Hello Melbourne Vol 2: Wine Tasting at the Yarra Valley

I was really excited to experience wine tasting for the first time. Despite a terrible jet lag,  I really loved it and I am definitely trying it in more countries.

Wine tasting is clearly a big industry for the Australians that is why they were extremely organised. We booked our trip from the Tourists desk and the next day at 8am sharp we had a van waiting for us few meters away from our hotel.

It took us less than an hour to reach to our first stop a boutique strawberry liqueur producer next to a delicatessen.

Next stop on the tour was a cute chocolate factory. It was extremely overpriced but I can imagine being a kid in that store!

After the chocolate factory we entered a boutique Beer brewery and cider producer. Cider is also extremely popular in Australia and I was surprised of all the different versions of it.

The wine tasting was next ! We visited 2 wine yards, in which we drank crisp wines and had amazing Italian food! What else?

 We had cheese platters with grapes, pizzas and hand made ravioli with spinach.

I wont promote a specific wine, but I must admit we had one of the best Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

It is a must try experience as the wine industry is getting more and more sophisticated.

Tips:

Book your wine tour from the office Tourist help in Melbourne. There are tours for every budget and it is best to try it with one of them as the fee to enter the wine estates is more expensive

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Tea Plucking in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

It is a really amazing experience as there are very few places in the world where you can experience it on its original version. Apart from Sri Lanka you can do it south India, in Kerala.

The road to Nuwara Eliya is long; it takes about 7 hours by car as the actual roads are pointy and narrow. You have to start really early to avoid traffic – 4am – as Sri Lankans are usually up by 5am! You may also use the train as it is very popular. The train is a great option as it is extremely cheap to purchase a first class ticket which normally costs 6 dollars ! The view from the train is breathtaking and it is highly recommended. Please do not expect a train like the ones in the western world, as trains are really old. Hence the overall experience is not luxury but it is not bad.

Reaching Nuwara Eliya, you will see why it is called “small England” as the houses will remind you of the British Era. There is a beautiful Golf Course in the middle of the city and a very well preserved park. In order to enter the park for the locals is free, but for the foreigners cost two dollars.

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Nuara Eliya 

There are plenty of small and big tea estates in the area. Some of them they have bungalows for rent or boutique hotels. In the bigger ones you will find activities which explain the way tea is produced and you will have the opportunity to tea pluck yourself. Unfortunately, tea plucking is not a very popular job these days as the wages are small and the people seek opportunities in the cities.

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The traditional Tea Plucking uniform

Nuwara Eliya is the birthplace of the famous Ceylon Tea and being there is a true once in a lifetime experience.

Tips:

  • in Nuara Eliya is always cold so bring warm clothes
  • Book hotels @ Jetwings Hotel  or The Grand Hotel
  • try the local cuisine
  • Ride Tuk Tuks – they are safe but negotiate the rate before entering

 

Hello Melbourne ! Vol 1

That is a city I never thought I would like; but I actually loved it!

Melbourne is extremely impressive; beautiful modern skyscrapers next to perfectly preserved old buildings, clean and peaceful parks and of course the beautiful Yarra River that crosses the city gracefully.

Starting from getting an easy tourist visa process your only concern should be not to carry any food in your bags, as its definitely not allowed ! We took a direct 11 hour flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka with Sri Lankan airways and we landed safely in Melbourne. The airport is also great, very modern and the finding our way out was a very fast route.

We rented an apartment in the CBD area very close to the Victoria Library and the City Hall. That area is also famous for the Universities and its possibly the most lively area together with the Yarra River. I adore organised and clean cities and Melbourne is one of them! Our apartment was on the 54th floor so we had a pretty good view as well.

Melbourne is a city where you can walk safely but it also has excellent public transport. People are friendly and nice and they seem to enjoy their city. There is a huge variety of restaurants and bars with cuisine from all over the world in addition to quiet parks small cafes.

Tip: Walk and explore the city and when tired rent a bike and see the parks 

 The National Gallery

 

I loved spending time at the National Gallery. It hosted amazing exhibitions including the latest exhibition of Yayoi Kusama.

“Inside Yayoi Kusama’s Flower obsession 2017. The proliferation of flowers gradually covers all surfaces transforming the domestic space into a spectacular environment”

Yayoi Kusama

Few metres from the Narional Gallery is the famous Yarra River. This area will remind you of Dubai Marina in Dubai. It is a beautiful walk with malls, restaurants and bars. It is a famous spot for locals and tourists and the home for many street artists. First time I saw a man giving “Free Prayers” next to the river!

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Yarra River  & the South Bank

Tip for the Tourist: Visit the Tourist Centre although the Tram around CBD is Free!

Eureka Tower
Eureka Tower towers over Melbourne and is the tallest building in Melbourne and second tallest building in Australia. Built in 2006, the height of this building is 297.3 meters. Until the 2010, when the Burj Khalifa was finished, it was the tallest building in earth. Take some time and visit this its observatory where you can see the time from above. We took the chance to be at the Edge .. and we survived it too!

The Eureka Tower

The Eureka Tower

The Victoria Library

Do not forget to visit the Victoria Library as it is a beautiful building inside out.

 

The Best Brunch in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I must admit I am a serial brunch lover and since I avoid drinking during the day, I choose places which are special and which will satisfy your taste to the max. Talking about taste, I found the best all day breakfast place in Colombo, the One Up!

Two Australian surfers founded this boutique restaurant in the capital of Sri Lanka. The place is really small and that is because all dishes are cooked by one of the owners! The variety is not big but all portions are large and very delicious. If you are visiting Colombo, I would recommend you to try the Eggs Benedict with Crab and the Poached Eggs with Avocado and Feta cheese!

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You will be served by the owners and you will have one of the best experience guarantee.

Bon Appetit !

Tip: There are no service taxes applied in the bill so do not forget to tip them well!

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Hidden Spot: The Edge of The World, Saudi Arabia

I am usually not a fun of the adventures, but this adventure I would recommend it !

Hidden deep in Saudi Arabia, The Edge of the World is the place of unique beauty. The scenery is wild and scary but also peaceful and quiet.

Located only 2 hours away from the capital, the city of Riyadh. In order to reach The Edge of the World you need a proper 4×4 SUV car. The locals recommend you to always go with two cars because it is very common the cars to stuck in the sand.

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Remember that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi so the ladies need a male driver!

The off road driving is dangerous in some parts, so make sure that you have a good driver with you.

The Edge of the World is the favorite spot for pick-nicks. However, make sure you will leave on the day light as when its dark is very difficult to find the way back.

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A Maldivian Retreat

The Maldives is one of the most advertised place on earth. I am sure everyone is secretly wishing to be there at least once in their lifetime. Hence, it is not the easiest trip to do since Male is a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it is a long trip from most of the countries and the hotels are very expensive.

However everyone will admit that the Maldives is a very special on earth. The clear waters, the white sands, the tiny islands spread on the water give the traveler a great experience.

Once you arrive on Male, you will have to get either a speedboat or a sea plane to go to your hotel. There are hotels very close to Male but there are  islands close to two hours away from  Male. When budgeting for your trip in the Maldives, do not forget to calculate this cost.

There are many hotels in the Maldives; from luxurious 5 star hotels to smaller 3 star hotels. You can choose the one which fits your budget. I would say that some of the hotels might be overpriced. At the end of the day, the Maldives is all about the view! You can enjoy the view from any hotel!

Do not forget to snorkeling in the reefs and swim with the baby sharks!

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The Yoga Retreat in Bali

Bali is famous for its beautiful beaches and the outstanding natural forests. Bali has been a top destination for honeymooners and backpackers as it combines everything; Luxurious hotels, affordable condos, great nightlife, gourmet restaurants, great historic places and organised museums and of course the best yoga !

I have always been a fan of yoga but I am not practicing it on a regular basis. Hence, once I found myself in Bali I was sure I had to visit a yoga place. I checked online, of course and I found the best place in Ubud!

In the heart of Ubud there is a beautiful Yoga studio, the Taksu Yoga. It feels like you are entering a garden with a petit lake in the middle and the forest build around it.

Since I would call myself a beginner, I signed up for the basic course. I was informed that people in Bali are usually much advanced and they do not usually practice this course. I was so lucky I was the only person that particular day so I had the full attention of the teacher ! As a beginner I really enjoyed the attention as in most classes the yoga teacher has a big class so she or he cannot correct everyone.

The studio is made of wood inside the forest with open air windows. The only sound you hear are the sounds of the forest, which helps enormously to concentrate on breathing and the exercise. Even the basic yoga level was intense and I could really feel the exercise on every inch of my body. The teacher was extremely kind, patient and helpful.

After one hour of class enjoy a fresh juice in the bar to relax and boost your energy.

Visit: http://www.taksuyoga.com/