Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

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Stay here: Hoi An Holiday Villa, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An Holiday Villa
414/9 Cua Dai street, Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam
http://hoianholidayvilla.com/

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this place, or how wonderful our stay was here. Right from the very first contact via email when we booked, up until our final footsteps out of the lobby, the team at the Hoi An Holiday Villa couldn’t have been more kind, accommodating, friendly and welcoming 🙂

We found it quite by chance while looking for somewhere to stay in a particular area of Hoi An near Cua Dai Street, and this little place with only a handful of rooms available at very decent prices, looked perfect for us. We booked it in, and I had a lot of communication with Cherry who looks after the bookings in the lead up to our trip. She was an angel, helping us to organise everything from car transfers to collect us from the airport upon arrival and bring us back at the end of our trip, to tailor recommendations for the husband who was in the market for a new suit. She also kept an eye out for us of an evening, to make sure we got back to our room safely for the night 🙂

On arrival at Da Nang airport, we were promptly met by a driver who whisked us away to our new home for the next 6 nights; we were met again with a smiling face and two glasses of ice-cold passionfruit and orange juice and a seat at the lobby. Despite the fact that we arrived several hours before official check in time, we were assured our room was already prepared for us. Before we were taken over, we were given a map with a whole lot of information on where to find food, coffee shops, markets, etc.

Our room was gorgeous – clean and bright, with amazing air conditioning and heaps of room, it was the perfect headquarters for our Hoi An leg of the trip 🙂

In terms of the specifics, we had:
– king size bed
– free wifi
– mini bar fridge
– desk
– sitting area with complimentary tea & coffee
– toiletries (toothbrushes, shampoo, shower gel, etc)
– cable TV channels
– breakfast included

There was also a small but beautifully kept pool area, where you could order little bites to eat and drinks from the shade of your umbrella and lounge chair. After our early starts around 7am and several hours of walking around in the Hoi An heat, arriving back to lounge in and around the pool for an hour or two after lunch each day made alllll the difference!

Because it’s such a small place, breakfast wasn’t the usual buffet, but an order-from-the-menu scenario. But as I mentioned above, your accommodation rates include breakfast, so you can order until your heart’s content and your belly’s full! On our last day, we were due to fly out quite early in the morning which meant we’d miss breaky, but as our 6.30am car service was pulling up to take us to the airport, we were given special packed little breakfast boxes for our drive. Warm baguettes with butter and jam, fruit and yoghurt – not at all necessary, but another example of the wonderful service 🙂 And another – as we were climbing into the car with our breakfasts, another one of the lovely staff members came running out to us with a parting gift – a beautiful, traditional Hoi An lantern each!

It may not have been  a fancy la-di-da 5 star resort, but the team at Hoi An Holiday Villas made us feel like absolute royalty. We couldn’t have been more grateful for their kindness and hospitality, and wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else the next time we visit 🙂

A guest post from the husband – Drink here: Holgate Brewhouse, Woodend, VIC

Holgate Brewhouse
79 High St, Woodend, VIC
http://www.holgatebrewhouse.com/

On our way to Bunjil Farm the other weekend, we made a few stops on the way, including Woodend. It looked like a cute little town, and it’s also home to Holgate Brewhouse. You can eat, drink and even sleep there, and the food is apparently delicious, but we were there for one thing only: the beer. Husband is a fan of Holgate’s work, and wanted to stop in and have a look around.

It was a gorgeous building, with creaky old wooden floorboards, beautiful stained glass windows and plenty of seating. But this post isn’t about the building, it’s about the beer, and I don’t really know about beer, so I’m gonna hand this post over to a guest blogger, a beer baron, the most knowledgeable authority on beer that I know: the husband. He wasn’t really sure how to go about it, though, so he’s going to give his review on the 8 beers currently on the Holgate Brewhouse sample paddle roster.

TOP ROW from left to right:

1. Norton Lager
Holgate’s description: Our Kellerbier pours a pale straw colour and glows with a slight yeast cloud. The nose displays sweet, honeyed malt with some floral, citrus hop aroma. The palate has a fullness that comes with characteristic keller-style breadym honey malt flavour which is balanced refreshingly with lemon and grapefruit characteristics from the delicate use of Australian hops Ella and Vic Secret. The finish is clean and dry with every sip leaving a gentle, moreish bitterness on the back palate.
Husband’s verdict: “Pretty standard, run-of-the-mill lager. No real outstanding features and lacked flavour. Wouldn’t buy it again.”

2. Mt. Macedon Ale
Holgate’s description: Mt. Macedon dominates the landscape overlooking the Holgate brewery.  It’s massive, moody and magnificent – not to mention insanely popular with tourists and locals alike. No wonder they named it after our beer!The real Australian Pale Ale, using Australian grown Cascade, Ella and Topaz hops, balanced by a malt base of Australian Vienna giving this  brew a delicate caramel malt flavour. The result is a pale ale of broad appeal and, like the mountain, a local landmark.
Husband’s verdict: “I reckon it was basically a more flavourful and better version of the first one. It was like a good beer that would suit anyone – it’s not offensive, it’s a people-pleaser beer. This would be my choice if you were in for a long session.”

3. ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
Holgate’s description: Your new best friend. A long-standing favourite among beer enthusiasts and our most awarded beer. A classic earthy English bitter you meet in the pub and invite home for a round of snooker and darts. Paul Holgate’s northern English heritage finds a spirited expression in this deep amber bitter. Served on a traditional beer engine at the Hotel and tap room in Woodend, the ESB offers depth and complexity that makes it at once challenging and eminently drinkable. One of the two recipes that launched the Brewhouse in 1999, it includes English crystal and roast malts, an abundance of East Kent Goldings hops and is enhanced through dry hopping with a touch of Aussie Galaxy. Oh so moreish. Softly carbonated and served through traditional Beer Engine at 8-10 Deg C at Holgate Brewhouse, this beer is a great accompaniment with full flavoured dishes – beef, game, duck.
Husband’s verdict: “I think it’s one of their more well-known beers and rightfully so. I haven’t tried many other beers like it before so it was hard to compare, but I loved it, probably my favourite beer on the paddle.”

4. Road Trip American IPA
Holgate’s description: The Perfect Holgate family holiday? A US Pacific North-West beer tour, of course. Result? Our 2009 odyssey to hop heaven lives on in this tribute to the spiritual home of craft beer. A super-charged but dangerously sessionable All-American hop-bomb, this golden hued IPA is loaded up with multiple additions of Chinook, Centennial and Citra hops from the Pacific Northwest of the USA, resulting in an explosion of piney, citrus and grapefruit flavour and aroma. 
Husband’s verdict: “Me being a BIG fan of IPAs, I naturally found it bloody good, however not a lot different from a standard IPA, but it was very nice.”

 

TOP ROW from right to left:

5. Temptress Chocolate Porter
Holgate’s description: Some beers just won’t take no for an answer. A sultry seducer, this luscious winter warmer infused with Dutch cocoa and whole vanilla beans takes an old story somewhere new and bewitching. In 2008, we introduced a swing in the hips and gleam in the eye to our classic porter recipe, with the inspired addition of rich cocoa and vanilla to an already robust brew. Together with a belnd of seven malts, the result is a complex palate of alluring chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours, balanced by a hint of vanilla. Be tempted! Softly carbonated and served through traditional Beer Engine at 8-10 Deg C at Holgate Brewhouse, this beer is a A perfect accompaniment to meat pies and chocolate-based desserts. 
Husband’s verdict: “Super. One of the best dark beers I’ve ever had. Walked away with a 4 pack, would have been a slab, but it was a little pricey for what it is. The fact that Jess hates beer and actually enjoyed this one was a super effort!”

6. Hop Tart (sour pale ale)
Holgate’s description: Light and hazy gold, Hop Tart has a zesty aroma of citrus and bright tropical fruits. The flavour awakens the palate with a surprising hit of sourness that blends beautifully with the lemony hop character. The finish is sour, dry and refreshing. A true new world beer, not bound by any style but led by the brewers longing for a quenching summer ale.
Husband’s verdict: He really didn’t like this one. At all.

7. Kristallweizen
Holgate’s description: Literally “crystal wheat.” A Kristallweizen is a filtered pale Weissbier or Hefeweizen, the German wheat ale. It pours “crystal”-clear rather than yeast-turbid. In all other respects, it is not different from an unfiltered wheat beer. It is spritzy-effervescent and refreshing and appealing to the eye. Like its Heferweizen counterpart, Kristallweizen develops a richly-textured, firm, white head in the glass.
Husband’s verdict: “Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of wheat beers, but as far as they go, this was a really good one. If you like Hoegaarden, you’ll love this.”

8. Millennium Falcon
Holgate’s description: Millennium Falcon pours a bright golden. The aroma is a blast – a super-fruity confectionary cocktail of juicy pineapple, tart citrus, stone fruit, boiled lollies and bubblegum. On the palate the fruity melange is underpinned by a bold, evergreen hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is full and luxurious yet the finish is dangerously dry.
Husband’s verdict: “Best part about this beer was the cool name and it all went down hill after that. Strangely had no smell to it at all, however it had plenty of flavour. It was a strange taste, though, that just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s a beer that grows on you after a while, hard to tell with such a small amount. I would warn people when drinking this that the 10% alcohol percentage might punch them in the face.”

Husband’s closing thoughts:
“In my opinion, it was the best layout and building of any brewery I’ve ever been to. Disappointed I didn’t try the Pilsner or Hopinator, but will be heading back there very soon with some mates and will give them a go then. One of my mates said he had a brown ale there that was one of the best beers he’s ever had, so as soon as they put this back on the menu I’ll make the drive up.”

Stay here: a backyard mini-break at Bunjil Farm, Victoria

Bunjil Farm
Kyneton-Springhill Road, Lauriston, VIC
http://bunjilfarm.com.au/

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It’s hard to narrow down the list of favourite bloggers, but Lisa Eats World is certainly up there. I love the way she writes, and as a fellow Melbourne girl, I love reading about her new discoveries in and around the city. It was one of those discoveries she wrote about a few months ago that gave me massive adventure-envy; her visit to Bunjil Farm out in Kyneton, Victoria. After reading her post twice and following the link through to the farm’s website, I emailed the lovely Lyn straight away to make a booking, too.

When I read about the gorgeous 1850’s settler’s hut that Lisa stayed in, the idea of curling up by the fire on a cold winter’s night with a good book and mug of hot tea was utterly irresistible to me. I often venture out on little country Victoria trips solo, but the husband joined me this time – the promise of a fire place-warmed hut away from it all had him hooked, too.

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A drive up through Macedon, Woodend and Kyneton brought us to Bunjil Farm, run by the lovely Lyn Stephenson, and her two furry sidekicks, Eddie and Zoe. Lyn’s property is open, lush and absolutely stunning, performing double duty as both accommodation for escape artists like us, and a hemp farm. Hemp, for the record, is not the same as marijuana; Lyn’s crops are grown under license, subject to strict testing, and are used to produce, oil, textiles and building materials. You learn something new every day…

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But, back to the accommodation side. Paying homage to the original owners of this nation, the farm was named after Bunjil, the creator of the earth (you can read more about Bunjil’s story here), and you can see that there are so many details of the farm that have been carefully thought out with respect for the earth in mind. There are a few options for accommodation at Bunjil Farm, but I knew it had to be the settler’s hut for us. Unlike Lisa, who visited in summer, we were there on a particularly cold winter’s night, so the fireplace was a huge selling point for us.

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This beautiful little hut has been carefully restored and kept as close to the original 1850’s version as possible, without compromising too much on modern comforts. There’s no TV or stereo or central heating, but there are very comfy couches, the aforementioned magnificent fireplace, and space to read, write and draw. The stone floors, while beautiful, are also pretty cold if you visit in winter, so pack your wooly socks!

The kitchen is divided over the room, with a big wooden cabinet holding your breakfast provisions, tea, coffee, flatware and what not. The water in the hut is bore water, so a large glass vessel full of fresh drinking water is provided, too. A sink over in the opposite corner, however, holds modern luxuries like a toaster, mini fridge, electric kettle and dishwashing detergent.

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The bathroom was stunning, with the original plumbing still on display in the shower, but with modern plumbing actually in use, which means there’s not long to wait for a nice, hot shower. Thank goodness. And nice, fluffy towels are provided for you, as are some good, old fashioned hot water bottles to keep you warm and toasty at night – I hadn’t used a hot water bottle in YEARS, but was incredibly grateful that Lyn had the foresight to mention them as the temperature dropped later in the evening!

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The bedroom was simple and the bed was very comfortable – lots of big pillows to rest our heads on and a double doona situation kept us nice and warm overnight. There was also a very efficient plug in heater that warmed the bedroom up perfectly.

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Head out the back and say hi to your neighbours, too – we met some absolutely beautiful horses that Lyn keeps on her property for one of the city’s horse-and-cart owners. One was a bit feisty, but the others were incredibly placid and sweet-natured, and very photogenic – you’ll see their photos on a post I wrote on Monday. This gorgeous red-head followed us along the fence line, gently nudging our hands with his nose, to get a bit of a pat. We’re both huge animal lovers, so we were in heaven 🙂

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You can also expect breakfast to be a pretty impressive affair, with Lyn providing everything you’ll need; yoghurt, fresh milk, eggs, a very fresh loaf of bread, jams, butter, muesli, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, even Vegemite! In my mind, eating that beautiful spread by the fireplace was picture perfect; in reality, it was more like two well-rested, pyjama-clad, large kids wolfing down toast like they hadn’t eaten in days. And this kid finished off the marshmallows that Lyn kindly left on the table, along with some nice, long metal swords, so that I could toast them over the fire. Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t even… The smell of a freshly lit fireplace is one of my favourite smells in the world, and if you could taste that smell, it’s be toasted marshmallows.

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Lyn was kind enough to come and see us off in the morning, along with Eddie and Zoe, her adorable little fur babies. We both desperately needed a break from life, and being able to literally switch off from life with no TV, put our phones away, not have to rush around to see or do anything, and just BE was amazing. Lyn’s created the most wonderful atmosphere at Bunjil Farm, making you simultaneously feel like you were totally at home and also a well looked after guest. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll be returning again; this is the ultimate stop and recharge mini break 🙂

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Stay here: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Australia

Hotel Grand Chancellor
1 Davey St, Hobart
http://www.ghihotels.com/hgc/hobart/hotels.aspx

I was lucky enough to be gifted a voucher for a night’s accommodation at any Hotel Grand Chancellor in Australia by my very generous boss at work last year, and I knew immediately that I wanted to use it during our visit to Tasmania over Easter; their property in Hobart is the most popular one on their roster, and for good reason!

Sitting right on the water, the hotel may not look like much from the outside with it’s older brown brick facade, but step inside and you’re in a completely difference world. The 4.5 star stunner has views of the Derwent River out one side and Mount Wellington out the other, so you’re not going to be disappointed either way; we were lucky enough to get a room with a view over the water…

It’s in the best location, a stone’s throw from pretty much everything, particularly the great food and bar district at Salamanca Place. If you can’t be bothered, though, they also have a bar and restaurant on site, as well as a pretty well decked-out gym and indoor heated pool area.

We stayed in a harbour view spa room, which was big, beautiful, open, bright and everything you could possibly want to end a trip with. If you’re thinking about staying, some of the other perks you’d get to enjoy are:
– big, comfy king beds
– work desk/station
– mini bar
– tea & coffee station
– hairdryer (I know the men don’t care, but the ladies do!)
– Peter Morrissey toiletries
– dry cleaning and laundry services
– room service
– 24 hour front desk
– on site parking (charges apply)
– post and parcel services
– currency exchange
– there’s even an on site hair dresser and massage services!

While I wouldn’t have been able to justify spending the money on something this nice before we visited (lead in rooms started at AUD$189.00 per night), being a very budget-conscious traveller, now that I’ve actually been I’d have no problem expanding the budget a little if I visited again to treat myself to a night or two here. I mean, look at the view from our room as the sun went down…

Stay & eat here: Port Arthur Motor Inn, Tasmania

Port Arthur Motor Inn
29 Safety Cove Rd, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://www.portarthur-inn.com.au/

Husband and I decided to spend a few nights in Port Arthur because, well, I dunno. We just did! Being a history nerd, I was really keen on seeing the historic site of the convict settlement, and I read that the Port Arthur Motor Inn was the best place to stay, as it’s the only accommodation that gives you walk-in access to the site, literally a few metres away.

First up, let me say that if you’re a bit precious about your accommodation, this isn’t the place for you. It’s a proper motor inn; it’s not only accommodation, it’s also the site of the local pub. It’s not modern or fancy, but it does have all the essentials (including a small fridge, TV, reverse cycle air con/heater, bathroom with hairdryer, bedding and towels), and the view from the motor inn grounds over the historic site is absolutely unbeatable.

The restaurant does great proper Aussie pub grub – I had a chicken parma with chips and veggies, and it was fantastic! Big servings for decent prices, quick and friendly service as you’d expect from a country town area, and again, the most stunning view out over the grounds as the sun goes down…

Leave any pretentiousness at the door and enjoy the stay at one of the most fabulously located accommodations in Australia!

Stay here: IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku, Japan

Last stop in this week’s whirlwind trip around the world; I found out at the Japanese Film Festival that Australian tourism to Japan has risen by around 20% over the last year or so, and when I thought about it, I realised I’m hearing about a lot more people travelling there now, so I thought this might be a good post to end the week on!

 

IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku
7-10-5 Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-8620-ibis-tokyo-shinjuku/index.shtml

When it comes to accommodation, Tokyo isn’t the cheapest city to visit. Similarly to Europe, rooms have the reputation for being on the small side, and, like Melbourne, they come with a decent price tag.

After a bit of research, I found the Ibis in Shinjuku, which was pretty reasonably priced compared to similar alternatives at just under $1000 for 9 nights.

I arrived to a pretty modern foyer staffed by an incredibly friendly and helpful team. They had me checked in within a few minutes, and apologised for the renovations that were taking place. Half of Shinjuku seemed to be under construction during our visit, and I was assured that work would only be taking place strictly between 9am and 5pm so as to minimise any disruptions to guests.

As you can see above, my single room was pretty small – a king single took up most of the space, with my suitcase just fitting lengthways in the space between the end of the bed and the bar fridge. About three end-to-end footsteps were all that fit between the bed and wall. The bathroom was similarly small:

But space aside, I couldn’t have been happier with my temporary home, and it did instantly feel like home! Big positives about this property:
– free WiFi (duh)
– 24 hour front desk with staff who speak English
– restaurant on site for breakfast, lunch and dinner, should you need a quick and easy option
– super comfy bed
– hair dryer
– robe and slippers (wore these EVERY DAY!! Loved them!! haha)
– small bar fridge in room
– kettle
– TV with option to purchase extra channels
– complimentary Shiseido shampoo, conditioner and body wash
– air conditioning
– on site parking
– option between smoking and non-smoking rooms
– across the street is a Family Mart (mini convenience store)
– on the same street are a McDonalds and a Cafe Veloce, both of which open for breakfast/early morning tea and coffee (these are few and far between!)
– only a few minutes walk to Shinjuku station

While the room was small, it was surprisingly comfortable! The smiles and greetings each time I left and returned made it feel instantly homely, the room itself was very clean, and little things like having a kettle and fridge made an enormous difference to my stay. The location was incomparable as well; a few minutes from one of the biggest stations on the city, a heap of shopping malls, and beautiful parks in most directions, not to mention super safe – not once walking home from the station in the dark at night did I feel scared for my safety or well being.

The team at the front desk were also super helpful in terms of helping me with directions, and even getting me to an authorised seller for my Disneyland ticket! They had maps and public transport directions printed out and ready to go, and were genuinely more than happy to help with anything I needed. You just cannot underestimate how important and comforting that is, particularly when you’re travelling solo in a country where English isn’t widely spoken.

If you’ve read along here for a while and seen some of my other posts relating to accommodation (like the pub at Warburton that I prefer over the B&Bs), you’ll know I’m no princess when I travel. I don’t need a magazine-perfect resort, a king size bed, luxurious surrounds. I’m not travelling to enjoy time in my room. I need helpful staff, a comfy bed and a clean and functioning bathroom. A fridge for fruit and water, and a kettle with which to make my tea is a bonus. I got all that and more at the Ibis, and if you’re another traveller who’d rather spend your cash on the experiences instead of the sleep space, I’d highly recommend it for your trip to Tokyo!