Archive for April, 2014

  • Sunday Selections

    This past week was a short one and the weekend came around pretty quickly again. I hope you had a lovely one. Aren’t these tulips at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul gorgeous?

    Tulips, Istanbul

    WATCH: I have a confession to make and I’m a little embarrassed about it. I’ve started watching an American reality TV show (okay, warning signs already, I know) and I’m a little bit hooked. It’s called ‘Naked and Afraid’. Yes, really. The title pretty much summarises the content of the show: a man and a woman, both of whom are stark naked and also strangers, are dropped deep into the wilderness, be it the jungle or desert, and must survive for 21 days, soon enough becoming quite afraid. It’s bad but oh so good.

    READ: Aren’t these photos of Istanbul on Nicole Warne’s blog, ‘Gary Pepper’ just stunning? Take me back!

    COOK: I missed my Mum’s ANZAC biscuits this year! She makes the best bikkies. I have her treasured recipe somewhere over here in Germany I know. Where I’ve stashed it is another question.

    MAKE: If you haven’t gathered from my Instagram already, I’m a little obsessed with spring blooms at the moment. Don’t you just love this idea for transforming old light bulbs into cute little vases?

    DREAM BUY: One day I would just love to visit Africa, go on safari and stay in a luxury tented camp, just like this one in the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. Rates from $1,365 per person, per night.

    BUDGET BUY: All the new season spring clothing has now filled the stores and I’m desperate to do a spot of shopping. How cute is this top from & Other Stories?

    GO: Ben and I made a pretty good deal together this year. Instead of physical, concrete birthday presents, we would give each other the gift of travel for our birthdays. His birthday gift to me was a weekend in Istanbul. Yesterday I booked his birthday getaway: a weekend in Rome in June! Best idea ever.

  • Bosphorus Ferry Cruise

    It’s not everyday you can sail between two continents. So when you have a chance, say in Istanbul for example, you’d be crazy to pass it up! I have to say that catching a ferry up the Bosphorus Strait (the body of water connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Mamara) was one of the highlights of my Easter weekend in Istanbul.

    After spending the morning at the incredible Basilica Cistern and the Hagia Sophia, and after refuelling with a mouth-watering lunch of spicy koftas, what better way was there but to spend the rest of the beautiful, sunny afternoon aboard one of the traditional Istanbul ferries.

    Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul

    If you are keen to take a ferry trip whilst in Istanbul, you truly are spoilt for choice. Many Turkish people use these ferries on a daily basis as a means of transportation around the city. Consequently, the frequency of ferries and route options are quite extensive. We elected to take the short Bosphorus tour option, departing from Eminönü pier mid-afternoon.

    Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul

    Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul

    Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul

    There’s something beautiful about taking a boat ride. I sat back, sipped on an iced tea and soaked up the sun, all the while gazing into Asia on the other side of the bank. We passed all kinds of sea traffic on our route, from tiny fishing boats jam-packed with local kids, to huge cargo ships passing through the strait, en route to the Black Sea.


    What a perfect way to spend a couple of hours. And could Istanbul’s old-city skyline be any more breathtaking as we pulled back into port? I think not. I’d love to hear about some memorable boat rides you’ve had in your travels!

  • All About the Tea

    The Turkish sure do love their tea. I don’t think love is even a strong enough word. Adore. Worship? Everywhere you go, you will see Turks sipping on cups of tea, served in beautiful tulip-shaped glass cups so that one can admire the hue of the tea. There is no situation in which drinking tea is unacceptable. Indeed, Turkey has become the number one consumer of tea per capita in all of the world, even surpassing China and England.

    In every corner of the city, locals gather to relax and socialise in tea houses, perhaps playing a few games of backgammon or smoking nargile (Turkish water pipe used to smoke flavoured tobacco). In the late afternoon after a huge day of sightseeing, we stumbled upon a beautiful tea house in a shady, cobblestoned courtyard in the Beyoglu district that was filled entirely with locals and devoid of tourists. Perfect.

    Istanbul Tea Cafe

    Istanbul Tea Cafe

    Istanbul Tea Cafe

    We sat on tiny wooden stools arranged around a similarly miniature wooden table and we ordered tea. And then some more. And then some baklava. And we watched the men play backgammon and we breathed in the nargile smoke that slowly wafted through the open windows. And it was all so lovely.

    Stumbling upon hidden gems like this is so special. What perfect little local hangouts have you discovered on your travels?

  • Sunday Selections

    Merhaba from Istanbul! I was greeted with Batman masks on the lamps in my hotel room when I checked in. Awesome.

    I hope you are having a lovely long Easter weekend and that you’ve eaten too many hot cross buns and Easter eggs — the best way to enjoy Easter!

    Batman Mask, Mama Shelter, Istanbul

    WATCH: This last week whilst on holidays, I’ve been pouring over Kinfolk Magazine’s beautiful collection of short films, published on their website. These little videos are produced with such love and attention and just transport you away. I must admit that The Oregon Coast and An Ode to Summer are two of my favourites. Check them out!

    READ: I’ve just downloaded ‘I Am Malala’ by  Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai, onto my Kindle. What an incredible, inspiring and intelligent young woman. Malala’s memoir tells the story of her experience having been shot point-blank through the head by a Taliban gunman while she was riding the school bus home. Miraculously, she not only survived the shooting, but is using her experience and subsequent publicity to bring global awareness to the issue of every woman’s right to an education. Speaking at such forums as the United Nations and Harvard University and having met with Queen Elizabeth II as well as President Barack Obama, aside from the fact that she is the youngest nominee of the Nobel Peace Prize ever, this young woman will undoubtedly make a positive difference in this world.

    COOK: Whilst I welcome spring in Berlin with open arms and have been in awe of how much beauty and colour is in the city right now, last week’s weather was more than a little changeable (as spring tends to be). It was cold, windy and it even hailed last week! A little disappointing. A home-cooked, rustic, comforting meal was what I craved and so I cooked up this Jamie Oliver one-tray bake. Pancetta, olives, cherry tomatoes and chicken were involved, all slow-roasted in the oven. And oh yes, did it do the trick.

    MAKE: I love these practical ideas to create your own urban garden if you are an apartment rather than a house dweller. Space is always an issue. This selection of functional tips will help your green thumb grow.

    DREAM BUY: Wouldn’t it just be so special to bring home a traditional Turkish carpet that has been hand-crafted in Istanbul? Especially from a place such as Arsah. When I was in India, I did that very thing, shipping a gorgeous hand-made carpet home to Australia, made by a husband and wife over a few months. It’s such a precious item to me and I think another one from Istanbul would be lovely. Monetarily, it’s probably not the highest priority right now, but maybe one day when we come back to this little corner of the world.

    BUDGET BUY: Istanbul is cheap folks! Ben and I have been enjoying all manner of indulgences for just a few Lira all over town. Think freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, the best kebabs in town, and fresh fish burgers from the bustling Karaköy fish market, all for under 5 TL each. That’s less than 2 Euros. Score.

    GO: You MUST come to Istanbul one day if you have the means. I only arrived yesterday morning but it’s fast becoming one of my favourite places in Europe (or Asia, depending which side of the Bosphorus you’re standing on)! Posts to follow shortly.

  • Living Like a Barcelonian

    Oh Barcelona. I miss you. I do hope we can meet again one day soon in the next few months.

    Last September, I revelled in living like a Barcelonian for a few perfect wine, tapas and sunshine-filled days. I rented a typical Spanish loft through Airbnb in the hip neighbourhood of El Born and spent a beautiful weekend wandering about, enjoying life, as the Spanish so skillfully do. It was divine. Here are a few sneaky snapshots from my Spanish home over that beautiful weekend.

    Barcelona Staircase

    Barcelona Balcony

    Barcelona Rooftops

    Just perfect.

  • Arkonaplatz Flea Market

    Sunday in Berlin is flea market day. Every neighbourhood across the city has its own local flea market, if not several. There isn’t a whole lot happening on Sundays (Berliners take their day of rest quite seriously) and so my Sunday will, more often than not, involve a slow meander through one of these darling markets.

    In Prenzlauer Berg, one of my favourites is the Arkonaplatz flea market. Sheltered by beautiful, tall chestnut trees in an old square, Arkonaplatz truly is a lovely place to stroll around, especially when it’s flea market day. All kinds of retro knick-knacks are to be found here, many from the ’50s and ’60s. The delightful mix of vintage furniture, signage, kitchen utensils and old wares for the home makes for a fun Sunday searching for treasures.

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    Arkonaplatz Flea Market, Berlin

    I truly love Sundays in Berlin. There is no pressure to ‘get things done’ and no one here rushes around. Taking pleasure in the simple things, like flea market shopping, is what Sundays in Berlin are about. What’s not to like about that?

    Address: Arkonaplatz, 10435, Berlin

    Opening Hours: Sunday 10:00 to 16:00

  • Sunday Selections

    Berlin is in full bloom at the moment and all I want to do right now is wander around under the cherry blossoms!

    Berlin Cherry Blossoms

    WATCH: I love watching travel and food programmes on cities I’m about to visit and Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ is always at the top of my list. Places of deliciousness in Istanbul have been duly noted including Dürümzade for mouth-watering Turkish wraps and Sur Ocakbasi for büryan kebab (lamb slow-cooked in a pit). Drool.

    READ: Did you know that autobahns in Germany were sometimes used as landing strips in WWII? I didn’t! Check out this link on ’16 things you didn’t know about the autobahn’ for more useful autobahn trivia.

    COOK: Everywhere I look at the moment, I see Spargel. Germans are a little obsessed with this stuff and celebrate wholeheartedly when it comes into season with festivals, competitions and passionate discussions. This time of year is even called ‘Spargelzeit’, meaning Spargel time. Essentially, Spargel is white asparagus. Apparently, it has a slightly sweeter and milder taste than regular asparagus. It is grown underground, meaning that no photosynthesis occurs, resulting in it’s white colour. I must get my hands on some to cook with this week before the short season ends!

    MAKE: Can you believe that these gorgeous peonies are actually made from paper? Lucy from Craftberry Bush is one super talented lady.

    DREAM BUY: Wouldn’t it just be a dream to one day travel on the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul? How divine! Original carriages from the 1920s are still in use and guests are expected to attend dinner in black-tie attire. How romantic. Prices are from $6,920 per person. One day!

    BUDGET BUY: This week I discovered return flights to Oslo from Berlin for only €40 over a weekend in May with Ryanair. Can I really say no?

    GO: Our lovely friends Nikola and Petra are marrying in Serbia in June. Searching for flights to Belgrade is one of my jobs for next week. Fun!

  • Großglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Weekends are so precious. In Australia, I would never make the most of a weekend. My weekend would inevitably entail an obligatory sleep in, morning coffee or lunch out, a spot of shopping and maybe some exercise. I would hardly ever venture to a new part of Melbourne or head out into the countryside, exploring a place I hadn’t been before, let alone head to a different country for a mini-break. Weekends in Australia were predictable. Suburban.

    It’s a different ball game here, living in Europe. There is just too much opportunity to travel and explore over here. I could be anywhere in Europe in three hours or less. How can this weekend potential be wasted?

    Around six months ago over a long weekend in October, when the days began to get chillier and the need for warm jackets was becoming the norm, Ben and I hired a car and headed south to Austria. I love packing the car, stocking up on supplies and snacks and heading off on a pre-dawn departure. When I was little, school holidays would inevitably mean bundling up into the car and heading up the coast to Merimbula and this sense of adventure and excitement always tickles my memory on road-trips today.

    Our primary goal in heading down this was to drive the Großglockner High Alpine Road, one of the most famous alpine roads in Europe. We didn’t head directly here; we stayed a night in the picturesque Berchtesgaden national park in the very south of Germany first (more of this in another post). The next morning, we set off for moody and temperamental Austria, who welcomed us with persistent wet weather and stormy skies. We reached the starting point of the road around two hours later where, as the alps loomed closer and closer, we paid the toll of € 34 and began to slowly ascend.

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

    The 48km road was utterly spectacular. With 36 hairpin bends and reaching an altitude of 2504m, it really was the most incredible drive I’ve ever been on in my life so far.

    Weekends truly are to be treasured. I’m spending next weekend in Istanbul and I just can’t wait.

  • Sunday Selections

    Wow — it’s been such a fantastic week and I’m feeling pretty happy right about now. I started my brand new job last Monday and I’m loving it! It’s so great to be working full-time again- something I haven’t done in nine months. Everyone at my new work has been so welcoming and I feel right at home already.

    Blog and Tulips

    WATCH: I love it when I discover a new series that combines food with places I love and I’ve recently been relishing ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’, presented by Rachel Khoo. Rachel, who moved to Paris five years ago to study French cooking and attend culinary school, runs the smallest restaurant in Paris that can only seat two people — in her tiny studio apartment! Have a little look at a clip here. Big thanks to Ben’s mum for the recommendation.

    READ: Are you a wanderluster? I know I am! Check out Brooke Saward’s post on ‘What is Wanderlust? 10 Signs you are a Wanderluster’ to find out!

    COOK: The combination of things such as beginning a new full-time job, being around children again, as well as the change of seasons has meant that I’m not feeling 100% this weekend. Being sick sucks, especially when there is so much I would rather be doing than moping around my flat all weekend! When I’m sick I crave comforting, nourishing food. This southern vegetable stew from the gorgeous blog, For the Love of the South, is exactly the kind of thing I need. Finding the energy to cook is another matter entirely.

    MAKE: I love this super simple way to personalise coffee mugs. This has got to be the easiest little craft project on the planet!

    DREAM BUY: I just adore this Mulberry Bayswater handbag in deer brown. The unfortunate thing is the price tag of £1,100. Clearly I chose the wrong profession. Sigh.

    BUDGET BUY: Isn’t this little number from & Other Stories just the cutest spring frock? Now this is my kind of price tag!

    GO: I can’t wait for our Istanbul break in two weeks. We’re staying at Mama Shelter, the latest in this hotel chain, designed by Philippe Starck. It’s very affordable and really hip too. I love the quirky touches like the batman masks adorning the rooms and the inflatable swimming rings decorating the bar. Can’t wait!

  • A Few Days In Delhi

    I’m so excited to bring you my first post in this series that will explore some of my past travel adventures. I am so fortunate to have travelled to some incredible destinations in my life so far and I would love to share some photographs and memories I have of them with you.

    The first destination I want to reminisce about is Delhi, India. I travelled to the Indian sub-continent late in 2011 and spent seven weeks travelling through India and Nepal. Delhi was the city we flew into and where our Intrepid trip, ‘Slowly Down the Ganges’ began. I normally steer clear of group travel, much preferring to travel independently, discovering foreign places on my own without a tour guide herding me about. I felt a little differently about India, however, just in terms of a few concerns I had about transportation, sanitation and safety, and I couldn’t recommend the trip highly enough.

    India is unlike any other country I’ve been to and one that you can never fully prepare yourself for. Gregory David Roberts, author of my favourite novel in the world, ‘Shantaram’, most accurately sums up how one feels when first arriving in this exceptionally foreign land:

    ‘Yes I was a little unnerved by the density of purposes, the carnival of needs and greeds, the sheer intensity of the pleading and scheming on the street. I spoke none of the languages I heard. I knew nothing of the cultures there, clothed in robes and saris and turbans. It was as if I’d found myself in a performance of some extravagant, complex drama, and I didn’t have a script. But I smiled, and smiling was easy, no matter how strange and disorienting the street seemed to be.’

    The dizzying array of sights, smells and sounds are a feast for any traveller’s senses and it’s very easy to experience sensory overload in this land. Don’t expect a holiday when you travel here. Instead, be prepared for a journey that will well and truly jolt you out of your comfort zone. The experiences you have here are ones you will never forget!

    When I travel to foreign places, I love nothing more than just to wander around, getting lost in the streets of new cities. Delhi is an exceptionally interesting place to walk about in — there is just so much that is interesting happening at every turn!

    Delhi Man with Basket

    Delhi street scene 1

    Delhi Street Scene 2

    Delhi Rickshaw

    Delhi Alley

    Indian Girls on Rickshaw

    Delhi Bazaar

    Happy Indians Delhi

    One of the highlights of my two days in Delhi was a visit in the late afternoon to Humayun’s Tomb; the tomb of the Mughal emperor of the same name. Built in the mid-16th century, this impressive complex constructed with red sandstone combines both Mughal and Persian elements. As soon as I beheld this incredible structure as I strolled into the grounds, I was captivated. With its perfect symmetry and the soft, warm glow it radiated from the late afternoon sun, it really was a majestic edifice.

    Humuyan's Tomb 2

    My last stop was a visit to the incredible Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Built between 1644 and 1658, this was the final architectural commission from Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor who was also a Muslim. This incredible place of worship towers over the city and was particularly impressive as the sun sunk lower and lower in the late afternoon sky.

    Jama Masjid 1

    Jama Masjid 2

    Men at Jama Maskid

    Birds Jama Masjid

    With daylight fading fast it was time to call it a day and head back into the frenzy that is Delhi’s urban sprawl. We slowly inched back to our hotel where we had the opportunity to rest for a few hours before the overnight sleeper train that would take us to the starting point of our three-day sailing trip down the Ganges. To say that this next leg of our Indian adventure was eventful is only a slight understatement. Stay tuned for more of India soon!