Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

A beautiful beach, only an hour drive from a volcano, with sand made of pebbled lava. Only in Iceland…

Last year, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up in Iceland. We had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to the Buubble, where we’d be spending the night. But before that, I wanted to get back to this beach for one last visit. That photo above was taken around 10am, when the sun was finally coming up for the day.

Those huge rock formations in the water are known as the Reynisdrangar Columns. Legend says they’re all that remains of a two-troll battle that involved a ship; nature says they’re parts of the surrounding mountain that became eroded and separated from the main bulk. Either way, they’re an impressive sight.

They’ve got some killer basalt columns, too – having seen Giant’s Causeway before these, I have to say Iceland’s were a hell of a lot more impressive – less tourists, no entry fee, and more than safe enough to climb over. We heard that in summer, it’s not uncommon to see birds nesting up on top of the columns. We were there in winter, though, so we made do climbing the huge steps and hanging out in the cave when the wind got strong enough to almost knock me on my backside. Bonus tip: don’t visit without a wind- and water-proof jacket, and water-proof boots. I felt really sorry for one group of tourists who neglected all of that and spent a fair bit of time huddled in that cave.

The “sand” ranges from fist-sized, smooth black stones, to tiny little grains of lava. Walking from the carpark to the beach, you’ll go through a field of large, volcanic rocks – when they’re blanketed in snow like they were when we visited, it’s an alien landscape that absolutely takes your breath away. Iceland is one of the few places where all of the lame travel clichés like “the quaint little cottage” and “the landscape was an assault on the senses” and “it just took my breath away” are actually valid. There couldn’t have been a  better place to spend the morning of my birthday.

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Through my eyes: sunrise & sunset on Mermaid Beach, Queensland

As I wrote on Tuesday, we were lucky enough to be treated to a quick but fun family holiday in Queensland last weekend; staying at Mermaid Beach in a fifth floor apartment meant we had the most spectacular sunrise and sunset views…

Good morning…

 

Good night…


Through my eyes: road trip – Kingston, Margate and Snug, Tasmania

The great thing about Tasmania being so small is that it’s really east to get around and explore  : )

While we were there, we hired a car, and with no real plans, we spent some time just driving and exploring. One of our trips took us out from Hobart to Kingston, Margate and Snug, all beautiful, peaceful coastal towns and within very easy driving distance of Hobart. We were also blessed with beautiful, sunny weather, which made for a perfect afternoon out on the road! As I’m getting ready to go back to work for the week, I’ll be thinking of road tripping, instead…

 

Kingston

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Margate

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Snug

Eat here: the little pink Pad Thai cart on Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

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So this is a ridiculous story. I went to Thailand for the first time a few years ago with my best friend, E (who I had lunch with on the weekend at Sookie La La, which I’ll write about a little later this week when my motivation levels are low and brunch cravings are high). Our accommodation was down the south end of Patong Beach, and on our first day there, we walked along the street parallel with the beach for a while to get our bearings. We found this little, bright pink food cart around lunch time, with a pair silently firing out the most incredible smelling dishes. Stomachs grumbling, we stopped to check out the menu, and decided to order ourselves a seafood pad thai each. It was probably the best pad thai I’ve ever eaten – fresh like you wouldn’t believe, cooked up right under our noses, under a flurry of hands and sauce bottles and woks and noodles. It was a very fond food memory from our time there…

When I went back to visit Phuket again early last year with husband, I told him all about this fantastic little food cart that we ate at numerous times during my last trip. We walked up the beach to the spot I thought I remembered it being, on a snowball’s chance in hell it might still be around. No such luck 😦 We walked a little further, until the sun started to get a bit too strong, and decided to double back and find a spot on the beach to leave our stuff so we could go for a swim. What happened next, I still don’t believe, and if husband hadn’t been there as my witness, no one else would either… Dead set, as we walked back past the spot where I remembered the food cart being parked, it drove up onto the side walk, turned around into the same spot, and officially opened for lunchtime business!!!! I actually literally stopped in my tracks and sat down on the nearest block of concrete to make sure it wasn’t just a heat and hunger induced hallucination… Husband didn’t waste any time – he ran straight over and ordered 2 serves of pad thai (good man).

While a little spicier than last time I had it, it was every bit still as delicious, and I do believe it was the same people working the wok, much to my disbelief! I was beyond stoked to have been able to find and repeat this food experience, and even happier to find it was still as delicious as I’d remembered it! That meal, to me, is perfect, and what travel is all about – cheap and delicious food ordered off a menu by pointing to pictures in lieu of English descriptions, served by real people and being eaten by locals as well as tourists, on the side of a road with my feet in the sand. That’s what travel and experiencing it all is about. That’s real. Has anyone else been to Phuket’s Patong Beach and seen these guys??!

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Eat here: Lola Valentina, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Lola Valentina
Hidalgo Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lola-Valentina/223565384385551

Let’s keep the international sunshine eats going for a bit longer and head over now from Thailand to Mexico 🙂 Lola Valentina couldn’t have been more different to everything else on Isla Mujeres…

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Going back to Isla Mujeres in January was so exciting for me, because although my last visit had only been for a day, I had the fondest memories of the place. One of my main regrets in not having longer there the first time around was missing the opportunity to try more of the food on offer; not this time!

While we stuck mostly with the dodgy looking but outstandingly delicious, mom-and-pop style corner stores and mobile eateries (read: tacos served off the back of motorbikes), Lola Valentina caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. It looked way too nice, too hipster even, for this little Mexican Island. The menu was incredible – at first glance, it struck me as something like a Mexican Californian fusion kinda thing… anyway, it got my attention. We visited a few times over our Mexican sojourn, with the first visit being dinner:

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We have the chorizo manchego bombas on the left (perfect little starters that packed the biggest flavour punch), some sort of chili cheese stuffed chicken on a bed of mashed potato (husband’s) on the top right, and the piña colada chicken salad (mine) on the bottom right – highly recommend this one if, like me, you’ve spent a month and a half eating your way around cities like Chicago and New Orleans where deep fried, heavy, fatty foods are king! It was massive, fresh, and the coconut pineapple dressing was insane!!

 

We went back again two days later for breakfast, because the breakfast menu looked every bit as good as the dinner one. Husband’s breaky in the top photo below was a slightly spicy chorizo avocado taquito dish in refried beans – really, really tasty, but a bit much for me for breakfast! I had the very delicious and perfect on-a-hot-Mexican-morning yoghurt, granola & fruit bowl (bottom left) – some of the best granola I’ve ever had! And bottom right was THE THING to order – PB&J empañadas. Seriously. Inspired by a request from the owner’s daughter, Zoe, this is pure magic – creamy peanut butter, punchy jam and perfectly crispy deep-fried empañada shells. Best end to a breakfast and a 6 week international adventure ever!!

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Also highly recommended – the cocktails! Particularly the pineapple and ginger one – super refreshing for those hot afternoons, and it’s clearly healthy, too!

Honestly, looks can be deceiving – this place didn’t look like it really belonged from the first quick glance, but it quickly became a favourite. Incredible and creative food, the friendliest service, and only a few steps away from the beach; the beach which you should make your way to after you’ve eaten, for a nice, digestive relax in the sunshine…

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Colours of Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Tuesday morning. Melbourne. Middle of winter. Bloody cold. I like the cold, for the most part, but yesterday I was thinking how nice it’d be to just go back to Mexico for a quick winter break, cruising around in a golf buggy, eating tacos, and being around sunshine and pretty colours. But I can’t, so I’m gonna have a take-me-back-Tuesday session instead… enjoy 🙂

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Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, LA

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One of the best things that’s come from starting this blog is that I’ve “met” some awesome and inspiring people. I got super excited to read that one of those kindred souls was packing up her life and flying off to LA to start an adventure around the world, and for the past few weeks I’ve been jealously and vicariously following Bec’s adventures on her site My Bloggable Day, while lamenting to my husband that “this girl just packed up and left with her boyfriend, why can’t we just do that?!” Anyway, she had some killer shots on both her Instagram account and her blog of her time in Santa Monica, which reminded me of my time there 6 months ago…

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Sunny Santa Monica. Even in winter. It’s a really beautiful spot, particularly when you’ve had enough of the Hollywood scene and you just want to get out and relax a little. There are still a few of the beautiful people walking and jogging and doing push ups in the park areas, but for the most part, it’s just a beautiful stretch of pier and sand 🙂

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And then, there was Venice Beach. It was like Santa Monica’s cooler, more hipster cousin. I really liked it there, it was like Fitzroy had moved to St Kilda Beach…

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It was probably my favourite area in Los Angeles that we visited, and the first place in the city I’d go back to if I were to return; great food options (like the most delicious peanut butter breakfast I had at Another Kind of Sunrise), heaps of street art, book shops, artists selling their wares along the beach strip, and Abbot Kinney Blvd.

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And the street ballers. Having grown up around basketball courts, there’s something that feels so good about hanging out by the courts in the sunshine, hearing the ball pound against the pavement, the water and street musicians providing the perfect soundtrack for a perfect morning on the other side of the globe…