12 months and 12 photos (2019)

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

January – Taveuni

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

February – Belfast comes to Melbourne

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

March – Meet my parents in Thailand

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

April – 10 years later

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

May – Home

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

June – A time of reflection

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

July – Quality time

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

August – Leura

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

September – A personal journey

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

October – Wedding dress shopping

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

Novemeber – My cousin

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

December – Christmas time

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

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’›

Fiji baby πŸ’›

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 πŸ™ˆ).

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 😊.

Plantation Island

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 πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ. 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 πŸ‘πŸ». 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 Γ  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 πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

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 πŸ’«. 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 πŸ˜‡ – 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 πŸ™ˆπŸ€£.

Thanks for reading, Bula Vinaka! 🌸

W 😊