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 :)
I was recently invited by Rachel (aka CreamyMiddles) to accompany her on an all expenses paid weekend away in Canberra – yes please! This is all part of a great marketing concept known as The Human Brochure - they invited 500 humans to come and experience Canberra first hand and then spread the word online (using the hashtag #humanbrochure) about all the great things we get up to.
We set off Friday afternoon and began our drive to Canberra. Bad traffic meant we arrived late, missing the bus to our welcome meeting, gah!
Fortunately the guys at Human Brochure had a backup plan and we were swiftly driven to the War Memorial in time for the welcome speech.
We were led on a tour around the War Memorial, the stained glass window inside the tomb of the unknown soldier was gorgeous.
And they had laid out a DAMN good dessert spread, I was in heaven!!
Then it was time to return to our hotel and properly explore it. East Hotel, is a 4.5 Star hotel pitched as a “contemporary design and lifestyle experience”. It’s pretty freaking amazing, from the modern artwork on the walls to the retro-styled furniture (and our room was larger than my apartment!)
The East Hotel’s mustard chair proved very popular with everyone who saw it and I spent a lot of time Instagramming in it!
Design quotes in the foyer
We were up early (for a Saturday!) and off to our first stop… Parliament House! The moody clouds provided a perfect backdrop.
Rachel and I were approved for security clearance! Phew.
I loved the ceiling inside Parliament House.
And there were beautiful courtyards…
And we were lucky enough to be allowed into our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office!
And then I stared at the flag pole… I think I prefer it from this angle.
Food time! Hooray! We had lunch at Two Before Ten, a fabulous cafe with great design.
Lunch was delicious and included great coffee, duck rillettes with figs, trout with brioche, tomato and ricotta salad, fresh baked grisini and a fennel salad.
We met Hank the Coffee Roaster and his human Sam gave us a talk on roasting coffee beans (which smells like popcorn to my untrained nose).
In the afternoon we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia. This “floating” ball was amazing.
What are we here to see? Toulouse-Lautrec ofcourse! Lautrec had a thing about painting redheads and prostitutes.. and in those days only prostitutes wore red lipstick. As a (faux) redhead who happened to be wearing red lipstick at the time, I was bought to the front of the group by our guide and declared that Lautrec “would have chased you through the streets of Paris to paint you”. Cheers.
Rachel viewing one of his works.
I bought a poster of my favourite work of his.
We headed off to the Sculpture Garden for champagne (as you do) and I was taken away by this amazing installation by Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto. It certainly had a bit of an Antony Gormley feel to it.
This fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya was another favourite of mine.
What time is it? It’s dinner time! We were off to Italian restaurant Mezzalira. My favourite was the ricotta, pumpkin and leek tortellini with burnt sage butter, delicious!
Next up was beetroot risotto, stinging nettle and caprino (cheese) – also very tasty and I will be trying to make this at home. I love bright pink risotto!
And our main, rare salt crusted Rangers Valley beef with cannelloni bean, roast beetroot, tarragon and horseradish. I’m usually a bit funny about eating meat so pink (I was vegetarian for 10 years after all!) but this was perfectly done.
And finally, cannoli with ricotta, rum and chocolate, pistachio and cherries.
I arrived back to my hotel and squealed with delight as they had left us another gift, this arvo it was wine, and that night it was salted caramels! Hands down the best salted caramel I’ve ever had.
Quite a few of us were nursing hangovers of varying degrees the next day (curse you matched wines) but we fortunately had a very pleasant morning – they gave us picnic blankets and breakfast boxes and we picnicked in the gardens of Old Parliament House.
We also sat for a group photo on the steps of Old Parliament House and there was a paparazzi shoot off!
That afternoon we headed off to the Old Bus Depot Markets, an amazing weekly market full of delicious produce and showcasing the wares of emerging designers.
I got *very* excited by these handmade cupcake stands from vintage crockery! I bought the mint green one on the far left :)
Our final stop on our whirlwind tour of Canberra was the Canberra Glassworks. We each got to design and make our own glass tile which was loads of fun! Here I am, concentrating very hard on my tile.
And here I am looking like a complete dweeb in my gumboots and safety glasses. Also samples of the coloured glass I used and my tile ready for the kiln (I will upload a picture of the finished tile when it has been posted to me!)
And we finished off the day with an amazing exhibition by glass artist Kirstie Rea. Beautiful!
An amazing weekend and huge thanks to the guys at Human Brochure. I had such great fun participating in all the activities you organised and had a great time promoting Canberra! Now I can say more than “Canberra has nice bike paths” next time I get asked :)
I am back now from an amazing and exhausting long weekend in Adelaide for the Eat Drink Blog Conference. I am yet to go through my photos on my DSLR yet (I still haven’t even gone through my Vietnam ones… *cough*) but for now you can check out some highlights courtesy of Instagram.
I stayed with my friend Alex for the first night and I was provided with a hooded English flag onesie to sleep in – the height of fashion!
Knowing I had a weekend chock full of eating ahead I went for a healthy lunch on Friday at Galaxy which featured a delicious eggplant and potato filo and generous helpings of salad.
I then met up with a group of bloggers at Astonish Patisserie and we feasted on a variety of amazing desserts including a half-baked cheesecake, chocolate fondant, macarons and pavlova. It was all delicious!
I waddled to meet a friend at Botanic Bar for a cocktail (loved it) before meeting my other friends at Est Pizzeria - the pizza was delicious but the star of the meal was the wood fired gnocci. Oh my goodness.
I was so full I could barely breathe but that didn’t stop us from going to Chocolate Bean for dessert! Look at the array of gorgeous treats! And they also had an amazing gingerbread hot chocolate but I could only manage a sip, I was on struggle street.
We first had a tour of the Adelaide Central Market. I was dying of jealousy, why don’t we have something like this in central Sydney? Come on guys!
We hopped on buses, some off to the Barossa and my group was off to McLaren Vale! It was a gorgeous day.
We visited the D’Arenberg winery and did a wine blending class! I don’t usually drink red so I fear my “special blend” may be hideous. Regardless, I have lugged it home and am forcing my Dad to drink it.
My favourite part of blending was that we got to play with dry ice!!
And then we got to drink bubbles! My favourite.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick outfit change and off to the Hilton for an amazing dinner. The menu was insane! I loved pretty much everything except the ginger snow cones, which confused me.
We were up early again for Day 2 and were greeted with a delicious array of pastries from Red Door Bakery
We did a food styling class with Fiona Roberts which was fun. I need more props!
Then we went downstairs to the markets again, where they had opened for us on a Sunday to serve us a VERY special lunch. I ate so much amazing bread, butter, cheese and cured meats.
There was a delicious chocolate fountain by Providore and MORE dry ice! Yes!
After a few more talks it was suddenly afternoon tea time and despite being completely stuffed I managed to sneak in a few cupcakes and cake pops from The Cupcake Table!
What an amazing and filling weekend. I had so much fun, learned a lot, met loads of new people and I cannot wait to return to Adelaide again soon. Thank you Tourism South Australia!
A group of friends and I recently went to Orange for a weekend of nice wine, food and chats. It’s around a 4 hour drive from Sydney and yes, you do have to stop on the way and eat McDonalds (the only time I permit such a thing!) We arrived late on a Friday night to be graciously met with cheese and wine by our lovely friend Kat. Soon our tiredness got the best of us and we turned in for a good night’s sleep in preparation for lots of eating and drinking tomorrow.
We piled into 2 cars the next morning and set off for brunch at Tonic in Millthorpe, a 20 minute drive from Orange.
Tonic is located at 30 Victoria St, Millthorpe NSW 2798. The coffee was great and the range of foods tasted was delicious. Since I can never make up my mind I chose the sweetcorn cakes and pizza and shared with a friend.
Sweetcorn cakes with mascarpone and prosciutto, $16
Ham, bocconcini, egg and pesto pizza with rocket and parmesan salad, $16
Then we set off to explore Milthorpe. First stop, Galvanised (17 Pym Street, Millthorpe), a converted century old galvanised iron shed that sells everything from homewares and lollies to birdcages and coffee supplies.
The boys preferred eating their sherbert they bought from Galvanised instead of our next stop, the antique store!
Peppertree (23 Pym Street, Millthorpe) had a lovely assortment of antiques, homewares and modern furniture. I had my eyes on this pink and white floral tea set.
Our next stop on our tour of Millthorpe was Tomolly (7 Blake Street, Millthorpe), a store filled with cute gifts, homewares and stationery. The owner was lovely and very excited I was featuring her store on my blog!
It was well into the afternoon now and therefore a suitable time to commence wine tastings! Our first winery was Mayfield Vineyard (954 Icely Road, Orange NSW 2800).
Now, I am no wine expert so don’t expect me to go on about the heady aromas and nuances of blackberry or whatever. But the wine was tasty and affordable, the lady extremely friendly and helpful and we purchased quite a few bottles.
We returned to “downtown Orange” for some coffee and yet more shopping at Hawkes General Store (46 Sale St, Orange). The store was filled with gorgeous homewares and gifts. I loved the Paris gift tags.
Back in the car, we head off to another vineyard – the Philip Shaw vineyard (45 Caldwell Lane, Orange NSW). The views of vineyards on the way there were superb.
Philip Shaw has produced a line of wines called “The Character Series” with titles such as The Dreamer Viognier and The Wire Walker Pinot Noir. I adored the illustrations on each bottle.
The vineyard also had a lovely dog who wanted to play ball!
Our third and final vineyard for the day was Hedberg Hill (701 The Escort Way (Forbes Road), Orange). This vineyard had come highly recommended by my father who is quite a wine buff and personal friend of the owner, Peter Hedberg. We were greeted by more beautiful scenic views of vineyards on the way there.
Peter was a lovely host and we learned (and tasted) a lot. His Riesling and Viognier were delicious! We ended up buying about 3 cases of wine I think! Ooops…
The views from his cellar door was breathtaking, particularly as the sun started to set and cast a yellow glow over the landscape.
Then it was home time for a power nap before dinner!
We went to Bistro Ceello (179 Anson Street, Orange). The food was delicious, the service unfortunately not great. I think we must have gotten the new girl as she made quite a few rookie mistakes – not knowing what the specials were, failing to change glasses between wines, pouring the champagne into a wine glass (!!) etc etc. Nothing to ruin our evening but anyway… Here are a few samples of what was eaten.
House cured ocean trout gravlax, potato pancake, cucumber spaghetti and dill cream, $20 entree
Venison shank sausage, parmesan pudding, roasted tomato and balsamic reduction, $20 entree
Twice cooked pork belly, roasted root vegetables and fennel mustard, $32 main – I swear I could eat this everyday.
Beef sirloin, caponata, creamy polenta with veal jus, $32 main
We were all completely stuffed to the gills, but you know I am never one to miss dessert! We settled on 2 tasting plates and shared them.
Dessert tasting plate featuring lemon cheesecake, nougat ice-cream and choc cake terrine, frangelico panna cotta and steamed marmalade pudding, $30
The next morning we arose and cooked 1kg of bacon. I do not have a photograph of this as we don’t need a reminder. Oh god.
Then we drove off to Totally Local (426 Mitchell Highway, Orange) in search of MORE food. It has an amazing array of locally produced honey, cheese, olive oil and more.
And then we sadly bid adieu to Orange and started the 4 hour drive back to Sydney. What a lovely weekend away!
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