:: QT Hotel Canberra ::

Over the weekend we took a trip to our nation’s capital; Canberra. We went with our good friends Syaz & Brendon and ate good food, drank a lot, laughed til our bellies hurt, visited art galleries and museums, and stayed at the QT Hotel.

The QT Canberra is a beautiful hotel with a stylish interior.

Apparently it used to be a Rydges hotel, but has obviously gone under a big fancy refurb.

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[pics above stolen from the internet, the rest are my own]

The onsite restaurant, Capitol Bar and Restaurant, is excellent (similar to it’s sister QT hotel & Gowings restaurant in Sydney). Stand-out wait staff (the floor manager Jason was super friendly) are professional while still having fun, and the food is great; steak, seafood and French-inspired classics, with a good wine list.

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Lucky’s Bar is a hidden gem. Literally hidden! You have to enter through the Barber shop, which gives it that extra hint of exclusiveness. We sat here, drinking for 3 hours before dinner and had many cocktails; their dirty vodka martini is the bomb, as is the old fashioned! The bar staff are friendly and there is laid back live music to groove to.

The hotel has cute bikes with baskets for hire, although they were all out the two times we tried to hire them.

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The room is gorgeous with enough room to for comfortability, great views (above) and some thoughtful touches like the fluffy bath robe, Nespresso coffee machine, free WiFi and on demand movies.

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There were only 3 negatives; the shower spills over onto the bathroom floor making it a bit tricky to navigate when slippery, the bed isn’t the most comfy and the noise in the hall, even on level 8, from the wedding reception being held in the hotel, was really loud.

Parking is acceptable at $12 flat rate per night.

The hotel is super centrally located within short drive to the museums and galleries, and an easy stroll to The Cupping Room cafe and other bars and restaurants if you don’t want to drink/eat onsite.

Would definitely stay here again!

I wrote this review on TripAdvisor, which you can find here:
https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowUserReviews-g255057-d256307-r373895623-QT_Canberra-Canberra_Greater_Canberra_Australian_Capital_Territory.html#

:: adventure :: New Zealand part 2 :: Queenstown

As I’m inching towards the edge of the 154ft precipice, my ankles tightly bound, my mind is blank with fear & excitement. I no longer remember my mantra “It’s better to look back on life and say: “I can’t believe I did that”, than to look back and say: “I wish I did that.”  I focus on the quick hammering of the heart in my chest, the wind whipping around my face and the stranger’s hand gripping my arm.

I am bungy jumping.

I stick to the pact my husband & I make; “three, two, one” then jump! I see him standing far below, already having taken the soaring plunge himself and waiting for me to join him. I don’t realise it but I scream during the three second free-fall before my scream turns to joyous whoops. The multiple bounce-backs are an amazing, indescribable feeling. I am chained to a life-saving rope, yet I’m free. Then it’s over and I am pulled into the landing boat and taken ashore to climb the 150+ stairs, my legs like jelly from the adrenaline.


 I’m bungy jumping!!! @ AJ Hackett, Queenstown

  Me from the viewing monitors   The view from the Observation Deck; Jay jumping

                                                          Jay jumping!

*****

Queenstown is a place of staggering beauty. Officially the adventure capital of the South Island it has so much to offer.

For 5 days and 4 nights we explore the delights of Queenstown. Apart from bungy jumping we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with a ride up the Skyline mountain gondola, a wander & wine tasting at Gibbston Valley Winery and soak in the most luxurious bathing experience at Onsen Hot Pools.

We eat at some amazing restaurants. We revisit Fergburger twice to ensure our fill of NZ’s best burger (it’s pretty damn good!). We eat tender and gamey venison, fresh crayfish, oversized oysters and creamy local cheese.



Fergburger (#drool)

We laugh and scream our lungs raw on the Shotover Jet and walk around the immense Queenstown foreshore.

 Freezing our butts off on the Shotover Jet

********

Our hotel is bliss; part of the Accor Group of hotels, Hotel St Moritiz M Gallery is 5 star luxury.

    

Our room is gorgeous with an incredible view out over Lake Wakatipu. I wrote a review on TripAdvisor which you can find here.

*******


 Onsen Hot Pools   Lunch & tastings at Gibbston Valley Winery

 Steak & seafood at Captain’s Restaurant
 Dinner in The Library at our Hotel St Moritiz 

  More pics from Hotel St Moritiz
 Birdseye view over Queenstown from The Skyline.

*****

A rainy day leads us 2 hours south of the township to the very end of Lake Wakatipu, through Arrowtown, to the remote picturesque shores of Glenorchy and Kinloch.

  Roads like this are meant to be travelled.

 Cabin lakeside

The wildness of this region is consuming; we barely see another soul the further we travel out of Queenstown. The beauty of the mountains and the vastness of the lake merge into one beautiful foggy landscape as the rain settles in and the clouds loom low so even the tops of the mountains can’t be seen.

The townships of Glenorchy and Kinloch are merely a suggestion to gather people close by. Farms are sprawling and teaming with flocks of woolly sheep, lambs fresh from the newness of Spring, herds of blackJersey  cows and studs of horses wander the lush countryside and rocky shoreline.

   
 I manoeuvred myself around a large cow to take this picture! I also managed not to step in any cow paddies!

*****

The sheer beauty and heart pounding adrenaline inspired by Queenstown stays with you long after you leave her stunning shores.

[Read Part 1]

(Note I’ve tagged most of my photos with my Instagram handle @thisismelly…all photos my own)

:: adventure :: New Zealand part 1 :: Wanaka

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “It’s a funny thing, coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realise what’s changed is you.”

Being that New Zealand is only a 3 hour flight from Sydney, I didn’t expect to be so profoundly effected by my recent trip. My soul is renewed. I feel more centred and at the same time, closer to my husband. A fog has been lifted from myself.

I’ve been to NZ four times before; once when I was 15 to the South Island (and a few of the locations I visited again this trip) and 3 times to the North Island, but this time was different. My husband and I decided to travel around the South Island for 2 weeks to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. The below yellow stars are the planned points of our journey:

We flew into Christchurch late afternoon, collected our hire car and headed out of the city towards our first destination…

WANAKA and surrounds

Under the cover of the Super Moon, we made the drive through some of the most beautifully treacherous countryside on our journey from Christchurch to Wanaka past Tekapo, Twizel and the mountains inbetween, under the glow of the largest moon we’d ever seen.

A signpost told us we were passing through the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. We opened the car windows, the cool night air streaming over us, and marvelled at a landscape; beautifully and eerily illuminated by the Super Moon and a billion bright stars with the blackest backdrop to contrast their brilliance. It is the largest light reserve in the world and is almost totally free of any light pollution. It rivals the night skies I’ve seen in the Australian Red Centre.

Despite our 11pm arrival at the Manuka Crescent Motel, which we booked just for the night, the motel staff were lovely and accommodating. It’s a cheap & cheerful stay (also the title of my review on TripAdvisor found here).


[clockwise from top left: end of Wanaka’s Main Street overlooking Lake Wanaka, mountains surround Lake Wanaka and the deer grazing lakeside, farmland, panoramic of Lake Wanaka & surrounds, Lake Wanaka from the town beachfront]

We awoke refreshed, checked out the cute town centre of Wanaka for breakfast (my TripAdvisor cafe review on Relishes) and then buzzed with sufficient caffeine (Kiwis make all regular/small coffees with a double shot of espresso we later found out!) we head off to trek to the Blue Pools located in the Mt Aspiring National Park.


[clockwise top left: me on the swing bridge on the track leading to Blue Pools, part of the track through the forest, my husband on the swing bridge, part of the glacial river feeding Blue Pools]

The scenery is so consistently awe inspiring that we are constantly uttering “OMG this is amazing!” or exclaiming “look over there! look over there!” or reverently sighing “oooh my god” as we drive just over an hour out of Wanaka into the Mount Aspiring National Park to reach the walking track to Blue Pools.

It’s an easy 20 minute gently-downhill-sloping walk through native Kiwi forest of beech trees, ferns and mosses, before getting to a long swing bridge which passes 40ft above a beautiful flowing glacial river. We re-enact Indiana Jones as we cross and feel all the more adventurous for it!

The smell of the rainforest surrounds you; clean, earthy, peaty. At first the rush of water can be heard in the distance, and increasingly gets louder until suddenly the forest splits open to reveal the rushing river.




The water is so crystal clear with a turquoise hue. It’s fed from a pure glacier up river. Part of me wants to dive straight in for a swim, but it would be unbearably freezing!!!

The Blue Pools takes your breath away; its the colour of the most intense azure. It’s mesmerising to stare into and incredibly deceiving in depth because of the clarity. It is truly stunning.

Here is a short video my hubby uploaded:


The Landing Bar & Restaurant 

That evening we ate at a lovely restaurant in Wanaka with a view over the little town and lake.

I ate the most delicious lamb dish (quinoa & pea purée with blue cheese crisp) followed by an affogato for dessert.


We stayed the remaining two nights in Wanaka at the Mercure Oakridge Resort. You can read my review on TripAdvisor here.

Hiking to Rob Roy Glacier

We planned for a few small hikes (couple of hours) and one or two longer ones (full day) during our time in NZ, with Rob Roy Glacier being the first of the decent walks.

We drove south-west out of Wanaka, past the ski locations like Treble Cone and the calm waters of Mirror Lake. To get to RRG, which is also in the Mt Aspiring National Park, you drive through several private farms and get to see an abundance of sheep, cattle and deer all with their spring babies!



The Kiwis rate this hike (aka tramp) as ‘average’ difficulty but I have to admit I found it hard. It’s a 16km return walk, with a steady incline the whole way on the ascent (you are climbing a mountain after all!) and in some areas you are almost rock climbing up vertical faces to proceed. There were a few recent avalanches in spots that made passing a little treacherous but we persevered.


  
  
  
  

It took us 3 hours ascent, 30 mins rest at the summit and 2 hours descent. I almost vomited once but I didn’t fall over! There were so many times I wanted to turn around but I am so glad I had my ‘squad leader’ husband who wouldn’t let me give up and even tolerated my singing ’99 bottles of beer on the wall’ (except that I started from 200) and poorly reenacted Pulp Fiction along the way out of exhausted silliness!

The reward was incredible; stunning scenery that changed several times as we passed through different micro-climates, and an honour to see a hanging mountain glacier with my own eyes. While we were sitting in awe (& building lactic acid) at the summit we witnessed several serac falls, where large chunks of ice break off and start mini slips and avalanches. It sounds like thunder rolling right over you. Sitting in the tussock grass at 4900ft, at the base of a glacier, you realise how insignificant you are, how small your body is within nature. It was truly breathtaking.

My short video of the walk is up on YouTube here:

:: end part 1 ::

note: I’ve tagged my photos with my Instagram handle @thisismelly

|melbourne adventures|

Melbourne city is one of my favourites. It feels a little eastern European; with it’s cobbled stone streets, artistic laneways overflowing with cafes and Parisian-esque chairs & tables on the sidewalk facing the street so you can people watch, the wide, sleepy Yarra river that runs through the south city and not to mention the plethora of Italian eateries to round out the European feel. Mum flew down to look after Harley so Jay & I could enjoy 4 fabulous nights down there last week.

Here are the highlights from our adventure:

//Northern Victoria countryside//

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//The Larwill Hotel//

Larwill Luxe; comfy king bed
Larwill Luxe; comfy king bed
small details (clockwise top left): pinboard with little details about the area, artwork on the walls, bathroom, view from the room, wall detail
small details (clockwise top left): pinboard with little details about the area, artwork on the walls, bathroom, view from the room, wall detail

The Larwill is part of the Art Series Hotel group, which are all named after artists and are all furnished with their artworks. The Larwill is a brand-spanking-new hotel; only completed in October 2014, so it is beautifully presented. It’s fairly low-rise with 4 floors. It’s right next to the Melbourne Children’s hospital. The entry and foyer is contemporary and minimalistic with a waiting area that had a communal table and Scandinavian furniture with pops of yellow and complete with a fully loaded book shelf.

We were upgraded to a corner suite on the Eastern side which looks directly over the city. The room was beautiful; spacious and with great little details including the hotel’s resident artworks. The mini-bar had great little Australian treats (wines, cookies, chips, nuts, etc) that were ridiculously expensive, but the bathroom products are luxurious and I thought the quirky little messages were really sweet touches.

The only but significant complaint is that when I booked the hotel, even though I was aware that it was just out of the CBD (located in Parkville), I didn’t realise how inconvenient it would be; there is no direct tram into the CBD, you have to switch at least twice, and there are no cafes or shops within a 10 minute walking distance. Because the hotel was so new, they hadn’t completed it with no restaurant, bar, cafe facilities. On our first night, after being told it was a short 10 minute stroll away, we walked 20 minutes in 41ºC heat to a recommended restaurant. It was a lovely eatery, but we arrived red-faced, sweltering & sweaty! The surrounding area is pretty dead, so we ended up driving to go out & about during out 2 night stay.

street art outside Sosta Italian Restaurant
street art outside Sosta Italian Restaurant

If you’re considering staying here, just make sure you know how to get to any other places you plan on visiting, as it might be easier to stay somewhere more central in the CBD or Southbank.

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mandatory (partial) selfie!

//Crown Metropol hotel//

View from our Crown Metropol hotel room
View from our Crown Metropol hotel room

This is a seriously superb hotel. The valet greets you on arrival, arranges a bellhop for your baggage and takes your car for undercover parking. Check-in was no drama and the room…..

clockwise top left: Crown Metropol foyer, our king deluxe room & the view
clockwise top left: Crown Metropol foyer, our king deluxe room & the view
the bed, amenities & view
the bed, amenities & view

The room was super spacious and had all the little bits & pieces you expect from a 5-star hotel; quality tea & coffee, OK priced mini-bar extras, 24/7 room service, amazing views, swimming pool, day-spa, restaurant and bars, plus direct air-bridge to Crown Casino precinct with a huge variety of restaurants, bars and shopping (Witchery had a great sale!). There is always something happening; downstairs has this buzz of excitement with all the restaurants and gaming, but head up to the top floors and the pool is filled with families and kids having fun and the spa is relaxing and tranquil. The Level 28 bar is sophisticated and laid-back; perfect for a pre-date cocktail (or two) overlooking the incredible city skyline.

Crown Metropol foyer art
Crown Metropol foyer art

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We had cocktails on the rooftop bar before eating at well known Gradi for dinner. Gradi’s owner & exec chef is Johnny Di Francesco who is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules. The pizza was amazing and the cured meats are all cut fresh to order.

Gradi @ Crown
Gradi @ Crown

//Chandon winery//

We visited Moët & Chandon house in Epernay in France, did the limestone cellar tour, tasting and learnt about the history, and have had a romantic respect for them ever since. Domaine Chandon was the first vineyard they set up outside of France and was established in the early 80’s. I’ve wanted to visit there for ages!

Chandon winery & vineyards
Chandon winery & vineyards

We did a self-guided tour, a tasting and then ate in the restaurant.

The production & cellar
The production & cellar
Jay & I eating amazing food & drinking sparkling
Jay & I eating amazing food & drinking sparkling

//Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition @ National Gallery of Victoria//

What a visionary & legendary fashion designer who takes risks and pushes fashion, social & political boundaries with his designs. This exhibition was brilliant!

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//Out & About//

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I want to do it all again!!!