Rottnest Cruise and Wild Seafood Feast

When the email pinged in my inbox inviting me on a Wild Seafood Experience and cruise on Rottnest Island (20km off the coast of Perth), I signed up straight away. The new tour is an ocean-to-plate boat cruise called Wild Seafood Experience by Rottnest Cruises, blending two of Western Australia’s great icons − Rottnest Island and the Western Rock Lobster (crayfish).

The 2.5-hour cruise is the first-ever interactive seafood tour – and by interactive I mean passengers catch lunch – on Rottnest Island. It was a stunning summer’s day and the cruise on Rottnest Cruises’ multi-level charter vessel around to Parakeet Bay, with an ice cold beer in hand, was sheer bliss.  Here’s a short video about our day:

On the way we stopped to catch lunch, taking it in turns to haul up the cray pots, cheering as each one of the six pots was raised on board with several crayfish inside. Pots were rebaited  with fish heads, and the crays removed. Each lobster was measured to ensure it met compliance, quick photo for insta, then in the crate to be prepared for lunch. It was fun and interesting – I’d never caught a lobster before.

Before lunch, we jumped in crystal clear Indian Ocean for a swim, while crewman Kent was busy shucking oysters for us, then in a first for me, passed me one as I was swimming. Eating freshly shucked oysters while in the ocean, heaven! We devoured an elaborate banquet of sea-fresh delicacies that included Mandurah blue swimmer crabs, king prawns, fresh fish tacos, marinated Fremantle octopus, loads of salads and of course just-caught crayfish, cooked live in an open, on-board kitchen. All this, while taking in Rottnest’s Insta-perfect views and enjoying unlimited beer, wine and bubbles. Now, that’s living.

I was invited, but I wouldn’t rave about anything to you unless I thought it was exceptional, and Rottnest Cruises’ Wild Seafood Experience is exceptional. For a short time, it’s just $175 per adult, totally worth it. The boat caters for 30 guests and a new slightly bigger boat will be in operation soon.

Rottnest lighthouse from boat

 

Rottnest Cruises’ Wild Seafood Experience operates from Rottnest Island daily from 11am to 1.30pm. Introductory cruise cost (valid until February 28, 2019) is $175 per adult or $125 per child (not ideal for children under 5) and is fully inclusive of three courses (canapes, seafood buffet lunch and dessert), with unlimited beverages.

For bookings, phone +61 8 9586 1136 or visit rottnestcruises.com

Did you know…?

The western rock lobster is one of the family of ‘spiny’ lobsters, colourful and protected by a strong carapace. They are sometimes called ‘crayfish’ or ‘crays’. They canlive for more than 20 years and grow to weigh 5 kg. But due to fishing rules, fishers rarely catch animals heavier than 3 kg. When temperatures are cooler they mature at six to seven years old, when their carapace reaches a length of about 90 mm. In warmer water they mature at smaller sizes, usually at about 70 mm.

 

To read more, head to the Department of Fisheries website here.

 

 

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Formula 1 Driver (the best 7 mins of my life)

The most fun I’ve ever had in seven minutes was without doubt in the F1 simulator at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello near Modena, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.

I slid into the seat and was strapped in with a racing harness buckled up by a Ferrari attendant who looked very much the part of a pit crew in a full uniform, sans helmet. After attaching the steering wheel, he checked I could reach both pedals, a very stiff brake on the left and a smooth moving accelerator on the right. He explained the workings of the paddle gear shifts on either side of the steering wheel as well as how to keep it in automatic transmission. He pointed out the DRS turbo button and explained when to use it. Then he asked which track I wanted race.F1 simulator Maranello

Concaving around the front of my stationary Ferrari F1 car were three giant screens and graphics of six race tracks. Being in Italy and of Italian descent, in the Ferrari Museum, strapped into a Ferrari F1 simulator meant the decision had to be Monza. A good choice I was told, as it’s one of the easiest tracks to negotiate.

Lights out and racing.

Pedal to the metal. I did as instructed and went flat out, too excited to ease up as a bend quickly approached. After oversteering, I got back onto the track and the car seemed to continue on without a glitch, seemingly undamaged after hitting the barrier several times. This was a lot harder than it looked. Within moments, I was on a straight. I saw the green light and hit the DRS, watching the speedometer in the corner of the screen reach 300km/h, 307km/h, 322km/h. I was pushed back into the seat by some imaginary force. With my eye on my impressive speed, I didn’t see the next bend until I was in it, a tight hairpin, I skid off track and into the gravel. I slammed on the brakes, pressing them hard and the harness around my shoulders tightened, the seat vibrated and the centre of gravity shifted. This felt real.

Back on the gas and into another straight, going full tilt with DRS assistance, my racing harness sucked me into the seat and I squealed with delighted listening to the unmistakeable F1 engine roar as I clicked up to eighth gear. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up in pit lane and the car automatically slowed to 60km/h. I put all my weight onto the accelerator, nothing. I just had to endure the restricted speed zone and crawl through as if I’d been given a penalty. I made a mental note to keep left next lap.

After five laps of exhilarating speed, slides, skids and skirmishes with the barriers, my time as an F1 driver came to an end. My adrenalin was peaking and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I immediately wanted to do it again.

Stats:

  • Race Track: Monza
  • Fastest lap: 1:40 minutes
  • Fastest speed: 322km/h
  • Number of crashes: over 20
  • Number of corners successfully manoeuvred: 3 (or 7 if you count keeping two tyres on track)
  • Likelihood of being offered a test in a real F1 car: less than zero

Cost €25 (about AUD$40) for seven minutes.

Ask ten people what their dream car would be and it’s likely that nine of them would answer a Ferrari, and this is precisely why. So much fun!

An edited version of this was first published in Driven Women magazine 

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Mixing holidays with fitness – Revive Retreat

I’ve just come back from a week in Bali. I’d like to say I was blissing-out poolside with daily massages and facials, but truth be known I was also sweating buckets while punishing my body at a fitness retreat. With encouragement from a girlfriend, I signed up to go on the week-long Revive Fitness Retreat at the Komune Resort in Bali. I’m not a huge fan of Bali, but what got me over the line was that the Komune Resort is far away from the hectic and gritty tourist-laden Bali that I don’t like. It’s at Keramas Beach by a surf break, about 20 minutes drive north of Sanur on the east coast of Bali (the other side of the island from Kuta and Seminyak).

Here’s a short video of our week:

We arrived at the resort at about 2pm, by the time we checked in and got to our lovely beach-view pool room, we had just 45 minutes before we had to front up to our first training session in the resort’s well-equipped gym.

Let’s backtrack a little. I want to be fit, I really do, but I’m not. I do yoga regularly which I love but the thought of slogging it out in a gym or jogging or doing triathlons (no way!) makes me shudder. The way I see it is that it’s just not fun. But every so often I get all enthused about getting fit and start going to the gym, then a few weeks later I stop, then get out of the rhythm of going and before I know it, three months pass and all I’ve done is walk the dog.

I took comfort knowing of the ten ladies on the retreat, eight were in their 30s and 40s, and two were in their 60s. Little did I know that these women were all regulars at the gym in the Margaret River region owned by Katie, a sweet but punishing trainer and yoga instructor. Katie’s partner in the Revive Retreat is nutritionist and trainer Sarah.

That first training session would’ve been an eye opener … if I was able to open my eyes. Instead, my eyes were winced shut as I squatted, jumped, pushed, lifted, squeezed and burpeed my way through 60 tough minutes. I almost spewed but managed not to. I must’ve lost 2kg in sweat, but I did feel pretty proud of myself for being able to mostly keep up with the gang. Katie and Sarah kept a close eye on me to ensure I was okay, training hard enough and using good technique. They also encouraged me a lot – it’s amazing how three simple words can help: ‘Good work Di’. That’s the beauty of having two trainers and ten participants – you get plenty of attention (but you also can’t slacken off!).

On return to our room, I jumped straight into our private pool and let the cool water work magic on my screaming muscles. I knew I was going to be in a world of pain the following day.

That first training session was one of the hardest. We trained with intensity like that most days, but the sessions were mixed up; sometimes in the morning during sunrise on the grassy area by the beach, sometimes in the gym, sometimes doing HIIT or weight circuits but always hardcore sweat-inducing training. We also had some stretch sessions, yoga in the open-air pavilion overlooking the ocean and foam roller sessions (so painful but gee I felt amazing afterwards). However, it wasn’t all working out and yoga.

We climbed a mountain (well, most of us did), Mount Batur which is one of Bali’s volcanoes, went for a long stand up paddle in a calm bay in Sanur, did a challenging high ropes course with flying foxes, tight ropes, swaying bridge walks and rope wall climbs at the Tree Top Adventure Park, and my favourite, we visited the Balinese Farm Cooking School set on acres of lush beautiful vegetable gardens with a well-set-up cooking school, situated near Ubud.

As part of our package, we had a voucher to use the resort’s day spa, and ample free time to book in other treatments during the week; I had a fantastic facial, Balinese massage, body scrub and pedicure. We had dinner in Sanur one night, some time to shop in Ubud, and time to chill out by the adult-only pool.

We ate really well too, as you’d expect. The Komune Resort has a healthy menu for those on retreats like us. Just about everything I ate was delicious – sesame crusted tuna and organic green leaf salad, poached eggs with pumpkin, feta and charred asparagus, and a really satisfying roast vegetable bowl with chicken satay. We were able to choose a fresh juice with each meal – the Inflammation Buster with pineapple and ginger was my favourite, and our package included a protein smoothie each day. I’m delighted to report that dinner time commenced with a cocktail or Bintang – yay for holidays!

It’s also worth noting that Katie and Sarah gave some interesting talks on nutrition, health and fitness and we all had one-on-one time to discuss our goals, blocks and strategies to reach those goals. We were all given a health journal and a manual that includes training programs and lots of useful information.

I was stiff and sore for the entire week, at one point unable to raise my arms above my head because my shoulder muscles were in agony. Despite the muscle soreness, by the end of the week, I felt amazing. My skin was glowing, I looked less bloated, felt stronger, I was a little more tanned but the best thing is that I left feeling inspired and motivated. It was the kickstart I needed to get my butt moving this winter. The added bonus is that I left with new friends. It’s the perfect program that mixes a holiday with fitness. The next Bali fitness retreat is 12th to 18th August 2017.

 

FACT FILE

 

Revive Retreat

Revive regular runs health retreats (focus on fat loss) in the Margaret River Region and fitness retreats in Bali. The next fitness retreat in Bali is 12-18 August and early bird prices $2,590 twin share, all inclusive. (I spent less than $200 during the week, mostly on spa treatments and drinks).

For more, visit the Revive website

Disclosure

I paid to attend this retreat and did not receive any incentive or discount to write about it. I had a great time and reckon you might too.

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Ten things to bring on long flights

Living in Australia is great, so great. Except when you want to go to Europe or America or, well, anywhere more than a five-hour flight away, which for me living in Perth, Western Australia, is just about everywhere (except Bali, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney). To make long-haul plane travel more bearable, I have mastered what you need to pack in your carry-on luggage. My main objective it to sleep. My secondary objective is to be distracted and/or entertained so I don’t get too fidgety or claustrophobic.

In order of importance, my Top 10 things to take on the plane with you in your onboard luggage:

 

1. Neck pillow

I was never a fan and thought travellers were just trying to make a statement with their neck pillows dangling off their backpacks, that is until I travelled with one. It raised the comfort level of seat 32A to something far more civilised. Not quite Business Class level (let’s be real, not even close), but with a neck pillow, I slept. Amazingly, I actually fell asleep sitting upright on a plane and slept quite soundly. That was a first and from that moment on, never would I be without my beanbag neck pillow again. Best $20 I ever spent. And when not sleeping, it’s great for balancing the laptop on (see 7 below).

Available from David Jones, $19.95 #notsponsored

2. Noise cancelling headphones

How I love my Bose noise cancelling headphones. They are a game changer, an expensive game changer at about $400 a pair, but worth forking out for if you can afford it. I don’t know how I ever lived without them. With my neck pillow in place and my headphones on and the in-flight entertainment set to the ‘silent’ channel, no wailing toddler or chatty travellers or noisy coughers shall rouse me from my upright slumber. p.s. reckon my next pair will be Beats wireless noise cancelling headphones – Zorba loves his and the case is smaller than the Bose one. Also, the leather around ear pads and top bar on my Bose headphones started to flake after 2.5 years.

 

3. Ear plugs

Who would’ve thought I could have so much love for two little thimble sized pieces of foam? A good option for those who don’t have noise cancelling heaven-sent headphones, but when used in conjunction with the above-mentioned headphones, it increases the levels of comfort and the silence is almost complete.

4. Comfortable eye mask

When you walk out of any long haul flight, try to pick up an unused / left behind vanity kit in Business Class – their eye masks are bigger, better and way more comfortable and effective at blocking out the light than the economy ones. So many times I’ve wanted to shout: seriously, unless we’re flying over a city or there is breathtaking sunset or sunrise, close your blind so we can get some sleep!!

 

5. A wrap or big scarf

I always carry a light woollen scarf or wrap with me – when the aircon is too cold, or the provided blanket isn’t long enough to cover my shoulders and my feet, I use my wrap. Or if I really want to give off the ‘let me sleep vibe’, I use it to cover my head.

This is my all time favourite wrap. I bought it in Barcelona about 5 years ago

6. A good book

I have started and finished a book on one flight before. There’s nothing like getting fully immersed in a gripping story to make time fly. And let’s face it, the sooner we are off the plane, the better, so we want time to fly. I don’t always feel like reading, but it’s great to have the option to, especially if you’ve seen all the movies on the entertainment system (or if they are just rubbish).

Photo from: A Good Day Girl Blog. Such great, great books – highly recommend this Napolitan Series by Elena Ferrante

7. Laptop

Especially good for the long haul trip home – it’s great to download my photos from my memory cards, edit the ones I like, save them into albums, relive those moments of travel joy. All whilst being stabilised on my beanbag neck pillow as I listen to my favourite tunes through my noise-cancelling headphones.

Photo: Apple.com. I love my MacBookPro

8. Lavender essential oil

Not as crazy as it sounds. Lavender is known to help with sleep and a few drops on my neck pillow does wonders – not only do I inhale a lovely scent, it can also mask unpleasant scents around me. We’ve all sat next to stinky toilets and / or people. I never leave home without lavender oil and put a couple of drops on the hotel pillow at night for a guaranteed good night’s sleep.

Photo: doTerra. Ask me if you’d like to know more

9. Toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant

Some airlines provide a mini toothbrush with a teeny tiny tube of abrasive white substance fobbing itself off to be toothpaste – what is that? If you bring your own, you don’t have to worry. That fury teeth feeling after a waking up is horrible. Two mins in the bathroom to clean your teeth and apply deodorant and you’ll feel like a new person. Almost.

 

10. Spare t-shirt, undies, and socks

If your flight is delayed, if you miss your connection, or have a long journey overland once you’re off the plane, changing into fresh clothes will make you feel almost human.

 

Top Tip:

If an airline gives you a pair of socks in your kit, use them. Not only will your tootsies stay warm, but they’ll provide a barrier and help keep your socks clean when you walk around or go to the toilet.

And I always buy a bottle of water once I’m past security to take with me on the plane. It’s annoying to always have to call a steward for a glass or water – some airlines (Emirates) won’t let you take bottled water on, no matter where you purchased the bottle.

What are your favourite things to take with you on a plane?

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Lioni, back to Mum’s birthplace

We tore ourselves away from gorgeous Positano to travel to Lioni in the province of Avellino and the region of Campania, the town where my mum was born.

After several frustrating attempts, we managed to organise car hire when we were in Amalfi for visit (thanks Con!), and arranged for a car to be dropped off to us in Positano near our villa. We got a Lancer, about the size of a Ford Fiesta. Thanks Rent Car Point for the great service.

Once again, the Greek came to the rescue driving like a true pro along the narrow, windy, traffic filled Amalfi Coast roads. The two and a half hour trip took three hours, no thanks to Google maps giving us a bum steer (or was it the person sitting in the front seat who didn’t tell the driver exactly when to turn?).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mum overlooking the Lioni countryside

The drive to Lioni was long and a little stressful because we’d missed a few turns and had to back track. When we’d finally arrived we followed the signs to the centre and to be honest, I was underwhelmed. Mum had warned me that there wasn’t much in the town but she didn’t say that it lacked character, inhabitants or any signs of life. For a town of that size (the sign said Lioni had a population of 6,500), there was no one around. It was like a ghost town with shops closed, shutters shut and not even any traffic to complain about. And it wasn’t quite time for siesta…

Lioni, Avellino

The main piazza in Lioni

The original bell tower in Lioni

The original bell tower in Lioni

Lioni was completely flattened by an earthquake on 20th November 1980. The only structures that survived was the base of the church in the main square which has subsequently been rebuilt and the old stone bell tower beside the town’s secondary church. All other buildings in modern-day Lioni were just that, modern. Which explains the lack of character. The home where mum lived as a child was in the foothills out of the town, and that didn’t survive the earthquake either.

With little else to do and our stomachs rumbling, we asked a lady sitting on a chair in front of a closed shop in the main square where we could find a restaurant for lunch. She recommended La Pentola D’Oro, which translates to the golden pan. The waitress joked and said that with the economic crisis, they were renaming to the Aluminium Pan.

La Pentola D'Oro

It was an unassuming place on the ground floor tucked at the back of a building that looked like a block of flats. There were basic tables and chairs outside and not a customer in sight, just us. Thankfully it was open and the staff greeted us warmly. Perhaps they were relieved that the ghost town had visitors. We opted to sit outside undercover where there was a slight breeze providing relief to heat of the day.

The waitress explained that they couldn’t offer the full menu, they had just a simple menu today and she rattled off a bunch of dishes. I opened up the menu she’d given us and spotted Zorba’s favourite, pasta e fagioli (5 Euro). I asked if that was available and she said yes. Brilliant!

We both ordered pasta e fagioli, Zorba with a red sauce and I opted for the white sauce. Mum had pasta with eggplant and dad ordered pizza without cheese. He doesn’t like cheese and never ever eats it. Quite strange for an Italian, but he’s been like that since childhood when a babysitter fed him so much cheese that he was ill. We also ordered a salad for the table.

The waitress brought out some bread. And some bruschetta, compliments of the kitchen, also some fried suppli, like arancini balls. They also brought out a pizza bianca, essentially a pizza base sprinkled with salt and rosemary. This was all before any of the food we’d actually ordered came out.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Pasta e fagioli with white sauce

Pasta e fagioli with white sauce

Pasta e fagioli with red sauce

Pasta e fagioli with red sauce

Pasta with eggplant

Pasta with eggplant

The pasta e fagioli was delicious – the pasta was fresh, the dish homemade and every mouthful felt nourishing. The white sauce was made with pureed cannellini bean, and Zorba’s dish with red sauce has some tomato sugo added. Dad enjoyed his pizza sensa formaggio too.

Lioni - 7

During our meal, the owner / chef came out to check that everything was to our satisfaction. He was an older chap and mum took the opportunity to ask him about her family. His name was Franco and he was delighted that an ‘original Lionise’ had returned to the town – unexpectedly, he remembered her family. As it turns out, his father was the town’s shoe maker that mum visited once per year as a child to get a pair of shoes made, the only shoes she would wear that year. That’s how things were back then in Lioni.

Lioni - 1 Lioni - 10

Franco then told the waitresses that mum was from Lioni and they brought out a plate of biscotti and cake, another carafe of local red wine and special hazelnut biscuits that he instructed us to dip into the red wine. More sweet wine was brought out – this time white, as Franco chatted with us. He gave us an old map and postcards to show us how the town used to be. He pointed on the map the area where mum’s family – who were known as the ‘stonemasons’ back then – had their farm. It was true feel-good afternoon.

Lioni 1 - 1

Mum, Franco (owner of La Pentola D'Oro) and Dad

Mum, Franco (owner of La Pentola D’Oro) and Dad

We took a drive to the area Franco had pointed out and it was lovely to see the countryside. The views of lush green rolling hills dotted with trees and farmhouses triggered childhood memories for mum. It was great to be a part of that day.

Lioni - 2

If you’re ever in Lioni, I can highly recommend La Pentola D’Oro. Our bill was 55 Euro, for four of us. Needless to say, we left a generous tip – it just felt right to do so.

 

FACT FILE

Car Hire: Rent Point

La Pentola D’Oro

Via Torino, 25, Lioni AVELLINO
+39 (0)827 46102

TripAdvisor

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