South Pacific / Australasia

A Taste of New Caledonia – our journey at Sea <3

Hi there! Welcome to February, can you believe it? This year is just whipping on past, faster than each year before – sometimes I worry that I will wake up at 60 wondering what happened to the last 30 years!

My last post was all about the beautiful Pacific Explorer, the P&O ship which carried us to New Caledonia last September. This little post is about the actual journey from Sydney through to Nouméa – our first island visit on our Taste of Caledonia 8-night tour.

I guess one of the main differences I have noticed in boarding at Circular Quay Passenger Terminal is the number of people there. Also the lack of people in matching shirts. I promise you, that is a huge thing here in Queensland!

The next difference was leaving Sydney heads – I had no idea it was going to be that rough venturing out into the open seas, but with the only comparison being the smooth Coral Sea when you leave Brisbane.

We were rocking and rollin’ pretty early on and the poor little tug-boat helping the Explorer out of Sydney heads. We were in for a rough night – thankfully we had a good room and although frowned upon, keeping the sliding door cracked open a little really assisted with the fresh air. Also ginger ale + Kwell tablets really helped.

Our first evening we spent checking the boat out, trying a cocktail in each of the bars and eating at the Waterfront Hotel. We also made our restaurant bookings for the week. The trick is to really prioritise making these bookings ahead of time, because the bookings can sell out and sometimes it can be really hard to get a table with just the two of you (or with your booking crowd).

I don’t want to sound like a snob or as though I don’t like meeting other people but in all of the times we have had share tables we haven’t had the best luck. We have been sat next to incredibly drunk people, people in thongs and singlets and wet togs (even though P&O advise you won’t be permitted into the restaurants unless you are dressed appropriately – this does not always occur). We have also been sat next to incredibly racist old people and then three girls which erupted into a full-on fight with one another. So….I am all for the table for just the two of us.

In terms of the restaurants we sampled in the first three days we tried the Waterfront Hotel (dinner, breakfast and lunch), we tried Luke’s (delicious burgers!), 400 Gradi (amazing pizza) and we had room service breakfast.

You can book packages before you get on the ship, such as sail-away champagne and strawberries, activities on-board, and room-service.

This was our first big holiday since our Honeymoon, so we really went all-out! We joined bingo, the waiting game, trivia and the stage shows. At the end of the day a cruise will always be what you make it. If you want to relax and lay by the pool and drink cocktails then you absolutely can, if you want to tick every activity off the list then you can. I think we are a good mix of the two and this was our third cruise and we have loved each and every one :).

Theme nights are always a lot of fun, you get to dress up, the ship is decorated and usually everyone gets involved. Our second night was back to school theme and rather than the standard school-girl, high school jock; I took my Gen-Y #basicb attitude and ordered us two matching shirts from redbubble.com.

We went with classic Mean Girls greatness and dressed as though we were members of the Northshore Mathletes. Unfortunately not too many people got the reference and I can guarantee they would have been a bigger hit in Brisbane. On the plus side, we (or I) wasn’t falling over in rough weather in a mini-school skirt at an age far-advancing appropriateness ;).

Our first morning we decided to use the gym facilities before we hit breakfast, the gym itself it pretty well-equiped and they also have a day-spa and exercise classes. Which I thought was really amazing.

Each night we had a plate of canapés brought to our room – this was something we had booked to spoil ourselves and since we booked ahead of the cruise – it wasn’t an out of pocket expense while we were on the ship.

Cruising is so much fun, I will always be an advocate for it when it comes to a relaxing trip away. It is cost-effective, everything is done for you and really when else is a 30 year old going to have the opportunity to smash some carrot cake and coffee and play trivia with some sassy pensioners?

Also – the most amazing thing about cruises, are the staff. Each and every member of the cruise ship staff will go above and beyond to make your holiday memorable and their smiles will light your day right up.

So please, please, please – use your manners, be gracious and tip. Just remember, they can be away from their homes and families for eight months at a time and a little bit of kindness and conversation goes along way!

x C x

Australia · South Pacific / Australasia

Sydney in September <3

IMG_3037‘The greatest trips are the unexpected ones’ – Anon

Sydney is the type of destination which makes you think of the Sydney Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, insanely expensive coffee and hipsters by the barrel-full. It also makes me think of insane traffic, way too many people and a city which has a constant buzz of energy and activity!

G is originally from Sydney and he did his apprenticeship all around Sydney (think 17-year-old driving a van with a trailer on the back of it), so his driving and people-handling capabilities are far more advanced than mine!

After I surprised G with the news I had booked us a cruise in September, just a mere two days after sitting him down and going through our budget and determining we needed to cut costs and be responsible 30-somethings…. he leapt on board and confirmed that we would be doing it in style!

We booked our airfares and booked the Shagri-La for our pre-cruise stay. The Shangri-La in Sydney is divine, it has views like no other in Sydney and if you can afford to splurge and stay there, then I highly recommend it! We booked an Executive Grand Harbour View room, which although pushing $500 a night, does have views of the full harbour. The Sydney Opera House, the Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful harbour in all her glory.

The bathrooms are like no other, think marble bath and shower and plush towels and bathrobes. 50sqm of pure heaven and the views, my goodness the views! The rooms are located on levels 22-29.

DSC06606My favourite thing about the Shangri-La is that if you do arrive before 2pm and your room is ready, you are more than welcome to check-in earlier than expected. There is a gym, all day dining at Café Mix, amazing food at Altitude Restaurant and the Blu Bar on level 36. My tip is to get up to Blu Bar well before sunset, because it does get packed and secure yourself a front-seat view to the orange beauty which is a Sydney harbour sunset!

I have some amazing girlfriends who live in Sydney and we often travel interstate to see each other a few times a year, so we were lucky enough to be able to meet up with a late lunch at Cruise Bar, which is in the bustling Circular Quay. The view is beautiful; it has an amazing selection of wine and cocktails and the house made flatbreads with dip and salt and chilli squid is delicious! After spending a couple of hours here, we made our way up to the Blu Bar (get the Thyming Tokyo or Yamazukara ;)) and enjoyed the sunset.

We then headed out to Harts Pub around the corner and enjoyed some sparkling wine and waffle fries and then it was time for us to say goodbye and head back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

Our dinner reservation was at the amazing Saké Restaurant at the Rocks and we had been looking forward to this dinner for months! It was like watching two kids at a candy bar once our amazing server handed us the menu! So, I won’t bore you with the details but our menu looked something like this: sashimi combo, spicy tuna rolls, Hiromasa kingfish, edamame, popcorn shrimp and the cape grim short rib bo ssam. You can go ahead and unbutton your pants and take a few deep breaths after reading that if you need to, we sure did!

Drinks consisted of the Hatori Hanzo (Bombay Sapphire gin, Yuzu sake, jalapeño pepper, cucumber and elderflower), E-momo-ki (cherry-blossom themed) cocktail, a Master of Malt Japanese whiskey tasting board (Mars Maltage Cosmo, Suntory Kabukin & Hibiki Japanese Harmony) and we finished with the phenomenal Miso Caramel Dragon Egg for dessert. We basically had to roll ourselves back to our hotel afterwards!

We spent an incredibly comfortable night in our amazing king-size bed and kept the curtains opened so we would wake up with the sun rising over Sydney heads. We woke up just before 5am and were lucky enough to watch our home for the next 8 nights make her way through the harbour and dock at Circular Quay. This was amazing to watch, from our bed with our room-service coffee!

The Shangri-La gym was our next stop and then we made our way to the famed breakfast buffet and before you know it, it was time to leave!

Matching flamingo shirts at the ready, we made it to the ship – dropped our bags – celebrated with some Prosecco and it was time to start our New Caledonia adventure!

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney?

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Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post.

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and items, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

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x C x

 

 

 

Australia

Sydney sunsets – the end of our Christmas holiday <3

On our second last night in Sydney we went out for a family meal, the kids picked China town and so we went to Marigold restaurant, it isn’t the cheapest Chinese in town, but it was wonderful to eat in a place with the big fish tank at the back, white tablecloths and the freshest, lightest and tastiest fried rice and honey chicken I have had in a long time!

After over-indulging in our meals, little R asked if we could walk home. This was pretty impressive, given we had had a lot of trouble convincing the kids to walk anywhere in such heat and with so many hills.

IMG_7868[1]We chose to walk down towards Circular Quay, through Martin Place and Pitt Street and enjoyed the left over Christmas decorations. Little C practiced her polaroids again and I was able to get some really lovely captures of the area.

Once we got to Circular Quay we had a look at the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge, all lit up with her beautiful lighting and enjoyed the ferries coming in and out of the area. We ended up calling it an early night, we were beyond exhausted at this point and it was dawning on us that our holiday was coming to an end.

IMG_7865[1]On our last day in Sydney, we took the kids into the original Commonwealth Bank so they could cash in their money box savings for the year – which was really exciting for them, until the bank charged them 10% to exchange their money for cash. It gave us a pretty good reason to discuss how banks work and prepare them for tax, rates etc.,

They both had some pretty good ideas on how to spend their money and they both actually wanted to open savings accounts which was music to our ears, given they are so young!

IMG_7866[1]We spent our last night in the Botanical Gardens for a BBQ and some ballgames with our friends and we also were able to enjoy the incredible weather and watch a Carnival cruise ship leave the harbour.

IMG_7872[1]All in all, Sydney was such a lovely break for the family and we enjoyed each and every day. We had spent months wondering whether or not we had enough money to participate in so many exciting activities but really, the best moments for most of us were when we were just laughing with one another and chatting on our walks.

We left with very happy hearts and a memory bank full of wonderful moments.

x C x