From the Webjet blog: How I Caught The Travel Bug

When Caitlin from Webjet reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I’d be interested in contributing to a blog post they were putting together, I jumped at the chance; the post was going to be compiled of the answers by different travel bloggers to the question “how did you catch the travel bug?” Just to clarify, this is not a Webjet sponsored post, nor was I paid for my contribution; this is just the kind of project I love to contribute to, because this is the sort of thing that connects us :)

I love reading about how other bloggers got into travel, because everyone’s paths are SO different. While we all end up in the same place (infected with the travel bug, wanting to learn and see more, constantly looking to the next adventure), there are so many different paths that lead people to that point, and that is truly fascinating.

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You can read about several other bloggers’ experiences here on Webjet’s blog, but here’s the quick, Reader’s Digest version of my story…

Fiji is where it all started for me. It was where I discovered my calling in life; to pack my bags and find out what more there was on this earth.

My first big trip was to Fiji, back in 1995 with my parents and sisters. Yes, we stayed at lovely resorts, but through making friends with the resort staff and being invited to visit their villages and families, we were also privy to the real Fiji; realising that although we’re all human, our experiences are SO different, really flicked a switch in me.

Almost 20 years later, in 2013, I finally achieved a lifelong goal of going to Egypt. That niggling feeling (the dormant travel bug, I guess) that had been simmering since that first trip to Fiji finally pushed me to turn my impossible dream into an achievable goal.

In Egypt, I had a massive light bulb moment; I remembered what I first felt in Fiji, and desperately wanted to see all of the different, exciting worlds out there. Up until that point, I’d not only lived in my comfort zone, but also with depression since my teenage years. Suddenly, I was in middle of a Nubian Village on the banks of the Nile, with no safety, and also no depression or anxiety… That was when I knew I had the travel bug. Seeing new cultures and learning and experiencing had always been my “drug,” and I knew that night in Egypt that I couldn’t go back to a life without that!

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Top 10 Things To Do in San Francisco

When I worked as a travel consultant, I heard over and over and over again how much Melbournians loved San Francisco because they were such similar cities. I heard so many people singing San Francisco’s praises, and because of that, I was a little apprehensive to visit – high expectations generally lead to big let downs. But if you can put all of the comparisons and people telling you “you HAVE to love it!” aside, you might find that you actually will love it. I did – it’s a great literary city with fantastic food and a rich history. And while there is a heap to do, here are my top 10 picks!
1. See Alcatraz Island
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https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/
Where? Departs from Pier 33
Why go? It brings history to life. It’s mind blowing, because walking through it (with the best audio commentary I’ve ever heard), it’s actually pretty easy to imagine how things would have been for the men held there. It’s stepping back in time in the most fascinating way, and it should be top of your list when you visit.
How long will you need? Allow a good 3 hours
Cost? Adult tickets currently start at USD35.50 per person
Read more:
 – Alcatraz part 1
– Alcatraz part 2
– Through my eyes: Canteen menu at Alcatraz
– Inside the hospital of Alcatraz

 

2. Hang out in Golden Gate Park
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https://goldengatepark.com/
Where? The massive chunk of green between Fulton St and Lincoln Way
Why go? It’s a really beautiful park and offers quite a lot of activities – there’s the museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, Botanical Gardens, California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, playgrounds, archery field, and a HEAP more.
How long will you need? Depends how much you want to do!
Cost? Wandering around the park is free, but specific attractions all attract their own fees – more details on the website.
Read more:
 – San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

 

3. Take a coffee and croissant break at Tartine Bakery
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http://www.tartinebakery.com/
Where? 600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
Why go? Because this was one of the best almond croissants I’ve ever stuffed my face with, and husband’s coffee was the size of a small fish bowl. And it was actually good!
How long will you need? Give yourself a bit of time because there’s often a wait for tables. If you snag one, though, stay as long as you want to keep eating and drinking!
Cost? USD$10.00 will get you a coffee, a croissant and change. Worth it.
Read more:
 – Eat here: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

 

4. Pick up some reading material at City Lights Bookstore
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http://citylights.com/
Where? 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
Why go? City Lights is an interesting combination of independent bookstore and publishing house with a strong connection to the Beat Generation; not only does it live next door to Jack Kerouac Alley, but founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested in the 1950’s after publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems on obscenity charges.
How long will you need? Book nerds – give yourself an hour. Normal people – 10 minutes should suffice.
Cost? Depends how many books you’re taking home!
Read more:
 – Shop here: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

 

5. Eat all of the chocolate at Ghirardelli Square
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http://www.ghirardellisq.com/
Where?  900 North Point Street at the corner of Beach and Larkin Streets
Why go? Because chocolate. The original Ghirardelli chocolate factory. They make chocolate, They sell chocolate. They serve it up in hot drinks and cute desserts. That should be all the reason you need. Chocolate. Also, there’s other stuff, like a pub, shops, the occasional live music set.
How long will you need? Chocoholics – an hour or two to shop and eat. Normal people – maybe half an hour. And get your heads checked.
Cost? Depends how much chocolate you’ll be wanting to take home…
Read more:
 – Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

 

6. Get lost in Chinatown, and stop for dim sum when you get hungry
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http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/
Where? Yummy Yummy will feed you well at 758 Pacific Ave
Why go? San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the best in the world, and for good reason – it’s enormous! Which means you’ll be hungry after doing laps of it – Yummy Yummy was where we stopped, and it was a great move. Amazing food, great prices, homely atmosphere!
How long will you need? A good half a day to explore and eat
Cost? Everything you see above that we ate cost us around USD$30.00 (including tip)
Read more:
– Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

 

7. Eat seafood and people watch at Fisherman’s Wharf
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http://www.fishermanswharf.org/
Where? Fisherman’s Wharf
Why go? There is SO much to do around there – shopping, eating, activities like Madame Tussauds, the aquarium, Pier 39, the Maritime National Historical Park, sightseeing tours and sea lion watching.
How long will you need? A few hours
Cost? Depends what you’re doing – we grabbed a cup of fresh seafood and sat by the water and watched the world go buy, and that only cost a few dollars!

 

8. Cheer on the 49ers!
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http://www.prontoshuttles.com/
Where? Levi’s Stadium is located in Santa Clara, about an hour from San Francisco by car
Why go? While husband and I both very much wanted to see an NFL game, the distance of the 49ers stadium from the city was very off-putting, until we found out about GameDay Shuttle (now Pronto Shuttles) – through them we were able to organise a single game pass for us both which included a shuttle service from the city to the game and back, and for an extra fee we added on the Fiesta Pre-Game pass – lunch and drinks at a Mexican restaurant near the stadium with the rest of the people on the shuttle! It was the best experience, and I’d absolutely do it again!
How long will you need? All day
Cost? We paid around USD$85.00 for the shuttle and buffet lunch (not including game tickets), but I believe Pronto’s services start from as little as USD$29.00 for a single pass.

 

9. Check out the street art
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Where? Everywhere!
Why go? There’s no one place to go, it’s more a case of keeping an eye out and wandering around the smaller streets as well as the main ones. The street art in this city is incredible, so when you see a giant mural on a wall, take the time to actually stop and look at it!
How long will you need? All day, every day!
Cost? Free!!!

 

10. The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps
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http://www.tiledsteps.org/
Where? Moraga St, between 15th and 16th Aves
Why go? Because it’s gorgeous. It’s a true neighbourhood effort, and a shining example of what can be achieved when people work together. It’s also a great way to work off all of those delicious calories you’ve been eating.
How long will you need? Leave an hour – you may want to kick back and relax after climbing those stairs!
Cost? Free

 

Eat here: Gontran Cherrier, Melbourne (pastry)

Gontran Cherrier
140-144 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.gontrancherrier.com.au/

Around 7 months ago, renowned French patisserie king Gontran Cherrier brought his buttery operation to Melbourne. The bloggers and foodies flocked in droves; I personally couldn’t justify waiting in a line for half an hour to get an over-priced croissant. I finally visited for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon tucking into a golden delicious almond croissant, I finally understood what the fuss was about.

Eager to try more of the beauties in the display window, we made our way back last weekend for breaky. Rolling in for a late breakfast (for us) just before 10am on a Sunday morning, it was pleasantly quiet, with only a few tables occupied – muuuuuch better than the initial rush when they opened!

We ordered a few bits and pieces; husband chose the a quiche Lorraine studded with bacon and Gruyère cheese; I didn’t take a photos of it, but for $8.00, it was a little on the small side. Which was a shame because it was one of the nicest quiches either of us have ever tasted! We also went with a Croque Monsieur – again, not the cheapest toastie at $12.00, but, again, probably the best toasted ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Buttery and golden, crispy crusts and super soft bread, and that ham and cheese were magic.

I also spied a beautiful long piece of bread spread with Lescure butter and covered in some very pretty, colourful tomatoes. I added that to the order on a whim, not really expecting the husband to be too into it, but turned out he loved it, too. There’s something incredible about a simple bread, butter and tomato dish, when they’re all of the freshest and highest quality.

Those three dishes and a coffee for the husband set us back around $40 – not bad for a Melbourne breakfast, ridiculously over-priced for most other cities, but no regrets here; good food is worth paying more for, in our opinion.

 

We also couldn’t go past a sweet, and took a chocolate croissant home with us to tuck into with some tea and coffee. Nowhere near enough chocolate, but my goodness that pastry is something else. We’ve had the almond croissants there, too (we have a tendency to order an almond croissant whenever possible), and that was pretty spectacular.

We were a little sad that there weren’t any almond croissants left by the time we were leaving… the chocolate one wasn’t a bad back up option, though. Now that the crowds have died down, it’s probably time to head back a bit more often – it’s the perfect spot for a Sunday morning breakfast or coffee session; maybe not every weekend, but definitely those weekend you feel like being a little bit fancy and treating yourself :)


Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Through my eyes: the streets of Shinjuku by night, Tokyo, Japan

We don’t indulge in many luxuries or extravagances at home; we buy our groceries at the market or homebrand at the supermarket. Majority of my clothes are from Target or KMart or items I’ve bought online at ASOS for 70% off. Our furtniture is far from designer. But one indulgence we do allow ourselves is our Foxtel subscription. Not so much for the reality rubbish marathons, but the BBC Knowledge and VICE docos, and the travel shows. It’s amazing how much of the world you can experience at least second hand from home!

Anyway, we spent an hour as hysterical as hyenas on the weekend watching a new show on channel 9, Travel Guides; “a new seven-part TV series where ordinary families are sent to review some of the most exotic and popular tourist locations around the globe. Six groups from all over Australia will travel to seven destinations and tell Australia what they truly thought of their holiday adventure. And it’s fair to say that not everyone’s idea of paradise is the same. Each group comes from a very different walk of life, and each holiday will suit a particular group’s taste.”

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They visited Tokyo in the first episode, and it was an absolute scream for me, having been there myself – seeing it through the eyes of other people so different to me was great, incredibly entertaining, and such a poignant (albeit sometimes not the most dignified) reminder that, with different backgrounds and experiences, we all see things so differently.

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I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo, though, and that episode got me even more excited. Looking back through some photos, I found these, all taken around the area I stayed in at night. It was gorgeous, fairly quiet, and I never once felt unsafe walking around alone. I can’t wait to get back!

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Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne V.2 (diner)

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

It’s hard to believe it was September 2015 when I first visited and blogged about this place… since then, it’s become our favourite Sunday breakfast nook and feels like a second home :)

Almost 18 months since that first visit, nothing about Sookie La La is slipping. The service is wonderful, prompt, and most importantly, welcoming and friendly. The booths are perfect – your own private little breakfast nooks. And the standard of the food is still top notch – it’s simple, homely, comforting food that makes you feel like you’re in a favourite aunt’s home.

Husband’s new favourite thing in the world is their fried chicken on waffles. You can probably see why. But tasting it is another story – the waffles are soft and fluffy, and the chicken is perfectly white and tender on the inside, with the perfect crunch on the outside. We’ve eaten a bit of fried chicken, but Sookie La La’s is both of our favourite.

I went with the reuben sandwich, the towering king of bread and corned beef and sauerkraut and pickles and cheese and Russian dressing. This is a proper sandwich. For breakfast or lunch, it’s just magic.

After a long week, when we roll up to their glass front door on a Sunday morning and slide into one of the beautiful wooden booths, it really feels like home. We both seem to sigh in relief as we sit down to a hot pot of strong tea for me and a chocolatey coffee for the husband, always brought over by the ever-smiling lady of the house, and we know that no matter what we order, it’s going to be delicious. We’ve spent many hours planning our #👫WorldTour there. Talking about our weeks at work. Mulling over problems that need solving. Discussing our plans for the future and remembering all of the good and bad from the past. We eventually look out at the street through the shuttered windows with the Sunday morning light streaming in, and reluctantly slide out of our booth to get on with the day. Always knowing we’ll be back soon :)

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato