Bellbird Cafe Review: Discover the Delights of the Bellbird Echo Cafe

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If you need to get away from the busy, stressful, smog-laden city, or you are looking for a new tourist hotspot to delight family and friends from interstate or overseas, discover the many delights, the peace, tranquility, and the yummy food, which is on offer at the Bellbird Echo Cafe.

The Bellbird Echo Cafe is located on the Bells Line of Road, Kurrajong, which is just 76kms ( 68 mins) by car from the city of Sydney. Kurrajong is located to the west of the Hawkesbury River on the lower slopes of the Blue Mountains. 

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to get away from the cluttered suburbs and escape into the wide open green spaces of the countryside.

Out in the fresh air and amongst the beauty of nature, true peace and tranquility can be found. When I sit on a rustic bench and gaze upon gently undulating green hills, feel the fresh breeze on my face, smell the sweet fragrance of flowers and listen to the native bird’s sing, I believe that what I see, smell and hear is how life was meant to be. Pure, unspoiled nature: a blissful Eden-type world that offers rest and restoration for the body, mind, soul, and spirit. This is what you can discover too when you visit the Bellbird Echo Cafe.

You can choose to sit inside the cafe, in the cosy seating areas, but the best place to sit and enjoy the many culinary delights that are available is outside in the beautiful garden area. There are plenty of places to enjoy your meal or a glass of wine or beer while you soak up the atmosphere, gaze upon the scenery, and be serenaded by the bellbirds‘ enchanting song.

Besides the lovely food and the outdoor splendor, the highlight of my visit was not being bothered by those pesky Miner birds and I even caught a glimpse of a tiny bright blue wren. Unfortunately, it dashed away before I could take a photo. For a superb day out, I highly recommend the Bellbird Echo Cafe, and after just one visit, this charming cafe will become one of your favorite spots to hang out with family and friends or as a solo getaway. 

 

Photos: Diana Jane Heath

5 Best Ski Resorts In The World

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Almost every country that has a good winter climate has a selection of ski resorts. Some are good, some are excellent while others are maybe a little bit less satisfactory.

Regardless if you are an avid skier, enthusiastic snowboarder or just love a good snowy mountain scenery, you will probably appreciate a good ski resort.

It all starts with the slopes and the scenery and goes all the way through the restaurants and the atmosphere in the resort.

Considering all the things aforementioned, we have picked out the top 5 ski resorts in the world. Some may come as a surprise, while others you may have already put on your bucket list. Here they are:

1. Park City, Utah

This top ranked ski and snowboard resort has been awarded a top 10 spot on almost every list. With 7300 acres of terrain, Park City offers experiences that are an utter joy for every skier and snowboarder.

2. Aspen, Colorado

Colorado’s Aspen resort is a major family ski area and a real pleasure to all the snow lovers. Aspen, the home of the famous black-diamond terrain, has been on the skiers’ maps since 1947 and has kept the top 5 place ever since.

3. Zermatt, Switzerland

The Swiss ski resorts are definitely the ones that can pair up with the Colorado ones, and to no wonder. One of the favorite European ski destinations, Zermatt is a mountain resort that welcomes skiers, hikers and climbers year round.

4. Mont Tremblant, Canada

Among all the beautiful ski resorts in Canada, Mont Tremblant stands out as both a great romantic ski getaway and a family vacation destination to remember. Its vicinity to Montreal (just 90 minutes northwest) makes this place a mixture of adventure and easy urban experience.

5. Thredbo, Australia

Australia’s mild climate may not associate the rest of the world with skiing, but the avid Aussie skiers are already enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the land down under. One of the skiing gems is Thredbo, alpine village and ski resort, which is located within the Kosciuszko National Park in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and it offers the comfort of premium accommodation, longest ski runs, and fun nightlife.

Which ski resort to choose?

The right choice of ski resort dictates whether you will have an amazing snowy holiday or not.

No matter if you are choosing a more family-oriented trip or want to have a blast with your friends, the ski resort if is important for an enjoyable ski trip.

Make sure to research your ski resorts well before making the final pick — the ski resort should be a right fit in terms of the slopes, accommodation, and non-snow related activities after a day’s worth of skiing.

 

Guest blogger: Hellen McAdams

Image: action-adult-adventure-beautiful

Daniel Frank.

Pexels.com

Restaurant Review for Pins on Lurline, Katoomba

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If you are planning to explore the beautiful world heritage-listed Blue Mountains, make sure that your visit includes the Pins on Lurline restaurant, which is located on Lurline Street at Katoomba. One of my favourite Sydney destinations, Katoomba, is nestled in the heart of the Blue Mountains, a popular tourist hotspot that not only offers many places to eat and drink but this bustling town acts as a pivotal stepping stone to the spectacular Blue Mountain ranges.  As well as a plethora of quaint cafes and antique stores, Katoomba is particularly famous for the naturally-formed rock structure that is shrouded in myth, The Three Sisters. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, there are countless opportunities for you to enjoy the fresh mountain air and satisfy your thirst for adventure with numerous bush walking tracks and 4WD tours.

Although I have been visiting Katoomba for many years, I was pleasantly surprised by a previously undiscovered gem that I didn’t even know existed. Pins on Lurline is a sensational restaurant that offers a mouthwatering menu of culinary delights that I was so impressed with, I cannot wait to visit them again. The award-winning restaurant is located in a historic landmark cottage that was built in 1898, which was originally used as a guest-house. On driving up to the restaurant, I was captivated by its charming Victorian design, with its elegant rich green facade. the polished wood wraparound verandah, and flourishing gardens. 

As soon as we entered the foyer, we were greeted by the very friendly staff and ushered into the small but very cozy dining room. Once seated, and with a glass of superb ROWLEE PINOT GRIS 2015 in hand, I gazed out of the wide colourful stained-glass window that gave an interrupted view of the garden. 

The pièce de résistance was the food and wine. The Pins on Lurline restaurant has recently been awarded the AGFG Readers Choice Award for 2017 and it is not hard to see why: their menu offers you a small but expertly designed range of scrumptious delights that will tantalize your taste buds. My choice was a three-course meal.

Entree

ZUCCHINI FLOWERS – Filled with ricotta, apple, and cranberries, served on a sweet potato puree with pine nuts and feta.

Main meal

CHICKEN BALLANTINE – Chicken breast wrapped in Prosciutto, with Mushroom & Asparagus mousse filling, Sage & Cauliflower puree, Broccolini, Mushrooms, & Roasted capsicum cream sauce.

Dessert

WHITE CHOCOLATE & BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE (with Whipped cream & Golden meringue)

I also shared three side dishes with my dining companions.

ROASTED CHATS – (cooked in duck fat, with rosemary salt).

CHARGRILLED CAPSICUM POLENTA CHIPS – (thick cut, served with Tarragon Aioli)

HOMEMADE BREAD (A new flavour, baked daily and served with butter, organic olive oil, and salt).

An altogether delightful experience, the food was served quickly and was cooked to perfection. It was very hard to choose my favorite part of the meal, but if you visit Pins on Lurline, the homebread bread and White Chocolate & Blueberry Cheesecake are two of my top recommendations. You will not be disappointed.

The Pins offer a Lunch & Dinner Menu, a Taster Menu, a Degustation Menu, and a Champagne Brunch Menu, as well as a terrific Wine Menu with a choice of 26 different types of wines that are predominately sourced from within Australia.

With a ‘Great atmosphere, Great Service, and Spectacular Food and Wine’, Pins on Lurline will become your favourite restaurant in The Blue Mountains.

Discover Melbourne: the cultural heart of Victoria

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Like Sydney, Melbourne is a vibrant Australian coastal city. Nestled in south-eastern Victoria, Melbourne prides itself as being Australia’s art and culture epicentre. Whether it’s dining out, visiting the theatre, or enjoying first class wine, why not discover Melbourne: the cultural heart of Victoria.

Although I grew up in sunny harbourside Sydney, Melbourne offers  a unique London style atmosphere with stately churches, leafy parks, and bustling streets that are dedicated to high-end shopping, trendy boutiques, restaurants, cozy cafes, and many street performers.

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IMG_2992 Some unusual residents of Melbourne.

 

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As Sydney is known for its iconic Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and of course Bondi Beach, Melbourne is famous for its wide variety of fabulous food and wine, world-class entertainment experiences, whilst also being the gateway to award-winning wineries, breath-taking vistas along its spectacular coastline, along with a host of other tourist attractions.

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Travelling around Melbourne.

For an easy way of getting around Melbourne, the Myki card is your key to the city. My top tourist tip for getting around the city centre is Melbourne’s famous tram system. There is a Free Tram Zone where you don’t have to use your Myki card, unless you are travelling outside the allocated city zone. The Myki card can also be used on the train and bus in metropolitan and regional areas. 

Sample some sweet delights in St Kilda.

St Kilda is a seaside suburb of Melbourne and is home to trendy boutiques, countless coffee shops, restaurants, and a colourful array of gourmet cake shops. 

I’m not one to pass up a sweet treat and I was in awe of the amount of cake shops in Acland Street, which is located just off The Esplanade. The presentation of the gastronomical delights were enticing and after sampling some of their treats they tasted as good as they looked.

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You can also stroll along the esplanade, visit Luna Park, grab a bargain at one of the many funky boutiques, or just chill out in a health cafe.  

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Winery and Beer Tours.

There are quite a few options for discovering the many wineries or breweries located just outside Melbourne.

The Brewery Tour Melbourne

Join a full day tour exploring Melbourne’s beer culture and three craft breweries.

Breweries to explore

Carlton & United Breweries

Clifton Hill

Moon Dog Craft Brewery

Temple Brewing Company

 

Yarra Valley Winery Tour

Enjoy a full day of wine and dining with Chillout Travel Winery Tours.

Visit some of the best wineries in the valley: De Bortoli Wines, Yering Station, Zonzo Estate, and Chandon.

 

Australian Wine Tour Company.

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My top choice was the Australian Wine Tour Company, the wine tour specialists. We spent a delightful day touring through the beautiful Yarra Valley and enjoying award-winning wine at four premium wineries.

Our first stop was Punt Road.  I’m not a fan of Chardonnay, but their wine was outstanding.

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 At the spacious Balgownie Estate we had an a la carte lunch with a glass of wine.  

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Yering Farm is a small rustic winery that boasts a wide range of wine and cider.

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Our final winery was Domaine Chandon where we were treated to a private lesson in making sparkling wine, and we also sampled a full glass of one of Chandon’s premium wines.  

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My tip is to try their Pinot Noir Shiraz! IMG_3134

 

These are just a few travel experiences and tourist tips that are available, so enjoy discovering Melbourne: the cultural heart of Victoria.

 

Four-wheel driving through the Upper Colo in the Hawkesbury

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On a surprisingly warm and sunny winters day we took a delightful four-wheel drive through the Upper Colo in the Hawkesbury.

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We stopped for lunch at a camping ground, which has lots of places for camping, room for the kids to ride their bikes, a river to swim in or picnic by, a swing, and even a stone circle.

 

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At the end of a long day of driving you can sit by the fire and enjoy some pub food and a good ole Aussie beer at the Settlers Arms Inn at St Albans.

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After a great day out four-wheel driving through the Upper Colo, we headed back on the ferry (the ferry is free of charge).

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Images:

Upper Colo Four-wheel driving

Diana Jane Heath

Wisemans Ferry across the Hawkesbury River

Tim J Keegan.

Flickr.com

 

Travelling Solo or Travel With a Buddy

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When it comes to taking holidays, is it better to travel solo or travel with a buddy? This is a question that plagues my mind whenever I am thinking of going on a holiday. I have holidayed with a buddy, but as a solo person traversing through life, there have been many times where travelling alone was the only option.

So, is travelling solo the way to go or is it best to have a travel buddy? 

Travel with a buddy.

If you can travel with a buddy there are numerous advantages.

1. You have someone to look after your luggage when you need to visit the toilet or have to order food.
2. You have someone to share your holiday with, take your photos, and someone to relive your holiday with when you return home.
3. You can save money with accommodation by choosing twin share and therefore avoiding the single supplement that many hotels and tour companies charge.
4. For the single ladies, there is an extra level of protection when you have a travel buddy. You can be anxiety-free when you want to visit an isolated place of interest, go for a ramble through the forest, and you can have someone to watch over your drink when you’re in the pub.

Travelling Solo

Travelling solo is a popular option with many travellers.

1. You can do what you want and go where you like.
2. You can have a room all to yourself.
3. Avoid any contention or arguments that can sometimes arise during a holiday.
4. Party all night and then arrive back at your hotel without having to explain where you have been.

I have had a chance to experience both of these two travel options, but sometimes your choice will depend on why you are travelling. If it’s a business trip you may not have the option to travel with a buddy.

Some female travellers may choose the travelling solo option as they travel solo very well and wouldn’t have it any other way, but I have had some scary moments whilst travelling on my own. But I have learned that this mode of travel can be done well if you practice some travelling safety tips.

Here is some advice for travellers who choose the travelling solo option.

Some of this advice may seem obvious but you may be surprised at how many travellers don’t adhere to these tourist travel tips and find themselves in dire straits.

  • Before you leave the country tell family and friends your travel plans, especially if you are booking your holiday online. I leave a copy of my itinerary with my family/friends even if I am going on a specialised tour.
  • Register with Smartraveller.gov.au or a similar government department in your country.
  • If you are visiting an isolated place or hiking in the great doors, make sure you you tell someone where you are going, like a concierge or hotel manager. Take water, food, warm clothes, and a map/compass, as the digital guide of choice, the mobile/cell phone doesn’t always have network coverage.
  • For female travellers, never leave your drink unattended and, where possible, if someone offers to buy you a drink, order it yourself at the bar. 
  • When you’re travelling in a busy city, don’t explore deserted side streets and keep your bag securely in front of you or use a travel wallet under your clothes. Avoid stashing your cash or documents in your pockets. I know someone who doesn’t use a wallet and had lost a significant amount of cash after storing it in his shirt pocket.
  • Stay alert in crowds. Statistics show that cowardly muggers more often than not prey on people who stroll along nonchalantly or those who look fearful. So be brave and walk with an attitude.

Of course it isn’t always possible to avoid all problems and tragedies whilst travelling, but whether you travel solo or with a travel buddy, practicing these tourist travel trips and being prepared before you embark on your holiday can make all the difference.

 

Image:

Backpacker

andrew_t8

Pixabay.com

Explore the Great Aussie Outdoors: Camping in Glen Davis

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Explore the great Aussie Outdoors.  

Aside from the iconic Australian landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the dynamic city life and bright lights of Kings Cross, the best way to experience Australia is to explore the great Aussie outdoors on a camping weekend.

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I recently did an overnight camping and four wheel driving stint near Glen Davis in the Capertee Valley, which is located in the Wollemi National Park, just north of the town of Lithgow.

Our camping spot was the Coorongooba Campground, which is surrounded by a golden brown monolithic escarpment and spectacular rock formations. There are picnic areas, barbecue facilities, and plenty of spots to set up your tent or camper trailer, but if you don’t have the luxuries of a hot shower or your own portable toilet, get ready to rough it as there are minimal toilet facilities available and no running water.  There are other camping areas that offer hot showers and running water like the Glen Davis Camping Area and for those who like something a little more comfortable there are elegant boutique hotels and secluded cottages.

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For those with kids there is a river and plenty of wide open spaces for the kids to ride their bikes, and there are plenty of chances to sneak a peak at some of the wildlife: goannas, kangaroos, and a resident wombat. 

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Dunns Swamp is a great place to picnic, swim and explore the lake in a canoe.

Four wheel driving. Embrace the Open Road. 

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If you like your extreme outdoor activities there are many four wheel driving tracks available. We took a heart pumping and hair raising drive that was full of sharp turns, hairpin bends, and and moments where we were precariously teetering on the edge of a rocky road that had a sheer cliff on one side that lead down to the valley floor. But the thrilling ride was well worth it as we were greeted by spectacular views at Mount Airlie.

Experience the Australian countryside.

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Australia is well known for its ruggedly beautiful countryside, so a visit to Pearson’s Lookout will give you the opportunity to view uninterrupted stunning views of the Capertee Valley and Australia’s own Grand Canyon.

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There are also many bush-walks available in the Wollemi National Park, as well as horse riding and mountain biking along the Crown Creek Fire Trail in the Gardens of Stone National Park.

Besides what I have noted here there are many more activities and accommodation choices that tourists can discover as they seek to explore the great Aussie outdoors.

Happy travelling!

 

Tourist Travel Tales

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Great Britain is a country that is easily traveled with a few choices available for its many travelers: train, bus, or hire car. And whether you visit England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, there are a treasure trove of things just waiting for you to explore and discover them. But the best thing about travelling and going on holidays is not so much what you experience within a countries borders, but it is the fascinating tales that you can tell your family and friends when you arrive home.

As a solo traveler around Britain, I have had a mixed bag of delightful, humorous, awe-inspiring and terrifying experiences. But the good mixed in with the bad has helped me to a more savvy traveler and has enriched my life in ways that I had never expected. So I would like to share some of my travel tales with you in the hopes that you too will become a savvy traveler.

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Image: Brecon Beacons National Park. Diana Jane Heath.

 

Tale no. 1.  A chance to banish my horse-riding fears in Wales.

I have always loved horse-riding, but after an accident some years ago, I had developed a fear of horses. But during my visit to London, and after some cajoling from a travel buddy, I took a three day trip to Wales, which included a one-day horse-riding trek. The day we arrived in the Brecon Beacons National Park and drove to the horse-riding centre, I was beginning to feel apprehensive and my mind was so consumed with the thoughts of falling off or being thrown from a horse that I missed the stunning rich green mountainous Welsh countryside.

 

Horses at Pen y Fan James Woolley

 

My fear began to intensify as we arrived at the Horse Riding and Pony Trekking Centre, and as we saw the horses or ponies being led out into the yard, I felt there was no way I could go through with this. My travel buddy smiled encouragingly at me, and the trek guide assured any nerve-racked beginners that the ponies were well-trained and that there was nothing to fear.

I tried to hide at the back of the group and was thinking of re-considering, but before I could head for the hills, the trek guide had selected a beautiful pony for me. She was called Niwl (Welsh for mist), and as I was given the reins, Niwl regarded me coolly with a gimlet eye. I knew that horses could sense fear so I tried to be as nonchalant as possible, but as took my place in the saddle, Niwl was no fool, and she shifted uneasily from foot to foot and turned her head towards me. I knew she could see though my false bravado. But my fear was unfounded. These Welsh ponies were indeed well trained and they plodded along calmly behind each other as we headed along the trail.

We rode along for about half an hour and breathed in the delightfully fresh mountain air.  Then one of the trek guides took some of the more experienced riders for a canter ahead while the rest of us were content to just ride along single file and take in the scenery.   After the trek was over, I was pleased. My trek has been incident-free, and as we arrived back at the centre, I dismounted from my pony like a well-trained equestrian. I said goodbye to Niwl and patted her on her dappled brown downy cheek, and I’m sure she winked back at me.

That night whilst having a drink at the bar, my travel buddy grinned at me and asked whether I had finally defeated my equine fear. I had to admit that my experience with Niwl had helped me to feel a little more relaxed about horse-riding, but my verdict for the future was to stay on solid ground.

Whether you are an experienced rider or a first time beginner and even though you may be like me and suffer from horse-related trauma, the amazing Welsh ponies will steal your heart and may also instill in you a passion for horse-riding.

If you are traveling to Wales, take a look at some of these horse-riding and pony trekking centres:

 

Cantref Riding Centre, near Brecon

Ellesmere Riding Centre, Llangorse

Llangorse Riding Centre, Llangorse

Trans Wales Trails

 

Happy travels!

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Tale no. 2. A wild and wonderful ride through Dartmoor.

While I was visiting the South of England, I took a Trafalgar tour through Devon and Cornwall. One night we were to have dinner at the Dartmoor Inn, which is nestled among the wild and ruggedly beautiful Dartmoor National Park.

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Our accommodation was just a short drive to the inn, but it was ride that I would never forget.

Our bus driver, with a wide grin plastered on his face and an eerie light glimmering from his eyes, took us on a wild and wonderful crazy drive along a secluded country road with the dark and mysterious moors on either side. Our only illumination was the dim lighting inside the bus and the full moon that sailed in and out of the clouds. Occasionally, outside the window, tiny flickering lights danced along the moors in the distance, and I wondered whether they could be the fabled Will-o’-the-wisp–the ghostly lights that are rumoured to have lured many a hapless traveller to their certain death.

As we careened madly down the windy road with its sharp twists and turns, the manic bus driver entertained us with silly jokes and and bizarre tales such as the tale of the bus driver who had to fight off a pair of giant hairy hands that mysteriously appeared and wrestled with him for control of the vehicle.  As I left the bus I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at the driver’s hands. Although this story was just for our tourist amusement, it fitted in perfectly with the surreal and nail biting drive through the spooky scenery.  

Stay tuned for more travel tales

 

Images:

Aircraft. The Pixelman

Pixabay.com

Houses of Parliament/Palace of Westminster/Big Ben.  Photo by Unsplash.

Pixabay.com

Horses at Pen y Fan. James Woolley. Flickr.com (Creative Commons)

Additional images:

DJ Heath

Explore Brisbane’s South Bank – Australia’s ‘New World City’.

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As a seasoned Sydneysider I have always thought of Brisbane as a sleepy over-sized country town, but since the devastating floods of 2010, Queensland’s ‘New World City’ has undergone a dramatic face-lift, and its trendy South Bank has now become one of Australia’s top tourist hot-spots. So on your next trip to Queensland take some time to explore Brisbane’s South Bank – Australia’s ‘New World City’.

All Aboard the Airtrain!

Upon arriving at Brisbane Airport, I was advised that the best way to travel into South Bank was via the Airtrain – a speedy and sophisticated mode of transport that glides along effortlessly and smoothly – as its name suggests. This sleek and science-fiction style of train is the most efficient form of transport from the airport to Brisbane City, and the Gold Coast. The ticket options range from the Gocard or a Terminal Transfer, which is $32.00 for an Adult return or for those who wish to plan ahead – $27.20 – if you pay seven days in advance. So with my luggage in tow and my return ticket safely ensconced in my purse, I headed off towards my choice of accommodation – the Rydges South Bank.

Accommodation.

There is a wide range of accommodation located in South Bank that caters for all tastes and budgets like the Banana Benders Backpackers (aptly named for Queensland as the Banana state), to modestly priced apartments. My choice was the 4½ star hotel Rydges South Bank due to its close proximity to the Brisbane Convention Centre (as I was attending a graduation ceremony). Rydges South Bank (currently undergoing renovations until 18 February, 2016) is a sophisticated and elegant hotel, which is located right in the heart of South Bank and is a short walk to South Brisbane Train Station, the Queensland Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, Botanical Gardens, and restaurant central – Grey Street.

The Deluxe River View room did not disappoint as the room was bright, airy and immaculate, and the queen size bed was a delight to sleep on (which is a must for any traveler). I had a first class view of The Story Bridge, and at night it was all aglow with rainbow lights that cast magical reflections on the Brisbane River.

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The hotel’s concierge was happy to help with any information regarding travel bookings or tourist attractions such as: Bribie Island or North Stradbroke Island.

The Brisbane Explorer Bus

Brisbane offers its visitors many different ways to tour the city. But the most noticeable mode of tourist transport is the ‘hop on hop off’ bright red double-decker Brisbane Explorer Bus – the Official Sightseeing Tour of Brisbane. As well as stopping at 15 different locations around Brisbane City and South Bank, the Explorer Bus is a great way for international travelers to learn about and discover Brisbane as it provides a detailed commentary in English and eight different languages.  If you prefer to go it alone then my tip for exploring South Bank is to find your most comfortable pair of walking shoes and start pounding the pavement.

Art and Culture

South Bank is a bustling hive of activity for all things relating to Art and Culture. You can choose to be enthralled by the latest theatrical extravaganza at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), view ancient antiquities such as the Medieval Power: Symbols & Splendour exhibition at the Queensland Museum, or visit art exhibits at The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Bikes and Kayaks for Hire.

As well as strolling along the Riverwalk concourse, eco-friendly tourists can discover the beautiful Botanical Gardens and the tranquil Rainforest Walk. Or why not cruise the waterways via the popular Citycat or River Tours. If the kids are getting bored, there are bikes and kayaks for hire, and the water-play park, Aquativity.

Attractions and Activities

Whether you are a nature-lover or an adrenalin junkie, South Bank has got you covered. If it is adventure you crave, try abseiling down the 200 million year old cliffs at Kangaroo Point, or for the not so brave, you can choose to stay on solid ground and watch those above who dare to defy gravity. The Story Bridge Climb will get your adrenalin pumping and you be rewarded with million dollar views of Brisbane City and its majestic waterways.

Eating out.

A walk through South Bank’s cosmopolitan Grey Street and its many riverside cafes will satisfy the fussiest food critic. There are a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants on offer and the choices span the globe like Asian Fusion, Greek, Modern Australian, Russian and Creole inspired ‘Soul Food’. My choice for the night was Ahmet’s Turkish restaurant, which offers an authentic Turkish experience, complete with mouth watering cuisine like Falafel balls, spicy meat platters, traditional music, and tables decorated with bright and colourful tablecloths that looked like exotic Turkish carpets. I felt like I had been magically transported into the heart of the bustling city of Istanbul.

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Mount Coot-tha Lookout and The Wheel of Brisbane.

For those who want to take it easy and views the sights of the city from a safe vantage point, Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers breathtaking views of Brisbane City and beyond to Moreton Bay. The Wheel of Brisbane is a 60 metre high Ferris wheel that could rival The London Eye and provides a bird’s eye view of the city, and at night it is lit up like a magic fairy wheel.

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South Bank markets.

The Collective Markets offers a range of arts, crafts, hand-made jewellery, pottery and designer clothing from local artisans. The markets are open until 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays until 4 pm and they are a great place to find a unique gift or a memento of your visit to South Bank.

After a long but satisfying day of exploring South Bank, you can quench your thirst at the multitude of bars and pubs such as the South Bank Beer Garden which is located in the Parklands and has views of Streets Beach – a man-made swimming beach. Sit back and relax with a Manhattan at The French Martini or enjoy a glass of Shiraz while listening to the smooth sounds of New Orleans style jazz at the Bourbon Street Bar.

As Brisbane’s top cultural destination, South Bank has certainly won a top spot on my tourist travel bucket list and I guarantee that you will be come a fan too.

 

Christmas in Switzerland

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One of the main destinations that has always been on my bucket list is Switzerland. Even though I have spent most of my life in Australia, it was probably my rich European ancestry that made me believe that Christmas was incomplete without snow. My dream has always been to experience a white Christmas and that dream was finally fulfilled when I booked a Festive European Christmas tour with Albatross Tours.

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The Swiss Christmas Break is a self-guided tour and includes 7 nights in the magical snow drenched Bernese Overland and a 8 day Swiss Tour Rail Pass. It was the most fabulous holiday I have ever had. It even snowed on Christmas Eve!  As I write this now, the memories come flooding back and a lump forms in my throat. You may think I am being somewhat dramatic about this holiday, but I guarantee if you visit Switzerland in the winter (regardless of whether you are a snow lover) you will not be disappointed.

Albatross tours offers a choice of two hotels and which ever one you pick you will not regret your choice. My choice was the Hotel Oberland a cute chalet nestled in the heart of the magical village of Lauterbrunnen. Our hosts were the very hospitable and welcoming married couple, Swiss-born and Ursula and Australian-born Mark Nolan-von Allmen.

The itinerary included reserved seats on the Golden Pass Panoramic train to Montreux on Lake Geneva, and a Swiss Tour Rail Pass with 8 days unlimited train travel throughout Switzerland on the fantastic Swiss Rail network. Even though I spent quite a lot of time travelling on trains, the views were spectaculicious via the large windows, which do not diminish a passenger’s viewing pleasure.

I have stood in the shadow of the mighty Eiger, which has been featured in the James Bond movies, visited the Christmas markets and sampled their famous mulled wine in Switzerland’s capitol city, Bern, explored the stone cobbled streets of the medieval city of Luzern, and experienced the dizzying heights of the Jungfraujoch – the rooftop of Europe.

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I managed to pack quite a lot into eight days but I could have done with some extra days or weeks to explore all that Switzerland has to offer. This tour has inspired me to return to Switzerland.  And I believe it is one of those destinations that can stay permanently seared in a tourist’s memory.

 

Happy travelling!