Travel: The Best Walks in the Grampians

What is it that makes us want to climb mountains? It’s a really universal urge, I feel. I’m getting really into hiking lately, partly inspired by my fitness focus (I’ve been all about the bootcamp, surprisingly). Not to mention that I happen to live in such a beautiful place, surrounded by gorgeous walks. This weekend was my second trip to the Grampians and this time we focused on staying to the south and centre, rather than the north.

Grampians Mt Rosea

On Sunday we spent the day clambering up Mt Rosea, which is one of the longer and more challenging day hikes in the Grampians National Park. I’d really recommend this for anyone looking for a more challenging walk away from the crowds. We started by heading up Stony Creek Road from the Mt Rosea carpark, which is definitely the best direction to challenge this loop as you get to clamber up and then take an easier walk down again. It should take around 2 hours to reach the top via the Gate of the East Wind. Any aches and grumbles will soon be silenced by the unbelievable views that greet you once you reach the top. These are widely agreed to be among the best in the Grampians and the great news is that the difficult climb means you’ll get to enjoy them in peace, without the crowds of families that can be found on some of the easier walks.

DSC_0140

DSC_0141

From the top, you need to make sure you turn left from the summit towards Burma Track, an old 4WD track. Be careful though as the signage isn’t great and the path itself is a little overgrown. Just make sure you turn left at any intersection and you’ll reach your original destination eventually. Also I came pretty close to being bitten by a snake, so watch your feet! After jumping at a noise, I turned to notice a large black snake slithering in the other direction. I couldn’t help but wonder how far away the nearest snake bite kit would be.

Other walks I really recommend include:

  • Mt Sturgeon for panoramic views to the south
  • Wonderland Carpark to the Pinnacle for iconic views and a challenging climb
  • Mt Difficult for a really challenging walk with waterfalls

DSC_0087

DSC_0050

DSC_0144

DSC_0042

DSC_0049

Advertisements

Travel: Autumn in Tasmania

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to do a post on my trip to Tasmania. I’m just about ready to organise going on my next one. My hubby is a massive history nerd and had been begging me to go with him so he could check out the old penal colony and see a really important part of Australia’s history. I was also keen to check out MONA and the gorgeous landscape. I have to say Tasmania surpassed all our expectations and more to the point where we’ve officially added it to our ever-expanding list of dream places to run away to.

best 3

best 7

One of my favourite things about Australia is how it feels so young, and yet so old at the same time. The frothing surf and rugged cliffs of Wineglass Bay have an almost timeless quality to them. You feel as if you could be there at the dawn of time or the end of the world and it would still look the same. And when you visit the penal colony, it’s so beautiful but you can imagine how oppressive the same sprawling forests and narrow causeways would have felt to a prisoner there, only really held captive by their fear of being lost in the wild. We were only in Tassie for a long weekend but it felt like weeks, I can’t wait to go back.

best 6

best 9

Alex in Tasmania

If you’re planning a trip soon – here are some things you can’t miss in and around Hobart:

  • Wine Glass Bay
  • The fish farm / truck just before wine glass bay (look out for signs on the way)
  • Port Arthur
  • Ethos Restaurant
  • MONA

best 5

Style: The Weekly Beautiful

IMG_3380

There’s nothing like good friends, food and fresh, sea air to bring you out of a slump. I had a bit of a bad start to the weekend after having a mini crisis of confidence in my new writing class (putting myself out there + public speaking= no fun). Luckily things ended on a much better note with wine and sunset gazing at the beautiful pier in Albert Park. It’s nights like these that make me realise how much I love living in Australia. Even when you’re at your lowest, you’ll come across something so heart-stoppingly stunning that you realise how small your problems really are.

IMG_3376

IMG_3368

IMG_3366

IMG_3357

IMG_3388

I also got to check out Carsten Höller and Jean Paul Gaultier at The National Gallery of Victoria. Getting stuck into a bottle of bubbles in the tea room meant we were super late for the exhibition and were the last ones in. Being a stickler for schedule, I was anxious for everyone to get a move on but as it turned out, this meant we got the place to ourselves and even spotted model Andreja Pejić having a low-key moment with her family. Sometimes a plan falling apart is the most wonderful stroke of luck!

IMG_3351

IMG_3349

IMG_3346

 

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Travel: Beautiful Cinque Terre

City breaks may have some serious style and culture appeal but sometimes it takes having absolutely nothing to do to really be on holiday. Not that you can do nothing just anywhere… there’s an art to it. For me sickly sweet cocktails by the pool of a personality-lacking resort just won’t do it. Call it the egomaniac creative in me but I prefer to while-away summer days in a place of serious beauty with lashings of authenticity.

IMG_0088.JPG
I could write a guide of things you absolutely must-do in Cinque Terre but wouldn’t that defy the point of taking it easy? I will say this, find a spot by the harbour where you can read a good book with your feet dangling in the water. One sunset a fellow traveller kindly offered to take a picture of me and my hubble sitting on a rock watching the sunset as it struck her as really beautiful. I thanked her but declined feeling that it wouldn’t have been a perfect moment if we’d have taken a picture.

IMG_0039.JPG

IMG_0037.JPG

IMG_0061.JPG

IMG_0062.JPG

IMG_0055.JPG

IMG_0072.JPG

IMG_0065.JPG

IMG_0034.JPG

IMG_0064.JPG

IMG_0119.JPG

Travel: The best food picks in Florence

From its winding streets to its Renaissance masterpieces and incredible food, Florence might just be one of my new favourite places. There’s a real sense of history to the city that I’ve really missed living in Australia. Looking at buildings and streets that have barely changed in hundreds of years, it’s all too easy to let your imagination run wild with the plots, intrigue and decadence this city has seen over the centuries.

Florence

Florence is small enough that you can probably throw away the guide book and lose yourself in the twisting, mostly car-free streets. If you’re a foodie like me though, there’s a few spots you’ll probably want on your radar so here’s my suggestions…

Gelato

Florence is famed for having the best gelato in the world so you won’t be short of options. The only way to fit them all in is to have at least two servings a day, which is alright with me! If in doubt look for a queue and you probably won’t be disappointed but I loved Vestri and Carabé for authentic flavours that live up to the hype.

10521173_981346359725_3842731729839437555_n

Mercato Centrale

On my first day me and the hubby rushed off to the central markets for lunch to check out some local produce and the famed Da Nerborne, which usually has lines around the block. Unfortunately it was shut for the summer holidays (an occupational hazard of Italy in August). As we headed upstairs to console ourselves at the bar we inadvertently found the best pizza we’ve ever tasted from a counter in the food court area. Seriously, I don’t know if it was because we were so downbeat and starving, but it was incredible. Plus the cheeky team of Italian fellas manning the ovens while flirting with the tourists put a smile on my face.

10640995_981346304835_6142705536585153859_n

Late Night Bites

The off-beat Oltrano quarter south of the river is the place to be after dark in Florence. Backpackers and locals grab a bottle of beer and head to the Piazza Santo Spirito to make the most of warm summer evenings. We sampled the best of the city’s spitzs at the neighbourhood bars and ended up at Osteria Santo Spirito for delicious spaghetti vongole served on huge traditional ceramic plates.

Florence back streets

Cathedral Picks

While you’re on-the-go by the cathedral, stop off at one of the adorable sandwich and wine stalls. We grabbed mozzarella and ham paninos at I  Due Fratellini, which is a tiny cubby filled with the freshest ingredients and floor-to-ceiling wine proving that sometimes the simplest things in life are the sweetest.

 

Travel: A Day in Regional Victoria

With dusty highways and sun-soaked golden plains; this is a place to get lost in. Jump in a car and escape the city for a drive across the expansive landscape of regional Victoria. From hidden bush walks to family-owned wineries and gold-rush pubs; the area around Daylesford and Kyneton is perfect for savouring the last days of summer.

wpid-DSC_9934_.jpg

wpid-DSC_9860.jpg

DSC_9922

It’s not hard to sense ghosts of the past if you’re willing to switch off and open up. While some tourists insist on loud and obnoxious conversations atop Hanging Rock (yes I mean you, you awful Aussie couple who felt the need to recount your whole life story), this is a deeply spiritual place. One to reflect upon and feel your own insignificance.

wpid-DSC_9891_Josh.jpg

A darker, foreboding atmosphere serves as a reminder of the macabre past. Let’s not forget that this is the area where bandits roamed, treasures were hidden and aboriginals were slaughtered. Apparently many aboriginals still find it difficult to visit Hanging Rock due to an uncomfortable sensation of unfinished business. There’s even a waterfall of blood named after the infamous bushranger Mad Dan Morgan (really).

wpid-DSC_9914_Aladin.jpg

DSC_9915

Lunch at The Royal George Hotel

After flicking through a tired 90s walking guide in a local winery and spotting an image of a paradise-like gorge, we finished the day trekking through Lerderderg State Park. My obsession with True Detective went into overdrive as we started to see creepy structures made of vines and branches. Unsure of whether we were heading towards an evening swim or our grizzly deaths at the hands of a mystic cult, we continued with growing uncertainty. Finally we turned a corner to find the dried up gorge still had a small swimming pool, where we cooled off before making a sharpish exit before the sun went down. That is not somewhere I would want to be lost in the dark.

wpid-DSC_9964_Sanna.jpg

wpid-DSC_9971_Peter.jpg

wpid-DSC_9937_Josh.jpg

Travel: A Weekend in Sydney

I think the measure of a great city is one that changes slightly with each visit. Sydney passes that test with ease, offering previously undiscovered treasures as well as a fresh perspective on those classic views for anyone willing to head off the tourist trail.

20140219-192718.jpg

Here are my top picks for cool things to do should you have a few days to spend in Sydney sometime soon.

Cockatoo Island

History geeks and ghost hunters alike will love exploring the bleak warehouses and creepy corners of Cockatoo Island. Sydney often feels like an extremely young city, but Cockatoo Island gives a rare glimpse of the desolate and deadly environment that would have greeted convicts arriving on her shores and the desperately harsh life they would have led.

20140219-193143.jpg

20140219-194453.jpg

A former convict prison camp turned ship building site, the island is dotted with colonial buildings and creepy WW2 tunnels. The best part is that you’re pretty much completely free to explore each building; walking around the old machinery and giving yourself the chills imagining all the lives lost over the years.

20140219-191944.jpg

If history and ghosts don’t appeal to you, the island happens to host one of the coolest bars in Sydney, where you can sip rum cocktails on a sun-lounger with a great view of the harbour in the distance. So there’s always that.

Porteño

It’s probably fair to say Porteño is having a bit of a moment. Part traditional South American BBQ joint, part 50s cocktail lounge, Porteño has the good fortune to be set around a beautiful indoor courtyard with a nostalgic, Mexican vibe. Plus the perfectly-quiffed rock-a-billy staff bring just enough retro-cool without being kitsch.

20140219-191902.jpg

Despite a long wait for a table when me and Alex went, we were happy to decamp to the bar upstairs, which serves a pretty decent whisky sour. From what I remember after drinking a fair few, the food was pretty good too. Luckily they sent us home with a doggy bag, as by that stage I wasn’t too much help at getting through the BBQ lamb and pork my husband ordered.

The Grounds at Alexandria

My favourite kind of places happen to be those that mix great architecture, design and foodie treats, so The Grounds at Alexandria is always on my list of favourite hang-outs. The kitchen garden and cute market stalls provide a great distraction while you’re waiting for a table in the converted former pie-factory inside.20140219-194521.jpg

Coffee lovers come here for the speciality roasts and space-age machinery but the food refuses to be overshadowed, with beautiful organic breakfasts and an incredible array of freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries.

Bronte and Manly Beaches

20140219-194534.jpg

You can’t visit Sydney and not hit the beach. Although not particularly visually appealing, I’ve always found the surf at Manly to be even and reliable and you can rent boards right off the beach. Meanwhile Bronte is one of the city’s most beautiful beaches and also has pretty sweet waves. If surf hopping isn’t your style, why not try Paddle Boarding at Rose Bay instead?20140219-191930.jpg

Honorary mentions:

I also love stuffing my face at Black Star Pastry and Belljar Coffee (both Newtown) and Adriano Zumbo’s cafes.