Casa Luna coffee perfection…

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Each morning we have been having our daily coffee fix at the lovely Casa Luna in Ubud. Situated in Jalan Raya it is only a hop, skip and jump from our guesthouse. The coffee here is stunning and the pastries to die for!

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Casa Luna is open all day for lunch and dinner too. They also have a cooking school which has great reviews.

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Casa Luna has been going strong for 21 years and due to their friendly staff and wonderful food I’m sure they’ll be here forever…

Ravishing restaurants ~ Havana, Wellington, New Zealand…

“For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the memorable meals we had in Wellington this trip was at the Havana Bar Restaurant. Located next door to the Havana Bar it is a wonderful match for its neighbour. The Havana Restaurant is light, airy and filled with wonderful aromas drifting from the open style kitchen.

Dave is the head of staff in the kitchen here. He is a cute and friendly chap and we had a lovely chat to him after our meal. The meals are tapas style which is a wonderful way to get a small taste of lots of dishes. Although the dishes are to share they are extremely generous in size. Dave and his staff use the freshest of New Zealand produce and have developed a menu which is extensive and delicious.

We were attentively served by lovely Sean. His tips and suggestions went down a treat with our group of six people.

Havana Bar Restaurant

32a Wigan Street

Wellington NEW ZEALAND

Phone: 04 3847039

havanabar.co.nz

Havana’s Spanish inspired seasonal tapas dishes will delight and inspire you. It is a perfect spot to while away a glorious afternoon in wonderful Wellington.

Bombard your tastebuds Bello Style…

Hearthfire Bakery...

Hearthfire Bakery…

Bellingen is home to an amazing array of wonderful places to eat. Your taste buds will be bombarded and you will be spoilt for choice. My favourite eating spots are:

  • NO. 2 OAK STREET ~ This divine restaurant has been awarded two hats by the prestigious Sydney Morning Herald Food Guide Awards every year since 2005. I have been fortunate to eat at this restaurant five times. The food is to die for, the atmosphere very special and the staff friendly and extremely attentive. If you are in Bellingen don’t miss it. A little tip ~ book ahead so you don’t miss out.
  • MOUZA ~ This lovely middle eastern restaurant is fantastic. The menu is interesting and varied and they have daily specials. Their Malai Kofta is a taste sensation. The staff are really friendly and it has a great ambiance. You will find Mouza at at 58-60 Hyde Street, Bellingen.
  • HEARTHFIRE BAKERY & RESTAURANT ~ This cute little cafe is in a side lane off Hyde Street. It is a great place for breakfast or lunch. Their bakery goods are phenomenal. We tried the pork sausage rolls and the chocolate croissants and they were the best we have ever sampled!
Hearthfire Bakery...

Hearthfire Bakery…

  • VINTAGE NEST ~ This vintage/antique shop has yummy slices and coffee. It is located in Hyde Street.

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!

Shopping in Puttaparthi, India…

Puttaparthi shoe shop owner and cobbler...

Puttaparthi shoe shop owner and cobbler…

I know, I know…you are in India on a spiritual search…you are staying at an ashram…and you should be completely focused on the guru. However some of us, especially those like me without a ceiling on the desires, like to do a bit of shopping too.

And let me tell you…it is very hard to resist. This is because around many ashrams in India great little shops have sprung up due to the large numbers of people, both Indian and foreign, visiting the ashram. Puttaparthi is a perfect example of this. What was once a tiny village is now a thriving town. Sai Baba’s death has reduced the number of shops but there are still many to visit.

The main streets for shopping in Puttaparthi are Puttaparthi Main Road, Chitravati Road and Samadhi Road.

World Peace Cafe and German Bakery...

World Peace Cafe and German Bakery…

There are two great places to eat in Puttaparthi outside of the ashram. The first is the World Peace Cafe and German Bakery upstairs in the Main Road straight across from the ashram. Here you can sit in the lovely airy rooftop cafe or lounge on the cushions in the rooftop booth. The meals are cheap and very tasty. Our favourite is the thin and divine banana pancakes with honey drizzled on the top….mmmm my mouth is watering just remembering them! Their wonderful bakery sells lots of tempting baked treats. The second is the Sai Towers Hotel Vegetarian Restaurant (3/604 Main Road). It too is found just across from the ashram. Our family just adore this restaurant. The Indian menu is extensive and divine. They also have some tasty western meals ~ the vegie burger is a standout. One of the highlights are the endearing waiters who are so sweet and always remember us from year to year when we visit.

Sai Towers also has two shops within its complex. The Sai Towers Book Shop has an extensive range of books on nearly every God, Goddess, Guru, Avatar or Mystic you could name. It also has some wonderful books on alternate health and medicine such as Ayurveda, magnet therapy and reiki just to name a few. There is a lovely Gift Shop with fantastic gifts for those at home such as jewellery, statues and paintings. One year I got some lovely antique enamel ladles here which were very cute.

Straight across the road from Sai Towers in Main Road is a wonderful tiny shoe shop with quirky Indian made shoes and sandals. The lovely cobbler there can mend the sandals on the spot if they need altering.

Right next door to the World Peace Cafe is the quaint Blue Dragon Gallery (SRS Complex, Main Road). Here you can buy amazing Tibetan artworks, jewellery and handmade felt goods such as slippers, puppets purses etc… They also have a wide range of uplifting Tibetan and Buddhist music to buy.

Entance to Blue Dragon Gallery..

Entrance to the Blue Dragon Gallery…

A short walk down the main road from the ashram is the Sathya Sai Super Bazaar. This big supermarket has all your needs plus more. It sells a large array of Ayurvedic medicines and books and their stainless steel section is vast.

The Chitravati Road is wonderful for shopping especially for jewellery. You will find all the Tibetan jewellers here. They sell amazing silver jewellery at very reasonable prices. They also sell lots of Tibetan and Buddhist trinkets which are fun to look through. The Little Tibet Gift Centre is especially good. Choten can make bead jewellery there for you on request.

Choten busy at work at the Little Tibet Gift Centre...

Choten busy at work at the Little Tibet Gift Centre…

Craft Kings is located in the Chitravati Road and is great for Indian goods such as paintings, cushions, ornaments etc.. Ganesh is extremely helpful and his prices are fair. Outside his shops sits a lovely old perfume man. Here you can buy aromatic oils and perfumes very cheaply. You can choose the size you would like and the bottles are collector items themselves! The patchouli and amber are especially good. Last time I was there he gave me a free bottle of Blue Moon oil because ” a customer as good as you Madam only comes along every blue moon”…so sweet!

The Samadhi Road is an interesting place for shopping. We have nicknamed it the “religious relics road” as the tiny shops here are jammed packed full of religious statues, jewellery, bangles, brass wear etc… There are hours of fun trinketing to be had in the Samadhi Road.

Puttaparthi also has many internet cafes, money changers, banks, chemists and a post office. There is a lovely Library a short stroll from the ashram called the Shanti Library which is well worth a visit.

I hope this helps you to shop up a storm in Puttaparthi…

The luscious lassi…

Lassi

Lassi at the Cha Bar, Bangalore…

One of my favourite drinks when travelling in India is the luscious lassi. There are three main types of lassi. The sweet lassi, salty lassi and fruit lassi (mango, banana etc…)

Not only are they delicious but good for you too. The yoghurt/curd used in the lassi helps to keep your tummy happy which is an extra bonus for those travelling in India. A lassi a day keeps the tummy bugs at bay!

I make lassis at home too. Here is my simple recipe for you to follow:

Sweet Lassi

  • 1.5 cups yoghurt/curd
  • 6-8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water or cold milk
  • 1 tsp rose-water (optional)
  • ice cubes when serving the lassi
  1. Place the yoghurt/curd, water/milk, sugar and rose-water in a blender.
  2. Blend till the lassi is smooth.
  3. Add ice cubes
  4. Serve and enjoy

If you would like a fruit lassi just add your desired fruit into the blender too.

When travelling in India you will find lassis on nearly all menus. Our family have road tested many lassis on our trips and although they vary widely they are all individually delicious.

Some great lassis can be enjoyed at:

The Cha Bar, Leela Galleria, Bangalore

Emgees Veggie Restaurant, MG Road, Bangalore

The Darling Restaurant, Vellore

Kashi Art Cafe, Fort Cochin

The Bangala Restaurant, Karaikudi

You too can be a princess but leave your modesty at home…

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Everything looked fresh and beautiful at our hotel this morning after the pouring rain last night. We had a tasty breakfast of Marsala omelette and then Padma and I headed for the local ferry wharf.

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On the way there we stopped to look at some local stalls. Padma bought some wooden stamps from a sweet young girl. She pressed the stamps with strong ink onto Padma’s palm. Padma now has a lovely reminder of Fort Cochin that will be with her for some time…

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I bought a beautiful carved buffalo horn comb along the way. The carver showed us the article about himself in the Cochin Times.

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We caught the ferry to Ernakulum (2.5 rupees each). It was a very scenic trip passing fishing boats and navy vessels.

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At Ernakulum we walked a short distance up Shanmugham road to Bimbi’s restaurant for a refreshing fresh, sweet lime soda. On the return journey to Fort Cochin we got a great view of the old fort area.

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This afternoon I had the three hour Rajakumari (Princess) Ritual at the Cochin Ayurvedic Centre. The ritual consists of feet cleaning, full body massage by two therapists and followed by sirodhara (a stream of warm herbal oil poured over the forehead). It was heavenly and I left floating on a cloud. However this treatment is not for the modestly inclined. The two ladies wash all the oil from your hair and body afterwards…this is done in a happy, girly/sister type mood and I felt very relaxed and not at all self conscious…
The ladies at this spa are really delightful and I highly recommend you visit when you are next in Fort Cochin.

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Tonight we had a tasty dinner at the Fort Heritage Hotel (1/283 Napier Street).

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…

Crazy for Cochin…

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The Tower House Hotel…

Yesterday Padma and I had a huge day in the car travelling between Mysore and Fort Cochin in Kerala. So it was great to have a restful day today.
It is 12 years since I was in Fort Cochin last and despite a few new shops it has lost none of it’s laid back charm. We are staying for two nights at the lovely Tower House Hotel. It is part of the boutique Neemrana group of hotels. It is an old converted manor house and is filled with amazing antiques and collectibles.

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More information on this beautiful hotel will follow in further posts.

As we left the hotel this morning we found that they were filming a Bollywood film across the road in the park. Manu, the lead actor, was miming with his guitar with an adorable group of children.

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It was a real highlight watching them go over the same scene again and again to get it exactly perfect.
I had a fantastic pedicure at the Cochin Ayurveda Centre (1/620 Santa Cruz School Road, Fort Cochin). The ladies there were so sweet and pinched my cheeks and smiled.
Padma and I then shopped up a storm at Anokhi ( Lily Street, Fort Cochin)…for clothing, tablecloths, jewellery and material covered notebooks.

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We had a tasty lunch at the Kashi Art Cafe (Burgher Street, Fort Cochin). It has definitely stood the test of time as it was here 12 years ago and still going strong.

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In the afternoon we returned to the Cochin Ayurveda Centre – this time at their branch at the Hotel Fort House (2/6A Calvathy Road, Fort Cochin). Here I had the Udvarthana massage. It is a dry herb massage to aid detoxification and nourishment of the body tissues. My skin felt divine after it.

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For dinner we went to the Old Harbour Hotel (located just near our hotel). We had a delicious meal there in the garden listening to traditional music on the sitar and tabla drums.

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Fort Cochin’s relaxed and peaceful atmosphere makes it the perfect place to unwind. The vast array of Ayurvedic clinics allows for health and beauty treatments. By the end if the day you’ll be blissed out like Padma and I and never want to leave…