Mantra on Salt Beach – July 2016

We began our journey to the Gold Coast (GC) for the splendour in the grass festival in traditional parents on the loose style- crazy excited about bags filled with our own things rather than sultanas and books without pictures. It’s the little things. Oh plus booze. 

The easy flight was to be backed up by a quick drive to the resort. Despite several warnings about a bridge closure (“sure! Thanks for the tip! I will TOTALLY remember that”) we did not in fact remember that at all and then had to drive ALL the way around back through several towns to make it back into the village. 

So the short 20 min drive from the airport was anything but, however it gave us a better feel for the neighbouring suburbs and a promise to return for a house rental up in the hills of Cabarita. Or the ultimate in Instagram porn Halcyon House.

Leaning towards a a gated village feel, Mantra at Salt Beach is nuzzled in next to the Peppers resort, with a sweet selection of restaurants, cafes and shops in the middle to enable a swimsuit purchase with your flat white ( i may have indulged).

We were visiting for the Splendour festival but were mentally filing away the perks for small families so we could return . Everything about the village screams comfortable family holiday – good facilities, reasonably priced hotel rooms and cheap airfares. Tick, tick, tick. 


We booked a one bedroom apartment which was more than enough room for a couple. The sitting area was spacious and had a large wrap around balcony facing the manicured gardens and looking out to the ocean.

The decor is a little outdated but not overhelmingly so – more like a comforting 90s dream and a flashback to queensland family holidays. No complaints on the amenities apart from a weird positioning of light switches (which puzzles me – surely near the door is always the answer?).



The rest of the hotel feels like it has had a fairly recent refresh, with the pool and dining options clean and inviting, and a large lobby with colourful artworks and comfy couches. Beautiful lush gardens surround the pool and lead you out to Salt beach, a glorious stretch of white sands and crystal blue water. We spied an indoor playground and RSL style diner which i know would 100% have a terrible cover band that I would enjoy immensely. 


With the festival beckoning we did not maximise these facilities but will definitely return with the small person in tow. 

Mantra on Salt Beach

http://www.mantraonsaltbeach.com.au

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Sebel Hotel Kiama – January 2016

I am a fan of Hotel reviews (obviously) and my travel research can border on the obsessive. So it is nice to be pleasantly surprised and dismissive of other travelling folk by going against the grain and staying at a place with average reviews.
Travelling on the first weekend of January, in high summer, was perhaps not the smartest thing to do. Further to that, only deciding to go away on a whim does not help with the available hotel choice.

My research into the Sebel uncovered that it was outdated, a bit drab, not worth the coin. All in all, it didn’t paint a pretty picture. So when we arrived walking straight into the lobby, checked in early with a room upgrade all in a grand total of five minutes I was already impressed. Free parking, easy loading of our million and one things (standard for travelling for one night with a toddler), we made it to our room and were set up in under 15 minutes. Perfection.

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The room overlooked the park and railway line (not exactly scenic) but it enough light to entice us outside which is where you want to be in a seaside town. The room was spacious enough to ft a cot and not be tripping over ourselves, and the bed was large and comfortable. A little stark on the decorations but I much prefer that to an easily outdated room. I understand that there had been some recent renovations so perhaps we were lucky to have a newer room but honestly I don’t know what people were complaining about. It could be said it is on the tad pricey side, but being the only branded hotel in town that is expected. It was clean, easy and staff were friendly – all giant ticks in my view.

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Stock standard – nothing to see here

You cannot beat the location – right on the waterfront and close enough to the main drag but far away enough to feel peaceful. The building itself is a mixture of old and new – beautiful old sandstone preserved in recent renovations was a good move. A new(ish) cafe right next door – Penny whistlers – became our second home. Overall a pleasant stay in a seaside town – warrants another stay.

 

Shout outs to the impressive coffee trail to get us to Kiama:

Bread, espresso &

My new fave future holiday destination – Thirroul. We finally did the drive over the sea cliff bridge which I’ve been meaning to do for a long while, and were pleasantly surprised to drive through some of the southern Sydney suburbs and this gem Thirroul. The name of this little cafe stopped us (as well as the surrounding house porn) and is well worth a visit. Super tiny and cute, fresh pastries and a damn good coffee.

Bread, espresso & 

190 Lawrence Hargrave drive, Thirroul

Sifters Espresso

The scent of breakfast delights fill the air even before I have made it to the car park cafe. A sweet rustic set up with a great soundtrack, delicious treats and a very laid back atmosphere. It’s what I’d love to see in Sydney except it would be unheard of to get this kind of real estate in the Sydney CBD. Super charming staff in all black, school chairs, milk crates and faux grass stools give this cafe a super cute look. I preferred to grab a takeaway and bask in the sunshine while i waited. It was meant to be a coffee pit stop but after drooling over the kitchen I had to get a small treat to takeaway. Gutted a pork roast was about to begin as I left ….

Sifters Espresso  

82 Market St, Wollongong NSW

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Penny Whistlers

Who needs to suffer through disappointing hotel breakfasts when this is on your doorstep? Located right next door to the Sebel Hotel Kiama So good we went twice in 24 hours ( and contemplated a third but thought we would look strange). Great coffee with a delicious menu, we can attest to the beef brisket burger and breakfast bowls.

But the kicker is the view. Starting out over the park it’s just clear blue ocean for days. A cold glass of rose, a full belly and a quiet toddler made for some pretty fine daydreaming.

Penny Whistlers

5/31 Shoalhaven St,  Kiama NSW

Ritzy Gritz

And an extra shout out to the local Mexican place Ritzy Gritz. A tradition of ours is to visit Mexican restaurants in completely inappropriate places ( started on a Sunday night in Paris where the only thing open was a local Mexican place). This place made no sense – it was a mexican AND a stone grill house. What? But it was a pleasant surprise – they accommodated a tired toddler, outdoor seating, fast service and a tasty meal. And my Margarita came in a carafe. Hello fun.

Ritzy Gritz

40 Collins St‎reet, Kiama, NSW 2533

 

Walamba House, Pearl beach – July 2014

The fireplace. It was all about the fireplace. Five adults, one baby, cold weather. It was always going to be about the fireplace.

For a quick weekend away, you can’ beat the central coast. We found our way back there again, this time in winter, to have a different beachside break. I love the idea of a winter escape in the countryside, but somehow i always manage to find myself back near the water. My fear of floral bed speeds sent me running from the hills (or more precisely the blue mountains) and not wanting to travel more than an hour out of Sydney we settled on Pearl Beach.

Photo from Stayz.com

Photo from Stayz.com

We stumbled upon Walamba House after a quick stayz search, and as we were travelling with a few mates it was a perfect size and price. The house is warm and inviting with a large open dining, kitchen and lounge area perfect for entertaining. The layout and decor was simple, modern and stylish – a holiday house i would happily call my own. The owners popped the heaters on before our arrival which i thought was the most kindest gesture ever. Once we got sorted, it was straight to the fireplace where city hipsters become experts in wood preparation, fire starting and maintenance. The log fire was burning all weekend long, anchoring the house and providing something more interesting to watch than the tv.

The three bedrooms were decent sized, with one specifically set up for kids which i filed away for future reference. Super dense, thick mattresses that envelope you like a giant hug as you settle in for the evening..:: that is once you have already fallen asleep on the comfy couch in front of the fire. Yes I could get used to this. The linen and decor were sweet and homely – not outdated and “leftover” like many holiday houses on the coast can be. However, we found out Pearl Beach is considered the Double Bay of the Central Coast so it was not surprising.

Given the cold weather we spent most of our time in front of the fire, however when we did venture outdoors we found a backyard which backs straight onto bushland with some furry friends. Apparently the local bush turkeys were very keen on the delicious BBQ we had the night before and were hoping for some leftovers. Leaving the house, the beach is only a short walk away, with a local grocer, coffee shop and restaurant along the water which would have been great if we had not brought half of the Meat Emporium’s contents with us from Sydney. Meat sweats is an understatement.

All in all, a perfect weekend away, making a mental note to return in the warmer months…

Walamba House
http://www.pearlbeachhouse.com/

Holiday daydreaming – road trip vs Bali

As a holiday daydreamer, I find it unsetting that I cannot get over excited about holiday travel in my own country.

Don’t get me wrong, while I LOVE Australia, and am happy to be living back at home, the choice of boutique accommodation is well….uninspiring. I would like to book a little road trip, driving from Sydney to somewhere north but there are only a handful of properties which are enticing me to part with my hard earned cash. Yes, now I understand why so many Australians are fans of Bali – for the price of a hotel room in a 3 star hotel in a random coastal town I could have my own private villa and lap pool. And breakfast. Most likely brought to me in my pool villa. Le sigh….

The current properties that are on my short-list look great – but just not sure it is enough to sidetrack me from a cheap Bali getaway.

Byron at Byron Resort & Spa – for a bit of relaxing pool action
http://www.thebyronatbyron.com.au

Atlantis – for the impeccable furnishings and Danish feel
atlanticbyronbay.com.au

The oyster catcher, Jervis Bay – February 2013

I am not easily swayed away from hotels for a weekend away, but a little B&B in Husky took my interest and i couldn’t resist.

The Oyster Catcher is a small B&B in Huskisson near Jervis Bay, on the south coast of NSW. I say it is a small B&B as it technically only serves one set of guests at a time. ALERT – i may have found the perfect solution to the B&B conundrum. You see, i love hotels because even with small boutique properties there is a sense of anonimity. While a small hotel staff might remember your name ( love that ) i do not want to ‘mingle’ with any other hotel guests. Its not an area i am hoping to make life long friendships – i don’t even want to talk to people in line at the breakfast buffet. And B&B’s usually go against the grain – pulling you together in essentially what is someone else’s home, sitting in their kitchen like a tight knit family – except they are strangers. Nope, too uncomfortable, book me in at a giant hotel chain instead so i don’t have to talk to anyone.

The Oyster Catcher is basically two houses in one – one side is for the owner Sandra, and the other for one set of guests. rather than a bed and breakfast it is more like a mini house and breakfast. Spacious and airy, the property has one bedroom minimally furnished with the essentials, a hallway area with a mini fridge, large lounge and dining area and an oversized bathroom. The Croat comes out in me when I see multiple sets of Sheridan towels in the bathroom, it doesn’t take much to impress me – a few fluffy towels and i am yours. The large free standing bath makes for a decadent soak, with high windows that reveal the treetops outside so you feel close to nature, but closer to mod cons. Again, a perfect feature for me.

Things i love about the Oyster Catcher
– Our gracious host Sandra spoils you with a beautful breakfast spread of baked porridge, seasonal fruits, sourdough bread and local jams. I didn’t even realise there was a gap in my life in the form of Fig jam.
– Everything else. Seriously considering my options of early retirement to this amazing seaside spot.

Things i don’t love about the Oyster Catcher
– The rumoured resident Zelda (the miniature schnauzer) does not make an appearance during our stay, leaving this puppy advocate very disappointed.

The Oyster Catcher
4 Jervis St Huskisson NSW
http://www.oystercatcher.com.au

* note – since this review was written the Oyster Catcher has closed. Massive sad face!

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Jet lag free holidays

This is potentially a dangerous type of article to pop up in my inbox on a Monday morning.
A further deep dive (pardon the pun, and horrible management speak) into the Ayana Resort and Spa feels like a very important priority right now.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Manchester – October 2012

The cookie on arrival. I have made the point in previous blog posts here how much I love the DoubleTree cookie. It is a gimmick, and I am happy to support it on each and every stay.  Traveling with some friends who had not been to the DoubleTree were initially confused at how and where the cookies could be stored to always be hot (they have an oven under the counter) and were soon on board. Check in was a breeze (or was I just distracted by that hot cookie?) and we were on our way up to our rooms quick smart. A request to have two rooms located close together was ignored, but hey, no biggie.

Double Tree Manchester has all the perks of a mid-high range business hotel. Adequate cocktail/lounge/bar, a large dining area and open and airy entrance. The rooms follow suit, equipped with a large queen bed, medium sized bathroom and little special touches like an Apple iMac TV/PC. The hotel advertises the ergonomic ‘Mirra’ chair as being a feature for the office/desk area, but as our break was for musical pleasure, not business, there was no work to be done.

 

A pleasant stay, but would i rush back? Probably not. See reasons below of what really got under my skin.

Things I love about this hotel

–       Location, location – Assuming you are taking the train into Manchester (you would be a fool not to – so easy!), the hotel is very easy to get to. We got our phones out (obligatory cursing at the new stupid apple maps app) but realised our frustration would be short lived as the hotel was across the road from the station. Also around the corner is the Gay Village on the canals, and on the other side the Northern Quarter. I can highly recommend all the things at Almost Famous burgers on High st.

Things I don’t love about this hotel

–       Clean my room – It is not that hard. We arrived back to the hotel after an afternoon of strolling around the city and were dying for a disco nap, only to come home and find our room had not been cleaned. At 5pm. This seemed weird, and the only thing that was done was a hotel staff member came knocking at 6pm to check if the room had been cleaned. Not with an offer to clean it, but more a checklist. I was so annoyed and frustrated that I just asked for more towels and some tea to be replaced. Which they brought up a short time later without any milk. I AM IN ENGLAND HERE PEOPLE. I know how much tea means to this country, I respect that, I have EMBRACED it. To deliver tea bags without milk is just asking for trouble.

–       One towel set out in the bathroom – odd as we were definitely checking in as a couple. When more towels were ordered they only brought one set. I get that you want to keep your cleaning costs down, but I think they can assume that if one person wants fresh towels, so would the OTHER PERSON PAYING FOR THIS HOTEL ROOM.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Manchester – Piccadilly

One Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn St., Manchester