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 πŸ™‚

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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MarΓ©

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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 πŸ™‚

 

Autumn in Sydney πŸ‚πŸ

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 πŸ˜†. 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 πŸ˜‰.

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). πŸ’πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ 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 πŸ™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 πŸ™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 πŸ˜‹.

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 πŸ™ŠπŸ€£. 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 πŸ‚.

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 😊

Taveuni 🌺

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 😊

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 πŸ’›

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 πŸ™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 🀣. 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 πŸ™πŸΌ.

Feeling fresh before the trek starts πŸ˜…

Even the streams could be difficult to cross πŸ™Š

Gorgeous coastline

This river was not as easy as it looks to cross

We were delighted to have survived πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ

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.

Thanks for reading!

W πŸ’›

Blue Mountains β›°

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 πŸ™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 😊

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 😝.

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 😊

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 : ManannΓ‘n 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 πŸ˜….

2 : Olive Bizarre – Afternoon Tea β˜•οΈπŸ°

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 πŸ›

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 πŸ–

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.

Thanks for reading!

W 😊

1 year in Sydney completed βœ…

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 πŸ˜†. 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.

Bondi Junction

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 πŸ™ˆπŸ˜. 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 πŸ˜‰.

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!!

Thanks for reading! πŸ™πŸΌW πŸ’›

City slicker or beach bum⁉️ πŸ™πŸ– part 2: Bondi

In part 1 we looked at city life as I had previously lived in the city suburb of Darlinghurst. Now that I am temporarily in Bondi I will try to highlight the pros and cons of the area from what I have experienced so far with the aim of helping me decide where would be best to live, in the city or by the beach.

Bondi Beach is world renowned. It has the wow factor from the very first time you set your eyes on it. The beach is really, really stunning. You can see it’s full beauty when standing at either the north or south side.

View from North Bondi

View from South Bondi

Although not a massive beach, it does fairly pack a punch in the scenic stakes. It is an exceptionally clean beach with white sand and amazing waves if you’re into surfing or simply want to jump into them for the laugh! Bondi Rescue is filmed here and you can often see the guys in action saving lives. Bondi itself has the holiday vibe down to a tee. There are hoards of tourists, surfers and people walking around barefoot. You have the sand, the sea and the main promenade full of the usual holiday paraphernalia. During the summer months Bondi is heaving with people from all over the globe. Living here at this time you really have the feeling of being on a permanent holiday. It offers a great vibe to live in and there is always a buzz from dusk until dawn. In the winter months Bondi does quieten down which is also lovely as you can appreciate the beauty more here without all the tourists and it is a lot easier to get public transport.

The promenade offers a great walkway from 1 side of Bondi to the other and provides the opportunity for local artists to display some of their amazing work along the aptly named graffiti wall. This is a highlight for me, seeing all these different art murals that change every few months or so. You will see many tourists and locals (including me) having their photos taken by the different artworks.

Bondi has an array of restaurants, cafes and bars on offer that will be sure to cater to all your social needs. They are quirky and lively with really cool atmospheres and vary greatly to suit all types of people. Basically there is something for everyone. You can get amazing protein shakes and aΓ§ai bowls at Acai Brothers, fantastic Bloody Mary’s at Bloody Mary’s Bondi (funnily enough! – also another one in Darlinghurst πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ), lovely cocktails at Icebergs (also if you also want a SPECTACULAR view of Bondi, this is the place to be ), or simply a quiet schooner at Beach Road (personal fave) or Bondi Hotel. There are 2 RSLs in Bondi for anyone wishing to become a member. Here you can receive drink and food offers/discounts with world class views and become immersed in the suburb you are living in. If you haven’t heard of an RSL you can read about them here. The food in North Bondi RSL is impressive and very reasonably priced. If you want to try Japanese I cannot recommend ‘SOY’ highly enough. Very authentic with the perfect ambiance. We visited Brown Sugar last week for food and were not disappointed. Food was impeccable and plentiful, the setting was cosy, dimly lit and lively and the service was fantastic. This is a place I will definitely return to. There are lots of little salad bars and sushi places, steak houses and impressive restaurants. The world really is your oyster here in this 1 suburb.

Coffee at North Bondi RSLBloody Mary’s cocktails at Bloody Mary’s

Japanese cuisine at Soy

If you love a good market, Bondi Markets are on every weekend and are hugely popular. To be honest I’m not a big market person but even I have enjoyed strolling through here and picked up a couple of bargains. There are some good sunglasses stalls and lots on offer for foodies. Saturday is the Farmers Market with lots of fresh produce and exciting dishes to try. Sunday includes food but includes vintage clothes, accessories, health items and much more. To find more info you can check their website here.

For my final ‘pro Bondi’ point, you have the famous Bondi to Coogee walk. This is one of the most scenic walks you can carry out in Sydney, NSW, even Australia. The views are spectacular. It takes a couple of hours 1 way to complete the 6km walk (especially if you stop to take photos and admire the scenery) taking in the coastline, beaches, parks and rock pools. You can read all about this famous walk here.

As you can see, Bondi has A LOT to offer. So many positive points to consider. I will quickly run through the negative aspects. Bondi can be a nightmare to get in and out of. Yes there are buses that run very regularly to and from Bondi Junction where there is a train station. However, with no train line to Bondi, you will always have to get to Bondi Junction before you can go anywhere by train. The volume of people using the buses is huge and you will often be standing for the entire journey (often feels like a rollercoaster too). Bondi feels like it’s own little bubble, away from everywhere else. Even getting a taxi to the city can be a nightmare as it’s further away (whereas Darlinghurst is very central to everywhere!). For me, this is my biggest gripe. Another thing to consider is the sheer amount of tourists. In the summer it is crazily busy, buses are that packed that they will simply drive past you when at full capacity. So it’s best if you’re not in a rush to get back out of Bondi 🀣. It won’t just be the buses that are busy either, everywhere is busy, including supermarkets and cafes. For me, these are the 2 main issues, transport and the large volume of tourists. Having said that, I don’t know if these 2 reasons would be enough to deter me from living in Bondi. Should I find a suitable place to live in Bondi, I would be really happy to live here and become a Bondi local 😊😊😊. The beach life is a really positive influencing factor. The fact that you can head to the beach before or after work and have a swim is very appealing and there is an amazing atmosphere here that makes you feel that you are living in a very special place.

Thanks for reading!

City slicker or beach bum⁉️ πŸ™πŸ– part 1: Darlinghurst

For this blog I will be doing a 2 hander as I don’t want to bore you all with 1 long chunky article.

I would like to take a look at where I had previously lived in Darlinghurst and where I live currently in Bondi Beach. Do I want to live in/near the city CBD or would I prefer to live by the beach. This is an ongoing battle I have with myself on a nearly daily basis πŸ™ˆ. I will look at the pros and cons for each and maybe you the reader can offer me your thoughts also on this matter πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ.

Darlinghurst – cityscape

Bondi – beachscape

I can honestly say that I really loved living in Darlinghurst and it offers many positive points. It is peaceful at night and provides a very warm and safe environment to live in. No rowdy backpackers or students nearby πŸ™Š. There are many cultures found here and is an extremely gay friendly neighbourhood, with the infamous Oxford Street in the vicinity (home to the ever popular Mardis Gras πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ)

There are numerous amounts of coffee shops and cafes, restaurants and bars. The location is great as you are only a short bus ride, train ride or even walk to the CBD and most popular tourist attractions. You are also extremely close to other popular suburbs, such as Kings Cross, Paddington, Surrey Hills, Edgecliff and my favourite suburb, albeit much smaller, Fiveways.

Fiveways as you can maybe guess, has 5 different roads leading into it. It has a very popular pub here (The Royal Hotel Paddington – with fantastic outdoor space on 2 levels), a supermarket, lovely restaurants, trendy coffee shops and a few boutique stores. If you are a lover of all things quaint, you should check out this neighbourhood.

You can also catch the bus easily to get to local and often less known beaches found in Vaucluse as well as being a stones throw away from Rushcutters Bay. These offer breathtaking views and less crowded locations if you are looking an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday Sydney life. Double Bay and Rose Bay are also on your doorstep.

Rushcutters Bay

Darlinghurst has many, many positives. However, there are a few drawbacks. Being so close to the city means there is a lot of traffic. As a pedestrian you may think this isn’t a problem. Yet, the traffic does create a lot of noise, especially first thing in the morning and rush hour traffic in the evening. It also creates huge amounts of dust and dirt, therefore, expect to be cleaning all the time, especially if you have your windows open, which for most people, is a necessity (I can’t even sleep with the windows closed). It also has the well known issue of having many hills. You are up and down very steep hills many times and on a daily basis. Yes this is great exercise but it doesn’t ever get any easier and creates such a sweat πŸ˜“. This is fine if you have nowhere to go but if you’re heading to work or out for dinner, expect to be needing a shower pretty soon thereafter.

As you can see there are a good few positives and 3 negatives that I mentioned. We will see what the pros and cons of Bondi are and see if they can conquer the city life. Please let me know what you’re thoughts are if you either live in one of these places or you have the same city/beach or even rural dilemma.

Thanks for reading.

W 😊