Through my eyes: walking through Hanoi, Vietnam

Melbourne’s been sweltering. And I’m not a summer person. I don’t like extreme heat or humidity.

Unless I’m in Vietnam…

img_7036

img_6973

Parts of Hanoi are tourist-friendly “big city,” while other parts, like the produce markets, are still so simple and local. There’s such a huge mix of people – tourists and locals, students and manual labourers, restaurant workers and street food vendors, and they all somehow fit together in perfect harmony…

img_7029

img_7038

img_7113

img_7127

Advertisements

Through my eyes: making tracks in Hanoi

img_7044

I’ve seen some odd things on my travels, and tend not to be too surprised anymore when I see people doing things that are really different to how we do things at home, but this one still took my breath away.

The rail tracks that run through Hanoi literally run through Hanoi. As in, they’re set in what just looks like a slender alley-way between rows of homes and shops, with very little room to move on either side. That was all well and good, until I skipped my way across the tracks to take some photos, and noticed a family finishing up their breakfast. In the middle of the tracks. I’m talking, little plastic stools and table set up with bowls and chopsticks actually on the tracks, and small children running back and forth across them, and no one batting an eyelid.

We crossed that railway several more times during our stay in Hanoi, and I got less and less worried about oncoming speeding trains each time I guess you can get used to anything…

img_7031-2

img_7058

My (meaningful) New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year amazing people 🙂 While I don’t actually really celebrate the night in a big way anymore, I am a big one for fresh starts and planning to succeed. I’m also sick and f-ing tired of making the same idiotic resolution every year to “finally lose weight and be skinny.” Because that absurd sentence has robbed me of so much time and happiness and sanity over the years, it’s embarrassing. So, this year, I’m making a very strong and conscious effort to remember who I was before the world told me who I should be, and making some more realistic and meaningful resolutions.

image

I miss the girl I used to be. I never gave a shit what anyone else thought of me. I wasn’t religious, but I was very spiritual, and that gave me great comfort when I was practicing regularly with candles and crystals and oils and what not. Things that used to make me feel good on bad days were going for a walk with my camera and photographing random things on the way, and collating those photos in little notebooks. Braiding my hair and painting my nails made me feel prettier on my ugly days. Cooking and eating weren’t obsessions and sources of anxiety, they were enjoyable. I was so creative. I still am, but I stifle it a lot more now, because the world tells me that making money and working and doing the socially acceptable things are more important than following the passions that make your heart sing. I wore what made me feel good, even if the fashion disciples would have died laughing at me. I didn’t apologise for my introversion, and if I wanted to stay at home and read for 3 hours instead of going out for a big group dinner, that’s what I damn well did. I studied for fun, things that I enjoyed studying, like Egyptology and mythology.

image

That’s who I am, really. That’s who I was. That’s when I was a little happier. It was hard to realise that, actually. I think I’m done wasting time trying to be who the world wants me to be. I think I know that being happy means being me, unapologetically and unashamedly. It’ll be hard at first, changing this much while battling depression and anxiety and disordered eating. It’ll mean I’ll lose some “friends.” It’ll mean I’ll get frustrated. But without the dark, you can’t see the stars, and I think it’s finally my time to shine now.

image

This year, my resolutions are all centered around getting back to that girl. This year, I will:
• take 10 regional Victorian road trips
• take 2 solo writing/yoga retreats
• meet 8 new bloggers in the attempt to find my tribe
• visit 10 different markets in Melbourne
• read at least 30 new books
• move my body for 30 minutes each day
• move back towards daily yoga practice and meditation, knowing that it will help my depression and anxiety
• take a course to learn something new, just because I want to, not because I “need” it for a career or job
• make more of an effort to dress up every day, braid my hair more and paint my nails, because looking lovely makes you feel better
• minimalise materialism & clutter
• live more by the moon cycles (thank you for the suggestion Vanessa!)
• cook a new recipe each week from one of the dozens of cook books on my shelf
• spend more time in my book nook
• finish that little (big) project I’ve been working on all of 2015 (you’ll find out more soon, don’t worry – I’m gonna need your help with it!)
• find new ways to channel my creativity

image

I hope everyone else has some time over the weekend to give themselves some realistic goals for the year ahead, goals that don’t involve changing yourselves to fit in with society’s bullshit expectations, but goals that bring you back to who you truly are at your core. Because there’s only one of you, and if you’re the best version of that possible, how could you be anything but happy, successful and totally at peace?

Happy New Year, friends 🙂 xoxo

Eat & shop here: Tsukiji Fish Market and outer market streets, Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Market
By train: Oedo line to Tsukijishijo or Hibiya line to Tsukiji
http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm

Another day, another market in another part of the world… For someone who’s inherently shy and withdrawn and has a bit of a hard time with social anxiety, there is almost no where in the world I’m more comfortable than in crazy, bustling foreign marketplaces. I know, I’m weird.

I couldn’t tell you why, but there’s something about being able to blend into the crowd and observe the mayhem that I find really comforting. And to that end, the Tsukiji Market area was the perfect place for me! I’d read that you have to be there really early (like 5am) to see the actual fish market in action; we rolled up around 8am though, which was just in time to see everything being packed up, which was still pretty cool to watch…

IMG_7442

IMG_7447

IMG_7448

IMG_7438

After a bit of walking around and a bit of shopping (found a little stall selling the most beautiful tea pots and tea cups), I was getting hungry. Being one of the world’s premier fish markets, I couldn’t leave without a traditional sushi breakfast, but the lines were insane! 50 minute wait with a few dozen other tourists?! Not a chance! Just as defeat was looming, I saw this place with an A-frame out the front; a quick peak through the window showed not a tourist in sight, which meant that’s where I wanted to eat.  As fate would have it, great decision.

Comfortably some of the best sushi of my life. For around AUD$25.00, I received a bowl of hot miso soup, an enormous piece of teriyaki grilled eel, and the amazing spread you see below. It was the smallest breakfast option on the menu and it was massive! I couldn’t quite get through it all which I didn’t think was too bad, until I looked around and saw everyone else around me plowing through bowls twice the size as mine with ease! The Japanese are BIG breakfast eaters!!! Like a lot of other places, no English was spoken and I ordered by pointing to the laminated menu handed to me, and it was such an awesome experience which I feel really fortunate I got to enjoy!

 

After breaky, we went our separate ways, and mine took me through the outer market streets on the way back to the train station. I made a mental note to return, and that’s exactly what I did a few days later. The outer markets are amazing, and you’ll encounter them on the left side of Shin-Ohashi Street walking from Tsukiji Station towards the fish market. Food galore for the most part, with plenty of other goodies thrown in for your shopping pleasure! I’d recommend starting with the most magnificent omelette you’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring, from one of the many folded omelette stalls than line the streets…

And then, just walk. Enjoy the people watching. Let yourself melt into the market and take it all in.

IMG_7486  IMG_7489

IMG_7487

IMG_7521

IMG_7517

IMG_7516

IMG_7503

IMG_7497.3

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

IMG_1062

So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

IMG_1134-1Click to add a blog post for Bridge Road Brewers on Zomato

 

Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

IMG_7119

Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

Click to add a blog post for Beechworth Bakery on Zomato

 

The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

IMG_7116
Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

IMG_7124

There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!

Shop: Brooklyn Flea + Eat: Smorgasburg (Ramen Burger, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ & Dough), New York, USA

So, while we’re visiting New York, we have to actually get out of Manhattan to do two of my favourite things – market trawling and eating! And believe me when I tell you there is absolutely no better place to do both of these things than at Smorgasburg + Brooklyn Flea Market!

 

Brooklyn Indoor Winter Flea Market + Smorgasburg
1000 Dean St (between Classon & Franklin), Brooklyn
http://brooklynflea.com/
http://www.smorgasburg.com/

Ok, so let’s go with the shopping component first – the flea market part. You can read more on the website above, but basically what they’re all about:

Founded in April 2008, Brooklyn Flea has grown into one of New York City’s top attractions, operating flea markets every weekend of the year that feature hundreds of top vendors of furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food.

If that doesn’t get you excited to visit, then we’re just not on the same page! Basically, it’s a giant market with both shopping and eating to be done, which is the best of all worlds in my books. In the warmer months, the market is held outdoors, but we visited in the depths of winter which meant that instead of calling it off, they thankfully just move indoors until the snow lets up! As you can see below, it’s in a gorgeously big warehouse-style space, with both antiques/vintage and new handcrafted wares. It’s pure heaven for someone like me, with fantastic bargains to be found if you’re happy to meander around the place for a while and dig around. And don’t think the winter cold stop the crowds migrating across the river for this; by 11:30am, the place was packed, so get in early!

IMG_5925

 

After a bit of shopping, we were getting hungry, and made our way to the other part of the party; Smorgasburg. Think indoor food hall with a few different stalls to choose from, obligatory long lines of hipsters clambering for delicious food (and yes, we shamelessly joined in!). And you know what? Totally justified – the food here is great, the atmosphere is fantastic, it’s seriously just so much fun! As for what we ate, it was hard to narrow it down, but we went with….

 

The Original Ramen Burger
http://ramenburger.com/

IMG_5926

I don’t care what anyone says – believe the hype. This was amazing. Golden fried noodle buns, juicy beef patty, just enough spring onion and sauce to give it a little kick, it was everything that was promised and more. I want another.

 

Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com/

IMG_5928

This is serious BBQ. Holy wow. They take good quality meat and treat it simply and respectfully, bringing together traditions and methods from Texas and the Carolinas to create some absolutely mind blowingly good product by barbecuing it the old school way – low and slow. We ordered a serve of brisket (above, centre), burnt ends (top left) and pulled pork (top right). The pork just fell apart as we ate it, and the brisket – I mean, you can see the perfectly rendered fat in that picture, it literally melted in your mouth! And those burnt ends were something else… Oh my GOD I would eat tray after tray of those and never get sick of them!!

Click to add a blog post for Mighty Quinn's Barbeque on Zomato

Dough
http://www.doughbrooklyn.com/

IMG_5930

Naturally, you gotta finish on dessert. And everyone raves about Dough. There were SO many incredible looking donuts to choose from but it was the dulce de leche covered in toasted almonds that caught my eye. The dough was somehow both dense AND light at the same time, the glaze was delicious, and plenty of toasted almonds – a truly perfect donut specimen in every way. One of my biggest regrets in New York was not going back for a second one.

Click to add a blog post for Dough on Zomato

Eat here: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, Yarra Glen, Victoria

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
35 Old Healesville Rd, Yarra Glen, Victoria
http://www.yvci.com.au/

 

Ahhh it was one of those weeks last week. One of those weeks. One of those weeks that you just knew you’d need an escape from it you made it through to Friday afternoon. Which I knew by the end of the day Tuesday. That’s what kind of a week it was. So I packed my camera, some tunes and my Keep Cup full of tea, and husband and I hit the road. I’d told him that my escape a few weeks ago to Warburton was good for my soul, so he suggested we spend the day there together. Good decision!

7

We hit the road early Saturday morning and decided to stop in at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for a light breaky/stock up on chocolate for home. Because their chocolate is bloody amazing. If you’ve never heard of this place, you’re probably not alone – it’s literally out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around it. See?

IMG_6993

IMG_6997
Welcome to my happy place…

IMG_7000

IMG_0184

Have you ever found yourself wondering where all of the chocolate is? It’s here. And it’s GOOD. This is deliciously, amazingly good quality chocolate, with heaps of variety and beautiful flavours aside from the standard white, milk and dark chocolate. Check out their online store to start your research into everything from salted caramel chocolate spread to honeycomb lavender milk chocolate to wild lemon myrtle dark chocolate to caramelised almond slice (my personal favourite), but we visited for the stuff you can’t have delivered; breakfast. Before I get to that, though, they also have delicious looking ice cream and magnificent cakes, which I’d love to try when I visit again!

IMG_0182But, breakfast. We weren’t famished when we got there, so we decided to just get the crumpets to share, knowing we’d probably want to get something savoury from the Warburton Bakery when we got into town. The crumpets were a very, very good choice. Two big, warm, fresh out of the oven crumpets came with honeycomb butter and warm milk chocolate…

IMG_0185

And they tasted every bit as good as they looked! More of a cross between a crumpet and scone, they were super light and fluffy, and that chocolate went perfectly with that magical honeycomb butter melted all over them… I’d be hard pressed to order something other than these if I were to visit for breakfast again!

IMG_0187

It may be in the middle of nowhere, but truly, it’s more than worth the visit. The chocolate they’re making there is really something special – super smooth and creamy, with some really innovative flavour combinations. They do breakfast, lunch, cake, coffee, tea (their own loose leaf brews, too) and ice cream, so there’s something for every body, and if you have kids, there’s heaps of room for them to run around the wide open grassy area surrounding the chocolate heaven as well (you know, to work off all that sugar). And if you decide to make a day of it, keep driving on to Warburton – it’s a beautiful place with good tea, good pizza, a beautiful forest to explore, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a double rainbow!

IMG_7036

 

Click to add a blog post for Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery on Zomato