It’s all about the Buggy – Hotel Sama Sama Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a great place for a quick stop over when you are flying long haul via Asia. On stopovers I often find it is easiest to stay close to the airport – particularly when you get in late in the evening and are leaving early in the morning. At Kuala Lumpur airport it doesn’t get closer than the Sama Sama Hotel!

Location

The Buggy!

Sama Sama is connected to the airport via a covered walkway. One of the best things about staying here is the buggy! When you exit customs turn right and take the lift down to the 2nd floor (it has to be the lift as the escalator doesn’t appear to access the 2nd floor). Once you get out of the lift you will see the area for the Sama Sama buggy straight ahead. It operates every 5 minutes so you won’t be waiting long.

Reception

As you are at the airport you can hop on the buggy and head back and get on the KLIA express. For 50 RMB you will be in the centre of Kuala Lumpur in 28 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes. The train takes you to KL central which is the main interchange station so from here you can get pretty much everywhere in Kuala Lumpur.

The Rooms

I stayed in a Deluxe room which was very nice. The rooms are spacious with a lovely big king size bed which was very comfortable. There is a chaise lounge and a desk. A big bathroom with both a bath and shower. Good quality toiletries and fluffy towels along with a bathrobe and slippers. Nicely designed.

The Big Bed
Another room angle
Love a chaise lounge
The Bathroom

The facilities

Hotel Sama Sama has three different restaurants as well as room service. The room service menu is extensive and I have a fantastic hamburger. They have three white wines by the glass. There is a bar in reception. They also have a pool.

Service

Everyone I encountered was extremely friendly and keen to help. The concierge provided me with a map and easy directions to find Batu Caves and Petronas Towers on the various railway systems. Check in and check out were both easy and most importantly it was very easy to get a glass of wine when I arrived back after my day exploring Kuala Lumpur! Room service was also quick and my wake up call happened.

A high recommendation to stay at Hotel Sama Sama!

A stroll through Melbourne’s Fitzroy

Fitzroy is just as eclectic and interesting as I remembered. If anything it has gone a bit more upmarket but still remains quite edgy.

I started my stroll at the corner of Smith Street and Gertrude Street at the big Crumpler store. Gertrude street is a great area to explore. There are loads of cute and unique shops and cafes. I particularly liked Made in Melbourne as all the clothes and jewelry is of course made in Melbourne and quite nice.

There are also funky furniture shops and even a milliner. Although this milliner seems to sell caps for blokes rather than race day head gear.

It is quite hard to choose where to eat along here as there are so many good option. There are five super cute busy cafes sitting almost next to each other. I went to Arcadia. I enjoyed a sandwich featuring roast chicken stuffed with lemon and thyme on dark rye and a healthy green smoothie. It was delicious.

Dessert can be at The Donut Shop which is 130 Gertrude Street. They have taken the art of a filled donut to a whole new level.

Take a right once you hit Brunswick Street. On the corner is the famous Melbourne pub/restaurant the Provincial which has gotten away with its dilapidated exterior for years. A door or two down is a fantastic restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors. The menu is Asian fusion and the service is great.

The famous Vasette florist

There are quite a few outlet stores along this stroll. My favourite is Melbourne brand Life with Bird which is at 264 Brunswick Street.

The perfect place for souvenirs or expat treats to take home is The Melbourne Shop at 338 Brunswick Street.

Pop into Babka for some bread to take home. Babka is another institution – I used to come here for breakfast when I was at University so it’s been around for a while!

After Babka take a right down Rose Street and walk down to Smith street. Take another right onto Smith street.

Have a wander along eclectic Smith Street. Make sure you pop into Gluttony, the home of amazing desserts. Wind your way back to the corner of Gertrude street and your square/rectangular tour of Fitzroy is complete!

I could not figure out why this image was everywhere in Fitzroy??

Two weeks in Korea Itinerary

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Day One

Arrive Seoul

Stay at KY Heritage Hotel Dongdaemun

Day Two

Day trip to DMZ

Stay at KY Heritage Hotel Dongdaemun

Day Three

Seoul

  • Gyeongbokgung
  • Insadong
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Stay at KY Heritage Hotel Dongdaemun

Day Four

Fly Seoul to Jeju Island

  • Loveland
  • Cheongjeyeon Waterfall
  • Saeyeongyo Bridge

Stay in Seogwipo Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon

Day Five

Jeju Island

  • Lizard Island
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong
  • Sangumburi Crater
  • Manjanggul Cave

Stay in Seogwipo Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon

Day Six

JeJu Island

Climb Mount Hallasan

Stay in Seogwipo Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon

Day Seven

JeJu Island

  • Lee Jung-Seop Gallery
  • Jeongbang Waterfall
  • Seogwipo Market

Stay in Seogwipo Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon

Day Eight

Fly to Daegu

  • City Bus Tour
  • Apsan Mountain Cable Car

Stay Novotel Ambassador Daegu

Day Eight

Daegu

  • Suemon Market
  • Kim Kwang-Seok Street

Stay Novotel Ambassador Daegu

Day Nine

Day trip to Jeonju – bus from Daegu return

Stay Novotel Ambassador Daegu

Day Ten

Daegu

  • Racoon Café
  • Medicine Street

Stay Novotel Ambassador Daegu

Day Eleven

Train from Daegu to Seoul

  • Seoul Sky Garden
  • Myeingseoum
  • Seoul Tower

Stay at KY Heritage Hotel Dongdaemun

Day Twelve

Seoul

  • Seoul Wall
  • Ihwa Mural Village
  • Korean War Memorial

Stay at KY Heritage Hotel Dongdaemun

Day Thirteen

Fly out of Seoul

Seoul Tower

A stroll down Melbourne’s Greville Street

Tucked away in Melbourne’s Prahran is the very cute Greville street. Although it has been around for years it has always been a bit of a hipster paradise filled with groovy edgy shops and cafes. I’ve been away from Melbourne for 13 years and this was a place that was cool to go when I was at University. Amazing that it is still a happening area for all!

If you are driving then the best place to park is the big parking lot on St Edmonds road behind coles, woolworths etc. This also allows you to take a wander down to Prahran Market. Personally I am a much bigger fan of the Vic and South Melbourne markets but the delis at Prahran have some fantastic deal – $10 for 4 different items from meats to dips!

Prahran Market entrance on Commercial Road

Heading on to Greville Street itself there are a couple of fab little art shops. There is a lovely little shop with loads of local artists who do gorgeous prints – Signed and Numbered. Further down towards the station is the edgier ArtBoy Gallery. No hip street in Melbourne would be complete without an Aesop story emitting lovely smells and Greville Street is no exception – this one supports the logo in lovely stained glass.

One of my favourite things on Greville street is how much they have turned a street into an experience. Love the road with its blue and pink. And the fact that there is outdoor seating along the whole street. The majority of it is with super cute “spools” – I think that is what you call them! They are chairs and tables that look like they should have spun threads on them.

There is a quite new Leona Edmiston outlet store now in place – she is a Melbourne based designer who has fab reasonably priced frocks that are particularly good if you have a few curves. Also on the fashion front is Kit and Ace the Canadian brand with the comfiest tops going around as they include cashmere with their cotton.

Leona Edmiston Store
Kit and Ace

On the food front is Chez Olivier. I have not actually been here but it has a good reputation for French food. My favourite place is on nearby St Edmonds street – a café actually called St Edmond’s. They do fabulous sandwiches/toasties and a mean salad. And of course as we are in the heart of hip Melbourne amazing coffee. All with a very cute outdoor seating area.

Chez Olivier

On the novelty front is Mag Nation – purported to have every magazine you could possibly want in stock. They also have loads of cute novelty stationery type things – perfect for random gifts. On the corner of St Edmonds and Greville is Third Drawer Down. They have a fantastic outdoor sign asking you to Please visit our damned shop – who could say no to that???

If you are a male reading this you could head to the hipster Brother Wolf to have them tend your beard in full hipster fashion. You will most likely feel very reassured as all the staff appear to have major hipster beards as well.

Greville records has been around so long that records have come in and out of fashion. Check it out for your vinyl needs.

Finally you are probably going to need a wine after all this exploring so head into the Station Hotel. This is a pub that has been around for years and years albeit with a few refurbs. Sip a sav here and wait for the correctly timed train to move you out of hipster Greville street.

Weekend on the Mornington Peninsula

The Mornington Peninsula is the place where people in Melbourne go to get away from Melbourne. It is a beautiful stretch with several very cute beach-side towns. And with the new freeway you can be there from Melbourne in just over an hour with good traffic! This is definitely a place where you will want a car – it is not easy to get around on any form of public transport and taxis are very hard to get when it is busy.

Dromana Beach

I went down with my friend Vikki who conveniently has a family beach house in Dromana. Dromana has changed a lot since my youth – it now has cute shops and cafes and is a bit of a happening area! This was also the weekend of the pumpkin for me. I am a bit obsessed with pumpkin. Proper pumpkin which I define as pumpkin with a dark skin. The light skinned Halloween type taste like the plainest butternut squash when cooked up. However dark skinned pumpkin is a whole other story! Roasted till it borders on mash this is one of my favourite things. It is very difficult to get in the UK so I was determined to eat as much pumpkin as possible. I am delighted to say that I managed to have pumpkin at all three meals over the weekend! It would have been a better story to have these in three meals that followed one another but alas I wasn’t quite able to manage that feat!

Friday Night in Dromana

We drove down on a Friday afternoon and got to Dromana for wine time! We enjoyed our wine at a great restaurant called the Two Buoys which is on the main street along the front beach. It was packed for a winter’s Friday night. It did deserve to be packed but it was possibly helped by the fact that very little else was open!

They have a bar area which also has larger tables for eating as well as a separate restaurant. After a 30 minute wait (worth making a booking even in winter) we nabbed a table in the bar area. The menu is set up for sharing – one of my favourite things to do as I then get to try more items!

Calamari

We kicked off with the chicken wings. Friday night is a chicken wings special and a ½ pound is only $5. This works out as approx. 7 wings so is great value. You are also offered your choice in terms of basting and we went with honey and soy. Next up was the calamari which was excellent – thick tender calamari in a very light coating.

Crab Sliders

Then the highlight – the pumpkin! This was a very large portion of pumpkin that had been well baked topped with cheese and oregano and was an absolute sensation. I even ate all the skin it was so good!

The Pumpkin

We also had the crab sliders which were a tasty option and a side of seasonal greens to make us feel healthier.

The Sorrento to Queenscliff Ferry

We were up bright and early the next morning as we had decided to drive down to the town of Sorrento and take the ferry over to Queenscliff. The mirror image of the Mornington Peninsula is the Bellarine Peninsula which also has several cute beach side towns well loved by Melbournians. The only way to get between the Peninsulas is by boat. The key way is the ferry between Sorrento and Queenscliff. The ferry leaves on the hour each way and takes about 40 minutes per trip. You can take your car but it will cost another $100 and you probably don’t need it if you only plan on visiting Sorrento or Queenscliff only. The adult return ticket is only $22.

The Ferry Sorrento side

It is a great ferry – very clean and modern. So many ferries I’ve been on in other countries have dirty windows and feel a million years old. This ferry has sparkling clean windows and feels very fresh. There is a decent café on board and they even had decent coffee! The views heading in and out of each port are also great – would be fantastic to do this in the late afternoon light for photos.

Sorrento Ferry

A wander around Queenscliff

From the ferry port it is about a 10 minute walk into the main town. There are some touristy things on the way – the Queenscliff Pier which is quite photogenic (See attached shot!). You can walk to the top of the Observation Tower but we ran out of time for this. And there is a Maritime museum but that isn’t really my thing so we gave that a miss.

Queenscliff

Much more my thing is a wander and finding good food! Queenscliff is a very cute old style heritage town. As you would expect there are therefore lots of cute food shops and loads of antique shops. We decided to visit Salt Bush for lunch. I do love a breakfast/lunch place that also sells beautifully packaged food products that I will most likely never use but really want to purchase.

Salt Bush

The breakfast menu looked good but we had moved into lunch time. They had two soups of the day and I went with the beef and barley with sourdough toast on the side. It was great – very hearty and flavoursome. I also had a side salad and boy the taste of that local lettuce! Normally I only eat rocket but this romaine was a sensation. And although the dessert options looked very tasty who can go past an old fashioned lolly shop which was next door!

Queenscliff Main Street

We then wandered the street and had a peek in the Queenscliff Gallery which had some lovely prints. It was very soon time to head back to the ferry as we were determined to visit some of the Peninsula’s local wineries.

The Wineries

Most of the wineries in the area are clustered around Dromana. First up was Red Hill. Years ago I went to a hen’s lunch here and it was a lovely setting – and still is. We were just there for the cellar door though. I remembered it as being tiny and they have certainly expanded. We didn’t end up purchasing any wine although the Sauvignon Blanc was quite good and features on a few wine lists around town.

Red Hill Winery

Next up was Port Phillip Estate. This is a super modern building and not what you would expect for a winery. The key to its modern exterior is that the other side is glass floor to ceiling for stunning views of the vineyards. There is a restaurant and a bistro with loads of outdoor seating in addition to the cellar door.  This area is known for its Pinot Noirs and I grabbed a couple of bottles of the Massale as well as a bottle of Chardonnay.

Port Phillip Estate

After a long day we decided it was time for an old fashioned dvd rental from the rental machine outside the local IGA. We popped into town for fish and chips take away and then enjoyed them with our wine purchases and a movie.

Sunday Brunch

Vikki was keen for me to try Dee’s which is just off the main street in Dromana. It was a fantastic recommendation! Again this is warm and comfy brunchy place filled with food products for purchase and prepared items for takeaway.

Oh so healthy juice

As soon as I saw the potato and pumpkin rosemary hash with poached eggs there was no other breakfast choice for me! Substituting potato and pumpkin for my usual breakfast carbs of sourdough toast was a no brainer. It was a taste sensation – the pumpkin was just the right bit crispy and soft and was perfect with poached eggs. We also went healthy with apple, cucumber, mint and beetroot juice which tasted very healthy J. And good coffee of course.

An amazingly good breakfast featuring pumpkin

We then drove down to check out Portsea. There isn’t much in Portsea – all the action is in Sorrento in terms of shopping. But it does have the iconic Portsea pub which was a fantastic outdoor seating area and brilliant views.

Portsea Pub

Heading Home

We hopped in the car and decided to take the long way back. This involved a pit stop in Mornington. The main street in Mornington has come along way – it goes for quite some distance and is full of interesting shops and cafés. We hit the Gem Cottage Café for coffee. Once seated I then saw they had pumpkin soup on the menu so could not resist hitting the pumpkin trifecta! This was a tastier thai style pumpkin soup with a little bit of heat and was the perfect ending to a lovely weekend in the Mornington Peninsula.

The final pumpkin

4 nights in Hoi An Vietnam

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Anantara hotel which I loved. It is a beautiful hotel in a beautiful spot right on the river. The location is fantastic – you are still in Hoi An but just at the edge of it. It is a quick stroll into the heart of town. Many hotels in this area are on the coast between Da Nang and Hoi An. That is great if you are after a hang at the resort style trip but if you want to explore Hoi An you want to be closer in to town.

The Pool at the Anantara
The Pool at the Anantara
The breakfast buffet at Anantara
The breakfast buffet at Anantara

The staff were very friendly and could not do enough. Our room was lovely. The bed was super comfy. There were robes, slippers and lovely smells. Each room has an outside patio and then inside there is a small “living” area and a couple of steps up to the sleeping area. This gave a feeling of greater space. And there is a great pool.

The pool and rooms
The pool and rooms
The view from breakfast
The view from breakfast

The breakfast buffet was a highlight! The setting is stunning – you can sit and enjoy a view of the river. The best bit of the buffet was the amazing Vietnamese pancakes – like a rice paper roll but with a thin omelette, lettuce, shrimp and some kind of fish sauce. A happy marriage between the omelette and summer roll! They also had an egg making station, pho, fabulous looking fresh fruit and great coffee!

Where to Eat and drink

For Vietnamese coffee (served with condensed milk) head for Faifo in the heart of town.

Vietnamese Coffee at Faifo
Vietnamese Coffee at Faifo

Mango Rooms on the river is also very cute and tasty and serves up Vietnamese fusion like mango summer rolls. The rocking rolls were like a birds nest deep fried and put into lettuce with some fish sauce for dipping. Like most places in Hoi An it was very reasonably priced.

Mango Summer Rolls
Mango Summer Rolls
Mango Rooms
Mango Rooms

Following on with the Mango theme we then had dinner at Mango Mango. We started off with amazing homemade potato chips with a tomato based salsa. The papaya salad that followed was the right mix of sweet and sour. Next up was the Peking duckling which was served off the bone with sweet potato tortillas and yoghurt. A delicious meal and a great wine list.

Dinner at Mango Mango
Dinner at Mango Mango

On our first night we found The White Marble Wine Bar – Hoi An’s only wine bar. This quickly became our pre and post dinner spot! It had a great wine list and a great location on one of Hoi An’s main streets.

Things to Do

Hoi An is town for walking and absorbing the atmosphere. Some areas are of course very touristy but they are still very cute. There is activity on both sides of the river – we only found the other side of the river towards the end of the trip. We did see the Japanese covered bridge which is cute but I’m not sure it’s worth all the fuss.

The Japanese Bridge
The Japanese Bridge

There is quite a bit of interesting art to explore and there are some nice boutique stores tucked in amongst the tourist tat. The area we liked best for art was over the other side of the covered bridge.

Art Galleries
Art Galleries

The night market is great for a visit but make sure you get there early as it is all over by 9pm. I got my best shots of the Vietnamese lanterns at the market.

Night market lanterns
Night market lanterns

One of the highlights of the trip was a cooking lesson with the Red Bridge cooking school. We met at their restaurant in town in the morning for Vietnamese coffee of course! We were then split into two groups and sent to explore and shop in the local market. We then hopped in a boat and headed down to the actual cooking school. We each had our own “hob” with our ingredients ready to go. The classic Vietnamese pancake was definitely the most difficult thing to cook! Mine kept falling apart. Following this we all sat down to eat the lunch that we had prepared and it was lovely. Then a boat back to town. A great experience which I would highly recommend.

One heck of a pineapple at Red Bridget
One heck of a pineapple at Red Bridget
Learning how to cook vietnamese style
Learning how to cook vietnamese style

Our hotel had bikes available to guests so I grabbed one and cycled down to An Bang Beach. This took about 15 minutes. Along the way you can take a right off the main road and get some rice paddy shots. The beach itself was nice but lounges and umbrellas covered nearly every square inch. I then cycled down to the next beach but missed the turn off! It was then a busy ride back to Hoi An but a nice little work out.

8f2f6548-a3c6-463f-aac0-59542041a760-1
An Bang Beach
Rice Paddy Fields
Rice Paddy Fields

There are massage places everywhere. I had a massage at Aaron’s which was 4th on Trip Advisor. It was an excellent Swedish massage.

The Must Do

Amazing Morning Glory
Amazing Morning Glory

The must do if you go to Hoi An is to have a meal at Morning Glory. The food here is AMAZING and it is incredibly cheap. And they have some decent wine. I became obsessed with the smoky eggplant and pork. I think we came here 3 times over our stay because nothing was better and I had the eggplant every time! We also enjoyed the beef in betel leaves, pork spring rolls and the bbq lime leaf chicken. Do not leave Hoi An without at least one meal at Morning Glory.

Mmm Morning Glory
Mmm Morning Glory
The to die for Aubergine
The to die for Aubergine

And finally try Dai at Da Nang airport for a last Vietnamese coffee. It is not the nicest location but the coffee was great.

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko

I do love a mountain! Such a sense of satisfaction getting to the top – and it’s so much more satisfying when the mountain has cred – the highest mountain in etc etc. So of course as an Australian it was critical that I tick Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in the country, off the list!

  1. Make it a road trip

    Fantastic look out point on the way to Jindabyne
    Fantastic look out point on the way to Jindabyne

OK so I do love a road trip! It is the best way to get around and see stuff. We started from Sydney and headed South. We had a lovely lunch in MittagongThe Glass Café – where I had a very tasty hamburger and chocolate milkshake (going to burn all those calories climbing the next day)!.

Mittagong Milkshake
Mittagong Milkshake

On the way back we headed into Bungendore and enjoyed a great lunch at Gunnadoo pies. What a fantastic name for a pie shop! And the pies were outstanding.

One heck of a pie
One heck of a pie
  1. Mix up the walk

I did quite a bit of pre research on this and it was quite hard to figure out which route to take. As always it was much easier once you arrived and then all the brochures you needed were at the Valley chairlifts! But I’ve photographed them for you.

On the way up
On the way up

So we kicked off from Thredbo at the bottom of the chairlift and went up the Meadows Nature Track. This was a lovely peaceful walk – hardly anyone on it. We followed the path to where it meets the more challenging Merits track. This stretch was steep! Lots of water needed. This walk takes you up to the top of the chair lift where you join the Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk. DSC_0013

From here the track got busy. We did the walk on easter Saturday so I guess that is to be expected. From the top of the chairlift it is 9km round trip and relatively steepish. There was every type of nationality and language being spoken as we passed people along the way. And very brave people with prams!!!

Looking over Thredbo Village
Looking over Thredbo Village

We decided to take the chairlift town as round trip from the village it had been a 24km walk and we were rather weary.

Me at the Summit!
Me at the Summit!

We had a beautiful blue sky day and the scenery was stunning. Such a beautiful walk and so peaceful if you could ignore the many others seeking serenity!

Heading Down
Heading Down

In hingsight another nice option would have been to take the Merritts Traverse up the mountain vs the Meadows walk. The more full on option is to hop in the car and start the walk at Charlotte’s Pass. At the very top this connects with the Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk. This one is about 42km round trip.DSC_0037

We did a packed lunch which was perfect. The only place to eat is the restaurant at the top of the chairlift. Which was nice (see the highest section) but I’m sure would have been busy and is a bit slow. Much nicer to stop and sit on the trail and eat and watch the world go by.

  1. Stay in a chalet in Thredbo

Thredbo Village is very cute. Loads of lovely chalets and a nice little main square and road. It was much nicer than what we could see driving through Jindabyne which is the town at the bottom of the mountain.

Thredbo Village
Thredbo Village

Our chalet was fab – over 3 floors and massive. It even had a sauna! We ended up cooking and staying in both nights as we had nice wine and the living room was so big and comfy! We found our place through www.stayz.com.au and the chalet was owned by Visit Snowy Mountains. Ours was called Knickerbocker. It has a lovely terrace with a bbq and everything you could possibly need.

Our Chalet
Our Chalet
  1. Enjoy the highest…….

    Eagles Nest - at the Top of Australia
    Eagles Nest – at the Top of Australia

So there is a lot of The Highest in Australia action here! Of course the summit is the Highest Point in Australia. And then if you head to the very nice Eagles Nest restaurant you can enjoy the highest coffee in Australia, the highest beer, the highest scones – anything you can consume can be posted on facebook as the highest of its kind in Australia! And when you get to Rawson’s Pass you can also visit the highest toilet in Australia!

Australia's highest toilet
Australia’s highest toilet
  1. Have a great coffee at Central Road 2625 in Thredbo

    How cute - this is what the bill comes in at the Central Cafe
    How cute – this is what the bill comes in at the Central Cafe

So apparently this used to be a pretty average region for coffee. That is until Central Road opened up. It is in the main village square in Thredbo and has a very inner suburban feel and the fab coffee to match! We also did breakfast here on our final morning and it was fantastic. As I had burnt so many calories the day before I went all in with the pancakes, banana, bacon and maple syrup. A fantastic breakfast!

Amazing breakfast at Central Cafe
Amazing breakfast at Central Cafe
  1. Take the camera

Lots of lovely shots on this trip! We had a couple of nice road pull over shots between Mittagong and Thredbo – literally just off the Hume. Love those lookout signs! Then of course there is the mountain itself. My favourite spot was Lake Cootapatamba – you’ll see this lake a lot as you head to the summit but the best shot was just before – or after if you’ve summited – Rawson’s Pass. As always it is easier to get nice shots coming down as it is a bit more relaxing.

Lake Cootapatamba
Lake Cootapatamba

I’ve attached below some of the key brochures we found in our accommodation/at tourist places. It was hard to access this type of information before we arrived so hopefully this is helpful!

Map of Thredbo
Map of Thredbo
Brochure Three
Brochure Three
Brochure Two
Brochure Two
Brochure One
Brochure One
OVerall map
OVerall map

The 5 best things to do on a weekend in Bowral NSW

This is a truly lovely town and there is so much going on! Look carefully when you hit the main street – there are more arcades for shopping than there are in Melbourne!

  1. Stay at Links House
    my room
    my room
    breakfast
    breakfast

    You must stay at Links House – this is one of my favourite places I’ve stayed in a long time. The hotel is boutique adventurer heaven – high thread count and loads of character! The rooms are lovely but the best thing is the shared spaces and fabulous service. There is a lovely outside courtyard/winery that begs for wine to be drunk. There are then two sitting rooms in the front of the house where port is suggested. The manager is an absolute delight and the night manager was the same. So genuinely friendly and helpful. I can’t say enough good things about this place! Oh and there is also a great dvd selection and a fabulous breakfast.

    the garden
    the garden
    front window
    front window

    the garden
    the garden
  2. Dinner at the Bowral Hotel

    Veuve at the Bowral Hotel
    Veuve at the Bowral Hotel

Links recommended the Bowral Hotel for dinner. We did have a lovely meal – a delicious lamb rump with polenta and spinach for me – but the pub was dead. It was easter Sunday so I guess it was only going to go one way or the other! There is a nice outdoor seating area that is also smoking friendly that is pretty much on the Bowral main street so we enjoyed a bottle of Veuve sitting on the wonderfully named Bong Bong Road!

Dinner at the Bowral Hotel
Dinner at the Bowral Hotel
  1. Have a coffee at Elephant Boy.On one of your trips into town make sure you get a coffee at Elephant Boy. This little café is fantastic. The whole place is decked out like a library or bookshop and also has lots of you guessed it elephants all over the place. And then it has this sort of Indian feel to it as well – and some amazing looking cakes. And most importantly fab coffee!

    Elephant Boy Cakes
    Elephant Boy Cakes
  2. Hit the wineries

    Centennial Winery
    Centennial Winery

So the Southern Highlands is quite a big area for wine. First up after passing Canberra is Lark Hill Winery – it is very well signed from the Hume highway. They have a fabulous Rose that is heavy on the shiraz and the restaurant looked lovely (I didn’t think to book and they were full up when we got there). Much closer to Bowral we headed to the lovely Artemis where I picked up some lovely chardonnay.

Lark Hill Winery
Lark Hill Winery

However, the highlight was Centennial. It does appear to be the main winery in the area. There is a large cellar door area where I discovered their sparkling shiraz which was fantastic. We then went on to have a wonderful lunch in their restaurant. Everything we ate was lovely but the highlight was the fig, walnut and blue cheese salad. The cauliflower gratin was pretty sensational as well. All washed down with some pinot noir..

Lunch at Centennial
Lunch at Centennial

We did a brief stop into the Artemis winery and picked up some pinot noir. It is worth visit.

Cellar Door at Centennial
Cellar Door at Centennial
  1. Go Bra and Antiques Shopping

    Shopping in Bowral
    Shopping in Bowral

It’s all happening in Bowral. And some of the purchases are not as you might expect. There is a great Bendon outlet on the main street – so a bit of bra shopping in Bowral! There a couple of fantastic classic book shops and loads of lovely shops selling candles etc. The thing that Bowral is really known for is antiques and they have loads.

Head to Dirty Janes
Head to Dirty Janes

There is a fantastic antique warren called Dirty Jane’s just off the main street which is like entering another world. I’m not that into antiques but I loved exploring this place. Every nook and cranny is filled and it appears every stall holder is also a stylist in their spare time as they all look fabulous! My favourite was Suzie Anderson Home – visiting her “stall” (it is much more than that) is like a mini trip to Southern France. Her taste is immaculate.

Stylish Merchandising
Stylish Merchandising
Oh so tasteful Suzie Anderson Home
Oh so tasteful Suzie Anderson Home

Day Trip to Gallipoli

As an Australia who was living in London for 12 years it had gotten to the point that I felt like a bit of a disgrace for never having visited Gallipoli. As I was planning to leave London later that year I decided the time had come!

But gosh as a quick trip it is hard to do! It is a good 4-5 hours by car from Istanbul. I was travelling solo so getting a private car was ridiculously expensive – plus I needed a guide once I got there. I then looked at flights from Istanbul to Canakkale – there appeared to be one a day but it was either very late at night or very early in the morning. The day after my visit I was off to Cappadocia so none of that met my time needs.

Looking onto Anzac beach
Looking onto Anzac beach

So I decided to do a day trip from Istanbul – it was a long day but I definitely think if you’re looking to do this relatively quickly vs travelling Turkey at a leisurely pace (which would of course be preferable) I think it is the best option.

I emailed quite a few places and found TJ’s Tours – I of course liked that one of the owners was Australian!

Memorial
Memorial

When I arrived at my hotel in Istanbul Empress Zoe the night before there was a confirmation from the tour company which was reassuring when I had a 6am pick up – I’m not keen on getting up early without reason! I was picked up just after 6 and there were several of us in a minibus. We had a stop for breakfast just under 2 hours into the trip which was basic but fine. And importantly there was a clean bathroom.

Then we visited a quite spectacular Turkish war memorial. We then gathered into the town of Eceabat to meet up with others. Our tour guide was brilliant. Extremely knowledgeable. Turned out we had been Peter Jackson’s tour guide when he was in the area! Impressive celebrity association!

ANZAC cove
ANZAC cove

The highlights of the trip were ANZAC cove and of course Lone Pine as an Australian. It was very moving to see the graves of all these young boys who were most likely naively expecting the adventure of their lives. Seeing the beach and seeing the landscape brings home how difficult a task was faced. It was a very moving trip and something I think every Australian should do.

Finally we hopped on a much bigger bus for the trip back to Istanbul – which took considerably longer than the trip out as the traffic was bad. I got back to my hotel about 1030pm. So a long day but a great day and so worth doing. The tour company were fantastic and I think it was also excellent value for money.

Lone Pine
Lone Pine

Going to Turkey? Why not read some of my other posts on Turkey:

The 4 best things to do in 24 hours in Istanbul

The 8 best things to do in Cappadocia Part One

The 8 best things to do in Cappadocia Part Two

The most Fab 8 Things to do in Cappadocia Turkey (Part Two)

5. The Love Valley Walk

The Love Valley
The Love Valley

I combined this walk with the Rose Valley (see below) for one big day trip. Again I used Middle Earth and only booked them after the Ihlara Valley day. This was a relatively easy trek – not particularly steep although it was twisty terrain. The highlight of this walk is the rather phallic section at the end as you will see graphically in the photos! I would do this one with a guide as I think it could get confusing.

The rather phallic Love Valley
The rather phallic Love Valley

6. The Rose Valley Walk

Heading into Rose Valley
Heading into Rose Valley

This was the afternoon of the Love Valley Walk and was definitely the most strenuous of all the walks I did in Cappadocia. There was A LOT of up hill. Up and then down. And then up again. And a bit around. But the scenery was drop dead stunning. All that hill climbing up and down made for some amazing views – particularly as the sun dropped. There was also a very cute café where we stopped off for some well earned pomegranate juice and potato chips! I would never have been able to figure out where to go on this walk on my own so I was very glad that I had a good guide.

The Rose Valley
The Rose Valley

7. Hot Air Ballooning

More balloons
More balloons

This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Ever. In all my 70+ countries travelling. So I had a false start morning where I got up at 4am, got in the car to go to the field and then got sent back due to weather. Tried again the next morning and thank goodness the weather was good as I was leaving that day. It also meant it was a particularly good day for photos as the last two mornings had been cancelled so I think every balloon in Cappadocia was up in the air!

Hot air balloons
Hot air balloons

I asked the hotel to recommend somewhere and they recommended Royal Balloon. They picked me up at the hotel and then I was driven to a big open area with a rather large restaurant that served a decent buffet breakfast. After food and coffee we were divided into groups and headed out to our balloons. Each balloon has a pilot. Ours was incredibly experienced and I felt very safe. He was also very interactive with the group and chatty whilst being calming.

Balloon with Uchisar in the background
Balloon with Uchisar in the background

I was blown away by the view and I think I took about 300 photos in the hour I was up there. It was absolutely stunning. The juxtaposition of the many colourful balloons against the fairy chimneys and surreal landscape of Cappadocia was extraordinary. I loved every minute of it! It was challenging but of course fun to try and get the best composition. You’re not moving fast but you are moving – as is every other balloon up there!

The hour went by far too quickly and we safely and quickly landed. There was then champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and a certificate. Then a car back to the hotel and back for a nap! But such an amazingly wonderful morning and worth every penny.

I seriously took about 300 photos
I seriously took about 300 photos

8. Have a Hamam

I do love a Hamam! Sure the cleaning is usually a bit on the rough side and I’ve had some interesting experiences when I’ve been using fake tan (well I have large Moroccan women laugh out loud at the fake tan coming off my skin! Good icebreaker) but you feel SO clean after having one.

So I’d googled and checked trip advisor and came up with Elis Spa in the town of Goreme. I got the hotel to book that morning but that didn’t seem to exactly be necessary – could be because it was March and fairly quiet.

Stunning views across Rose Valley
Stunning views across Rose Valley

Shoes off on entry and then into the women’s section. Into the Hamam to lie on the mobile and sweat for a bit. Then a very thorough scrubbing and massage where I did feel a bit thrown around but not necessarily in a bad way! Then a relax with a dip and some tea. All very good value as well.

This was a great thing to do after doing all the walks I’ve described above. It wasn’t my usual standard of boutique to be completely honest but that wasn’t really an option in Cappadocia. So although this was a spa type treatment I would rank it more as an adventure rather than being boutique!

More clarity as to how the Love Valley gained its name
More clarity as to how the Love Valley gained its name

Make sure you check out Part One of the 8 Best Things to Do in Cappadocia Here

Interested in Turkey? Have a look at some of my other posts on Turkey:

Day Trip to Gallipoli

The 4 Best things to do in 24 hours in Istanbul