A whale of a holiday

The Whaler

39 Salamanca Place Battery Point Hobart

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last night in Hobart, and somehow again, the struggle was real.It continued, because again we were at a loss as to where to eat on the apple aisle.

Only we didn’t want fruit… we wanted DINNER.Most of the bars/eateries in Salamanca Place were geared for friends and locals, not so much for families. We were brought inside places and showed where we would sit… at a table with high-stools… it just wouldn’t work! Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

At first we were reluctant to head into The Whaler, with that younger just-out-of-high-school crowd, a bouncer out front, and of course it was also that the building looked like it had been picked up out of Brunswick Melbourne and plopped down at the corner of Salamanca Place.

We were wary. Was it appropriate with a child in tow?

But once we went inside to check out the menu, we found out that not only was there a kids menu (shock horror!), but we were allowed to eat inside with her if we wanted… something about kids being in a licensed venue, I don’t know. I mean I wasn’t going to order her a beer… I’ll wait ‘til she’s about 9 for that.

(Totally joking).

It didn’t matter though, because we chose to sit outside. We had fresh air and lo and behold, no stools. Just benches. Inside seemed rowdier and we were just happy to have a meal and drink on our last night on this most interesting of holiday locations.

I ordered all of our drinks and food up at the bar (a la inner city Melbs pub style!) and then we proceeded to sit back, relax, take in the Saturday night Salamanca vibe and reminisce on what the last 5 days had been like.

Our drinks helped us think back over the past week.

A ’16 Beautiful Isle Pinot Noir for me, and a Cascade Lager for Hubbie

Searching for parking on Davey street along Salamanca Place…

Getting lost on the highways and looping right on Tasman hwy instead of turning right on Domain highway…. REPEATEDLY…

Struggling to find decent takeaway food…

Dealing with a sick baby girl for a day and a half…

Having the sunrise wake us nice and early at 7am if we were lucky, due to the non-existent blinds…

The hills…

The water…

The views from our rental in Lutana…

The fact that everything was cheaper!

Port Arthur, lookout points, meeting real-life animals up close at ZooDoo…

Discovering art and everything deep and dark at Mona.

Nah, yeah. The verdict was clear. We loved Hobart. 💖🥰

Baby girl watched youtube with her recently acquired fairy doll in fairy shop (an absolute must for fairy girls!) and glittery lip balm. Because as a 5 year-old you just don’t know who you will see in Hobart City on a Saturday night. 😉

We were happy when the food finally arrived. Happy because it looked great and also tasted just as good.

I had the special of Fair Market Fish, which was Silver Warehou from Tasmania, with fries and aioli

Hubbie had the 250g Cape Grim Scotch Fillet, with thick cut chips, charred greens, and single malt mushroom sauce

While baby girl had the ½ serve Fish and Chips

We were actually really impressed with the quality of baby girl’s fish pieces, more so since it wasn’t the classic family-catering place, despite the small kids menu on offer. She enjoyed it too as she nibbled while watching Elsia and Anya on youtube. Ahh kid life.

My fish fillets were also delicious accompanied by the chips and aioli, and although at the end of the day it was still your simple fish and chips, tasting the quality of the product like in baby girl’s meal, was impressive.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak. He said for a pub meal it was what he’d expected, but still, he was satisfied.

We felt relieved and happy once our tummies were full, glad we had made the right choice… Yeah! Since we had already paid, all we had to do was walk over to the rental, and then go back to start thinking about packing… 😬

Food: 7.5/10. It was surprisingly good for a pub-style place like that, bringing us memories of our inner-city town back home.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Actually really quiet outside, surprisingly for a Saturday night. Wonder how the place fares in the warmer months. A couple of groups of friends, mostly teens and 20-somethings, were gathered outside at one stage but that was it. It was happening inside though, everyone seemed to be there.

People: As mentioned, the younger crowd, think out of high school teens and uni students, 20-somethings and those looking for a good meal with their pint of locally brewed beer. There was a kid in the bar with family though (shock horror, I know!)

Staff: The lady I ordered with and then subsequent waiters who brought us our food were all super lovely.

Price: $95. What? Under $100? For alcoholic drinks and 3 meals? They’ve broken away from mainland Aus not just in shared territory but in prices too…

Advice: This is a great place to hang out with friends, a cas night where you can enjoy some drinks, as well as know for sure the food quality will match.

In a nutshell: This one was the surprise underdog for me. It impressed with its great drink and food options, the major plus being baby girl’s food was better than your usual frozen nuggets on a plate – in fact nothing like it at all! And to end our Hobart visit like this, to be positively influenced and stunned all in one…

Well it kind of was the overall theme of our trip there. Pleasantly surprised, as we’ve found a new place to love.

We can’t wait to come back. 😊

The Whaler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A sign of Tassie times

Signal Station Brasserie
700 Nelson Road, Mount Nelson TAS

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last, FULL day in Hobart. The days were still sunny and calm (did we get lucky or what?) and after we discovered that traveling to the top of Mount Wellington from our accommodation would take us 40 minutes, one way, we decided to opt for the much shorter distance to Mount Nelson… we had driven to Port Arthur the day before and were getting seriously over driving. This was a holiday after all.

Mount Wellington would have to wait until next time.

We drove under 20 minutes instead, along winding roads with scenery that continued to grow and expand and show us snippets of what we were coming to see… far off mountains and valleys and endless greenery. After a couple of wrong turns we finally made our way up a residential looking street, and came to a dead end at what was the summit.

Not only did we find views… but we found a café (heart).

The signal station brasserie.

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Now those are my kind of views. 180 degree views along Southern Tasmania, thank you very much.

First, we had to take in some splendid scenery.

Breathe in with me…

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And breathe out.

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Ahhh.

The signal station was the first to be built in Tasmania, back in 1811… holey moley. Used back then for signalling and the reporting of shipping to the Port of Hobart and eventually to Port Arthur, it is now a place of rich history and fascination as tourists and locals alike come to feast their eyes on outlooks that were once used for very different means.

And to have a spot of afternoon tea, of course 😉

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Back then it would have been in operation every day as the café was now… 7 days a week. We turned our attentions to the few tables that were getting baked in the Winter sun, and grabbed one before anyone else beat us. Soon, an interesting looking chap walked over and gave us some menus before walking away and talking to himself as he had been talking to us – like he had known us forever.

 

There was both himself, and a woman making the inner and outer café rounds, and it was with the latter that we made our afternoon orders, before proceeding to sit back and enjoy the fresh and beautiful surrounds.

It is a most magical spot. There is also inside seating within a small building that would have most likely been a house, sitting opposite the signal station tower on the other side…

But on the day that we had, you would have been crazy to wanna miss those views, and that sunshine.

Soon we were very happily being attended to.

Hubbie was happy to receive his short black with James Boags

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Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

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And I got a cap, while she and I shared some Signal Station Lemon Scones – with housemade jam and freshly whipped cream (2 per serve. $11.50)

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Those scones were just sky high. They were a very decent serving, even for two, and baby girl enjoyed them as much as I did, applying lashings of cream… licking it off the scone… then applying more cream.

Ahh. Kid life.

Her marshmallows were forgotten but had been promised, so the man promptly called her into the café so she could pick up her never-ever-forgotten cushions of pillowy goodness from out of the jar. She was in heaven.

My coffee was great as was Hubbie’s short black, and he enjoyed it alongside his Sunday arvo beer, classic Aussie style. It was a lovely afternoon out in the sun and we felt particularly lucky to have been granted such pristine weather on our stay in Hobart, since we had definitely not expected it being Winter… being Tasmania.

When it was time to pay and go, I ventured inside to see the interior, and passed the most fantastic sign, that I was immediately compelled to capture:

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What a beautiful sentiment. It gave me ALL the feels, and had me in such a happy state, that when what happened later inside, happened, I guess it was fortunate for them, as I had already been buttered up like a sky-high scone before my massive letdown…

Like a pancake.

Because you see, I went inside to pay, and was standing in front of the register/coffee making counter, waiting to pay. The man who had tended to us earlier was busy making coffees and playing catch up, and there was a father and daughter duo who were ordering a specific drink for the girl… it could have been lactose, gluten free, almond milk perhaps, who knows. But the discussion as the man behind the counter made the drinks, was that she had a difficult order, the man had successfully made it, and they were now telling the man that they were appreciative of his efforts. The father and daughter walked off, the girl with her takeaway drink in hand.

Stay with me.

Meanwhile, as eccentric man as we’ll call him, was behind the counter playing catch up on drink-making, having his last of the conversation with the father and daughter duo, another couple walked up and were to the side, also appearing to want to pay. At this stage I did that thing where you move a bit closer to the counter, in an effort to say ‘I was here first,’ hopeful that surely, eccentric man would realise I had been waiting longer.

But then as the father and daughter duo exited, eccentric man started talking to the couple – they knew each other. Jokes were shared, inside convo, local lingo, things about the café, upcoming events… they mucked about and laughed and meanwhile I smiled profusely in the background as eccentric man made these drinks, thinking ‘any time now. Any time.’

Any time now, he will finish his drink making, turn to this couple and say “sorry I’ll just serve this young lady, she was here first.”

This young lady, tourist from Melbourne.

This young lady, first timer to Signal Station Brasserie.

This young lady, patiently standing and waiting.

This young lady, whose alias is SmikG and is a food blogger.

!!!

Then the UNTHINKABLE.

(Or perhaps, thinkable by now because I have been leading there).

He started to put through their order first.

(Mouth gaping open emoji.)

More unthinkable… the couple let him.

Sure, they kind of may not have known what I wanted… I was simply WAITING THERE TO PAY NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

I enjoy just standing around doing nothing on sunny Sundays.

Majority blame, goes entirely to eccentric man. Making the drinks, ignoring me the entire time, and going ahead to let someone else pay before me.

In horror I watched as he unapologetically put through the other couple’s order, and as he did, and they paid, they continued chatting, and laughing, and taking their GOD DAMN TIME.

By the time they decided they had been there long enough, the couple walked off SLOWLY, talking to him over their shoulder, and I, feeling like a volcano about to erupt, walked hastily RIGHT UP to the counter and waited to pay. He made no apology, made small talk, I paid and was OFF.

I was gob-smacked.

Hubbie looked at me like ‘where the hell have you been?’

I said “don’t – I can’t talk about it now. I’ll fill you in in the car.”

And then we proceeded to verbally bash the unhospitable event for the next 30 minutes. Oh the story has even made its way to people back home, don’t worry. More in the below notes…

Food: I can only score on the scones, so a 7.5/10. Generous servings make for happy customers.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and adequate.

Ambience: Unmistakably serene and chilled… a beautiful place to enjoy on a sunny day, with uninterrupted mountain and coastal views, and the cafe building a quaint interior, cottage-feel type place where you could easily hide away in and feel like you have stepped into someplace special.

Staff: Away from my comical exclamation marks and open-mouthed emojis, is this cold, hard FACT:

In Melbourne, this kind of queue jumping would not stand up.

Would not hold court.

Would not be acceptable.

The ignorance and blatant disregard would be dealt with, like a lion taking prey upon a stray zebra.

It is just not on. To be standing there waiting to pay, (busy or not busy) and then someone jumps in front you (their friend or no friend) is just so unprofessional and so unhospitable, it speaks volumes.

Hubbie told a workmate about this story, and his work mate said ‘that is not unlike Tasmania.’

No where else did anything like this happen. Everyone was wonderful in fact. So I don’t know how isolated this incident is, but if there are fellow travellers or Tasmanian locals who know of this kind of disregard for decency and order, please by all means enlighten me on what THE RULES ARE.

But, if I am waiting to pay, anywhere in the world, and someone else comes along and then jumps in front, the wait staff allows it and then proceeds to not even apologise or make any mention of it and there is no emergency to justify the queue-jumping?

Well in the matter of common global human decency, that is not on. In no language or country is that ON.

It just makes no sense. I am actually a very fair and understanding person, and I try to see both sides, but in this one I see only ONE.

Massive rant over.

People: Older couples (grrr) as mentioned, families, and kids. Tourists are onto this place equally as much as the locals are, yet it still remains quite secluded, private and unique.

Price: I paid, but got no receipt, or else I misplaced it in my overwhelming confusion and frustration. I have it on strong suspicion it was in the low $30s, which would make sense as we had predominantly drinks.

Advice: Despite everything said above, I urge you to visit this place… there’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink or a snack, and being able to see amazing vistas with your butt still firmly planted on a bench. Go early on a sunny day and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nutshell: Again, despite all I have vented about, I would come here again… and to eat, and coffee… I don’t know how I would be come face-to-face with eccentric man… but I would just turn my gaze towards the mountains, and Signal to myself –

‘something good will happen to me today.’

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Signal Station Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Got us by the ball and chain

The Ball and Chain Grill
87 Salamanca Place, Battery Point TAS

(Visited August ’18)

Woah ho peeps. On official day 3 of our Hobart adventure, and at the end of a long day travelling to Port Arthur and being absolutely wowed by the scenery, well, we were still yet to be wowed by a dinner option.

It was an ongoing, intense search to find a restaurant that had red meat for Hubbie… kid-friendly food for baby girl… and then I wanted to be happy too you know… and yet finding a happy medium for all seemed almost impossible.

It would be easy if we all loved seafood. Oh how easy it would be if we ALL loved seafood (like me!) But alas life isn’t easy like that my friends.

Not with a fussy butcher and 5 year-old child.

We needed pasta, or carbs for her. Meat for him. It had to be mid-range. Not a party place, not the poshiest restaurant, but we didn’t want to be led down the back of an alleyway either.

The options that we found fit the bill were unfortunately closed. Some for renovations, some just for that night.

Oh the drama!

Oh the holidaying first world problems!

😭

So when I came across the online menu for this one I had to have a second look. It appeared ok. We had to check it out.

We went to Salamanca Place, again, and discovered the menu was deceiving…

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Oh, how the menu was deceiving…

Because it was so much better!

The current Ball and Chain Grill building was built in the 1800s by convicts, and what started out as offices dealing with the stock of wool, whale oil and food, has grown over time into the traditional dining establishment we have today.

The online menu explained to me the extensive dinner options, which is why I was so confused on arrival. Sure there were the appetisers, entrée and mains, the grilled section and also the kids meals. But then as we arrived, walking past the traditional wood panelled rooms, the open-view grilling section at the front, and were seated in this multi-layered, multi-roomed establishment which was filled to the brim with people, we saw, a kind of salad bar in the middle of the venue.

Curious, yet not sure what to think, we followed our waitress to our seats, and lucky for us she had since spied our out-of-town status a mile away and proceeded to explain to us their concept.

Which is when we had our “ahhhh!” moment.

We could order as we liked from the menu, but the salad bar was their free, all-you-can-eat addition… you could go and choose from a variety of salads and vegetable-type side dishes, with sauces to choose from too, take as many away as you liked, and that was FREE.

It was FREE.

Considering he is a butcher, this excited my green-leafed guy immensely. He could fill up on as many greens as he could muster, and then spend his hard-earned cash on the things that pleased him most:

Meat, and Alcohol.

😉

After getting a spot of drinks, a local red for me and a Moo Brew beer for him…

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And then soon after observing some interesting pics on the walls around us and looking up at the glass ceiling…

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We ordered with our friendly waitress, and then proceeded to take turns at the ‘salad bar.’

😯

Just to clarify, these were cold salads. We got things like lettuce, cucumber, noodles and chickpea salads alongside beetroot…

(Many apologies for the crap photos, dim lighting was my enemy)

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And then our meals came. Kids meals are $15 and the pasta option was pasta bolognaise, but our girl being anti-sauce at the time, we were able to get her plain pasta with cheese:

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I got the 180g eye fillet with potatoes and satay sauce on the side

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While Hubbie got the 300g porterhouse steak with potatoes and tomato sauce

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And there were also seasonal vegies alongside that to share (in baby girl’s pasta photo).

I’m going to work backwards here. I say ‘potatoes,’ but as you can see there is only two potatoes. I know. I guess they figure that you get your sides from all the other free food on offer. Ok I can look past that, and my also smallish serving due to that fact. I didn’t walk away hungry.

Hubbie thought his medium steak was good, but slightly undercooked given it was meant to be ‘medium’… and having said that, my steak too was slightly undercooked for what I genuinely preferred. Although our waitress was lovely, she had suggested we get our steaks cooked to a ‘medium,’ rather than ‘medium to well’ as we wanted, so it was a case of we should have just gone with our inner-most thoughts… after all we know US best, right?

I thought baby girl’s pasta presentation was pretty average, you may probably disagree and say what else can you do with plain pasta and cheese, and I will say, LOTS! I am the plain pasta expert here! But alas, she still ate most of it so I won’t complain much.

The wine was great, the beer was satisfying to Hubbie, and once we had eaten all our meals and sides and taken in the Saturday night Hobart surrounds, we figured it was time we headed off to rest before another sightseeing day.

Food: 7/10. Good food, good variety, your traditional type of fare.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and busy, happening and loud, though there were intimate places about, so you could be private if you wanted to be… it was a Saturday night though.

Staff: Our waitress was wonderful and warm, and tended to our every question.

People: Family-friendly, older groups, couples, friends, you find them all here, though I do think the focus is the settled family crowd.

Price: $106, which is mid-range, considering we had all those salads we didn’t have to pay for. Our steaks brought the price up too.

Advice: If you are hungry, your friend will be that salad bar. 😍 Save yourself, then eat it all later.

In a nutshell: It’s a traditional type of restaurant and one I would go to again when in Salamanca Place… there is great variety, plenty of room, and an old-school, vintage feel that is hard to create or emulate elsewhere, as it comes with the experience and history of the town and the buildings within.

And just like the restaurant, I have to say, many things nowadays aren’t created to the high standards that they once were. Head on down to check out the expertly crafted building and subsequent food, of equal stature.

Ball & Chain Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Going Retro in time

Retro Café
31 Salamanca Place Battery Point TAS

(Visited August ’18)

What a different experience our proper day #2 eating out for lunch was compared to our proper day #1.

Oh the drama!

It was all about the freaking parking meters.

THE FREAKING PARKING METERS.

This was because we had to book our afternoon trip over to the MONA museum via the ferry, but finding parking to do that, and then working out where to go was a feat in itself…

I will do a Hobart post about our adventures which will recount ALL the fun – both real and sarcastic. Really, we DID have a ball. You just need to know a thing or two about parking meters if travelling there (especially if you have a hire car and have to you know, occasionally ‘park’ or something crazy like that).

🤦‍♀️

But what we also had to do apart from book the ferry tickets, was of course, eat.

We needed no drama. No fuss. Baby girl was cranky and we were going to find out later it was due to her getting increasingly sick (note to self: do not plan a birthday party for your child to be infected with other kids diseases, only days before embarking on a family holiday. Repeat, DO NOT).

Well we eventually parked in a 2 hour slot at Salamanca Place, so we literally went to the closest café on the corner. The Retro Café.

We were sitting outside, and to be honest most of the time we were preoccupied with parking woes so we didn’t see anything retro about it. But it was a simple café, with a simple menu, some specials on the board out front, and on that cold and sunny day in Hobart, we cracked on to the task of ordering.

We had a ferry ride waiting, after all.

It was a clearly visible spot amidst some weekly foot traffic. It was interesting to observe the locals about, mainly work people and friends meeting for lunch, and I wondered how clearly it looked to them all that we weren’t from those Kansas quarters?

 

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(The Whaler, which we went to on our last night)

With an increasingly sicker baby girl, we plopped the ipad in front of her and hoped to salvage some shred of this holiday ($$$), breathing a sigh of relief as the food arrived.

Thank God.

Baby girl got (keeping in recent dairy theme), a toasted cheese sandwich.

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I got one of the specials: Grilled vegetable bruschetta topped w/ grilled haloumi and hummus

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While Hubbie got a vegetable salad roll

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I realised how unwell baby girl was by her inability to show interest in any sign of food there… but I slowly and surely through persistence and strong willingness to cure her of any ill health during our trip, got her to finish most of it.

My haloumi was really good. I mean bruschetta. You know what I am getting at here… it was a satisfying yet still light lunch option, a perfect in between of feeling healthy with vegie toppings, and then… well cheese and bread. Need I say more?

Hubbie felt just as healthy with his salad roll. It was a salad roll, and that was that, keeping him light on his feet as we had A LOT of walking ahead of us that day.

We didn’t dawdle there long, just due to, you know, afore-mentioned parking constraints (do people not hang around here long?), meter change issues, and a sick girl… 😦 I headed on in to pay, happy with the meal, hoping the day would lift just as the food had helped us do.

Food: 7.5/10. It was satisfactory café-style food, and did the job in making us less hangry in amongst frustrating parking meters.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: It was really quiet and calm, quite coastal-town like whilst on holiday… hold up, we were on the coast there, and it was mid-week and we were on holiday… it just seemed quieter than usual, considering the Salamanca Place locale, an area we would come to know quite well in the days that would follow.

People: People meeting for lunch, business-types on lunch… those who were actually from the area.

Staff: They were nice. Hard to flag down to grab our order though. We found this an increasing Melbourne vs Hobart trend. If you’re native to my Victorian parts, remember this one thing when going out in Tasmania… BREATHE. LET GO. RELAX. (That’s three things but you get my drift).

Price: $30.50… wait, what? Only $30.50? Here, the strike of the cheap Tassie was happening again. Wait a minute, we didn’t have any coffee or alcoholic beverages… still it seemed cheap compared to a similar meal we would have had in a similar region, in our old Morning-Town…

Advice: For the love of God, keep gold coins, ANY loose change on you. When you come to park you will totally get it.

Totally unrelated but also advice: if you are holidaying after throwing a kids birthday party (could happen) DO NOT actually throw the kids party. Throw it after your holiday when you don’t care about getting sick. In fact don’t see any kids, at all before your holiday for like, a month (other than your own child, but if you can avoid them, well…)

In a nutshell: A really cute and simple corner café that gives you some regular and fresh options beyond some of the usual café fare you might find. It’s close to shops and walking distance to other parts of the city… just don’t forget that change.

I just realised with the whole parking meter thing, how truly retro the place really is…

Retro Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Strong Arms in old Richmond town

The Richmond Arms
42 Bridge Street Richmond TAS

(Visited August ’18)

This was the first place we dined out for a meal, properly (bar takeaway), when we holidayed in Tasmania in late August of 2018.

Firstly, they had said it would be cold. So cold. I was preparing, you know, for the worst.

We brought our jackets. For sure. We were from Melbourne after all. If anyone knew, it was US.

But instead, sunshine shone so much that day, we left our jackets in our car.

In Tasmania! True story.

Secondly. We had heard a bit about this old-fashioned Richmond town. It was nothing like the inner-city suburb that Melbourne knows so well, home of the yellow and black footy supporters. No.

This was something else entirely. Sure it held a lot history much like it’s sister city back in Melbs…

But unlike Melbourne’s Richmond, Tassie’s Richmond still looked like it was in the 1800s.

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After a wander up and down, into Sweets and Treats, Richmond’s lolly shop, for coffee and what else, lollies, we really needed a bite to eat. It was our second day in Tasmania having arrived the day before, and really, our first proper spot of sight-seeing.

What a place to start on.

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We had travelled approximately 30 minutes from Lutana where our accommodation resided. The scenery was striking and beautiful. What immediately struck me was the constant views. They were all the same, yet so different and continuously beautiful. That’s because largely, there were hills, and water.

Hills and water.

Hills and water.

HILLS AND WATER.

It was very picturesque. We started to understand quite quickly why people said Tassie was such a beautiful place. We went up Grasstree Hill Road and then back down it, winding around and around to finally reach our destination at Georgian-style Richmond town.

And of course when lunch time came, we really had to go old-school too.

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At The Richmond Arms.

The interior certainly matches the exterior. Where the outside shows the age of the building and the time it came from, we found not much was changed inside. Though perhaps slightly updated, the rooms are definitely of another time and place, so don’t go expecting anything life-changing here. The room we sat in was away from the area that housed the bar where Hubbie went up to order and pay at, and in one way it felt like we were sectioned off into a room that may have very long ago been a lounge room.

The Richmond Arms Hotel also has accommodation, something to consider if you want to spend more than a day in Richmond. There is plenty to do and see, and considering the history and beauty of the town, why wouldn’t you?

Despite the age of the tables and chairs, I really was quite taken aback by one feature wall within… it had a quote so beautiful, so treasured and meaningful, and also so close to my heart, as it was a sentiment confirmed to me as the years have gone by, a written manifestation of what I had known all along, but never really verbalised… that I had to photograph it:

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‘An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land,

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand

though Earth holds many splendours,

Wherever I may die,

I know to what brown country,

My homing thoughts will fly.’

– Dorothea Mackellar “My Country.”

WOW.

After ordering Hubbie brought over our drinks, a beer for him, and of course a local for me – the Richmond Arms Sauvignon Blanc

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Considering it wasn’t awfully busy it still took some time to receive our meals… I used this time to run around the old-fashioned shops within the street, to find out of all things, a mobile phone car charger! It appeared that my phone was just not coping with all the photos I was snapping, and I couldn’t bare to waste all my battery and go home having not photographed all of Richmond-town. Oh, the horror! My prayers were answered at the large convenience corner store kinda opposite the Richmond Arms.

Exhale.

When the food did arrive, we were very hungry, and it looked delish. Well worth the wait.

I had the Asian vegetable and Hokkien noodle stir fry

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Hubbie had the Chicken schnitzel – served with chips/salad or vegetables and your choice of sauce (no salad, with sauce)

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And baby girl had the Macaroni cheese

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Firstly, Hubbie was so jealous when he saw my meal! I guess the thing with being married to someone is you have to give each other bites of your meal… for better, or for worse. I for one know Hubbie is hanging to have a bite of whatever I order when he starts offering me bits of his… in an attempt to subtly hint “hey, I want some.”

Ha ha.

The sauce was very flavoursome and the noodles and vegetables all combined well to make a delicious dish. There were bits of all kinds of veggies, and the presentation really was up there, not what I expected from the kitchen of that hotel… I was surprised. Pleasantly so.

Hubbie enjoyed what he had ordered. He was happy in that it was a hearty pub-style meal, and to be honest, simply what he had expected… it was chicken with vegetables after all. He was full, let’s just say.

Baby girl’s macaroni was overwhelmingly cheesy – hence the mac and cheese – so she struggled with it. She was not hating it, but wasn’t so much a fan as that was during her ‘plain’ phase. And this cheese-dripping-over-every-inch-of-macaroni meal was as far from plain as you could get. We fed her that, and chips and vegies from Hubbie’s plate to satisfy her lunchtime requests.

No fault of the meal’s… it was all her tastebuds that decided for her. It was an especially cheesy meal, not for the faint-cheese-hearted.

When it was time to go, we left happy and satisfied. We had been venturing through Bridge Street, and next… to Zoodoo Zoo it was!

It ended up being a most wonderful day 🙂

Food: 8/10. It was hearty, tasty, presentation was great… it ticked many of our boxes for good old-fashioned fare.

Coffee: N/A. We can’t put all our food and coffee eggs in one basket can we? We like to try out as many places as we can when we’re someplace new, meaning food and coffee don’t tend to happen at the same place. That happened over at Sweets and Treats earlier! I hope to one day be back at the Arms, and then I will know.

Ambience: Quiet. Lunchtime in Richmond tends to be a calm affair, even with the fact that it is a destination… it may pick up on weekends?

Staff: Almost non-existent, other than to bring our food over. If you need them, you know where to find them… up at the bar.

People: Pensioners pensioners pensioners. You know there were a lot of older people wandering around the street, clearly tourist-minded, however considering what there is to see, do and appreciate, I am surprised there were not a lot of younger families? Perhaps we came during off-peak season, which come to think of it, is not a bad thing.

Price: $69.00. Is that it? For food and drinks? Crap I am moving to Tasmania now…

Advice: Go when you’re not yet overly hungry, so you don’t mind waiting that extra bit for that steaming plate of love that comes out of the kitchen some time later.

In a nutshell: A really authentic and memorable lunch experience. The food is not average or out of date in any respects, despite what the interior and exterior may look like. The surrounds are interesting and reflect the nature of the street and town as a whole, which make the whole experience that much more pure and relevant. In my mind, legs and ARMS, it’s the only place to go.

The Richmond Arms Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

We had trekked over to San Remo for a couple of nights during mine and baby girl’s birthday period. While café-ing out in the main strip one windy Tuesday, Hubbie asked the nice guy delivering coffees out to everyone, “can you give us a good dinner recommendation?”

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

He mentioned a few more, but his description of the place and the food it delivered won us over, and we planned to book ahead. Upon driving back to our accommodation a short while later, we looked at the area in which it was meant to be, as directed to us by kind waiter.

And suddenly, we were time lapsed to 5 years earlier.

Because we had been there before. Pre-food blogging days. Pre-baby days. Pre-Sea change days.

It felt like a long time ago, and yet the memory of that visit was strong because we had sat outside on a warm Summer’s evening, had enjoyed a delicious drink and dessert, and snapped an amazing selfie of ourselves, and let’s face it when you get one where you BOTH look great, it’s immediately one for the memory bank (and photo album – old school, yes).

It made total sense to be returning to this restaurant 5 years on.

Although things were a bit different. We were with baby girl. We absolutely HAD TO sit inside. And we absolutely had to, because we almost didn’t make the drive over from San Remo to Cowes, it was raining that much.

We burst in through the doors a bit sprinkled on from our mad dash from the car, and chose a table alongside the wall with booth to sit at, alongside another couple who were entering at the time.

I honestly can’t speculate at what had changed in the 5 years or so that passed between our visits. I couldn’t remember. All I remember was we had been seated at some kind of outdoor alfresco area, so the interior – I wouldn’t have a clue.

Now it was warm, illuminated by warm and sparkly lights, and the ample seating and ambience made the setting quite refined. However the orange-red wall brought it a playful burst of colour, taking it closer to its ‘Relaxed Casual Dining’ web site tag.

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I was happy when they brought over some pencils and colouring-in paper for baby girl, as there is never such a thing as ‘too much distraction’ when a toddler is out with you.

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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Hubbie got a VB, and I got a glass of the ‘Dance with the Devil’ Cab Sav

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Of course we had to try the appetiser of the restaurant name, didn’t we? I’ve been getting right into olives as an entry to main meal, ever since we started getting them at Manhattan. They were great and the bread was lovely to dip into the oily concoction and soak up all the goodness.

It was pretty quiet, being a midweek Winter’s night and all, but happily for us (those noise levels are preferred to be always loud in case a certain toddler decides vocal aerobics are necessary) some more groups of people soon came in, though at the most there was still only 4 or 5 groups that whole night.

Baby girl’s meal of spaghetti bolognaise immediately followed the olives

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And then soon after ours came. Mine was the pumpkin risotto with goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket

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While Hubbie had the 300g scotch fillet, with potatoes, broccolini, and creamy peppercorn sauce

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So baby girl loved her spaghetti, though it may have been hard to notice since I literally had to spoon-feed it to her – as I said before, distractions. She was quiet, so it was good. Even Hubbie and I took fork stabs at it occasionally since it did look so delish. Sometimes it’s the simple things… like taste-testing from your child’s plate.

My risotto was sensational. Rich, but not too rich. It was quite liquid-y when it arrived, leaving Hubbie with a puzzled look on his face as it was brought to the table, but this is why I am the food blogger and not him. There were pumpkin pieces in there that brought it texture, the liquid made it moorish and smooth, and the complimentary tastes of goats cheese and rocket were YUM. Did I mention anything with rocket added is immediately made better? Well there it is.

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

So I loved mine. Hubbie enjoyed his too, and that in itself is a God-send. Angels sing! The meat was cooked exactly to his liking, and it was tender too. All hail Fig and Olive.

Since it was our last night on that side of town before we were due back home the next day, and also as I already mentioned, ‘birthday month,’ I had to have dessert – whether I was full or not.

I was kinda full. But it would fit, I assured myself.

Hubbie went with our old holiday fave, the Affogato, and got himself a shot of Frangelico in addition on the side.

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He ended up pouring all the coffee over the ice cream, which he immediately regretted since he and I could not then actually taste the coffee on its own. Oh well, it still tasted good.

I went for the warm chocolate fondant – chocolate sauce, crumble and vanilla ice cream – because really, how does warm and melted chocolate NOT sound good on a cold Winter’s night?

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And baby girl was more than content with her vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping

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My dessert was oozing with thick melted chocolate, so my heart naturally followed.

I enjoyed it very much, and the chocolate crumble, was a really lovely addition to break away from the gooey-ness of it all. Vanilla ice cream to lessen the sugar-rush impact. Yes.

We had been first to arrive, and almost a couple of hours later, we were last to leave. We paid our bill, said our byes, and hurried back to the car, to drive through the rain once again.

Food: 8.5/10. The standard was there as it was years ago, and whether or not a change of ownership has occurred, I don’t care. It was wonderful. Dreaming of that risotto.

Coffee: Since it was had alongside the liqueur and ice cream, it was hard to ascertain on its own, other than to note that it was strong, so I can’t give a proper score here.

Ambience: Quiet and refined, though there was a casual element to it too.

Staff: Professional and friendly, and helpful when it came to our main orders.

People: There was only a handful that night: an older couple; a group of tourists from out-of-town; and another group of 3 that I can’t remember, other than to note they were near us… a real mixed bunch.

Price: $129 for 3 mains, an entrée, and 3 desserts alongside some drinks. On the money.

Advice: Perhaps book ahead on the weekend in warmer months/holiday season to avoid disappointment. Eat the risotto.

In a nutshell: We really enjoyed this place, and being the destination of fond memories, we will definitely be back. It has something for everyone, and next time we will be back, basking in the sunshine, or basking in its interior orange glow…

Either way, it is sure to be warm. It’s definitely a place I would love to revisit, but I won’t wait 5 years next time 😉

Fig & Olive at Cowes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ooh, baby baby it’s a wild (pizza) world

DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Delicatessen
22 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’16)

It was a cold Saturday night on the Peninsula, and we had escaped there yet again for the Anzac Day Long Weekend. After walking up and down the Main street in Mornington, we decided on DOC. We had been there on a rainy afternoon YEARS ago, pre-baby days, and thought we would have a go at it again.

Back then there was like, 3 other people in the store on that rainy afternoon. That night in April, there was about 300.

Or so it felt like. The communal tables inside the Pizza & Mozzarella bar were crammed, and every other table either inside or outside had people hanging off it too. I don’t know how, but we ended up somehow on a free table outside, and though I was initially scared of the cold, the heaters above our heads were so strong that I had to take off my jacket, and my mobile on the table was kept extremely warm all night. (Warning, due to low-lighting, crappy photos follow).

Soon after sitting down, another party, a family of 3, sat at the other end of our medium-sized table. We didn’t mind, but I just prayed they wouldn’t be put off by any of baby girl’s antics. Soon enough though, she would be plenty busy.

Our waiter arrived with menus, and immediately I could read the type. He was aloof, but not try-hard, with an obvious accent, and I knew it was only a matter of time…

As we ordered I asked about the wine, and by placing my trust in his expertise he suggested I get a red ‘something,’ while Hubbie got a Menabrea

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And then he opened up. He let baby girl keep the torn paper menu she had used up already, even bringing her over a cup of pencils without asking. She proceeded to draw on the torn menu at the table with us, as well as on the floor next to us.

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We eventually received our shared meal. We thought it would be enough, but alas, we were starving. When our waiter told us it would be sufficient to share, I should have told him we’re of European descent, as he was:

Our Pizza San Daniele – San Marzano tomato, D.O.P Buffalo mozzarella, D.O.P San Daniele Prosciutto

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And the Mista – mixed leaf salad with balsamic

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I don’t know why we chose just the San Daniele. It was great, don’t get me wrong. I think the simple ingredients made me think everyone, especially baby girl would enjoy it. Also, but in one of my all time fave movies Only You, doesn’t Marisa Tomei’s character end up going to a Daniele-type Italian village as she chases after her supposed soul mate Damon Bradley? It stuck in my head. And you just don’t know with some pizza places, you order a pizza and it can barely fit on the table.

Despite how light and thin the crust was, and how tasty the evenly proportioned ingredients were on the base, within a few slices we flagged our waiter and said “get us a cap too.”

Pizza Capricciosa Nuova arrived soon after. With San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive

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I didn’t know ‘til I’d had a few bites of that one that there was a different taste I had been unaware of. Not unpleasant, just different. The artichoke! It was interesting and definitely not unwanted, certainly a capricciosa that I will remember for future. Nuova indeed. Again the base was thin and all the ingredients were so tasty and fresh, and easily between the 3 of us we smashed both pizzas.

Even the salad was really fresh and appealing, easily consumed and not needing to be forced down like other boring salads. The balsamic really brought it together.

We were having a really great time by this stage. Hubbie had proceeded onto a Peroni continuing in the Italian spirit, my red was still swimming in my head, its bouquet immediately apparent as I had taken the first sip. Baby girl was happy, our waiter was singing as he swum from one table to the next, telling us that this was nothing and that the restaurant would peak in Summer time. How could many more people fit in the joint? He also gave baby girl plenty of attention, even going to the lengths to pick up her pencils from the floor when they fell. We hadn’t moved to the Peninsula yet, and already this place was our locale.

It was certainly an experience when I went to look for a change room for baby girl. We had ordered desserts, and suddenly, nature called. I asked a nearby waiter if there was a change room, and he pointed me in the direction. I was looking in the disabled room, and checking all corners of the ladies loos, but still nope, no change table of any kind. I went back out, holding baby girl’s hand and lugging my massive Van Chi, and spotted our waiter in the main dining room. I asked him for his help, and he was sure they had one too. He personally came with me through all the toilets, checking to see if indeed there wasn’t any as I’d suggested. He barged into the ladies, us following, and after scanning the room pointed to the bench space near the basins up front.

“Just change her there.”

I cast a doubtful look. “But people come in here, and then wash their hands…” I felt bad. I knew where he was heading, but someone could really get pissed off if I spread my nappy changing crap out and proceeded to change a nappy where women washed their hands after using the loo. People LOVE hanging shit on Mums (pardon the pun).

He shrugged. “Who cares? She’s a baby,” with a wave of his hand as if to say ‘whatever.’

I thanked him. His no-care attitude and support gave me the courage I needed. I got her stuff ready on the bench, waiting until two women who had just come into the bathroom left so I could be at peace. Then in lightning time, I changed her. No one came in. Relieved and very thankful for the waiter’s help (and encouragement), I went back to Hubbie who had started on dessert. He just couldn’t wait.

He had the Nutella calzonoino with vanilla bean ice cream, while I had the sour cherry (I’m pretty sure it was) pannacotta

Mine definitely had the sour flavour, yet I still loved the lightness and creamy texture it possessed. Hubbie’s calzone was filling yet tasty, he adored it. Really he did. But there’s Nutella, so there you go.

And baby girl loved both very much.

Our meal there finished after two lots of people had both come and gone at the end of our table. We were very full. We left happily, with lots of thoughts of when and where we would be moving there.

Now usually my review would end there. My reviews are based on my first blogging experience  – since starting my Food Reviews – at a restaurant… but seeing as we coffee-d there two mornings after, and received distinctly different service from that Saturday night, I have to note it down.

The Main Street had been closed due to the Anzac Day parade, and we happened to arrive there right after it opened post 11am, after we had checked out of our Mount Martha accommodation.

Now I will forewarn this by saying that I believe the staff at DOC that day were understaffed and not expecting the quantity of people who came into their venue once the parade had finished. They were stressed, when crowds of people started lining up for a table.

Stressed is one thing; rude is another.

The man who served us that day was not the same as our lovely waiter from two nights earlier. Once we had been seated by another stressed waiter, this rude one came along.

Woe was us.

He also had an accent (a prerequisite for a job there I think) and took our coffee orders before I went off to check out the display case of cakes at the front. I came back to be told by a very angry Hubbie that while I was gone, baby girl yelled out in a frustrated fashion (as she sometimes does) and when Hubbie looked over apologetically at the waiter, he gave Hubbie a greasie.

He totally gave him a nasty look.

I had to flag the waiter down to take our dessert order, since he wasn’t making any eye contact. He made it out to be a total disservice to have to serve us: he repeated my order of “custard doughnut and salted caramel tart” like I had a learning disability and he thought me incompetent to communicate. After that travesty he angrily walked off and I later heard him condescendingly speaking to a large group of non-Italian people behind us, who were having trouble understanding what “calzone” was. He got lucky with them, as they all laughed at each other and didn’t catch the arrogance in his tone. There was no “restraint exercised” with him (refer to the menu for an explanation). I would not be surprised, in fact I would be expecting that he did not get so lucky with other customers that day.

We got our coffee and our desserts.

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The coffee was smooth, and the desserts were ok. They were delivered by our waiter from the other night but he was so busy he just plonked them down and didn’t realise who we were. Baby girl was going off rude waiter’s vibes and being especially cranky. We were so happy to hear a baby inside the restaurant also crying, I can’t tell you. We left immediately.

Food: 7.5/10. Fresh and simple, done well. Authentic and satisfying. I need to try their cheeses. I mean, it’s in their title ‘mozzarella bar.’ It’s got me drooling at the thought, and will have their food score sky-rocketing I think.

Coffee: 7/10. I’ll be honest, the service kinda spoiled any correct assessment I can make on it. I was too busy being pissed off.

Ambience: It was a really bustling and happy atmosphere the Saturday night that we dined there. They turned all the lights off inside at one stage to sing a type of Happy Birthday song to somebody, and just the way everyone went crazy was awesome. I loved the vibe. It was more chilled outside, whereas inside it was LOUD.

People: All kinds, families, couples, friends, everyone. This is the place to be, that was so apparent. You can take anyone you want, and everyone will fit in. There was a line out the door just to be put on a waiting list, and there are genuinely people spilling out the door and in the venue, either already sitting or waiting for one to pop up.

Staff: As above, as I’ve noted in detail. We had an experience of extreme proportions. We had a great waiter, then a shit one. But I’d like to think they’re all good like the first one, and the shit one has had his bags packed off for him by now.

Price: We paid $106 on our Saturday night. Two pizzas, 3 alcoholic drinks, a salad, and two desserts. Pizzas are $$$. Don’t be shocked. We had a great time so for us it was worth it.

Advice: Consider booking ahead, since this place really gets full early on. As I said ‘it’s the place to be.’ Everyone wants to be at this venue sitting on the corner of Main Street and looking out at the passers by. If you by some chance get a dude who looks like he’s just bitten into a lemon, immediately flag another waiter. Trust me, you don’t want him. He’ll ruin your visit. If the DOC is the body governing the standards of various cheeses and wines, then the DO-whatever needs to send rude guy packing and whip his arse into shape. Just saying.

And if you like to eat, trust me, a pizza on your own is no difficult feat.

In a nutshell: We were really disappointed to have such a negative experience on our immediate second visit there, offered by a staff member who frankly had no business at that business: he’s killing it for them. But not wanting a negative to offset such a positive, we are adamant that we will go back to DOC. for the friendly singing-Italian, the beautiful and fresh food, and the bustling atmosphere, rather than the guy who will most likely be gone by the time we revisit.

I always try to focus on the positives, and unless a venue offers me consistently bad experiences, I will usually go back if there has been a problem that could on the next visit be easily fixed/avoided.

So D-O-C, crack the whip on cranky waiter’s B-U-M, so I can hurry on back and get me some C-H-E-E-S-E.

D.O.C Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How to do Port Douglas in 4 nights (with kids) – Part 2

(Travelled: Jan ’16)

This is part 2 of my Port Douglas snap shot which goes through the local attractions we experienced. For any information on Port Douglas Travel, Accommodation, Weather, or Food, click here to see Part 1 of this article.

ATTRACTIONS

Market – We went to the market at the end of Macrossan Street the first morning we were there, which was a Sunday. It was interesting looking around at the local fare and seeing what was happening in that part of the world. It’s custom to wear sandals and thongs, but there was mud here due to the recent rain, so beware. You’ll be obliged to buy something, just for the hell of it, just as I did with my body crystal and our shared mango drink (where else in the world do you buy mango drink from people who grow them in their backyard and then turn it into liquid in front of you?)

Summary: Nice to check out if you’re there on a Sunday for a bit of a stroll, but don’t lose sleep if you have other things to do either.

Breakfast with the Birds – An event at the Wildlife Habitat Centre, you can do either breakfast or lunch, but we opted for breakfast and arrived to a cold and hot assortment of breakfast foods, sitting amongst a large outdoor canopied area where birds suddenly appeared, or watched you from nearby trees! It was certainly an experience and something different, and if you have kids, (or a big kid who likes birds, *ahem Hubbie*) you can get up close and personal, talk to the experienced staff there, and take photos too.

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Just don’t go too close, please. I’m not saying it’s not allowed, there were just some visitors there who were asking for it as they shoved their big-ass lens camera into the black cockatoo’s field of vision and then DIDN’T get bitten. Unfortunately. Have some respect for these creatures and hang back. You have a big-ass lens, don’t you? Use it.

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Following this we decided quite spontaneously to join the Rainforest Walk – this was fantastic! Again, it was fun for baby girl, and the other big kid lover of birds as well as me because hey, I like hearing about these different animals and learning about their way of life, and our guide that day was fantastic, enthusiastic and very informative, making the experience all the more interesting. We saw a Cassowary bird, which baby girl fed watermelon to, an experience that has stayed with us all since, especially her! And got to meet and fly along with many cheeky parrots.

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Of course you don’t have to join a tour to check out the wild habitat there. At the conclusion of that tour we went to see some crocs (and one giant one!) on our own walk, and then we concluded with a bit of a shop in the retail section before leaving. Our tickets to the Breakfast with the Birds meant that we could also come back once more for free, which was a great offer, but we didn’t take it up. We had much more sight-seeing to do!

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Summary: A great experience for kids and bird-lovers alike, and quite informative too. Eating and being in the same room as the birds is an interesting concept, so I think this is one you have to do for something a bit different and memorable.

Mossman Gorge – If you were looking for paradise on earth, this is where you would find it. In particular, in the swimming hole within Mossman Gorge.

But what… ‘Hole?’ ‘Swimming Hole?’ That is the worst description I have ever heard to describe the beauty I came across that day there. And yet, that is how it was described to me. ‘Hole’ is nothing close to, nowhere near enough a word to describe this paradise. In fact, a hole is as far away a description to describe this paradise as literarily possible (did I just make up a word?) Here are some photos (which do no justice to the real thing):

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We came to the Mossman Gorge centre, having heard about the ‘swimming hole’ there, with that Rainforest being the one we chose because quite simply, it wasn’t too far from our resting point, and we wanted to make the most of our time. In another trip, we might do the Daintree as well (as well as the Mossman again!) but this trip we had to be time-efficient. At the centre, where there is a retail shop, café, and plenty of walkers refuelling or getting ready to set off walking around the rainforest, we purchased a ticket to board the bus that took us into the heart of the Rainforest, which was about a 5-10 minute drive. Many people did this too, coming with towels… Hmmm. The ticket specifically said “NO SWIMMING!”

We had no idea where we were going as we arrived at the destination, but we exited the bus and followed the towel-holders into the rainforest, amidst towering trees and walking on plank-like bridges. The lady at the retail shop had told me it was a minute’s walk to the swimming hole, and yet it was more like 5. Difficult only because I was carrying a tired baby girl in my arms.

But she sure woke up when we got there.

In the gentle slide as the earth dipped down towards the water’s entrance, there were people everywhere: amidst trees far back, along this sloping slightly muddy path, and then, in and amongst the beautiful and pristine waters. It ranged from people decked out in swimwear and the tiniest of bikinis, to people who had like us, not been prepared for an all-in-body-water experience, and had just come with shorts and thongs.

It was magical. Truly mesmerising. I took off baby girl’s dress and let her immerse herself in just her singlet. What the hell. She only had the best time of her life (well one of, we are pretty cool parents). I was happy I had on my high shorts, and took off my thongs, wading in the cool water up to my knees. We stood. We watched. We breathed. We took in everything, and I was moved to tears.

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Everyone who was there, was doing just as we were. Just being. All these people, ranging from the littlest of tots to the oldest grand-dads, were there, with accents from all over the world, and they were, just still in the water, wading or relaxing from a distance, and taking in the beauty that is Mossman Gorge.

And you know what I felt in that moment? I felt so damn proud to be Australian. This amazing country of ours had a rainforest and a special slice of paradise that people from all over were coming to see. I felt so blessed, and I still do. I think what made the moment even more special was the fact that we had come not expecting anything – all I thought we would do is wade in the water. That’s it. We waded alright. But we stepped into precious beauty and untold magic when doing so. It gave me chills, and when I think about it, I still get goosebumps.

Summary: If you can’t tell from my short essay on Mossman Gorge – GO THERE. Your children will love it, and so will you. And yes, there are signs and things that say ‘do not swim’… so I’m not telling you or endorsing you to swim. Just use your damn common sense. (If you see a fin or tentacles or jagged bits popping up through the water, run).

This place will remain in my heart forever more.

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4 Mile Beach – Another find. I said Mossman Gorge is like paradise on earth, right? Well if you’re looking for heaven on this planet, you need not go any further than down Macrossan street until you hit water. And then just thank me later.

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This was another unexpected ‘Wow’ moment. I think we had had many difficult moments with a tired and under-slept baby girl, so to not know how great it would be only to then discover that this beach was unbelievably unreal, was another very happy moment for all.

I was told by many people before coming to Port Douglas that you cannot swim in their waters due to creepy water creatures. I thank God that I did not listen to any of those people. I mean, we got accommodation with a pool in case, but still, I’m so happy we did it our way.

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See that? That is netting. It stretched fairly wide, meaning it kept out all nasties – crocs, jellyfish and sharks! Those were the creatures actually listed on a board at the beach, advising swimmers to beware. So if you want to have a pleasurable swimming experience, possibly the nicest of your life, then go ahead, swim safely within the large net. But if you like to live on the edge with risk of being stung/bitten/eaten, then by all means, BE MY GUEST.

Swimming in the netting did by no way diminish our swimming experience. It was clean, it was safe, and the water was exactly the same as the water that wasn’t protected by nets – just without the scare factor. Oh, did I mention this?

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28 degrees my friends. Read it and weep.

I loved this beach, and my only regret is that we didn’t have more beach days. We spent about 3 hours here, getting here early on a Tuesday morning before 9, grabbing an umbrella’d chair to leave our stuff (you need to pay though, it gives you a few hours) and then soaking up the incredible Port Douglas Sun, Surf and Sand.

My repetitive thought during our time there? ‘Take it in, take it in, take it in…remember this moment.’

I don’t need to sell you anymore on it, do I? Just in case:

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Summary: Go to 4 Mile Beach. Parents and children alike will LOVE it.

 

Calypso Half-Day Great Barrier Reef Tour – We had really wanted to see some of the Great Barrier Reef, but neither hubbie or I being scuba divers or snorkelers or having even tried it before in any capacity, we wanted a beginners version. We ended up going with Calypso only because our first choice, travelling to and spending a day at Quicksilver’s platoon, was booked out. With Calypso there was a half-hour boat ride to an island where there was either the choice of taking a glass-bottom boat ride to see the coral and underwater creatures, or do some snorkelling around the island. The option of either or with no real emphasis on having to snorkel, sounded great to novices such as us.

We had a bit of a ‘misunderstanding,’ we’ll call it, on trying to book the Calypso half-day tour. They had cancelled on us a previous day due to choppy winds, which means the boat does not go out and there is no tour. Our hotel owners advised that we should just arrive at their offices nearby where the boats are docked, the morning of when we wanted to go, because at least then we would be able to know if we could go. Booking in advance didn’t seem to help any extra, because we could just as easily be cancelled on. This was advised by both hotel management and apparently, Calypso too.

We went on Tuesday morning, the day before we were meant to jet off back to Melbourne. I ran into the office to buy tickets, while hubbie waited with baby girl in the car. Upon running in and seeing other people come in with tickets, I asked if we could book the half-day tour for that morning, only to be told by a girl behind the counter that they were all booked out for that session. I despondently asked if they had an afternoon availability, and she said they were completely booked out for that one too. Their next availabilities were for the following day, but knowing we would be on a plane the next day, I walked away.

Hubbie was there as I left the store, having come in with baby girl, being sure that I had already bought the tickets. After telling him what the lady had told me, he got fired up. He went in, asking the same question of the girl, and when he got the same answer, he told her that we had in fact been told to come in last second because Calypso had cancelled on us the day before. If we couldn’t book in advance due to fear of cancellation anyway, but we couldn’t rock up last minute either because everything was booked out, then how the hell could we organise this freaking tour?

(He didn’t say that word for word, but that way sounds better).

You know what she said?

“There’s just been a cancellation for the afternoon tour, I can book you on that one.”

This, literally 2 minutes after she told me there was no availability for the afternoon tour.

I paid, and we left. And all was good. After all we ended up at 4 Mile Beach that morning and had the most incredible time. We had lunch, and then went off to do this bloody tour.

Look, in a nutshell, it was alright. Upon embarking we took off our shoes, and were encouraged to just get a scuba suit and flippers, because ‘what the hell, you might as well.’ This actually excited us as we had never snorkelled, but one of the instructors implied he could show one of us while the other was with baby girl, and vice versa.

I admit I was a bit scared but excited. I was going to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef?!

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The boat ride up was beautiful. Travelling all that distance, going through all that water at high-speed, was amazing. This was a boat ride to the low isles. Basically I think that means that this is the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef, you’re not in the thick of the coral and all the underwater fish as if you would be if you travelled further in. It was still beautiful. We listened to instructions on board about how to wear your equipment and operate it, and it appeared we were the only ones who were there primarily to see the glass-bottom boat, apart from one other couple, but even they snorkelled in the water later, a little.

The glass-bottom boat was ok. We saw a few things, and I still enjoyed it, but I really think you need to be in the midst of the Great Barrier Reef to see anything really good. I wasn’t in complete awe or anything dramatic like that. Upon completion we went back to where the main boat had docked, wondering if now someone could show us how to scuba. There was an American girl instructor, a guy also her age instructing, and an older, perhaps 40 year-old instructor. He had been our tour-guide on the glass-bottom boat as the rest of our group went scuba diving off the main boat and towards the island. We hadn’t actually docked at the small island for some reason, I can’t remember why but there seemed to be a genuine reason for it. The guy who had implied he could show us to scuba, suddenly decided that he and this American chick would now jump on the glass-bottom boat and take it as a pair to the island, because they wanted to try and get some photos of a turtle or something. And then they were off, clearly with their own personal intentions, and Hubbie reckons his intentions were extremely personal, saying he obviously had the hots for the US chick and wanted to go alone with her. Leaving the 40 year-old instructor with us.

This instructor was good. He was just shitty. You could tell. He was shitty that the two young ones had left, leaving him on board the main boat with Hubbie, me, baby girl and another couple. The guy from the other couple was more confident heading out into the water, whereas the girl stayed back, closer to the boat. They had both at least scuba dived before. We hadn’t. We had been told by the young instructor that we could watch him. He went off because his head was leading him. But not his top one.

The older instructor gave us tips here and there, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was shitty, trying to be professional. I don’t blame him really. Everyone else was off either scuba diving and instructing the rest of the group, or cosying up and trying to get lucky with a colleague.

Both hubbie and I, at various times, with a few half-arsed tips from the 40 year-old instructor, jumped into the water, staying close to the boat, dunking our heads in and trying to breathe through the breathing apparatus. That was not bad, it was the water flooding into the part protecting our nose which made it difficult. It was a few minutes at best, but we could still say “We snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef!”

I was a bit disappointed that no one had taken the time to show us properly – they certainly had ample opportunity, but were busy making personal plans or were just upset. I didn’t want to focus on it, seeing as everything else about where we were was amazing, but even the girl from the other couple whispered to me later that Quicksilver’s tour of the Reef was much better, especially being a beginner. She had been on that one before, being a not-so-confident scuba diver herself, and said it was far superior to this Calypso tour. I told her we had tried to book but we were too late! Hearing her thoughts, and also criticism of the way some things were done there, only confirmed to me that there were many parts of this tour that could be improved upon.

Very small provisions were offered after all of that, some were free like fruit, and some payable like alcohol. The ride back to the docks was a quiet one, everyone happy to watch the surf spray up from beneath us, taking in the beautiful scenery that is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and getting decent colour in the hot afternoon sun.

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Summary: I enjoyed the experience and the location – the tour itself with Calypso, not so much. Many things could be improved upon, for example the professionalism. It was $120 per person, so there was value for money… but nowhere in the brochures did it say ‘Expert snorkelers only!’ so it wasn’t too much to ask for a little assistance for snorkeller virgins such as ourselves. Fortunately with baby girl being 2, she got in for free. It was a 2-5pm tour, and there is also a morning one, starting about 7ish.

If you don’t want to spend the whole day snorkelling, or out at the Reef, and you have some clue as to how to snorkel, well maybe you won’t mind the Calypso tour. That’s the only way I would recommend this tour, if you fulfil those above requirements. Otherwise, based on our personal experiences, I would NOT recommend it. Plus, I didn’t mention that the guy who was chasing the US chick was also arrogant. Just saying.

If you can spare a whole day at the Great Barrier Reef, and whether you are experienced or not, I believe Quicksilver’s trip to their Platoon where you spend the day there, is the best place to go. It’s the one I’d be recommending, and I haven’t even been, but I will, next time we go. Just book it in advance!

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So concludes our Port Douglas trip in a rather large nutshell. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions for anyone wanting some more information about any part of the trip, so please drop me a line if you plan on visiting this part of the world in your near future.

And if you weren’t planning on going to Port Douglas, I hope my experiences have inspired you to perhaps give this tropical paradise a go at some point, or maybe it will motivate you to seek out your own version of paradise, whatever or wherever that may be 🙂 Happy travelling.

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How to do Port Douglas in 4 nights (with kids) – Part 1

(Travelled: Jan ’16)

It’s been several months now since our tropical getaway, and yet the memories of that trip have not ceased to stand out in the forefront of our minds. Port Douglas was a place I had always longed to go to, and now that I have, I can share it with all of YOU, all the amazing and unforgettable (and difficult) aspects. This information is for all local, national and international visitors alike, as the varied accent in those Northern parts was not uncommon, let me tell you! We travelled with baby girl, 2 years old at the time, so I can also give some advice as to how to go about your days with a toddler… it ain’t easy, but it sure was fun!

Travel + Transport

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We flew from Melbourne to Cairns, meant to be just over a 3 hour trip, though on that occasion the flight was slightly less. We had organised car hire from Cairns, so that we could do the drive up on our terms. There are shared transfer options up to Port Douglas (an hour by car if there are no stops) but having done that for our Noosa trip years ago, we knew that there was the possibility of the van stopping as it picked up other passengers, and we didn’t want to risk upsetting baby girl with the potential delay that could cause. Plus, being in a car of our own, meant we could stop if we absolutely had to, and as it was, she fell asleep for some of the way which was great.

I had read that the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas was a scenic one, and sure enough, that promise delivered. Serene bayside views, picturesque backdrops, driving through quaint beachside villages, people wearing not much but thongs and singlets, and trees trees trees. It was very wind-y. As in winding around and around and around (and around!) the hills to get there.

About 20 minutes away from our destination we got an onslaught of rain. Only this wasn’t just an onslaught, this was a tropical storm of mammoth proportions. We had heard of the tropical rain at that time of year, and wondered if that would be the norm for the rest of our trip. Luckily, no. We got a bit more rain while there, but very minimal, and nothing like what we had driven through. So if driving up at the start of the year, be careful.

Having a car allowed us the luxury of being able to go about wherever we wanted, without having to rely on public transport and the often inconveniences of waiting for it with a toddler. Even though we were situated in the middle of Macrossan Street, we still ended up using the car a fair bit. Consider it if you are with children. We had a child seat added for baby girl, and just make sure there are no km limits with the car you hire, since you would be travelling an hour to and from Port Douglas to Cairns (not including additional travel around the area) it does add up. (And remember to return the car with fuel!)

Accommodation

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We stayed at Saltwater Luxury Apartments, situated right in the middle of Macrossan Street. We had parking underneath the premises, and there is a shared pool for holiday stayers to use, which we did, twice. It wasn’t an Olympic-sized pool, but it was enough. Baby girl squealed with delight and tried to break in every day, so = Pass.

We had a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the main street, which meant at night things got noisy! Our room was closer to the street, with baby girl’s closer to the entrance door which was nearer the other apartments and the shared corridor between them. On several occasions, people coming home would think it acceptable to talk loudly with one another in the corridor before walking into their apartment, despite all the other nearby stayers! On night 1 we discovered ‘the birds,’ loud riotous birds that sang almost all night, there must have been at least 50 of them, and they sounded like they were outside our room. “Don’t birds sleep?” Hubbie and I asked each other at 1am. Along with this there was the noise that eventually waned off from the below restaurant, Bel Cibo, with the kitchen staff cleaning and washing up and making all kinds of racket until they left the premises about midnight.

So, it was a noisy place to stay. I was slightly nervous because I was worried baby girl would wake up from the noise. And she did wake up, but not from the noise… she was just unsure of her surroundings when she opened her eyes in the middle of the night.

It is a fantastic place, if you want to be in the heart of it all, and be able to walk to everything. In fact, you could base your holiday around Macrossan Street, and just go everywhere on foot, especially if you have no kiddies… but then you would miss out on Mossman Gorge. Oh man you don’t want to miss out on that one.

So, great location, but noisy at night. Parents may find it a bit annoying with the constant racket, but then again, it was high season, at the start of January. The 2 bedroom apartment was like a little house, with bathrooms adjoining both rooms, a kitchen aside a kitchen table and then the lounge room, and there was an outside enclosed area that you could sit and view the diners at Bel Cibo and people walking on Macrossan Street below. They are like little houses because you can hire them out for long stays. Definitely a great idea, especially when we go back again with our extended family 🙂

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Weather

If you are going to Port Douglas, be mindful of this: you will be hot. Not like ‘oooh, I think I might change into shorts’ hot, I’m talking humidity seeping into every crevice of your body, overcoming and suffocating you, sweat trickling down the bridge of your nose, give-me-that-pitcher-of-water-so-I-can-throw-it-over-my-head, type hot. Baby girl found it uncomfortable, as she seemed cranky on many an occasion, except for when she was in the water. Then it was bliss for her (and us). I didn’t pack anything long-sleeved or long-panted; it was light and airy all the way. I did pack insect repellent for the rainforests, but I never used it, and we never needed it either. Sunscreen is a must too.

I mean, there’s a reason why all the restaurants have fans.

Food

We ate at many great places while in Port Douglas. I’ll list them by my personal lowest to highest ranking, and note that you can click on each name which links to my actual food review post on the restaurant in question, for a more in-depth analysis of our dining experience there:

Rattle ‘n’ Hum – casual dining where you order your food at the counter.

Bel Cibo – fine dining with great views over Macrossan Street. Lots of accents here.

Whileaway Bookstore and Café – great mishmash of literature and lattes. Coffee was ok, books and surroundings were heaven.

Little Larder – These guys kind of tie with Watergate below. Funky vibe, the place to go, great coffee, food, and service. Gold.

Watergate – Fine dining, but add exclusivity. Fire, fans and all you need is Gorillas (see my review for an explanation!) Amazing food, I will be going back for the coffee and dessert! Loved.

A notable mention goes to Mocka’s Pies which we had one day for lunch. We had coffee and cake there on Day 2 –

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and then later Hubbie got some takeaway pies. Their pies are meant to be some of the best going around, and from the few we tried back at Saltwater, we could tell it was true. We shared a Steak pie (the one with the X)

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A green chicken curry pie

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And a corn and asparagus pie

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The latter pie was perhaps a questionable one, only because it wasn’t to our taste, but the first two were really delicious. I’m not a traditional pie fan, so I love it when I find pies with fillings that aren’t filled with offcuts and random bits and pieces just to fill it in. We were really happy with this find.

I don’t have the names of the other places we got takeaway food at, but one place we grabbed toasted sandwiches and steak sandwiches from was just up from Mocka’s Pies in Grant Street, but closer to the Macrossan Street end. They were ok, just as our fried rice and noodles was ok nights later from a restaurant somewhere around there too! There are so many options in that part of Port Douglas, you can afford to be fussy.

There was also a nearby Safeway, and a couple of liquor shops if you’re taking away to eat/drink at home. If you’re staying in this part of Port Douglas, it’s easy to buy anything you need and just walk on back to your accommodation to enjoy in your own private space. Super convenient surrounds.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Port Douglas 4 night guide where I discuss the amazing! and so-so Attractions we came across… coming very soon.

 

Little, with Big Love

Little Larder
48 Macrossan Street Port Douglas

We had planned to take a reef tour the morning of Day 4 of our Port Douglas trip, however a spanner was thrown in the works, and it turned out we were to go in the afternoon instead.

So what to do in the meantime? Well beach it of course. We had only driven past 4 Mile Beach, and hadn’t even stopped to survey it’s yet-unknown-as UNBELIEVABLE breathtaking beauty.

As with all things though… ‘But first, coffee.’

Ahhh.

We were going to takeaway initially. But my Hubbie being the coffee snob that he is, despises the takeaway cup. He wants to sit down and drink his caffeine hit from a mug, and see it, too. I had been hanging to try out Little Larder, what with its great reviews, funky street locale, and the fact that half its name is shared with the café we went to in Daylesford and loved. My reasons and his combined, led to us sitting underneath the umbrella there on a Tuesday morning, baking underneath the part-uncovered shade of the Port Douglas sun.

We got coffees for all, plus a little something to keep us going – a Banana and Caramel Muffin.

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The muffin was really lovely and warm, sweeter by the, what I believed to be demerara sugar sprinkled on top. We had some there and kept nibbling on it at the beach later, it was that big (and moorish). Loved it. Hubbie enjoyed his latte as I did my cappuccino, and baby girl loved the abundance of froth in her babycino, not to mention the not one but two marshmallows she got.

Our waitress was great, and busy, interestingly so since they had just opened at 8am and already people were flocking in. She was friendly but not try-hard, quite genuine despite all her running around.

As I went to pay inside, it was already bustling… definitely the place to be on a Tuesday morning, and it wasn’t even 9am yet. And inside, yep it was little alright. Added to the happening vibe. Outside there were umbrella’d tables, so if you want to go you have to book, or get in quick.

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In between the above morning, and the following one, so followed the best beach experience ever.

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(Details in an upcoming post).

But yes, we did go there the next morning. Unsatisfied with just trying the coffees there, we wanted to brekkie it before finishing our packing and jetting on back to Melbourne.

So again we went, just post 8am, without a booking, and got a table. Part sun, part shade again. You can’t escape the striking sun in these parts.

Baby girl got the Rye Toast with Strawberry Jam

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Hubbie got the Nutella French Toast

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And I had the Harissa Beans with Poached Egg

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The presentation was great, however baby girl’s plate did look fairly bland, as all restaurant toddler food generally appears. She did eat it though and I was happy the bread wasn’t hard as rock like it is in other places.

I loved mine. It was most definitely spicy! The sauciness of the dish, texture from the beans and spice of the harissa was complemented beautifully by the fetta, poached egg and buttered bread. It was a welcome “ahhh!” because like I said, it was spicy! My bread was also soft which made it a joy to eat. It was a generous breakfast dish, but not one that left me feeling overfull, as some breakfast dishes have in the past.

As for Hubbie’s meal? What can I say. I mean, Nutella French Toast. You aren’t sold yet? What, you don’t like hazelnuts? You poor fool. You are missing out. Don’t think you’ll come back in another lifetime and try it, try it now! I had actually eyed his meal on the menu the day before, and had considered getting it, if only I didn’t have a huge propensity for savoury breakfasts. They just agree with me; when I go sweet, it’s usually a tad much. (I know, soft). Anyway, him being my Hubbie and all and the fact that he has to share, like it or not, I did try his dish… and it was good. Nom nom nom. It looked really, very pretty too. Nutella does that though. I think if you smeared Nutella on your walls, it would look quite attractive, and not dirty at all (think Willy Wonka).

We also got our round of coffees again and this time my cap was stronger. Despite drinking it much later than when it arrived, it was kept hot hot hot by the assisting Port Douglas sun, so winning!

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Our waiter that day was once again friendly, and I can swear we were sitting next to the owner of the joint, with his missus, outside… he was overly confident, ordering without looking at the menu, asking the waiter details of his personal life (stuff like “Did you organise your trip?”) and you know, I just got that slightly-on-edge nervous vibe from the waiter, that of to not stuff up. He also eavesdropped (I know because I do it so well) on my loud remarks about how great our meals looked. For sure, he was the boss. He was ‘invested.’ And I totally understood the European language he peppered his normal conversation with to his lady. Native tongue, let’s call it. Good job boss, you’ve got yourself a winner here, cestitamo. 😉

Food: 8.5/10.

Coffee: 8/10. Strong on our second visit.

Ambience: Amazing. I loved it. Cheeky sign out front advising us to talk to each other and not ask for wifi; the location on Macrossan Street; and the bustling inside vibe, combined with the chilled out outside feel, make it a cool place to be.

People: Tourists, locals. Lots of accents. Hipsters go there too, they were inside, so beware. (!) No really, couples and families, but generally I saw more bearded types there than any others 😉

Staff: Very friendly and accommodating, and nice to see but also importantly genuine.

Price: About $15 on our first visit, under $50 for our second. Standard for a café, yet somewhat inexpensive for the food and place and what you’re getting and experiencing. Bargain.

Advice: Book if you’re dead-set on a certain time. Get there early in the morning for brekkie. Have a muffin. Sit inside if you can’t handle sun (why are you in Port Douglas?) If you like me, feed the littlies and can’t have your coffee straight away, place it in the sun – it will keep it warm for you.

In a nutshell: I think I am favourably skewed from now on out to any eatery with the word ‘Larder’ in its name. A funky place, with delicious, generous food portions, moorish muffins, a quirky cool vibe, and all in a great locale served by lovely waiters? Its inside ‘cupboard’ may be little, but this place has a lot of Ljubav 😉

We’ll be coming back, here, and to Port Douglas again. Thanks guys.

(More info on our Port Douglas holiday will be coming up in a later post).

Little Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato