Experience Far North-East Queensland like a Local

Palm Cove, QueenslandBack in March, my boyfriend took me to his “home town”, Cairns, on the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia. I visited Cairns many years ago with my family, but was excited to experience Cairns as a local with my boyfriend. Cairns is the hub for experiencing some of Australia’s best natural wonders. Alex has since offered his picks for the beautiful sights in and around this essential destination when visiting Australia. Thanks Alex!

Cairns, Queensland

A cloud of bats at dusk over Cairns

Stay
Hilton Cairns: Coincidently enough, I’ve only stayed here while in town, best location, quality, and value.

Palm Cove, Queensland

Palm Cove

Eat
La Fettuccina: Alex got his culinary start here, so he definitely knows they make their own pasta, standing the test of time as the best Italian restaurant in town.
Ochre Restaurant: Serving the best Australian specialties.
Barnacle Bills: For anything seafood that has also stood the test of time.
Vanilla Gelateria and Café: A cute smoothie, juice, and gelato café overlooking the lagoon.

Barron Fall, Queensland

Barron Falls

See and Do
Crystal Cascades: This was my favourite local spot, its name holds true, as pristine water flows in and out of natural pools surrounded by towering cliffs and giant boulders in a rainforest hideaway. Get here by car, taking about 30 minutes from central Cairns.
Mossman Gorge, QueenslandKuranda: The journey alone to Kuranda makes this a must do for any visitor of Cairns. Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway through the tropical rainforest surrounding Cairns, along mountains and waterfalls, making sure to check out Barron Falls on the way. On the way back take the Skyrail, to see the rainforest from an entirely new perspective.
Mossman Gorge, QueenslandPalm Cove: A charming, little beach establishment with luxurious resorts and cute shops to match. Located about a 30 minute drive north from Cairns, it is worth walking along the beach, ducking into the cute shops, and grabbing a coffee at one of the cafes.
Mossman Gorge, QueenslandPort Douglas: This beautiful, coastal town, located an hour drive north of Cairns, is where the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef meet. Come here to escape the tourism centre that is Cairns and relax at one of the many luxurious restaurants and hotels.Mossman Gorge, Queensland
Mossman Gorge: Another favourite attraction of mine. It was truly my first time in such a lush, tropical rainforest, and the closest I’ve come to experiencing the world-famous, Daintree Rainforest. The circuit walk provided a great introduction to this natural wonder. Though, I wish I wore my swimsuit, as there are opportunities to splash in crystal clear swimming holes. Get here by car or shuttle bus, taking about 30 minutes from of Port Douglas, or tour buses operate from Port Douglas and Cairns.

Mossman Gorge, Queensland

Getting lost in Mossman Gorge

Great Barrier Reef: Now no trip to Cairns is complete without experiencing this world-famous, natural wonder. The reef itself is the largest reef in the world, so it can be overwhelming when trying to find the best tour and company. By now you know I am a fan of review-based websites, so check those out for the best company, as tourism on the reef is transforming big time. But for tours, Alex recommends checking out Green Island and Norman Reef. Just be aware that worthwhile tours are expensive, it is unavoidable on the reef.

London in a Bottle

London BottledYou might have heard that scent is the strongest thing tied to memory. This holds true, as I am transported back to my London days every morning with these latest additions to my morning routine. I do not know how Jo Malone and Molton Brown do it, but they have captured London in a bottle with their refreshing masculine scents. And as you can tell my daydreaming of London days gone won’t last for much longer, as these products were gifted to me as a nice treat.

But I was wondering, do you encounter scents at home that bring you back to days spent in far away places? I would love to know of any products that capture Canada in a bottle, those would be next on my list for sure.

6 Surprising Reasons to Visit Australia

12 Apostles, AustraliaUsually when people think of visiting Australia, petting a koala, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and taking a jumping picture in front of the Sydney Opera House come to mind. While these are all must do’s when visiting Australia, and rightly so, there are a few more things to experience that might not be so obvious to the average tourist. After living in Australia for three years I have come to love and appreciate some of the local aspects that I feel visitors should experience as well. All of the following, for the most part, can be found in any town or city across the country, so make sure to check them out.
Australia Tourist1. Coffee
Believe it or not, Australia is said to have the best coffee in the world. Australians love their coffee, as baristas are considered coffee artists. Although, Starbucks has failed miserably here, independent coffee shops thrive with at least 6,500 scattered across the country generating four billion dollars annually. In Melbourne, particularly on Degraves Street, one can find world-famous coffee, but really any local coffee shop is a safe bet.

Matt Moran, Good Food and Wine Show

Matt Moran on stage at the Good Food and Wine Show

2. Foodie Culture
Continuing on from coffee, Australia is a country of foodies. Long gone are the days of “put a shrimp on the barbie”, as chefs are full-blown celebrities here, restaurant review websites are consider bibles, and Masterchef Australia is one of the most popular TV shows, to give you an idea. I think one of the best examples of Australian food culture comes from celebrity chef, Matt Moran (one of our favourites), his show Paddock to Plate celebrates local produce in everyday, Australian cooking. He is also responsible for one of the best meals of my life at his restaurant Chiswick in Sydney, where my boyfriend and I devoured the slow roasted lamb shoulder from his family farm.

Salamanca Market, Tasmania

Flowers at Salamanca Market, Tasmania

3. Markets
I am market obsessed, as I try to go to at least one market a week, sometimes if I’m lucky I will make it to two or more markets a week. Most of Australia’s produce is grown locally, making farmer’s markets ideal in any town or city. However, artisan markets are in heavy rotation as well. So wherever you are in Australia, find out about the local market schedule, as one can wonder the stalls for quality Australian souvenirs with a breakfast sandwich in hand.

Port Arthur, Tasmania

Port Arthur, Tasmania

4. History Buffs
Fun fact, Australia has more museums per capita than that of the USA and the UK, believe it or not. This is because Australia is a country full of history buffs, as pretty much each suburb, town, and state has a historical society that have collected local, historical memorabilia over time. Now some of these museums resemble over stuffed antique shops, but others offer innovative experiences, like that of Sydney Living Museums, a favourite of mine (trust me I’m a museum professional, check these guys out). Others that highlight Australia’s harsh convict history prove fascinating, like Port Arthur, just outside of Hobart in Tasmania.

Sydney Harbour, Australia

Sydney Harbour

5. Film
I love Australian movies! It is no wonder that half of Hollywood is filled with Australian actors, they get a good start here. Australian movies have an identity of their own, as they are incredibly authentic. It is hard to find Australian movies overseas, so when in Australia, head to the nearest movie theatre to catch a local film. Some of my recent favourites are Any Questions for Ben?, The Sapphires, Goddess, Red Dog, and Not Suitable for Children. But I’m excited to check out The Little Death and Felony out now.

Pearl Jam, Big Day Out

Eddie Vedder at Big Day Out

6. Music
Australians also love music, as there is at least one local music festival a month. Almost every Australian’s youth is filled with the summer music festival circuit. So if the timing is right, check out this local tradition. Usually big name acts tour Australia with these festivals, like Pearl Jam at Big Day Out this past year. But that is not to discredit local acts. Australia’s most popular radio station, Triple J, celebrates local artists (mixed with independent and alternative artists from overseas) commercial free. Hitch a ride with any local and chances are this radio station will be playing. So if you are road tripping, which is a cool way to see Australia, tune into Triple J across the country.

Sky Walk, Mount Tamborine

Sky Walk at Mount Tamborine

Globe Trotting Friends: Ottawa, Canada

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, CanadaI am excited to start this week with the first instalment in a new series, Globe Trotting Friends. One of the many great aspects of travelling is meeting people from around the world, and if you are lucky, making lifelong friendships with them. Since finances and time currently restricts me from exploring every place on my bucket list, I thought I would call on my friends to contribute their knowledge on the places they know best. After all, I find a local’s perspective the best guide to any city.

Starting off this series is my friend and fellow blogger, Laura. We met while interning at a museum and became fast friends through our shared passion for interior design and travel. Funnily enough, Laura started an interior design blog and I started a travel blog. Laura is originally from Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, which is home to many of Canada’s treasures. I’ll let Laura take it away, but feel free to check out her blog, as she documents her adventures in home renovation and a new arrival!

Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is my birth city and home for my whole childhood. I know it quite well, and spent many days wandering about and learning all its little, secret spots. My parents still live here, although no longer in the suburban home I grew up in, but in an awesome condo right in the centre of downtown. We try to visit at least a few times a year, and I’m still learning of new spots through my parents’ newest discoveries.
Ottawa, CanadaNeighbourhoods

The Glebe
If I was ever to move back to Ottawa this is the neighbourhood I would want to live in. Not right downtown, however, this area has a small town feel. It has a main street with lots of independent restaurants, cafes, and unique, little shops. Often when visiting we spend a morning just wandering around and browsing the shops. All of the buildings and the houses along the side streets are unique and old, giving the area a lot of charm.
Shop
The Glebe Emporium: An old house filled with every kind of house ware you can possibly think of. Lots of unique finds!
The Papery: So much paper products and gifts in one store, I just love this place.

Westboro
This area has been up and coming over the last decade, making it very trendy now, with new developments on every corner. But I wouldn’t want to live here, as it is starting to look like so many other areas. Though for restaurants, this is the place to eat, as there are lots to choose from!
Eat
The Works: This burger restaurant started here, in Westboro, and was always packed! It is now a chain that you can find all over Ottawa and Toronto. It’s still great and I enjoy being able to go in Toronto now, but I remember lining up outside the original Westboro location not too long ago.
Juniper: If you are looking for a nice dinner out, this is the place. Great food, wine, and service!
SuzyQ Doughnuts: This is a cute little shop that just sells doughnuts, every kind of doughnut! They are amazing, and almost always still warm. Line ups go out the door, but it is worth it, and it’s fun to listen to everyone decide in line which doughnut they are going to get!

Byward Market
Located right in the middle of downtown Ottawa, at the centre is a large building, which houses the main market, full of bakeries and small independent food stalls. Along the outside are more independent grocers like the butcher and small fruit and veggie stores. My parents do most of their grocery shopping in these little places, as it is great to tag along for a fun outing. Additionally, during a certain time of the day, the ByWard Market becomes a farmers market, with temporary food stalls surrounding the entire building. They sell everything here! A bit farther from the centre, the ByWard Market is full of restaurants. On a beautiful summer evening it’s almost impossible to even move about the sidewalks, and there are line-ups for every patio. The area is quite charming, even just to walk around, with lots of little courtyards and old cobblestone roads.
Eat
Sidedoor: Asia Fusion, great tacos, located in a historic cobblestone courtyard.
Social: Regular fare done gourmet! They have a great brunch menu and excellent sandwiches for lunch. A bit more upscale for dinner, but everything is amazing.
The Black Tomato: This is a local favourite, you will often see lots of well-known people here. Their dishes have a little twist on the regular, with lots of unique options to try, and always delicious.
Ottawa, CanadaSee and Do
One thing that Ottawa is known for is its museums and galleries. One of my favourites is the National Gallery of Canada, which houses art from around the world. The building itself is beautiful, and the galleries maze all over, it’s easy to get lost. Even if you are not that into art, it is still fun to wander around, with a room with a giant fountain in it, another with a live garden, and even a full size church inside. It had free entry when I was a teenager, as I would often visit and go straight to the observation floor of the garden room to work on my homework. So peaceful! Maybe this is the reason it’s not free anymore. Here is a guide to all the museums, galleries, and historic sites in Ottawa.
Tulip Festival, Ottawa, CanadaSummer

  • Walk around the Parliament Buildings and check out the view around back.
  • Attend one of the many festivals, such as: Tulip Festival, Bluesfest, Jazzfest, Chamberfest, Busker Festival, Ribfest, and Canada Day to name a few.
  • Bike along the Rideau Canal (a World Heritage Site), and watch the boats go through the Locks.
  • Hike in the Gatineau Hills, only a short drive from Ottawa. The trails are amazing, and the views are even better. However, the best time to go is during autumn to view the changing colours of the trees. Get there early, especially if you go on a crisp, sunny autumn day, there will be competition for parking.

Beaver Tails, Ottawa, CanadaWinter
Ottawa is called Canada’s winter playground. There is a reason for this, there are so many ways to get outside and enjoy the season.

  • Visit the Gatineau Hills for lots of skiing, both downhill and cross-country.
  • Once you finished skiing, visit Le Spa Nordik to relax in outdoor hot baths. Nothing quite like bathing outside when there is snow all around you, amazing!
  • Skate on the Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skating rink, 7.8 kilometres long. When you get tired stop for a hot chocolate and a Beaver Tail, a famous Ottawa pastry. Outdoor cafes are set up all along the Canal on the ice, complete with outdoor fires to warm you up.
  • Visit Ottawa in February and go to Winterlude, a huge outdoor festival, with lots of live music to see, food to eat, and ice sculptures to judge. If you have kids (or not), go across the bridge to Gatineau and visit the snow park, where houses, mazes, and slides are all made of snow! Make sure you bring your snow pants.

Thanks Laura!

The Best Passport Case

When travelling overseas, the one item you cannot leave home without is a passport. So it makes sense to be organized in this department with the best passport case around. Gone are the days of fumbling around my purse as I search for my travel documents at the numerous airport security checks.
I know there are a lot of cute passport cases out there, but the best solution is not necessarily the best looking. The best product I have found is the PacSafe 200 RFID-blocking Passport Case. Most importantly for travelling these days, RFID-blocking is essential, however this passport case also features many cardholders for those frequent flyer membership cards, SIM cardholders, and zipped compartments for different currencies. The larger size holds flight tickets perfectly, but if you prefer a smaller size, the wallet does the trick too, as both make it easy to reach for any document one might need while rushing through the airport.