Marvellous Melbourne

We’re in Melbourne for a few days whilst Steve works and I ‘support’.

We started with dinner on Monday night with our friends Valda and Guy. A short stroll down Toorak Rd from St Kilda road, past Faulkner Park and into Memories – a little Chinese restaurant. Lovely staff included 3 young Chinese girls who reminded us of the song ‘Three little maids from school are we….’  They moved around serving together and made a very sweet picture. Our braised pork and seafood plate were very good and the green beans delicious.

Australia Day: Tuesday morning we were up early and in a taxi for the short ride to Parliament House for the annual Australian Unity Australia Day Breakfast. Rob and Jordan scored an invitation so we met them there looking very smart and lowering the average age of the assembled crowd.

The breakfast guest speaker – Prof Ian Harper – spoke very well about the economic picture of Australia since settlement. Very succinct. The singer this year was Deborah Cheetham, an Indigenous Opera singer who composed and performed a wonderful piece for the opening of the Sydney Olympics.

From there we went back to the hotel for a change of clothes, then out to St Kilda to meet my school friend Petrina, husband Lynwood daughter in law Emily and cute Grandson Henry.

Republica restaurant was perfect for an Australia Day lunch. Right on the beach. Loads of families,  young people, hipsters and  passers by of all shape, size and ethnicity. Lunch was lamb of course. We had a great time eating,  drinking then walking along the boardwalk in an effort to walk off the food and drinks and observe Melbourneians at play.

A really great fun lunch and as luck would have it, I’m now in possession of a few free tickets to the tennis in Thursday. Emily has a friend who gave her 2 tickets for the 11am session Thursday. Up in the Gods but hey they are free so I’m in!

Back to hotel for recovery before a drink with one of Steve’s fellow board members.

Crashed into bed!

Victoria’s Art Gallery NGV

Wednesday – kissed Steve good bye at 7.30 and planned my day.

A tram ride to NGV to see their latest big exhibition  – Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei. On the way in I ran into friend Cathy Campbell and her husband.

The exhibition is great. If you are coming to Melb try and see it.


Wonderful parallel shows.

From here I went next door and booked a ticket to Pennsylvania a one women show by Betnadette Robinson    For tonight , when Steve goes to a fancy restaurant for his board dinner.

From the arts precinct – into the city to browse and visit the Manchester Unity building on the corner of Collins and Swanston St. It’s a beautiful Art Deco building slowly being restored by a Chinese man who owns Smile dentists  and has bought the whole building. It’s looking very beautiful and will be great when more public areas are incorporated.

Further wandering concluded with an ice cream in a deck chair at Federation square watching Murray play Ferrer.

Now it’s risotto for dinner watching the rain pour down before leaving for the theatre. It should stop before I leave I hope.

Tomorrow – the tennis.

Just got in from the theatre. What a performance by Bernadette Robinson. She had a one woman show a few years ago where she played a girl in the dressing room and sang lots of songs impersonating other performers. This was similar but she was an assistant to several Presidents of the USA. She told their story and her own and sang songs by performers such as Marilyn Munro, Barbra Striesand, Tammy Wynette, Diana Ross …….. Great show.

Now waiting for Steve. I wonder what he had for dinner.

10 Favourite Villages in France.

Today I’m going to tell you about my 10 favourite villages in France.

I usually prefer smaller villages as they are easier to get to know in a few days. Big cities need longer to delve into.

So ……. In no particular order

  1. Cotignac in Provence. I’ve been here twice to stay with good friends in their house in the village. It’s  a beautiful village – almost perfect when it comes to French villages. Big enough to have a good selection of businesses – bakery, cafes and great markets on Wednesday and Saturday. It is a good base for exploring nearby villages Aups, TourTour, Salernes as well as the Gorge de Verdan. It’s about an hour to the coast and lovely seaside towns like Cassis. Also an hour to Aix en Provence.   
  2. Avignon  Also in Provence this is a great base for exploring the area. It’s a good size to be interesting on it’s own – it has the amazing Palace of the Popes, so lots of history and is a driveable distance from the charming St Remy, L’isle sur-la-Sorgue, Arles and many other little villages. As an alternative stay in St Remy visit Avignon and other little villages.   
  3. The Loire Valley: This is a gorgeous area and you can choose any number of little villages to base yourself. We picked Amboise. It has a wonderful Castle and is also home to Chateau du Clos,  the house and garden of Leonardo da Vinci. We stayed at a great little house directly opposite the castle. Not expensive and very comfortable. it can be found on The Chateaux in the area are magnificent.  
  4. We’ve also been to the Champagne area and stayed one night in Epernay and then in Hautville, a small village nearby and for me a better option. Only 15mins away so easy taxi ride in to do a Champagne House tour. The B&B was very good La Chevalee. We also visited Reim but I wouldn’t stay there…..  
  5. We travelled south into Burgundy and stayed at Noyers-sur-Serein. A really lovely medieval village. We had 3 nights  and explored the area.  Our B&B was called Cote-Serein – Chambres de la Tour and was in the village.  
  6. Strasbourg     Not a village but a charming small city. I had a week here on my own and loved it. Its only 2 hrs by fast train to Paris and easy to get around. A car might be handy to explore the Alsace Lorraine wine trail but there are trains and buses to get you around. I took a great wine tour .
  7. Carcassonne on the west is a lovely walled town (we stayed in the Best Western inside the walls). A great place to base yourself to explore the area.  
  8. St Emilion,    Biarritz and Bordeaux are all lovely places to explore. Biarritz is good in summer for a swim. Its a lovely village with good food and a not so lovely Casino. A half day drive to St Emilion for a few days to explorethe wine region and easy to get into Bordeaux for the day by train. Stay in the lovely Des Chambres l’Ovaline B&B right at the entrance to the town. The town has a wonderful underground Church and a tour of the vineyards is good to do.
  9. Bayeux    You must go to Bayeux to see the tapestry. It’s a must.  Also as a base to explore the beaches famous for the Normandy invasion. Stay at La Villa a great B&B.
  10. St Malo:    The book ‘All the Light I cannot see” by Anthony Doerr is set here and it’s a charming seaside village (surrounded by a large modern town). Its a port and you can sail from here to the Channel Islands.its also close to Dinan another lovely village. 

For more information on these places check out the rest of the blog.

Please put the names of your favourite villages in the comments box. Love to get some of your suggestions. 

Watch out for my next post: Paris. Where to stay, what to do.







How to pick the perfect accommodation. 

Lots of friends ask me tips for choosing the best hotel , apartment & B&B. 

Admittedly I do spent a crazy amount of time selecting but over the years I have become better at finding  good accommodation. 

These are my guidelines. 

1. When you know where your are going start by googling that place and usually I’ll then go to I have signed up for an account and this pays off because the more you use it to book the more points you earn towards better deals. I also like to use it because all the bookings  made ( or even cancelled ) are kept on your account. This is a good reference when suggesting places to friends. It also often lets you book but often allows cancellation without penalty. 

2. Then you put your destination in and dates (if you know them ) and when the list comes up I go straight to the map and look at the locations. It’s no good finding what sounds like a great hotel but then finding its away from the main part of town or city. 

3. Browse a few to compare. Look at prices and features and read reviews. I focus more on the negatives. If there are just a few picky type negatives I tend to go to trip advisor to see the reviews there and compare. Be careful to check air con if it’s summer, stairs if no lift, parking ……

4. I always Google earth the location and look at the satellite view to see if it’s next to something bad – major highway, tip, railway line. 

5. Make a booking but be sure you can cancel without penalty. In peak times this is very important because things book out very easily. You can always cancel if something changes or you find another place. 

6. Look on Trip advisor reviews for room tips. They are usually at the end of a review if someone mentions the room they liked. Then if you get a few tips put that in your booking request. Eg: first floor away from the street. 

The only time I have broken my own rule on location I was sorry. I had thought it was too far away from the action! But  I booked anyway. And despite the good reviews of  great breakfast , good beds , free bikes, all day tea coffee …… I would prefer a great location. 

I’ve got good lists of places to stay particularly in Italy and France so email me if you want some advice.

Travel plans for 2016

The New Year is here and we are planning our next adventures.

I look back at our  holidays last year. The trip to France and Spain in August was wonderful. Check the stories out in earlier posts. Then our recent trip to Cambodia to see Pete and Elena and celebrate their engagement was amazing.

As I sit on the beach chatting to friends we share stories of last years travel and what’s on our bucket list for this year.

Lea fancies Norway and Russia and as does Jill. Two friends both leaning towards the same places!  Susie is looking at India and maybe a wedding. Carmel will be going back to Sri Lanka and India for work. And the Maitlands have a few little holidays and surprise surprise another swim trek. This time to Montenegro. We’ll follow up with a week or two in my favourite country – Italy. This time in the heel of the country – arriving in Bari and heading south to Otranto and holidaying the way Italians do.

Other little holidays or ‘getaways’ this year include. Melbourne for Australia Day and perhaps a night at the tennis. Another visit in February to Melbourne with friends for the Edinburgh  Tattoo. Yes it’s coming to Melbourne!

Then in April,  New Zealand with Chris and Jill Wilson to visit friends from our Greece swim trek. Steve is braving the cool waters of Auckland and doing a swim with Kim and David. We’ll also visit the area called the Coramandel.

We head to Sydney for niece Pips wedding to Hugh in April and then nephew Patrick’s wedding to Lauren in Port Macquarie in May. Hopefully we’ll be able to call into Crescent Head to visit the McGregors.

By June we’ll be preparing for our holiday swimming in Montenegro and touring Puglia.

Maybe the USA in October to visit our swim trekking friends and sample the wines near Lodi where Jordan’s parents live.

Then in December it’s back to beautiful Cambodia for Peter and Elena’s wedding. It’s on Dec 20. The date they met and the date two years later they got engaged.  We can’t wait.

So that’s it’s for holidays at the moment. Lots to look forward to.

Driving to the Airport

I love the roads here. Yes they are dusty and very busy. But they are endlessly entertaining. 

These are some of the things we saw; 

   Three on a bike is common! 

  Carrying shopping or half your house in a tuk tuk!

  When the traffic slows just ride on the footpath! And no one worries!

  Blow up toys on the footpath and 

  On a bike

  Fruit sellers

  More deliveries on the footpath. 

  Family and friends together. 


We saw fire engines. Then we saw the fire!

Then the ambulance
Phnom Penh. Crazy but gets under your skin. 

Museums, a Palace and Beer. 

Unfortunately El has to work today so we are sight-seeing with Pete. We started with a quick swim and wandered down to Che Culo , Nick’s bar where El is manager. 

It’s an easy stroll down the narrow street, lined with tuk tuk drivers lounging inside their tuks calling lazily ‘A ride for you today?’ We also pass several spas ( everyone here must have ripped muscles and smooth skin judging by the number of spas), a nice looking backpackers placed called The Monkey bar , an English school called Harrods, a coffee shop, a child care centre, a French man selling beautiful pate, sausages and other lovely meats, a few apartment blocks and a restaurant called il Forno: the manager Antonio has become a ‘friend’ as we met him through El in Siem Reap. 

Most the streets around here are like this one. Not too busy, mixture of little shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops etc.  

  I enjoyed my first coffee in 2 weeks! A piccolo. 

Then it was in a tuk and away to the National Museum – a rather lovely building with an interesting collection of statues mostly of Buddha and Vishna. Having been to Siem Reap helped with already having some knowledge of Buddhism and the Cambodian empire as it was. 

It was back out to the museum of the local street a fascinating landscape of people, transport and interesting businesses. We were on ‘Art St’ and walked in and out of the many little galleries fitted along the street. Most had fairly garish large paintings but some were just lovely. I liked one little square canvas of a temple black and white with just two monks in colour. Next thing old romantic Pete was asking the price on a similar one of Ankor Wat because it showed the spot where he had proposed to El. He bought it as a surprise for her. 

Down the tree lined street we walked towards the river and went up to the balcony of the FCC club for a beer and lovely views of the river – not to mention the welcome breeze. Although it’s warm here it’s no worse than Brisbane on  a hot summers day. Pete tells me it’s still winter and we have been enjoying the best weather for months. Lucky us! Wouldn’t want to be here in May June – apparently the hottest time. 

After our break we walked down the river to the Palace and its many outstanding buildings a collection of ornate temples, stupas, reception rooms and other decorated pagoda style buildings. We toured around taking shoes on and off as we entered the temples. You need easy to remove shoes here as you are  on and off with them everywhere. El was wearing things that were too small for her because when she returned someone had taken hers! We like to think it was a mistake! But who knows. 

By now the sun was very warm so we walked awhile observing the locals and made our way back to Che Culo then a swim before heading to Pete and El’s for a balcony dinner. 

They went to so much trouble to make a lovely dinner for us. and was relaxed and delicious. Music, candles entree, salad slow cooked pork.  All delicious. They even. Bought ice cream and chocolate for Steve as they know he loves it. Thank you El and Pete.   


Last Day 

Our little breakfast routine is established but today we slept in and missed the 10 am cut off. Must be relaxed! 

Went for coffee to Che Culo and met up with the kids and set off to Pete’s school. It’s about 20 mins from his place and in a quiet street – relatively speaking! It’s a primary class campus with the infants school a block away. There is a security guard at the entrance who greeted Peter like a long lost friend and then various grounds people all giving friendly greetings. We walked up to the top of the building – 4 flights  – where both year 4s share a landing. Pete’s room is basic but set up well( teacher in me speaking!). Mind you he has a full time Teacher Assistant!  

The other Yr 4 is teacher Gary from England , a nice guy we met in Kampot a few days ago along with Principal Justin from NSW. 

Then off to the Central Market. Housed in a large domed building radiating out from the dome they are clean and very organised by Asian standards.   Did a bit of shopping and marvelled at the jewellery counter. Lots of bling. Much easier to negotiate than the Russian markets where you need to leave a crumb trail to find your way out. 

  Lunch is always a feature of our day and today didn’t disappoint. Off to a yum char feed. Pete has all the food types covered and knows where to get the best of everything. (Usually the cheapest as well)  

 We prepared for the last night and took a wonderful sunset cruise only $5 head and practically had a whole boat to ourselves. We took along our own wine as a sundowner and settled in for the hour long cruise along the river. Again spectacular.  


 Back to The Chinese House for a drink  where the Sth African owner made a fuss of El and finally to Romdeng. It’s s classic Camboduan sophisticated restaurant used as a training place for hospitality workers. It’s was perfect. Food wonderful. Even tried the crispy tarantulas! Brava!