Recently In SnoskredLand

Last week a work colleague and I went to a conference in Manly. We caught the train, meaning a very early wakeup at 5:30am, and a very early train at 6:43am, in order to get to Sydney in time to catch a ferry to Manly and then be at the hotel for a bus at 11:45am.

I’m sure reading that someone might say.. why didn’t you drive, Snoskred? All of our recent experiences with Sydney Traffic, the fact that it costs an arm and a leg to park the car, the sheer inconvenience of trying to get to Manly in a car are all reasons why driving was a big no.

My colleague was not feeling well and had only managed a few hours sleep the night before.. So on the way up we chose a quiet carriage so she could sleep and I could enjoy the views. The more I travel on the train the more I like it. I don’t use devices or headphones, I just enjoy the view.

On arrival at Manly wharf I suggested gelato and this was in fact a perfect start to my conference. They do not have Messina there, it was Gelatissimo and it was pretty good. We had no idea what the plan was for the day – unfortunately this was not a sign of a delightful surprise but a sign of a general lack of organisation overall.

Though they did thoughtfully schedule in dancing. Having been up since 5:30am, having walked quite a lot between different locations at Q Station plus up a very large hill to get back to the bus pickup point..

..having an ill colleague, having no scheduled “nap time” and having been fed mainly carbs since lunch time – the protein offered at lunch was Not Optimal and had also been sitting out on a balcony for who knew how long but I certainly was not going to risk food poisoning.. I was not exactly in the mood for dancing at 8:10pm.

What we really wanted was to get back to the hotel and get some sleep before yet another early wake up call the next morning. Unfortunately nobody had thought perhaps folks might be tired and wanting to get back, so there was no bus scheduled to take us back until 10:30pm. We did manage to talk the bus driver who dropped us off to come back a little bit earlier to collect us, and though he was running a little late we at least got back to the hotel before 10pm where we fell asleep very quickly.

The next day flew by and we were at Gelato Messina grabbing a quick gelato before we knew it. Then we were back on the train for the long journey home. I met a lot of very interesting people – our field is definitely one that attracts artistic and quirky people with a large range of skills – everything from photoshop to sales to copyright law to teaching people how to use technology they are not familiar with.

Back at home, nothing much had changed. My succulent wreath is growing up a storm –

Chooks were getting their treats..

Kitties were posing for photos..

But this one was happy that my lap returned, for her to sit on.

Sydney

Canberra Part 4

Last week we had just back to the hotel for a short afternoon rest in the warmth before deciding on dinner. I’d picked out a few possible pizza options and we ended up choosing Briscola. OMG it was freezing out there, and Briscola was a bit of a walk from the hotel in the icy cold Canberra evening. The restaurant was quite busy and to keep warm while we waited, we did a large lap around two blocks. Specifically these two blocks.

I am sure they have a name but I have no idea what it is. The buildings are very pretty and quite old. Every time we visit here they are filled with new restaurants and sometimes there are empty spaces. I think there are maybe four places here which were here on our last visit. Mamas Trattoria might be the one that has been there the longest that I am aware of, because we went there with Sephyroth when he visited in 2011. If we had felt like eating out that would have been our pick – but we had Harry Potter waiting back at the hotel. :)

The next morning we grabbed a quick McMuffin but I flat out refused to purchase coffee there. While waiting to place my order everything I saw from the two staff members screamed at me not to order coffee there and the final straw was the use of a grotty cloth to wipe out the portafilter. Thankfully we will never know if I was right and buying coffee there might have been the death of us. We chose wisely and went to Oliver Brown instead. It was a short walk away but well worth it in my opinion.

You may recall me mentioning the Day Of The Dead skull planter in post #1 of this trip. We kept thinking about it and talking about how we regretted not buying it.. so on our way out to Tulip Top we quickly stopped in to the Canberra Outlet Centre and grabbed it. While there I saw my next regretted non-purchase.. how beautiful is that side table? It was all mother of pearl and I am a sucker for that, but we resisted the urge and left it in the store. I had never seen anything like that before and I thought $79.95 was a tiny price for it. You can click on that image for a larger view.

Back in the car and on the way to Tulip Top at long last. Above and below, you are about to see some shots taken with the Oppo phone camera. I have not edited these other than to make them blog size friendly.

I always enjoy the posts Elephant’s Child does about Floriade and Tulip Top and every year I would read them and think how much I would like to visit.

I was not sure about the walk to the lookout but we made it up easily. Back down was a bit harder for me than going up, I kept feeling like I was going to fall forward. This panorama above can be made larger by clicking on it. That is the final Oppo shot for this post. Now over to my Samsung phone.

Once again we were those super annoying people who took ages taking photos and framing shots perfectly, etc. We probably spent a good two hours here.

We loved the planting here (better than the planting at Floriade, we thought) and I especially loved the weeping willow trees.

The cherry blossoms were gorgeous too.

I have no idea what this plant is, I am sure someone who does know will chime in with the name in the comments.. I loved this plant/flower being included here.

It was a gorgeous day for the drive home..

..with our usual stop at Heatherbrae for the crispy creme donut. I had one third, The Other Half had two thirds. :)

Canberra

Canberra Part 3

Last time, we had just returned to the hotel room to drop off our shopping before heading out for dessert. Canberra has just got their first Gelato Messina and if you have been reading here long enough you know I am a big fan.. but we had another destination in mind tonight. Lucky for us as there was a massive queue at Messina as you see above in my blurry photo.

We were headed for Frugii Dessert Laboratory. It was only a short walk but quite a fascinating one, loads of people were out and about, and we discovered an impromptu food truck corner at the nearby carwash. Lonsdale Street is a very interesting area.

I had salted caramel and chocolate, as I so often do. The flavours here were really clean and extremely delicious. Frugii is definitely worth a visit.

The next morning we were in the mood for some old school pancakes. Canberra has a version of a place that I grew up with in Adelaide – Adelaidians will know I mean Berties AKA The Pancake Parlour. Capital Pancakes has departed from the Pancake Parlour franchise to keep their prices low. The pancakes were great, the coffee was decent, and it was not too expensive. Plus it was conveniently placed for our walk to Floriade.

We were at Floriade for several hours. Yes, we are those annoying people crouching down taking photos, framing photos, using more than one camera, using our phones as well. We took probably 300+ photos each. I will not bore you with a multitude of flower photos at this time, they will come to you as a surprise on upcoming Fridays. I have put one photo here, as you see above. I was fascinated by the use of parsley as a decorative plant.

It was icy out. Super icy. And windy. I was very glad I had worn all my warm things. Even so we had a lovely walk back to the hotel via City Walk. We discovered a carousel. I sat down and sent a message to Sephyroth to see if he could find out whether this one was originally from Magic Mountain in Adelaide, then got up again to walk some more and found the answer on my own.

This sign told me everything I needed to know, except it did not tell me where the carousel from Magic Mountain went. I did a little googling and it is still at Glenelg, at The Beachouse. This place comes to me as a surprise.

We chose to make another stop at Via Dolce for afternoon coffee and a small snack.

So many choices! The Other Half chose the cheesecake again, which we had shared the day before. When he finds something he likes he tends to stick with it. He paired it with a latte.

Today I chose the passionfruit and coconut slice. It was gluten free and very delicious. Apologies for my photography mishap, I think my photographers eye was worn out by this time. I should have put it in the sun for a better shot. :) I chose the dirty chai and it was amazing. We still did not steal any plates or mugs, we just admired their beauty. At least until we were driven from the white box by some very inconsiderate noisy people.

By this time it was getting very cold. We headed back to the hotel for a short afternoon rest in the warmth before deciding on dinner. Next week, Tulip Top and our journey home – and you will get some flower photos from there.

In case you missed the previous posts – Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Canberra

Canberra Part 2

Ah yes, where were we? We’d just finished up at Kiehls which was in Myer. The layout of Canberra Centre is a little unusual – on the ground floor there are parts which are interrupted by streets but if you go up to the second floor sometimes you will find stores built above the streets.

I had been looking for a unique USB stick, preferably something gold or glittery. Everyone has the same USB sticks where I work and I want to have something which nobody can mistake for theirs. We went into Typo as someone had suggested they might have one. They did not, but they *did* have a very pretty water bottle and that was another thing I needed for work. So I got that on special for $10, and a little packet of tissues which I could carry around with me for $1.

We found a cute little store called Mineshaft which was full of gorgeousness, and here you can see some of it. My Aunt loves rose quartz so I took these first two photos for her to enjoy later.

The book ends are up money but so gorgeous! ;) Though I guess if it is both for $175 that might be ok value given that huge hunk of rose quartz x2?

I have left this photo a bit larger so you can click on it for a closer view of the rings. So many and so pretty and a very varied range of items here.

They had a large range of gemstones which have been carved, most by hand but there are machines out there which can do this kind of thing these days and I believe we have one in the Mancave which might be able to do something a bit like this if set up correctly.

Here you see some Labradorite which makes me think of Meshel from The Muffin Queen’s Closet. I believe if I remember correctly she is getting a kitchen benchtop of Labradorite.

The Other Half had been talking about getting a new phone as he was out of contract on his present phone, and we decided to drop into the Telstra store. Our experiences with them have generally been Not Great, but this time all went well and he walked out with an Oppo which is just as good as a Samsung or iPhone etc but quite a bit cheaper.

He would tell you, after a couple of weeks experience with it, that it would probably be easier for iPhone people to transition across to, as the layout of things is somewhat similar even though the Oppo is Android. He would also say that it is brilliant for people who forget to shut down all their apps – in fact it was so efficient at doing this it kept shutting down our Kakao app that we use to communicate for free and we had to look for a solution. He would also tell you – and next week I will show you with some photos – the camera is fantastic.

Two more quick stops – Bed Bath and Table just to wander their beautiful homewares wall and I found a present for Mother whose birthday was the next week – and H&M, where I found these gorgeous bright red earrings.

After all this it was time to grab some dinner. It was Friday night and at home that usually means Pizza night – and for the past 7 or so Fridays, a Harry Potter movie. I had not seen them and we have been watching them together. These are not movies for children, in my opinion, but they were excellent. We had originally planned to do this at our hotel but then discovered the shops were open till 9, so we decided to swap Pizza to Saturday night this week.

When researching places to eat on our daytrip to Sydney, I heard about Pepper Lunch. We didn’t end up going there because we went to the food court at Westfield Sydney instead. When I saw it in Central Canberra across from Via Dolce, we decided this would be our dinner. The food is served on hot iron plates and you cook it right there on your table. The Other Half chose Waygu Pepper Rice

With its unique design patented in Japan, the iron plate is part of the successful formula of Pepper Lunch. Using a special electromagnetic cooker also patented in Japan, the iron plate will heat up to 260°C in 70 seconds and remain hot at approximately 80°C for more than 20 minutes. Meat that is grilled at this temperature range remains tender and juicy. The hot plate also keeps food warm for a longer time such that customers can enjoy the full flavour of the dish.

I chose Prawn Pepper Rice. The prawns arrive in a bed of egg which is cooking as it arrives on the table. I think the best thing about this meal was the last grains of rice which had been on the hotplate long enough to become super crispy. It was delicious and even more so about halfway through when we gave the sauces on the table a try, our meals suddenly became even more delicious. This is a franchise with literally hundreds of stores in Japan – they are in several states here already. We would go back for sure, even though the Canberra location is quite tiny.

We were out wandering Canberra Centre for several hours and had a lovely time just looking at things and not buying them. I was surprised there were so few purchases, though of course the phone and the shoes are not seen here. I think that has been our biggest takeaway from The Year Of Buying Nothing – we quite enjoy looking with our eyes and not buying things we see.

Some items we see and decide right away that for us we need to buy them because they will likely never be seen again, like the H&M earrings, sometimes the bargain rule applies eg the shoes, other items are things we genuinely need – I’d just taken 4 plastic water bottles home from work for recycling. Spring water is supplied to us, I just needed to get a decent bottle. But sometimes the unpurchased items linger, and haunt, and this was the case for us on this weekend away. But more about that in a later post.

Canberra

Canberra Part 1

We set off on Friday morning – not too early, we were not in a rush today. As always on a Canberra trip, our first stop was Heatherbrae Pies at Sutton Forest for my favourite Chai Latte. We usually share one of these crispy donuts filled with cream and jam.

I do not usually get my full nails painted – I am more a french tips kinda girl – but on this occasion I went a little wild. My nail lady has some new colours. Photos do not do these justice sadly, and this photo above was taken about 2 weeks in when my eyes start to twitch at the gap of newly grown nail without any paint on it. You don’t notice it as much with tips, that is why I tend to go that way, I can usually get 3-4 weeks out of those.

Our second stop was the Canberra Outlet Centre and TK Maxx, where they had a great range of Halloween items. We do not do Halloween in this country for the most part, though many retailers are trying to make it a thing. This Day Of The Dead skull planter literally screams the name of My Other Half, it was just $12.95 and yet we did not purchase it. We did get some cute coffee mugs with a skull design specifically for work as our work mugs needed replacing.

It is a lucky thing these sparkly Skechers are not my style. How could I do anything or go anywhere? I’d just be staring at my feet all the time. I suppose trying to look at ones feet is marginally better than trying to walk while using a mobile phone – which I strongly do not suggest to anyone!

We were looking at shoes because some months ago The Other Half lost one pair of his Skechers to “an incident” at the very dog-friendly Berry Markets involving the item you least want to step in and which shall remain nameless here for those of you who might be eating at this time.

That left him with two pairs, one he uses for walking and one for running. He did not really have a backup casual pair for general outings, so we have been looking for one pair of shoes for him for a while now.

The Other Half is possibly even more picky than me when it comes to a pair of shoes. I support him in everything but when we visit the 8th shoe store in a row and he likes nothing he sees and/or the things he does like are very Up Money and a price he is not willing to pay I begin to lose hope these new shoes will ever be found..

On this occasion we were very lucky – a shoe store was closing down and they had some lovely Saucony shoes at the insane price of $39. He tried them on and loved them so much we bought the last two pairs in his size.. and then.. there was another incident..

But this time a much more awesome one! I’d looked at similar Adidas shoes back in June 2016 because Sephyroth was going to the Adidas clearance store and he was visiting just a few months later – I took some photos and I asked him something like “if you see these at a good price pls to buy them for me..” They were $240 at that time which is a price I would not be happy to pay for a shoe.

These are a slightly older model than the presently available shoes and some stores have sold out entirely but they are in my favorite colours and I scored them for a tiny $99 instead of $249. What an incredible bargain! I have put them aside to eventually replace my running shoes. For now I will just admire their beauty.

We had spent a couple of hours happily wandering and it was time to head in the direction of our chosen accommodation for the weekend. The entire reason for this trip was because I found an amazing price for The Avenue. I had stayed there once before when visiting Canberra with my parents.v The Other Half was not on that trip.

I was very impressed with The Avenue and the layout of the 2 bedroom apartments, which they can rent as a one bed apartment and a king studio, or as a two bedroom. If it is a two bedroom, the double doors are opened with your key – if separate, then the double doors are locked open and there are two separate entrances – your key only opens your room and someone else has the other bit. What a great idea that is.

There is everything you could need for a short stay in the 1 bed apartment, plus you will find some luxuries like a Nespresso machine. It is just a short walk to Canberra Centre and City Walk and all the goodness right in the heart of Canberra. So much great shopping and eating combined with zero crowds. This is one big reason why we love Canberra. A lot of people are haters of Canberra because of the politicians but do not let them put you off this fantastic place.

A coffee and cake stop at Via Dolce – aren’t the mugs and plates gorgeous? I wouldn’t be surprised if people steal these. We did not thief them, tempting as it might have been. We were good citizens and sat quietly and calmly and shared our delicious cheesecake and drank our coffee in the heated “white box” which was a lovely place to be on this cool day.

I first heard about Kiehls from Sydney Shop Girl and was somewhat intrigued in Sydney when I saw they had a Kiehls area inside the Myer fragrance hall. They were advertising 5 free samples and a skin consultation. We did not have time for this on our Sydney daytrip, but I hoped perhaps they would have the same thing in Canberra where I would have more time.

Then, the week before we set off, I discovered the balm I had been using for my face was no longer available. I was mightily annoyed at this, I can tell you. So my possible drop in to the Kiehls area became a must do. I did a little research online before going there and had identified two possible options which I wanted to try – Ultra Facial Cream and Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream. I was already pretty certain it was the latter I wanted, I like a gel.

I was 100% right – the gel cream is gorgeous. So light and sinks right in and does everything I want. I do not do a lot in the way of skincare – a daily cleanse in the shower and some good moisturizer is enough for me. I got the 50mls which is $40 and one only needs a tiny amount, so this will probably last me a while. I also bought the Musk body lotion which is a very unique fragrance and again I only need a tiny amount. I did get my 5 samples as well, and I will give them a good try.

Best of all, unlike the crowded fragrance hall at Myer Sydney, there were very few people about and I got to speak to someone right away. The Other Half wandered elsewhere while I did this, and right when I had finished he appeared on the escalator coming back to find me.

Next time – the rest of our Friday, and some of our Saturday. ;)

Canberra, shopping

Photography

I did photography in high school, right up to year 12. It was by far my favourite subject. I loved the darkroom and became adept at doing things without light or in low light. But I also loved playing around and trying to get certain images to work.

Once during a photography weekend in Port Adelaide while playing with depth of field, I managed to get some flowers in focus with the Port Adelaide lighthouse out of focus in the background. I’ll have to try and dig that photo out of my archives and get it scanned in. But when visiting Floriade I remembered that photo, and tried to get a few images like it by focusing on one flower and letting the others go out of focus.

Surprisingly many of my best photos were taken on my phone. All of the images you see here are from my phone. My poor Lumix shockproof and waterproof camera may be on its last legs. So how do you get shallow depth of field on a phone? On mine, I tap on the flower I want to be in focus until it that flower is super sharp, and then take the photo. There are a lot of flower photos coming your way. :)

Canberra, photography

Train Day

When my Aunt arrived here in August we had talked about some things we would like to do while she was here. My Uncle had once caught the train down the coast after arriving at the airport and he enjoyed his train trip. I have always wanted to take the train just to experience it, and my Aunt was curious to see what it was like after hearing so much about it.

So we planned our train ride for a Sunday when Opal fares are a tiny $2.70 for everyone travelling. It is a great day to take long train rides. But perhaps 6 hours on the train may be too much for most people. It is 3 hours to Sydney and 3 hours back to the South Coast.

I had been researching possible lunches and we ended up meeting my training-to-be-a-pilot nephew at Din Tai Fung which is a lot of carefully made dumplings and wontons. I think we ordered too much, but we did manage to eat it all.

As we sat and ate we looked up to see the Sydney – whatever they are calling it now. Tower Eye? It will always be Centrepoint to me.

After that we had a lot of shops we wanted to see and very limited time – Uniqlo was first on the list because I wanted to look more closely at the puffer vests. I have become a big puffer vest person since finding a suedey one at W.Lane which I could wear to work – I need it there, because it is so dang cold all the time.

My Aunt found the color she wanted in her size and they were having a sale so BONUS.. It was around this time that my nephew chose to take his leave as perhaps puffer vest shopping is not the most exciting thing in the world. :)

I was not quite so lucky, but right next to where we were standing was a shelf of beige suedey vests with hoods. I did not want a hood, so I asked one of the staff to see if they could find the silver one in my size. She had to get a ladder and check the top shelf, then out the back. When she came back she could not find it in my size. I asked if she happened to have the suedey one in other colours or perhaps without a hood – she said no BUT then she showed me the hood comes off. Plus it was half price, so I was sold.

It is plush and not a colour I would usually pick. Then my Aunt tells me she is going to buy it for me as a gift and I said well in that case I can’t possibly wear it, I will have to put it into a glass case and hang it on the wall in order to treasure it forever. :) However I have worn it twice now, both times without ruining it forever by dropping food on it. I was very glad to have it in Canberra as it got super cold while we were there.

Next we went to Sephora – being not a makeup person this is a shop I had never been to in my life before. I was looking for their hand masks which are a glove filled with moisturiser. I found them, and bought two, one each for me and The Other Half to try. He is struggling with the cold weather causing his hands to dry out and crack. This was not perhaps the best choice of shop to visit for my Aunt, who went a little cuckoo picking out various awesome things. They do not have Sephora in Adelaide.

These hand masks turned out to be 100% fabulous and well worth the $$ – I highly recommend these though I believe in store they were $7 each. I found them to be reusable and have used the avocado one three times already. The Other Half finally tried his and he is a believer too, though he thinks having two weeks off from work might have helped his hands repair themselves somewhat.

Next we dropped into H&M for a quick wander about. I was fascinated by the earrings many of which seemed like they would be very heavy to wear, like this pair which are clip on earrings. I rarely see those anymore!

But it turns out these are made of a very light metal and actually are some of the lightest earrings I have ever experienced. Spoiler alert, I ended up getting a pair like this when we visited Canberra for Floriade. I could not resist them as they were flowers.

A quick walk through the Myer fragrance hall which was absolutely packed with people, we could barely move, which surprised me. It was Fathers Day, did everyone just leave their shopping a bit late, or is it normal for this to be so packed on a Sunday?

We grabbed a coffee and then went to the train station way too early, as those of us who have so far to travel and are a bit worried about missing the train home likely tend to do. Just over three hours later we arrived back at Bomaderry Station and then home to my parents for a Sunday Roast which was very delicious.

It was a good experience and useful for me as I have to go to a conference in Manly in October, and there is NO WAY I am driving anywhere near Sydney, so I intend to catch the train. That is overnight so at least it will be 3 hours travelling on the train each day and likely a work colleague will be travelling with me.

shopping, Sydney

One Night In Parramatta, Part 2

A quick stop at L’Occitane in The Rocks to replace my two handbag hand creams. I’ve been out of my handbag Verbena for a few months now, and it was good to replenish this. The scent is unbelievable. As I am a member, and it was Bastille Day, you got an extra little bonus gift for saying a French word. Croissant was my choice. All those primary school french lessons paying off at last? Well no, because everyone knows Croissant. :)

We also visited the Rocks Markets which were so incredibly packed. I have never seen so many people try to navigate a small area like that before. It was essentially several single file queues moving slowly in between some market stalls. No photos, because it was insanity of the highest order. We were very glad to get out of there alive.

Back to Circular Quay then on the train to Central, then on the train to Parramatta. I was surprised at how easy Central was to navigate, considering it is a massive train station with lines going everywhere. 25 platforms is a bit more than I grew up with in Adelaide – where I think from memory we had 11 or 12, but really only the 4 lines and you couldn’t mess it up because they went in very different directions. Here, some of the lines cross over and a train might stop at the station you want to go to, or it might not.

The water fountain for kids to play in lights up at night. How pretty! Nobody was playing in it, because it was very very cold. The next morning it was a hangout birdbath for the local pigeons.

Back to our hotel and it was a lovely view of after-sunset from the windows.

We headed up to the club room for late afternoon coffee, canapes, cheese and crackers, and various other treats which were very filling. Not pictured are the butter chicken filo pastries, the arancini, the beetroot tartlets, and several other small treats. We were too busy enjoying the food to take many photos and these were an afterthought. One reason why it can sometimes be good value to pick a club room stay is because you can save money on eating out and drinks. By the time we’d spent an hour here we did not need dinner.

You can also save on drinks – alcoholic drinks were available if you wanted them, mostly wine and beer, but there was also a range of soft drinks available and you can take what you need back to your room. You can visit the room as often as you like during your stay, and the room itself is a lovely sanctuary to spend some time on very comfortable furniture.

There is always room in my stomach for Gelato Messina, though. Was it too cold for gelato? Is it ever too cold for gelato? My usual salted caramel and white chocolate teamed with chocolate sorbet. I’m faithful to that order, if they have those flavours I do not even have to take a moment to think.

The next morning we were up super early for breakfast. 7am start. There was a large conference of young religious people from America staying in the hotel. Apparently we need evangelism here in Australia, or something, but they team it up with lots of tourism and that is a win for these young folks, I think.

The reason I am mentioning this is because, the last time I was here, people were in their pyjamas getting breakfast. These people were some of the best dressed breakfast eaters I have ever seen. The men were mostly in suits, mainly floral dresses for the ladies. It was Sunday morning so these may have been going to church outfits. I enjoyed my breakfast, and the outfits, even the gingham little house on the prairie 3 layer ruffle skirt looks. Yes, I wish I had got a photo but I did not even take my phone with me, preferring the Pillow Safe.

The next stop for us was Westfield Parramatta. Mainly for a wander and explore. I wanted to check out Daiso because I knew that was there, but the rest of the stores were mostly a surprise. We spent time in Zara to see if they had a new jacket for The Other Half (no but we will find it one day) – Uniqlo and Kathmandu to find new warmer work clothing for me – in my Year Of Buying Nothing, I am not counting work clothing FYI, as it is a non-optional spend and some of it I do get reimbursed for.

We could have spent hours in Daiso just wandering about. Some useful items were found – mainly bulldog clips and lanyards. We probably could have spent hours in front of this particular section – the oil and water flip over thingies.

I had never seen a two colour one of these before. Perhaps we do not get this kind of thing on the South Coast of NSW, or maybe I just don’t spend enough time looking around. We must have stood there flipping these things over for 20 minutes or more. Yes we are easily amused.

One final stop at Bath and Body Works, where all this goodness cost me the not-very-huge sum of $92. They were having a sale, and these were bargains. The four orange bottles alone should have cost me $100 by themselves, but they were buy 3 get one free. I normally have to get Sephyroth to ship these in from the USA for me, as they used to be even more up money here and I love the scent. Orange and Ginger is my favourite, it is a real wake up smell.

The black cherry merlot hand cream and hand wash were a last minute grab as they had all the flavours at the cash register without lids on and one sniff of this told me it was that fake cherry kool aid smell that I deeply love. The hand cream has joined the L’Occitane in my handbag, and my hands will be sufficiently moisturised and scenty for many future months.

One final stop on the way home – to Leichhardt for The Peanut Butter Bar! Maybe you heard of this on Facebook, the place with the peanut butter tap? We had a protein shake each and shared the protein peanut butter pancakes for lunch. They were amazing. The gelato has protein in it!

I am a big believer in what they are doing, which is essentially this “From gelato and pudding to slices and cookies, we’ve re-designed your favourite desserts by adding the power of natural protein and avoiding refined sugars and preservatives.” This has great worldwide franchise written all over it.

Parramatta, Sydney

One Night In Parramatta, Part 1

When my friend and I went to see Take That in concert last November, we stayed at the Parkroyal Parramatta. As we walked to the train station and back again, I had the feeling this is an area I would like to explore some more, and secretly in my mind I was already planning to bring The Other Half back here for a stay sometime.

There are so many food options nearby, there is Westfield Parramatta, there is a quick train ride into Sydney if we want to travel there but the carparking is far cheaper in Parramatta (eg $20 overnight VS $50-60 overnight) and most importantly they have a Gelato Messina very close by.

I signed up for the Discovery rewards program when I made the booking at the Parkroyal, and when we last stayed overnight in Canberra I chose one of their partner hotels. Just by signing up you get some basic benefits but the best one in my opinion is the emails they send you with special offers. First they told us they would upgrade us to the Club level, which includes access to their club room where you have all day treats, canapes and drinks in the evening, and executive breakfast in the morning. This is normally around $250-280.

Then they told us we could have breakfast in Table 30 for free – which we paid for on our first visit and it was a really great breakfast, one of the best I’ve had in a while. The price was just $155 for everything, which we felt was super reasonable. So the booking was made a couple of months ago, and finally it was time to go.

I’ve been trying to visit the Sydney Harbour Pylon and the “new” food court at Gateway since.. well. 2016. My plans have never worked out thanks to other people putting the kibosh on them. Not this time, blog friends. This time I will go! The photo above is at Parramatta train station waiting for our train into Sydney. The Other Half finally got an Opal card on the way here, so now we can both navigate Sydney Transport easily.

On arrival at Circular Quay, we discovered that the Bastille Festival and school holidays had the place absolutely packed. I have never seen so many people here before. You can’t see it very well in my photo sadly, but this post from Sydney Shop Girl who was also here on the same day might give you a better idea of the crowds.

We headed straight to Gateway to check out the food offerings. There are a lot of things to choose here including Gelato Messina but I had that planned for dessert this evening, so we opted for The Burger Project – a Neil Perry creation which serves delicious burgers, shakes, fries, and you can even get your burger in a bowl and avoid the carbs of a bun if you so desire.

Neil Perry is a food genius and quite involved with in flight catering for Qantas. The best salad dressing I ever ate was served on a flight with his name on it. The food at the Burger Project is excellent but my heart belongs to the Salted Caramel shake which really brings the salt. We did not make it here until just after 2pm and we had places to be, so we ate quickly and headed off into the Circular Quay crowds towards the Bridge.

The Rocks is an area I am very unfamiliar with but it somehow feels burned into my DNA. While The Other Half had no idea where we were going, my inner compass led us to the right places while passing some of the most interesting places. There is a sense of enormous history here, teamed with an impression of just how small we are in the company of giants like the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

There are also many levels – here we are standing on a bridge looking at a lower level of road with a bridge above it and then a bridge above that too.

Our destination was the Pylon Lookout which is a MUCH cheaper option than Bridge Climb – $30 for the two of us vs $636!!! You can see the engraved ceremonial scissors used to open the bridge, which are set with opals. You can click on this photo for a larger view. This is a momentary stop in the 200 stairs one will climb to get to the top of the pylon. Sadly there is no lift option, it is stairs or nothing here. But there is a good reason to climb them all..

This amazing view. What a gorgeous day in the middle of winter. Sure, I was wearing many many layers plus a beanie, but it was worth it.

Here are some folks completing their expensive BridgeClimb, wearing the special outfits, without their cameras. That is another advantage to the Pylon – you can wear what you like and take your camera with you, and stay there for as long as you like taking as many photos as you like.

We discovered that cats used to live up here. This photo was quite terrifying but a google shows me even more scary cats on the bridge photos.

Next Monday – a quick stop in The Rocks, back to the hotel, Gelato Messina, and a day at Westfield Parramatta.

Parramatta, Sydney