Why I love short trips and oysters

Last Thursday my loving husband and I waved goodbye to our four teens and my slightly worried looking parents, as we screeched off down the South Coast, we headed to Merimbula which is a around 4.5 hours from our home or six hours from Sydney which is heaps better known than sleepy Gerringong ( that’s for the two followers I have that aren’t family, close friends and live overseas!)
It is always incredibly exciting for any parents to be given a leave pass for the weekend and we had more than just a weekend we had three nights and four whole days. Of course I was so excited I began taking selfies with Mark before we’d even left the driveway, which my ever patient hubby smiled through.

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Then we were off! It was a great trip down with only one child in the car (me) we could indulge my every whim….it’s was awesome. We toilet stopped in some petrol station before Batemans Bay and I bought us both a gourmet ice cream, so much more affordable buying two extravagantly overpriced ice creams rather than six! By the way you must get a connoisseur icecream if you see them. The Murry River salted caramel with macadamias covered in rich chocolate is to die for! It is worth the $3.80 in fact I’d pay more.

Next stop was lunch in our Favourite south coast town, Narooma. We bought half a kilo of Crystal bay prawns and six local oysters for me……that was the start of me overindulging in oysters for the ENTIRE trip. Mark was thrilled with my oyster fetish as he’d heard their affrodisiac qualities could have a powerful effect on libido (that’s another story).

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After a completely enjoyable drive down the south coast, passing picturesque towns like Bermagui and Bega we arrived in Merimbula and checked into our modest but very convenient Comfort Inn. By this stage I was starving again and worse, thirsty! We quickly found a charming cafe/ brasserie on the waterfront and ordered food and a bottle of wine. It’s called the Waterfront Cafe and truly should be tried. Sitting on the promenade with lovely water views and friendly service.

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After rehydration was complete we met up with our charming friends and proceeded to have a rather fun, boozy, foody and relaxing weekend away. Highlights were the seafood ( particularly the oysters ) that is so so fresh and local, as well as the picturesque beauty of the area in general. Mark was singing the praises of the whale museum in Eden so we dutifully went. Valya and I were a trifle dubious but it was a lovely drive and rather interesting to hear about the whaling industry that was once upon a time the main financial boon of Eden. Thank goodness it is no longer! Below is me being thrilled to be inside a whale jaw….

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I love exploring towns, villages that are within a reasonable distance from home, it makes traveling so much more accessible and easy. Don’t discount Merimbula as a fine place for a quick get away with a seafood theme. Below are a few shots of the lovely bay in Merimbula and some decadent desserts sampled over the weekend!

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Here’s to romantic weekends away and the joys of oysters……..

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Dining and Whining

Dining with children can be a headache in your own country where exotic might be whether they should have chicken salt on their nuggets and chips or tomato sauce? Take them to a foreign country and sit them down in a tiny Warung with choices like Babi Guling, Nasi Goreng and Betutu Belek and you soon learn which of your little ducklings are have adventurous palates and which ones think rice with anything other than ham and peas in it is weird!

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Well I’m throwing out a ray of hope for all the parents of the world who take their little darlings continent hopping…..DON’T GIVE UP!

It does and will improve, I think the earlier you expose them to different cuisines the sooner they grow to have an appreciation and a palate that can handle “something different”. With the exception of the US and early airport transits where the only viable option is a McDonalds brekky, I really try to stay away from the global fast food joints on holidays. Exploring local cuisines is a big part of holidays abroad and it should be indulged in and explored. Some of the most memorable dining experiences I have had have involved street food in strange and beautiful places. You can’t beat a sweet treat in a local market or a delicious wonton noodle soup while waiting for a train in Thailand.

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Children are miniture recepticals to their environment and if you are adventurous, keen and open to trying local cuisine chances are your children will be too. One piece of advice would be – please don’t take it personally if they insist on eating nothing but boiled rice and bottled water for the entirety of your trip. Bland carbs never killed anyone (well I do have a sad story about a hideous research team that fed cats nothing but white bread – it didn’t end well!) and sometimes you just have to relax, enjoy your holiday and let your offspring see you having fun eating local produce.

If your concerned about food poisoning and hideous unnamable bugs attacking your bowel rendering you a jellied, shaking, sweating heap trapped in the loo for days……you should be worried! Anywhere that isn’t a developed country is so much more likely to make you sick than our “food safety conscious” country. Naturally you should be smart about where and  what you eat, I’ve found a good guide to how great a place will be is by how many locals flock to eat there. Usually these stomach upset (while inevitable) are often easily managed and don’t last too long. Hey if we coped in Thailand with four children with diarrhoea and a eight hour flight ahead of us, you will too.

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On the bright side, remember that in any travel experience the best and most vivid memories are the ones that were vastly different to your everyday life. Laughing about that meal you shared in an exotic location and drooling over the seafood dish you shared at a floating restaurant will delight you and your family for many years.

Enjoy

A Honeymoon at long last.

Well I’m thrilled, happy, elated, overjoyed and probably going to be a pain in the butt of all that know me for the next 15 months…..

Mark and I have booked ourselves a wee honeymoon next september 2014!!! I know, why so far away? A couple of reasons (maybe more)

1. The cruise we want to go on is happening either this September with about three crummy cabins left on deck 2 or next September with a large oceanview on deck 8. I have done my research people, and I want deck 8!

2. Our eldest is doing her HSC (leaving school exams) this year and it would be a bit mean to abandon her throughout them.

3.All the children will be 15 months older and more able to cope with Mum and Dad going away WITHOUT THEM for nearly 4 weeks!!

So where are we going you ask……?

Well we are flying to Hawaii, Oahu for a week in Waikiki and possibly a night on the North Shore staying here – keikibeach,  as recommended by the lovely Natalie – a distance relative of my husbands who lives in Kailua with her Mum and Dad and two sisters.

Last time we stayed in Kailua and I loved it there but this time we really would love to stay close to the action of Waikiki so we can at least experience that and see what we prefer. I love, love, love Hawaii and this will be my third trip. All very different mind you. The first was as a 20year old with a great friend on our way back from Canada, we stayed in Waikiki and hit the beach by day and night clubs by night. Second was in 2010 as a family of 6 staying in Kailua in a holiday rental house and this third trip will be as a loved up couple, child-free and in need of a honeymoon.

After that week we board the Royal Carribean cruise ship The Radiance of the Seas for a 18 night cruise back to Sydney via French Polynesia and New Zealand! Yay!! Here’s the intinery:

The Path we shall take...

So Hawaii here we come, stayed tuned folks.

Mahalo

Bike riding in Ubud – Claire Style

Most people who know me know that I’m not exactly a sporty sort. I like mild action – you know a leisurely stroll ending in a coffee and lunch. I enjoy exertion like shopping, snacking, more shopping, lunching, bit more shopping, high tea…you get my drift.

In saying that I do exercise regularly because I believe in a healthy body, healthy mind ( or something) plus in todays world you would need to be a hermit from Mount Hua, China not to be completely paranoid and brainwashed about diet, exercise and lifestyle – I mean when did having a donut become tantamount to a cocaine habit?

I digress.

What I did do whilst enjoying the charms of the Balinese culture recently is organize the family to go on a Bike tour of rural Bali from Ubud. We were all excited to do this and it turned out to be a fantastic day, we rode through some gorgeous places and got to visit a local families compound and see how they live. Our guides Gede and Made were so friendly and helpful from the Banyan Tree Bike Tours

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That’s a photo of the six of us pre bike ride. We were taken to a restaurant with stunning views for breakfast before our ride through the rice paddies…..

What I did discover is that I really am a lame bike rider! I was terrified in parts,particularly the riding through rice paddies down a narrow dirt track with soggy rice plants either side to fall in. One of the lovely guides stayed with me at the back of the pack and offered encouragement and tried to make me feel normal……It was clear I’m in no way normal when it comes to off road bike riding, in saying that I did complete the whole 40kms and felt rather cuffed at the end.

As a family activity I can highly recommend it, seriously it was quite easy. Below are some photos, I’ve put in a couple of me looking like a total errrmmm (trying to think of a nice word for ‘tragic’) nah tragic is perfect. Note to self – safety helmets really can and should be removed prior to photo shoots at rest points!!!

On the road…

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Watermelon pit stop…

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Yes I’m the special one on the end with the helmet!

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At the end we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch at the owners home. More lovely memories made, you really can’t beat that…

Bali for me

Seriously, is there anywhere I don’t like?

I’m even starting to bore myself. Traveling in a group with my husband and children and friends I realized something….I’m easily pleased.

That’s a good thing right?

I’m enjoying my last day in Bali poolside at Alam Shanti in Ubud, the sun is shining, water glistening and my skin is tingling all over from yet another bloody good vacation.

This is my second trip to Bali in 18 months and it just gets better with each visit in my opinion.

I absolutely love Ubud, next time Mark and I have already investigated staying in Ubud for two weeks in a lovely, simple villa for as little as $45 USD a night people!! It’s not fancy but it has aircon , a pool and breakfast included……..

Ubud has a vibe and feel I like, even though I live on the coast I’m not a ocean going girly, in fact I rarely swim in the ocean (maybe once a year if I’m honest) I’m not comfortable in that environment. My brain is constantly imagining unseen creatures waiting to latch on to my lilly white skin and either sting or take a chunk of it for lunch. So I can never truly enjoy the benefits of sea swimming…

Ubud is fun, rural, not too far from everything and has soul. I get why people come here to find themselves, getting lost at Yoga or meditation retreats. I understand why some people come here and never leave, it has a vibe that screams renewal, revival and creativity. The locals are so friendly and will gladly show you where they live and how they live for little if anything in return. We visited a local compound (this basically means Home for more than one family, although all related) of one family and I sat in the kitchen with the grandmother watching her cook. Just so you know these kitchen are crazy hot, I must have shed a kilo in water just being there for ten minutes. Below are a few photos I wanted to share…

Little old me poolside at Alam Shanti

Mean poolside at Alam Shanti

Sitting on some steps at the palace in Ubud, contemplating deep thoughts like……is it too early for my first Sangria??

Palace in Ubud

This was our bedroom in the villa at Alam Shanti, this one is called Indus and was stunning.

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Turns out turning 40 wasn’t so bad after all!

Ten Travel Tips for low cost travel……

I love to travel, for me travel is about the experience and excitement of exploring new places. One thing I try to do while on holidays (particularly when we have our children with us) is stick to a budget. I really do not like coming home to a giant credit card bill that we have to pay off for the next three months. I like to know what I can spend before hand and holiday accordingly. I’m certain there are many the same as myself. My tips this Tuesday are thus themed.

Lazing on the beach won't cost you much....

Lazing on the beach won’t cost you much….

  • Research your holiday destination. You can save substantial amounts of dough by staying in the beachside town ten minutes away from the main attraction town. Often these slightly quieter towns are better anyway offering less hype and much more bang for buck. Check the cost of food and drinks in your destination. This can substantially add to the cost of your holiday.
  • Avoid going on holiday in peak seasons. If you have flexibility in your travel times avoid the school holiday periods and if you see a great deal, grab it while you can.
  • Book your holiday online. The internet is filled with travel deals, last minute holiday offers. You can also cut out the middle man and save on commission fees. Remember in this situation that you must double check cross EVERY detail. If something goes wrong you only have yourself to blame.
  • Investigate the tourist attractions that are free in the place you’re visiting, you will be amazed at how many are.
  • Set yourself a daily budget – and stick to it. If you must take a travel card keep it as an emergency tool only, even better leave it at home!
  • Turn off your mobile. You can rack up huge bills quickly overseas, particularly if you are fond of posting holiday pics on your social networking sites every five minutes.
  • Obey the local laws, just because you are on holidays doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply to you. Coming home with a speeding fine or worse can leave a hole in your back pocket and a bad taste in your mouth.
  •  Avoid excess luggage fees by weighing your luggage before your departure so you know before you get to the airport if you have exceeded the luggage limits. Sometimes it can work out cheaper to send a small carton of gear home through the postal service, rather than pay the excess baggage fees.
  • Save money by walking wherever you can. Constantly jumping on public transport or taxi’s can add up quickly. Walking around a destination is a great way to get a good feel of the place and you often discover things you never would have on the train.
  • Try to avoid changing money at an airport, they are notorious for adding extra fees.

Happy travels…

Sunset

Travel Tip Tuesday…..

I have been doing some serious thinking.
Serious……
And hold onto your hair pieces I have some sage advice for all you travel lovers out there in the world.
Ready?

Invest in a four wheeler suitcase.

I did and I’ve never looked back. Probably everyone in the world has had them forever and I’m way behind the eight ball…….whatever, I’m in love with mine and by the way its a sexy little piece in other ways too, see picture below:

Verrrrry Niiiice!

Verrrrry Niiiice!

Here’s a link in case you want one to:

It is super easy to roll upright in all kinds of situations you encounter in transit. For example, onto escalators, pushing two suitcases at once with a shoulder bag and handbag with three children and three grandparents expecting you to know where you are going….
You don’t have to get a hard case version, I’m sure they come in the soft version also.

While I’m giving luggage tips, here’s another never ever go through security without checking ALL children’s bags first. This will save possible arrests/ embarrassment if say they put your son’s backpack that he has used all year for school and not cleaned out ONCE – through the X-ray machine and discover potential “weapons” in there. The weapons turned out to be not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 FORKS that he’d left in his bag from lunches where he required cutlery!!!!! Made sense to me but these customs officials aren’t big on ‘seeing the funny side’.

Have a nice day and happy Travel Tip Tuesday..

A catch up with Claire..

I have all these half finished travel posts and it’s driving me wild, so after a read of one of my favourite bloggers, Spiritual World Traveler – also know as Zully.  I thought instead of banging on with the same old stuff, I would take a little break and share something about myself right now with you.

So in the words of Spirtual World Traveler, let’s imagine we are sharing a cup of tea together and as you ask the questions, I shall answer……….

I am: LOVED by many wonderful people for which I am eternally grateful

I know: astoundingly little! Which is why I’m always so excited about learning new things about people and the world I live in.

I want:  My children to all find contentment and fulfilment in their lives.

I think: about where my next holiday might be!

I have: so so much and I have no idea how I got so lucky when so many have nearly nothing.

I dislike: Judgmental people and I dislike it even more when I find MYSELF being judgmental.

I miss: my brother Andrew and all the fun we used to have together.

I fear: losing a child.

I feel: sick when I think about people being enslaved as we speak in order to maintain production of items we in the developed world consume daily.

I hear: so many birds every morning when I wake up. I love this even if occasionally I would like them wait an extra hour before they start their business.

I smell: food cooking in my oven that will feed my family.

I crave: a hug from my son and daughter like I used to get when they were little

I search: for my car keys way to often

I wonder: if I will see the places in the world I imagine I will one day see?

I regret: not being able to tell a person who really wronged me that I have forgiven them and wish them well.

I love: my family and all their differences – that includes the dog, cat and extended family : )

I care: for the world becoming a better place for my children and their future generations to live in.

I am always: ready for a laugh and catch up with my friends

I worry: too much about my children and I’m working on that this year. Not that I want to care less I just want to handle it better!!

I remember: so little about my early years in England before we moved to Australia.

I sing: very bizarre song choices that I possible last heard as a young child on a radio station from 1982. I also never remember the words correctly to any song..

I argue:  with anyone who is racist and narrow minded.

I write:  when I am emotionally wrecked, it’s usually poetry or short stories. Sadly when I’m in a good space I’m not as creative?

I lose:  paperwork, bobby pins, hair elastics and of course my car keys regularly.

I wish:  everyone could be loving and kind hearted always.

I listen:  to other peoples conversations when I’m out alone…….creepy I know!

I can usually be found:   in my kitchen when I’m home, thinking up the next great meal!

I am scared:  my forties will go as fast as my thirties : o

I need: something to look forward to…..it keeps me going at work.

I forget: anything related to mathematical formula at an alarmingly fast rate.

I am happy: when all my children are together with me and my husband and we are all enjoying each others company.

 

There we go that was fun………feel free to copy and paste this so you can share a little something of yourself.

A big thanks to Zully who I believe got this little kernel of fun from blogger – Anyes, Far Away in the Sunshine

If you do this let me know so I can have at look at what makes you tick.

Claire

 

 

Highlights on the Voyager of the Seas

Trying to go through the highlights of our recent cruise to New Zealand in my head and its hard to pick one. It was a different and unusual form of travel for me, the times lazing around the Solarium pool deck with a sweet cocktail and my book for company were golden. Then again I couldn’t wait to disembark when we got to port, explore a new city, visit a winery, try a local treat. I always got back on board wishing I’d had a little longer in each port and vowing to return.
Highlights for me were probably more of the land experiences to be honest…..
Waking up in Milford Sounds on day 6 was just amazing, and we had a blissfully rare day of clear skies, no rain or fog – which my mother reminded me for only the 500th time was no accident as she’d pre ordered it – I’m not sure who she pre-orders this kind of thing from btw, apparently she has some direct line to the weather gods and can control such things because they’re such pals! If that’s the case then she turned it on this day for sure.
I can prove it was lovely below, first one has Charlotte in it my youngest daughter, this was one of the brief moments we saw her on the 14 day voyage…..

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So that’s the proof I was there. What stood out other than how stunning the sounds are, was the size of The Voyager in them, goodness me I’m pretty sure that if I was in a regular little ferry or row boat I would have been jaw-droppingly (that is a word and I don’t care what spell check thinks) amazed at the size of the Sounds. As it was in The Voyager it’s like yeah they could be big but up here on the 14th deck of this floating city who’d know? You really can get King of the Castle syndrome ( not sure if that’s a real, certified but I think I got it) – Oh hello little boats and shippy things one day when you grow up you might be as big as me.
Or maybe that’s just me!

But you see what I mean right,

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There’s the Voyager of the Seas making Hobart look like a small country town. Oh wait, Hobart is a small country town – still, Voyager is owning that port!

I spent way too much time waving like Her Royal Highness at tiny vessels with tiny people waving at the big ship – that was definitely a highlight.

This is where I liked to hang out the most onboard,

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I put that photo of Mark in because he was who I liked to hang out with in the solarium, or anywhere really.

Next post I’m going to address whether or not travel in close proximity with 3,500 other tourist’s is a good idea. I will have for and against points and also a little look at what it was like traveling with Mark’s family and my parents (I’m of the medication now and my therapist thinks it would be healthy to share – just kidding, it wasn’t that bad!!)

Until next time.

Sight for sore eyes

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What a feeling when finally the 22nd of December 2012 finally rolled around and we were all in that shuttle bus heading down George st to Circular Quay. The excitement at rounding the corner to go into the terminal and catching our first glimpse of The Voyager of the seas was amazing.
So so huge!
I have lots to share about our two week journey and intend to soon. Here are a few photos of our first few hours onboard and leaving Sydney Harbour.

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