A Christmas gift guide… for the travellers

Happy Friday! Hope everyone is ready for the weekend Christmas shopping anarchy that’s about to hit… A little more help coming your way this morning, your gift guide for the travellers and explorers…

Clockwise from top left…

1. Scratch map
What’s it all about? A world map with a foil layer that can be scratched off to reveal the countries you’ve visited. Amazing! Available all over the place – Australian Geographic stores, Etsy, eBay, etc…
Buy it for: The visual record-keepers.

2. Mini globe & stickers
What’s it all about? I decided to take my scratch map idea to another level – I found this cute little globe for $7 at Kmart and bought a pack of stick on sparkles to lay over the cities I’ve visited. Awesome little piece to add to anyone’s bookshelf.
Buy it for: The travellers who like to decorate with their travels.

3. Notebook
What’s it all about? Pretty straightforward – I always carry a notebook when I travel, and I’d rather have  a pretty one! I picked this one up for $4 from Officeworks; Typo also have a lot of very cute ones around.
Buy it for: The travellers who like to record as they go.

4. Luggage tag
What’s it all about? Finding your suitcase on the conveyor belt is never fun – a colourful luggage tag is a no-brainer. I love the ones from Typo and have bought them for heaps of family and friends over the years.
Buy it for: The easily frustrated and impatient traveller.

5. Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food
What’s it all about? One of the best parts of travelling is experiencing all the different food. This is a part travel guide, part cookbook. It’s a great way to re-live the memories you’ve eaten, and it gets a lot of use at my house – the gozleme are a massive favourite!
Buy it for: The travelling foodie.

6. Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book
What’s it all about? It’s a classic for travellers – all of the places in one nifty little volume with all the basic information to get you motivated to pack your bags and visit Tunisia or Belize or New Caledonia…
Buy it for: Everyone!

Photo Journal: Yoyogi Park & Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Tokyo

Yoyogi Park
2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo
http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/

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Good morning friends  : )  I hope everyone had a great weekend – I’m absolutely exhausted! After checking the calendar, we realised that this weekend just passed was our last free weekend before Christmas (…!!!!!), so we hit the shops like possessed elves, and knocked out all our Christmas shopping in 7 hours on Saturday! I’m so glad it’s done, but my goodness it was exhausting… And the weather was so beautiful, and I’d have loved to head out for a picnic and a bit of outdoor sunshine time! So this morning I’m going to take us all to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo for a visit  : )

For such a big city, Tokyo certainly isn’t lacking in beautiful big green spaces. I’ve always loved spending time in big parks on my own, ever since depression started taking over my life in high school. Sitting quietly on fresh green grass under a beautiful leafy tree has always been something that’s calmed me, so after a pretty busy first 48 hours, my friend and I parted ways for the day and I made my way to the park to re-calibrate a little. And it truly was a truly remarkable space…

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Also within the park is the majestic Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine, tucked deep within the park. Shortly after the deaths of Emperor Meiji (in 1912) and Empress Shoken (two years later), 100, 000 trees were donated from well-wishers around the world to create this beautiful park. The shrine itself came to be in 1920. The main buildings were sadly destroyed in 1945, in the midst of the second world war, and we rebuilt in the late 1950s. You can learn a lot more about the Meiji Shrine here, so instead of telling you more, I’ll just show you…

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Eat here: the little pink Pad Thai cart on Patong Beach, Phuket

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So this is a ridiculous story. I went to Thailand for the first time a few years ago with my best friend, E (who I had lunch with on the weekend at Sookie La La, which I’ll write about a little later this week when my motivation levels are low and brunch cravings are high). Our accommodation was down the south end of Patong Beach, and on our first day there, we walked along the street parallel with the beach for a while to get our bearings. We found this little, bright pink food cart around lunch time, with a pair silently firing out the most incredible smelling dishes. Stomachs grumbling, we stopped to check out the menu, and decided to order ourselves a seafood pad thai each. It was probably the best pad thai I’ve ever eaten – fresh like you wouldn’t believe, cooked up right under our noses, under a flurry of hands and sauce bottles and woks and noodles. It was a very fond food memory from our time there…

When I went back to visit Phuket again early last year with husband, I told him all about this fantastic little food cart that we ate at numerous times during my last trip. We walked up the beach to the spot I thought I remembered it being, on a snowball’s chance in hell it might still be around. No such luck 😦 We walked a little further, until the sun started to get a bit too strong, and decided to double back and find a spot on the beach to leave our stuff so we could go for a swim. What happened next, I still don’t believe, and if husband hadn’t been there as my witness, no one else would either… Dead set, as we walked back past the spot where I remembered the food cart being parked, it drove up onto the side walk, turned around into the same spot, and officially opened for lunchtime business!!!! I actually literally stopped in my tracks and sat down on the nearest block of concrete to make sure it wasn’t just a heat and hunger induced hallucination… Husband didn’t waste any time – he ran straight over and ordered 2 serves of pad thai (good man).

While a little spicier than last time I had it, it was every bit still as delicious, and I do believe it was the same people working the wok, much to my disbelief! I was beyond stoked to have been able to find and repeat this food experience, and even happier to find it was still as delicious as I’d remembered it! That meal, to me, is perfect, and what travel is all about – cheap and delicious food ordered off a menu by pointing to pictures in lieu of English descriptions, served by real people and being eaten by locals as well as tourists, on the side of a road with my feet in the sand. That’s what travel and experiencing it all is about. That’s real. Has anyone else been to Phuket’s Patong Beach and seen these guys??!

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Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 2 (what to see & do)

It’s Sunday afternoon as I’m writing this, and I’m already dreading Monday morning – I usually don’t dread Mondays at all, because I quite enjoy my job! But the sore throat I’ve been trying to ignore all week has finally kicked into a proper flu, and I feel like rubbish. I can’t believe it was just this time last week I’d finished my 8km run – it may be partially this flu, but I think my hips are still aching from it!! Anyway, seeing as we’re kicking off another week, and I’m sure I’m not the only one already thinking about the next weekend, let’s go with part 2 of our Beechworth mini-break guide (you can find part 1 here!) – the what to do and see edition 🙂

Detour on the way there and stop in Glenrowan
It’d be un-Australian not to. Australia’s original folk hero/legend/criminal/outlaw/bush ranger Ned Kelly and his gang held their last stand here, and it’s somewhere I visited over and over again as a child (we always stopped there on our road trips to Bright). To call it a tiny town would be a gross overstatement – there’s really not much going on there. There are a couple of little souvenir stores and “Ned Kelly experiences,” but the main reason you want to stop here (other than getting a photo with the giant Ned Kelly standing at the entrance of the town) is for a bite to eat at the Billy Tea Rooms.

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Linda runs the place like a boss, serving up both food and gorgeous accommodation, and if you only have 15 minutes to spare in Glenrowan, make sure this is where you spend it. We stopped both on the way to Beechworth, and on the way home – lunch was a fantastic, warming bowl of home made pumpkin soup with a house brick of damper (also home made), and one of their famous roast beef and gravy rolls. This is real, proper, Colonial comfort food, and perfect on a cold winter day! The damper is magnificent, and you can buy it on it’s own if you have a real hankering. On the way back home, we swung back in for a quick morning devonshire tea – Linda’s home made scones with jam and cream with a pot of billy tea would have to be one of the greatest things in regional Victoria.

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Walk Gorge Road
And make sure you bring a camera! Check out the iconic bridge and gorge, the falls and the greenery, and enjoy the absolutely perfect silence…

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Visit the old Beechworth Gaol
Located in the middle of town on the corner of Ford and Williams streets, you can either take a guided tour or just wonder around the entrance and gift shop.

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Then, drive on to the Beechworth Correctional Centre on Flat Rock Road
Better yet, if you have the energy, walk it – if you just follow the road from town to the new correctional centre, this is some of what you’ll see…

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Dump the car and walk the streets
The perfect old buildings, the horses and carts strewn around the streets, the overgrown trees beautiful in all seasons and the real Colonial feel of the main streets… It’s a beautiful little town to walk around and eat your way through!

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Check out the churches
There are some absolutely gorgeous old churches scattered around the town which are well worth a look at, whether you’re religious or not.

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On your way out of town, make sure you drop in to Pennyweight Winery
I love this place… I mean, look at it, how could you not?!

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Located on Pennyweight Lane (be cuter), the wines are amazing here and some of my favourites – particularly the semillon sauv blanc 🙂 You can taste their delicious, certified bio-dynamic wines on arrival, and enjoy the gardens in the sunshine. Perfect way to end the trip!

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Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

 

Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

 

The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!