Why The Rocks is my Dream Dining Destination

The reason The Rocks hits number one on my list of favourite places to dine in Sydney, is because of how many OUTSTANDING restaurants, bars and cafés it has to offer. What makes it better is that they each have a different atmosphere, their own perks, and are just a 2 minute walk from the iconic harbour.

If you only had one night in the city, I would tell you to head to El Camino Cantina. A Tex-Mex restaurant with oversized margaritas and tapas share platters (think crispy tacos, sizzling quesadillas and nachos dripping in cheese) it’s a destination you can’t miss.

I went here for dinner with a friend the other night, and was blown away. The walls are adorned with Mexican themed collectables and animation-style art, giving the place a groovy, retro vibe. We went for the Cadillac Platter which served up a selection of chilli chicken wings, jalapeño poppers, tuna ceviche tacos, guacamole, chicken and cheese quesadilla, and chilli con carne – which tasted as good as it sounds.

Of course, the night wouldn’t have been complete without a couple of cheeky cocktails. Their oversized glasses (the picture below doesn’t do it justice) make the experience even more exciting… and a little hazy (I blame the tequila). I went with a Classic Frozen MargaritaHere Comes the Sun with tequila and orange juice and Sympathy for the Devil with ginger beer, lime and jalapeño syrup.

Next time I’ll be sure to taste their churros, which come with cinnamon sugar, Mexican caramel, and are apparently to die for.

If Mexican isn’t your thing, head over to Zia Pina Pizzeria, owned by the same family for the past 3 decades (there’s a reason why their food is so good). I would recommend the Zucca pizza with cheese, tomato base, grilled pumpkin, olives, parmesan cheese and rocket, or the Veal Gnocchi.

There’s also the Munich Brauhaus which does Bavarian food in a traditional and festive fashion. The wait staff are dressed in dirndls and lederhosen, serving up house-made sausages, freshly baked pretzels, schnitzels, crispy pork belly, and of course, lots of beer.

For dessert my favourite has to be the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café, where I usually finish the night with a dark chocolate raspberry cheesecake, or a milk chocolate mousse with macadamia cremeux. These desserts don’t just taste amazing, their presentation is magnificent and sometimes difficult to destroy (check out the menu for pictures).

Or, if you’re feeling like a real cheat night, head on over to Pancakes on The Rocks, a revered dessert venue which does pancakes every way you can think. My favourite is the decadent Black Forest Cherry, which involves chocolate pancakes with cherries, brandy sauce, creamy chocolate ice cream and chocolate chips, all doused in chocolate sauce.

 

Leave comments below if you know any other great places at The Rocks! I’d love to check them out xxx

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Harbour Shadow Blue for wonderful food by Sydney harbour.

A Safari in South Africa

Upon travelling to South Africa I was removed from the humdrum busy-ness of Sydney city and placed in a world of vast green landscapes with lots of sunshine and animals roaming freely.

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Staying at a beautiful little cottage-like guesthouse called Heritage House, which was in a close-by town called St. Lucia, we traveled to game parks, reserves, beaches and estuaries each day to see the wildlife.

The customer service at Heritage House was divine. We were greeted with an offering of tea and coffee complimented by delicious date & coconut balls, traditional homemade buttermilk rusks (which I’m dying to try baking at home) and dark chocolate truffles.

Each morning there was full breakfast served. Upon arrival to brekkie we were immediately asked how we would like our eggs (sunny side up please) and then promptly a large plate of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, onion, and toast would arrive. On the side we had a buffet of cocktail glasses filled with greek yogurt/berry compote/muesli alongside more toast, spreads, tea, coffee, juice, buttermilk rusks and cereal.

I could wax lyrical about the delightful food available, but undoubtedly the best part of the trip was the time we spent at Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Game Park, just one hour or so from where we were staying. We woke at

That day we woke at 5am and were driven in a safari truck by a local Zulu tour guide named Tsebo (pronounced with a click of the tongue at the beginning), who was so passionate about the animals and plant life that it made the day even more enjoyable.

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We spent the day spotting animals, had some hair-raising encounters with moody elephants in musth, and (astoundingly) managed to see all of the Big 5 – African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros.

Here is some of what I managed to capture, even though most of the time I was so in awe of the animals I forgot about taking pictures:

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xx

 

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Savannah Red, for AFRICA

 

Getting Lost Amongst the Sea Shells

And JUST after we finished up with the Easter long weekend, we were blessed with yet another long weekend due to Anzac day (see the awesome, slightly excessive cookie I baked here).

I was luckily enough to be invited up for a trip to Hawks Nest for the weekend, which is one of my favourite coastal getaways, as it brings back memories of countless holidays I had there as a kid.

It’s just a 2 hour drive from Sydney, and I’ve always had a secret love for the peacefulness of car trips, but I did bring my book The Girl on the Train to help pass the time. Side note on the book: it’s incredible. If you haven’t read it, make sure you do, although beware it’s very addictive and easy to get lost in. Or, take the lazy route and watch the movie, because it’s one of the few films that is as exciting as the book.

We were only up at the holiday house for 3 days, and in that time we grabbed night-time ice creams, went for walks on the beach where I practiced my photography on the seashells, did bike rides, went for ocean swims and did a bunch of bush walks. Below is a pic I snapped on a cycle to Winda Woppa, which I took just as the sun was setting. The scenery was breath-taking, and I really took a moment to soak it all up.

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My favourite day by far was bang in the middle when we took the speedboat out for the day. The best feeling in the world is having a salty ocean breeze dancing on my face and hair, and this was perfect with the sun shining down and warming us up. We sped around the bay admiring the houses and beaches in the Nelson’s Bay area and stopped to grab coffees at a cute little dockside coffee station at midday. We wrapped up the day at Tea Gardens (neighbouring suburb) and sat at a quaint cafe for tea and scones which were delicious.

I had a divine weekend and was a little upset when it was over so quickly. I’m already excited to go back and if you ever get the chance to go to Hawks Nest, it’s the perfect place for a beachside holiday in a location that isn’t too built-up or populated.

xx

Escaping to Byron Bay on a Whim

For months now my best friend and I have been playing with the idea of doing a sporadic trip away to experience something different from Sydney for a couple of days. So, about a month ago (on a whim) we just thought FUCK it and booked tickets to Byron Bay.

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Byron Bay is a coastal town in Australia and is only an hour flight (or an uncomfortably long 9 hour drive) from Sydney. It’s got beautiful beaches and bushwalks (one to the Byron Lighthouse pictured above) but is also known for its relaxed, hippie vibe and alternative culture – it has lots of vegan destinations, where you can find eco-friendly products.

We wanted to keep the trip pretty cheap since we booked last minute and didn’t have reams of cash to work with. The flights weren’t too cruel to the budget but we tried to be cost effective with accommodation. We stayed in a caravan park, only a 10 minute walk from the centre of town, and were given a sweet little cabin which had a double bed, a stove, microwave, tv, eating area and a small bathroom. Since we didn’t plan to spend that much time in our rooms it was absolutely perfect.

We stayed 7 days, and spent time swimming on the main beach, shopping, buying ice-creams from the local favourite In The Pink (I was a fiend for the chunky MARS icecream), trying restaurants and doing walks along the beach and to some of the look-out points over the ocean:

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On one of the days we took a trip to a highly recommended place called The Farm, which is a community owned farm (that you can take a look around) which uses some of its produce for a great restaurant called the Three Blue Ducks. We made the grand mistake of deciding to walk from Byron to the restaurant (in 33˚C heat I’ll add), which took about 1.5 hours, so by the time we got there we were ravenous and felt like we were going to collapse from dehydration.

Luckily, the restaurant had delicious lunch options and I indulged in sticky pork ribs with lime, and quenched my thirst with hibiscus, elderflower, ginger & tumeric kombucha. We were sitting on wooden benches right in the middle of the farm and had roosters waltzing around our feet as we ate.

A couple of nights we tried Byron’s bars (which have a huge backpacker demographic) and our favourite by far was the Railway Bar. It was very casual (I rocked up wearing flip flops) and had people all ages enjoying a drink together. Some nights we didn’t feel like going out, and instead bought ingredients to make nachos, pasta or burritos, which we would enjoy in bed whilst watching TV.

I also found the Love Byron Bay chocolate ’boutique’, and I’m still deciding if it was an amazing or concerning discovery. After I found out that they sold almost every type of chocolate under the sun (they even had 100% Ecuadorian dark chocolate) I must have spent about AU$15 every day just buying bars of choccy to taste.

All in all we had a wonderful week relaxing and enjoy our time together and we will definitely go back. It was about my fifth time to Byron, and every time I go I discover a whole lot more – I would definitely recommend travelling there if you get the chance!

xx

 

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Dodger blue for an exciting escape

 

Phuket Travel Diaries | Phi Phi Islands, Patong Beach dance shows, Old Phuket Town…

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Phuket was a stark change to the organised chaos of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Bangkok, as we were thrown into island life where there was no set schedule to anything and locals worked off their own sense of time.

The first thing I noticed was the heat. Although the temperature was almost the same as the past few cities (around 35˚C) it was an intense, unshaded heat which baked the earth rather than the muggy, humid heat we got in Bangkok/HCMC that felt like we were constantly taking a warm shower. As unpleasant as that sounds it gave us the perfect excuse to go swimming every chance we got.

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We stayed in Old Phuket Town, just a short bus trip away from all the major beaches. Old Phuket Town (pictured above) is quite different from other destinations in Phuket as it is seen as the historical part of the city and showcases colourful colonial architecture from European influence dating back centuries ago.

Walking down these historical main roads was surreal as it felt like we were caught in a time capsule far away from the frenzy of urban streets, riddled with dirt and smog, which we had gotten used to.

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On two of the days we took tours out to explore the Phi Phi islands by speedboat, which was the highlight of my whole Asia trip. My favourite was the Sunrise Tour where we began the day speeding into the sun peeking over the horizon. Stopping off at various beaches and lagoons such as Maya Bay (pictured above) we had breakfast on the beach and were able to snorkel in the warm, pristine blue waters. The day was broken up by a traditional Thai lunch (various curries, stir fried morning glory, spiced meats and battered fish) at a restaurant on one island.

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What was most fascinating was how little the islands had been built up. After the destruction of the boxing day Tsunami in 2004, it was only recently that people have started building on the islands again. This meant that all of the islands were covered in undisturbed, dense jungle.

A final destination of note was Patong Beach. Known for its party scene, it has a main strip of bars and clubs that come alive in the evening. On our first night out we went for dinner at an Italian place that did really authentic cheese covered pizza (not very Thai, but still delicious). After filling ourselves up we popped in and out of a couple of nightclubs which were brimming with good dance music and enthusiastic party-goers. Towards the end of the night we stumbled into a ping pong show which was more shocking than I expected. If you are familiar with ping pong shows you will know what I mean when I say it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget but never attend again.

All in all Phuket was wildly different to any of the other places we had been and we really enjoyed our time immersing ourselves in the island life.

xx

 

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Turquoise blue for the calm, clear Phuket sea

 

Bangkok Travel Diaries | Temples, Markets, Cat & Husky cafes…

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Bangkok, Thailand is a city that showcases exotic food, busy markets, intense smoggy traffic, beautiful temples and great shopping destinations all in one.

The main sacred area that tourists and locals crowd to see is the Grand Palace which is situated on the river. However, unfortunately when we went it was a special prayer day so only Thai people wearing black were allowed in. Instead, we went to Wat Arun which is the Temple of the Dawn (pictured above) and climbed amongst the intricate tile designs and depictions of Buddhist deities for an eye-catching view of the people dotting around below.

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Something we heard about before coming to Bangkok was their Husky cafe. Situated in a suburban area just a couple of minutes walk from a chaotic main city road was the True Love Siberian Husky cafe. Each viewing/petting of the huskies was at different time slots (I assume to give the huskies a break from constant attention), so we booked into an afternoon slot when we arrived. Whilst waiting, we ordered a slice of cake and a drink as part of the deal.

Seeing the huskies up close and being able to play with them was so much fun. It was evident that they were very well loved by their owners as often the huskies would bound away from strangers and excitedly play with their carers.

We also visited a cat cafe in the heart of Bangkok on another day, and although I’m not much of a cat person I had lots of fun petting and playing with the cats who walked around and over us whilst we ate our tea and cake.

Something we spent a lot of time doing in Bangkok was exploring their different markets, where locals would sell produce and clothes at very low prices. The Chatchuchak market is a must see as it is this massive district filled with market stalls that cover about 30 square kilometres. The best part of that day was being able to buy a big seafood lunch for AUD$2 and multiple serves of coconut ice cream.

A friend recomb3mended that I get the coconut ice cream and I was not disappointed. With the weather wavering around 35˚C all we felt like was ice cream to cool us down. It was served in half a young coconut shell and topped with coconut-based jellies which perfectly complimented the ice cream itself. I ended up having 3 servings that day because it was so refreshingly delicious.

I found Bangkok was a very interesting city and also very liveable. The train transport systems are very cheap, fast, efficient and easy to use and we had a lot of fun exploring different stations and districts that the trains snaked through.

Although it was a little more expensive that Ho Chi Minh City we still had a lot of fun and stayed on budget and I would recommend Bangkok to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Thai culture.

Next up we are having a massive change in scenery, as we switch to island life in Phuket…

 

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Bulgarian rose to capture the organised chaos of Bangkok

 

 

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Diaries

I recently travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and it was one of the most overwhelmingly chaotic and yet beautiful cities I have ever been to. I was greeted by swarms of motorbikes, locals selling produce, smog, smiling faces and the smell of steamed rice.

Our first stop was the Cu Chi tunnels, a remnant of the Vietnam War used by the Viet Cong to stay out of enemy sight. The tour took us into the tunnels and showed us hideous booby traps used on American soldiers, including hidden pits filled with rust covered spokes. The tunnels themselves were very narrow (about 1m x 1m x 1m), and crawling through them in the darkness was spine tingling…definitely not for someone who is claustrophobic.

Most nights we gorged on Pho (pronounced fur), a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish with meats such as beef or chicken. The most authentic Pho we had was from a restaurant called Pho 2000 where we had our meal for AU$4.00 each amongst lots of locals.

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Another must do in the city is to go to a nail salon (if it’s your thing). All the nail treatments are incredibly cheap but very professional. I treated myself to nail art, getting a mini masterpiece of colourful birds and flowers blossoming on each fingernail. In the afternoon we strolled about the main district of the city (District 1) showing off our nails and sampling several cakes with intricate cream icing designs from their amazing bakeries.

On the third day we took a full day tour on the Mekong Delta (a maze of rivers that snake through Vietnam) where we got a taste of local life on various islands on the outskirts of Vietnam, such as Unicorn Island.

The best part was floating along a river between two islands on a Vietnamese long boat. In some places the river was carpeted by green moss, which parted as the boat waded through. Surrounding us were leaves that feathered out from the trees in the silence we could hear water licking the banks and birds chirruping. It was magical.

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For lunch we had buffet of traditional meals such as beef rib Pho, an assortment of fried and steamed fish, spring rolls, steamed veggies and soup, all complimented with big jugs of their cheap Tiger beer. After lunch we entered a different world to the busy Ho Chi Minh City centre, as we explored the island on bicycles and saw locals picking fruits from the trees and collecting honey.

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Ho Chi Minh city was a unique and eye-opening experience and I will come back to explore Hanoi and Ha Long bay. Next stop Thailand!

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My Travel Work Out Routine

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Keeping up the motivation to workout every day is tough and it’s even harder when I’m traveling.  Usually, when I’m on holiday all I want to do after a day of sight-seeing is crash on the hotel bed.

However, exercising is so integral to making me feel good that I try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes (burns roughly 300 calories) of exercise per travel day. Instead of relying on the hotels having a gym, I either choose to work out to a particular fitness video, or I do Tabata training.

Tabata training is a Japanese workout method that features doing high intensity interval training for short periods of time, with shorter rest. There are lots of different Tabata workouts, but I like the one I have created because it works my whole body:

For each set (each number), there are 5 repetitions, 20 seconds each with 10 seconds rest.

  1. Star jumps
  2. Push ups
  3. Sit ups
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Lunges
  6. Jumps (getting your knees to your chest)

This whole workout is quite short, which is perfect for squeezing in when travelling, and can be done in your hotel room in front of the TV because it doesn’t rely on equipment. If you want to work yourself for longer, obviously you can do more reps or do the whole workout twice through.

If I am feeling like a more intense workout or I need a source of motivation I use a video I have downloaded onto my phone from Youtube. There are thousands of workout videos on Youtube, but this particular video is my favourite because the personal trainers are really positive and encouraging, which is great because I have zero motivation for fitness when I’ve spent the day relaxing.

Again this workout doesn’t require any equipment, which is essential because who wants to fill up their suitcase with 10kg of weights.

I know it’s really tough to exercise on holiday but I find it does leave me feeling happier and healthier, and more excited to try all the exotic meals I’m buying.

xx

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Deep Fuschia for keeping fit

 

Four Months of Freedom in Sydney

Uni is finally over and I have a break for four months.

I’m so excited to just relax and explore Sydney and finally do the Asia travel I’ve been anticipating for months.

Since I finished last Wednesday I have packed in seeing as many people as I can and doing as much exciting stuff as I can fit in around my shifts at work (9 to 5 four days a week this Christmas season).

Since then I have also been to a couple of restaurants with friends, my favourites being Courtyard at Coogee Beach, where I had an acai bowl and a matcha latte, and BahBQ a Brazilian restaurant in Crows Nest which offers the unique experience of a Brazilian Churrasco where you pay $59pp to have an all you can eat degustation.

My favourite meals are the fire roasted meats, garlic prawns, grilled halloumi, polenta chips, crumbed banana and roasted pineapple.

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I also had a shopping day with my best friend and we went to see the massive Christmas tree (3 stories high) at Queen Victoria Building and bought some Christmas presents for friends. I also bought myself two pairs of bikini bottoms from H&M for only $15, to increase my swimmer collection for when I go traveling to beachy places like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Byron Bay in the coming months.

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Standing underneath the tree at QVB – hundreds of Swarovski crystals create a dazzling illusion as they hang from a mirror base

I’m so excited for the coming months, I’ve had a great first year at uni but I am very ready to relax with friends, travel and eat good food instead of being cramped in my room studying.

Tomorrow I’m off for breakfast at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Kepos Street Kitchen, and I’m tossing up between ‘Dad’s favourite brekky – falafel, hummus, labneh, soft boiled egg, tomato salad, schiacciata bread’ or the ‘Avocado toast, coriander seeds, crispy kale, poached eggs’.

Then, for dinner I’m meeting up with a childhood friend for one of our favourite chill nights at the Green Gourmet which is a vegan restaurant that does fake ‘meat’ and I always order the ‘Lo Han Tsai 十八羅漢齋煲 -Bean curd stick, baby sweet corn, carrot, tiger lily buds, wood ear, red date, bean vermicelli & fresh vegetables, stir fried with a delightful blend of Hoi Sin & soy sauce’.

xx

A very exciting pair: Christmas and Travelling to NYC

December 1st 2015:

Today we put up our Christmas tree.

I feel like the best part of putting up the Christmas tree is all the (very important) festivity that happens with it.

I always put a Christmas movie on (this time it was Love Actually) and light a Christmas candle – you have to buy the limited edition Night Before Christmas, by Glasshouse if you haven’t already. I also baked some cinnamon sugar butter cookies to snack on whilst we decorated.

Unfortunately the final outcome was a rather dusty, half squashed, dying tree with way too much glittery decor and tinsel but nevertheless it definitely put me in the Christmas mood.

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Today:

In just under two weeks I’m embarking on a trip to New York City.

Myself and a very close friend are off to New York in the new year to delve into a world of exquisite style, delicious food and high fashion.

Coming from a warm climate (by warm I mean Sydney is swelteringly hot at the moment) my first thought was about what I was going to wear in a New York winter.

NOTE: Last time I went to NYC I was that classic tourist in a puffy Katmandu jacket, wearing twenty pairs of leggings, socks with sandals, and a 20 kg camera, trying to trek across Times Square. So, to save myself from looking like a gobstopper in 50 layers of clothing again I’ve invested in a stylish figure-hugging winter coat and boots. ASOS has been brilliant for helping me find stylish winter clothes, because all Sydney hosts at the moment are crop tops, shorts and thongs.

I’ve also got a pretty comprehensive list of what I want to do: I want to have cream cheese bagels and chai latte’s (once a day minimum) from Starbucks, I want to wander through Saks Fifth Avenue and pretend I can afford something, I want to explore Soho and order Shake Shack, I want to get lost in Central Park, I want to go for a degustation at the Plaza (if I’m honest this was inspired by Bride Wars) and I HAVE to go to little Italy for pizza, pasta and some more pizza.

Might be a little too much to squeeze in, but the anticipation of it all is exciting enough.

xx