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36 Hours in Bangkok

I was all gearing up to host my Wanderlust 5 year anniversary show on Bondi Beach Radio when I got a call from AirAsia – want to come to Bangkok next week to help celebrate the fact we’ve flow half a billion passengers? I hit pause on the playlist prep, packed my passport and that was that. Show? What show?!

Arriving in Bangkok, after getting a pretty decent sleep on a Premium Flatbed (which, BTW, is the way forward when it comes to flying overnight to Asia), I was reminded of the few days I had spent in the Thai capital many years before. There was the chokey traffic and wide, in-progress highways, as well as humidity and haze, but as the cityscape flickers by you also glimpse the tops of Buddhist temples and signs with curly-edged Thai script. It has an exciting energy and I couldn’t wait to see how much I could ram into a short (two days and one night!) stay.

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Shopping at Siam Square

I’d been reading about the cutting-edge fashion from local Thai designers and I was eager to see it for myself. I jumped on the Sky Train with a new travel buddy from Buzzfeed and we embarked at the mall mecca to end them all – Siam Square. Being so MASSIVE, it took a little bit to get my bearings and figure out where I would find all the unique local fashion among the major labels at every turn. But, I’m here to save you some time – head straight for Gate 10 of the Siam Centre and you’ll be able to marvel in the cool a f fashion being created by the talented Thais!It really was pretty exciting – as the materials, the cuts, the bright patterns were all super unique.

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So, here’s the low down on a few of the stores that I think are worth your time.

For a store that is as much spectacle as substance (and it does have cool threads) don’t miss Fly Now iii. The mannequins are oversized animal and doll heads, the clothes are all bold patterns and colour, and the teal padding on the walls and in the circular change rooms is something to behold.

The Selected – this was one of my fave stores. They had beautiful kimonos and lots of unique clothes and objects that I wanted to purchase a lot of things. I did end up getting a velvety blue backpack – which also served a purpose as I was picking up bits and pieces along the way! It’s the first store pictured above.

For delicious herbal teas, with fascinating flavours like bael fruit and white mulberry,  duck in to Harnn. They also sell gorgeous Thai soaps and some threads and soft furnishings as well.

There are actually so many more I loved up here on this floor, but you should go, explore yourself, and then be sure to let me know what ones you loved!

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Oh, and we also stopped by the Hello Kitty store, mainly because Buzzfeed were doing a piece on the fun cafes in Bangkok, so I tagged along. And some of the food was almost too cute to eat! It’s totally mad how much Hello Kitty merchandise there was in the bottom floor shop. Hello Kitty thermometer anyone? But rainbow cakes and coffees with cat patterns on top…worth a little squizz, innit?! But then Hightail it out of there, the theme song on repeat will do your head in.

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AirAsia Half A Billion Celebration

Was so thrilled to have been invited by AirAsia to Thailand for their Half A Billion celebration! We did a press conference, where I was able to interview CEO Benjamin Ismail from AirAsia X about the expansion through Australasia, free surfboard travel and more for my Bondi Beach Radio show. We also got to join in the festivities where they gave away free flights for LIFE to the 500 millionth customer, saw actual air hosties dance up a storm and saw Thai pop sensation Pope do his thang. It was all in good fun and I’m super grateful for the trip.

Street Food

Street food is pretty much everywhere you look in Bangkok – fruits with sugar toppings, fried things on sticks, and of course noodles and laksas and all that goodness. Tucked behind our hotel, Centara Grand, there was a web of alleys with street food hawkers on either side, plastic tables and stools here and there. Love. It. We found a popular little place which ticked the golden rule book of street food eating – it was popular, cooked fresh and looked delicious as it was being flipped around the wok. We all couldn’t resist the classic – Pad Thai with prawns. Quick, cheap, no fuss and damn tasty. Win.

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Flower Market – Pak Khlong Talat

Numero uno thing to do on my trip to Bangkok was visit the morning flower market. I’ll tell you about how ace it was in a minute – getting there was hilarious. We caught the Sky Train and then a taxi to the market, which is on Chat Phet Road. Trying to flag a taxi as 4 obvious out-of-towners was tricky. The first one wouldn’t take us because he said he couldn’t see properly (WHY ARE YOU DRIVING?!) the next one who picked us up had an ID that was about 30 years younger with about zero likeness to our actual driver, and despite the last few refusing to take us for less than 200 baht, the actual journey cost 65. Aaah, Bangkok…

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So very worth the journey though! Certainly for the first hour or so we didn’t see any other foreigners, and the maze of alleys and warehouses and side-streets that make up the market were vibrant and rustic and bursting with flowers I’d never seen before. Many were arranged and tied for ceremonies and I wanted to know what spiritual events, however everyday, these flowers were being prepared for. We also walked into a large undercover market space with colourful crates stacked with chilies and limes and fish and all kinds of herbs that I’m sure would become fragrant Thai dishes in restaurants across town.

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I’d heard that mornings in the flower market you could come across Buddhist monks arriving to pick up flowers for their services and sure enough, we came upon a smiling robed monk approaching a shop filled with orange chrysanthemums.

Wander through backstreets

There’s something that feels right about taking to the backstreets of Bangkok on a steamy day. We were headed away from the flower market toward the Chao Phraya River so we just pointed in that direction and meandered in that general direction – stopping to look at the wares of fruit carts, or peer up at the faded paint jobs on the apartments above, joined by a web of electricity wires strung across the sky. You could smell fruits and bins and wafting cooking aromas as you moved along.

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Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn

We approached the Chao Phraya River with the purpose of boarding a river boat, so found the Sapphan Taksin boat pier and paid the 3 baht to get the ferry across the river to our destination: Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn…

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Entry to the Wat Arun was 100 baht. The temps were rising to around 36 degrees Celsius, which could have been a deterrent from climbing up steep temple steps, but Wat Arun is one of the most important religious sites in Thailand and one on my must-do list on this fleeting trip to the Thai capital.

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You approach through lush green gardens and lawns with red roofed temple buildings beside you toward the main entry through to the feature Khmer-style towering structures. The building stretches up in a white wave adorned with patterned tiles, and dotted with mini Thai statuettes. The heat is intense, so after some wandering up  and around the striking temple walls, it is time to retreat to search out bottled water and shade.

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One of the brilliant things about Thailand is that you’re never far from a fresh coconut to cool you down and help re-hydrate you on a humid outing. After the ferry trip back across the river, and one final view of the wondrous Wat Arun, it was sadly time for me to make tracks and head back to the hotel and out of Bangkok altogether.

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One last longing look at the hotel pool and it was time to head back for my flight. Don’t feel too sorry for me though – I was flying back to Sydney on an Air Bed! Did you know it only costs an extra $400 to upgrade to an air bed on an Air Asia flight? Slept. So. Well.
Especially knowing I had seen and done so much with just one night in Bangkok!

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Thanks to AirAsia for allowing me to come along for the Half A Billion Passenger ride!

Wild Spin of the Web {7}

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Lokal Hotel, Philadelphia. Photo credit: This Is The Place I Was Telling You About

GUIDE/ STAY – This Is The Place I Was Telling You About 

I have been quietly obsessing over this website and Insta account of late. They are two (very handsome) Texans, R’el Dade and Marcus Lloyd living in New York City, where they visit and document all the best places to eat, drink and stay. Of course I particularly fancy the posts about travel and hotels, including Lokal Hotel in Philadelphia (pictured above). Creates some serious FOMO and draws you like a magnet towards New York and surrounds. If you’re heading to the area, let this site be your compass.

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Photo Credit: Fogo Island Inn

STAY – Fogo Island Inn, Canada

I was told about this hotel recently from Fathom co-founder Jeralyn Gerba when she came on my show in Bondi. We were talking about off-the-beaten-track but AMAZING destinations and hotels – I was singing the praises of Fjaerland in Norway and then Jeralyn mentioned this little gem Fogo Island Inn. I’d never even heard of Fogo Island, despite having been to nearby Newfoundland. I wrote it down in my iPhone notes, but only just recently took a look. Wowsers! I absolutely love that someone had the vision to create a hotel so unique (and cool!) in this oh-so-remote locale.

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Moore Street General in Austinmer. Photo Credit: Nikki To for The Design Files

TRAVEL – Austinmer and Thirroul

After a pretty expensive (but amazing) wedding in Kiama last year – and our UK wedding party coming up in September, we’ve been a little cash strapped. As such, I’m constantly on the lookout for places for short getaways close to home, so I loved this little feature in The Design Files Austinmer and Thirroul with Domonique Brammah – think it’s time to take a little trip down to those parts. And I love the look of the retro Thirroul Beach Motel!

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Photo Credit: Konsta Punkka, Instagram

MEET – Konsta Punkka

Konsta Punkka is a Finnish self-confessed “squirrel whisperer” and taker of insanely beautiful nature photos. I probably don’t even need to tell you about his animal portraits as you have likely already seen some, given he has over 1 million instagram followers. I’m consistently in awe of his patience, his obvious love for the subjects of his images and his technical photography skill. If you don’t yet, you should follow him.

India

Photo Credit: Saurabh Suryan / Lokesh Dang

VISIT – Feast India Company, Uttar Pradesh, India

India has a new Wes Anderson-inspired restaurant and who cares what they are cooking up, I want to go! The design, by Renesa Architecture Design Interiors Studio is all flamingo pink with black and white stripes all over the joint. Check out this AWOL article for more.

While we’re on the topic, have you seen Anderson’s newest film Isle of Dogs? SO GOOD!

Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!

The Garden Isle: Kauai, Hawaii

The most spectacular green-ridged peaks, lazy ocean-side walks, canyons, food trucks and palm trees everywhere you gaze: Kauai is proper paradise. By law, no building can be higher than the highest coconut tree, which means you see lush vegetation and sky wherever you look – gaining it the name of the Garden Isle, which is apt my friends, very apt.

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We stayed on the south end of the island at Koa Kea Resort near Poipu Beach, so all of the exploring mentioned below began by driving north, usually through Old Koloa Town.

Old Koloa Town

When heading through the South (or exiting to explore North as we commonly were), it’s worth a stop off at Old Koloa Town, even if just for the coffee – seriously the best we found on the island! This is an old sugar plantation town from the 1830s, and the best way to arrive is through Malahui Road where you’ll drive beneath a luscious green Tree Tunnel.

But back to the coffee – Aloha Roastery sits in the Waikomo courtyard just behind the shops on Koloa Road. It’s serving up some creamy cups of goodness, with blends from the likes of Honduras and Colombia. The guys that work here have the friendly, casual Hawaiian hipster vibe down to a fine art.

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Warehouse 3540 – Kalaheo

A further five or six minute cruise north west along Koloa Road and you will come across a creative space designed for pop-ups and workshops called Warehouse 3540. Our real reason for visiting was for the famous Fresh Shave shaved ice, but more on that on that below…

Salt + Sea Kauai was my fave outlet here and I bought a lime green Human Revolution Clothing kaftan (scroll down further for picture of me in this little wonder – with a pineapple above my head!), which is probs my favourite purchase on the trip! Just outside the warehouse, was the real spark in the wheel of this place – The Fresh Shave!

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The Fresh Shave

Kauai loves a good food truck, and one of the stars of them all is The Fresh Shave! This is proper hand-spun (on a laborious, but very cool vintage wheel) shave ice. And you can’t help but love their branding that pays homage to both the humble mustache (with names like The Lip Luggage and The Handle Bar) and Outcast song (‘So fresh | So Clean | So Delicious’). I ordered up The Chevron of coconut and lime topped with coconut chia seed cream and Phil got The Caterpillar which is orange and ‘creamsicle’. We took shade under the umbrella at a mint-coloured bench to (narrowly) avoid immediate melt –  the Hawaiian sun was haaawt! So this was the perfect cool down pit-stop.

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Waimea Canyon

This jagged marvel is otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and for good reason – it’s 3,000 feet cliffs shooting up from deep valleys make it quite a wonder. The most notable physical difference is the weathered red rock among sliding green vegetation. The contrast is so vivid, especially as the clouds move, casting shadows across the chasm below. We saw helicopters like little specks, without perspective they appeared as the flies of the valley, and we were to do that very trip – see our Kauai by Helicopter post here.

Undoubtedly the biggest tourist spot on the island, the lookouts at Waimea Canyon were busy, but when you are looking out at an expanse of earth like you see here, it’s easy to still feel a peaceful calm. Well, except when some death-wish folk scramble down the side of the cliff for an Insta worthy shot (holy shit people! It ain’t worth your life!).

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MORE HAWAII articles you might like…

Kauai from the Skies: A Hawaii Helicopter Tour

STAY: Koa Kea Resort, Kauai, Hawaii

Hawaii Cool: Surfjack Hotel, Waikiki

Hanapepe

Regular readers of the site will know that I love all things literary (try these book recommendations or this post about the book town in the fjords of Norway as examples), so you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I took a detour to the colonial town of Hanapepe to visit Kauai’s only (but very amazing) bookstore Talk Story.

Talk Story Bookstore Kauai Best Bookstores United States

We discovered that Hanapepe (which means ‘Crushed Bay’ in Hawaiian – probably because of landslides in the area) is worth a visit even if (God forbid!) they didn’t have this beloved bookstore. It was a happening place from WWI to the 1950s when G.I.s and sailors were stationed there for training.

We visited Little Fish Coffee (an outpost of which was also in Poipu – see below) and gems like Japanese Grandma Cafe (which was sadly closed the day we went) and the attached Blu Umi – a local art and design store. We bought one of my fave souvenirs from the trip here – a wooden Aloha sign made by the owner Keiko’s son Jake Napier (check out his stuff at Venice Woods).

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My main motivation for heading to Kauai (in spite of Hawaii being a very cliched honeymoon destination), was to glimpse and walk the Napali Coast – those jagged green wonders along the coast (nature goals!). Unfortunately our first full day in Kauai had mega rain, so it wasn’t really safe to hike along these quite dangerous trails post-downpour, so we opted to instead drive around to the best views we could find. Introducing the stunning Kalalau Lookout…

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I just can’t quite get over this view, so here you go again!

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The Road North

We took to the road with Hanalei Bay up north as our end destination. On the way up, we stopped off at the awesome little cafe Java Kai, which is connected to one of my fave Kauai boutiques Shipwrecked, and sits out the front of the Kauai Juice Co. So, basically, well worth the stop! We both had gluten free felafel wraps and I couldn’t resist a Blue Hawaiian smoothie of blueberries, banana, coco milk and pineapple juice. Phil also bought this ace heavy Java Kai mug.

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Kauai Hawaii Java Kai Kapaa

Hanalei Bay

This is where Phil gets all shaka on your arse…and he has good reason to bring out Hawaii’s famous hand signal – this was our fave town on the island, and the one we will stay in next time we’re in Kauai (don’t get me wrong, we loved Koa Kea too where we stayed, but this neighbourhood is definitely more our vibe).

Kauai Hawaii Hanalei Bay Aloha Juice Bar

We soaked up the stunning views from Hanalei Bay Pier, spent a while debating whether we would buy a Ukelele (we didn’t this time, but next visit…) at the temple of slack key and beautiful wood that is Hanalei Strings and wandered through boutiques like the Barn 808 which is owned by local music legend Donavon Frankenreiter.

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Poipu Area

And finally, a little on the area that we stayed in – Poipu Beach. The beaches here are pretty, but a tad small and busy with families, so given it was our honeymoon, we tended to stick more by the pool when we were back by Koa Kea Resort. There was also an outdoor rock spa, so y’know, was hard to go too far.

We did venture out for food though, and there was a handy little shopping village not too far away. Phil basically lost his vegetarian sh*! over the Puka Dog – which is famed and even Anthony Bourdain is a fan. The veggie dog here was the best I’ve ever had, so was happy to indulge Phil with a couple of visits *wink*. I also had some really delicious Japanese at Rock n’ Roll Sushi and there were lots of cute Hawaiian gifts and home wares at Sand People.

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A short stroll from the hotel was Brennecke’s Beach Broiler – an American coastal diner that we LOVED, so we returned a couple of times. They served delicious seafood (and plenty of veggie options for Phil), not to mention Kona beer and some tasty cocktails. American football was always playing on the few screens in the venue, but in a good way, not a husband-won’t-pay-attention-to-anything-but-the-sport way! Well, at least not my husband, I can’t vouch for yours!

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I mentioned Little Fish cafe in Hanapepe, but there was also one at Poipu which we visited a couple of times…perfect for the acai bowl and coffee fix!

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Oh, and Kauai is also about sugarcane, hibiscus and pineapples. I almost stayed with Phil to pursue a life as a pineapple farmer’s wife…it suits him, no?!

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Kauai

I hope you also like my other Hawaii posts:

Kauai from the Skies: A Hawaii Helicopter Tour

STAY: Koa Kea Resort, Kauai, Hawaii

Hawaii Cool: Surfjack Hotel, Waikiki

Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!

STAY: Koa Kea Resort, Kauai, Hawaii

Choosing to stay on Kauai was easy.

Choosing somewhere to stay on Kauai was hard.

There are the Marriotts, Hyatts, Sheratons of the world which I wasn’t that interested by, and then I was very tempted by The Palmwood, but given it was our honeymoon, we actually wanted to sip cocktails by the pool if we so chose to, so the B&B vibe was less what we were going for. The pick of the bunch seemed the St Regis Princeville which is on the North Shore (which we discovered was our fave part of the island), but holy shit dude it be expensive! So, we opted for the Koa Kea Hotel and Resort which is a resort, but a slightly smaller resort and pretty perfect for what we were after.

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Situated on the south of Kauai, the Hawaiian island known as the Garden Isle – which is the luscious green paradise that this implies (check out this post on our helicopter ride over the island to see just how green) – Koa Kea sits next to Poipu Beach. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and the beach and the swimming pool at the hotel were teeming with little kids. We love kids, but perhaps not so much as companions on our honeymoon. Thankfully the following day there were not many around at all. As a general rule, Koa Kea was really quiet, with gorgeous sunsets, nice cocktails, great service and delicious food in the restaurant and for room service.  Oh, and they upgraded us and gave us a bottle of wine for congratulations 😉

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Kauai Hawaii Poipu Beach koa kea best hotels

Speaking of room service, on day two, it poured rain all day. The garden isle has to get its green vibe from somewhere. Worried? Us? Not in the slightest. As anyone who gets married will tell you, it’s amazing, but pretty frickin’ exhausting, so taking a day to rest and sleep and do nothing in the days following the big day is essential. So the rain Gods of Hawaii gave us just that perfect day. And thanks to great room service at Koa Kea, we pretty much had no reason to leave the room at all!

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In addition to boss brekkies at the hotel restaurant Red Salt (my fave was the Eggs Benedict with pancetta hash and chive hollandaise – Phil was all about the continental), we also loved dining at the nearby Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, with an American coastal sports bar vibe, and Little Fish cafe across the road (loooved their acai bowls). But more on that in the full Kauai post coming soon!

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With a car to explore the island (the friendly hotel staff helped us set that up at reception) and plenty to see on the outrageously beautiful Kauai (can’t wait to tell you all about it, but see our fly over tour here), we loved coming back to Koa Kea after a day of adventuring to kick back by the pool edge, watch the palm-fringed sunsets, a cheeky cocktail in hand.

Hawaii Honeymoon Bliss.

 

Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!

 

Wild Five: Best Summer Reads (By Women)

Get these delicious literary treats in front of your eyeballs! Whether you’re enjoying summer in Sydney, are having a coastal adventure elsewhere, live in one of those places like Mexico or California which never have a proper winter, or are bunkered down in the chilly months wanting some armchair escapism this is for you. OK, not all these books are set in summer, but they are great for holiday reading, and even better, they are all written by wonderful women who are masters of their writerly craft.

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This isn’t intended as a lengthy book review column as there are plenty of great sites for book reviews (I recommend The Millions, The New Yorker and The Guardian for starters), more just a pointer towards some of the books I have adored of late. I have always had a strong passion for reading though, and started my career in the book industry (and still work on book-related things here and there). I worked in bookstores and was a bookstore manager at 23 (at the airport of course, and travel took me away from this job at regular intervals), and went on to be a buyer, section manager and then eventually into publishing where I worked as a book publicist for four years. It was my job to get the books into the media and organise and go on book tours. It was pretty ace. I still work with clients on bookish jobs from time to time and don’t plan to change that ever. Last year I decided to focus my energy on new books and especially ones written by women, who don’t get enough recognition in this industry.

I hope you love these books as much as I did! And be sure to leave some of your own book recommendations in the comments below!

Hot Milk

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

Set in the small coastal town of Almería in Southern Spain, amidst the hot desert sand and jellyfish-filled ocean, Hot Milk follows Sophie and her mother Rose as they visit the famed Dr Gomez and his assistant Nurse Sunshine in the hope of uncovering the mystery of Rose’s ailing health. This hard-to-put-down novel has a hilarious undertone of sly humour, an enigmatic cast of characters, and a vividly painted landscape that will ensure that even if you can’t make it to the beach this summer, Hot Milk will take you there. It’s a cracker.

Little+Fires+Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

When I travel I always seek out bookstores and libraries, and on my recent honeymoon to Hawaii, we visited the coolest little independent bookstore called Talk Story in Kauai (pictured below – that’s me with this very book in the bag). Of course I had to support this little gem of a place, so bought a hardback edition (Americans love their hardbacks!) of Little Fires Everywhere. This intriguing tale weaves and unfolds the stories of the Richardson family of Shaker Heights and the artist Mia who inhabits their rental house with her daughter Pearl. Celeste Ng has a subtle and masterful way of storytelling that I admire so much. I really felt for these characters and the situations they found themselves in and the book really propels you towards the conclusion. You crave answers to ‘who lit the fires?’ and ‘do you blame them?’. It explores themes of life on the move versus a stable suburban existence, race and privilege, motherhood and heaps more. I can’t wait to read further works by Ng, starting with her debut Everything I Never Told You.

Talk Story Bookstore Kauai Best Bookstores United States

You may also like the Wild Spin post Wild Words: A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros.

The Mothers

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Another one to thank Sydney Writers’ Festival for. American writer Brit Bennett did the Opening Address at the festival alongside literary great George Saunders, and to say she held her own is an understatement. In addition to being compulsively readable, The Mothers explores big themes such as abortion and friendship betrayals, and her characters are easy to relate to, and hard to forget. So much talent for a writer so young. I can’t wait to see what does next.

The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Just the premise alone will be enough to have you picking up this book: suddenly young women get the power to electric shock in a harmful way through the very touch of their fingers, making them become the more powerful of the sexes. The way this ripples throughout the world is fascinating to explore. We follow multiple characters who experience this phenomenon in differing ways, and it opens up a Pandora’s Box of what ifs.

This One Summer

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This was my first ever graphic novel and I’m not sure if I just picked a very amazing one, or if graphic novels are amazing and I need to weave them into my reading life more often. OK, so my husband is an illustrator and this was his book, so I can’t take credit for the selection of this great work, I really just picked it off our shelf. Mariko and Jillian Tamako are Canadian cousins. Jillian weaves the illustration magic and Mariko writes the touching dialogue. Mariko was at Sydney Writers’ Festival last year, which is where Phil got the book.

Best Summer Reads by Women This One Summer Tamaki

Which books would you recommend for summer reading? Or do you have any other fave books written by women I should read? Let me know in the comments below. And I’ll be sharing a Wild Five: Autumn Reads post in the coming months.

Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!

Wild Spin of the Web {6}

Stunning global hotel openings, Moroccan dreams, a beatnik institution, a West Aus detour and surfing in the arctic. This is Wild Spin of the Web {6}.

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Photo Credit: Christophe Michel

TASTE – the Last Great Beatnik Cafe

San Francisco is a literary lovers dream. What – me? Literary lover? Totally. I’ve visited a lot of the sites here, the Beat Museum, City Lights Books, the house that Armistead Maupin set Barbary Lane on in his Tales of the City Series, Jack Kerouac’s house, Vesuvio Cafe and I even took a saunter past the wonderful Cafe Trieste, featured in this article on Messy Nessy, a blog worth your time if you like travel and curiosities. It was a joy to read about more of the history behind this beatnik institution, and indeed behind the literary scene of San Francisco.

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Photo Credit: Atelier Dore

STAY – l’Hôtel El Fenn

This is basically all my Moroccan hotel dreams coming true. The photography by Garance Dore on Atelier Dore is just as beautiful as the destination she depicts. I really need to get to Morocco soon. But in the meantime, I’ll just fantasise about it using pics and places like these as inspo.

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Photo credit: COMO Uma Canggu, Bali

STAY – Hottest hotel openings of 2018

Readers of this blog would know, I’m a sucker for a hot hotel. Take for example Hotel Hotel, The Slow, Fjaerland Fjordstove, The Atlantic, Miss Clara or Ace Hotel to name a few (there are more!). So, adding to the ever-growing must-go list is now a few beauties from Conde Nast Traveller’s list of the best 18 new openings set for this year. I want to go to there.

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Photo credit: We Are Explorers

VISIT – Rottnest Island, Western Australia

This magical little island of quokkas and brown snakes off the coast on Western Australia is worthy a detour when you’re out west. Pay little attention to the brown snake part and more about the quokkas, which are adorable fuzzy marsupials that are found in oinly  select few places off the coast of WA. I camped here a number of years ago. We pitched our tent and slept peacefully, but when we woke in the morning, we law a long trail in the sandy ground going exactly around the circumference of our tent. At first, we were sure it was a brown snake (deadly mind you), only at closer inspection realised it had two small dots at either side of the trail, which were the tracks of little feet – it was a quokka. But I absolutely loved exploring the little beaches of crystal water and few people. Get the lowdown at one of my fave Australian outdoor sites We Are Explorers, who rightly call it a paradise.

 

Under An Arctic Sky – Chris Burkard

Whether it’s his mindblowing photography or his cutting-edge surf films, I’m a big fan of Californian creative Chris Burkard. It’s why I interviewed him for my Bondi Beach radio show Wanderlust a couple of years ago and why I keep an eye on his newest projects. Some of my absolutely favourite shots of his are the photos he took in northern Norway, with a surfer wielding waves before a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. His newest film has seen him taking to the icy waters again – this time on an arctic surfing mission.

 

Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!

Sydney Weekend Getaway: Ettalong

Determined to explore more of Sydney and surrounds by water, we escaped the city for the Central Coast by ferry from Palm Beach. A rather beautiful way to spend a sunny summer birthday weekend.

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First stop was The Boathouse at Palm Beach, but as is typical, we didn’t really leave enough time, so just had a little squizz, found non-metered parking (outside The Boathouse Home), and walked over the hill and down to the ferry wharf, knowing we would dine as soon as we docked on the other side.

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The ferry trip only takes around 25 minutes from Palm Beach Wharf and is done through FantaSea Cruising. You can get your ticket on board. We were blessed with a stunning day so the water passage of this trip was just one big tempting swim land. Sitting inside was never considered. We sat on the back lower deck and jumped up often to hang over the rails and watch as the ferry went past bush-covered land and little inlets. It felt miles away from Sydney.

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It was sizzlingly hot when we docked at Ettalong, but thankfully it was a short stroll to our first destination – our beachside lunch spot The Box on the Water, which was one of my motivators for visiting the area. A ferry trip to the Central Coast where we could have a birthday lunch overlooking the sea? Sure thing.

TASTE – The Box on the Water

We were unsure whether we would just visit the attached kiosk (the menu looked fab) or dine at the restaurant (Phil is a vego so there wasn’t too much choice in the restaurant), but after arriving it was obvious would be dining it. The rustic kiosk is tucked up behind the restaurant and looked nothing special compared to the al fresco gem that was The Box on the Water. Without a booking, we tried to weasel our way into a waterfront seat, but one row back was fine. As I mentioned, it was my birthday, so we ordered a couple of Aperol spritzes for while we perused la menu. The restaurant was all wood and windows (mostly open) with floating ferns. The view beyond was boats, pale blue water and bush across the way.

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Sydney best ferry trips palm beach ettalong box on the water fish

Sydney best ferry trips palm beach ettalong box on the water shroom

I’m not sure how long I looked over the menu, but it didn’t matter because I spied fish and chips being taken to another table and that was that. The menu was seafood rich, with alternate mains of Angus fillet steak (Bois Boudran, crispy potato, Café de Paris beurre), jerk chicken (sweet potato crisps, coconut rice and beans, mango salsa) and duck breast (five spice reduction, radish and Asian greens). Phil went with the (very delicious, but petit for a main) roast field mushroom (balsamic glazed, cashew ‘cheese’, orange quinoa and cashew dukkah).

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Dessert was a real stand-out. The Eton Mess with blood orange sorbet, meringue and orange sherbet was sweet powdery deliciousness. Best to share. And given we had recently made our first successful semi fredo and love salted caramel like every other human, we had to try the Popcorn Semi Fredo with salted caramel, popcorn and coco nibs and needless to say I still adore salted caramel. It was thick and sticky and can get stuck in my teeth anytime.

We took a little intermission from food, went for a swim and a relax on the beach and then went and checked into our Airbnb place in Woy Woy. The cute little granny flat we stayed in was nice, but we suggest staying right by the beach as we were a little far out and had to keep getting cabs. The Mantra in town is the obvious choice, but being January it was completely booked out when we went.

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TASTE – Bar Toto

I want this place to exist on my block. The Bar Toto trattoria and bar on Ocean View Road ticked a few boxes for us: it was right next to Cinema Paradiso where we were to see a film later, it had Italian food (Phil is nuts for it) and it had a great cocktail list (with sours!) made by a guy made it into the top 100 cocktails list. It has outdoor seating, a narrow, intimate front bar and a larger, dimly lit lounge out the back.

For a (birthday) cocktail I chose the wonderful Jerry’s Coco Rumba because it featured my fave 1800 tequila, Solermo, lime and coconut cream 9and a pretty as pie flower on top!) and Phil had a Barrel Aged Negroni.

The pizzas are sold by the ‘slice’ (about a quarter pizza) and the Caprino with pancetta, goats cheese, basil and tomato base was a stand-out, but they were all really yum.

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Sydney best ferry trips palm beach ettalong bar toto tapas arancini

 

We ducked down to the beach to watch the sunset quickly before the film started and we’re glad we did as it was peaceful and serene, the warm pinks painted across the sky and water.

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TASTE – Coast 175

On Sunday morning we made tracks for a cafe that I had spied from Bar Toto the evening before, Coast 175. It was on the opposite block on Ocean View Road. And I have to say, it was a winning choice for breakfast – and I may have had my best ever hollandaise here (or it may have just been exactly what I was craving at the time – it was special either way)! Ever the one with a sweet tooth at breakfast, Phil ordered the lemon french toast. Don’t tell him I’m ever the one who’s glad he orders sweet breakfasts, because this is one of those examples of when I get to share in the berries and sweet bread of a yummy dish.

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The coffee here was great, the interiors were fresh (I loved the yellow striped awnings) and it had a little fruit market in the front (or pineapples in the window – also a nice touch). So get thee to Ocean 175 when you’re in Ettalong. If there’s a better brekky spot I want to hear of it.

To walk off our full bellies, we went to the ‘weekend market’ in the same complex as the cinema, just over the road. It’s really a collection of permanent art, craft and clothes shops (definitely most of them weresn’t to my taste, but I managed to buy a cute scarf at one store for $5). After a quick spin it was back down to the beach to while away some time before our ferry back to Palm Beach. The sand at the wharf end of Ettalong beach is partly shaded and better for swimming than the middle, where the sand just below the water is covered in thick vegetation. We lay down in the shelter of a tree and read our books. A little flock of ducks paid us and every other beachgoer a visit, searching for food quite confidently, until they were intimidated by little kids who ran too close.

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When the ferry came I was left wishing we had a few more days to chillax in Ettalong or surrounds. Across the bay at Wagstaff looked beautiful as well, so that may be the next Central Coast adventure. But Ettalong was a lovely birthday weekend. The ferry trip back to Palm Beach made me wide-eyed about they beauty of Sydney and surrounds. After all these years of exploring there are still outrageously beautiful spots to discover. The wider central coast, I’m coming to get you…

Our homeward journey back into Sydney was via a little look-see at the Boathouse Home store (so many cute floral and nautical things!) and The Newport for lunch.

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Hey there! I’m guessing if you found your way here, you’re into taking a wild spin of the world yourself. I think you’ll love getting our Wild Spin E-news so please do sign up. I’m also over on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, so please do sign up to stay in touch!