Tag Archives: market

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014

My first solo trip in many years was when my bestie got married in Hawaii and asked me to be a bridesmaid. Leaving my one year old at home with my husband for 8 days, I flew to Kona on the big island of Hawaii via Oahu.

Most of the wedding party was staying in a few private bungalows on the property where the event itself was to be held. It was strange to be travelling alone again and it took me a while to get used to only having to feed and cloth myself again. But before long I fell back into old habits, heading to my bestie’s parents house every morning to be fed breakfast. Unfortunately I never really got out of the habit of waking up early.

The bride and groom to be were staying in the main bungalow with large living areas, a pond with koi and a pool with spa. Most importantly, the house backed onto the ocean with a sea wall separating the garden from the rocks and waves. This is where both the ceremony and reception was to be held.

My bestie is a master of décor having renovated many houses around the world as they moved around for work; so the main house was also being utilised as decoration making central. Everything from the hair pieces to the table settings was made with the love and care of many helping hands.

The verandah off the main bungalow was utilised for social gatherings and sunset watching and what beautiful sunsets they were. Living on the east coast of Australia, I relished the opportunity to see the sun dipping into the water just as it should be.

There were some small markets across the road from the bungalows where you could buy food for lunches and souvenirs. I purchased a t-shirt for my husband and the cutest little blue Hawaiian dress for my daughter, with a matching flower bracelet of course.

After the sunset on my first night, a few of us walked to the Royal Kona Beach Resort for dinner. The hotel looked like a cruise ship pointing out to the ocean, affording fabulous ocean views from Don the Beachcomber Restaurant which specialised in Mai Tai’s.

With only 30 or so guests attending the wedding and everyone arriving a week or more earlier, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with some like the groom, my bestie’s sister Janeen and her boyfriend; and meet others like my bestie’s brother Chris’s new girlfriend and the groom’s best friends who would make up the other half of the bridal party.

Related posts: USA, 1990It’s a South Pacific Thing, The Seven Year Itch

Holidays are…

Preparing and researching

Booking and planning

Packing

Excitement

Waiting impatiently

Airports and QANTAS club

Arriving in your new temporary home

Unpacking

New places and new things to see

First experiences

Navigating a new city

Temples and churches

Old towns

Landmarks and lookout points

Road trips

Landscapes

Having fun

Swimming

Walking

Enjoying the sunshine

Not letting the rain stop you

Watching shows

New food to try

Markets

Bars and restaurants

Having the time to enjoy a meal

Not cooking or washing up

Meeting new people

Sitting and people watching

Quality time with the little one

Catching up with friends

Cocktail hour

Uninterrupted conversations

Laughing

Pampering

Having the time to shop

New clothes from your new favorite shop

Souvenirs to take home

Photos and memories to keep

Not worrying

Thinking

Having the time to notice rainbows

Watching old movies

Card games

Finishing a book

Sitting and doing nothing

Napping

Drifting

Not wanting it to end

Booking the next holiday.

Related posts: Happy Holidays, Random Public Holiday Ramblings,  Kid at Heart

Javea, 2013

My husband, daughter and I left Barcelona the next day for a road trip down south to Javea. Our Belgian friend Bill owned a holiday house there are we were to meet up with his parents and brother Ben with his partner and baby son.

The house was an authentic white washed villa on the hill of Balcon al Mar and was a great place to call home for the week.

We hit the beach straight away and went to Granadella beach. The white rocks contrasted beautifully with the blue water and it was everything a Spanish beach should be. The weather was nice, the sea sparkled and there was a sailing boat moored in the bay.

When we had had enough fun in the water and of sitting under the blue and white stripped umbrella on the beach, we went to the restaurant overlooking the beach for a tasty seafood lunch.

Unfortunately, my husband got an ear infection from swimming that day, so the rest our time in Javea was not to be the active beach holiday we envisioned, but was still a restful time.

I woke with my daughter most mornings with only the dog Coco and the BBC news channel for company. Sunrises were colourful, but late here. French lunches with the family were had on the outdoor balcony and afternoon drinks on the terrace by the pool.

My daughter liked the hammock in the garden and Baby Bjorn walks around the neighbourhood. We also tagged along on a few of the shorter dog walks into cactus laden plains.

My husband got enough energy together to head into Javea old town with us all one day. The streets were lined with balconied houses, old wooden doors and wall murals. The fort/church in the middle of the town was huge and there was both an indoor and outdoor market with colourful red Spanish dresses for little girls.

One day we also managed a driving tour of the surrounding area. The most beautiful sight was the lookout point at Cap de la Nau. It was ocean as far as the eye could see, punctuated by rugged cliffs and islands. We also saw the white washed lighthouse and went to the rock shelves of Calla Barraca Beach.

We visited the main beach at L’Arenal where the sandy beach was lined with palm trees and restaurants. We had a nice lunch and bought our daughter her first pair of sunglasses. On our last day we returned to a glass fronted restaurant for paella.

It was a fitting end to our Spanish beach holiday, before we drove back to Madrid for an overnight stay near the airport. The hotel was hard to find with all the surrounding ring roads around, but after a few double paid tolls, we made it in the end.

Related posts: Barcelona, 2013, It’s a Spanish Thing, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona

Barcelona, 2013

From one of my favourite cities to another, my husband, daughter and I flew from Paris to Barcelona. I was so glad to be able to show my daughter two of the places in the world I loved the most.

We stayed I a fabulously comfortable modern apartment in the theatre district where we could see Montjuic from the balcony. The little alleyways were just as authentic as I remembered them and Guadi was just as prevalent.

Pulau Guell was spotted everyday on our way to the famous La Rambla- where we saw Casa Balto and La Pedra. La Segrada Familia was still under construction of course, but an impressive sight as ever.

We saw the fountains of Plaza de Catalunya and the new fashion label Desingual that was making a colourful appearance. Daytime tapas was taken inside Mercat de la Boqueria where we took in the tasty looking displays of vegetables, cold cuts and chocolate.

My friend Ernest invited me over to his place for dinner to meet his wife and new baby daughter and to catch up with Jordi, Leigh and Lidia. It was 9pm- early for Barcelona, but late for my daughter who had already been asleep for 3 hours by then and had to stay behind with my husband. It was great to see them all.

The next day we took the bus to one of my favourite places in the city- Parc Guell. The colourful gatehouses were still there and the view from the balcony was better than I recalled. It was such a buzz to sit on a beautiful mosaiced seat with my family and walk up the dragon sculpture steps.

Back down the hill, we had dinner in a local Tapas restaurant where the lovely waitress wanted to take our daughter home.

On Ernest’s recommendation, we headed for Barcenoleta the following day. I had been to Port Vell and the beach before, but had not heard of the quaint village last time I was here.

The open town square was a hub of family activity along with the huge modern market. We had a leisurely lunch of cocktails and paella at a restaurant on the beach. It was a delicious and fitting end to our enjoyable and relaxing Barcelona sojourn.

Related posts: Europe, 2003Spain 1997, Part 1: BarcelonaPeople vs Place

It’s a South Pacific Thing

The South Pacific has been largely romanticised by the musical of the same name. As an Aussie, I feel like the South Pacific is not so much of a novelty as it close by and therefore accessible.

It is also cheap and an easy beach holiday destination with built in babysitting services for families. Of course, some may be more expensive than others. Any island carries higher prices on food due to transport, which is why you may choose to stay on the mainland when visiting Fiji.

The South Pacific has also become one of the places to go for a destination wedding with 5 star resorts catering to every need.

Personally, I like the friendly people, having a cocktail in the pool bar and the beautiful sunsets.

But what do you do when the weather is bad?

This happened to us on a trip to New Caledonia- it rained all week. So we focused on the food and indoor activities such as shopping and museums.

And of course there are other cultural experiences you can partake in like visiting a cultural village, drinking cava and experiencing the local market.

In more developed islands such as Oahu and Hawaii, there are so many activities to choose from that it’s hard to pick no matter what the weather is like.

The South Pacific is about palm trees, drinking out of fresh coconuts and listening to the ukulele. It’s scuba diving, poolside time and smelling the Frangipani’s.

Sliding down a waterslide, visiting a waterfall and watching as the night time torches get lit. It’s bright tropical colours, shell necklaces and endless lazy days.

Crazy cool resorts like the famous ones in Bora Bora and Vanuatu plus lots of little islands I’ve never even heard of.

And of course, you could always fall in love and have a real South Pacific story of your own.

Related posts: Fiji, 2011, Fiji, 2008

Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011

Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, famous for the statues between it and Cancun on the mainland which were sunken for the pleasure of scuba divers.

The ferry over from Cancun was quick and the water was even bluer than Tulum.

My husband and I stayed in a lovely little hotel on Playa Secreto, the quiet side of the island, which had a sandy courtyard filled with hammocks.

No cars were allowed on the island, so people got around on golf carts, although the island was so small that you could walk everywhere and didn’t really need one.

The main street was short and lined with restaurants and gift shops. We took a seafront walk along Bahia de Mujeres to see the lighthouse and had lunch in a Cuban restaurant.

My husband wanted to go scuba diving while we were here and I was happy to join the dive boat to go snorkeling. The dive boat instructers were confident fellows and kept me entertained while we waited for the divers to resurface.

We saw the statues of so many different people- standing, sitting and engaged in all sorts of activities- it was like nothing I had ever seen before. We also saw a turtle in the wild, which I had never seen before and was amazing. He was so quick!

That night we ate in a seafood restaurant with tables and chairs on the beach and found a funky bar on the main street that had high ceilings and a mural of a rainforest. We also discovered the La Adelita Tequileria.

You could hire a deck chair at the busier Playa Norte by day, or sit on a swing in one of the many bars that lined the beach, by night. It was on one such swing that we got acquainted with a lovely Swiss girl called Jasmin who was travelling through Mexico by herself, but had met many like minded travellers such as ourselves along the way to keep her company as desired.

We discovered that we were staying in the same hotel and met in the sandy courtyard on occasion to play cards and have a few drinks between beach visits. Jasmin was travelling back through Cancun and didn’t really want to go by herself. We had already decided that we wanted to avoid spending too much time there; so the three of us travelled back to mainland together to stay one night in a Cancun motel.

Jasmin was on a mission to get a one-person hammock and we were happy to join her quest. We found one in a nearby market, squeezed between the many restaurants and closed nightclubs.

And so our Mexican journey came to an end. It really had been the best trip ever, maybe it was the place, perhaps it was the company or just that it was that blissful time between get married and having kids.

Related posts: Tulum, 2011, Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

It’s a European Thing

A trip around Europe is a backpacker right of passage, especially if you’re an Aussie. Staying in hostels, bumping into the same people on same route and exploring the other side of the world.

Most enter through the gateway of Amsterdam, a city whose liberal attitude may appear shocking to most, intriguing to some and even normal to others.

I remember the flatness of Holland and the smallness of Belgium where you could pass through it and be in 3 countries in one day. There is the beauty of the canals of Bruges and the discovery of Italy, where every city is different.

There is the history of Rome and Pompeii, the craziness of Venice and the little gems you find along the way, like Verona. And then there are more ruins in Athens.

It’s the Asian culture of Istanbul that leaves you wanting more and the bleakness of Eastern Europe on the cusp of Russia. Closely followed by the opulence of Vienna.

Then there is the gothic wonderland of Prague, before finishing off with party time in Berlin.

My first trip to Europe still lives brightly in my memory, even though it was taken a lifetime ago. Each country had a different culture, language and even a different currency.

No matter how many times I go to Europe, there always seems to be more to see.

I have never been to Scandinavia, Liechtenstein or Poland. I missed Ghent in Belgium and countless other places in Italy.

Like Cinque Terre, Siena and the Amalfi coast. I never got to properly taste wine in Tuscany, see the fountains at Tivoli or go to the island of Sicily.

I missed out on visiting an island in Greece, I’m sure Eastern Europe is quite different now to what it was then; and the Cesky Kromlov seems to be the place to go now instead of Prague.

I know there is more to Germany than just Berlin, like Dresden, seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle and shopping at a Christmas market.

I can’t wait for my next magical European experience even if it is not in the near future, because a continent this diverse is definitely worth waiting for.

Related posts: It’s an English Thing, It’s a Spanish Thing, It’s a water thing, It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East

Chichen Itza, 2011

I didn’t really know what a cenote was when we arrived in Chichen Itza in the middle of the Yucatan. I had skimmed over a mention of them in the Mexico guide book and dismissed it as something we wouldn’t have time for. My husband and I were here to explore the ruins after all.

We visited Chichen Itza early in the morning which was perfect as there was no one else around and we also avoided the midday heat this way.

The Group of the Thousand Columns was very impressive as well as the iconic El Castillo with serpants at its feet.

This wasn’t the first time I had visited the ruins. I have a photo of me as a toddler at the top of the Templo de Chac Mool, sitting on his statue. This time, the temple was roped off so I was unable to climb to the top to replicate the picture.

I liked the platform of the Jaguars and Eagles and the stone ring in the ball court was huge. We found noughts and crosses made out of stones, the Market and the High Priest’s grave.

The crumbling roof of the Observatory was a sight to see and the Church was very interesting as it had the most detailed stone carvings.

After half a day in the heat walking the ruins, the tour buses arrived and we decided it was time to vacate.

Back at the hotel swimming pool, we met an American couple travelling with their grandson. Starved for younger conversation, the boy started telling us about this fantastic cenote over the road that was featured on the Red Bull high diving competitions- and you could even swim in it.

You can swim in cenotes?! This idea was getting more appealing, especially now that we had half a day to spare. So we thanked him for his advice and gathered our bathing attire.

Paying our entry fee at the Cenote Ik Kil main gates, we realised that there were lots of locals around too- always a good sign that it must be good!

We walked down to the top of the cenote and peeked down into the largest gaping hole in the ground I have ever seen. Vines were growing around the circumference of the hole, reaching down towards the dark waters below.

Excited, we started climbing down the long windy staircase into the cenote.

Reaching the bottom, we disrobed and got in line to go in. American boys were ogling Brazilian girls in their g-strings and trying to pretend they weren’t looking, not very successfully.

To get into the cenote, you could take a ladder or climb up a shorter staircase to jump in. Remembering that I had read that cenote’s are very deep, I opted for the ladder.

The water was beautifully cold and clear and there were many black fishes swimming around exploring.

It was a great way to cool off after our day of sight-seeing and I am so glad that we found time to go in depth for this amazing experience.

Related posts: Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Oaxaca, 2011

It was a long bus trip to Oaxaca, distance was a factor I hadn’t thought of fully when we decided to come to Mexico- everything was a little further than I thought. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in in the country, but Oaxaca definitely made the top three, so it was worth it when we got there.

My husband and I stayed in an authentic hotel with gothic style rooms and courtyard gardens. Perhaps it was a mistake to try the local mescal- a moonshine version of tequila- after such a long trip. One shot in the Alice in Wonderland themed bar and it was down the rabbit hole for me.

The next day, we wandered down the Alcala, a closed off walking street lined with buildings, to the main square with the usual Cathedral and state Government palace. The iconic Hotel Monte Alban also overlooked the square that was filled with the sounds of musicians and the sights of the market.

I bought a pair of earrings from a local mountain tribe seller and an Alebrijes lizard. Alebrijes are wooden painted animals, originally made as toys for children, that are unique to Mexico. They were so colourful and beautiful that I wish we had the foresight and luggage space to buy more.

We went to an authentic mole restaurant in the house of a local woman to try mole, as Oaxaca claims to be the originator of the popular Mexican sauce. First time around, I thought it tasted like dirt. Another evening, we had mole with duck in a fine dining restaurant called Los Danazantez that had a lovely open air courtyard of water features and a large wooden bar. It was better second time around, so I can see how the locals have acquired a taste for it.

Oaxaca is a town of colour, flowers, black pottery and pushed tin. At times, I felt like I was on the set of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. It is also a town of churches and temples, so we visited Iglesia de Santa Domingo.

Inside was plethora of gold with the Santa Domingo family tree on the roof. In the grounds of the monastery next door there was elaborate courtyards with marble pillars and lots of painting of monks on the walls.

The view over the cactus garden to the mountains from one of the arched windows was beautiful. Also housed here the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca with many statues, gold painted balconies and saints on cornices.

That evening we visited a rooftop bar overlooking Iglesia de Santa Domingo and felt like we were on top of the world.

Related posts: Mexico City, 2011