Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a day in Healesville

Healesville is actually one of my favourite places to get away to, other than Warburton. It’s nice because it’s that little bit closer, and has a bit more going on, which makes it the perfect area to run away to for a quick day trip! If you haven’t got plans over the Easter weekend, it might be a good time to head on over to Healesville…

 

TO EAT:
– Innocent Bystander Winery
Amazing wine, pizzas, cheeses, breads and pastries. It’s not cheap, but it is quality.
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– Mocha & Lime
Gorgeous little breakfast and lunch cafe, simple food done well.

– Healesville Harvest
A personal favourite of mine – incredible sandwiches using only the very best ingredients, and a cake cabinet that’ll make your jaw drop.

– Beechworth Bakery
Duh.

 

TO SHOP:
– Healesville Jewellers
Probably my favourite jewellery shop in the world – they do they most beautiful pieces with precious stones, and they’re very reasonably priced. They also do a lot of one-off pieces, and can adjust ring sizes on site.

– The Judith Eardley Save Wildlife Centre Op Shop
One of the best op shops in Victoria for books, in my opinion – their collection is enormous and super cheap!

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TO DO:

– Visit the weekend market
Because everyone loves a good market! You can pick up some absolutely brilliant little treasures there, too, if you have time to dig around a little…

– Stop at the Yarra Vallery Chocolaterie on the way home
Because their chocolate is magnificent, and so are the views…
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Yarra Glen Racecourse Craft Market, Melbourne 

Yarra Glen Racecourse Craft Market
http://www.craftmarkets.com.au/markets/yarra-glen.aspx

Happy Monday morning, everyone! I’m more than ready for the cooler weather, but it seems that Melbourne hasn’t quite got the memo that it is in fact now autumn; we’re still getting bright, hot, 30°C sunny days! I usually turn into a frightened little vampire in that kind of weather, having super pale skin and light-sensitivity induced migraines, but I was actually kinda feeling it yesterday! The husband and I took a little drive up to the Yarra Glen Market, which we used to go to a fair bit but haven’t been to in a couple of years.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of Victoria’s biggest and best craft markets, held on the first Sunday of the month, full of carefully selected vendors selling the highest quality products. Home made preserves and cakes, children’s clothing and jewellery are the most popular stalls, as are the little food stalls. It gets pretty busy, so it’s good to arrive early so you have your pick of the goodies, and there’s plenty of room to enjoy a tea or coffee and breakfast out in the fresh country air.

Good to know bit of information when you visit:
– On site car parking costs $4.00
– Most vendors are cash only
– Yes, if you’re planning to get there early, they so have a few coffee stalls to wake you up!
– It is family and kid friendly, with things like face painting and a petting zoo around
– It’s also a great place to stock up on treats for your furry friends, with a few dog treat and “clothing” stalls. Marley recommends the Dog Snack Company.

The next market is to be held on Sunday 3rd of April, so you’ve got plenty of time to clear your schedules for it! In the mean time, hope everyone has a great week  : )

Eat here: Shinjuku Asia-yokochō (rooftop street food), Tokyo

Shinjuku Asia-yokochō
Rooftop of Dai 2 Towa Kaikan, 1-21-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku district, Tokyo

Time to throw it back to Tokyo for the day! Because I was scrolling through photos of the trip on my phone and I’d like to go back now. I found this place in the pages of my mini Pocket Tokyo Lonely Planet book, and loved the sound of a street food market set up on the rooftop in the middle of the city!

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It wasn’t the easiest to find – we had to stop into a few convenience stores to ask for help, so if you’re going to visit, I’d suggest saving the details (name, address, etc) in your phone so you can show that to someone in the area if you get lost like I did. When you finally find the right building, expect some dodgy looking guys offering to escort you up the elevator to the roof; they’re nice enough, but they’ll then try to steer you to their mates’ food stalls so you spend your cash there. A polite “thank you but we’d like to look around first” should suffice.

Once you’re finally on the rooftop, you’ll find all sorts of Asian food – Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Thai, Malaysian… the works. And they’re all licensed, too, so it’s a pretty popular place for the kids to meet up and hang out at.

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We chose a Singaporean place, where we were served by an absolutely lovely Nepalese guy who was a heap of fun to chat to! Multi coloured prawn crackers to get us started…

Along with some fresh salmon and avocado + garlic bread…

Followed by absolutely amazing Singaporean dumplings (actual flavour bombs)…

And the most phenomenal bacon dish in the world – little sausages and veggies with thick, greasy, absurdly tasty and salty bacon pieces. I’d go back just to eat this.

It was cheap and tasty, the service was unreal, the atmosphere was SO much fun, and when they started rolling back the roof tarps and I realised I was eating this incredible food under the stars on a rooftop in Tokyo, well… I mean, get better than that!

Eat & shop here: Ameyoko Market, Tokyo

Ameyoko Market and shopping street
Wedged in between JR Okachimachi Station or JR Ueno Station (see below)

*** EDIT: Since writing this post I’ve visited again and written up a guide to the market – click on through to keep reading! ***

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I re-visited Chicago’s Christkindl Christmas Market last week; this week I’m crossing the globe and heading back to Tokyo for a very different kind of market…

The Ameyoko Market is essentially a mammoth maze of streets that are home to 500-odd stalls, selling everything from dried fish to nail polish. It was originally opened as a black market post-war, but it’s visited by what seemed like everyone in the city now.

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Crazy busy with an absolutely electric atmosphere, it was a really fun place to explore. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite the fact that most of the streets were full of shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic. Heaps of delicious food stops on the way through, with a lot of the younger vendors having a bit of fun trying to convince obvious foreigners to stop and enjoy a meal with them in their limited English. As I keep saying, food is the great connector of people all over the world 🙂

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I got lucky and stumbled on a sushi house that had a massive line out the front, which to me screams “GREAT FOOD!”

I joined the line, pointed to the picture that had the bowl of what I guessed was a whole lot of tuna on it, and followed the waitress to a bench seat in a crammed, steamy little “kitchen”…

10 minutes or so later, this bowl of heaven was ceremoniously plonked in front of me. The most incredible, fresh, soft tuna I’ve ever had. Fatty tuna, minced tuna, belly tuna, it was all there, and it was all so melt-in-your-mouth soft you barely had to chew it. All laid on top of a generous serving of rice, it was the perfect lunch to fuel up for the rest of the afternoon exploring. Don’t be scared of the long lines at these markets – long lines = good food!

 

Winding my way around the market, I came across another line an hour later – taiyaki! Custard filled, fish shaped waffles. Yes please!

Again, I joined the line, pointed to the picture, and got my steaming hot custard sea creature. Easy to see what all the fuss is about – these things are unreal! Creamy smooth vanilla custard inside a golden crisp waffle, perfect hand held market food.

 

As for shopping, everything did have marked prices, so bartering didn’t seem to be encouraged or accepted at all. That said, the prices were all pretty reasonable; I certainly had no need to barter for anything I was looking at.

It was pretty easy to get to and find, only a short train ride away from my accommodation in Shinjuku, and well and truly worth a visit!

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Chicago’s Christkindl Christmas Market

Christkindlmarket Chicago
http://www.christkindlmarket.com/

Christmas season is in full swing, people! Tis the season! Deck the halls! Eat the pretzels and drink the mulled wine! Unless you’re in Australia, in which case eat the BBQ’s prawns and drink the beer! And pine trees aren’t really cool here – we’re all about giant lego trees instead.  But seriously, how amazing is this?!

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Last year’s Christmas saw us in a very different climate to the one we’re used to at this time of year – icy cold Chicago. And I loved it! If I had it my way, I’d have frosty Christmases a lot more often, and I’m particularly keen for a Euro-Christmas soon (the first and last one I had was back in 2002… holy crap I’m so old!), which is actually on the cards… Anyway, reading Becky’s post late last week on Berlin’s Christmas markets reminded me of the Christmas market we got to experience in Chicago, which is a city with a surprisingly high European population. While we were researching things to do over Christmas in Chicago, we couldn’t have been more excited to have found out they had their own little German-style Christkindl Christmas Market!

The market in Chicago first ran in 1996, and has become more and more popular every year since. The history of the Christkind originates in Germany, and she is a fairy-like creature, resplendent in gold robes, a sparkling crown perched on her equally golden hair. Think of her as the prettier version of Santa Claus, being the official gift bearer to German children.

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We arrived into Chicago the night of December 23rd, and decided to spend the afternoon of Christmas Eve at the market, along with a few hundred others. It was appropriately cold and a little rainy, the smell of mulled wine and pretzels in the air, beautifully decorated stalls selling intricately handmade Christmas tree decorations, beautifully decorated Christmas cookies, warm hats, scarves and gloves, and quaint little wooden handicrafts. I picked up a gorgeous little glass Christmas ornament, and made it my mission to get it home in one piece. God only knows how, but I actually did!

It might not be something you’d automatically think of doing in Chicago, but if you’re there in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s the most fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit, and it’s only made me even more determined to get to Germany to check out the markets that inspired this one!