Bellingen Community Markets

The Bellingen Community Market is one of the largest regional markets in Australia and held on the third Saturday of every month at the Bellingen Sports Oval off Church St.  A gold coin donation to the local Rotary Club will gain you entry and from there, be prepared for a sensory overload.

Everything and anything is for sale at the Bellingen Community Markets.  From copper pots to chainsaws, to sculptures, hand made clothing, fairy floss, fake sunglasses, polished stones, beautiful wooden boards and trivets, pet supplies, home made condiments, hand crafted skin care, interior soft furnishing, junk jewellery, knitting supplies and everything in between.

Here is my photo essay of the colourful and eclectic Bellingen Community Markets:

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Need a box? They even sell boxes at the Bellingen Markets

Local fresh produce, relishes, fine art and craft, antiques, plants, pottery, hats, bric’n’brac, new and second hand clothing, books, bags, toys, jewellery, gemstones, music, candles, soaps, beauty and alternative products, pamper yourself to an outdoor massage or take a sneak peak at destiny with astrology and tarot.

Bellingen Mkts 19 Bellingen Mkts 15 Bellingen Mkts 14 Bellingen Mkts 16 Bellingen Mkts 17 Bellingen Mkts 09 Bellingen Mkts 10 Bellingen Mkts 13 Bellingen Mkts 21 Bellingen Mkts 22 Bellingen Mkts 24 Bellingen Mkts 25 Bellingen Mkts 26

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Just two ingredients in this peanut butter – roasted peanuts and salt. The peanuts are ground when still warm after roasting – and it’s good, so, so good

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This stall is called ‘Shelf Respect’ – love that!

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It’s the perfect place to play, shop, eat, drink and be happy. With a smorgasbord of multi‐cultural culinary delights, tantalise your taste‐buds with delicious Italian wood‐fired pizza, German goods, Indian dishes, Mexican meals, healthy wraps, pastas, Buffalo products, Moroccan food, Asian cuisine, seafood, traditional sausage sangas, bacon and eggs rolls, pancakes, scrumptious homemade cakes, sweets, donuts and chocolates, gelato and sorbet, ice‐cream, ice treats, juices, smoothies, espresso coffee and boutique ale.

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Lift one side and you have two trivets for your table. Clever design made with beautiful local wood

 

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There’s entertainment for young and old alike at the Bellingen Community Markets

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo essay of the Bellingen Community Markets.

FACT FILE

Bellingen Community Markets
Church St Bellingen Football Oval, Bellingen, New South Wales
Held: Third Saturday of every month

A taste of Asia – and a great way to travel solo

Here’s a fun info graphic that explains the basics of cuisine in Asia. Thanks My Adventure Store!

Vietnamese food is an absolute favourite of mine – and only so after I travelled in Vietnam last year. I can’t wait to explore more of South-East Asia

Web

I have a few friends who don’t like the idea of travelling on their own – it’s not that they are scared or worried, but rather, they prefer to have a buddy to share experiences with. There’s a part of me that agrees. Whilst I’ve loved solo travel, that liberating feeling of knowing I can do what I want, when I want, without having to consult a soul, is the ultimate freedom. When it comes to eating out, especially dinner time, I don’t like to dine alone. That’s when doing a tour with a cool crew like Intrepid and My Adventure Store is a great option. Tours for people that don’t do tours. That’s what I tell my friends to do.  Best of both worlds – you’re on your own, but have company. Win-win!

Aravina Estate: Tony Howell’s new kitchen

I gladly accepted an invitation to dine at Aravina Estate in Margaret River, keen to try the food of one of my favourite chefs in his new kitchen. Aravina’s new executive chef Tony Howell made a name for himself winning a legion of fans and numerous awards overs 15 years at Cape Lodge, listed in Condé Nast’s 2012 Gold List and named Best Boutique Hotel in Australia.

The Grounds:

From the moment I arrived, I knew I’d be impressed with Aravina Estate. A red Ferrari in the car park, a cute wooden walkway leading to lush lawns lined with eucalyptus, pretty gardens with two dams beyond, vistas of the vineyard, and a magnificent cellar door and restaurant that would not look out of place in the Hamptoms or on the set of hit television show ‘Revenge’. Outside white wooden railings surround a large alfresco terrace dining area that takes advantage of the stunning view. The beautiful grounds have hosted many weddings, including that of winery owner Steve Tobin just a couple of weeks ago.Aravina Estate15

Families will love lunching at Aravina. Eat in peace while your kids run around climbing, swinging and playing.

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From the terrace, parents can easily keep one eye on the fenced children’s playground that would be the envy of many local councils I’m sure.

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My favourite part, the kitchen garden. Executive Chef Tony Howell was almost frothing at the mouth as he talked about the massive ten-bed garden growing seasonable produce including all manner of herbs, several types of lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot, chilli, capsicum and much more. More fruit trees have also been planted.Aravina Estate21

“That’s the great thing about working here, [owner] Steve [Tobin] is open to suggestions and when I said I’d love a kitchen garden, he made it happen. Check it out!” Tony said.

“Everything in the salmon dish, except the salmon, comes from this garden, freshly picked just hours before it is served.”

Inside:

Walking in, the classy white interior, large windows letting in an abundance of light, high ceilings, lantern-style light fittings, Italian tiled floor and French inspired decor is chic, elegant, and inviting.

Indoor dining

Indoor dining

The wine tasting counter takes centre stage, as it should.  Towards the back of the building is an opulent private dining room, perfect for a party of ten.

Private dining or wine tasting room

Private dining or wine tasting room

Shelves containing cookbooks, vases, photo frames, table ware, kitchen accessories and ornaments are gorgeously displayed around the wine tasting area and also in shop floor area beyond.Aravina_shop1

The restaurant and cafe is beautiful. White linen, fresh flowers, elegant glass ware, and quality cutlery and crockery instantly set the tone for the dining experience to come.

The surprise:

Enter the building, walk past the wine tasting area, past the cafe, through the stunning gift and home ware shop and you’ll find yourself in a sports car gallery. High school memories  raced through my head as I clocked a yellow S/LR 5000 Torana, a 1972 Valient Charger, and 1973 GT Ford Falcon.

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There’s also vintage Citroen, Aston Martin, and a Daytona Ferrari as well as several of sexy modern Italian makes. The rev-head in me was squealing with delight. Who would’ve thought a posh-looking winery would appeal to car lovers or those of us that keep our inner bogan suppressed?

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The wine:

Wine maker Jodie Opie joined Aravina in 2011 after gaining experience at Lenton Brae and Voyager Estate. I liked all the wines, having said that, tasting wine is so subjective.

The vintage sparkling was light and clean. The Vermintino, and Italian varietal, was clean with an acidic finish. My palate has gone off Sauvingnon Blanc Semillon in recent years, but I really enjoyed the citrus and fresh qualities of Aravina’s. The Chardonnay was my favourite.  

Of the reds, I was delighted to see an Italian varietal Nebbiolo on offer. The tannins were tight but with time it will open up to be a beautiful wine to enjoy with winter Italian dishes. The Cabernet Merlot was easy drinking, the Cabernet Sauvignon left a beautiful plummy taste in my mouth, and I really enjoyed the Shiraz Tempranillo blend. Aravina Estate23

“We’ve planted a special varietal of Tempranillo and Malbec – it’s good to have different varietals on offer, as well as the classic ones the region is known for. It makes us different to the other wineries,” Jodie said.

James Halliday named Aravina Estate as “one of the ten best new wineries” in the 2014 Australian Wine Companion.  The wines have also won a multitude of medals at wine shows across Australia.

The food:

I put my diet on hold and threw my gluten-free ways out the window when whipped truffle butter accompanied freshly baked bread arrived at the table. We shared a number of dishes so we could try as many things as we could possibly fit in.  Aravina Estate06

The pork terrine, mustard fruits, pickled walnuts and persian feta was fantastic. The terrine on its own was rich, but perfect when mixed with the mustard fruits and the phenomenal pickled walnuts.

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The seared Esperance scallops avocado tian, tomato and chorizo crumb were delicate, and cooked perfectly. Everything married beautifully.

Aravina Estate08The special of the day, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower and house smoked salmon – it was divine.

Aravina Estate07King fish sashimi, asian omelette and ginger jelly was sensational. The asian flavours were perfectly balanced, it was fresh, light, and I could eat that dish every day and not tire of it. It didn’t look as pretty as some other dishes, that look like art in comparison, but taste-wise, it was perfect in every sense.

Aravina Estate11Smoked goats cheese. Who smokes goat cheese? Chef Tony Howell, that’s who. And it was nothing short of amazing. I’m told he uses local off cut jarrah wood chips, not oak ones that are used in the wine marking process, to smoke things in-house. Teamed with beetroot carpaccio, sous vide celery, orange and some crunchy brioche, this dish is visually stunning. The smoked goats cheese was so delicious, this wins dish of the day for originality and presentation.

Aravina Estate17The Shark Bay king prawn, compressed pineapple, green papaya, herbs and won ton was crunchy, fresh, and perfect for a hot summer’s day. The Asian flavours were beautifully balanced with the sweetness of the pineapple. It felt healthy to eat.

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Time for a refreshing mouth cleanser. Lemon sorbet with lemon and lime sherbet and citrus peel.Aravina Estate16

Feeling absolutely full after sharing the above, we just had one main dish, steamed duck yellow curry, crispy skin, fried peanuts, pickled chilli and herb salad. It looked beautiful on the plate, and smelled fantastic too. One of my lovely dining companions, Sandra, loved this dish – for her, it was the dish of the day. For me, it was too spicy and hot for my chilli-intolerant palate. I don’t mind a bit of heat, but I’m a weakling in that department.

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How pretty is this dessert? Compressed watermelon, coconut sorbet, herb syrup, lychee foam, seasonal fruit and sesame crisp. Every element was fantastic and it was beautiful and light. The perfect ending to a decedant lunch.

Functions:

Aravina Estate just completed a new function room that can seat 160 comfortably. It features a bar at one end, crystal chandeliers, Italian travertine tiles, cathedral ceilings, and large bi-fold doors so the room can incorporate the outdoor terrace. Off the function room, past the guest toilets, is a bridal suite, complete with a lounge area, dressing area, and bathroom with plenty of mirrors and bench space for the all important hair and make up touch ups.  It’s a stunning space.

Verdict:

Add Aravina Estate to your Margaret River itinerary. Not only are there award winning wines to taste and buy, but you can shop, kids can play, you can wander amongst the vines, admire the vegetable garden, and best of all, have a meal you won’t forget.

Tony Howell is producing food as good as he ever has. Despite the increase in covers, the food comes from the same quality local suppliers, is treated with the same respect and attention to detail is evident in every dish. Do yourself a favour and book in now.

My score: 9.5/10 (just lost half a mark because the curry was too hot for my palate)

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Aravina Estate and all reviews are based on merit.

FACT FILE

Aravina Estate
61 Thornton Road, Yallingup WA 6282
Tel: 08 9235 4600

The Cellar Door and Cafe are open everyday 10am-5pm and the restaurant is open for lunch everyday 11.30am-3pm. Bookings recommended.

Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Rocky Horror Show, Crown Perth

Guest post by Kylee Symes

Richard O’Brien’s, Rock n Roll Musical interpretation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Crown Theatre in Perth is a condensed version of the original, a sort of highlight package that was light on the horror.

The sci-fi cult classic overflowed with lashings of drag-tastic clichés, delivered with plenty a smirk and giggle. The casual, relaxed performances of the talented and collectively very attractive cast encouraged audience interaction and the costume-party atmosphere.

The simple cartoonish sets gave the production a kind of pantomime feel. The bedroom scenes in particular were given a new unique angle, and were the source of some great belly-laugh-out-loud moments.

Craig McLachlan was simply fantastic, bringing both star and ‘old-pro’ qualities to the role with joy and ease.

 

Kylee Symes with a couple of eager audience members

Kylee Symes with a couple of eager audience members

Costuming met all bawdy expectations, but I couldn’t help but feel the opportunity to go completely over the top might have been missed. Had an actual drag queen been included in the hair and makeup team perhaps that element of fierce drag authenticity could have been added.

There was no lack of authenticity in the amazing efforts of the opening night crowd! The outrageous and raunchy outfits worn by members of the eager audience would have been difficult for any ensemble to compete with.

The enthusiasm and energy of the opening night audience, created an atmosphere and electricity often only found at theatre sport or improv nights. It was a fabulous night out.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is now 40 years old and so much fun I can imagine it will still be playing for another 40 years, but, I can’t help thinking, if Brad & Janet did have a mobile phone on that fateful cold and rainy late October evening in 1974, they would never have found themselves at the doorstep of that castle, filled with those characters, holding that Annual Transylvanian Convention……

Kylee Symes is an aspiring writer, voracious reader, mum of two and guest blogger.

FACT FILE

Rocky Horror Show
From February 14 to March 9
Crown Theatre, Burswood, Perth
Tickets available, visit here for more info

How to choose the freshest seafood

We all know that the Queensland’s coast is synonomous with seafood.

Just after ProBlogger, the most awesome blogging conference on the planet, I was invited by the host city tourism office, Tourism Queensland, to participate in some of the Gold Coast’s best food experiences.

We visited Peter’s Fish Market, around the corner from Palazzo Versace.  Under expert Japanese chef Yukio Itaba from the Palazzo Versace, I learned how to choose the freshest seafood.

FISH

Look at the eyes of the fish. You want the eyes to be plump, not sunken.

Is the fish fresh? Check the eyes

Is the fish fresh? Check the eyes

Is this fish fresh? This fish has a nice plump eye

Is this fish fresh? This fish has a nice plump eye

Is this fish fresh? This sunken eye tells me no

Is this fish fresh? This sunken eye tells me this fish is not the freshest

Next, look at the skin. Is it shiny? Or does it look dull?  Dull skin means the fish isn’t fresh. Look at the gills also, they should be a rich red colour. The older the fish, the darker that colour goes. Avoid fish with dark brick coloured gills.

Smell it – the fish should smell clean like the ocean. If it smells a bit rank or fishy, leave it.

PRAWNS

Buys prawns in their shell with the heads on. This prevent the meat of the prawn drying out. It’s okay to buy frozen prawns too.

Look at the prawn head. If it’s dark colour under the shell, leave it, it’s not fresh. You want it to look clear, or in the case of cooked prawns, nice and pink.

Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell of the head
Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell of the head. This prawn is relatively clear and it’s one I would buy
Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell

Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell – this prawn is not so fresh

Like fish, smell the prawns. They shouldn’t have a strong smell. If they do, don’t buy them.

CRAB

When buying cooked crab, same rules apply.

Look at the crab, it should be a bright pink colour.  Smell the crab, it should have a slight ocean smell but not reek. And check the gills of the crab – lift the flap on the underbelly of the crab to find the gills – if is it discoloured and dark, the crab is not fresh.

Chef Yukio Itaba from Palazzo Versace

Chef Yukio Itaba from Palazzo Versace

Checking the gills of the crab - lift the flap underneath the crab and if it is dark and discoloured, it is not fresh

Checking the gills of the crab – lift the flap underneath the crab and if it is dark and discoloured, it is not fresh. This one looks good.

A great place to eat seafood on the Gold Coast if you don’t fancy cooking it yourself is Palazzo Versace.  They have four restaurants at the hotel. We ate at Vie Restaurant and Bar. A great location with views over the water. The food focus is locally sourced fresh food prepared simply and elegantly. The food was excellent. I was thrilled to see a Western Australian wine  Leeuwen Estate Art Series Riesling on the list. They have a great selection of food and wine.
Vie Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chef Yukio has 21 years experience making sushi and sashimi. The seafood he serves is beautifully fresh. They also run cooking master classes at Palazzo Versace – if you like sushi, then take a class to learn under this Japanese expert. 

How to roll sushi

How to roll sushi – Chef Yukio teaches us how

I won’t share photos of the sushi I rolled – put it this way, if this was an exam, I’d have failed! I’m not ashamed to say that I prefer to eat sushi than make it myself.

FACT FILE

Palazzo Versace
Sea World Drive
Main Beach QLD 4217 Australia

Toll Free (Australia) 1800 098 000
Tel +61 7 5509 8000
Fax +61 7 5509 8888

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Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

Duck liver parfait

Duck liver parfait

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen, Margaret River’s newest bar and restaurant, is serving up good honest food made with fresh local produce. Dishes are designed to be shared and the menu is categorised into light, plates, pizzas, sides, sweets and cheese. There’s a good choice of dishes and the prices are very reasonable.

The corner location on the main road in Margaret River town is about three hours drive south of Perth, and worth the drive – for those familiar with Margs it’s where Winos used to be. It’s casual but not slack. The service is fantastic and the food and wine gets the thumbs up.

The fit out is original with tables in the back area set under old-school Hills Hoists clotheslines suspended from the ceiling to double as light fittings.  The front bar is a great place to sit and chat, and the veranda that overlooks the street is a very pleasant place to sit under its covering of vines.

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol'Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol’Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

The duck liver parfait ($13) was silky smooth, rich and creamy and came with delicious wood-fired bread and some pickled veg called picadilli. It was hard not to wolf it all down at once.

Owned by Swings & Roundabouts winery that’s nearby on Caves Road, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen offers the same legendary wood-fired pizzas that the winery has become famous for.

I had to try the pizza and opted for the traditional margarita ($20) – my favourite. If the kitchen can get that right, then it’s always a winner. Swings’ version is good, but if I’m being picky (and nearly always am) for my palate it needed a bit of salt and probably could’ve done with another half-minute in the oven to really crisp up the base. That’s my only criticism of the food served at Swings. Everything else was bang on.

Wood-fired margarita pizza

Wood-fired margarita pizza

The King Fish ceviche with chilli, lime, avocado and coconut ($16) was fresh, colourful, light, beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. Like a mouthful of summertime, if you could eat summer. The Swings Chardonnay ($7 glass) went down a treat with the ceviche.

King fish ceviche

King fish ceviche

The bright and bubbly pint-sized manager Annie really made my visit to Swings memorable. She answered all my questions, suggested dishes to try, and explained their tap wine. Yes, wine on tap. Read about their wine on tap delivered through ‘sight glass fonts’ – a world first in my previous post. If you’re not hungry, just go and try their wines – they are worthy.

There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce.

FACT FILE

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
85 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, WA
Tel: 08 9758 7155
swings.com.au

Open from 10am daily, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen serves brunch, ‘brinks’, lunch and dinner
Swings Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

Win a double pass to Sunset Wine

We all love a wine festival. The latest wine festival event, Sunset Wine, will take place at Perth’s beautiful Scarborough Beach from 3pm to 7pm on the 1st and 2nd February, 2014.

One lucky Travelletto reader will win a double pass to the inaugural Sunset Wine. There are three ways to enter:

1. Comment on this post with the name of your guest to Sunset Wine if you win
2. Like Travelletto’s Facebook page
3. Share Travelletto’s Facebook page on your timeline with the name of who’d you take as your guest.

Winners will be drawn at random on noon Friday 24 January 2014.  Keep an eye on Travelletto’s Facebook page to see if you’ve won. The winner will need to send me their details in order to receive tickets.

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Good luck!

This promotion is not affiliated with Facebook, WordPress or any other social media channel.

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Great places for road trips

Life on the road can be one big crazy adventure, and something that millions travellers hope to do at least once in their life. Whether it be for the luscious scenery, the people you meet or the freedom away from the grind, one things for certain, the road is unpredictable and I mean that in the best way possible.

Considering the world is lined with over 18 million kilometres of paved roads, how many of them are actually worth the drive? Call me biased, but our road trips and that of our neighbours New Zealand have to be some of the best on the planet. And of course, we have to mention USA when talking about road trips.

Kennedy Ranges, Gascoyne, Western Australia

Kennedy Ranges, Gascoyne, Western Australia

Australia

Road trips are synonymous with the Australian holidays. It’s one of this countries biggest pastimes and nothing beats loading up the car rolling the windows down and taking in fresh air amid the wide open space. The Land Down Under is known for its rugged terrains and beautiful coastlines. But there are also mount ranges, lush rain forests, tall timber national parks, unforgettable sandy beaches, reefs teeming with colourful marine life, wide open spaces and the biggest sky you’re likely to see anywhere and unique wildlife you won’t see anywhere else in the world. While it’s amazing to journey along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, there’s nothing quite like a 4WD escapade off the beaten track. Just be sure you are prepared with plenty of water, extra fuel, spare tyres, medical kit, food, and blankets. It’s also a good idea to let local authorities know where you are heading and when are you due back. A breakdown in the outback could cost you more than car repairs.

New Zealand

Stunning NZ scenery. Photo from www.thespark.org.nz

Stunning NZ scenery. Photo from http://www.thespark.org.nz

The Land of the Long White Cloud is every a dream for every Lord of the Rings fan. Escape the big polluted cities and relish the opportunity to fill your lungs with the crisp, clean, fresh New Zealand air. This is a destination where everyday stresses are quickly forgotten as the stunning scenery captures your full attention; nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer beauty of a land time has forgot. A drive through the mountainous planes towards the centre of Middle Earth, Milford Sounds, will have your mind’s camera in complete overdrive as you pass mighty cliffs, pristine snow-capped summits, cascading waterfalls and lush greenery.

America

The ol’ USA has a rich history waiting to be unearthed if you take the time to seek it out. Roar through the winding coastlines with the top down on your convertible or jump into a van and head deep down into the south for an unforgettable journey. Sure, Route 66 is one of more romanticised, but there’s a myriad of paths that offer a remarkable view of America. Take on the legendary Highway 61 (otherwise known as the Blues Highway); a route that runs out of Memphis and along the Mississippi River. What’s so special about this drive? This area is deeply rooted with a genre of music known as the Delta Blues. Follow this road if you want to immerse yourself in music culture and history at every turn – from soul and gospel to R&B.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the awe-inspiring countries worthy of a road-trip. From the mirrored Salt Lakes in Bolivia, the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert, and The Golden Road to Samarkand, Uzbekistan – the world is your oyster. Don’t forget, you are going to need a sweet ride to complete your trip so check out Jaguar.com.au for a sneaky peek on the latest dream cars.

Photo from the rough guides.com

Photo from the rough guides.com

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post
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Going on a road trip? Five must-have items

There is nothing quite like a road trip in Australia. The feeling of freedom when you hit the wide-open highway and driving for miles, without seeing anyone else for hours at times, is very liberating. It’s what many travellers dream about – especially those who live in high-density areas. Not only is it a great way to see the country, but you control where you stop and when you stop. Whether you are planning to cross the continent or just travel to the next city, here are our top five tips of what to bring to make your road trip a success.

If you are going an extended trip, you may want to consider packing your house up and placing your contents in a professional storage facility. If you are a homeowner, you can earn money by renting your house out, or if you are a tenant, then you’ll save money by not having to pay rent while you are away. The terms of storage facilities are flexible and the security of knowing your precious possessions are packed away securely will give you peace of mind when you are on the road. You can check out what’s on offer at http://www.fortknoxstorage.com.au/

1. The Map

A road atlas or map is essential

A road atlas or map is essential

Half the fun of a road trip is pouring over a map and planning your route. While most travellers have a GPS these days, a map is invaluable for giving you the bigger picture, for showing alternative routes, and also when there is no signal or if the battery fails on the GPS!

2. Spares

Be prepared in case of a breakdown. Every car should carry at least one spare tyre – imagine being stuck on the side of the road without a spare tyre? It’s a good idea to carry extra fuel and oil, a fan belt, air filter and a basic tool kit that includes a jack. It is also a good idea to carry an extra set of keys in case of loss.

3. First Aid Kit

You can buy a first aid kit or put one together for yourself. You should include the basics like band aids, antiseptic, a bandage, pain killers, diarrhea and some anti-nausea tablets. Consider taking a first aid course so you know how to handle a medical emergency when on the road. I also take ear plugs with me everywhere.

4. Electronics

Don’t forget your camera, laptop or tablet, and mobile phone. You will find many spectacular sights along the way so carry your camera in the car.. I always have at least one spare camera battery, a spare memory card and a phone charger in the car. Even if you want to get away from it all and be disconnected from the modern world, I would still recommend you take a mobile phone, just in case. You don’t have to check it every five minutes, but it could really help if you ever got stuck or if you needed to get in touch with loved ones back home. .

5. Food and Water

It can be a long way between stops in Australia, particularly in the outback, so you need to carry plenty of water with you. Breaking down without water and food can be fatal. Carrying your food in an esky will help keep it cool and fresh. Ice is available at most truck stops and petrol stations, or better still, invest in a powered car fridge. This is a much cheaper option than eating out all the time and cooking your own can be a better option than eating fried food offered at a roadhouse.

Happy road tripping and drive safe. Are you taking a road trip over these holidays? 

Gorgeous autumn colours, the approach to Silkwood Wines

Gorgeous autumn colours, the approach to Silkwood Wines, Pemberton, Western Australia

Disclosure: this sponsored post brought to you by Fort Knox Storage

Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Margaret River Gourmet Escape is like no other food festival I’ve been to. To start with, the main Gourmet Village is set on the beautiful grounds of Leeuwin Estate. A line of tall timber karri and marri trees on either side of the long road past vineyards and pastures greet guests like a red carpet leading to the stone built cellar door. The pretty native bush garden attracts birds and bees and the lush expansive green lawn is crying out for well-dressed picnickers to throw out a rug and relax with a glass of wine. It’s that sort of place.

During the weekend of the Gourmet Escape, Leeuwen Estate is transformed into a food and wine lover’s playground.  In one weekend, 45 of the biggest names in international and Australian food and wine that included three in the world’s top 50, eight Michelin stars and over 20 Chefs Hats. The list of exhibitors is longer than an eight year old’s Christmas wish list, and the number of stages and pavilions would rival that of Splendour in the Grass or the Big Day Out. The stars of Gourmet Escape, Heston Blumenthal, Alex Atala, Rick Stein, Shane Osborn, and Adriano Zumbo just to name a few, are the rock stars of the food and wine world.Main stage and stalls

Rows of marquee stalls offering samples of this, tastings of that, information or just a friendly chat, shot off from the main stage that was catering for thousands with live camera feeds and a big screen. Demonstrations were not limited to the main stage; they also took place in a number of kitchens and appliance pop up showrooms across the grounds. Margaret River’s best eateries had tasting dishes on offer that cost 1 GEM, the currency of the day. 1 GEM equals $7. Many of Margaret River’s 130 odd wineries were offering tastings or glasses of wine for 1 or 2 GEMS, depending on the wine. The Gourmet Village was buzzing with activity but the vibe was relaxed with everybody out to have a good day.

Feeling a little foggy after too much good food and wine the night before at the Gourmet Beach BBQ at Castle Rock Beach cooked by George Colombaris and Luke Dale-Roberts, my first taste stop had to be coffee at Dimattina. The Western Australian coffee roasters import their beans from all over the world including Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and Sumatra. They had a mini roaster on site that took between nine and 13 minutes to roast the green beans.  Caffeine hit the spot nicely.

As a Gourmet Escape seasoned veteran – well, I went to the inaugural event last year – I went straight to the Gourmet Traveller Wine theatre as soon as we arrived to book into a wine education tasting session. I liked the look of the chardonnay tasting and paid 1 GEM to reserve my place at 3pm. The panel of prominent Margaret River wine makers commented and shared their thoughts as we tasted five different but palatable chardonnays from Juniper Estate, Leeuwin Estate Art Series (crowd favourite), Flametree, Xanadu (wine maker Glenn Goodall is a finalist in the Gourmet Traveller Wine winemaker of the year awards), and Vasse Felix.Image

I tried the Swedish Rekonderlig apple cider, only because my husband had gone off with my wine tasting glass so I had to have something that came in bottle or plastic cup, as the case was. I’m not a cider fan, but on a hot day, the Rekonderlig cider was cold, refreshing and thankfully not sickly-sweet. I’m now a cider convert.

I had to have the Mount Barker chicken liver parfait with Manjimup truffles, chardonnay jelly served with crusty Jean-Pierre Sancho baguette from Muster Bar and Grill.  The pate was rich, smooth and creamy.  The Goanna Gallery and Bush Café’s beer braised ox cheek bun with truffle mustard was a hit and needed the pickled cabbage on top to cut through the richness of the meat.  Weaving between happy patrons, I was impressed with the variety of stall holders; oysters from South Australia, chocolate artisans and chocolate makers, bakers, macaroon specialists, gelati stall, green tea, organic coffee, kitchen gadgets, truffles, imported cheese, local cheese, organic butchers, farmers, cook books galore, healthy juices and treats, and cocktail making classes.

Muster Chicken Liver Parfair

Muster Chicken Liver Parfair

The Margaret River Gourmet Escape is much more than wine and food sampling over two days at Leeuwin Estate. There were 28 satellite events held across the region from long table winery lunches, to beach BBQs, to dinner with Heston Blumenthal, as well as educational sessions with chefs at the cutting edge of food trends.

I’ll be back next year. What’s not to love when the best of Margaret River is all in one place? And what a beautiful place it is.

FACT FILE

Margaret River Gourmet Escape
22-24 November 2013
Annual event held in the Margaret River region each November
Tickets start from $38

This story was also published on Escape Lounge