2015: Travel Highlights

Thursday 31 December 2015

I began 2015 wandering down the quaint streets of Brugge indulging in exquisite chocolate and absorbing all the pretty little details of this picture-perfect town. I can't quite believe it's been almost a  year to the day since that trip and looking back over 2015 makes me feel elated and grateful.  Four continents, eight countries and countless flights molded into one wonderful memory of a year that encompassed new adventures with friends and family. It was the perfect combination of visiting new places for the first time and feeling mesmerised by sheer beauty and returning to other cities for the second time and seeing it in a new light. New years are for new beginnings and new opportunities as you really never know what's around the corner. If someone had asked me a year ago whether I'd be living in Austin now my answer back then would have been no. In celebration of surprises and unforeseen adventures from the year I've created a bucket list of 15 special moments from 2015 to do in 2016. Happy New Year everyone! 

1. Climb all 366 steps to the bell tower in Brugge, Belgium.

2. Visit Lake Ballard in the middle of Western Australia.

3. Spend a weekend village hopping in the Cotswolds, England. 

4. Go to Paris for the French Open. 

5. Enjoy mint tea while over looking the rooftops of Marrakesh

6. Wine tasting in the Chianti Region

7. Spend a day cycling around Rottnest Island

8. Look out over NYC from Top of the Rock.

9. Enjoy cream tea in the English countryside.

10. Watch the sunset over Monaco.

11. Attend the centuries old Il Palio in Siena, Italy

12. Fall in love with Chefchaouen, Morocco.

13. Watch the sunrise over Nambung National Park, Australia.

14. Visit London in the Spring.

15. Move to a new city.

Austin: brunch favourites

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and Austin has no shortage of breakfast and brunch spots for those idyllic weekend mornings. A recipe for a wonderful morning includes coffee, *insert any breakfast option here*, and a pretty space to relax and read the morning's paper. Here are a handful of some of my favourite Austin spots for the most important meal of the day. My family arrive into Austin this weekend for Christmas and I can't wait to share a few of these gems with them over the next few weeks. 

1. Cenote

I adore how quintessentially 'East Side' Cenote is. This cafe is set in an old house with creaky wooden floors and traditional features with a huge patio to enjoy the year round warm weather. I would recommend getting the breakfast burrito {stamp of approval from my other-half} or a breakfast sandwich which are bigger than expected and would keep you full until the afternoon.  

2. Blue Dahlia Bistro

Blue Dahlia is located about 100 meters from my apartment and lures me in regularly with its parisian baguette sandwich. Any item with the words baguette and dijon on the menu are a winner, and luckily for me, this is the tastiest baguette sandwich I have eaten outside of Paris. For a lighter start to the day, try the parfait or fruit cup {photographed}.

3. Café No Sé

Café No Sé takes me back to Perth, and for that reason I absolutely adore it. The combination of rustic white-washed walls and light wooden features mixed with turquoise tiles and bright open windows is reason enough to get brunch here. To top it off, the food is delightfully tasty. Both Matt and I ordered the granola which was the perfect ratio of granola to yogurt to fresh fruit with a subtle ginger taste for an added kick that makes it stand out from other granolas I have tried.

4. Elizabeth Street Cafe

I'm naturally drawn to quaint little spots that remind me of pretty European cafes and Elizabeth Street Cafe is one of those rare gems in Austin. Typically, I order one of three things when I venture out for brunch: breakfast tacos, eggs, or granola. In this instance, I looked no further than item #2 on the menu and my mind was made up. There is no better combination of yumminess on earth than nutella, banana, creme fraiche and candied hazelnuts. Furthermore, to eat all of this deliciousness within a single fluffy crêpe is a breakfast-lovers dream. I can't comment on any other item on the menu at this time as I have eyes only for the nutella, banana and candied hazelnut crêpe.

5. Rockstar Bagels

I'm a bagel fiend. Give me a toasted bagel with {jalepeño} cream cheese daily and I'd be happy. This spot in east Austin is great for breakfast on-the-go or to pick up and take home. There isn't much seating available for a slow morning of reading the New York Times but the bagels are tasty and cream cheese comes in abundance. My only criticism is the lack of cream cheese options {*cough* jalepeño cream cheese} but the chive cream cheese is exquisite! And, if my mind serves me correctly, I seem to remember Matt drooling over the bacon cream cheese. Happy bageling.

6. Hillside Farmacy

Another local favourite of mine both for its food and decor is Hillside Farmacy. The different shades of green, mirrored walls and old wooden cabinets rekindle memories of its original use as a pharmacy during the 1950's and give it a special vintage vibe. We ordered the granola, BLT Benny and 2 coffees - a recipe for happy brunching.

7. Launderette

I visited Launderette recently and despite the wait {approx 15 mins} I instantly adored it. For the first time ever I actually welcomed the wait as it gave me the opportunity to explore the boutique shop conveniently located on site in an adorable airstream and home to little treasures {i.e. prints, jewelery, gifts, candles etc.} I went with two friends and between us we ordered buttermilk pancakes, cold smoked slamon and fried oyster florentine. To my surprise, my favourite of the 3 options were the buttermilk pancakes. I've been raving about them to anyone who will listen and I can't wait to take Matt there for brunch so we can enjoy a simple, yet delicious stack of fluffy, delicious pancakes. Another winner was the cream cheese filled Danish pastry - I've been daydreaming about it since last Sunday and I'm hoping it will make another appearance on the pastry menu soon!

8. Breakfast tacos

Taco Deli {photographed} & Cisco's. No caption needed - breakfast tacos speak for themselves.

Café No Sé

Tuesday 1 December 2015

I've been exploring the Austin coffee scene for a few months now and this is by far my favourite aesthetically. As superficial as it sounds, I love a space that is appeasing to the eye and makes you feel as if a lot of detail has gone into planning it. Even my boyfriend who doesn't {always} take notice of pretty subtleties said this café was 'an intagrammers day dream' - and yes, I couldn't agree more. The space made me feeling instantly happy and light, a retreat where you could easily spend hours browsing through the large selection of magazines or tucking into a good book. 

Upon entering I instantly fell in love with the large communal dining table sitting pretty in centre stage above a sea of turquoise tiles giving the place a laid-back, beachy vibe. The white wooden chairs and rustic white-washed walls took me back to Perth. I felt I could have been eating breakfast at Cottesloe beach on one of those perfect Australian summer days. 

Most importantly, the food and coffee were delicious. Matt and I both ordered the whole grain granola + greek yogurt and honey {avocado toast was a close second}. The seeds gave it a crunchy texture that blended well with the creamy greek yogurt and honey. The subtle taste of giner mixed with fresh raspberries, blackberries and strawberries was the perfect combination for me and a great choice when you're craving something fresh and light to start the day. I will certainly be going back for seconds. 

Summer Favourites: Top 5

Monday 31 August 2015

In honour of the last day of summer 2015 I want to recap on some of the spectacular places I visited this summer. Hopefully my top five summer destinations of the year will inspire you to start planning for summer 2016 - it's never too early to dream and plan for those desireable summer holidays!

1. Siena for Il Palio

The highlight of my summer this year was attending the unforgettable horse race, Il Palio, an event which has been in people's calendars for over 500 years. Il Palio transports you back to medieval times; the customs and traditions surrounding the event have not changed since the 14th century. The spirit and energy emanating from each neighbourhood (contrada) is palpable and emotions of the local Sienese run high as they passionately show pride for their contrada. The flags, emblems, contrade colours, songs, banquets and general merriment {and rivalry} leading up to the event make stunning Siena even more magical than normal. We decided on a whim to watch the race from the Torre contrada and I will never forget the moment when they actually won! Were were so overjoyed to be part of this crazy occasion and feel like family to a contrada that erupted into tears of joy and celebration that lasted through the night. It was one of those bucket-list moments collected on your travels that you can share with family and friends for years. Il Palio is a must-see event and be sure to choose your contrada wisely because watching the race from the winning neighbourhood will make you feel a sense of patriotism for an obscure neighbourhood in Siena that you didn't even know existed. If you want to get an authentic idea of the fierce passion and unabated sense of pride held by the Sienese people for their beautiful city then add Il Palio to your to-do list for summer 2016. 

2. Paris

I've always had a love affair with Paris since spending time there with my family during the summer holidays when I was little. As I've grown up and got to experience Paris on my own and with friends, the magic of the city never ceases to amaze me. Paris is bursting with such happy energy during the summer; people dine and drink coffee outside, the gardens are in full bloom and watching the Eiffel tower light up at dusk fills my heart with so much happiness. The long summer nights are perfect for exploring the different arrondissements and watching the moon reflect off the Seine as you stroll along the river. The beautiful red roses in Square Rene Viviani provide the perfect backdrop for a summer picnic full of eclairs and other French treats. Everything about summer in Paris is so dreamy and magical, if you haven't experienced it yet then definitely add it to your list for next summer. 

3. Monaco

My visit to Monaco was brief {1 day & night} so this is as much a reminder for myself to plan another trip possibly for next summer. From what I saw of Monaco, I think the small Principality has a lot to offer for a summer destination: beautiful beaches, stunning views, people/car/yacht watching and plenty of yummy spots to dine and drink. Basically, it ticks all the boxes for a European summer destination. 

4. New York City

Summers in New York City are blissful, fun and busy {in a good way}. Despite the sweltering heat, I've always enjoyed spending time there during the warmer months. It's true that my trips to NYC are made better by the fact that my best friends lives there and she always introduces me to new restaurants, bars and cool places to visit. This July I walked across Brooklyn Bridge for the first time and felt inspired to be walking across such an iconic landmark and seeing the stunning view of Manhattan that people often dream of. I ventured to the top of The Rick to watch the sun set over Manhattan on a warm summer night and to feel the buzz and vibe of NYC, a feeling that can't be replicated anywhere else. My favourite parts of the city are the West Village and Soho. I love getting lost amid the quaint brownstones and stumbling upon little coffee shops and delicious ice creameries {Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream *drool*}. Not that I need an excise to visit NYC but since my sister will also be moving there soon I'll most certainly be spending more time in NYC next summer. 

5. Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is one of those places that can't be describes on paper and photos only give people a small glimpse into the city's character and profound beauty. If I had to pick a favourite destination for this year, this would be it. Chefchaouen soothes the soul with the calming power of the city's powder blue walls and breathtaking scenery of the Rif mountain range. I would recommend visiting in early summer before the heat becomes too harsh and it's still pleasant to walk around outside. My number one tip for visiting Chefchaouen would be to charge your cameras beforehand. This is the most photogenic city and a perfect summer destination for all the adventurers, foodies and photographers out there. 

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