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Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, Historical Food Centre Singapore

Satay Hawker. Lau Pa sat Singapore

Satay Hawker. Lau Pa sat Singapore

Our first evening in Singapore  we wanted to go grab a bite  to  eat , but away from the tourist area, so ventured down to the old Festival Market or “Lau Pa Sat” where street hawkers cook satay in the open and a meal for 2 of us with 2 beers cost us a little over £9. We had a mixture of Korean and Japanese dishes. From Malaysian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indian food stalls we were spoilt for choice. A bit worried about  the hygiene but it is well regulated and after eating from both the stalls in the market and the Satay Street Hawkers we had no problems whatsoever.

Lau Pa Sat Singapore

Lau Pa Sat Singapore

 

Arrival in Singapore, First Stop The Fullerton Hotel

Hotel in Singapore Hotel FullertonWe arrived in Singapore at 11.00hrs local time, but had lost 3hrs to the time change and having got up at 5 in the morning to get to the airport; we gave in to the temptation to take an afternoon nap in the wonderful Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. The hotel is a wonderful heritage building dating back to 1927 and as we found such comfortable beds!

We were struck by the care and courtesy given by most everybody in this wonderful, clean and vibrant city, but those travellers amongst you will know such courtesy is synonymous with Singapore certainly and often to Asia as a whole. I swear that if I couldn’t be bothered they would have carried me up to bed! The service at The Fullerton was as expected exceptional.

After we awoke we took a dip in the infinity pool at the hotel overlooking the Singapore River (It’s open till 11 p.m) before heading out to explore Singapore further.

 

Restaurants In Sydney

As with most large cosmopolitan cities there are so many restaurants to chose from and as a tourist without local knowledge it is difficult to know where to start.  For middle of the road restaurants most tourists stick to the tourist areas and in Sydney this is Circular Quay , the Rocks area and Darling Harbour. The food again as with most cities in tourist areas tends to be expensive and of poor quality and the only reason for eating in these venues are the views. We found that even the Sydney Tower revolving restaurant fell short. Having said that however and in contradiction there are a few fine dining restaurants in these areas that have won awards and these are worth visiting.

One rainy evening when we really didn’t want to eat in our hotel and did not want to venture far, we decided to go against the grain and have a meal at the Imperial Peking Harbourside on the Rocks in Sydney, which is quite well known but it was regrettably not really as we had hoped. See  our previous blog.

 Restaurant review sites including Trip Advisor  give a tourist a place to start but we feel that they tend to be quite polarising- either a love or hate review and can be manipulated by establishments so it is difficult to judge.  Our advice or even as a rule of thumb is that for good food at reasonable prices it is best to go further afield into the more residential areas of Sydney (or any city for that matter) that are more likely to be frequented by locals.

We came across “Bill’s” cafe/restaurant in the Surry Hills area of Sydney on Crown Street and had a lovely Brunch . Bangbang cafe and Espresso Bar also in the Surry Hills is said to do a wonderful breakfast and although in this instance we didn’t eat there, it does have good reviews and people we spoke to, recommended it.  The Marque restaurant also in Surry Hills has been given 3 hats by The Sydney Morning Herald and Chef of The Year award.

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) restaurant awards are a good place to choose your fine dining restaurant experience and Sydney Timeout Magazine Awards for all types of dining.  The Sydney Morning  Herald gives a rating of up to three “hats” similar to the Michelin “stars.

We ate in the Rockpool Restaurant in the Rocks, given two hats by the Sydney Morning Herald.We also  came across the Watermark restaurant( not awarded) on Balmoral Beach. Fantastic views over the bay as well as good food. If you are feeling flush arrive by water taxi on their jetty.

The Rockpool; fascinating, original and eclectic are words that come to mind when looking at the ingredients that typify the Rockpool’s menu, where diners have a choice of 4 or 8 courses from degustation menus. Initially we have to say that we were uncertain by one of two of the combinations, but by the end of our meal we were smitten – an Asian salad of Abalone and noodles was delightfully spicy and Wagyu beef tenderloin with “old skin” (the fine inner membrane from a Clementine orange) with beef cartilage was quite superb.  

The service too, was exemplary where our waiter had a great depth of knowledge about each dishes’ ingredients. We are not sure we would eat there often, but it’s a must for a culinary experience.

Cafe Sopra opposite the Warf Sydney Theatre at 8 Hickson Road was an unexpected find around the corner from our hotel. Opened only in February 2010 this is the third in a trio of Italian restaurants and well worth a visit. Alexandra’s huge and sumptuous Palma Ham and fresh figs starter was big enough for both of us (seems like a common mistake eh?) and Alan’s chicken liver pate with toasted ciabatta, pickled cucumber and green beans was delightful and the Risotto of smoked Chicken and sweet-corn just couldn’t be overlooked by either of us!

We hope this helps in making the most of your dining experience in Sydney. If there are any Sydney Siders reading this we would welcome your comments on any hidden restaurant gems off the beaten tourist track.

 

Eating out in Sydney Australia

We looked forward to supper last night in the Chinese Imperial Harbour side restaurant on Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, but regrettably it was not really as we had hoped. 

The staff were a bit off hand and hardly spoke to us taking the manager to take up the “slack” and perhaps over compensating a he did so, but this is a restaurant that has had many an accolade in the past and is proud of its famous, often celebrity patronage, but we fear is struggling now to keep up with newer venues off the Quay. 

The menu it has to be said is incredibly extensive, with dishes that include Jelly fish, but with prices that range (for a main course) from $38 to $888 (yes eight hundred and eighty eight) one would expect it to be quite spectacular – good it is, worth the hype… not really any more.

 

New Years fireworks in Sydney Australia

Although surprisingly, December is not the best time to visit Sydney, Australia, the one great advantage of doing so, is the New Year firework display and celebrations in and around Sydney Harbour Bridge, that (in our mind) just can’t be equalled. The daytime weather had been 27deg C with clear sunny skies and the evening warm.

We had read all sorts of information that is available from government websites to the local press about vantage points to see the fireworks, but we decided to try one of the paid events and watched from a “beach theme” cocktail party on West side of the Sydney Opera House – the music loud; drinks and waitress served canapé’s free; we set out optimistic about the great evening ahead. Come the event we were not disappointed and it was great to see it was so well organised. If a glass was smashed, a flotilla of workers would appear to sweep up the mess before anyone got injured and great iced buckets of bottled water were kept topped up all night too.

The Sydney authorities always put on an early (firework) display at 21.00hrs for children, which was welcomed by the same excited, enthusiastic and good humoured roar that those of midnight were andgiven  the event started at 18.00hrs there was plenty of time for it to warm up.

 The atmosphere remained cordial although excited throughout until after 02.00 in the morning and whilst rubbish was strewn across the streets, so were the good humoured police as we strolled back to our hotel with the happy shouts of Happy New Year from strangers and friends alike who stayed up late in Sydney Australia on December 31st.

The next morning, one serious hangover was met with understanding by the hotel staff that seemed almost too tired to keep their eyes open either, but would we do it again? Oh yes!

 

Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk, Sydney

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Finally a hot day and we decided to join the Sydney Siders exercising on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk. It’s a popular exercise route and walk amongst locals and tourists alike. We took the 333 bus from Alfred Street behind Circular Quay to Bondi Beach. We were told by our  that it is much quicker than taking the train. Bus 380 also runs the same route but has a few more stops and is slightly slower.

The walk begins at the southern end of Bondi Beach and is easy to follow. It’s approximately 6 or so Kilometres and takes about  two hours without stopping at the various beaches along the way. It’s a lovely walk and not very strenuous although there are some steep areas. We did it in flip flops (or as they call them here “Thongs”) without any difficulty although would have been easier in sturdier shoes.

 Unless you are young , love the surf and love crowds, Bondi Beach is not for you. We do however highly recommend the walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach as a great day out in Sydney. Quieter beaches and bays passed along the way are Tamarama Bay, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Bay and along to Gordons Bay and finally Coogee Bay. Gordons Bay  is an aquatic reserve and  is good for snorkelling as well as a popular dive spot. You’ll know when you’re at the mid way point when you reach the Sydney cemetery.

 Most of the bays have facilities, fresh water fountains and cafes so you are able to stop off and sunbathe, swim, or stop for a drink along the way but make sure you take plenty of water with you anyway. The end of the coastal walk brings you Coogee Beach. Although Coogee is busy it is more of a family beach than Bondi with few surfers to worry about whilst swimming. There are lots of shops , cafes and bars at the end of your walk and you can take the 373 bus back to Circular Quay from Coogee.

 

The Chinese Garden, Sydney

The Cascading Brook, Chinese Garden, Sydney

The Cascading Brook and Azalea, Chinese Garden, Sydney

The Chinese Garden Sydney

The Chinese Garden Sydney

It’s is now sunny and warm, however yesterday on a cloudy day we visited the Chinese Garden near Darling Harbour which did not disappoint. Darling harobour is really touristy and  busy with a lot of bars and restaurants in Cockle Bay and along to Kings  Wharf  but great for kids as it houses the Sydney Aquarium and Sydney Wildlife Walk.

The Chinese Garden in Sydney is well worth visiting .The garden was gifted to Sydney by its sister city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province China .The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects following the principles of Yin and Yang. This beautiful garden forms a small and tranquil oasis in the middle of a bustling city and when in the garden you can almost forget that you were in Sydney be it for the high rises surrounding it.

The summer botanical highlights are the Azalea and Chinese Tree Peony but the garden has been planted for interest in all  seasons.

 

Arrived in Sydney to a fantastic hotel room with a view

Following a change of plans, we arrived in Sydney ahead of schedule and managed to get a really good deal at the Shangri La Hotel on Cumberland Street in Sydney, around from the famous “Rocks” area. We were quite surprised we actually got accommodation at this time of year and what a view! The hotel is well situated near Circular Quay to get around, the staff could not be more helpful and the Altitude restaurant and bar has fantastic views but having said that there is nowhere really nice to lounge around and have coffee as the lounge area and cafe are a bit dark and unwelcoming. However for rooms with a view they are hard to beat. The picture was taken as the sun finally decided to show, Shangri La Hotel Sydney-Room View

 Very near to the Shangri La hotel there are the  Quay West Apartments and the Four Seasons Hotel which would also have a fantastic  view so if you are looking for a luxury room with a view I  would check  those out as well.

The rain has followed us though, but on a good note of course we won the Ashes today and pretty convincingly too. It’s great to be here when we actually win and give the Aussies a ribbing.

 

Early Departure from Christchurch New Zealand-The Shakey Isles

After bidding a fond farewell from the Abel Tasman National Park we headed for Nelson to catch a flight to Christchurch. We were hoping to base ourselves in Christchurch and take excursions and tours from there over the next few days.

 On arrival in Christchurch airport we found that the town centre had been evacuated due to a large after shock that morning. Christchurch has been experiencing tremors and shocks since the earthquake in September but apparently this one caused much more damage than previous ones and was greater.  Speaking to some people at the airport they said it was really scary. New Zealand has certainly lived up to its name of the “Shakey Isles”. 

Our hotel was in the town centre and we were told that the town centre had been evacuated and that power was also off.  Not knowing how long the town would stay closed and how much damage there had been we decided to try and change our flights to Sydney rather than try and venture in. No luck with Air New Zealand as apparently everybody else was doing the same but after asking around at the ticketing desks at the airport we found that Emirates had a few remaining tickets on a flight out at 5p.m that day (we  had arrived at 1.40) and we managed to get a flight to Sydney for the equivalent of £125 each which was great. We felt sorry to go and our thoughts are with all the shopkeepers and businesses who on Boxing Day had had to close and residents worried about their homes. It must be having a huge impact on the local economy. although I think everyone  is grateful and counting their blessings that there were no serious injuries.

 

Things To Do and Excursions in the Abel Tasman

Kaiteriteri Beach Abel Tasman National Park

Kaiteriteri Beach Abel Tasman National Park

Of course you can’t access the Abel Tasman by road so the nearest point to drive to from Nelson is either Kaiteriteri beach or Marahau. The only access to the National Park is either by taking the coastal walks or boat and water taxi. The only lodge that I am aware of is Awaroa lodge that is within the park and can only be reached by water taxi. I sent some time there over 10 years ago and it was wonderful however recent reports are extremely varied so we opted not to stay there. If you have had a great experience there we would love to know.

On sunny days there are so many things to do however on wet and windy days (unless you are a serious trekker with all the necessary equipment or scuba diver) the best thing to do is stay indoors, admire the surrounding scenery, read and relax. However if you know of anything that’s fun and worth mentioning for wet and windy days please let us know

Our top things to do:

Go Kayaking- There are both half day and full day excursions. The half days include a kayak trip either in the morning or evening with a water taxi from/to the starting point. The full days include a half day trek and half day kayak.  Admire the beautiful scenery and if you are lucky you’ll be joined by the seals who’ll play around your kayak.

Snorkel with the seals-As long as it is not calving season where the seals are protective of their young the seals are really inquisitive and love to play so close encounters abound.

Take a water taxi to one of the bays and trek back after arranging to be picked up along the way.

Charter a boat to take you anywhere at your leisure.

Take a sailing excursion- We would suggest one that limits the numbers and there are companies that do just that resulting in much more of a personal experience.

Kaiteriteri beach- Spend an afternoon on the beach and join in the fun on the natural water plume-for all those young at heart!

Golden beaches and bays  abound both around and in the Abel Tasman and you will be spoilt for choice for places to swim  and sunbathe.

We’ll expand and provide addresses and telephone numbers of recommended companies and a reference map on our guide later.

 

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