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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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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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Sydney best ferry trips palm beach ettalong 3

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!

 

 

 

Hawaii Cool: Surfjack Hotel, Waikiki

Aloha bitches! What if I told you there’s a renovated hipster hotel in Waikiki with 1960s surfer vibes, a killer restaurant by one of the hot names in the Hawaii food scene, and that it’s reasonably priced – oh, and just a couple of blocks from the beach?!

Nobody told me any of that, but when trawling online through all the hotels available in Honolulu, I was left feeling pretty uninspired. It was all flashy chain hotels (apart from the glorious Royal Hawaiian Hotel in which we were to spend our first night) or places that looked like they lacked character, especially for the hefty price tags. So to not only discover this relatively new and stylin’ hotel The Surfjack, but discover that it had the name of one of my favourite songs emblazoned on the bottom of the swimming pool, it was definitely a no brainer for me.

Surfjack Waikiki Honolulu Best Hotels lobby

We arrived here for the last few days of our honeymoon, just fresh from 5 nights in Kauai. Having only spent one night in Honolulu on the way into Hawaii (at the aforementioned Royal Hawaiian – or ‘Pink Palace’ as it is affectionately known), we were eager to spend a few more days exploring Waikiki. But then we arrived at The Surfjack and I started to doubt whether we would step foot outside of the hotel, like, ever again.

The bright pop of colours in the surfer retro lobby was enough to make my pulse quicken. It’s situated right next to the ‘swim club’ (yup, the Wish You Were Here pool space) on one side and one of the most adorbs little shops and coffee stops Olive and Oliver (more on that later) on the other. And just in case we were questioning whether or not this place was going to ace the hipster hotel olympics, there was also a pop up design market featuring stylish sunglasses and clothes tucked up behind the pool. The guy (I’m ashamed I don’t remember his name) who checked us in was so super friendly and helpful that we felt welcome as soon as we stepped into the premises.

I was super eager to see the room. And it didn’t disappoint…

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There were so many little touches that made the rooms oh so satisfying. Firstly, the interior design was a seamless extension of the hotel share spaces. The surfer vibe continued with a blue and yellow print headboard, wooden panelling and furniture, illustrated prints on the walls by local artists and a spread of surf/skate culture mags. There was also some complimentary gourmet popcorn and macadamia and coconut cookies, as well as Momo toiletries in the bathroom.

Surfjack

TASTE – Mahini & Sun’s

Back down next to the swimming pool – which really is the central feature that the hotel spins around – is the restaurant Mahini & Sun’s. It’s the fourth restaurant of Hawaiian-born chef Ed Kenney. We also dined at his other restaurant in Kaimuki (another neighbourhood of Honolulu) Mud, Hen, Water – but more on that in another post (coming soon!). I ordered the ‘Sun Bowl’ and a pineapple mint ‘Shaka Tea’, which Phil hated, but I really liked. It was fine, because Phil was more than happy with his local beer from Maui Brewing Co.

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Want to know one of the best things I did in Hawaii? Take a helicopter trip over Kauai! Waterfalls, the dramatic cliffs of the Napali Coast – it’s Jurassic Park country – check it out in my post Kauai from the Skies: A Hawaii Helicopter Tour.

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Brekky at Mahini & Sun’s is great too – a delicious granola and yoghurt (with dragon fruit!) was enjoyed by the pool (Phil had malted waffles which were insane as well) and we also ate in on our last morning and my mild hangover was grateful for the Eggs Sammie! Each morning we had to order our coffees from next door at Olive & Oliver, just because it had been the best coffee we’d had in Hawaii so far, so if you’re on to a good thing…

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KIT – Olive & Oliver

The retail and coffee store attached to the Surfjack felt like it was curated just for me. I wanted to buy almost everything in there, whether it was a Scotch & Soda bag, a cookbook, Surfjack t-shirt or piece of jewellery. What I did buy though, is an Olive & Oliver pink enamel cup covered in pineapples THAT I LOVE and use all the time back home in Sydney.

Surfjack Waikiki Honolulu Best Hotels pool breakfast waffles

I thought when we first checked in that the pool area would be swarming with super fashionable people the whole time we were there. That we could swim, but surely not get one of the shaded reclining chairs, which were all taken for the fist little sunny bit when we arrived. It wasn’t the case at all! On our first full day at the hotel, the sun was out, as were we, chilling by the pool, reading and ordering refreshments from Mahini & Sun’s. Why leave?! So we didn’t. At least not until late in the day.  A bit like our experience at The Slow in Canggu, Bali, there was incredible tunes playing by the pool all day, so expect to Shazam a lot. It definitely gave me some extra tracks to play on my Wanderlust show on Bondi Beach Radio when I returned!

But one of the good things about Surfjack is its close proximity to the beach and main shopping strips of Waikiki. We ducked out to dine at Bill’s, visit the Maui Brewing Co, detour to Kaimuki for Ed Kenney’s other restaurant Mud, Hen, Water, do a little shopping, and sip on some sunset Mai Tais at the Royal Hawaiian – it’s all within easy reach. You should definitely stay there on your next trip to Hawaii!

STAY: The Surfjack, 412 Lewers Street, Honolulu

Surfjack Waikiki Honolulu Best Hotels pool

Love cool hotels? Check out these guys:

The Slow in Canggu, Bali

The Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London

Fjaerland Fjordstove Hotel, Norway

Miss Clara, Stockholm, Sweden

The Atlantic, Byron Bay, Australia

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Surfjack

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 {5}

From Mexico City to Nova Scotia, and Arizona to China – it’s time we took another little flitter (I made that up) across the web to see what adventure goodness we can find…

5_Cabot Trail

Photo credit: This Is The Place I Was Telling You About

TRAVEL – When I was 21, I spent a year in Canada. I was on my way to New York City on September 11, 2001. Yup. We were in Toronto and heading via Niagara Falls to NYC when the World Trade Buildings were hit, which saw us get stranded (poor us) in Canada for 3 weeks. I should tell that story here in more detail at some stage, but what happened was we were left to travel more of the East Coast of Canada than planned. We went as far as Newfoundland via a road-trip on the Cabot Trail. I was delighted to see the beautiful blog This is the Place I Was Telling You About do a piece on the Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia, which stretches up to Cape Breton. Check out their beautiful photos HERE.

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Photo credit: Muji Hotels

STAY – So, friends, who’s keen to rest your weary eyeballs in one of the new Muji hotels? The first of a series of Muji Hotels is set to open on 18th January in Shenzen in China, which is part of a multi-floor building with 79 hotel rooms, a two-floor Muji store and a Muji restaurant. The Beijing outpost will open in March, followed by Ginza in Japan in Spring. I’m super keen to stay in one of these minimalist rooms. One day I might have a bedroom that chill, one day…more details can be found HERE.

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Photo credit: Our Wild Abandon

TRAVEL – I have a blog crush on Our Wild Abandon. It’s written by two American girls Jill and Kyla who sold everything and travel around (North America mainly) in a refurbished trailer. I especially love this post on their journey through Arizona and Utah, recounting tales of a harassing raccoon, dumpster diving, roadside elk and Monument Valley. Read the post I Just Kept Runnin’

5_Copenhagen

Photo credit: Scandinavia Standard

TRAVEL/TASTE – If you missed my posts A Short Guide to Copenhagen, Hotel SP34 or the one of PapirØen Street Food, you could be mistaken for thinking I’m not obsessed with Denmark’s capital. And one of my main arteries into the wonderful land of pastries and bicycles is the must-bookmark Scandinavia Standard, run by two lovely Aussie gals, including Freya McOmish who I interviewed on my Bondi Beach Radio show (and randomly bumped into at Roskilde Festival) and Rebecca Thandi Norman, who wrote this delicious little piece you should definitely check out Best of 2017: New Restaurants, Cafes and Bars in Copenhagen.

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Photo credit: Roads & Kingdoms

GUIDE – I think I may have gone a little Mex loco after watching the fabulous Pixar/Disney production Coco over the break. So, I loved seeing that one of my fave travel sites Roads & Kingdoms has a guide to Mexico City, including a soundtrack of classic Mexican tunes, places to eat and stay, as well as turning some of their usual journalistic flair to an interesting read about mezcal. Check it out here. They also have guides to other locations like Tokyo and Beirut as well!

Found something cool online in the travel space lately? Share it in the links below!

Oh, and if you haven’t already, go and see Coco!

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 Wander in Berowra: Camping and Hiking Near Sydney

New hubby Phil keeps telling me I shouldn’t post about this wild little gem of a camping spot, because why give away a secret sanctuary on the edge of the city that we can keep to ourselves? We even scored a spot here for New Years Eve – two days before the fact.

In his ‘shush’ request, I think he’s (wildly) overestimated my influence, my ability to keep travel secrets and to hold on to my photos for no one to see. Sweetie! *newlywed gush*. OK, back on topic. The campground is called Crosslands Reserve and is tucked into the back of Hornsby Heights, down in the Berowra Valley National Park. It took us less than an hour to get there from central Sydney.

Berowra National Park Camping Sydney Crosslands ReserveBerowra National Park Camping Sydney Crosslands ReserveBerowra National Park Camping Sydney Crosslands ReserveBerowra National Park Camping Sydney Crosslands Reserve

INTERESTED IN HIKES NEAR SYDNEY? Here’s 3 more for your nature fix:

Wild Wander: Bundeena

Wild Wander: Kiama Coast Walk

Wild Wander: Burning Palms

The site is essentially a couple of adjoining parks down in a bush-clad valley with a skirting creek along one side. It was New Years Eve and we were astounded at how much space there was. Given we were planning on a sunrise mission and hiking on New Years Day, we opted for the more family-friendly side of the park, and thought we’d let the younger crew there party at a distance. But seriously, there weren’t too many groups there. A group of twenty-somethings with bell tents and teepees doing headstands by the river, and a larger group of local-looking lads kicking a ball around and drinking beers. Apart from that, it was mainly families and those that would fit into one or two tents. We couldn’t believe it. New. Years. Eve! So I can’t imagine how quiet it is on a normal day.

But the other reason for our shock was this: the place was stunning! It was surrounded by hills of bush, had a nice breeze by the river and was populated as much by birds  (like Australian Wood Ducks and Masked Lapwings) than people. There were no power sites or showers, and you had to carry your gear from the car, but there were plenty of picnic benches and barbecues. We took a short walk to a creek-side viewing platform, returned to set up our tent and settled in to one of said picnic spots.

Berowra National Park Camping Sydney Crosslands Reserve

We cooked a vegetarian barbecue, shared a bottle of red and played trivial pursuit until midnight (look out!), before hitting the sleeping bag (on top, waaaay too hot for inside in a Sydney Summer). We had set our alarm for before sunrise, but we didn’t need to, as the cicadas woke us with their deafening, undulating screeches. There has been a lot of talk about the loud cicadas (males singing for a mate apparently) this year, which are perhaps in plague proportions. Certainly sounded like it on New Years morning, that’s for sure!

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SUNRISE AT BARNETT’S LOOKOUT

I’d read that Barnett’s lookout was one of the best spots in the area for looking out over the valley, and it was a 25 minute drive from Crosslands Reserve (or a 2 1/2 to 3 hour walk, but we didn’t want to do that in the dark in an area we are unfamiliar with). So, we drove back up into the ‘burbs. I’d imagined there would be an eager crowd of bleary-eyed locals and outdoor enthusiasts, budging each other for a partial glimpse of the day rising.

We were the only two there.

It was us and a misty valley view. Us and the wildflowers. Us and the billion cicadas calling out for sexy times (OK, it wasn’t nearly as loud here as back down at camp). Us surrounded by eucalyptus and pale blue sky. Us and the morning calm of a new year.

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WILD WANDER. Mother Nature had other ideas.

Back to Crosslands and we were getting set for a hike. We munched on some muesli bars and fruit, packed lots of water (it was already inching towards 30ºC), and head for the trail at the end of the reserve. The track wound along the river, past the odd rope swing and kayaker. I was on the lookout for snakes. I was grateful that the track was in the shade at this time of the morning. This walk links up with The Great North Track, a 250km nature trail between Sydney and Newcastle.

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In under half an hour, we crossed a steel bridge and came to a magical looking flat covered in reeds, that shone with the subtle glow of the sun. We approached with the giddiness of two lucky folk who had stumbled on a little paradise. But then we were stopped. The river had risen and the wooden footbridge was engulfed in water. To even get within a meter or two of it, we would have been up to our shins in water.

This was exactly where the walking trail split off in two directions, towards Berowra Waters one way, and Mount Ku-ring-gai the other. Both were under water. Crap!

We wanted to go for a lengthy hike, but nature had other ideas. So, we decided to make the best of the situation and slowly saunter back, stopping along the way – by the river or to look at the flora and fauna. Just a minute back up into the track we came across a few Brown Cuckoo Doves, nestling in the trees above. I actually recommend a slow saunter through the wild, taking everything in. The bark, the moss, the flowers, the bugs. The soothing flow of the river. We weren’t too bothered by the turn of events. Did I mention it was approaching 30ºC? Well, it was above that by now.

Berowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking track

We were about to arrive back to the Reserve, when we realised that the creek had risen at the camp end of the track as well. We thought we’d avoided getting wet shoes and ankles, but not so. It was a little gross, but fine, and we had thongs waiting for us at the car (or flip flops if you’re North American, or jandles if you’re from New Zealand). We were actually luckier than others. The big group of lads I mentioned earlier had moved on, due to their whole section of the park being underwater!

Berowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking trackBerowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking track

We made a conscious choice toward having a healthy, nature-filled New Years Eve where we would watch the sun rise on 2018 somewhere beautiful. And that it was. I was pleasantly surprised how close this pristine little utopia is to Sydney and how quiet it was, even at peak holiday time. Oh, and $25.50 for the night ain’t bad either!

NEED TO KNOW

Where: Crosslands Reserve, Hornsby Heights. Part of the Berowra Valley National Park.

Cost: $25.50 for one site

Getting there: 50 minutes north of Sydney city along the M1 and M2. The campground is at the end of Somerville Road in Hornsby Heights.

You’ll love: The quiet, the bird life, the calming river, the proximity to Sydney

Not so much: The cicadas in summer, the river flooding

Take: Barbecue food, bug spray, ear plugs (in summer – this is for the cicadas), camp lights, your hiking shoes and your camera!

Also check out: Barnett’s Lookout

Oh, and: check this site for swimming conditions. It said (and does still) to swim at your own risk in this area

 

Berowra National Park Sydney Crosslands Reserve walking track

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Berowra National Park Sydney Best camping hiking spots close to

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 stay in touch!

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

Bali Cool: The Slow, Canggu

In room tunes curated by the Allah-Las, Japanese minimalism meets surfer chic design, a restaurant with an ex-Rockpool chef at the helm, and smack bang in the heart of Canggu – there is loads to love about The Slow: Island Stay.

I was lucky enough to interview co-owner (of Ksubi label fame) George Gorrow for my Bondi Beach Radio show while I was staying here. He’s a stylish, laid back guy originally from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, who now calls Bali home and lives there with his young family.

“It was actually going to be our dream island home,” explains Gorrow, who bought the place for such a purpose, but after returning back here after a lengthy stint in New York, realised that Canggu had become suddenly hugely popular. It instead became the ‘Island Stay’, and we’re not complaining. This place is ace.

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

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The Slow Canggu Best Hotels BaliThe Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

AESTHETICS

The Slow is unique, it’s stylish as hell, comfortable, has well-curated snacks and toiletries, the rooms were large and the materials are mindful of the tropical location – polished concrete floors, stone walls.

“The design is a collaboration between me and a young architect called Rieky Sunur,” says Gorrow, “who is an ultra-minimalist kinda cat and it’s a collision of both of our styles. But I just wanted mainly to create an overall space that had such diversity so you could experience multiple experiences within the one space. So from the look of the rooms through to the halls to this room we’re sitting in now which is our gallery space, to the main dining to retail store to everything.”

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels BaliThe Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

One of the first things you notice when you enter The Slow (well, for us it was the huge storm cracking through Canggu, but then…) is the kick-arse photography that lines the walls of each space you move between. It’s rare that I’ve had as much envy of someone’s collection of art as this. There are nudes underwater, someone breaking through glass, a bedroom strung with off-kilter punk posters. And these are all pieces from George’s personal stash.

“I have a certain style when I curate something and each piece has to be bold, it has to say something…it has a bit of the punk attitude of life that I used to live – the search for endless fun – that’s what I look for in each piece,” he says.

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels BaliThe Slow Canggu Best Hotels BaliThe Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

This hotel is minimalist, yes, but I love the use of textures – the bedspreads, rugs, rattan chairs. It keeps it from being anything but flat. In room, I can’t resist trying on one of the tribal necklaces hanging in the washroom. It’s spikey and almost a boob weapon. It threatens to dig in. Looks cool as hell though.

The Slow Canggu Best Hotels BaliThe Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali cafe

Breakfast is the goods (I talk about it in detail in the post 9 Best Spots to Eat and Drink in Canggu, Bali), but I’m equally infatuated with the earthy, modern ceramics its served on.

The indoor/outdoor nature of the space means you hear the buzz of the street outside, motorbikes zipping by mainly. The Slow is right on one of the main streets of Canggu after all (Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong) which is a main artery to the beach. It’s common to see surfboards strapped to the sides of motorbikes and pushies, heading directly towards the swell.

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IN-ROOM TUNES

One thing I’ve never really experienced anywhere else is the curated music across the whole hotel – including in the rooms. You can turn it up or turn it down, but you can’t switch it to another channel or style of music. And YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO! As this is the coolest hotel playlist of all time. HOW? It’s curated by none other than LA band Allah-Las.

“The music is from our friends the band Allah-Lahs,” says Gorrow. “They formed a radio station called Reverberation Radio – they do a weekly podcast, it’s incredible…they created the whole sound for the place.”

Don’t stay in this hotel without the Shazam app on your phone, and become a Reverberation regular listener, whether you stay here or not. The music curation is that good. And it really sets the vibe for the place. Laid back, coastal, a bit exotic.

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Bali was a combination of steamy and stormy while we were in Canggu, which seemed like as good an excuse as any to hang in the room a lot. The air con works a treat and we could watch the storms through the wooden slats that ran along the windows. The location is so close to many of the best restaurants and shops in town, so we tended to duck in and duck out.

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The Food

“The restaurant is one of the reasons this place existed,” said Gorrow, “because growing up some of my great friends were Shannon and Dan Moran and they were some of the best chefs around – at Rockpool, and then as heads of the Como group. And I always said if I was ever going to do something in hospitality it had to be this – there’s no point opening a restaurant if you can’t serve the best food.”

“The stars aligned and it just so happened that Shannon was moving to Bali and he wanted to start something new and he wanted to do something fresh. The restaurant was formed basically off the back of that.”

And I’m so glad that they did. The food is not only outrageously delicious, George tells me it’s also good for you.

“Our food is what we call ‘sane food’ which is the opposite to ‘insane food’, it’s high in nutrition, it’s healthy, it’s non-fad, it’s based on seasonal produce, it’s all local.”

The restaurant is also open to the public, so even if you aren’t lucky enough to bed down at The Slow, you should definitely dine here.

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If you’ve heard of better digs than The Slow: Island Stay in Canggu, I’d like to hear about it, but I’ll still probably stay at The Slow 😉

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The Slow Canggu Best Hotels Bali

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 stay in touch!

Helicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast jagged cliffs

Kauai from the Skies – a Hawaii Helicopter Tour

The sweet icing on our Hawaiian honeymoon adventure was flying above the waterfalls, canyons and jagged cliffs of Kauai. Putting aside my slightly claustrophobic tendencies to strap into a wee little flying craft and soar over this luscious, ‘Garden Isle’ was proof that some of the best things in life come from taking your fear by the short and curlies.

Despite said apprehension, I had originally wanted to take a helicopter trip with the doors off (for best photos of o’course!), but as is often my fly-by-seat (soz about that) way, they were all booked out when. So we reserved first class tickets (means you sit up front with the pilot) at Sunshine Helicopters instead. Leaving it a little late had its benefits though, as Kauai is the green isle for a reason – it rains here a lot and flights were cancelled on our first couple of days on the island. Despite a mild bit of spitting on the windscreen at one point, we had clear skies and low wind, allowing us to reach even the highest point of Kauai, where we skimmed over the wild mountain peaks with views out to the coast.

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This is Jurassic Park country (like, they actually filmed it here), and one of the first tree-topped plains that we hovered over was where the main T-Rex chase scene was shot. But the real exhilaration came for me as we began to glide closer and closer to the mountains, drifting up and over the crests of these grand beauties. We began to turn past waterfalls that spilled into blue pools below. Waterfalls, lush vegetation, a goddamn rainbow – are you kidding me?! I was elated.

Before long our young pilot Matt, who spoke with a Hawaiian surfer accent (like if someone was doing sign language along to him, it would probs be one shaka after another) was navigating us through the valleys of Waimea Canyon with its sloping ochre rock dusted in contrasting greenery. We had stood before the canyon at the tourist lookout the day before, but from the air you got a better sense of the vastness of this 10 mile (16 kms) long, 3,000 feel high gorge.

Helicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter Kauai Sunshine Hawaii mountain topHelicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast bestHelicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter Kauai Sunshine Hawaii Na pali Coast 2Helicopter Kauai Sunshine Hawaii Na pali Coast cliffs 2Helicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast I can pretty accurately pin my desire to go to Hawaii on the images I have seen of the Nepali Coast on Kauai. My heart attaches to mountains. They are a vivid, towering reminder that the world is immense and beautiful and so much bigger than the little world of my day-to-day concerns. I feel giddy and overwhelmed by them in the best possible way. So the coast-side green-clad jagged peaks of Kauai felt like a bit of a pilgrimage I’ve been wanting to take for some time. Next time I plan to walk them, but to fly into the their very valleys was an unspeakable excitement for this nature geek.

Helicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast jagged cliffs Taking a turn out to the ocean, excitement gathered in the helicopter as two whales playfully started slapping and twisting and waving at us! The pilot said they weren’t usually around that early, “but, we’ll take it!” So, here we were, gliding past the Napali Coast – one of the world’s most incredible mountain vistas to one side, straight ocean off to the other – in which whales were dancing about below us. When people say that taking a helicopter here is a ‘must-do thing’, or whatever, LISTEN!

Helicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter tour Hawaii Kauai Sunshine napali coast waimeaHelicopter Kauai Sunshine Hawaii mountain best views detailsHelicopter Kauai Sunshine Hawaii Na pali Coast highest point

The final feature to the tour was ascending to the pinnacle of Kauai. As we flew higher and higher we came to a lofty mountain face. The nose of the helicopter pointed towards it and we rose up steadily. Up here it was sprinkling. But Matt was confident and he rose up to the tip of the pike and we flew over, into an elevated wonderland that felt like a secret oasis. It was breathtaking. As we made towards home base, we couldn’t stop grinning. Bashful, kid-in-a-candy-store grins.

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The deets: Our one hour tour with Sunshine Helicopters cost us around US$200 each. We also splurged and spent $60 on a video of the trip, because once our feet were on land, we knew that may well have been one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. Sunshine were great – the whole experience was easy and the staff were friendly Kauai locals who knew the island intimately. Nah, this is not an affiliate post, just my two cents.

Have you been on a helicopter or small plane trip somewhere in the world? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, as I really want to do more!

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Kauai Helicopter

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 stay in touch!

 

Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel, Norway

Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel – one of my faves of all the hotels over all the years – features 15 cute, white rooms, an on-site restaurant serving up appetising Nordic cuisine, and a welcoming owner who really is living out his picket-fenced dream – and inviting you to be a part of it.

Do people still harbour the ‘white, picket-fence house’ dream from the 1950s or whenever? Pretty sure for my friends (in Sydney at least), it has been downsized to the ‘owning real estate at all’ dream. Either way, if you’re not there yet, you should consider finding a homely, white hotel in which to live out these fantasies – even if for a little while. Like, perhaps one that hangs over the water in the fjords of Western Norway, that has a bright, window-encased sitting room with little book stacks on the sills.

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Charming Communal Spaces

I couldn’t stop gushing at the front sitting room, with it’s large windows that keep the fjord in view, cosy chairs and scattered stacks of books – this is, after all, book town! Of an evening, prior to dinner, the owner gathers the hotel guests together and chats about the hotel, as well as Fjaerland and some of the history of the area. It makes for an intimate and friendly stay. It is he and his wife who curated the lovely, old-world interiors. The first thing they did upon purchasing the building was paint the interior and exterior white, based on the dream of owning a white hotel. Another feature is artworks depicting the surrounding nature and old maps.

Fordstue Fjaerland Norway fjordstove best hotels fjordsFordstue Fjaerland Norway fjordstove best hotels fjords

Nordic Cuisine at the In-House Restaurant

The outstanding restaurant on-site leaves you with little reason to leave the hotel looking for a meal. The Nordic cuisine (which at the time had an Australian head chef) utilises fresh and local ingredients. The owner, Bård Huseby, actually works on a research project at University to do with food sustainability in Norway, so he is passionate about sourcing the best ingredients and it shows in the food dished up here. They also catered to our vegetarian tastes. We devoured the seasonal root vegetables, burnt broccoli, smoked cheese and honey dish as well as the sublime brown butter ice-cream with apple and hazelnuts! And if you do have more carnivore-leaning tastes, there was also wild deer on the menu. We also couldn’t resist the wine list comprising of drops from Bordeaux in France. It’s a good idea to book ahead, even if you are not staying with them (and especially if you have specific food requirements), as they tend to fill up nightly.

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You’ll notice the white balcony of the Fjordstue from the ferry as you dock in Fjærland. It makes you eager to perch above the water and watch the nature rising upward, preferably with a drink in hand (we recommend the home brew!). It feels strange to say that this is a small town, given the scale of the enormous mountains that surround you, and the almost incomprehensibly huge Jostedalsbreen Glacier nearby. And while you can get active and hike or kayak or visit the glacier (more about that in this previous Fjærland post), it is also a nice spot to   s l o w  d o w n   and just wander the bookstores or curl up by the window and daydream.

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Scandi Minimalist Rooms

I booked one night, then later thought ‘who the hell am I kidding? It’s a book town in the mountains!‘ and booked a second. For that reason, we got to try two different rooms in the hotel, both of which were clean, bright, cosy and super cool – in that Scandi-meets-Japanese minimalist way. The white walls and wooden paneling was fresh, but the signature touches were the textures that brought in the comfy element – a knitted cushion or faux fur throw for the chair, or light, linen curtains framing the window. Simple and stylish.

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Fordstue Fjaerland Norway fjordstove best hotels fjords

Hotel owner Bård Huseby

A stay here really is the stuff of dreams. I’d happily wake up to jam-covered waffles and a fjord view any day of the year. It kind of brought back a longing for a picket-fence place of my own. Nah, I’ll just come back and visit this one as often as I can.

A few things to note – there is a gorgeous, library-themed room that appeals to the literary nerd who also loves interiors (me!), but it was booked out when I was heading there – next time it’s totally mine! Also, the hotel is open every day from May to September, and only by request during the colder months – don’t forget it’s right near a huge glacier, so the area is covered in snow outside of the spring and summer period.

Want more? Check out Fjærland: Norway’s book town deep in the fjords

Have you stayed in a dreamy hotel? Let me know about it in the comments below!

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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 stay in touch!