Chocolate Indulgence (aka the chocolate trap)

I’ve just spent a wonderfully indulgent couple of hours surrounded by chocolate. No, my willpower did not stand up to it, in case you’re wondering.

Chocolate truffles to die for!

I actually went for coffee with a friend but those clever people at the Margaret River Chocolate Company have very kindly put a café in the middle of chocolate heaven. With factories in both the Margaret River and Swan Valley wine regions their cafes are perfectly placed as an alternative when you need a break from the wine tasting.

Now we all know that chocolate is good for us – fact. It contains a range of vitamins, is high in antioxidants (particularly the dark chocolate) and is well known for giving us that ‘feel good’ feeling. The Margaret River Chocolate Company has certainly honed in on our lack of willpower when it comes to anything that is going to make us feel good. They are not short on variety either with a range of chocolate products in white, milk and dark chocolate.

How can you resist?

Their range of hand made truffles makes it extremely difficult to choose, so, in an effort to combine a couple of indulgences, I chose the Rum truffle and the Cointreau one. At $1.95 each they’re not cheap but well worth the outlay. My only other purchase (I was very restrained) was a pack of their dark chocolate pastelles. These are just straight forward chocolate buttons but I don’t think you can go past them, chocolate coated fruit and nut, honeycomb, ginger and lots of other varieties are available, but give me plain chocolate any day.

Too many choices!

Continuing the theme in their café they have a range of chocolate cakes and brownies to try plus a hot chocolate made from their own chocolate (stating the obvious there I guess). I opted for coffee but my friend assures me that the hot chocolate was bliss. The chocolate brownie was one of the best I have tasted and came drizzled with chocolate and with a small scoop of ice cream on the side. Yuuuuuum.

A view over the vineyards

On West Swan Road in the heart of the Swan Valley near Perth, and with the café on the verandah overlooking the neighbouring vineyard, it is a perfect place to relax for a while and regroup before heading for more wineries. Unfortunately to get to the café, and then back out again, you have to run the gauntlet of chocolate. You can try focusing on the exit when you leave the café but, you will get sucked in. The chocolate will get to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A quiet bay of remembrance

Commonwealth War Cemetery, Souda Bay, Crete

On this Anzac Day 2012. In memory of the 197 Australians and 447 New Zealanders who fought and died during the defence of Crete in May 1941 and who are buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Souda Bay, Crete.

Go Solo: should I, shouldn’t I, should I ….

I am prevaricating, I know that. As I mentioned in a previous post, I can’t decide what to do in the way of travel this year. In reality, I know exactly what I want to do but, as I say, I’m prevaricating.

You may ask why, or you may not really care, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. For a number of years I’ve known where I am going on my next trip. It’s usually been organised in conjunction with a friend or family member and it’s just sort of …. happened. I’ve been to Broome with a friend, Tasmania and Europe with my cousin, Kuching with my daughter and Crete with my daughter and a friend. That’s taken care of the last five years.

As for this year, still don’t know. My sister in law emailed a few days ago and asked me if I had given any thought to a holiday. My reply – I’m always thinking about a holiday! But the question did set me to giving serious thought to the matter, so I made a list. Where do I want to go:

  •  Machu Pichu.
  • A few weeks inParis in October – writing!
  • Bali in early October for their Reader’s & Writer’s festival.
  • Kota Kinabalu.
  • A long weekend inMelbourne.
  • Would love to go toSydney.
  • Cinque Terre walk – next year.

Some how, having the options laid out in front of me made life easier. Well, sort of. Machu Pichu – far too expensive at the moment to do the tour that I want to do, so we’ll put that one on hold. Bali– I was there last year and, although a cheap option, I can’t quite convince myself. Same with Kota Kinabalu – would be nice, but …..  A long weekend in Melbourne– not a problem, I have my daughter I can stay with. Sydney– hmmmm, not sure. Cinque Terre walk – on the books for next year, possibly with my brother.

Now, the observant among you may have noticed that I skipped over one option in that list. Maybe we should ask ourselves why. The answer – because I know that that is what I really want to do. I want to rent an apartment in Paris for a few weeks and spend my time wandering around during the day and writing in the evening. A romantic idea maybe, but one that could happen. So what’s holding me back? Just possibly the fact that I want to do it by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve travelled by myself before quite happily, and if I was to decide to go to England (where I feel comfortable), I wouldn’t have a problem, so why has Paris by myself become such a hurdle?

I’ll think this one through and let you know when I’ve convinced myself to do it. In the meantime, any convincing arguments would be welcome.

 

 

 

I love a view

In real estate circles the catch cry is ‘Location, Location’, my priority when travelling is not much different. Wherever I choose to stay I really need a view, preferably with a balcony overlooking it, so that I can sit and reflect and write. A crisp Semillon Sauvignon goes down quite nicely (and very often so quickly) with a view to drink by. A view of the ocean is preferable but, as there isn’t always an ocean available,  beautiful scenery of any description is perfectly acceptable.

View of the Arc de Triomphe from the balcony of my hotel.

View across from the hotel.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and it’s not always scenery that attracts me to the view. In Paris it was the fact that I could see the Arc de Triomphe from my (admittedly small) balcony. The buildings opposite also had that Parisien charm that photographs so well (http://www.hotel-astrid.com/).

A Roman rooftop - view from my bedroom window!

Trevi Fountain 7.00am

In Rome, I gave up the view, and the balcony, in favour of the perfect location. The Trevi Fountain was twenty steps from the front door of our apartment and, being so close, gave us the advantage of being able to visit the fountain bright and early in a morning, before the tourists descended.

Trevi Fountain crowd 10.00pm

My balcony

When we talk views from a balcony I think this one wins hands down. This balcony led out from my bedroom in this villa in Crete. The sun sparkling off the ocean, dinner on the balcony as the rays from the dying sun lit up the coastline. I really don’t think I can do it justice with mere words.

View from that balcony

As the sun sets

Looking across to the North East coast of Tasmania

Australia in a snapshot. From the balcony of the log cabins at Rainbow Retreat, a nature based eco retreat, on the north east coast of Tasmania, the spectacular view lures the eye over the treetops to the coastline beyond. As an added bonus you can feed the wallabies from the balcony and interact with the local wildlife on this Private Nature Reserve (http://www.rainbowretreat.com.au/).

The street in Florence

Another streetscape, this time in Florence. A narrow street – five minute walk one way to the Santa Maria Novella train station, two minute walk the other way to the Piazza Santa Maria Novella and less than ten minutes to the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. Perfect spot and a really great hotel (http://www.hotelrivoli.it/en/).

Boab tree at Emma Gorge Resort in the Kimberley

From the steps of the tented cabins at Emma Gorge Resort in the El Questro Wilderness Park, the ancient Boab becomes a silhouette against the fiery sunset in this stark yet magnificent landscape (http://www.elquestro.com.au/emmagorge/).

Reflections off the Cockburn Ranges

And finally, my own private B & B (aka my brother’s place). Cowaramup doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when you think of the South West of the state, but maybe if I say Margaret River you’ll know where I’m talking about. Cowaramup (abbreviated by some to Cowtown, although the name has nothing to do with cows), is only a few minutes from Margaret River and I am lucky enough to have a more or less open invitation (thanks guys :-))

Who's watching who/

 

In a region renowned for its beauty and its wineries, what else are we supposed to do on a summer’s evening but sit on the patio, watch the wildlife and taste test the local produce.

 

 

 

Thank you all for reading and, while you’re here, if I could be so bold as to ask you to cast your eyes over to the right hand side of this page. You may notice a flagrant request for you to vote for me in the Sydney Writer’s Centre Best Australian Blogs competition. Go on, do it – you know you want to.

Pick Me, Pick Me

This post has got absolutely nothing to do with travel – which is odd for a travel blog.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get you all to take notice and at least keep reading. I’ve thought of all the words I could use in the title to make you sit up and take notice, but I believe that there are laws about that. A catchy photo might work, but the photos I have don’t tend to be all that catchy.

I could lure you all in with promises of chocolate and red wine or, for those with more willpower than to fall for the chocs and alcohol, I could offer plain old money. The problem here would be that I don’t have the money in the first place, so giving it away would be a bit of an issue.

In the end I decided to be straight with you and just come out with it. I need your help. There I’ve said it. None of us likes to admit that we need help, but this is something that I can’t do this by myself.

To explain. The Sydney Writer’s Centre is running a Best Australian Blogs competition and, as young as this blog may be, I took a deep breath and hit the enter button. The People’s Choice part of the competition has 940 entrants, so the chances are slim but as they say, you’ve gotta be in it to win it. Oh … and for the experience and all that.

Although the entrants in this competition have to be Australian you, the voting public, can hang out in any part of the world. So, those of you in the UK, America, Israel (yes I have followers in Israel, or at least a follower), China etc, who like to look in on my blog occasionally, feel free to join my local friends and followers and hit the button over there on the right to vote for me.

To all my friends and followers, potential followers and general hangers on, I’m putting my trust in you, and thanking you all in advance for your support.

I’ll be back with more travel related stuff shortly.

WHERE’S THE INCENTIVE? Broome or Bali, Port Douglas or Paris?

Cable Beach, Broome

‘Broome loses its lustre as airfares rise.’

So read the headline in the West Australian today. Those of us who love to travel are very aware of the high cost of travelling within Australia. With most of us having to make the most of our hard earned travel dollars we have to be very circumspect when it comes to spending them. Living in Perth it is so much cheaper for us to holiday in Asia than it is to travel within our own state, which is such a shame.

Airfares to the north west, and accommodation once you get there, are generally beyond the grasp of many Perth people, particularly if they are looking at taking the family. The same goes for travelling to other states and the high cost of eating and activities at Australian destinations also needs to be taken into account. With the exchange rate the way it is, I could spend two weeks in Paris in October, airfares included, for almost the same price as two weeks in Cairns. Just seems ridiculous.

As the West Australian explains, Broome alone has seen a 20% drop in visitors and something really needs to be done to reverse that trend. I know from my own perspective that I would love to revisit Broome and Kununurra and to check out Darwin and the Karinjini National Park. Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation are high on my ‘places to see’ list, but I have to be realistic and make the most of my travel dollar. If I should decide to spend that amount of money, hey …. let’s go to Europe.

Just having a little rant here, but, in an effort to encourage travel within my own state of Western Australia, here are a few sights you really should make and effort to see.

Take a flight over the Bungle Bungles

Cruise the Ord River

And take a detour up one of its off shoots

Climb over the rocks in Roebuck Bay

Take a camel ride on Cable Beach at sunset

 

Look down on the gorges at Kalbarri

Clamber over the rocks at the southern tip of Western Australia, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.

Have a walk along Burns Beach, just north of Perth

 

Close to Home

Look beyond the horizon

Here’s a test for you. How many days could you spend exploring your local area, say within a one hour radius of home, doing things that you haven’t done before? When you really think about it and start to list them, I think you’ll be surprised at the answer. I certainly was.

We are creatures of habit and most of us tend to gravitate towards the familiar. Whether it’s eating out, taking the kids to the park or beach or spending a day out with friends, we tend to choose a place that we’ve visited before. We feel comfortable with the familiar, yet when we are on holiday in an unfamiliar environment we will Google the place, find things to do and places to go. We will pick up brochures from hotels and we will head off into unknown territory to explore. Why don’t we do that at home?

But that is exactly what I did over this Easter weekend, I thought about doing something that I hadn’t done before and came up with quite a list. This list making began when my granddaughter asked if she could come and visit from interstate. Obviously the answer was yes, but then, what to do while she was here. A bored teenager is not a good thing and, although shopping is always a winner, she could do that at home and I needed something a little more touristy.

Massed jellyfish at AQWA

 

 

I live ten minutes from AQWA (the aquarium of Western Australia), one of the biggest tourist drawcards in Perth, and I have never been there. It’s at Hillary’s Boat Harbour, where I’ve been dozens of times for coffee, drinks, browsing the shops etc, but I’ve never ventured down to AQWA.

Coral at AQWA

 

 

On Easter Saturday that’s where I headed with granddaughter in tow. It’s an amazing place and well worth the price of admission.

www.aqwa.com.au

Look out above

Teaming tank AQWA

A quiet bay, Penguin Island

On Sunday we grabbed my daughter and her youngest, the eight year old, and had a girl’s day. We headed to Shoalwater, 45 minutes south of Perth, and caught the ferry to Penguin Island. Again something I had never done before, and what a brilliant place it is for family picnics. Situated in the calm waters of Shoalwater Bay, there is a shaded picnic area and sheltered little beaches that are very child friendly.

 

Fairy Penguin

Home to Western Australia’s largest colony of Fairy Penguins, with around 1000 nesting pairs, this island is managed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management and has boardwalks throughout the island to protect the wildlife. Rockingham Wild Encounters, the company that provides tourism to the area, has been recognised for its dedication to ecotourism with several local and national awards.

 

 

 

 

 

C'mon - look up for the camera

Unfortunately, you rarely get to see the penguins in the wild, as they keep well hidden during the day, but make sure you attend one of the feeding sessions at the island’s Discovery Centre. You’ll be able to see these cute little things up close and learn a bit more about them from the island’s staff.

www.penguinisland.com.au

More Fairy Penguins

Part of the extensive boardwalk on Penguin Island

Keep going

.... and keep aiming for beyond that horizon.

My list has many more activities on it, an eco tour on a catamaran, whale watching, a spa retreat weekend in the hills and a 4WD tour to the Pinnacles, are just a few. I’ll keep you updated if, or should I say when, I get to tick some of them off.