Girl in Mudgee

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A quick weekend away in Mudgee, New South Wales over Easter has left me with a new favourite place near Sydney.  Mudgee is a gorgeous little town four hours drive from Sydney, with vineyards in all directions, and some superb places to eat and rest.  I like that it’s a very flat region, making it perfect for cyclists.  There are also some gorgeous vineyards and very special places to stay nestled into the surrounding hills.  The golden light in the mornings and evenings shining down on the valley and the layers of hills is just divine.

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Girl in Noosa

Noosa

We spent Christmas in Noosa this year, swimming, walking the headlands, and visiting the farmers market.  There was something comforting about bobbing in the flat warm water on Main Beach at 6am on Christmas morning with about 40 other souls… moving gently with the swell, sharing the beginning of the day’s festivities with strangers.

Girl in Central Otago

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I grew up 2 hours drive from this part of New Zealand, and spent a lot of time there as a teenager and again at University when I was studying Geography at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

The area has changed a lot since the wild thyme and rabbits that I remember from school camps when I was a kid, with the landscape often now defined by the vines that Central Otago Pinot and Riesling have made the region famous for.

Many people know Central Otago particularly for the thrill seeking activities you can find around Queenstown, but  I prefer to think of it as the same kind of place as Napa or Sonoma in California, Orange or Mudgee in New South Wales, Australia, and the Kelowna or Okanagan wine region in Canada.  The mountains and lakes around Queenstown and the schist geology of Cromwell offer such a stunningly dynamic landscape, and personally I think one of the best ways to explore the lower part of the region and really take everything in is via the Central Otago Rail Trail.

We didn’t have enough time to cycle on this trip, flying into Queenstown for one night before heading further south to Coastal Otago,  so instead chose to focus on wine.  After a walk around Lake Wakitipu our first evening, we had a lovely dinner at Amisfield Winery and the next day joined Jim Ashe for a day trip to visit wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Cromwell and Bannockburn.  Jim has worked in the Central Otago wine industry as a grower and wine maker for many years and really knows his stuff.  We visited Peregrine, Aurum, The Wooing Tree, Domain Road, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Mt Difficulty.

Stayed at: Queenstown Hilton, Kawarau, Queenstown and Plum Tree Cottage, Clyde
Ate at: Amisfield Bistro, Lake Hayes; Mt Difficulty, Cromwell; and Olivers, Clyde
Explored: Central Otago Vineyards with Pinot Thyme Wine Tours
Region Highlights: Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Bannockburn, Clyde, St Bathans

Travel Diary: Balinese Funeral

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When in Ubud, we joined the early morning crowd gathered in the village of Peliatan to farewell a member of the Balinese Royal Family.  A royal cremation is a huge affair, with men from all the local villages involved in carrying the ornate funeral pyre for kilometres down Ubud’s main streets.  The men take turns carrying the heavy pyre for short distances, and are helped along by some impressive drumming.  The men join together to pick up the pyre and run with it for a few metres, before they are replaced by another crew. What with the uneven gutters, large crowds and a constantly moving swell of villagers as the pyre changes hands, watching the parade was a chaotic but very interesting cultural experience.

Thank you very much to Rana, Manager at Bidadari for helping us dress appropriately and taking us along.

Girl in Ubud

Flights from Australia often arrive at Denpasar in the afternoon, which means that the drive to Ubud delivers you to your destination in darkness.  This leads to a delightful experience your first morning in Ubud that I like to call ‘waking up in the green world’.

Waking in your four poster bed, pushing the gauzy curtains aside, and peeking out the window at the deep green swimming pool waiting for you, with a jungle valley teeming with insect life and other biota below, is one of the special things about treating yourself when travelling to Bali.  It’s magical to wake up in a new world.

With two visits to Ubud under our belt, we have stayed both times at a gorgeous little private retreat called Bidadari.  With only six villas, built in the traditional style, this resort offers a lot of privacy and plenty of opportunity for relaxing.  Another thing we like about Bidadari is that it is located away from the busy town center of Ubud, in a village called Kelabang Moding (on the way to the Tegalalang Rice Fields).  Bidadari only hires staff from the local village, so it’s a great way to get to know a community and learn a little bit about village life.

When in Ubud, we tend to start the day slowly and then wander through the rice fields surrounding Kelabang Moding and maybe take one of the various walking routes into town, something the locals call ‘trekking’.  Between walking and eating delicious food, and lounging in our little jungle pad, we find we fill our days quite nicely.

Stayed atBidadari Private Villas and Retreat, Ubud
Ate at: Hujan Locale, Swept Away at the Samaya
Explored: Mt Batur to Ubud by Mountain Bike with Infinity Mountain Biking

Girl in Melbourne

Melbourne

Melbourne is a city that swaddles you and keeps you warm… as long as you are appropriately dressed.  It’s the kind of destination you always park a scarf when visiting (especially in Autumn) because you never know how bitterly cold it might be.  This is why Melbourne feels a lot like home, because New Zealand is the same.  And because my sister lives in Melbourne, so a part of home is always there to welcome me.

I never really do much when I am in Melbourne, only the things that you imagine people who live there do in this town.  It’s the perfect city to imagine you live in and just relax into.  So I shop, go to cafes, eat, wander through parks, walk up four flights of steps in search of bookstores, go to museums and galleries.  It is an easy to navigate city, so simple to get around.  Perfect for exploring and for solitary wandering days punctuated by meals with friends.

Stayed at: Tyrian Apartments in Fitzroy
Ate at: Vegie Bar, Moroccan Soup BarCumulus Inc, Mamasita, La Belle Miette
Explored: Tessuti Fabric Store, Metropolis Bookshop, Collected Works, The Nicholas Building
Region Highlights: Fitzroy, Collingwood, Carlton