Rottnest Island

Perth’s very own island getaway is just a short 40minute ferry ride from Fremantle.  Welcome to the absolutely beautiful Rottnest Island holiday paradise. This little island has a circumference of 25km. There are no cars allowed and the preferred method of transport is by push bike. There is a bus that services the island’s bays, beaches and attractions for those that don’t want to ride.

Parakeet Bay Rottnest Island

Parakeet Bay Rottnest Island

The beaches at ‘Rotto’, as the locals call it, are stunning, some of the best in the world. Having visited the most beautiful beaches in other amazing places around the world including the Galapagos Islands, Sardinia in Italy, Brazil, Bali, Greece, and Queensland, I can say with authority that Rottnest’s beaches are up there with the best of them.  So beautiful you just never want to leave.

Geordie Bay

Geordie Bay

The lake - where our deluxe room at the Lodge looks out on

The lake – where our deluxe room at the Lodge looks out on

Our Deluxe room

Our Deluxe room

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Our original room at the Lodge – the Palm Court room

First bathroom in Palm Court room

First bathroom in Palm Court room

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

Quokkas trying to get in on the breakfast action

Quokkas trying to get in on the breakfast action

Hello Mr Peacock

Hello Mr Peacock

Rotto is a very family friendly holiday spot. Accommodation is fairly basic – camping, cabins, chalets and villas – all very basic and the word luxury does not describe any of them. Yet during peak season, it is expensive to stay.  There is also the Rottnest Island Hotel and the Rottnest Island Lodge. The Hotel has recently been refurbished and one can expect to pay upwards of $300 per night for a room without ocean views.

In the past we have stayed in the villas that line Geordie Bay – they are basic but have everything you need – a balcony to look out at the stunning bay, a kitchen equipped with the essentials, bathroom and a choice of two or three bedrooms that sleeps four to six people.   In peak season, a villa for six people will set you back about $2000+ for one week.

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This time however, we chose to stay at the Lodge.  Entertainment Book members, which I am, receive a discount.

The Deluxe room – which we upgraded to once we checked in and decided we didn’t like the Palm Court room – cost $290 per night with a discount. It has a lovely view over the lake, is spacious, has a king size bed, flat screen TV, bar fridge, a modern bathroom and a great shower. Yes, it’s expensive, but it is one hundred times better than the Palm Court room that was once a boys reformatory in 1890.  I did nick name it Cell Block B because it was so much like a prison room!

The discounted rate at the Lodge for a Palm Court room was $210 per night. As you can see from the photos, it is a bit grim. The rooms are dated, stuffy, small, and not that cheap really.  There is no view, no balcony or outside space, and neither of us wanted to spend more than 5 minutes in it. Our room also had a smell to it that was all but pleasant.

Zorba didn’t care how much extra we had to pay, he just wanted out of the Palm Court room.  I couldn’t blame him really.

Once we moved into the Deluxe lakeside room, he declared, “Now I feel like I’m on holidays and I’m excited to be here!”. As long as the Greek is happy!

Native to Rottnest are Quokkas, little marsupials that are part of the rodent family. They are super cute and they are everywhere. They are quite used to tourists and often join in for breakfast!

There are also beautiful birds of all descriptions and some fairly friendly peacocks.

Breakfast at the Lodge offered the standard hotel buffet fare – bacon, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, tomato, baked beans, toast, fruit, cereal, juice, and filter coffee and tea.

There is a pool at the Lodge too – which is little and during our two-night stay, it was always packed. With beaches as stunning as those on this little island, I couldn’t understand why you would want to sit almost on top of people around a little pool.

The beauty of Rotto is that there really isn’t that much to do except beach it, sleep, eat, and rest. There are tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, an old war canon, a couple of lighthouses and some surf on the east side of the island. It’s just so relaxing and so so so picturesque.  The beauty for families is that kids can ride their bikes without traffic fears and because of days filled with swimming, riding and exploring, kids wear themselves out and fall into bed at the end of the day. Every parent’s dream!

Parakeet Bay at Rottnest Island

Parakeet Bay at Rottnest Island

Eating out options are fairly limited and none of the options are really worthy of much comment. The Hotel pub has great views and a cool vibe, but the food there is average. Aristos seafood is also ordinary. The bakery is a ok and there’s a wholefood cafe that is quite good. Simmos ice creamery has opened up and next door is Lane cafe that serves proper barista made coffee.  There is also a Dome. The general store is well stocked and prices are marginally more expensive that those in Perth. Self catering is the way to go.

Yes, Rotto is expensive in peak season, but it’s also an awesome holiday that is devoid of too many choices that makes a stay on Rotto simply relaxing.  I love it.

FACT FILE

Rottnest Island Information
The Lodge at Rottnest
Rottnest Hotel
Rottnest Fast Ferries
Rottnest Express

Olympic withdrawals

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet.  I’m suffering quite badly with Olympics withdrawals.  Does anyone else feel flat after a magnificent 16 days?

Every athlete that made it to the Olympics should feel like a winner – not many people can call themselves Olympians.  For all those that took home medals, may you wear them proudly and know that you are a champion in your sport.

How awesome is this photo? Taken from the Nova937 Facebook page – thanks Nova!

To London, thank you for staging a memorable and truly inspiring event.  I loved watching it from the BT Live Site at Hyde Park just as much as I did on TV back in Australia.  London 2012, you did Britain proud.

A good pub lunch Sunday Roast: Scarsdale Tavern, Kensington London

I love a good pub lunch.  I also really love a good Sunday roast. The weather in London was overcast and drizzling, just for a change, and the thought of sitting in a cute pub tucking into a hearty lunch was like a ray of sunshine breaking through a grey day.

I lived in London for six years during the last century, and had organised to catch up with some friends at the Scarsdale Tavern.  It’s a short walk from High Street Kensington tube and once you turn off High Street Ken into Edwardes Square, it’s like you have been transported to a tiny little English village. The huge oak trees line the street, almost forming a complete leafy canopy.  The terrace houses seem to all be homes to gardening gurus. Cute flower boxes with colourful plumes hang from windows and fences and across the road is a large gated private garden for the residents to use.  It’s really lovely.

The Scarsdale itself is traditional English pub, posh-suburb-style.  There’s a little umbrellaed beer garden out the front, and a large bar about two steps in from the front door.  Heavy drapes frame the windows and the walls were tastefully decorated with old fashioned paintings and English memorabilia without being cluttered. The only modernisation visible is the installation of TVs in the corners.  Thank God for that! I mean, the Olympics are on!

As a group of eight, we had the bossy yet accommodating manager put a couple of smaller tables together to seat all of us.

The black board menu featuring delicious sounding dishes such as slow roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary and redcurrant (15.95 pounds) couldn’t kill my hankering for a traditional English roast.

The roast of the day was roast beef (12.25 pounds) – hurrah – that means we were also going to have a Yorkshire pudding, the traditional baked batter that is served with roast beef; it’s purpose is to mop up gravy.  Yum yum yum!

All eight of us ordered the same thing, roast beef. It was a roast beef sort of day really.  And everyone’s plates were empty when cleared away by the waitress.  Our tummies where all so full, so we drank some more beer. I can’t explain that one! 

As far as roasts go, it wasn’t the world’s best gourmet experience. But it was a good hearty roast beef.  The gravy could have been thicker, however it was tasty.  The vegetable accompaniments could have been more traditional rather than the nicely cooked carrots, zucchini (courgette), and cauliflower.  Personally, I would have preferred roast potatoes, roast carrots, roast pumpkin, and green peas.  Still, it was very enjoyable and hit the spot.

Later in the afternoon, after a couple of hours of digestion, we ordered for dessert.  It was a disappointment.  Microwaved mass produced sticky date pudding with packet custard.  The taste was ok, but not really worth mentioning. The chocolate pudding and ice cream was in the same league.

The honey dew beer served by none other than a friendly Australian chap (we are everywhere!) was deliciously moorish and a half-pint after half-pint made for a most enjoyable way to while away the afternoon, catching up with friends while keeping on eye on the Olympics on TV.  I was behaving, hence the half measures ;).

Thanks Donna for booking The Scarsdale and for the recommendation!

FACT FILE:

23a Edwardes Square
Kensington, London W8 6HE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7937 1811

Scarsdale Tavern on Urbanspoon

London cycling: East End to West End

How cool are the “Boris” bikes? I didn’t know what a Boris bike was until it was explained to me that the public bicycles available around London are an initiative of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Cycling Zorba

We had a great lunch at Hawksmoor Spitalfields after a disappointing morning when we couldn’t get into Olympic Park despite trudging all the way there, we decided to go for a cycle through London. We rented the Boris Bikes properly known as the Barclays Cycle Hire.

To access a bike, it costs 1 pound and access lasts 24 hours. If you dock a bike at a docking station within the hour, the cost of bike hire is free. If you ride for an hour, the cost is 1 pound; 90 minutes is 4 pounds; 2 hours is 6 pounds and so on.

It was a beautiful sunny London day and the perfect day for a ride. We rode from Spitalfields down to the Thames, across the loveliest bridge in the world, Tower Bridge (so COOL!), along South Bank, over London Bridge (which is really boring an just like any road bridge you see everywhere), along Embankment and finally stopping at St Paul’s Cathedral. It was so much fun! Mind you, Claire, Zorba and I had two pints each at lunch and were feeling pretty good to start with!

Tower Bridge

We stopped a couple of times, at South Bank, and to give our tour leader, my lovely friend Claire, time to consult the map.

After we ducked into St Paul’s for free (yay!) – it was just lucky timing as a service was due to start and the cashier’s taking the usual 12.50 pound entry fee had packed up for the day – we grabbed some water and re-hired our bikes.

We pedalled across London, cycling along embankment to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. So so so cool!

The best thing was that because the Olympics are on and the cycling event was on earlier in the day, many of the roads were closed and we were able to ride our Boris bikes along part of the Olympic cycle route.

Westminster Abbey

After taking in Westminster Abbey, we continued pedalling and headed towards Buckingham Palace. We rode down the beautiful tree lined Pall Mall that was closed to traffic – just magic!

We encountered a few policemen along the way that were manning road blocks or just on general patrol and I have to say that every one of them was super friendly, happy to chat to us, giving us tips on where we can take the bikes and so forth. I was very impressed with the smiling friendly bobbies, even if some of them looked a bit scary carrying machine guns!

The Queen Victoria Memorial gold statue out the front of Buckingham Palace had obviously been polished by some mignon as it was looking very shiny.

Shiny Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

Zorba was underwhelmed with Buckingham Palace – he expected it to be grander, bigger, somehow.

From Buckingham Palace, we rode through Green Park, Hyde Park corner, Marble Arch, and through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace. When we reached Queensway, we docked our bikes, regretfully.

We all had such fun riding though London, taking in the sights at a leisurely pace, WITHOUT HELMETS. I loved that. If I didn’t have to wear a helmet I’d ride my bike in Perth much more I’m sure.

London is an easy city to walk around – it’s not all that big or rather spread out really. But cycling adds another dimension. It was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in London. Pleasant weather, great friends, historical magical sites, access to the world’s famous monuments, closed roads and minimal traffic – really, we couldn’t ask for more.

Moreover, the bikes are quite good quality. They are fairly heavy – not ideal for lugging up or down stairs (which we did once!), but they have gears, are smooth to ride, have a handy little carry area on the front for handbags including a stretchy strap to hold bags in place, little flashing brake lights at the back, and they are so cheap!

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We walked up Queensway then along Westbourne Grove until we reach Kath’s place. We could have ridden the bikes almost all the way to Kath’s place as there’s a bike docking station about 60 metres from her house!

Kath and Fiorenzo prepared a fab dinner of antipasti – buffalo mozzarella, mortadella, and home made focaccia which was sensational. We had really delicious authentic home made bolognese for dinner. Thanks guys!

Hiring a Boris bike is a very highly recommended way to see London. Go on, get on yer bike!

FACT FILE

Barclays Cycle Hire

London 2012 – Olympic Park

After an awesome night in Hyde Park for the official London 2012 Opening Ceremony party, we were keen to get more of an Olympic fix and decided to meet my friend Claire the next morning and head to Stratford to Olympic Park.

We knew that there would be a £10 entry fee just to get in to the Park (no events included), but what we didn’t know is that we had to pre book tickets online before arriving. There was no gate and no where we could pay £10 to get in. So many tourists were in the same boat as us, just wanting to get in to Olympic Park and just soak up the atmosphere knowing there was no chance of getting into any events. Not possible. We tried to book tickets on Claire’s phone there and then without success. Alas, it was not to be.

The view of the thousands of people trying to view Olympic Park

One of the security guards suggested we go up to level 3 of John Lewis, one of the UK’s biggest department stores, and from there we’ll see a view of the Olympic Park. Ok, that sounded like a good plan, so that’s what we did. And so did about 40 million other people, half of which I’m sure were not wearing deodorant. It was hot, stuffy and stinky. Let alone near impossible to get near the window to see anything.

Olympic Park

Zorba had enough after about 16 seconds and said he would wait for us outside. Claire and I shopped for London 2012 merchandise and didn’t find anything we liked in our size, so we left also about 10 minutes later.

We found Zorba waiting outside the Olympic Park tavern – I expected him to be in the tavern having a beer whilst waiting for us. Grumpily, Zorba said that it was £3 to get in, and then you had to pay for beers. Out of principal, Zorba refused to pay.

Near where Zorba was waiting for us, Claire spotted a little compact camera on the ground. Oh no! Someone has lost their camera! Shame.  Claire and I had a look at a few of the photos to see if there was anyone in them – and there was one lady of oriental descent wearing a purple top. We looked around the immediate area, couldn’t see anyone that resembled the lady in the photos and shrugged our shoulders. There was no way we’d find them in this crowd. Claire decided to hand the camera into the lady with the megaphone. Just then, I saw a lady with dark hair wearing a purple top, so I approached her to ask if she had lost her camera. Meanwhile Claire and Zorba were shouting at me, “Di what are you doing? It’s not her! You’re crazy!”.

The lady I approached seemed perplexed when I asked her if she had lost her camera. She said no and seemed a bit put out by my forthright nature. I apologised and said we had found a camera and that there was a lady that looked a bit like her in a purple top in some of the photos. I said sorry again and walked away. Claire and Zorba thought I was bonkers! Oh well, I tried.  I know I’d be devastated if it was me who lost a camera.

Three minutes later I get a tap on my shoulder by the very lady I was talking to.  She said it was her camera that she lost – after I walked away she checked her bag and her camera was missing. She described the camera case it was in and was so thankful I approached her. We told her that we handed it in to the megaphone lady. She was very thankful and said bye as she set off to collect her camera. You see! I was right! My good deed for the day done [pat on back].  Claire and Zorba were freaking out that I had managed to find the owner of the lost camera in the throngs of people that were milling around at the time.  I suppose it was uncanny!

Claire ordering her custom made magnum

We had a bit of a walk around the Westfield shopping complex in Stratford, which is huge and impressive. Every big brand has a shop there, Prada, LV, Versace, etc, as well as other quirkier shop fronts, such as Magnum ice creams. I know, why would Magnum have a shop front? Who knew that you could custom make your own magnum? You start with a ‘naked’ magnum, and then choose white, milk or dark chocolate coating, then up to three sprinkles – Claire chose almonds, ginger and something else I can’t remember. The only reason this gets a mention is because I’ve never seen it anywhere before. Claire said it was more of a gimmick than a fantastic ice cream eating experience.

It’s a little like the whole building dedicated to M&Ms in Leicester Square. Four floors of M&M characters, country colour-coded packets, even an M&M themed London bus was inside the M&M store! It was pretty cool. A total tourist gimmick but nonetheless, pretty cool.

Without event tickets, online entry tickets, or last minute mobile phone online entry tickets, we had no chance to get in to Olympic Park and nothing really more to do at Westfield.

And this ends our Olympic Park entry attempt. Unsuccessfully.

There is always a silver lining, right? Our silver lining was the great lunch and afternoon we had cycling around London. You can read about it in my next post.

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28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen, Marylebone London

What a fabulous find and fantastic recommendation by my lovely friend Chris – I was so looking forward to this dinner; Chris is an editor of a popular food-based magazine and knows a thing or two about great dining.

28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen in Marylebone is a great food and wine experience. It offers more than 30 wines available by the glass, carafe and bottle at reasonable prices. The wines were interesting and not the standard kind of wine list you see in every place.  Sadly, no Australian wines feature on the extensive list – there is strong competition from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany I suppose!

The food is French bistro style also featuring charcuterie, with a daily-changing menu from the executive chef, Paul Walsh.

The decor is modern urban with a French touch – the back wall is stacked with branded wooden wine boxes and there is a big central round bar complete with bar stools.  The service was exceptional. Really fabulous. The sommelier was very knowledgable on the wines and Chris suggested we allow him to select matching wines by the glass to accompany what dishes we had ordered.

To start, I had the rolled grilled aubergine with goats curd and pine nuts (GBP 6.75) followed by a main course size prawn cocktail with pickled cucumber (GBP 12.95).

Aubergine with goats curd

Both my dished were really amazing. The aubergine (eggplant for all my Aussie readers) was sensational. I was kind of secretly wishing I had ordered that for main and had a bigger portion. The chef was really generous with goats curd too which tasted silky, salty and wonderful.  I loved it.

A Spanish wine was chosen for me for this dish – a 2010 Sameiras Blanco ,Ribeiro, AC Guilin, Spain.  The slightly acidic white wine balanced the richness of the goats curd beautifully.

Prawn cocktail for mains might seem like a strange choice, but Chris and her beau Charlie both ordered it for starters and said that they had had it before and that it was reallygood. I trust Chris’ palate implicitly and ordered it as a main size.  She was right, the flavour was different – it was really fresh and clean. The pickled cucumber and minimal use of dill gave it a kind of Scandinavian flavour. It would be absolutely perfect to have on a hot summer’s day.  It was pretty perfect to have it on a mild London summer’s night also!

Prawn cocktail

The wine matched with the aubergine was a CDL “La Brise Marine” Chateau De La Negly. Beautiful white wine that was a little acid with a very clean finish.  I was in food and wine heaven!

Smoked Severn and Wye salmon

Zorba enjoyed his smoked Servern and Wye salmon with horseradish yoghurt for starters and a lovely rib eye steak for main.

Chris had the Icelandic fish stew for main and said it was excellent. In fact, that recipe is going to feature in an upcoming magazine edition.  Charlie had the burger from ginger pig.  No one was complaining about anything except that their tummies were full to the brim.

It was a lovely dinner – thanks Chris and Charlie!

Icelandic fish stew

Zorba and I bid our friends farewell and went to the oh-so posh Claridges Hotel in Mayfair for a night cap cocktail.  It was sooo lovely!  The ladies wash room had an attendant who turned on the taps when I wanted to wash my hands and then passed me a little hand towel (real towel, not paper), so I could dry them.  Posh-o!  Having said that, two cocktails with the inclusion of 12.5% service charge cost us just under 40 pounds!  Outrageously expensive, but sublimely grand.

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Ah London, I’m going to miss you.

FACT FILE

28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen
15-17 Marylebone
London, W1U 2NE
marylebone@2850.co.uk
Tel: 020 7486 7922

Open every day 11am til late
28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Olympic Opening Ceremony London 2012, Hyde Park

Excitedly, we had purchased tickets at 60 GBP per head to go to the Official BT Live Site at Hyde Park for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games.   Zorba and I were being joined by one of my bestie’s Claire who was in London from Manchester to see us.

Not only did we have the big screens beaming in the live action of the Opening Ceremony from Olympic Stadium, but we had Scottish performer Paolo Nuttini, Duran Duran, Stereophonics and Snow Patrol bands to entertain us.

After a bit of an ordeal to get into the park through the thorough security officers, the vibe of Hyde Park was electric!  One of the highlights was seeing the Red Arrows fighter jets flying over leaving a trail of Brittish red, white and blue in their wake.  The roar of the jets got the crowd to its feet and amped up the level of excitement.

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The Opening Ceremony was impressive and told a story about Great Britain, including things like the industrial revolution and the good work done though the National Health Service.  Both quite unsexy topics, yet important in British history.

We had a fabulous time. Hardly had to queue for beers, the toilets were manned and constantly cleaned and stocked with toilet paper, and the crowd was really well behaved. The music was great – the bands chose awesome songs for their sets and kept the crowd rocking til 12.30am.

Well worth the 60 pound entry charge. Well done London!