanting the ground to open up. I would highly recommend.
My perfect unexpected birthday cake slice 😉
After a lot of food and drinks, it was a relief to go for a short walk to a nearby bar in Surrey Hills. We headed to Button Bar. It is currently in the top ten bars of Surrey Hills and it did not disappoint. Amazing bar with a great vibe/atmosphere. Music was upbeat and certainly got the limbs moving in all directions. Quite an urban/rustic/current vibe with a seemingly nice crowd of people. Really good gin and rum cocktails too if that’s your thing.
The next day, with a slight haze over our eyes and a small hangover, that was cured by a bacon and egg roll (an Aussie favourite for some reason but tastes great with barbecue sauce) we decided to clear the cobwebs with a walk around Rushcutter’s Bay. What a delight to have nearby. A cute little bay with lots of boats, greenery, water and numerous doggies!!! So scenic and nice for a morning stroll. We were trying to find a ferry to the city but after a long walk, google map fails and many hills to climb we found the nearest terminal at Darling Point to be closed at weekends!! Slightly disappointed but the park beside the terminal was stunning. The views of the water towards the city were breathtaking and well worth the unplanned trek to find. Also the houses along Darling Point are magnificent. If you like architecture then it is a pleasure to walk around here.
Darling Point WharfMcKell Park, so glad we stumbled across this park.What a view 👏🏼👏🏼
After a walk and seeing the sights we did what most people from home would do….we went for drinks…and food 😝 The weather was amazing (still can’t believe it’s winter) so we wanted to sit on a roof top bar. We headed to the Glenmore at the Rocks. Lovely spot with a great view of the Opera House. We had lunch, some drinks to cure us from the night before, some more drinks and then made our way to pastures new to meet some more folk.
We visited a place called the Archie Rose Distilling Co. to meet some friends. Whoa 😲 What a place. Such a difference from other bars in Sydney. Basically, it is a spirit distillery, making their own gin, vodka and whiskey to name a few. Then they sell them on their own premises. Great idea and not too pricey. Plain/urban decor but very effective and warms the soul. Lovely ambiance and the sharing platters were a great accompaniment. Would highly recommend a visit, just a short distance from the city centre by taxi.
Today is my Birthday!!!! 🎉🎉🎉. Nice to wake up fresh and look forward to the day ahead. The lovely thing about your birthday is all the Facebook messages from your friends and family and anyone really who cares to wish you well. It really does make you feel amazing and adds to that magical feeling that “today it is MY birthday 😊“. I was extremely fortunate to have those around me who enjoy wanting to make me feel special. For example, preparing balloons and banners while I was in the shower, creating drinks and concoctions so that I felt special and having a new birthday outfit presented (which really makes you feel a million dollars!!!). To top it off we had drinks on the balcony, in the sunshine ☀️ Perfect! I couldn’t have asked for more. It’s the simple things.
We then headed to a newish place in Sydney called Freds. Very quaint/rustic/Downton Abbey. Lovely venue and the food was to die for. Staff were very friendly and the service was top notch. Not something I would do every day but what an experience. I can see why it is so popular.
To continue we thought it would be cool to have a drink in Icebergs at Bondi Beach. The scenery is unreal and I really wanted to experience this amazing restaurant/bar as I have heard many great reports. It did not disappoint. We loved it. Just a couple of drinks to witness the view and it gave us a chance to chat and catch up with other friends who had joined us.
what a view 👌🏼
To round the night off we headed across the road to the Anchor. What a cool little bar. Met some interesting people here and had a great nights craic. The end to a perfect weekend. Thanks to all my friends who came out for me and made it a birthday to remember. Thank also to those reading this blog. It means a lot.
So this blog has taken a while to come about due to being really hectic recently. Having to sort accommodation and beginning employment whilst having a life at the same time takes up a lot of time. Basically, my partner and I made the trip to Hunter Valley for 2 reasons. 1 – being our honeymoon 😍🥂💍 and 2 – wanting/needing a holiday before starting to work and become part of the everyday rat race. We chose Hunter Valley as we have a love of wine 🍷 scenery 🌿 and meeting new people 🙋🏼♂️.
Where to even start?! Such an amazing part of New South Wales and only an hour and a half from Sydney when driving. We were debating travelling by public transport but to be honest it was becoming a bit of a mare trying to organise. In the end we simply hired a car 🚗.
Our first stay was at Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Spa in Pokolbin. Beautiful spot that really epitomised the setting of Dirty Dancing with all the little chalets and that family holiday feel. I'm sorry to say we neither played golf, nor entered the spa 🙈 Rather, we tasted wine! And mighty fine wine too.
I won't bore you with all the deets but I would say the more boutique companies are worth a visit. If you want to sample a good few different wines and learn to taste and appreciate the art of wine tasting then these will be right up your street. Our favourite vineyards/wineries were McLeish Wines,
and Peacock Hill Vineyard.
They provided amazing wines and really engaged with their visitors. We tried numerous tastings but these were the ones that stood out for us and made us feel extremely welcome. There are now approximately 170 different vineyards in Hunter Valley and I'm sure they are all exceptional in they're own right. Too many for one trip…which simply means you will have to keep returning! The semillon is infamous in the Hunter Valley and I have to say it has really made me appreciate this wine type and I will definitely be ordering some bottles in the future from these wineries. You won't often find these wines on the high street so it's good to stock up when you're in the Hunter Valley or you can subscribe to their individual company mailing list (I must do this!).
After sampling copious amounts of wine all day, you're really not fit for much else, other than relaxing or eating 😂. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the Hunter Valley Zoo. I would highly recommend this. What a zoo! Staff are extremely friendly and very interactive with you and the animals. It seems all very natural and it is amazing to see so many famous Aussie animals in what seems like a near natural habitat. Definitely feels like you are in a scene from Crocodile Dundee.
So to conclude, if you have a love of wine or want to learn more about tasting and appreciating wine then I would highly recommend taking a trip to the Hunter. It is very chilled out and is a beautiful part of the country. I for one will definitely be back.
Hello everyone! How’s it going? So I have been in Australia now for just over 2 weeks already. Hard to believe. Time flies when you’re having fun, as well as, when you’re super busy getting your life organised. There was and still is lots to sort out but you have to relax for a bit first and get your bearings, see old haunts and catch up with family and friends living here.
It was a highlight to see the infamous Bondi Beach again. Still as impressive and continues to have that wow factor. Not necessarily for its size as its quite a tiny beach but it is stunning and full of life. There is a real buzz about the beach area, even early in the morning. You will see lots and lots of dogs being walked, people participating in exercise classes and people ice skating! Ok, maybe not every day but there is an ice rink here at present due to the fact that’s it’s winter here down under.
There is also the Bondi Eye, a large carousel type that lets you see the whole beach from quite a height. There is a well known and popular walk from Bondi Beach through to Coogee Beach. It is a beautiful walk departing from Bondi Beach and passes by 4 other stunning beaches before reaching Coogee Beach. It really is a crucial excursion if your are in the vicinity and a really picturesque coastline that takes a couple of hours to complete one way.
Bondi to Coogee walk
Moving into the city, the place I most wanted to see was Circular Quay. From here you can see the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It is when I see these sights that I realise and appreciate that I am in Australia. Having a drink at the Sydney Opera Bar is a definite highlight for me and solidifies the reality of living in Sydney. The views are really outstanding, be it day or night.
My only issue here is the ongoing issue of seagulls!!!! I am not a fan of these birds at all and especially not in Sydney. They can be so cheeky and will stop at nothing to snatch your food if you are dining outside. They can actually be pretty scary. I think it’s best not to feed them to encourage their bad behaviour or you could dine more indoors. To be honest, I found it even worse at Darling Harbour. Although a beautiful location by the water, be wary with eating outside.
A great way to seeing the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour from different angles is to take the Sydney Ferry network. These ferries are a transport system that can take you around those parts of Sydney accessible via water and are a great way of getting a varied photographs of these famous landmarks. If you take a ferry to Kirribilli you can see the sights from another perspective and it’s also a lovely little quaint suburb to visit.
That’s just a quick round up of the most famous tourist landmarks that mean something to me and are always associated with Sydney and Australia.
Hello there. What’s the craic? I have been debating for a long time whether to start blogging or not, mainly down to the time that may be required. However, I feel it is something that could be fun, therapeautic and provide a platform to interact with others from all walks of life. I’m very new to this so please bare with me.
So a little about me. I’m a man in my near mid thirties and I come from Northern Ireland. I had been living in Belfast for the last decade but my ambition was to 1 day return to the land down under. Having already spent a year in Australia on a working holiday visa, I soon acquired the desire to return in the future. 7 years later a lot has changed in my life and I have reached my goal of becoming a permanent resident. It has been a lengthy process with many highs and lows, however, it has been an incredible journey that is still continuing to this day.
Please follow me on my Australian adventure and I will aim to keep you updated and entertained.
Thanks a lot,
When I saw this landmark I knew I was in Australia! 👌🏼