Well deserved win, Melbourne.

19 Aug 2014

Melbourne MCGYou put the capital C in Cool, Melbourne.

I always knew this, but it wasn’t until I travelled to a bunch of cities spanning from the likes of La Paz to New York to Phnom Penh that it really hit home.

Melbourne ab-so-lute-ly kicks butt, even compared to those cities cited in every RnB song since 1992.

I’m constantly looking upwards and backwards to absorb all of the amazingness that resides in this city and today, all I had to do was look straight forward into my computer screen to see the news.

The news! I love this news!

How blessed we are to live in a not once, not twice, not even three times (is this starting to sound like a TVSN infomercial?) but four times voted the most liveable city in the world AND on top of this, Melbourne was voted as the friendliest city in the world by Condé Nast Traveler mag, sharing the title with Auckland, NZ. Friendly and liveable. I’d move there. I mean, what? I do live here. Sheesh. High five to ya, hometown.

Now to organise a staycation to really absorb all of the coolness.

Melbourne, I’m in love.

UBUD in ELWOOD: COMBI

8 Jul 2014

Melbournites. We love cafe life. We flock to the latest, greatest, most underground, hipster cafes we overhear whisperings about. We love them but then we leave them for that newer, trendier cafe. The Melbourne brunch scene is just about as transient the club scene and if the coffee is bitter, the food isn’t Instagramable or the soy milk isn’t Bonsoy, they’ve got no chance of survival. It’s brutal. We are brutal. It takes loyal locals and consistently excellent food and coffee to survive.

Combi, shop 1/140 Ormond Road, Elwood.

I think this one’s a survivor.

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Last year I spent a couple of months in Ubud, Bali. What some people call the real Bali, Ubud is home to thousands of expats who love yoga, meditation, coconuts, juice detoxes and raw vegan food. The cafes are just divine. I now rate new destinations based on my bollocks-to-Bali scale and if they don’t serve up superfood smoothies and raw lasagne as good as Clear Cafe or green juices as potent as Alchemy then it just ain’t good enough! I’ve been hard pressed to find a cafe similar to those in my Ubud experience.

Until now (can I get a drumroll)…

Over the weekend, both Broadsheet Melbourne and The Age did a write up on Combi. And naturally, Melbournites FLOCKED.

My side-kick Ni Ni took me there for lunch today and it was Packed (yep, that’s a capital P). We nearly didn’t get a table. The food was RAW-MAZE-ING! Raw pasta, raw cheesecakes, superfood smoothies, açaï bowls, chia pudding, three types of kombucha, smashed avo, coffee and more. Right. Up. My. Alley.

Combi is making nutritious food appealing and as I saw today, even the little ones are enjoying it!

Move over Happy Meals, there’s an organic chia party in my mouth. $14.50 with a side of vegan yoghurt. Ohhhh yehhhhh.

THE TRAVELLER’S PERSPECTIVE: HOW TO BE A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN CITY

6 Jul 2014

I made a pact with myself.

Continue to see the world from The Traveller’s Perspective, even in my homeland of Melbourne. 

It’s easy enough to be a tourist when you are a tourist, but how on Earth do you maintain that same mindset when you’re in the city you grew up in?

The key to The Traveller’s Perspective is to see familiar things with fresh eyes and research your city like a sightseer. Do this and the present moment will be an enriching experience and never again will you use the dreaded B word. B-O-R-E-D. Ugh.

Without further ado, here are three ways you can wash those eyes of familiarity and savour your city like a fine wine (or man).

 

Numero Uno: Switch your brain to tourist-mode

Stop thinking about next week’s to-do list and get your brain into the “holy crap, I’m in a new city, everything is new and cool and omg look at that wow it must be autumn the leaves are red why are all those people staring at the church/screen/sign/tree/hot chip shop” mindset. In short, exist in the present moment. Perspective doesn’t cost a cent.

 

Numero Due: Make friends with Google

If you landed in, say, Chicago and had NFI about what was going on, would you:

  1. Visit www.timeout.com?
  2. Post a status on Facebook asking if your friends know what’s going on/have friends in Chicago?
  3. Visit www.wikitravel.org?
  4. Google “things to do in Chicago”?
  5. All of the above

Answer: E

There’s no doubt that if you live in Melbourne, New York, Adelaide or that small town in the south of Texas that no one remembers the name of, there is something happening. It’s your job to use all five senses to find out what it is.

 

Numero Tre: It all starts with hello

Ain’t nothing better than randomly connecting with a stranger. Humans are an abundant source of information and a simple “hello” can lead to the most incredible of conversations. And as it often turns out, that stranger was just a friend you hadn’t met yet! Strike up a conversation with your local barista/tram driver/boss’s cousin/random you see on the train every morning – you never know where they might be going tonight. Make “yes” your default answer and you might even make a bff. #awesome

 

And, well, if all of the above fails, chuck on a daypack, strap a camera around your neck and awkwardly carry a big-ass map at eye level while wandering around your city with your best “NFI” face on.

 

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”

-French Impressionist Artist Camille Pissarro

 

 

 

Does chocolate really make you high?

28 Oct 2013

It’s true. Chocolate makes you high.

Well, that might be just a teeny bit exaggerated. Eating forty cacao beans fresh from the jungle could make you hallucinate. Ladies, it’s no wonder we love chocolate so much!

April this year, I took a trip through Cucsco, Peru. This 15th century Incan town, laid out in the shape of a puma, is just magnificent. The cobblestone-lined streets are filled with bubbly school children dressed perfectly and proudly in their neatly ironed school uniforms, ladies selling massages for those with post-Incatrail blues at a “cheap price for you. Fifteen soles for one hour. Very cheap.” Actually, this is pretty cheap. Fifteen soles is less than AU$6. After my epic hike to Machu Picchu I certainly did return for a knot-removing, stress-relieving back rub, all on my minuscule backpacker budget.

And just like the massages, one of the coolest things I did is also aimed at world wanderers. Apart from our teachers, there wasn’t a Peruvian in sight.

A chocolate making workshop. (Ladies, wipe that saliva from your chin or it will ruin the consistency of the chocolate mixture).

Here’s how it went.

Gladys, an extremely sweet Peruvian lady, about four foot nothing with a very cheeky smile explained the process from removing the cacao pod from the tree to fermenting and drying the beans. All you need to know is that the beans, before they are roasted, don’t taste like chocolate. So if you’re in the jungle and eat forty cacao beans to get high…it ain’t gonna taste pretty.

cusco choc

We then jumped into the chocolate kitchen with Manuel. Again, four foot nothing with a very cheeky smile. I smell a trend. We roasted the beans to reduce their moisture and to make the shell-take-off-ing-process a tad easier. Prior to roasting, they had about 60% moisture and post-roast…a teeny tiny 1-2%!! Holy Mother of Math. That’s a big reduction if my subtraction skills prove precise.

After we peeled the shells off, we noticed a white membrane striped throughout the bean. This, my friend, is what we know as cocoa butter. It looked a bit like the fat from those swanky marbled steaks.

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The next part of the process had us using our elbow grease to grind the beans. To my delight, Manuel decided it would be a competition to see who could use the mortar and pestle to smoosh the beans into the smoothest, stickiest paste. Yeoww! Battle of the beans. We had thirty seconds…GO!

I was determined. Sweat beads appeared on my forehead, lactic acid started to build in my arms, I could feel my heart pounding and I’m sure I sounded like a thirsty dog.

BUZZ! “Times up! Step away from your bowls.” said Manuel as he inspected our work. The look on his face would put Matt Preston to shame.

First place! No gold star but I did win a bag of Peruvian cacao tea. Basically it was a bag of cacao husks with a fancy sticker but when boiled in water, makes this delish chocolate flavoured tea. No lactose. No worries!

Then…ohhhh yes…and THEN…we saw and smelt what every pre-menstrual lady dreams of…melted chocolate. My mouth oozed with delight. The process between making the cocoa paste and having melted chocolate takes twenty-four hours so that part was just explained. But to be honest, I wasn’t keen to wait a whole day anyway.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to eat the melted chocolate. Into shaped moulds it went along with a pantry full of flavours to choose from. Let’s just say I got a bit carried away and my salty, minty, chilli, almondy, gingery chocolate tasted more like a toilet bowl on the Inca Trail than a delectable chocolately treat. I considered donating it to a homeless person, but even that would have been an insult.

Note to self – Less is more.

KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid!).

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You can do it too

ChocoMuseo is in the heart of Cusco, Peru. As a chocolate museum, factory, shop and cafe, they also run three chocolate making workshops daily where you get your hands (and face) very dirty. You take home what you make in all workshops.

From the cacao bean to the chocolate bar is the workshop described in this blog and runs for approximately two hours.

Chocolate truffles and ganache teaches you how to make these delectable treats. It runs for two hours.

Investment: A mouth watering workshop will cost you about AU$27.50 per person at the time of writing.

For more information on this, and the other cool stuff ChocoMuseo offers visit www.chocomuseo.com

Avoid a stinkin’ bad case of B O: How to wash your clothes while travelling

30 Sep 2013

No one likes a stinker. My worst nightmare is being stuck next to an unwashed human on a plane, train or bus. Some people have bad hygiene, some have blocked noses and others just haven’t yet read my blog on how to wash your clothes on the go. So…here ’tis.

Travelling has made me realize that it’s unnecessary to wash my bath towel daily and wear items of clothing only once…apart from underpants of course. But even then, that’s debatable.

How to avoid washing your clothes in the first place

1: Shower daily.

2: Wear antiperspirant deodorant. Bath in it if you need to.

3: Pack tank tops with large armholes. Sounds weird, I know. But I’ve worn one as many as twenty sweaty South American days and it did not smell. Not one bit. The only reason I washed it is because I dribbled food on it.

4: Avoid t-shirts and tops that touch your arm pits and obey rule #3. Even if you don’t smell, your t-shirt will. Go figure.

5: Avoid that easy-breath, quick-dry fabric. It soaks in everyone else’s BO and then people will think YOU smell, when in actual fact, it’s your top and the other gross unshowered people surrounding you that stink.

6: Avoid hugging sweaty and/or smelly people. Push them away if they persist.

7: Keep your clothes hanging up, ideally in the sunshine and fresh air. If this isn’t doable, hang them on the back of a chair, end of your bed or draped over your backpack. If you always store your clothes in balls, rolled up or where they cannot breathe, the smell will infest inside the fabric (this is not scientific…just tried and tested). Air clothes as much as possible.

8: Purchase some decent perfume and use it. Zara sell some nice non-celebrity smelling scents for about AU$15.

Only after you have sniffed your clothes, checked for stains and you deem them suitable candidates for a wash, let the following be your bible.

How to wash your clothes once you’ve avoided it long enough

1: Underpants can only be worn once (unless you are hiking and/or no one else will know). Undies can be washed while showering. Use soap or shampoo (def don’t skip this part) and scrub the important areas like your life depends on it. Then wash the rest. Rinse and wring out (see quick tip) then hang on a chair near your bed, a railing of your bed or purchase a travel washing line (I bought mine from Kathmandu) and attach it to your bed if there’s nowhere better.

2: Other items of clothing can be washed in the sink. Don’t bother with laundry soap. I brought some with me and it smells bad…like laundry soap. Use the hostels soap dispenser if they have one (save money on your own products) otherwise use your soap/body wash/shampoo or if someone else stupidly left their shampoo in the showers of the hostel, use theirs. Wash your clothes well. Imagine you are Charlie’s mum from Charlie and the chocolate factory and you have to swirl the clothes around and mush them and scrub them. Two words: elbow grease. Empty the water, wring your clothes out then rinse well in fresh water. Wring again then hang (as per the undies instructions). Keep in mind how much hanging space you have. Maybe just wash a few pieces a day if you have to. Don’t be that annoying roomie who makes a fort of clothes in their dorm.

3: Every little while, use a washing machine. It’s challenging to properly wash clothes in a hostel so you will have to fork out some cash to pay. This is not the time to be a tight-arse. Remember that if someone else washes your clothes, they won’t care if they shrink/change to pink/go missing. So hand wash any delicate and valuable items. Or just take crappie clothing with you like I did.

Quick tip for quick drying clothes

Lay item of clothing on a flat towel. Roll up tightly like you’re making a giant sushi roll. Twist and wring. Unroll. Use hairdryer or bathrooms hand dryer if you have access to one for quicker quick drying.

If you don’t like my washing options for travelling, I suggest you have some spare money to buy new clothes….or enjoy spreading that natural BO across the globe (and not having any friends).

In perfume and peace, Rae Rae x x

A twenty-something kid in Italian class Part Two: The Three Day Rule

17 Sep 2013

verbsAugust 2013. I will remember this as “that time I tried to learn Italian”.

Globetrotting is enchanting. But wandering the world made me crave a formal learning environment. Think high school. Think text book. Fill the gap, join the dots, connect the words…I desperately wanted it all.

Two weeks flew by. That’s a lie. Most of the two weeks flew by. The evening following my first class gave me a taste of what it would be like to drown in a pool of mushroom juice while listening to Tool. My goal of holding an Italian conversation with my host mum, Daniela seemed mission impossible.

The Three Day Rule:

Give a new 24/7 challenge three solid days before dismissing it.

The Monday

Day one of La Casa di Daniela did not go well. My first lesson at Eurocentres was great but I’m not sure four hours of “where are you from?”, “I am Australian” and “How old are you?” can give a person enough ammo to drill through dining table conversation solely in Italiano. Pre-Eurocentres-let’s-speak-French changed immediately that Monday to your-lessons-have-now-begun Italian.

“Parlare solo Italiano” Daniela said.

Solo Italiano? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. Let’s just cut to the chase and say that post-dinner emotions were running wild and although I managed to stop myself from bucketing down I had a huge stress attack. My newly acquired skill of “fix it or deal with it” meant that immediately after eating, I took my sorry arse to the Square in front of Pitti Palace and wrote verb conjugations for a solid two hours.

The Tuesday

I was now addicted to writing and re-writing verbs. Mrs Good’s “look, say, cover, write, check” paid off and this skill I learnt in grade two resurfaced. Actually, it’s a bloody great way to learn new words! Try it one day. Dinner conversation turned from drowning in mushroom juice while listening to Tool to just the drowning part and I managed to explain what we learnt at school, what I ate for lunch and exclaim that the dinner was delicious! The ten minutes it took me to explain this went smoothly, but after that the only noises I could hear were my piggy slurps of spaghetti and the silence of my brain failing to translate more Italian sentences. Awkward silence never felt so…awkward.

The Wednesday

What we actually spoke about is a blur but there was a bunch of giggling at the dinner table so I assume something went right! Plus, my insides gave me a “bravo” and pat on the back. Thanks Mrs Good.

The Last Day

Goal accomplished! Many conversations were held at the dinner table and not only that, I was even able to tell a few stories. Weeee J After the first week, I started to be less concerned about making mistakes and this is when things started to improve. Thank you failures. You made me better in the long run.

So, for now my formal lessons have finished, but, never will I ever stop learning. Arrivedeci!

 

You can do it too

Eurocentres professionally run language schools all over the globe and teach a bunch of different languages including English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. They offer courses for beginners through to advanced and of varying lengths and intensity. 

For a two week Italian course in Florence, including a homestay near to the school  it cost me 1016  (~AU$1500).

On a budget? Couchsurf with a non-English speaking local in conjunction with a Eurocentres course and save yourself 550 (~AU$800). 

For more information jump onto www.eurocentres.com and www.couchsurfing.org

Flash Back Friday: “The best bus trip ever” said no one ever. Except me.

16 Aug 2013

South America. Pretty freaking cool place. At the start of this year I bussed around five countries in the continent and here is just one of my stories.

Disclaimer: Using words and photos to describe this event could never do it justice. Everything I say, times it by twelve and add forty-seven. And then a bit. If you still want to know how great it actually was, go and do it. That’s right. DO IT.

Right now, as I lay in my near-fully reclining Cama leather chair on Cata International to Santiago, I wish I could get some wifi. Yep. Gen Y. I’m dying to tweet, instagram and facebook everyone about this amazing post St Patties day morning I’ve had.

As the sun rose behind us, it was as if heaven has buzzed it’s gates and welcomed us in with open arms.

The 7am bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. So glad we caught this. The sunrise was possibly the best I’ve seen. Bright orange into what looked like white lightening. The whole sky was lit up in pink and as we crossed the Andes I sung to myself…what a wonderful world. Cue Michael

photo (2)The clouds were only just covering the peaks of the Andes as we drove through. We were surrounded by this incredible, eye catching landscape. W. O. W. Something I’d only ever seen in a painting.

I knew, even thought I’d had two hours of broken sleep last night that I couldn’t nap on the bus. I had to keep my eyes open to continue to be amazed by this Argentine landscape.

The grey earth of the mountains became more white like sandstone as we progressed west towards Chile. The huge faces were speckled with sporadic green dots that close up, would have been shrubs. The quaint river between the bus and the mountains to my right flowed east as we continued west. The water, while flowing quickly, was clear and peaceful and looked super fresh. I was itching to escape via the window and nose dive in. Orrrr maybe that was just cos I was severely hungover. Lining the river was sand coloured rocks and pebbles and dried grassy shrubs with sharp looking leaves.

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As we got closer to the mountains, I could see the rock formations on the side in more detail, and the texture of the stone. The morning light enhanced the beauty of the surrounding views and how lucky I was to see it.

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The sun had finished it’s morning show and I could see that some of the mountains were a reddish colour. Some had a sandy coloured base with red peaks and some…some were green, red and sand. What a mix! Some were a deep terracotta colour. One mountain had blue in it. Holy mother of colour. This is incredible! The edge of the mountains were like a Cadbury flake. I kept my fingers crossed it wouldn’t crumble as easily, though.

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And then, oopsy! I woke up the entire bus with my foghorn fishmarket voice…

“Oh my god that is f*cking incredible”

Whoops-a-daisy. I slipped the F word. Tsk.

Out popped white mountains in the distance. Like glaciers. Like ice. The mountains opened up into my idea of heaven on Earth. Closed landscape into open landscape. Clean. Pristine. Snow capped. Oh. My. Gosh.

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This trip really sunk in how wonderful our world is. On a bus, in South America and I am thanking you Mother Nature. B-e-a-youuuu-tiful.

Here are a few other snaps I took from my leather recliner as I ate my day old sandwiches. It was lucky the seat was so comfortable because man oh man, there was a HUGE traffic jam.

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A twenty-something kid in Italian class Part one: get me a bucket

4 Aug 2013

You know what they say about new experiences…they only make you stronger.

Well, I must say, for the entire six months I’ve been travelling solo, I’ve definitely embraced new experiences. Grabbed them by the balls as some might say. I’ve not once been a Nervous Nelly. Maybe that is thanks to my brother’s advice.

“Don’t worry about the past or the future, just enjoy the present.”

Probably the best advice I’ve been given. Relaxed Rae right here.

Today, I started my home stay in Florence, Italy. I am living in the home of Daniela, a born and bred Florentine. She speaks no English for the most part but a decent amount of French. And fluent Italian. I speak English (obvi), a small amount of French and my Italian goes as far as counting to twenty and singing Happy Birthday. Grazie Signorina Rizzi and Primary School Italian lessons.

For the first time in six months, Nervous Nelly was all over the shop. Whaaaat! I had to remind myself to remind myself to remember my brother’s wise advice. Be present. Be present. BE PRESENT!

DING DONG. I arrived at Daniela’s house. I heard no words from the intercom. Was I at the right house? Two minutes later I was buzzed into the first gate, then the first door then after a few flights of marble stairs I saw Daniela.

What did she just say? Uh oh. Okay, you know how to say hello and how are you…do it…do it…DO IT!

“Ciao Daniela. Mi chiamo Rae. Come stai?” Mental pat on the back.

The tour of Casa di Daniela was conducted in French and, well, I’ve not yet been told off so I assume I understood most of it. Dinner conversation was a mix between French, English and Italian since the other girl staying here speaks French and some English. Between us all we managed to have a broken chat, like that of some kids at two year old kinder. We talked about where we lived, where we had travelled and my Italian went as far as learning to say “deliziosa” with the proper accent. I’m 50% there. One word a day. If I keep this up I might be able to construct an entire sentence by the time my two weeks is over!

So Nervous Nelly no more. I have now come to the realisation that Daniela hosts non-Italian speakers all the time so she is used to people like me! Lucky I can speak some French or we might have been using sign language.

Raise your glasses peeps! I need some luck for this two week journey I’ve just embarked upon. My goal? To hold a conversation in Italian at the dinner table over a bowl of Daniela’s spaghetti.

Salute!

The Businessman and The Backpacker Turned Flashpacker

1 Aug 2013

imageAfter just short of six months travelling through South America, the USA and Greece, I was invited to join my dear friend Jakeinthebox in Malta.

The main purpose for his two week trip was business in London, with a one week vacation before his 6:30am meetings started. 6:30am? Pfffft….I haven’t been up at 6:30am since my date with New York City’s party scene.

The main purpose of my Feb-July trip was to endure four months of overused and unhygienic mattresses and two months of staying on friends floors/couches/blow-up beds so as you can imagine, I was ab-so-fruitlooping-lutely stoked to be spending one whole week with Jakeinthebox at The Hilton.

THE HILTON!!!

Backpacker turned flash-packer for seven nights. Yes please!

Squishy mattress (no bedbugs, no squeaks). Crisp bleach white sheets. Fluffy doona. Two pillows including a choice between hypo-allergenic or pure feather. Unstained carpet. A bathroom that screamed “come shower with me”…and my fave part of all…no shower curtains to elevate my rational fear of human filth. And Grace. We can’t skip the gorgeous Grace. She made our beds, folded our pyjamas, topped up our collection of mini brand-name toiletries and refreshed our thick, human sized, non-micro fibre towels daily…and the towel actually dried me. Fully.

For the week Jakeinthebox and I were holidaying together, we were treated the same despite our differences in travel style. Except for one thing. The taxi driver confirmed with me three times that I wanted to be driven to The Hilton.

On arrival at Malta Airport, my taxi driver asked me where I wanted to go.

“The Hilton please”.

I actually felt a bit strange asking for such a nice hotel with a giant backpack. And I think he did too.

He may as well have said

“Yo! Rae! Where are you stayin’?
You got a backpack on and you’re clothes are a frayin’.
I’ll take you to a hostel, The Hilton’s not for you,
To get in to that hotel replace your flip flops with some shoes.
How long has it been since you cut and dyed your hair?
I’ll take you to the salon, pretty sure they’ll fix it there.
Have you thought about a facial? Your skin is a wiltin’…”

But I said “please Bro…JUST TAKE ME TO THE HILTON!”

The Ten Commandments: How you can avoid IFCS while travelling

29 Jun 2013

Think quick! How do you stay healthy while travelling? Is it impossible?

Maybe.

But here’s my attempt.

 

I present to you my ten commandments of avoiding IFCS (I Feel Crap Syndrome) while travelling.

10 commandments of being healthy while traveling

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