Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

Eat here: Yamato, Melbourne

Yamato
28 Corrs Lane, Melbourne CBD

It’s been a while since my last visit here, and I was so excited to get back again (this time with husband in tow); this is exactly the type of place I look for when I’m travelling and in search of an authentic food experience without the bells and whistles. And while that’s great, it’s important to remember to look for these places in your own backyard, too.

Yamato is located down a tiny little alleyway in a spot that is the definition of nondescript – a small, rundown-looking building with a plain, almost tacky (especially at night when it’s all lit up), sign bearing its name. Get inside and the space looks even smaller, with tables shoved in close together and the walls decked out with cute little trinkets and printed paper signs advertising the day’s specials stuck onto the walls with tape and blu-tack.

The menu is pretty broad and delicious looking, so we decided to pick and choose a few plates to share. The seaweed salad I started on was delicious (but then I’m a bit weird and really love seaweed salad!), and the tempura was so good I completely forgot to take a picture of it… But after that, there was sushi.

The salmon and tuna sushi combo was super fresh; melt-in-your-mouth fresh. And the salmon avocado rolls we followed them up with were even better, mostly because of the healthy dousing in Kewpie mayo 😉 my favourite!

Husband also asked if they had cold soba noodles with dipping sauce on the menu; he’s heard me talk about how much I loved eating it when I was on Tokyo, and was keen to try it before we head over together in January – thankfully, he was not disappointed. While the noodles weren’t quite as chewy or the broth quite as punch as the stuff I had in Tokyo, it was still fantastic. It’s amazing how delicious a simple dish like cold noodles can be when you’re do it right 🙂

While it did get a little annoying having to repeatedly ask for water (they fill your glass for you rather than just leaving a bottle on the table), the staff are very efficient and polite, and a good part of the reason I suspect they’re always so busy! They don’t have room for many, so I suggest getting in early for dinner before the crowds hit, and relaxing into a nice long evening of Japanese deliciousness… and maybe a little plum wine!

And Melbourne people – if you have any other suggestions for sweet little places like this one, please share them around! I’d love to discover a few more eateries like this 🙂

 

Yamato Japanese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Warburton

A few months ago, I took a little timeout weekend away for myself in Warburton. I absolutely love it there – it is SO peaceful and quiet, it’s beautiful and just so easy to wind down and feel calm. I went back a few weeks later with husband, because a day trip seemed a good idea to pass a weekend, and I really wanted to show him the incredible Californian Redwood forest. But it rained. A lot. We both really wanted to go back to this beautiful teeny tiny town, and finally an opportunity presented itself – Melbourne, being the sport mad city it is, decided only a few weeks ago to call a public holiday the day before AFL Grand Final Day. If you’re not an Aussie, taking the day off work before a footy game probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you, but this state also takes a public holiday in honour of a 3 minute horse race, so, you know…

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Anyway, this year that public holiday Friday happened to fall on our 5 year wedding anniversary. We decided to take advantage of the time off together, and after I finished work on Thursday, we drove up to Warburton for a  night away 🙂 We both desperately needed it, and it was so nice to spend a bit of down time together away from our normal lives, particularly before I head off to Japan next week (NEXT WEEK?! ARGH!! I NEED TO PACK!!). I enjoyed putting together the part 1 and part 2 Beechworth mini-guides, so I thought I’d put together another one for this beautiful little pocket of Victoria that doesn’t get nearly enough visitors – here’s how to spend a weekend in Warburton!

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
Just under an hour and a half in the car from Melbourne’s CBD will have you in Warburton – easy!

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Stay here:
Alpine Retreat Hotel
3340 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.alpineretreat.com.au/accommodation.htm

This is going to depend how princessy you’re feeling, but for an absolute maximum of AUD$105 per night, you can’t really go past the Alpine Retreat Hotel, AKA the pub! Rooms start from $80 per night, and if you ask for a room with a view, you’re going to be away from the noise of the pub at night and have the most gorgeous view over the river in the morning. Added bonus – should you feel like a drink, the pub is just downstairs! 

Eat here:

Little Joe
3416 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
https://www.facebook.com/warburtonlittlejoe
IMG_2107Visit for: Some of the best wood fire pizza going around. And those marinated olives…

 

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar
3373 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theriverview.com.au/
IMG_2120Visit for: Friendly service, a gorgeous view of the river from the back terrace, simple but delicious food, breakfast in particular – for something simple, the muesli with fruit compote, yoghurt and milk is delicious, and if you wanna treat yourself a little more, the bacon and eggs are some of the best you’ll ever have!

 

The Patchwork Tea House
3305 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://thepatchworkteahouse.com/

Visit for: the most heavenly scones, blackberry jam and the rhubarb cream tea. Wow..

 

The Warburton Bakery
3415 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.warburtonbakery.com.au/
IMG_2135Visit for: The absolute best sausage rolls in Australia. Dead set.

 

Shop here:

The Old Tea Shop
3393 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theoldteashop.com.au/
IMG_9691Visit for: Quite possibly the most impressive range of tea I’ve ever seen. Highly recommend the Macadamia tea, the Caramel Rooibos, and the Sticky Toffee… so much deliciousness! Also a great idea to tuck into some baked-to-order gluten free gem scones. Because they’re magical, caeliac or not.

 

What-Nots
3395 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2132Visit for: The most perfect array of vintage what-nots. Not junk, genuine, collectors items and the most gorgeous little bits and pieces you’ll want to take home with you.

 

What to see and do:

Californian Redwoods
Cement Creek Rd, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2154I’ve written about the Redwoods before from a previous visit this year, but the stunningly silent forest is full of almost 1500 giant Californian Redwoods. It’s one of the truly most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever had the honour of spending time in, and it’s somewhere I know I’m going to visit over and over again now for the rest of my life 🙂

Mount Donna Buang
Address
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au
IMG_2093At 1250m above sea level, this beautiful location turns into a gorgeous snowfield in winter. Outside of snow season, you can (and should) climb the 21m tall summit tower for the most incredible views out over the Yarra Valley, the Dandenong and Cathedral Ranges, Mount Baw Baw and The Alps.

Enjoy the Warburton River Walk
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Pass by the suspension bridges and just enjoy a bit of time down by the river. Highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat from the bakery and taking your brown paper bag of sausage roll and pie down to one of the benches. Enjoy lunch and walk it off with the most beautiful views!

Eat here: Coop’s Place, New Orleans

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St, New Orleans
http://www.coopsplace.net/

You know how some places are just referred to as a city institution? This is one of them. We asked a few locals where they’d recommend for a good feed on our way to a gig on Frenchman Street, and every response was “COOP’S PLACE! YOU GOTTA EAT THERE!” OK!

So we roll up to this dicey, dive bar looking place on Decatur St. It’s early (around 5:30pm) and already completely packed to the rafters and noisy as hell. There’s nanna sitting in the corner with her cocktail, and a dude in bike leathers on the next table. This is obviously the place to be; remember, first glances can be deceiving!

We settled into a corner table, placed a drink order with the no-nonsense guy who gave us menus in return, and got studying. We decided to go with the classics:

– fried crawfish (top left)
– gumbo (bottom)
– fried chicken (top right)
–  rabbit jambalaya (bottom of the big white plate)
– and slaw

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Holy wow.. Coop’s Place doles out some SERIOUSLY good food, and it’s absolutely no wonder every man and his dog pointed us in that direction!! The gumbo was magic, such intense flavours that were all perfect in that little bowl. The crawfish were amazing, despite not quite being in season yet – buttery, white meat with the perfect coating; the exact same can be said for the chicken, actually. Tender meat, perfectly seasoned and golden crunchy coating. The rabbit jambalaya was a little on the dry side for me, but mixed in with a little slaw, and it was gold again.

On a night where I was feeling a bit flat and unwell, this was THE perfect table full of comfort food. Not only that, Coop’s Place itself was like walking into a crazy family dinner; a lot of people, obviously locals, knew each other and were having a great time. Even we couldn’t help being drawn into it, laughing along when the table next to us erupted at God only knows what, singing along with another table when song we knew started to play over the speakers. I tell you, if a night at Coop’s Place doesn’t get you in a great mood, not much else will! So when you go to New Orleans and people tell you to eat at Coop’s Place, don’t be put off by your first look at it – walk right on it without hesitation, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy some gumbo and crawfish!!

 

Coop's Place on Urbanspoon

Roman dining – one of the best meals of my life!

 

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I can’t even tell you how much I hate myself for not remembering what this place was called. I can’t believe I didn’t bother to write the name or address down, to take a photo of the little sign out the front, nothing… what an idiot! That said, my husband maintains that if we were to go back to Rome, he’d be able to remember how to get there… we found it on the walk back from the Vatican. It was pouring, and I mean really pouring rain, we were wet and hungry and needed to stop for warmth and food. Just as we were getting desperate, as fate would have it, this place appeared like the proverbial oasis in the dessert. We ambled in, discarding drenched coats, scarves and beanies, and settled in to what felt like the living room of a family member. That could be mostly because I’m Italian, and am accustomed to big family dinners. Whatever. This place was amazing.

The service was really fantastic, very attentive and helpful. Before we’d said a word, a basket of bread arrived, for which we were very grateful. We placed our orders and didn’t wait long at all for our lunch to arrive. First up came the Caprese salad of fresh tomatoes, basil and bocconcini cheese. My favourite! The wine was pretty darn good too!

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And next came the pasta. Husband had the pesto linguine you can see at the top of the picture below. I had the pasta at the bottom of the picture, which we both agree is the best pasta either of us have ever had to this day. Rigatoni with ricotta and eggplant. It was rich and creamy, and tasted like no other pasta I’ve ever had before. This was phenomenal. Even more amazing was how much husband loved it – he usually doesn’t like eggplant or ricotta. It was really unexpected for it to have had so much flavour and punch, but it was absolutely perfect. It’s a big call for a wog to name her best ever plate of pasta, but (sorry Nonna!!!) this was hands down “the one” for me.

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If ANYONE recognises this place, please, what is it called?!?!?!? I NEED TO GO BACK!!!!!