Life’s a “bach”…one with a bath for two with a view!

“Not a lodge, not a farm stay…more of a perfect shack with a view” is how our friends describe their amazing bach, The Green Trout, at Mangaweka, New Zealand. And perfect it is… Four light and airy bedrooms. The Green Trout … Continue reading

Hip Hotels ~ Tower House, Fort Cochin, India…

“We don’t let history become a bygone” is the mantra of the Neemrana group of hotels. That strong sense of history is resplendent in the beautiful Tower House at Fort Cochin. Padma and I stayed in this gorgeous hotel in … Continue reading

A hotel in the hills ~ Hotel Villa Retreat, Kodaikanal…

When we visited Kodaikanal a few years ago we stayed at the charming and atmospheric Hotel Villa Retreat. This darling hotel is positioned right at the top of the hill overlooking Kodaikanal and the valley below. It is an uphill walk from town … Continue reading

Beaut Bellingen Backpackers…

Each time we visit Bellingen we always stay at Belfry Lodge which is better known as the Bellingen YHA Backpackers at 2 Short Street, Bellingen. We have been staying at this wonderful, old, two storey house since 1996.

One of the main reasons we love it is because of its location, location, location! It is found only a hop, step and jump from the main street of Bellingen and also to the lovely Bellinger River. The Backpackers has many different types of accommodation starting at $27 per person a night. We always stay in the four bed family room for $88 per night. You have to share the bathroom but it is just across the hall and very clean.

The Backpackers has a great atmosphere with many different types of people staying. There is an immense kitchen where you can prepare your own meals and meet some interesting people while you do. If you stay in one of the upstairs rooms you can sit on the wide verandah and gaze over the divine view of the river below. If you are lucky at sunset you’ll be visited by some cheeky possums…a real treat for children.

The Backpackers offers daily tours too if that’s your thing. Rahul and my boys like to borrow the Backpacker’s tyre tubes and float down the Bellinger River (which they did this trip). They also like to play snooker out on the verandah.

The managers, Joel and Holly, can be contacted on +61 2 66551116.

So if you are ever up Bellingen way try the Backpackers…you’ll be happy you did!

The people of Tasmania are so friendly ~ Day 3…

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Pollen Tea Room garden…

Yesterday we farewelled the Islington Hotel and set off to explore Hobart’s surrounds. But before we left there were still a few shops that we could not miss!
We had a sensational breakfast at the Pollen Tea Room (again) of baked eggs with feta and tomato and smashed avocado and lemon on sourdough..mmm. The organic hot chocolate and coffee were to die for…

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Petit Marche…

After breakfast we headed to Petit Marche at 150 Elizabeth Street, Hobart. Here Beth has an amazing shop packed full of divine vintage all-sorts, French antiques and local made cuties. I shopped up a storm here buying antique buttons, divine antique French religious cards (50c), books and retro postcards.

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Petit Marche…

Our next stop was the heavenly Oyster and Pearl. Lou has created the most special boutique space upstairs at 147 Liverpool Street, Hobart.

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Oyster and Pearl stocks lovely linen and fabbo print clothing, funky jewellery and arty wire works by Melissa from the Sunshine Coast. We loved chatting to Lou ~ she was a wealth of knowledge on all things about Hobart.

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Wire sculptor Melissa was helping out at her sister’s shop next door and luckily we met – she is now going to make me a wire peacock! Fantastic…
Melissa’s sister is Carmen and her cute shop is called Red Hand Design. Here she sells vintage clothing and jewellery re-worked by Carmen to have a new life.

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If traveling to Hobart please don’t miss any of these shops or you’ll be sad, sad sad!
We then travelled south of Hobart towards the Huon Region. Along the way we stopped at quaint farm stalls and bought some home-made raspberry jam and purple garlic.

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Look out for these farm stalls on the side of the road all around Southern Tasmania – they have some wonderful produce which you purchase on an honesty basis. You leave the money in the box provided.
Another delight from the side of the road, in late summer, is the blackberry. Rahul and I have been gorging ourselves on hand picked, wild blackberries each day.

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Blackberries growing on the side of the road…

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Chooks at our guesthouse…

Last night we stayed at the Huonville Guesthouse. We chatted to the chooks right near our room as we had our breakfast this morning. Our cereal was topped with lovely fresh apricots picked from the trees growing in the garden of the guesthouse.

Hip and happening Hobart…

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Battery Point ~ Hobart

Well Rahul is cooing like a puffed out pigeon and he has every right to as his mystery destination is everything he hoped for and more…
The destination is… Tasmania, Australia and the Apple Isle is definitely living up to its reputation!
We arrived into Hobart through a thick bank of cloud to a lovely mild day. After picking up our hire car we headed the 20kms into Hobart city to our divine hotel ~ The Islington .

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Our room

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The divine morning tea at The Islington
After checking in and having a lovely morning tea in the conservatory we headed off to explore Hobart. We headed straight to Salamanca Wharf right on the Derwent River. Here you look over the moored boats and yachts to the hills beyond.

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Jack Greene Tavern

We had a very tasty lunch at the atmospheric Jack Greene Tavern. Make sure you sit upstairs amongst the books and memorabilia. It has a great relaxed feel and our waiter was so helpful about Tasmanian places of interest.

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Our lunch at Jack Greene

Located at the Salamanca Wharf are lots of quirky and cute shops showcasing unique Tasmanian fine art and design. Look out for The Maker and Spacebar Gallery.
We then headed just around the corner to Battery Point.

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Battery Point quaint houses…

Battery point is a darling pocket of Hobart with cute houses, handkerchief size divine public gardens and sweet little shops.

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We had a divine milky chai at the Pollen Tea Room. The great guy there grinds his own chai paste and it was individual and memorable.

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We then popped in next door to the gorgeous Lionhart boutique.

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This extremely tasteful little shop sells quirky jewellery, vintage clothing pins, Tasmanian knick knacks and pillowcases. The delightful girl there also recommended some other shops to discover…yippee.
After all that retail therapy and eating we decided to visit Mt. Wellington. It is only a short, but very windy, drive from the centre of Hobart.

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The view down over Hobart from Mt. Wellington

Mt. Wellington is 1270 metres above sea level and the temperature is much cooler once you are up there. They have a wonderful lookout which gives you a superb view over Hobart and its surrounds.
After a fantastic day exploring Hobart we had a tasty dinner back at The Islington of seafood chowder and wild mushroom risotto…mmm…a great way to end a perfect day!

Phew…my hotel’s fabulous!

Tower House Hotel ~ Fort Cochin...

Tower House Hotel ~ Fort Cochin…

I don’t know about you but one of the greatest feelings of satisfaction for me on my travels is finding the perfect hotel. Lots of people are happy with “wherever I lay my hat that’s my home” but not me. I always feel that a great place to stay sets the tone for your holiday. I spend a lot of time before I leave home thoroughly researching on the internet and in guidebooks places to stay at my destination. I must be doing something right as I’m getting better at it! Fort Cochin is a perfect example. There are so many places to stay and the three I chose there were divine.

Tower House ~ Fort Cochin...

Tower House ~ Fort Cochin…

Everyone searches for something different when looking for a place to stay. So what do I look for? Here are my top prerequisites:

1. Something in the right price range.

2. Location, location, location. Sometimes I like to be in the thick of things right in the heart of town and other times somewhere quiet and peaceful.

3. Clean with en-suite bathroom.

4. I love quaint and charming. Even a little jaded and faded can be fantastic with me as long as it’s clean.

5. When travelling with my family they like a pool (optional), wi-fi and a TV. However when I travel with my mum,Padma, we just like wi-fi.

6. I want a hotel/guesthouse that when I arrive I can lie on the bed and let out a huge “Phew this is soooooo fabulous!”

Fort House ~ Fort Cochin...

Fort House ~ Fort Cochin…

So where to stay in Fort Cochin, Kerala? Well these are my top three…

The Tower House ~ Tower Road, Fort Cochin.

It prides itself as a “non-hotel” meaning it is more like an experience than just another chain hotel. It is jammed full of antiques and collectables. It has a divine pool, superb rooms and a lovely breakfast. It is minimally staffed and very quiet which we loved (however staff were always very attentive when we needed anything). It is located a stones throw from the Chinese fishing nets and the centre of Fort Cochin. You feel very safe walking around even at night which is important for female travellers. We loved it here…

The Old Courtyard Hotel ~ Fort Cochin...

The Old Courtyard Hotel ~ Fort Cochin…

The Old Courtyard ~ Princess Street, Fort Cochin.

We adored this old hotel located right in the heart of Fort Cochin. The rooms were so beautiful and filled with antiques. The sheets were crispy white (amazing for India). The breakfast was tasty and the staff were so friendly and chatty. It ticks all the boxes and is a great choice for Fort Cochin.

The Old Courtyard ~ Fort Cochin...

The Old Courtyard ~ Fort Cochin…

Delight Home Stay ~ Parade Ground, Ridsdale Road, Fort Cochin

The Delight Home Stay is a true delight. It is located a very short walk from the centre of Fort Cochin and is very close to many of the great shops I recommended in my last post on Fort Cochin. The owners David and Flowery are a mine of information and can organise your whole trip around Kerala if you desire. We did a short trip to Periyar National Park and the Kerala backwaters through them and we were delighted with the trip.

The Delight Home Stay ~ Fort Cochin...

The Delight Home Stay ~ Fort Cochin…

The rooms are charming and the garden green and lush. You won’t want to leave…I guarantee it.

Fort Cochin is a wonderful place to visit and should be on all itineraries when visiting Kerala. I hope you enjoy my recommendations as much as I did…

Om Namo Narayani…

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Padma and I have now arrived at Sri Puram in Thirumalakodi, Vellore for the second part of our trip.
The first part was shopping, relaxation, visiting new places. The second part is about spirituality and service to others.
Sri Puram is the abode of the avatar Sri Sakthi Amma. This is our third visit to Amma.
While here we stay at the Kamala Nivas Guesthouse. At the moment the main guesthouse is being renovated.

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Our room at the ashram…

The ashram has simple but comfortable accommodation. The rooms are 1200 rupees and include three Indian meals a day. They have a separate bathroom with hot water and airconditioning.

Yesterday we had darshan with Amma. Darshan is where you are able to sit in the presence of the guru/avatar. We all sat on the verandah of a beautiful little cottage in the ashram grounds.
After darshan a small group of people from all parts of the world (Australia, France, Canada, England) went to a small girls orphanage. Here we served a special meal for the children to celebrate the upcoming festival of Diwali – the Festival of Lights.

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The children entertained us with some singing and dancing. Gifts of pens and notebooks were given to each child which they were very excited about.

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We travelled to the orphanage by bus and that was an experience in itself! Fast and lots of horn honking but a real highlight.
“A guru is essential to rid oneself of bad karma and set out on the righteous path.” Sri Sakthi Amma

Peaceful lanes and pouring rains…

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This morning Padma and I went for a stroll along the Fort Cochin waterfront to look at the old cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. Here fishermen were dispersing their overnight catch of fish to the various fish sellers.

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The Chinese fishing nets are called cheena vala in Malayalam. They are used at high tide and take about four men to operate due to their huge size.

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We then moved hotels to the Old Courtyard Hotel (www.oldcourtyard.com). We like changing hotels as it often gives you a different perspective of the same town. The rooms here are really gorgeous with crisp white sheets and lovely antique furniture.

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We had a lovely walk down some peaceful lanes to visit the massive Catholic Santa Cruz Basilica in Peter Celli Street.

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The interior is extremely ornate with streaked brown marble and pastel painted finishes. The Catholic Churches are just like all religious shrines and temple in India – colourful and eye catching.

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If you wish to send your postcards there is a lovely old post office in Post Office road. It is open 9-5pm Monday to Friday and until 3pm on Saturdays.

We caught an auto-rickshaw around to Jew Town to visit the Pardesi Synagogue. The building was built in 1664 and houses some great paintings which illustrate the Jews history in Fort Cochin. The Synagogue itself was tiny and absolutely divine. We sat on old rattan pews and gazed up at the myriad of glass chandeliers and the old blue and white Dutch tiles on the floor are all individual and hand painted. The entry fee is 5 rupees.

If you are into antiques Jew Town is your place as old wares shops abound here.

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An antique merry-go-round…

We visited two great antique shops that I would recommend. They were Crafters, V1/141Jew Town, http://www.crafters.in and Classic Exports, V1/206 Synagogue Lane, Jew Town, http://www.theclassicantiques.com. Abraham at Classic Exports was lovely and a real expert on old religious antiques.

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Abraham’s sons and sweet sales assistant…

We also visited Little Queen Embroidery (1V/542 Synagogue Lane, Jew Town. It is a unit of the Village Women Work charity. All the divine embroidery is done by widowed fishermen’s wives.

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We loved chatting to the very knowledgeable Mr Thomas. We bought some very delicate hand embroidered hankies.

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We also did a spot of shopping at Manvi…The Handmade in Rose Street. Here they sell beautiful embroidered shirts and dresses.

After a tasty dinner at Koder House in Tower Road we returned to our hotel for Keralan bananas and Marsala chai…mmmmm…delicious. About 5 minutes after we returned to our room a huge thunderstorm broke. A deluge of rain fell and flooded the whole downstairs area. The restaurant where we had just sat was now a sea of water.

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The owners are very used to the rain here and as the whole downstairs area is tiled they just opened the door and let the water flow out…