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Travel

The Best Apps for Travelling

best-apps-travelling

I’m off on another overseas adventure, and I always rely heavily on my phone to find out where I am/where to go/what to eat etc etc. In fact, I rely on it so much I often wonder how I travelled without a Smartphone in the first place?!

♥ Instagram

A fairly obvious one, but Instagram is a mandatory app to share your amazing holiday with the poor suckers back home. Obviously they want to see your bronzed legs and cocktail poolside whilst they are slaving away at work!

♥ Yelp

I relied on Yelp a lot whilst in America for dining suggestions as well as reviews on services. It’s also available around the UK and Europe.

♥ Google Maps

Lost? Wondering how to get from A to B? Want to access those locations you’ve saved? Google Maps is a godsend when it comes to travelling. It also has an offline map feature which lets you download several areas and mark places to visit in advance, so you can still access them later without a data connection.

♥ XE Currency Converter

The XE Currency Converter is the simplest currency converter app I’ve ever used. It’s often hard to quickly convert what 2000 Vietnamese Dong is in Australian dollars in your head, so this easy app converts any currency into your local currency on the spot.

♥ Wi-Fi Finder

I seem to spend half my trip trying to find a Wifi spot, and this free WiFi Finder app makes it easy to find free or paid Wi-Fi connections when you travel.

♥ Uber

Uber is like having a private driver, which you hail and pay for your ride from your phone, and is now available in over 20 countries. It makes getting around your new city a LOT easier!

♥ Trip It

TripIt organises your travel plans into an itinerary so all your trip details such as flights, hotels, car, maps etc are in one place. Gone are the days of travelling with a folder of print outs!

What are your must-have apps when travelling?

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Travel

Travel Guide: Maryborough, Queensland

This is Part 2 of my recent trip to Queensland. You can read Part 1 here.

We depart Hervey Bay for a day trip to Maryborough, one of Queensland’s oldest cities and the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers.

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We meet our guide at Maryborough Town Hall for a walking tour of Maryborough’s heritage listed buildings and the gorgeous Queens Park.

Settled in 1847, the beautifully preserved streets and gorgeous architecture make it the perfect setting to learn more about one of Australia’s largest and busiest ports.

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Maryborough is filled with numerous quirky, boutique cafes, and Cafe Cru is located in the heritage listed birthplace of Mary Poppins author Pamela Travers.

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There are nods to Mary Poppins throughout Maryborough (there is even an annual Mary Poppins Festival) and you simply must pose with the life-size bronze statue of Mary. And does the Mary Poppins impersonator look familiar? She was our guide on our walking tour after a quick costume change!

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Gatakers Artspace gallery is a contemporary exhibition space with four galleries housing works of local and visiting artists.

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Brennan & Geraghty’s Store Museum is a fascinating virtual time capsule corner store. It includes unsold stocks of curry powder from the 1890s through to groceries from the 50s.

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Maryborough is also home to several antique stores, a food bloggers dream (props!) and we spent the remainder of our time poking through the stores.

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We drive past the scenic sugar cane fields as we drive back to Hervey Bay.

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Love Swah travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland and Fraser Coast Tourism

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Travel

Qantas Domestic Dinner Boxes

I must admit I’ve never been a fan of airline food, to the point that I’d rather go hungry then risk the cold bread roll and mystery meat. So when Qantas invited me to sample their new Domestic Dinner Boxes, I was cautiously optimistic!

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Qantas promises their new menu will bring improved quality, more generous servings (up to 50% more), more choice (with the option of a hot meal or salad and increased variety) and more convenient (how annoying can trays be when you’re trying to read/work?!)

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My tummy was rumbling and I eagerly surveyed the menu of delicious-sounding options. And was curious to see how they would be reinvented for flying.

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To start we had Japanese slaw with poached chicken, ginger and sesame seeds, farfalle pesto salad with proscuitto and toasted hazelnuts and a lentil, quinoa and falafel salad with feta and pomegranate dressing (a great option for the often-neglected vegetarian travellers).

I was actually blown away by these salads, all 3 were flavourful and satisfying with my favourite being the farfalle pesto salad.

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Next up was beer battered flathead fillets with spiced wedges and lemon and beef with oyster sauce, shallots, red capsicums and Hokkien noodles. I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the beef noodle dish, but the beer battered fish and wedges were divine.

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Followed by butter chicken with basmati rice and naan bread. The chicken was moist and tender and i enjoyed mopping up the sauce with naan.

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And then to top off the meal, a Lindt ball. My favourite!

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Each box is adorned with gorgeous drawings by illustrator Nicole Falleiro, and provides a quick and easy way for the Qantas Cabin Crew to serve the food and clean up.

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So what’s my verdict? I was genuinely impressed with all the dishes, and they are certainly a huge improvement from the normal airplane food. I look forward to flying with Qantas again soon to try these dishes in the air!

Love Swah sampled the domestic dinner boxes courtesy of Qantas

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Travel

Travel Guide: Hervey Bay, Queensland

After a wonderful and inspirational few days at the ProBlogger Conference on the Gold Coast, I was mentally and physically drained and very much looking forward to some R&R. And Hervey Bay was the perfect answer. Located just 3½ hours drive (or a 45 minute flight) north of Brisbane, I was thrilled to be selected by Tourism and Events Queensland and Fraser Coast Tourism to participate in one of their famils trips.

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We arrived in Hervey Bay to impossibly blue skies and mid-twenties weather (a welcome reprieve from Sydney’s wintery and wet efforts). Naturally my first thought was eating, so we headed straight to EAT @ Dan and Steph’s, a new restaurant opened by My Kitchen Rules winners Dan and Steph Mulheron.

Hi Steph!

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I started off the meal with a much-needed Macchiato ($4) and snuck a few sips of Sara’s House Blend Chocolate Milk ($5).

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While the other 2 ladies went for sensible salads, naturally I went for the most over-the-top and decadent thing on the menu. This is called the Showstopper ($16) and it had Dan & Steph’s Italian sausage on herbed baguette, house kimchi slaw, sharp cheddar, fried shallots and wasabi aioli.

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Chicken Cobb Salad ($18) – sous vide miso chicken, crispy bacon, avocado, tomato, toasted corn, greens, soft boiled egg, parmesan croutons and basil aioli.

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Lentil Salad ($16) – green puy lentils, sunflower seeds,fried capers, sultanas, herbed crème fraiche, greens, preserved lemon and candied walnuts.

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We left Dan & Steph’s full and content (with some brownies for an afternoon snack!) and set off to discover why Hervey Bay was referred to as the “Whale Watch Capital of the World”.

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Here I am on the dock looking excited and not appropriately dressed for whale watching (of course).

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We set off and I enjoy the view whilst munching on my brownie.

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I feel like whale watching should be referred to as “whale stalking” as there was an entire boatload of people, frowning at the water in anticipation for something, anything. I’ve been on a failed whale watching mission before that resulted in no whales and only seasickness, but Hervey Bay’s location combined with clear and still waters make it an excellent place for viewing these magnificent beasts.

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And then suddenly, one appears. So incredibly close to the boat and I couldn’t even fathom the sheer size of the whale. There may have been excited squealing.

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Cameras at the ready everyone, they are getting playful!

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Over the next few hours we encountered several different pods of whales, all enjoying a bit of tail-flipping and showing off. I had an amazing time!

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We headed back to shore as dusk settled in, viewing Fraser Island in the distance. For more information on whale watching go to www.whalesherveybay.com.

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We check into our hotel for the next few nights, at Mantra Hervey Bay.

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I sat on the balcony and enjoyed this beautiful view of Urangan Marina each morning.

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I wanted to collapse either in my large king bed, or soak in the spa, but it was off to dinner we go!

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We head to Coast, which recently was the winner of the exclusive Diners Choice Awards in the Queensland Good Food Guide, and knew we were in for a treat.

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Coast was incredibly dark so please excuse the sometimes strangely-hued photos! We had an incredible meal and were stuffed to the gills (naturally we over-ordered) but highlights included:

Potato Gnocchi, Mushrooms, Chilli, Garlic, Oregano ($23) and Hervey Bay Scallop Ceviche, Avocado, Corn, Bacon Jam ($23.50)

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Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Tomato Relish, Red Wine Jus ($58) and Atlantic Salmon, Apple, Radish, Coriander, Mint, Peanuts, Nam Jim $24.50)

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COAST Banana Split- Lady Finger, Peanut Cream, Peanut Crunch, Banana Ice Cream, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Caramel Peanut Popcorn ($16) and Treacle Tart, Roasted Macadamias, Rhubarb, Gayndah Citrus Crème Fraiche ($13.50).

coast-desserts
The next day we head to Maryborough, one of Queensland’s oldest city and the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers – stay tuned and I will post this next week!

I took in some beautiful sunset views at dusk settled in on my walk along the beach.
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Wild Lotus, located on the Esplanade of Hervey Bay, is a great example of the fresh and local products they use to produce Modern Australian food.
Highlights included a dozen scallops ($32.50), calamari and tiger prawn pesto salad ($17.50), eye fillet steak with root mash ($32.50) and the fish of the day served with chips (market price).

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I was eagerly eyeing off the dessert menu and loved that they have a dessert tasting plate (why choose one when you can sample them all?) Each item was delicious, with my favourite being the coconut and passionfruit panna cotta.

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Our last meal in Hervey Bay is a scenic one – breakfast at Enzo’s on the beach.

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We eagerly wolfed down eggs benedict; two poached eggs with hollandaise sauce on pasta dura bread ($12) and a Mexicana omelette; chorizo, red onions, tomato and jalepenos served with cheese and toasted sour dough ($18.50).

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And went for a final stroll along the beach before being driven to the airport (by Enzo himself).

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Goodbye Hervey Bay! You’ve been wonderful.

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Love Swah travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland and Fraser Coast Tourism

Food, Travel

SF Eats – Swah’s Best Places to Eat in San Francisco

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I LOVE San Francisco and would move there in a heartbeat (anyone want to give me a visa?). The beautiful architecture, fascinating history, rolling hills and sprawling parks make San Francisco a traveller’s paradise, and the sheer quality and selection of food is second to none.

♥ Tartine Bakery – 600 Guerrero St

Prepare to queue, but it’s worth it. Try the Tres Leches Cake (layers of sweet coconut milk moistened chiffon, layered with cajeta and crema) or the coconut cake or any of the tarts. Try everything, actually. And they have foodgasm-inducing grilled cheese sandwiches (prosciutto and provolone, pictured below) after 11.30!!

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♥ Mission Beach Cafe 198 Guerrero St

Mission Beach Cafe was recommended to us as having a great brunch/lunch/dinner so we knew we couldn’t go wrong. We ended up giving brunch a whirl and it hit the spot, great coffee and hearty serves of eggs (served fried with a hash on the left, and scrambled with fried potatoes on the right). I would love to return and try their famous lavender french toast.

mission-beach-cafe

♥ La Taqueria – 2889 Mission St

Wildly regarded as one of the best taco places in The Mission District, this place is cheap, cheerful, authentic and delicious. Also check out the nearby El Farolito Taqueria (2950 24th St), another well known SF Mexican haunt.

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♥ Pizzeria Delfina – 3611 18th St

Arguably San Francisco’s best pizza and it blew our socks off. My pick was the Salsiccia which came with housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella.

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♥ Candy Baron – Pier 39

Located in the very touristy Pier 39 area, check out the seals, take a tour of Alcatraz and then on your way back swing by Candy Baron for barrels and barrels of salt water taffy heaven.

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♥ Locanda – 577 Valencia St

This gorgeous Italian Osteria is a bit pricey but worth every cent. Highlights included a small chicken cooked under a brick with lentils and red quinoa and ricotta bread pudding with orange blossom honey, lemon thyme and verjus sherbetto. Please go here.

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♥ Miette – Locations around San Francisco

Miette is the sweetest bakery with an awe-inspiring range of delicious treats to choose from. Their chocolate cupcake was rich and moist and the vanilla icing was delicious and creamy but not too sweet, and the fleur de sel caramels I purchased were to die for.

♥ Blue Bottle Coffee – Several locations incl SFMOMA – 159 Minna St, 5th Floor and Ferry Building – Shop #7

America has an unfortunate reputation for serving rubbish coffee, but fortunately Blue Bottle saves the day with the best cappuccino in town. Their iced coffees are also amazing when it’s hot – but be prepared to queue, it seems everyone in San Francisco wants their coffee!

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♥ Four Barrel – 375 Valencia St and 736 Divisadero St

Another brilliant coffee shop serving delicious drinks with good music. Beware, they are pretty anti-Instagram and refuse to offer free wifi – apparently they’d rather us reading paper-back books and chatting with friends then on our phones.

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♥ Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar – 950 Mason St

Anthony Bourdain once recommended this place and I’ll do basically anything he says. It’s a tiki bar that rains inside, there is a huge lagoon in the middle of the bar on which a band plays, I drank a cocktail from a pineapple and basically had an all-round amazing time. It’s super kitsch but that’s why everyone loves it. They serve “Pacific Rim Asian Cuisine” which included a lot of dumplings, pork buns and sliders. All delicious!

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♥ SOMA Streatfood Park, 428 11th Street

Sometimes it can get a bit exhausting trying to track down your favourite food truck around the neighbourhood. The SOMA Streatfood Park makes that simple, they have 10 of SF’s best food trucks in one place. A great way to discover the best local craft/artisan food vendors.

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Do you want even more San Francisco food, drink, shopping and accommodation suggestions? Don’t forget to grab a copy of my San Francisco City Guide!

And heading to Los Angeles too? Check out my other post LA Eats – Swah’s Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles

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Travel

How to Survive a Music Festival

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I just returned from an amazing time at Splendour in the Grass, complete with handy tips courtesy of a lovely thing known as hindsight. Keep these tips in mind when embarking on your own multi-day music festival to ensure you have the best time possible!

1. Don’t camp.

Seriously, if you’re a girl and like being clean, stay away from the camping (unless the festival offers some form of “glamping”, even then I’m sceptical). My friends and I hired a gorgeous Airbnb house in Mullumbimby, a 15 min drive from the festival grounds. At the end of the day when we felt dirty, grumpy and in need of some peace and quiet, the campers were stuck in mud whilst we were enjoying the novelty of a heated bathroom floor and clean linen.

2. Have a default meeting position at all times.

We generally knew who was seeing what, which meant if we lost anyone we always agreed to meet “at the back left corner, just outside of the tent”. This, surprisingly, never failed. In case of a complete disaster, we had a backup landmark known as “The Sexy Shark” to meet at.

3. Eat a good, healthy meal every morning.

We did a big grocery shop at the start of our trip which meant our fridge was always packed with fruit, veges, eggs, bacon, juice etc – all the trimmings needed to prepare a healthy and filling breakfast to get you started for the day.

4. Hygiene hygiene hygiene.

Portaloos are gross at the best of times, and by Sunday night of a 3 day festival, they are toxic. Make sure you bring hand sanitizer to clean yourself after each trip to the loo, along with tissues as I am sure they will run out of toilet paper at some stage. Oh and that cute onesie you wanted to wear? Maybe leave that for another time, as trying to fully undress to pee whilst balancing your bag and drink is just far too much effort.

5. Don’t wear a native indian headdress.

Or bindis, or any culturally-appropriated fashion, for that matter. It’s disrespectful and you look like an idiot.

6. Be sun smart.

Wear a hat, cover yourself in sunscreen (regularly), hydrate.

7. Be rain smart.

If it has rained in the lead up the festival or if any showers are forecast, wear gumboots. These will protect you both from mud and portaloo sludge. Pack a poncho or super-cute raincoat from Gorman. Don’t wear open-toe shoes, not only will you get filthy, you risk your toes being trodden on.

8. Hire a car

So it turns out Mullumbimby has like 4 taxis, which funnily enough were all booked out on the Monday when we tried to get home. We were stranded. And there were no car rental places in town. We eventually caught a public bus to Byron Bay and hired a car from there to the airport. In future we will hire a car as soon as we arrive.

9. Download the festival’s app.

Splendour in the Grass had a very handy app where you could personalise your planner each day and receive alerts when a band was about to start, as well as interactive maps.

10. Wrap your friends in fairy lights.

I haven’t actually tested this method, but I saw a group of friends all wrapped in fairy lights and thought it was an excellent method of keeping track of your group at night time.

Most importantly, don’t be a dickhead, stay safe and have fun!

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Food, Travel

LA Eats – Swah’s Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles

I’ve been to LA numerous times, and while it’s not my favourite city (hello New York!), it certainly is a city I always stop off at the start or end of my trip. It used to be purely to break up the long journey, but now I enjoy spending a few days in Los Angeles to eat and make the occasional journey down south to Disneyland.

Note: I stayed in West Hollywood and didn’t have a car, so a lot of these places are located around that area. This only scratches the surface of all the amazing places you can try in Los Angeles!

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♥ In-N-Out 7009 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (plus many more locations)

Oh sweet mother of god. Be still my beating heart. In-N-Out Burger is famous for a reason, and their burgers are next level. And just to make it more exciting, there is a secret menu! I insist you order your burger “Animal Style” – it comes with extra sauce, pickles, grilled onions and mustard fried right onto each burger patty. You can also order your fries Animal Style, but to be honest I was pretty underwhelmed by them.

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♥ Farmer’s Market 6333 W.3rd St. Los Angeles – incl Loteria Grill and Bob’s Donuts

The Farmer’s Markets are a great place to visit when you’re in Los Angeles, not only for food, but for a spot of shopping and celebrity spotting at the adjacent The Grove.

Now, to food. The Loteria Grill located at the Farmer’s Market serves up a huge range of regional Mexican specialties. I couldn’t make up my mind which taco flavour to choose, so I went for Probaditas – 12 of their original tacos served on mini corn tortillas for only $16!

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And for dessert? Bob’s Donuts of course! If you want a plain and simple, old fashioned style donut then this is your place. I spent a while umming and aahing over the menu and the cashier suggested I go for a classic – the chocolate glazed donut. It was fluffy and fresh and with just the right amount of sweetness. I could have eaten 10.

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♥ Sprinkles Cupcakes and Ice cream (next door to each other) 9631 South Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills (plus other locations)

Sprinkles came 2nd place in my Best Cupcakes in America List! And for very good reason. Their cupcakes are moist and flavourful and come in a huge array of delicious flavours. They also have a Cupcake ATM for all your 24 hour cupcakes needs, AND have an ice cream parlour next door to the Beverly Hills store.

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♥ Blu Jam Cafe, 7371 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles

Be prepared to wait for a table at Blu Jam. And wait. But the hordes of crowds were a good sign we were going to be rewarded with delicious things, and boy were we. America is notorious for terrible coffee, and I don’t think our jet lagged selves could really deal with that. But we were presented with a pot of the most amazingly strong French-pressed coffee, and suddenly we were very awake, and everything was very exciting.

The crunchy french toast is famous here, so I gave it a go. It featured egg brioche dipped in batter, rolled in corn flakes and grilled, then topped with fresh fruit and served with vanilla bean sauce. A mammoth platter of this was served to me for only $12.95. And god did it live up to the hype!

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My friend ordered the egg hash ($11.95) and it had eggs tossed with black forest ham, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, onions, red potatoes and mozzarella and served with toast. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, but this was so flavourful and packed with delicious ingredients and I helped myself to several fork-fulls. (We were both starving and neither of us managed to finish our dishes, these are cheap and generous portions!)

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♥ Salt’s Cure 7494 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was a suggestion from our Airbnb host, so we went on a Sunday night not sure what to expect. It’s very dark, so please excuse the weird looking photos!

Salt’s Cure proudly sources ingredients grown and raised in California and use the principle “if it’s not within six hours of the restaurant, it’s not on the plate”. Their menu changes nightly according to season and availability of ingredients (you can check out the daily menu on their Facebook page). We sampled the most amazing meat and cheese platter, 1/2 a roasted chicken, a kale salad (we were in LA, after all) and a delicious chocolate pudding. Everything was flawless, the service was impressive and they happily packaged up our leftovers to take home.

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♥ El Flamin Taco 1720 Vine Street, Los Angeles

Allegedly serves up “the best Mexican food in all of LA” with locations in Echo Park, Koreatown, Hollywood and Silver Lake.

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♥ Roscoes House of Chicken and Waffles 1514 North Gower Street

Southern style fried chicken served on a freshly cooked waffle, drowned in maple syrup. It sounds weird but it is truly heaven!

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♥ Kogi BBQ Truck – follow on Twitter for locations https://twitter.com/kogibbq

These guys started the Korean/Mexican fusion taco movement, and have 5 trucks operating around LA. Follow them on Twitter and track them down.

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♥ Foodlab, West Hollywood and Silver Lake

Amazing breakfast options (including a Nutella and Mascarpone Sugar Brioche breakfast sandwich!!). They also do picnic boxes and have a great lunch menu featuring delicious organic sandwiches and salads.

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♥ Urth Caffe 8565 Melrose Ave Plus other locations

Grab a cup of organic coffee, munch on a salad (once you get sick of all the burgers) and keep your eye out for a starlet – celebs love hanging out at Urth Caffe apparently!

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♥ Milk Jar Cookies 5466 Wilshire Boulevard

Enjoy homemade cookies and coffee roasted locally at this adorable cafe, with cookie flavours including rocky road, cinnamon sugar and of course the classic chocolate chip.

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♥ The Mercantile, 6600 West Sunset Boulevard

This wine bar and cheese place serves up delicious dinners nightly, as well as fanciful brunches over the weekend that include several great brunch cocktails (hello Bloody Marys and bottomless Mimosas!).

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Image sources from El Flamin Taco onwards – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Some things to remember when eating out in America:

* Servings are huge! I don’t think I ever finished a meal in America. Try and get a few dishes and share amongst friends. If you’re staying in a place with a fridge, restaurants are usually more than happy to pack up your leftovers to take home.

* Tipping is pretty much mandatory in the service industry in America (but generally not expected in fast food places such as In-N-Out). Expect to tip around 20% in restaurants and bars.

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.

And for more handy America tips, go  here

Have you been to Los Angeles before? Where is your favourite place to eat? Share it with fellow readers in the comments!

And check out my San Francisco Eating Guide here!

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Travel

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

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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!

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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Swansea

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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 :(

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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.

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

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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…

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…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.

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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.

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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…)

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Richmond

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.

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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.

richmond-shopping

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.

richmond-bridge

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!

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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 

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Travel

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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bedroom

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 :)

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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 

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Travel

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.

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

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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.

smokehouse-building

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.

smokehouse

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).

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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).

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

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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.

after-the-storm

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 

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Travel

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!

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Restaurant Reviews, Travel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

sommerset-apartments

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.

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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.

crepes-salamanca

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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mona-view

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!

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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.

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

data-tron

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.

cloaca-professional

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.

mona-winebar

mona-wine-bar

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.

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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.

mill-on-morrison

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!

espresso-martini

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jackman & Mcross Bakery on Urbanspoon

Smolt

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!!)

smolt

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.

smolt-entress

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.

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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!

salamanca-place

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.

machine-laundry-cafe

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

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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.

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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 

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Food, Travel

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!