Browsing articles in "Travel"
Apr 22, 2014

Travel Guide: Swansea and Richmond, Tasmania

We arise early for our scenic drive to Swansea, about 2 hours and 15mins drive from Port Arthur. Swansea is a small town located halfway between Hobart and Launceston on Tasmania’s east coast and overlooks Freycinet National Park


Kate’s Berry Farm

Before we arrive in the heart of Swansea, we take a pitt stop at Kate’s Berry Farm. Located 3 km south of the Swansea township, you couldn’t ask for a more scenic position – her shop overlooks rows of berries to breathtaking views across Great Oyster Bay!




Kate warmly greets us and her passion and enthusiasm for her business is immediately evident. She began her berry farm in the late 80s, seeing an opportunity to make the most of Tasmania’s cool climate berries (at the time the only berries sold on the East Coast were imported from interstate). It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Kate due to being regarded as an “outsider” by the close knit community (she was originally from Victoria), a fair dose of sexism (a female farmer?!) and budget issues, but her Berry Farm is the result of hard work, perseverance and a lot of business savvy


Her original store was a fraction of the size it is today, and she initially sold only jams and ice creams. Today she creates a huge array of jams (with sugar-free options), chocolates, sauces, jellies, sorbet and desserts including freshly baked hot scones, waffles and fruit pies.


Here I am looking very happy with my jar of Mingleberry Jam – it’s one of her bestsellers and contains raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.


Kate's Berry Farm on Urbanspoon

We continue our drive to the heart of Swansea, taking a quick photo stop at The Spiky Bridge. Constructed in 1843 by convicts, this bridge’s unique spiky design is allegedly to stop cows from falling off the bridge into the gully below. So there you go.



We explore Swansea’s township on a gorgeous sunny day, and thoroughly enjoy poking through its’ shops and spending up a storm!



I had a great time in Posh Garage, and came out with a vintage set of kitchen scales, teacup and apron.


We also discovered lovely local arts and crafts at Onyx Providore, and I bought a beautifully handcrafted Huon Pine rolling pin. And before we knew it, it was lunch time.



The Ugly Duck Out

We are greeted warmly by Robyn, who explains The Ugly Duck Inn serves fresh local produce, offering a menu full of globally-inspired cuisine made with organic, GM free, fair trade food.


My friend selects the Fish of the Day ($19), and despite it being lunch time, I can’t go past their famous all-day breakfast. The Quesadilla ($20) features local bacon, egg, cheese and chilli beans between two tortillas. It’s fried until crispy hot and served with sour cream and smoked chilli salsa.

We also got to sample some amazing local Tasmanian ice cream from Pyengana – the flavours were bush pepper, wattle seed, lemon myrtle, chocolate and red berry sorbet. So unique and so quintessentially Tasmanian! Alas there was no stomach room for Robyn’s amazing-looking apple pie :(


Rocky Hills Retreat

We drive out of Swansea to check into our accommodation, Rocky Hills Retreat, for the night. We nervously drive our hire car 2 kilometres up a gravelly dirt driveway, wondering where on earth we’re heading, and if our car will actually make it to the top.


The ocean gets further and further away until we are on top of the mountain, surrounded by bush.


Eventually a structure appears in the distance and we whoop with joy. It also looks like a compound and we curiously open the front door to see what lays inside…


…and it’s nothing short of amazing. Windows wrap around 3/4 of the building, showing off its’ gorgeous views of 250 acres of Tasmanian bush and the ocean in the distance. The bed is a plush king size bed with a curtain hanging from the ceiling to separate you from the open plan layout if need be.


There is a large dining area and modern kitchen filled with thoughtful provisions such as tea, coffee, muesli with yogurt, fresh fruit, eggs and bacon. The lounge area is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery, but if you get bored of that, there is a carefully curated selection of books and music to keep you entertained.



We also got a complimentary bottle of champagne! We popped the cork and then assembled ourselves a cheese board to indulge a little before dinner (as clearly we hadn’t done enough eating or drinking on the trip…)


We took our glasses of champagne outside and filled the custom built Huon Pine bath tub with water outside on the deck to splash our feet in. This is the life!


We then head to our private fully equipped art studio (yes, really) set in an old church, located just 300 metres away.


It has stunning stained glass windows, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and is decked out with equipment for you to draw, paint, sculpt, knit, read or simply just relax.



I awoke the next morning to watch the sunrise from bed, it was truly spectacular.


I also got to practice some morning yoga, thanks to the yoga mats thoughtfully provided. It truly was the most incredible and indulgent place I have ever stayed at. Next time I need at least a week!


The Banc Restaurant

Dinner tonight is at The Banc, a Modern Australian restaurant offering up dishes based around local produce from Tasmania’s East Coast.


The food was outstanding, we started off with a prawn and minted-pea risotto with charred lemon snow pea tendrils ($14.50) to share, and I swear I could have eaten 4 plates of this. Both our mains were similarly impressive, with a 220 g Eye fillet steak with twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé, red wine glazed shallots, asparagus spears and jus ($32) and the pan-roasted chicken breast with honey truffle pistachios, parmesan herb custard and glazed Dutch carrots ($28).

We were full and could barely finish our mains, but I soldiered on and ordered dessert. The strawberry cheesecake ($9.50) was heavenly, not too sweet and with crunchy pieces of white chocolate throughout.


We were treated to a lovely sunset on our last night in Swansea.


Banc on Urbanspoon

Felicity’s Antiques, Vintage & Tea Room

We go to Felicity’s for a late breakfast the next day, and arrive at a gorgeous house with panoramic views of the ocean.



The house is stuffed full with antiques, vintage fashion and bric-a-brac to poke through. Felicity’s is run by a lovely couple, and while we didn’t get to meet Felicity herself, her husband was more than happy to take care of us. The homemade food is superb and he was very friendly.


As we were approaching morning tea time, we order rare beef sandwiches and a ham, cheese and tomato toastie. Both are simple and delicious and hit the spot. I can never turn down a scone, and soon tea arrives, along with jam and cream served in seashells!



We get back in the car and drive 1.5 hours to our final destination, Richmond. Richmond is regarded as Tasmania’s most important historic town, famous for its Georgian architecture. We explored galleries, teashops, boutique stores and museums and indulged in some local food and wine (of course).

Apparently Gollywogs are now a thing again (at least in Richmond), we saw them in quite a few stores! Sweets and Treats is an old school lolly store packed full of nostalgic delights.


My favourite store was Ally and Me, and it was filled to the brim with Funkis, terrariums and jewellery strung from tree branches. It was like a little bit of Paddington in Richmond.


We then walk to the iconic Richmond Bridge. Built in 1823 by convicts, Richmond Bridge is Australia’s oldest bridge still in use. The bridge is picture-perfect and framed with purple agapanthus plants.


We finish the afternoon off at Richmond Wine Centre, enjoying a few glasses of wine and a tasty meal in the outdoor dining area. We ate bruschetta topped with tomato salsa ($9), Barilla Bay oysters (½ dozen for $17.00), a fresh garden salad with chicken ($17) and fries ($6). We then head to the airport and sadly bid Tasmania adieu!


This Tasmania adventure was one of the most amazing and memorable trips I’ve ever taken and I hope I’ve inspired you to check out this beautiful state as well! There is still so much I want to experience in Tassie, and I am sure I will be back soon.

Make sure you check out my guide to Hobart, Bruny Island and Port Arthur and watch my video too!

Love Swah + 1 travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism Tasmania 


Apr 13, 2014

Travel Guide: Port Arthur, Tasmania

Port Arthur Historic Site

Port Arthur is a small town located on the Tasman peninsula steeped in history. Historically as a former convict settlement and more recently as the scene of a devastating massacre. It provides a unique insight into colonial history in Australia and is, in my opinion, an unmissable stop when visiting Tasmania.


It was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, sent here by boat from 1833, until 1853. We heard tales of punishing labour, disease and the conditions they lived in and treatment endured during this period in Australia. It’s probably of little surprise, given its history, that this site is famous for ghost sightings, and you can’t help but feel an eerie presence when exploring the historic buildings.



We set aside the better part of a day to explore this historic site, which has over 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes, set in 40 hectares of landscaped grounds. I highly recommend taking a guided walking tour, and for the brave, a ghost tour at night (I was not brave).



For an extra fee, you can get on a cruise to the Isle of the Dead and take a guided tour of Port Arthur’s island burial ground (pictured), or visit Point Puer Boys Prison, the first reformatory built exclusively for juvenile male convicts.


Stewarts Bay Lodge

After a big day of exploring, learning and reflecting, we drive to our nearby accommodation - Stewarts Bay Lodge. Nestled snuggly between a beach, a forest, the ocean, a national park and Port Arthur, it sounds like the perfect destination to unwind.



Stewarts Bay Lodge features five fully self-contained cabins, from 1-3 bedroom cottages, to deluxe spa cottages. This was the view from my bed :)


Before dinner we head off on a walk through the forest to the beach as dusk fell.



On our way back to the lodge we came across this little fella! Any ideas what species? I initially thought he was a Pademelon, however after further Googling, I believe this is a Potoroo (aka the rat-kangaroo!) We actually saw a LOT of Potoroos in Tasmania, alas this was the only live one. Potoroos are not good at crossing roads it turns out.


Taylor’s Waterfront Restaurant

Our tummies now hungry from our big walk, we arrive at Taylor’s Waterfront Restaurant, attached to Stewarts Bay Lodge, for dinner. We enjoy a glass of wine and look over the water as the sun sets.


We peruse the menu for a while, choosing from a selection of modern Australian dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Highlights included the Tasmanian Scotch Fillet Steak with Herbed Mash, Roasted Beetroot and Red Wine Jus ($33) and the Rannoch Farm Quail, Vanilla and Parsnip Puree with Wilted Greens ($18).


We finished off our meals with a slice of Limoncello Infused Curd Tart ($16) and a Vanilla & Honey Panna Cotta Berry Compote ($16). We return to our lodge for the evening and fall asleep to the sound of nature.


This is the 3rd instalment of my guides to Tasmania. Find Hobart here and Bruny Island here.

Love Swah + 1 travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism Tasmania 


Mar 21, 2014

Travel Guide: Bruny Island, Tasmania

It was our second day in Tasmania (read about Day 1 in Hobart here) and we were off to Bruny Island! Known as a food lovers paradise, it is home to numerous local producers and includes a cheese factory, oyster farm, vineyard, smokehouse and much much more. Bruny Island is made up of a North and South Island which are separated by a narrow strip of land called “The Neck”. Access to the island is by car ferry departing from Kettering, taking around 15 minutes.

It was about a 30 minute drive to Kettering from Hobart, and we arrived on a gorgeously sunny day at the wharf to make the Bruny Island Ferry crossing.


Once on dry land, we start our drive to foodie stop #1, taking in the gorgeous scenery around us.



We arrive at our first destination, Bruny Island Smokehouse, still a bit full from breakfast but ready to taste up a storm!  Located at 360 Lennon Road, North Bruny, the Smokehouse resides in a beautiful stone building, made with timbers and stone from the property.


A tasting board was presented to us on the most gorgeous slab of engraved Tasmanian wood. We sampled a selection of smoked trout, salmon, quail, chorizo and wallaby (which was delicious!) along with an array of tasty chutneys.


Our next stop on our island food journey was Get Shucked, located at 1735 Bruny Island Main Road, Great Bay. The owner, Joe, kindly sat down with us and told us about the history of his business and his passion for locally sourced food is evident.

He offered us a huge selection of oysters, including Oyster Wontons (wrapped in wonton pastry, deep fried and served with wasabi cream), Mother in Laws Kilpatrick (cooked in the shell and topped with Marie T’s worcestershire sauce and Bruny Island Foods bacon) and Asian Fusion (a panko crumbed oyster sitting on a nest of rice noodle salad, topped with a tasty dressing).

You can sample all these and more on the Get Shucked Platter ($45).


I think I died and went to heaven when I arrived at Bruny Island Cheese Co, 1807 Bruny Island Main Road, Great Bay. The walls are lined with condiments, cheese and wine, and the bench is laid out with a delicious array of cheeses to sample.


This artisan cheese maker makes and matures their cheeses from both cows’ and goats’ milk using traditional techniques.


We ummed and aahed over the lunch menu for quite a while, finally settling on the highly recommended Baked Otto served with sourdough bread and pear relish ($24), which is a simple fresh cheese wrapped in locally made Prosciutto and then baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes until oozy and delightful.

Our second selection was rumoured to be “the best toasted sandwich you’ll ever have”, so we had to try the sourdough toastie with traditional ham, raw milk cheese and good mustard ($8.50). It definitely is up there with the best!


We took a well-deserved waddle through the bushland after our cheese-filled lunch in search of The Neck lookout at the game reserve. As it turned out, the signage was wrong and we were in fact nowhere near the lookout! At least we got a nice walk. The weather forecast had predicted high winds and storms, and as we stared up at the impossibly perfect blue sky and felt the hot sun against our skin, we assumed they had gotten it wrong.


(And I was, of course, dressed inappropriately for bushwalking.)


We eventually made it to The Neck lookout. See those grey clouds overhead? Ok, so maybe the weather bureau knew what they were talking about. The Neck is a narrow strip of land that connects the North and South parts of Bruny Island, offering 360 degree views of the water. The Lookout is very high up, and very exposed. And that is when we got hit by the storm.

We foolishly thought we could beat the looming clouds, running up those timber stairs as fast as our legs could carry us, so we could take a few snaps before the rain started. We arrived at the top, huffing and puffing. We could actually see the rain quickly approaching us over the water, lightning forking into the sea below. It started to get close, really close. I was worried about my freshly blow-dried hair. And then suddenly, all of us on the viewing platform were hit with such a force we were thrown against the handrail.

RUN! Go go! I remember a man near us shouting. I tried to run down the stairs, but the force of the wind was so strong I was pressed up against the handrail. Sand blasted against our bodies painfully and soon hail belted us too. Every few seconds I managed to take another step down the stairs before the wind got too strong and smashed me against the handrail again. We were soaked to the bone within 30 seconds. It felt like an eternity but we eventually made it to the bottom of the stairs. There were several people at the bottom, worriedly checking we were ok. We had lost the two people behind us (they were small, we think they must have laid low until the storm passed).


Naturally I had to take a selfie when we were back in the safety of the car. And yes, my hair was ruined.


Cold, wet and shivering, we drove to the nearest cafe for shelter and warmth. But oh, a giant tree had fallen across the road which was the only way off the island. Thank god for handy Tasmanian men, their ropes and large vehicles. 15 minutes later they had dragged the tree off the road and we were moving again!

Unfortunately all the power had been cut to the island due to the storm. The winds were still strong and we were nervous about the debris flying everywhere. We had to abandon plans of visiting the lighthouse and drove to the ferry to leave early.


On our approach to the ferry terminal, we noticed a line of cars. A very long line. We sat in our car, unmoving, for over 2 hours. Something was definitely wrong. Eventually a raincoat-clad lady approached our car, explained the roof of the cafe had been blown off and landed on the jetty, meaning no one could get on or off the ferry. I was starting to feel like we were on an episode of Lost. The island didn’t want us to leave.

Fast forward another hour, we’d made it onto the ferry and arrived back on the main land safe! The news that night was dominated by storm news, with winds being clocked up to 150km/hour. And we just happened to be in literally the worst place to experience it. But what a great story we had to tell!

Love Swah + 1 travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism Tasmania 


Mar 14, 2014

Discover Tasmania’s South with Love Swah

I used a Go Pro for the first time during my fantastic trip to Tasmania and here is the result! It’s a great little video that sums up the gorgeous scenery, delicious food and near-perfect weather (except the storm… more on that later) that we experienced in Southern Tasmania.

Part 1 of my Tasmania guide is here featuring my Guide to Hobart. Stay tuned for my Bruny Island guide next week!


Feb 26, 2014

Travel Guide: Hobart

I visited Tasmania once as a child. I have vague memories of staggering up Cradle Mountain at my parent’s request, blinking back tears at Port Arthur and trying, in vain, to spot Tassie Devils. Roll the clock forward many years, and with Tasmania’s booming foodie scene, my new appreciation for “getting back to nature” and the recently opened MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art), this destination was suddenly high on my radar again.


We landed at Hobart Airport, bright eyed and bushy tailed and excited to explore some of what Tasmania had to offer. We hired a car at the airport, definitely the easiest and most flexible way to get around Tasmania.


Only a 15 minute drive later (god I love small destinations) we arrive at our hotel, Somerset on the Pier, which is literally on the pier with gorgeous views of the harbour.


Our spacious room was split level, with kitchen, bathroom and living areas downstairs, and our beds upstairs. I could easily have spent a week here!


Salamanca Market

But alas there was no time to continue enjoying our quarters – we had “work” to do! First stop, Salamanca Market. Salamanca Market is of Australia’s best known outdoor markets, and is home to over 300 stalls selling fresh produce, arts & crafts, fashion and an array of tasty snacks.


Our tummies were rumbling, so we started off at the crepe stall, purchasing several savoury crepes (the salsa they serve them with is delicious) and of course a Nutella crepe, as it would be rude not to.


It would probably be of no surprise to you that my favourite stall at Salamanca was the succulent store! These mini succulents planted in egg shells were my favourite (and what a great idea!) as well as the settings planted in vintage boxes, complete with mini mushrooms and a ladybug.

There was also a huge array of homemade clothing, ceramics and wood work, and beautiful, fresh produce for sale.




MONA - Museum of Old and New Art

Our next stop was what I was looking forward to most – MONA! MONA is Australia’s largest private museum located on the Berriedale peninsula, a 30 minute ferry ride from Hobart.


Even getting to MONA is fun – we board a ferry painted in camouflage and ride along on deck with sheep and cow figurines. Graffiti graces the walls and I admire the birdcage (with live bird) as we sip our drinks from the on-board cafe/bar.


The view from MONA was spectacular and we were treated to lovely weather. Thank you Tasmania!



MONA houses a huge array of ancient, modern and contemporary art presented in a stunningly-designed building – for example the lowest floor at the Museum is 14 metres below ground and was carved out of a 240-million-year-old sandstone quarry!



Some of my favourites included Tessa Farmer’s “The Depraved Pursuit of a Possum” which features insects and arachnids set upon a skull. Beautiful and macabre.


data.tron by Ryoji Ikeda was another of my favourites, featuring a huge darkened room lined with projectors with moving text.


And last but certainly not least, possibly MONA’s most infamous installation – “Cloaca Professional” by Wim Delvoye. An installation that accurately reproduces the human digestive system step-by-step and produces… yep you got it, poop. It did not smell great. However, it was fascinating and the machine was quite beautiful to look at.


After several hours of checking out the fascinating exhibitions in the dark rabbit warren of MONA, we break for air at the top and locate the MONA Wine Bar. It features a deck with a nice view, Moorilla wine, Moo Brew beers plus a selection of other craft wines, ales and spirits.



The Wine Bar has a great range of tasty snacks to enjoy, including oysters, charcuterie and wood-fired pizzas. We enjoyed a cheese plate and some olives with parmesan biscuits, washed down with a glass of prosecco.


The Mill on Morrison

We arrive back on dry land in Hobart and head to dinner, which is just around the corner from our apartment. The Mill on Morrison is a tapas and wine bar, and our hungry tummies eagerly await.


Feeling pretty tired after our big day, my friend mentioned she felt like an espresso martini, and lo-and-behold, they have an entire menu dedicated to them!

I stuck with the classic, an Original Sin, whilst my friend braved the Devil’s Elixir with contained house infused chilli vodka, Cointreau, chilli infused sugar syrup and espresso. We were awake!


There is a LOT to choose from on the menu, and we go with the $45pp tapas banquet option (there is also a $35pp lighter option, or a $65pp more extensive version).

Highlights of the huge array of food we snacked on included the artichoke and pyengana tasty cheddar pinxtos ($3 each) and corn chips topped with shredded paprika chicken ($5 for a serve of 2).


The arancini balls of the day ($4 each) were chorizo and onion – I loved their flavoursome filling and crunchy outside, but I found the breadcrumbs were over seasoned. The pork belly and apple slaw ($16) was another standout, with the slaw being a nice reprieve from the rich and fatty pork belly. And that crackle, oh that crackle.


We also enjoyed other tapas including croquettes, zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and pesto, char-grilled chorizo, chicken wings and a goats cheese semolina gnocci.

Our only problem was a huge portion of the banquet menu was deep fried with little fresh vegetable accompaniment. Whilst everything was absolutely delicious, next time I would choose the dishes myself, including some lighter options and a salad to break it up. We were so full I couldn’t even make the most of the extensive sundae menu! Looks like I’ll have to return :)

The Mill on Morrison on Urbanspoon

Jackman & McRoss

We arrive at Jackman & McRoss the next morning for breakfast, which is located in Battery Point, one of Hobart’s oldest and most historic areas. This gorgeous bakery is chock full of delicious pastries, breads, desserts and much much more, and I spend a good amount of time staring into the display cases.

jackman-mcross jackman-mcross-inside

Service was super friendly and attentive and our well-priced coffees and food were swiftly delivered. I went for the asparagus, brie, potato & red pepper frittata ($9) whilst my friend ordered the scrambled eggs wrapped in salmon on Danish pastry ($11). Hello decadence! We are starting to notice a “large portion” trend in Tasmania, and once again we fail to finish our delicious meals.


Jackman & Mcross Bakery on Urbanspoon


I’ve heard good things about Smolt being one of Hobart’s top restaurants and was pleased to check it out. All the staff were so friendly, our waiter even offering to move us to a different table when we were cold and offered a sweater when we politely declined (it’s meant to be summer, Tasmania!!)


We started off our meal with 2 salads which induced much umming and ahhing with delight. On the left we have the jamon serrano, local pickled pear, smoked almond and shallot vinaigrette ($19.90). On the right was the roasted beetroot, asparagus, artichoke, caramelised pumpkin puree, Kettering grown hazelnuts and goat curd salad ($19.50). Both dishes were stunning and a great start to our meal.


On to mains now and I had the locally farmed lamb leg primal, seasonal spring vegetables, smoky eggplant puree, chilli, garlic and anchovy dressing ($36.90). The lamb was cooked to perfection and the crisp roasted vegetables made a perfect accompaniment. I’m not a huge fan of anchovies but that flavour was subtle in the sauce. My friend had the house made pappardelle with lamb ragu, tomato, garlic and reggiano ($28.90). I know this is a weird thing to say, but I don’t really like pasta. However this pasta was honestly, absolutely delicious. The meaty sauce was chunky and flavoursome, the pasta cooked to perfect al dente and it avoided the temptation of being drowned in cheese.


Smolt on Urbanspoon

Machine Laundry Cafe

It’s our final day in Hobart (sad face) and we head to Salamanca Square which is full of rows of sandstone buildings and contains numerous restaurants, galleries, craft shops and offices – and our breakfast location!


Machine Laundry Cafe is located in the corner of Salamanca Square and is bright and colourful – you can even do your washing whilst you eat breakfast if you so please. We got there early, but the place quickly filled up which indicated the great meal we were about to enjoy.


Our coffees arrived in colourful mugs and saucers, filled with strong and flavoursome liquid that helped us conquer the lengthy and tempting looking menu.


We fortunately made very good choices and this is possibly going down as one of my favourite breakfasts… EVER (big call, I know).

On the left we have the “Fat Boy” ($17) which is the weirdest, most wonderful breakfast concoction ever invented. It features a roti bread wrapped around grilled chicken, bacon, tomato and iceberg lettuce, then drowned in spicy peanut sauce. I am drooling just thinking about it. It was a great Eastern twist on a classic Western breakfast dish.

Our other delicious breakfast option was “The Old New Egg Dish” ($14 + $3.5 for crispy pancetta) which included scrambled eggs with fetta on garlic sourdough with beetroot relish and wild rocket. Once again both dishes were too big to finish, but god we tried, and remembered at the end there is actually an option on the menu to request a small serve of any dish for $2 less. What a great idea! I wish more places would do this.


Machine Laundry Cafe on Urbanspoon

And so that amazing meal concludes my whirlwind tour of Hobart. I definitely feel like I need to return, yet again, to discover more of what Hobart has to offer, but it’s already knocked my socks off.

Stay tuned for more Tasmania posts featuring Bruny Island, Port Arthur, Richmond and Swansea!

Love Swah + 1 travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism Tasmania 


Nov 26, 2013

The Search for the Best Cupcake in America!

What a task I had… to try every cupcake shop I stumbled upon in America (and there are LOTS of them) on my quest to find the best cupcake in America for Love Swah. How I must suffer for my “art”.

The quality of American cupcakes overall, particularly chain cupcakes, was high and much better than the cupcake chains in Australia (you know who you are, you dry and overly sweet places). There were a few major fails (see Magnolia Bakery below), but on the whole this was a very delicious and satisfying search! Now, to the gym.

Starting from #8 – my least favourite, all the way to #1 which I am awarding America’s Best Cupcake!

#8 Magnolia Bakery – Locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. See here for details.

Magnolia Bakery is one of New York’s most well-known cupcake shops, made famous by Sex and the City. Does it live up to the hype? Certainly not. Which is why I am awarding it last place in my cupcake search.

Honestly I was quite surprised and disappointed. I have their cookbook and frequently bake their cupcake recipes with great success. The red velvet cake was dry and flavourless, and the icing was overly sweet and I couldn’t taste the cream cheese. I ate barely half before throwing it in the bin. My friend had a similar experience with her chocolate cupcake.

#7 Kara’s Cupcakes - 3249 Scott Street, San Francisco

I couldn’t work out why my vanilla cupcake with passion fruit filling tasted overwhelmingly of marzipan. I later found out they top their cupcakes with marzipan (which I am allergic to as it contains almonds) instead of fondant. This annoyed me and they need to make this clearer. Apart from the “marzipan incident” it was a pretty ordinary cupcake. The base was dry and bland, and the icing a little too sweet. The passion fruit filling was delicious though.

#6 Babycakes - Locations in New York, Orlando and Los Angeles. See here for details

Could cupcakes that are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free taste any good? Well, no. These didn’t. And they were expensive (US$4.75 each)! The flavours were good (lemon and carrot) but the cake was dry and the icing a weird chewy texture (almost like modelling clay… weird).

#5 Crumbs - Across the country. Locations here

I was very excited when I walked into Crumbs. So many giant cupcakes in unique flavours such as Cookie Dough and Stuffed Pecan Pie! I decided to sway from my usual preference of lemon/vanilla/red velvet and get a White Hot Chocolate cupcake. This was a vanilla cake filled with white chocolate mousse topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting edged with mini white chocolate chips and topped with marshmallows and white chocolate drizzle. WHOA.

It was sweet. Very sweet. But given the above description you would assume that. It took me several attempts to eat it over a few hours. I late found out Crumbs uses high fructose corn syrup which I found really disappointing (and explained the sickly sweetness). Overall it was a good cupcake but I don’t think my blood sugar levels could handle another.

#4 Miette - Locations around San Francisco

Miette is so cute and I am sure I will talk about it again in future Sweet USA-related posts. Their chocolate cupcake was rich and moist and the vanilla icing was delicious and creamy but not too sweet (finally!) This cupcake was a strong contender but not the best one I found in my search. Miette does, however, win the award for best confectionary – their Fleur de Sel Caramels were out of this world. Why didn’t I buy 50?!

#3 Eleni’s New York - Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue @ 15th Street, New York

Eleni’s is a nut-free bakery filled with an amazing array of cookies and cupcakes. I will definitely be talking about it more on future Sweet USA posts. I tossed up between the lemon and red velvet cake before finally settling on the former. I can never go past a lemon cupcake. The cupcake was moist and icing was lemony and delicious. I also heard their chocolate cupcakes are amazing after I left, so please try one for me!

#2 Sprinkles - Several locations around the country. See here

Sprinkles claims the title of the world’s first cupcake bakery and the progenitor of the gourmet cupcake craze. That’s quite a big claim! I joined the long queue of cupcake-fans and finally got my hands on a lemon cupcake. The lemon cupcake was moist and bursting with flavour. The lemon-vanilla frosting was heavenly, it was the perfect texture and had the right amount of lemon zest. I was a very happy Swah.

And the number 1 cupcake in America? Drum roll please….

#1 The Little Cupcake Bakeshop - 30 Prince Street, New York and 9102 Third Avenue, Brooklyn

The red velvet cupcake was so so moist (I hate that word, but it needs to be used several times in this post) and the cream cheese icing actually tasted like cream cheese. Unlike whatever the hell Magnolia used. In fact this red velvet cupcake was almost as good as mine! Haha. The coconut cloud cupcake was light and flavoursome with a strong coconut taste and hit the spot. These cupcakes won for overall flavour, texture and taste. Yum!

*Notable mentions – Billy’s Cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcakes and Sugar Sweet Sunshine are other great cupcake stores that were not visited on this particular trip.

What do you think of my list – have you tried any of these cupcakes on your travels and do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your opinions!

Nov 15, 2013

Handy America tips

Hey guys!

I’m back from my American adventures and a bit jet lagged. So while I get myself together and start writing city-based guides, I wanted to share some handy general America tips with you if you’re planning a trip.

Fill in your ESTA before you leave

ESTA is required for international travellers who wish to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program due to enhanced security requirements. You will have to pay a $14 fee.

Travel insurance

Don’t even think of entering America without comprehensive travel insurance. You could end up paying thousands of dollars in medical bills if something unfortunate happens to you on your trip. Buy this the second you book your travel!

♥ Tipping

The concept of tipping is a little foreign to us Aussies, but it’s a vital part of survival for those in the American service industry. Tip around 20% for restaurants and cafes (unless the service is terrible), $1/drink at a bar and around 15% for taxis.

♥ Book restaurants with Open Table

I used this handy site to book all my restaurants across America, from West to East coast. While not all restaurants take bookings, it’s very handy to book with one that does especially on a Friday or Saturday night, or when in Vegas (there are always queues in Vegas!) You don’t want to waste your precious holiday time queuing, do you?

♥ Book taxis with Taxi Magic

Another site I used regularly, especially for booking a last minute taxi to the airport at 2am ;p They send you an email confirmation and will give you a call prior to double check. Sure beats standing on the street hoping to hail one down.

♥ Buy a SIM when you get there

Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave and upon arrival hit up your local T-Mobile stand for an American SIM card. I paid $20 for the card plus $40 for a month of unlimited calls and internet (very important for Google maps and Instagram!) While ofcourse you could rely on your roaming (very expensive) and wifi (not always available) I highly suggest getting a local SIM card as it made my life immensely easier – from receiving confirmation calls from taxis, to checking my location on Google maps when I was lost.

♥ Buy heaps of makeup

Makeup is SO much cheaper in the States and I spent a lot of money at Sephora, but saved heaps in the long run. For example my foundation is $90 in Australia and $60 in America, and my blush is $45 in Australia and $29 in America. Stock up!

Do you have any tips on travelling to America? Share with us below!

Nov 7, 2013

Favourite Travel Accessories – A guest post

My last (but certainly not least) guest post comes from the lovely Amy of Oh, My Design Blog. Amy’s blog was one of the first Aussie design blogs I read (and commented on!) and I am a huge fan of her work. Her taste is second to none and she has rounded up some gorgeous travel accessories for you all to covert.


Hi there, Love Swah readers! I’m Amy, a graphic designer, and I blog over at Oh, My Design Blog. Today I feel super special because the lovely Swah has invited me to guest post! Since Swah is off travelling the States (lucky her!) I have done a little round up of my favourite travel bits and pieces. I have been travelling a lot recently, but for short periods – I pack my little over night bag and off I go. My trips have made me a little more savvy in the packing department than I used to be!

1. Keep Cup: I bought a Keep Cup about five years ago and it’s still going strong. I fill mine with green tea for long car trips. If you use it instead of throw away cups, you help the environment, and you can design your own on their site by selecting different cup, lid, band and plug colours.

2. Country Road tote: The classic Country Road tote is my overnight bag of choice. They’ve been around for years and years and now they do them in every colour and pattern imaginable. And they are tough, really tough.

3. Sense & Sensibility designed by Mr Boddington: I’m a bit old school with my books. I don’t have an e-reader, I much prefer the feeling of turning the pages of a book. Mr Boddington designed some lovely Penguin Classics covers which are too gorgeous to resist.

4. Aesop Jet Set Kit: I always take miniature versions of my toiletries when I travel. I usually fill up plain little bottles with my usual body wash, shampoo and conditioner, but if you’re after a treat there’s this lovely little set from Aesop.

5. VS EcoDry Dryer: It’s a bit sad, but I can’t go anywhere without my hair dryer! It’s just one of those things. I travel with this one, its pretty small but still packs a punch.

Thanks Amy! My already exhausted credit card will need to obtain all these things, now! ;)


Oct 10, 2013

Off to America – your tips please!

Next week I’ll be jetting off to LA and I can’t wait! This trip has been in the works for 6 months and it’s crept up awfully fast – in fact I am suddenly begging time to slow down as I try and get work finished before I leave. Never mind, I’m super excited and hope you can share your USA tips with me too!

I’ve been to America several times before, but am always on the hunt for great restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and the weird and wonderful (for example, I plan on going on a water slide that goes through a shark tank in Vegas). I’m visiting:

♥ Los Angeles

♥ San Fransico

♥ Las Vegas (Never been)

♥ New Orleans (Never been – and we’ll be there for Halloween!)

♥ New York

So please share any suggestions you have and I’ll be eternally grateful xxx

Oct 8, 2013

Billabong Retreat – A yoga and meditation holiday in Sydney

As an avid fan of yoga, I’ve always wanted to try a yoga retreat. And after discussing it with an old friend (who was equally overworked and stressed), she offered to come with me and help me cross it off my 30 Before 30 list. We researched many different yoga retreats and most were either too expensive, too far away or a bit too “basic” (we’re not going to slum it on our holiday!)

The retreat that best suited our budget and location needs was Billabong Retreat. Located just 45 minutes from Sydney, we were able to book a 4 night retreat for under $1000 each (we put 2 x 2 night retreats back to back for maximum relaxation). This price included accommodation in their Treehouse Cabin, all meals, yoga classes, meditation classes and full use of the facilities.

We arrived at Billabong Retreat on the Wednesday afternoon in a bit of a panic – my friend’s car had started making terrible noises as we approached the retreat. It turns out a screw on the break pad had come loose and it needed to be towed! Deep breaths now. We hurried off to our first yoga class.

Set in a beautiful purpose-built wooden yurt, the yoga room is surrounded by windows looking out to the bush with beautiful stain glass panels in the ceiling.

The style of yoga here was much gentler and more relaxing than I was used to – it took me a class or 2 to fully get into it, but before long I was really enjoying focusing on my breathing and stretching, as opposed to getting a work out. Here is the lovely Basia, one of our yoga instructors.

The retreat centre was perfect for unwinding in-between yoga and meditation classes and meal times. With plenty of comfy couches, chairs and a hammock, I spent many hours sprawled out here reading, napping and gazing out into the bush.

We returned to our rooms to unpack and prepare for dinner. We spent the first 2 nights in the Treehouse Cabin and the second 2 nights in a Treehouse Room. Both were perfectly fine although the Treehouse Cabin has more privacy and an outdoor bath on the balcony!

The meals at Billabong Retreat were healthy, organic vegetarian food. Cooked daily by the lovely chef Mignon, there was always a huge array of flavours and textures, meaning you never got bored (nor hungry, there was always seconds available!)

Here we are helping out in the kitchen :)

An example of a main meal – Miso soup with shiitake mushrooms, omelette, asian greens and brown rice – this was absolutely delicious.

Some snacks on offer during the day - spiced ginger cake and kale chips.

And of course there was always dessert! Which made me very happy. These were stewed pears with almonds, served with a side of ricotta cream. I had advised the retreat ahead of time about my almond allergy and they kindly prepared me a separate dish whenever necessary.

Breakfast was always delicious and featured coconut porridge, fruits, granola, bread and an assortment of teas.

My favourite was the coconut porridge, I ate it every single morning!

There is also an option to book in a facial or massage at the retreat (at an additional cost) and I can’t recommend the massage enough! An hour of bliss located at the Waterside Pavilion by the billabong was truly relaxing and indulgent.

We also enjoyed going on bushwalks and exploring the local area.

We met a horse named Billy who was wearing a fancy jacket.

He was very friendly but disappointed we didn’t have any food. Not sure he would appreciate kale chips.

And this is what I looked like after 5 days of no makeup or hair washing. Very happy and relaxed and thinking high waisted black yoga pants are a good idea.

And finally, a succulent. Because I love them so.

So overall, how did I find the retreat? I had a hard time unwinding during the first day. I was still in a “go go go” frame of mind and it look some time to unwind, relax and realise it’s ok to do nothing for once. By the end of day 5 I didn’t want to leave – I felt refreshed, energised and positive which stayed with me for days afterwards. I’m not going to lie, I did miss meat though (funnily enough I was vegetarian for over 10 years). But I would love to do it again next year!

I am sure by now you are dying to give this retreat a go too. And I have good news! Book a mid-week retreat by 30 November and save $100 per person by using the code ‘guests100midweek‘. Enjoy :)




Find me

Random Posts

Stupid Tourists

Stupid Tourists

Here is a stupid tourist pointing to where she SHOULD be on the map and where she actually is. It is of course the maps fault. Not the 6 champagnes [...]

Highlights from my Travel Bucket List

Highlights from my Travel Bucket List

We all have some form of travel bucket list, even if only in our minds. I absolutely love writing lists and then crossing things off (I have notebooks filled with [...]

Purikura – Japanese Photobooths

Purikura – Japanese Photobooths

One of the (many) things I loved about Japan was the “Purikura” or photo sticker booths that were everywhere! They cost 400 YEN (around AUD$5) and are so so much [...]

Facebook Feed

Latest Tweets

  • loveswahHooray I've found super cheap and cheerful Vietnamese food in Balmain! I feel I'll be coming here a… - posted on 22/04/2014 19:18:48
  • loveswahThe final instalment from my amazing @tasmania trip is now live, feat Swansea & Richmond. Enjoy! #discovertasmania - posted on 22/04/2014 16:33:50
  • loveswahTrying to decide where to travel this year. Have narrowed it down to Morocco, Base Camp, Malaysia, NY, China, Hawaii, Paris & Mexico. Hmmm.. - posted on 21/04/2014 21:41:06
Top Food Blogs