Lantasia Lights

I thought it was a one-off event, back when I saw the lit-up advertising in the Summer of ’16 – ’17. There were huge bright characters and animals, but being so soon after our Sea Change move, the thought of exploring when I needed to explore rather the dozen (or 50) boxes we had still packed up in our home, was too much to bear (and we still have boxes!)

However this year, this Summer, was different. More than 1 year after moving here, when I saw the familiar lights and pretty hanging things being showcased around online and in local advertising, I knew I had to take baby girl to go and see them.

Hell, I wanted to go and see them.

Armed with my trusty Mornington Peninsula ‘Penny Saver’ book, Hubbie, baby girl and I made our way over to Fingal to see the Fantasia Light Walk display at Boneo Maze and Mini Golf.

We started our tour of the grounds via the boardwalk, that led us through native flora, fauna and light installations –

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Which then led us to a Hedge Maze early on, which we weaved our way through. Surprisingly cool, a great place to hide out in on a hot Summer’s night! We headed through it easily, though with a couple of twists and turns you could find yourself looping the same path on repeat if not careful! Keep kids close, just in case. Just a small maze, nonetheless.

Back onto the boardwalk, which led us through wetlands around us, and MORE light installations.

 

 

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A little House of Mirrors (or should I say, horrors) greeted us at one point, made more horrific when after viewing our reflections in the mirror, I noticed some ghost-like black and white photographs staring at us from the wall, and got baby girl the hell out of there before she could even think about starting on nightmares.

Annndddd…. another nightmare.

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At a fork in the boardwalk, one path led us down a Bird Hide through which you could view birds in their natural habitat via a window-ed cottage… but the other path is the one that led us to something more exciting.

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A large games area, which the beautiful boardwalk framed as it wove around the parkland, was the perfect focal point of the grounds, especially for kids. There was a vintage carousel

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Giant games, including Chess, Checkers, Connect 4 and Hookey.

And lights were on display amidst the trees and gardens, shining brightly as night fell.

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So much to see and do, for both kids and adults alike. And set in amongst such beautiful settings, calming nature, stunning scenery, and bright lanterns and light installations.

In fact, there was soooo much to see and do, that we didn’t get to see and do. A major feature of the park is the Mini Golf, so much so that you get a score card on the back of your map of the grounds upon entry.

Also at additional cost, is the Adventure Zone, open on school holidays and weekends, that include things like climbing walls and pedal boats.

We were only there for a short time, since I had squeezed the whole visit in. The Lantasia Light Walk at Boneo Maze ends soon, on Jan 27, and I really wanted to check it out before then, seeing as I had missed it the year before.

In turn our visit was rushed, yet really you should be spending a good several hours here, 4 at least to get your money’s worth.

And speaking of money, the Lantasia entry prices are on the ‘up’ side, as I would say in my Food Reviews… $20 for adults, and $18 for children. Just as well Hubbie got in for free with our Penny Saver voucher!

A café resides in the first half of the grounds, allowing you to enjoy yourself for a bit amidst exploring for those 4 hours or so, where you can indulge in some fine fare and drinks (licensed too, so take your glass of bubbly to the lawn and chill!)

My only gripe out of the whole evening, was that there are only one lot of toilets up in the café. Seeing as baby girl had to go tot the toilet twice, both times while we were half-way to the Games area, it was really annoying to have to turn back and walk ALL THE WAY BACK to the café, instead of keeping forward and finding, I don’t know, at least one outdoor toilet or something, somewhere, anywhere, near the Games area. It would have been so much more convenient.

The deets!

Boneo Maze and Mini Golf

695 Limestone Road Fingal

Prices:

Lantasia Light Walk runs from 7pm every night, and finishes up on Jan 27th – so get in quick!

Lantasia entry for adults is $20; children are $18

General Boneo Maze entry prices:

Adults $18; Senior/student/concession $16; Children (3-17) $15; kids under 3, Free!

Your general entry allows you unlimited Mini Golf (something I will be learning for next time!) access to games, mazes, wetlands, boardwalks, the carousel, and special workshops.

The ‘Adventure Zone’ is an extra $5 per activity/person, or $15 for unlimited wristband (go the wristband, who wants to limit themselves to ONE activity?!)

Tips?

Make sure your littlies have had their bathroom break before embarking on any walks or games, especially as you head away from the café.

And give yourself a good few hours to really enjoy and explore the grounds.

Final say…

Although rushed we still had fun, and further testament to this was baby girl asking me the next day to take her back to the merry-go-round. 🙂 When your kid doesn’t forget, neither do you. I will need to take her back, but there’ll be no twisting of my arm to do it either… that’ll be the job for the Mini Golf…

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Umpteen reasons why you should LOVE Winter

It hit me one Saturday morning during a work shift, as I left the warm confines of my place of employment to walk down the road and grab a coffee. Feeling that fresh air, that Winter chill on my face, reminded me of the time I felt it last year, and suddenly I was down memory lane, remembering the things about Winter you choose so hard to forget when it is done and dusted for the year.

So, then, I tried harder to remember. What fascinates me about this time of year, is that once it is upon us, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it – that is the shits, and one of the major factors of making the entire season that much more unbearable.

Hey, calm down… I’m not like, a ‘Winter ambassador’ or something! I am the first to put up my hand and forge ahead with the get-rid-of-Winter fan club. I wouldn’t say I HATE it, since that is a strong word, that I HATE to use (see what I did there?) but I do in fact, detest the coldest of seasons to a degree that once the longest day has come and gone in January, I am in slow grief over the gradual dissemination of Summer.

But like I said above: it ain’t too bad. I’ve been most surprised by my own attitude towards it, in finding that there are actually plenty of great things to enjoy, and celebrate, about the coldest time of the year! You don’t say! Let me hear it! Well ok then, here is my list of things to get your blood boiling…

(And don’t fret, this isn’t one of those bullshit ‘buy a really good coat and scarves’ nonsense post. We all know that we need more than layers to make up for the fact of Winter, duh).

1. But First, Coffee.

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And so one of my fave coffee quotes signals the beginning of this Winter Warm-up list. When else to drink, and enjoy coffee most, than in Winter? Not only does the caffeine hit give you a burst of much needed non-hibernating energy, but it is WARM, and therefore, heats you up from the inside-out. This is a super simple and accessible way to keep you happy, buzzing and hot, ALL DAY LONG. Make it at home, or buy it out and about… really, this one is a no-brainer.

 

2. To café, OR, to café…

And, how to get to your hot coffee? Why, you enter a café of course. Just picture it: you are in the freezing winds, walking briskly to your café of choice so as to remove yourself from the unnerving elements, when you finally, step inside, and –

Ahhh. That moment.

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You know that moment, when the feeling of cold is replaced by the scent of coffee beans, and you are away from the outdoors, but can still see everything including all the fools still stuck out in the real world? And you’re ‘in here?’ and about to get a coffee? Yeah that’s great. Café-ing it, not just for coffee, but for anything in Winter – be it brekkie, lunch or any other fare – is a beautiful way to while away the day. Choose a good one, a cosy spot, and watch the world go by… just see if you don’t feel better about Winter when you put yourself in this supreme predicament…

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3. Walk This Way…

On a contradictory note, on those cold and still Wintery days, sometimes it can be somewhat, what is the word, rejuvenating! to take a nice long walk.

Yes, the air can be biting. Yes, the cold will still seep through your clothes. But there’s something about a fresh, freezing-cold walk that awakens the senses, both physical and mental, as it is often when I am walking in the cold that my creative mind is switched on. I don’t know why, but a brisk walk in Winter allows me to daydream and plan for any future blog posts (how this one came about) much more efficiently than in Summer. Maybe it’s the fact that other than getting into a heated area immediately, there is no other thought trying to take up head space like it does in Summer, where I would be planning future events and social gatherings, and the things I’ll be doing for the next 3 weekends. In Winter, it’s just Winter, and my creative thoughts are allowed to fly beside the recurring thought of ‘get inside.’

I don’t like to be in the cold, and yet a walk like this brings about a whimsical dreamlike effect to my walk, where I find myself observing, being in the moment, and smiling often. I’m not wishing myself out of this hellhole, I’m just smiling. I’m not trying to prove a point… Next.

4. Stay IN

Although I absolutely love Summer, there is one thing that gets tiring by the end of the season: the constant go-go-go. Summer makes you feel like you have to be super-efficient and on top of the world, heading to every social event, enjoying every ounce of sunshine, waking at the crack of dawn, and starting a new body-building course when you’re not preparing your new gluten-free, dairy-free, animal-free, everything of any joy or texture or enjoyment-free diet. It is FULL on.

But Winter allows you to just chill. Hibernate like a bear, and in doing so, drink all the hot chocolate/tea/coffee before doing so. If there is any season where you should feel the least guilt about doing nothing, and where you should completely and utterly embrace the act of doing absolutely nothing, it is Winter. It’s okay, you will be at it again in a couple of months time…

5. Pimp up your home

But, if you absolutely HAVE to, you could always forgo sitting around and chilling on the couch, with doing something around the house. Just as our sanity and ‘me time’ gets neglected in Summer, so too does the house, and house ‘stuff.’ You know those odd jobs. The broken door handle. The 3rd light bulb that has been burnt out in the lounge room for 4 months. The pile of boxes that hasn’t been broken down into pieces. That heap of junk in your garage that you know a charity would love, but alas, Summer time.

In Winter, it is ALL possible. Case in point. We had bought new door handles from Bunnings to replace our old ones, as we wanted to spruce up the 80s-style house we had recently moved into. They remained untouched for months and months, ALL THROUGH SUMMER, and it was only when the cold hit, that Hubbie finally started replacing them.

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Winter is the best time to look outward-in. Look around you and see what needs a little TLC, and then proceed accordingly. Home improvements, up-dos, renos – whatever it is, you will feel soooo much better for it, and not at all like a lazy bear once you are done.

6. Go OCD, mofos

And for those of you like me, that love to sort and clean and organise… well, what are you waiting for? Use these cold months to file away. File to your freaking hearts content. Label and shelve and box. Store those photos in chronological order, organise your home family videos, and clean up your menu folder so that you don’t have crappy old recipes in there that you won’t even sniff at again. There is no better feeling then tackling a long, put-off job, and I swear, as Winter ends and Spring begins, the sense of accomplishment you feel in knowing everything is sorted and ready for another season/year… GOLD. GO you OCD peeps, GO!

7. Jump!

Ok, so this is kinda parent-specific. But, you don’t need to be a recently-acquired trampoline owner for a cheeky monkey princess like I have, to jump. You probably do need a child of some kind, so if you don’t have any of your own, borrow one – like you probably have a niece, or nephew, or know someone who would LOVE for you to kindly offer their brood a day out? (You will be on their Christmas card list FOREVER, I promise you).

But my point is, be childlike. Jumping is not only fun, good for you, and is healthy (hey, exercise), but it warms you up too! And if you think jumping is only for kids – 20 seconds on the thing and you will remember what a jumping extraordinaire you used to be 20 or so years ago… and then it will be the kid trying to get you off the trampoline, not you, them.

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8. A good book

So, a no-brainer. Totally. But when else is it more acceptable and necessary to snuggle up with a book and lose yourself within its pages? Never, ever, EVER. Even on holiday, you should be doing things and seeing things, but at home, in Winter? Perfect reading weather.

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Whether it’s at home, on your lunch break, or on the train, waiting for your doctors appointment (that brisk walk/jumping probably gave you a little cough, ahem*) or at the park while the kiddies play, there is really no better time to invest in a good book.

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9. SLEEP

So a totally acceptable place to read is in bed, but if you’d rather not even do that, you can just sleep. I know this is such a ‘Duh, Fred’ point, but still, it HAS TO be said. Fred.

Sleep ’til your big hearts content. Of course this is totally dependant on whether you have a paying job or go to regular schooling (most of the Western population), but in your down time, this is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Yep. Even if you have kids that don’t let you breathe, just pull them in, throw a blanket over your heads, and once the hilarities have died down, watch them fall into a slumber. You will be there too soon, don’t worry.

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Sleep on the bed, sleep on the couch… wherever you wish. Just make sure it’s comfy and inviting, there are plenty of blankets, and a real nice place to rest your head. Ahhhh.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

Let’s change tack and ramp it up a little, to my favourite past-time! Like seriously, how annoying is it in Summer, when you need some new clothes/shoes/pillows/coffee beans, and you head into the confines of a multi-level shopping centre, but it’s a stunning, and I mean STUNNING day out? You don’t want to miss out on that, and stay indoors most of the day? This is so especially true for us Melburnians, as sunshine, even in Summer of all seasons, can be soooo fleeting.

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But in Winter? Hell, bring the shopping on! You won’t miss out on ANYTHING because its so cold and miserable out! YAY. Shop to your hearts content, in fact, shop for all seasons, and stay ahead of the pack.

11. Work it out 

Ok, so I know some of you might wanna swipe me over this one, as I am known for finding gratitude in the most wide-ranging of places… but I tell you, work really IS better when it’s cold. I mean, just look at the below:

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How miserable is the above photo? Okay well it is oddly pretty in the dim light, but you know what I mean… I am not really missing out. It’s taken from my work window… do I wanna go outside? Hell no!

Work is actually not too bad, and you can almost be grateful to be in the confines of work, when it is so shit-faced outside. You will never be sad being at work during Winter, unless of course you had to get up at 5am like me, and are staring out the kitchen window at 7am thinking of Hubbie and baby girl asleep and warm in bed… damn.

TRY to be grateful for work while you can, in Winter, at the very least.

12. Let’s go to the beach

Your welcome. Ok so maybe not Summer-thumping-beach-vibes weather at the mo, but you know where I’m headed.

This may be a bit left-of-centre for some, but for me being fortunate enough to live BY the beach, not so. But either way, a trip to the beach is for most in our fair country, accessible and do-able.

Why should you do it, you cry? Cold, winds, uninviting waters…

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What do you think? I’m not telling you to jump in. No, hell no. I’m just saying that the ocean views bring about a sense of calmness, of peace, of reflection, and retrospection, and the waters don’t even have to be still and unrippled. No. They are in fact most beautiful and spectacular when they are savage, wild and unleashed, ripping against the shore or pier or rocks, and showing you the brutal nature of Mother Earth herself.

Rug up and try it. See how your mind feels afterwards.

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13. Do something NEW

While you’re out and about at the beach, how’s about you keep trying new things, and enrol in a course of some kind. (Like not literally walk down the road, just think about it). Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Like maybe, learn a new language? Try your hand at some knitting? Learn how to cook like a chef? Drive a manual car? For some creative pursuits, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home – just log in and you’re connected.

Doing something you’ve been wanting to do for a while is not just fulfilling, as you are catering to yours truly, yourself, but you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position. Only when you are vulnerable, can you really learn anything. Since everything is on the down-low in Winter, there is no time like the present to focus in on yourself, and give something new a go. Time to study, reflect on where you want to go in life, and centre yourself both spiritually and mentally, is the perfect cold-time creative pursuit. Just try. You won’t lose a thing.

14. Cook up a storm! 

While doing something new, you may want to try your hand at some new recipes.. or old, whatever tickles your fancy. But what I love about this coldest of seasons, is the deliciously warm dishes to match. Or should I say, warm you right up. Whether it be a vegetable curry

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a cauliflower soup

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or some yummy baked goods

there is nothing quite so inviting on a cold Winter’s night, than to indulge in warming, delicious and comforting, Winter-specific foods. Slow-cooked meals, lasagnes, roasts… the list goes on and on and on. And the upside? When you are buying Winter-y things like cauliflower for your soup, you are buying in season, so it is cheaper! Winning 🙂 Go foodie mad.

15. Catch up with some old ‘friends’

Now, I don’t mean ACTUAL friends, and boy would it be appropriate here if I actually  loved the show of the same name. Instead I’m talking of your movies and your DVD box sets. Plop yourself in a comfy place, and get ‘re-acquainted.’ I feel forever-guilty whenever I sit on the couch – I always feel like I should be doing something more worthy, more important, and being a Mum makes the feelings more so. This is an activity I rarely indulge in.

But this Winter, I am really going to take it on board… and what better way to feel better about the blowing winds outside, than to be laughing/crying/hysterically shaking, over the antics of some old faves.

You don’t even have to have the DVDs. Shows like Sex and the City are on repeat on TV, there are streaming devices, and have you heard of Netflix? People even ‘download’… I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, ok?

It’s never been easier to catch up with, or watch a brand new series to get stuck into. Need tips? Some of my old faves:

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The above mentioned, my fave gal pals. “Abso-fucking-lutely” amazing.

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Angel. An amazing series that is 5 seasons long, and is totally worth investing your life into. Get ready to have your soul literally ripped apart, thanks Joss Whedon (no really, thank you!)

Dawson’s Creek is actually on free-to-air Go! at the moment. My face when I realised this? Bliss 🙂  I know it’s a teenage show, but it’s one of my ol’ faithfuls, and besides, the actors were probably my age when they filmed it, so….

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my current must-watch on TV, Shark Tank. This is splendid in every way. Seeing the investors rip through and tear to shreds some of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inventors, is just brilliant. You must watch this show.

So grab a warm drink, snuggle up on the couch (child or partner is optional) and chill-ax….

16. Bust a move.

Exercise. I know I know, it’s not bikini time, and it’s probably the only time of the year when there is no pressure to be beach-ready… but it doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to yourself to be healthy.

Still not sold? You don’t even have to leave the house. There are a world of gyms, gym classes, personal trainers, and get-fit programmes out there, and there as just as many exercise DVDs! Find what tickles your fancy, and do it in the privacy of your own home.

Do as I do, and pop on some trakkies, put on that old Zumba DVD, and get dancing! Exercise gets you going and warms you up at a time when it is so easy to be sluggish and sloth-like. And you know what I was so surprised to find? Even one session a week (baby steps) has given me increased flexibility and energy to run after a certain 3 year-old rascal. True story.

17. A ‘warming’ drink

I couldn’t bulk ‘warm drinks’ with ‘coffee,’ as coffee is just too damn important to me to be watered down like that… but I conclude with the option, that if you don’t like coffee, maybe tea is more your fancy?

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Or maybe a spicy chai latte can rub you totally up the right way

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No? Vino? There’s nothing like a good glass of red to get the fires burning

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Wanna get more creative? I give you, a combination of the last two options, Gluhwein…

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/german-mulled-wine-gluhwein-30925

Which is German Mulled Wine. It’s a whole lot of fabulous spices and wine/alcohol, warmed up, and you will create some GREAT memories in the making and drinking of it, let me assure you.

If you can’t be happy with a glass of wine/mug of tea/brew of gluhwein, while the winds are raging outside your window, well then YOU CAN’T BE SAVED!

 

So, how did I go? Have I given you renewed (or maybe just NEW) inspiration to totally LOVE Winter? We may be about half-way through the coldest of seasons, but living in Melbourne, we ALL KNOW it’s going to totally screw us up right up ’til November, if we’re lucky.

So guys. Pick a point and get to it. If you think I’ve left anything out, drop me a line!

(I say as I finish off a warm mug of tea…)

 

 

Sightings of People as Passionate About (Addicted to) Coffee as I am (SOPAPACAIA) #11

About 4pm, Greensborough Road Macleod.

Sighted: A woman holding two coffee cups, with a packaged ‘something’ wedged in between.

Standing calmly outside the servo, waiting for the traffic to cease.

In 35 degree heat.

You know those people that don’t drink coffee when it’s hot?

Yeah, they’re not REAL coffee drinkers.

But this woman right here, that’s a woman after my heart 🙂

Sightings of People as Passionate About (Addicted to) Coffee as I am (SOPAPACAIA) #10

10:40am, Nepean Highway Frankston

Sighted: A woman holding a Maccas bag and a takeaway coffee cup.

Hold up, what? Is this something unusual, seeing a person walk away from a takeaway restaurant with food and drink? Let me re-phrase (and re-paint the picture)…

10:40am, Nepean Highway Frankston. Grey day, the one where it is Summer but Summer rain and every other dark element has decided to reign down on us (pardon the pun). It is raining, the wind is intense, and this woman is standing at the intersection outside McDonalds waiting for the green man to appear, looking fairly calm as she is throttled by the unnatural season.

The coffee cup firmly in her hand, clearly getting soaked.

I don’t know if that says more about her coffee obsession, or the folk that frequent Frankston, but either way…

Bravo.

Combing for a Cafe

Beachcomber Café
St Kilda Sea Baths, 18 Jacka Boulevard St Kilda

After our disappointing dinner at Lygon street the night before, we put the bad memories behind us, deciding to take advantage of the continuing summer weather by journeying to the beach.

St Kilda beach.

It was a weekend or two before the huge St Kilda festival, so fortunately for us it wasn’t overrun by people. As it were, it was still overrun by people when we arrived after lunch that Sunday. We found parking on the side of the road and headed on to do the walk, in between the sand and surf on one end, and an array of stylish eateries on the other.

We walked to see, and we were seen. We came across an adorable Rottweiler pup that we stopped to pat, before deciding to be the ones people watching as we stood in line at the Beachcomber Café. We had actually attempted other places, but the lines were actually ridiculous. It wasn’t the St. Kilda festival, and though it was a warm day, it was extremely windy out there near the bay. As one man walking past me observed to his friends “imagine how busy it would be if the water were actually good?”

Touche my friend.

We waited in line at the Beachcomber for about 5 minutes. There were perhaps 2-3 groups of people in front of us, but seats were found for them quickly. Obviously, the most desirable seats were those outside, looking out towards the water. And the best of the bunch was those right at the fringe of this outdoor seating, next to the enclosure that separated the café from the beach walkway.

When it came our turn to be first in line, the door man appeared, disappeared, and then came back with a whisper “did you have a booking?”

We replied no, apologetically. He skimmed the room and then said again in a low tone “there’s a table at the front over there with a reserved sign – you can take it.”

We gratefully thanked him and went on over to see that he had just given us, the best table. Prime position: outside, right next to the enclosure, perfect for people watching. What a star.

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We totally hadn’t planned for this trip, seeing as we had already eaten at home. And we had actually planned for coffee… but after seeing the food and drink being delivered to other tables, we knew we had to go that step further.

As a sharing snack, we got the Turkish Bread with Trio of Dips

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Hubbie got a 500ml Peroni, while I got an impressive Pina Colada, served out of a coconut no less

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While baby girl carried the coffee flag for us and got a babycino

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(note, no actual caffeine in there!)

The dips were really good, so incredible moorish especially considering we had already eaten. All the dips tasted great to me. We finished it off really easily between the three of us.

And my drink was strong. It was summery and everything I thought it would be served out of a coconut, but gee, it gave me a good hit.

Although it was windy it was still relaxing sitting out there, because the huge orange umbrellas covering each table shielded us, while the view before us of the people walking by and the water, gave baby girl plenty to look at and keep her busy while we enjoyed the surroundings. We chilled, orange-topped staff walked around keeping everyone happy, while amazing food and drinks were delivered to eagerly-awaiting beachgoers.

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We had had a spontaneous though terrific time there. Aren’t they the best ones though? We hadn’t been prepared for a meal otherwise we would have indulged there… next time, just another reason to go back.

Food: Just based on those dips, 8/10.

Coffee: Sadly not on this occasion, but baby girl’s babycino did look lovely

Ambience: Relaxed with style… how can you be anything else when you’re by the bay?

People: It was funny to observe, but I later saw the same door man sit another family close to us near the enclosure towards the end of our experience there… coincidence, or was he pro family? Ha ha. There were generally groups of people, but there were couples and friends and just everyone wanting to get a view of the water. The only off-putting thing was the group of 30ish guys sitting on the table next to us, as I easily deciphered their guy code and heard them as they ogled women walking past. Men like that are the reason I get overly paranoid walking alone. I just didn’t like it. But, Beachcomber can’t help that unfortunately. Perves will always come to beaches, to well, perve.

Staff: Really lovely and attentive, and the door man was just my favourite there wasn’t he?

Price: Under $60 for the lot, so it was definitely St Kilda prices. I did have a rather large and impressive drink, and Hubbie’s was more than his usual standard size of beer.

Advice: Either book for front seat, beach-view dining, or come at a time of day where there may not be many people queueing up. When we arrived post 2pm, the line was getting smaller, and soon after we were seated it was non-existent. Either way, wherever you sit you will see the water, the people, and smell the fresh sea air.

In a nutshell: We all loved this place for many reasons, and all the important ones: the atmosphere, the location, the view, and the food and drinks. The current menu does not list the Turkish Bread with Dips, however I’m fairly certain that the other items on the menu should not fall short.

These people live up to their name, as they have definitely identified something of value that people will keep coming back for. Because we will.

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

Café Bugia

Café Trevi
294 Lygon Street Carlton

We were tired and hot after a long day at a birthday up in the North. We were fairly undecided about where to go on that Saturday night in February, but still being summer, warm, and the party season, we decided to give Lygon street another shot despite our last disappointing attempt. I mean, it was our old food-stomping ground. Surely we wouldn’t have another bad experience, would we?

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We decided very quickly to go to Café Trevi. In fact, Hubbie decided it for all of us with the free pizza being handed out at the front of the establishment, tempting him in. If this were the old Trevi, I wouldn’t have bothered. We have had bad experiences there with food in the past, which is why we hadn’t gone there in years. But I could see that there were new owners, and it was newly renovated, and along with needing to get food into baby girl and myself, I just went along with it.

Free food tempting foodies in? Clever.

Hubbie asked for a table for us all, outside, while I asked the real question: was there a baby change facility in their premises? The girl holding the pan of pizza nodded yes, but I vaguely didn’t trust her, not knowing if she was just nodding above the noise, or just used to saying ‘yes’ all the time. So I turned to the door man, a friendly-looking man with an accent. I asked him pointedly if they had a baby change facility. He answered yes.

Let’s just store that in the memory bank for later.

Content with TWO YES’S, we moved to a table outside.

Hubbie and I got some drinks, a white for me, beer for him

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while we struggled to keep a hungry and under-slept baby girl happy. Fortunately for us, our entrée of arancini and her main of a chicken and chip pizza, arrived very quickly.

Arancini classici – rice ball made with cheese, peas and quality mince served with bologna sauce.

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Chicken and chips pizza – mozzarella, fried chips, chicken

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The arancini starter was not bad, I think it was a tad dry but the sauce on the side saved it. The chicken and chips pizza was moorish, an interesting combination and one that I think was great. We all enjoyed eating that one.

After a while, we received our mains:

Hubbie’s Eye Fillet Steak with potatoes

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And my linguine ai frutti di mare – spaghetti pomodori and fresh seafood, chilli

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My pasta was ok. I was initially worried it may have a strong chilli taste, thinking baby girl might want to taste-test, but I soon found out I had nothing to worry about – no strong discerning chilli taste here. Which actually was a bit disappointing. I wanted some flavour, and this was actually quite plain as far as seafood pastas go. I enjoyed the prawns and the one scallop on my plate, but the mussels were tough.

Hubbie’s experience left little to be desired. Firstly, he had an item off of the specials, so it wasn’t a usual menu item. He didn’t like the smell or taste of it, saying it smelt fishy and just didn’t taste right. It was turning him off, so he spoke to the door man who said he would take it to the kitchen and ask the chef. It was returned to him, with the explanation  “that’s the taste.” He was given the option of having another cooked for him, but hubbie didn’t bother. I mean, if that’s the ‘taste,’ won’t every other one taste and smell the same?

Hubbie butchered the steak, trying to find any reasonable meat to eat, leaving most of it in tatters on his plate. We’ll get back to that story soon.

I wanted to change baby girl, now being at the tail end of our dining experience at Trevi. We weren’t overly rapt, especially Hubbie, but I wanted to end the night on a good note by getting dessert or ice cream somewhere else before we headed home. So of course, I wanted her fresh, and I wanted to change her. I went over with her to the doorman who had been lovely all night, and very friendly with baby girl, and asked him where the change facilities were. He mumbled something about something not being there, but pointed to upstairs. So we walked up the stairs, change bag in one hand, holding baby girl’s hand in the other. I entered another seating area, probably reserved for private parties, that was empty. Here were the toilets: men’s and women’s. I entered the women’s, and did a double take. I went in, and then out. Looked around. Back in. Looked in toilet cubicles. Even sussed out the back of the toilet door entrance. I could see no change table or pull down table anywhere.

I walked out of the women’s toilet with baby girl, and stared at the men’s toilets. Surely they wouldn’t have the only change table in the men’s toilets, would they? I seriously contemplated going in there, but luckily I didn’t as a man came up minutes later to use the loo. I looked around the room racking my brain. It didn’t make sense. I was told at the beginning by two separate people who worked there that they had a baby change facility!
I walked back down with baby girl. Bag in one hand, holding her hand in the other. I saw the door man walk past near the foot of the stairs. “Excuse me,” I asked. “I can’t see a baby change table anywhere.”

He proceeded to tell me, very apologetically, like a dog with his tail between his legs and his head lowered after the owner’s have come home to find their laundry trashed all over the floor, that there was no change table. They didn’t have one.

I sighed, and nodded. I didn’t say a word. In my head I screamed ‘but you told me there was one! Both of you!’ Although he had been lovely to us all night, and to baby girl, he had deliberately lied. I went to the table and told Hubbie we were getting out of there. As Hubbie was paying and I was standing outside the café with baby girl, I saw a zomato sign stuck beside the front entrance. ‘Review us on Zomato,’ it read.

Oh I will, I thought.

Food: 3/10. Points obviously taken away for Hubbie’s steak, my bland pasta, and the uninspired arancini.

Coffee: N/A, and now, never.

Ambience: It was chilled at the beginning, and surprisingly when we were there it wasn’t too busy, but having said that it was 7-8pm on Lygon street on a hot summers night, meaning everywhere it was fairly bustling. We just wished more of the experience had been up to scratch to match that vibe.

Staff: They were friendly, especially the door man. But he, and the girl holding the pan for free tasting of pizzas, LIED.

People: Near us were an older couple at the beginning, then as we were finishing up a larger group sat near us, and a couple about our age, 30s, arrived with their motorcycle helmets. It was a quiet night for them, but it was gearing up a notch as we paid and left.

Price: I think the total was about $120-$130 – that consisted of several alcoholic drinks, an entrée, and three mains. However upon paying, Hubbie’s steak, or a portion of the price, came off the total, so it ended up being more like just over $100. They had seen his butchered steak, what was left of it anyway, and the chef had said to him at the register, “we could have given you another one!” Hubbie responded as he had to me – “but wouldn’t it have tasted the same?”

Advice: My personal advice would be to not go here. I was disappointed that Hubbie’s steak wasn’t to scratch, sure… but the fact that I was lied to about the baby change table? That left me really sour. And I saved him some verbal abuse due to it too. I chose to walk off. We didn’t end up going anywhere for dessert after, because I couldn’t change baby girl. We just went home. His lie had shortened our night out, and we don’t get many of those. Not happy.

In a nutshell: Feeling pretty damn shitty about Lygon street now. Both Hubbie and I were in agreeance over the fact that Lygon street, ain’t what it used to be. I think the good old-fashioned Italian fare and sincere service has gone out the window. Serve as many as you can with the cheapest quality cuts. Just get them in – then get them out. Don’t worry about change tables. Yeah we’ve got them. Oh no, that’s right we don’t. Sorry.

Too late. We won’t be coming back. I don’t take kindly to lying. Copperwood insulted us with ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ Buzz. Wrong answer. Parents read that, they said ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ What century are we in? And now, for Trevi to say they had one, but lie about it just so we could sit down and fork out over $100 for sub-standard food? That money needs to be worked for, it doesn’t fall off our money tree at home!

If we ever get over this slight (and we still haven’t) and we decide to head out Carlton-way again, I think we will definitely be avoiding Lygon street, and opting for the parallel and intersecting side streets instead…

R.I.P. Lygon street. Trevi and many of its neighbours aren’t doing you any favours in upholding the Italian-food tradition in your parts.

 

Update!

Ha, well what do you know. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies… and this isn’t one, they are Permanently Closed. Or so Google tells me as I try to place my zomato spoonback for this post. So there you go peeps, KARMA.

That tells me to quickly update my blog posts from the start of this year (in case they have closed), but from memory I don’t think we ate anywhere where their noses grow long, so…

But I should update them. Because you know. Posting about last summer, when it’s almost new summer? Uh uh.

Perspective

19 degrees in Winter… “Ahh nice, bring it on Spring.”

19 degrees in Summer… “What the?! What is this stupid excuse of a season?”

 

Waking up healthy… “Eh, another day.”

Waking up sick… “I can’t wait to feel good again.”

 

Dealing with a whinging baby… “Stop crying! You are so annoying, I can’t handle it!”

A childless woman wanting a baby, watching a whinging baby… “What I would give to hold one of my own…”

 

Going into work… “I hate work.”

Not having a job to go to… “My work wasn’t too bad.”

 

Feeling overwhelmed by food after a banquet sitting… “I couldn’t eat another thing!”

A starving child in a third-world country feeling overwhelmed by the lack of food… “If only I could find a crumb.”

 

These are trivialities, first world-problems, serious problems, and for us privileged, most are perspective.

Getting consumed by the nonsense of everyday life is both easy yet unnecessary, and can be overcome when you ask yourself “Is there worse out there? How bad is this scenario?”

There are many, many serious problems and issues out in the world. But how much easier would it be to deal with those things when we removed the silly nonsense from everyday life, enjoyed more of what’s around us, and appreciated what we have?

Showing gratitude for simple things every day, is a very easy way to turn your perspective around, and bring more joy, more happiness, more abundance, and generally more of what you want, into your life EVERY DAY. I know this, because earlier this year I started my own online gratitude journey… inspired by a car crash.

If you would like to check it out, or find some inspiration for your own journey, or you just want to see how I can possibly be grateful that I went back to work after time off (my most recent post), you can click here.

If you are reading this, that means you have survived every single bad thing that has ever happened in your life. Wow, are you a superhero?!

Remember, SMILE. It’s all good 🙂

Turn towards this Bakery

Turners Bakehouse Eatery
107 Schotters Road Mernda

We decided to head out to Turners Bakehouse Eatery for breakfast one Sunday in mid-January. We had ventured there before, pre-blogging days and when baby girl was still learning about her tastebuds. Now, she would have a meal of her own. And a babycino to boot.

Turners is a boutique bakery originally established in 1892, and recently restored after being closed since the 1940s. It’s a beautiful and quaint building, reminiscent of a working farm house back in the day. It sits on a residential street just past the Fire Station but before the Church. That in itself paints a pretty picture right there.

It was the start of a hot Summer’s day, but sitting underneath the tall trees out in the yard of the café, it was perfect. There is seating inside, though it always looks so squashed to me, that I think even if we went there in Winter I would rather rug up and be amongst the plants and birdlife.

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And there were birds alright. The cockys were flying overhead and squawking from perched branches on trees above us. The surroundings felt rural, yet being a short distance from other neighbouring, more built-up suburbs, it was only a stone’s throw away.

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I had ordered the Eggs Florentine – Poached eggs served on toasted ciabatta, with wilted spinach and hollandaise sauce

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Hubbie got the French Toast – Bakehouse brioche, topped with whipped mascarpone, berry compote, pistachio crumb

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While baby girl got a Cheese Toasty

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All our meals looked great, even baby girl’s simple melted cheese on bread. She seemed to enjoy it, as did we, eating her leftovers.

The hollandaise sauce on my meal was of the perfect quantity, and not swimming in it like other poached egg meals I’ve had. It can be so overwhelming when you have eggs dripping in hollandaise. Thankfully this was not. The first poached egg I had was perfectly runny, while the second one had a stronger formed yolk. Lucky I had the runny one first, since I had been craving poached eggs for a while. And the bread was light, not hard, which I was grateful for. There’s nothing worse than slicing your gums against too-tough bread because the crust is super-sharp/over-toasted.

Hubbie enjoyed his meal, saying it was just enough for him… well maybe he could have done with a tad more. But he wasn’t left with that over-full feeling he usually gets when he orders meals like a ‘Big Breakfast.’

Funnily enough, I had felt like I had had the big breakfast! I couldn’t eat for hours after that meal, as I just felt so bloated and heavy. Maybe it had nothing at all to do with the meal, and just the way I processed it that day. I don’t understand it, I’ve had eggs Florentine before… just this time it really weighed me down, to the point that when I did eat at 3pm, it was 2 minute noodles from the pantry. I just couldn’t fathom anything more.

I know, I know – a food blogger to eat 2 minute noodles? That’s blasphemous. However I am a time-poor Mum, and I need emergency food for ‘in case’ situations, which this was…)

After our meals we got some coffees: latte, cappuccino and babycino

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I found my cap exceptionally strong, yet it was still smooth, so I enjoyed it.

The rest of the morning there was spent looking at the watering can fountain (and advising baby girl repeatedly not to touch!), wandering the yard a bit, and waving to fellow breakfast-goers – oh that’s right, that was baby girl, not us. It was actually a perfect morning, so warm, so peaceful, yet there were plenty of families around so we felt right at home. The best way to feel on a lazy Sunday morning.

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Food: 7.5/10. Filling.

Coffee: 8/10.  Strong, smooth.

Ambience: Really peaceful, I loved it. There were a few people out in the yard that day but everyone was in Sunday mode and just chill-axing. Trees, birds squawking, sun shining… it really was ideal.

Staff: All of the waitresses were very friendly, and our waitress was very kid-savvy which was great. She was genuinely friendly and good with our princess.

People: Generally families, but there were a few duos, and people without children arriving in groups to brunch away.

Price: $49 for the lot, which I considered a bargain for what we got and what we experienced.

Advice: Sit outside. Maybe buy one of their famous loaves of sourdough bread to take home (something I’m yet to do and reading their website I’m sorry that I didn’t!). It’s made in their traditional wood-fired Scotch oven, built way back in the 1890s (!) while their sourdough bread is made with a natural, long-fermenting yeast that not only tastes amazing but is good for you too. Man, I’m going there tomorrow since we’re currently out of bread!

In a nutshell: It’s a fabulous find up in the North that is well worth the venture, not just for the serenity, the service or their famous breads, but just because it’s a little piece of history that has been restored, and that alone should inspire you to Turn around and check it out…

Turners Bakehouse Eatery 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.