Day three and four of my trip to visit a friend in Ulladulla resulted in us taking a morning walk followed by a brunch with other friends of mine who live close-by. We sat in a lovely cafe chosen by my friends, overlooking the ocean. It was such a lovely day with beautiful blue skies, families enjoying time together and us catching up after a long absence.
My friends kindly chose this particular cafe as not only did it have nice views but it also served vegan meals. Big meals too. They were huge!!! I certainly couldn’t eat all that was provided; sourdough toast (two pieces), roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, vegan bacon and sausages and chutney!
After brunch, Mandy and I walked back to her home and along the way I took the opportunity to check out the sculptures along the beachfront. One was created after the devastating bushfires of 2019/20 where a local artist brought together the community and created this large scale commemorative public sculpture. Embedded in the artwork are more than 1,200 ceramics of native flora and fauna, created at public workshops she facilitated. A rather interesting display with a lovely human touch.
The next afternoon we drove a short distance to Cuppits Estate, a local winery. The vineyard was first planted in 2003 and established in 2007 after there was enough fruit for the first vintage. Rosie the owner was the original winemaker and now her son Wally is head winemaker after learning winemaking in the Loire Valley in France. The winery hosts a very busy award winning restaurant, casual dining on the lawn or deck, a cellar door, wine tasting and a fromagerie founded in 2015 by owner Rosie following her travels throughout Italy and France.
Mandy and I ordered a glass of white wine each and fortunately for me the winery has a range of excellent white vegan wines. It was then time to sit out on the deck enjoying the lush green grass and vineyards before the sun set.
Time to leave this lovely winery and head back to Mandy’s as I only had one more night before I was leaving to return to Canberra. After a peaceful evening just watching TV, the next morning I got up early and packed to return home. The car trip is about two and a half hours so I decided to stop at a seaside town on the way home. Batemans Bay is an hour or so from Ulladulla and I had not been there for many, many years. It’s a location that many Canberrans go for weekends away and holidays.
I parked the car and went for a walk along the waterfront; a great way to enjoy the bay and the local birds. My walk took about an hour and by that stage I was ready to hop back into my car and drive home. Love going away but always enjoy coming back home!
A friend of mine moved to Ulladulla from Canberra a couple of years ago and I have been promising to visit her for some time so finally made arrangements for my puppy dogs to be cared for and hopped into my car for a five day trip. Ulladulla is a coastal town on the south coast of New South Wales which is about a two and a half hour drive from Canberra. It’s also a place that a lot of Canberrans either go to visit during weekends and holidays renting out homes and apartments or actually have a holiday home in the area.
On the day we arrived, my friend Mandy and I went for a walk so I could see the area she lives and we did a bit of shopping for dinner that evening. My friend Mandy has views of the ocean from her home so it was nice to get closer to the ocean and walk along the beachfront as our morning exercise.
The day after I arrived, after our early walk, we drove to visit another friend who lives in Kiama, another coastal town on the south coast. It took us around two hours to drive there so we decided to go straight to lunch at a really nice cafe our friend had booked. It’s so nice to catch up with good friends over a meal and glass of wine I must say.
Miss Arda cafe is located along the main street of Ulladulla with huge open door looking out towards the ocean. Such great options for me to choose from so we decided on sharing plates. We ordered the beetroot falafel with hummus and pickles which were really good; so good we ate them before I could take any photos. We also chose the miso whole cauliflower with tahini dressing, pomegranate and rose and a dish of green beans with salsa verde and almonds. The cauliflower whilst doesn’t look so great in photos was absolutely delicious…surely I could make it!
My friends also ordered the jamon manchego croquettes with jalapeño tequila relish which they said were extremely tasty. I guess most things deep fried are delicious.
And whilst enjoying a glass of wine we also enjoyed views of the pine trees along the esplanade and the sea.
The next morning for exercise we walked to the Ulladulla Lighthouse through Warden Head Reserve. The lighthouse is closed for refurbishment but we walked along a bush track to get as close as we could. Nice flowers to photograph along the way too.
Our next stop after breakfast was a gorgeous little town called Milton, founded in 1860. The main street comprises gorgeous buildings, shops selling all sorts of homewares and lovely cafes, restaurant and wine bars. I would love to live in Milton, or be rich enough to buy a ‘weekender’ as it has picture-postcard views of rolling, lush green hills with ponds and views of the beautiful Pidgeon House Mountain. We walked around the shops on the main street of Milton and of course I bought way too many things I don’t really need but just liked…I look at that it helps the local economy!!
After a hectic shopping trip there is always the need for a glass of wine, so Mandy took us to a gorgeous little wine bar/restaurant called Harvest.
Mandy had not been before but I do recall eating there when it used to be just a restaurant, some years ago. It has lovely views of Milton’s rolling hills so we sat in comfortable velvet chairs to enjoy our wine.
Unfortunately I didn’t like my wine at all, it was organic and the only vegan white wine on offer. I have drank organic wine before but this one tasted a little ‘off’. Mandy ordered herself a cocktail but only because it was named ‘Mandy Moore‘. But the interior of the bar was so nice it was an enjoyable hour or so. It’s really quirky inside, great mood lighting and fabulous furniture. We sat on comfortable velvet lounges enjoying the ambience, until a gentleman took a liking to Mandy, which was not reciprocated – time to leave!
Another few days left in Ulladulla but I shall save those adventures for another post.
Last week I was in Sydney to see Madama Butterfly at the Sydney Opera House; what a fabulous experience. I love opera and am a subscriber to the opera house so get to visit about four times a year to see operas of my choosing and Madama Butterfly was my third choice this year. It was wonderful and my friend Rosi and I really enjoyed the performance. It also gives me the opportunity of walking around Sydney’s beautiful harbour.
I had read about a totally plant-based restaurant in Sydney that had a vegan high tea, so booked in advance as it a popular place run by internationally renowned chef Matthew Kennedy. The restaurant Alibi opened in 2018 and is located on the first floor of the Ovolo Hotel at the pier at Woolloomooloo Bay.
The hotel has an industrial feel with open pipes and structures but the restaurant/bar still has a cozy feel with colourful velvet chairs and bright carpets and small lights lining the many artificial interior trees.
We arrived at 2pm and were shown to a booth already set with colourful cups and saucers and linen napkins and given the high tea menu. First thing I noticed was the metal owl looking down on us from the rafters as there are quite a few interesting items around the interior.
There are three options with the high tea; tea and coffee, free flowing rose wine or free flowing French champagne. We chose the tea option. My choice was ‘Refresh-A-Mint‘ which was a twist on traditional peppermint tea with an addition of pineapple; thirst quenching and lovely. Rosi chose the ‘Grey Rabbit‘ a fragrant earl grey tea with real bergamot as earl grey is definitely her favourite tea.
Our waiter gave us a quick run-down of the high tea and within a few minutes a fabulous mirror lined three layer stand arrived; two actually, one for me and one for Rosi!
The waitress then asked us if we wanted a thorough explanation of the delicacies or did we prefer to experience the tastes ourselves. We preferred her to explain each delicacy. She did a wonderful job and suggested which we should eat first. We followed her suggestion and started off with the peppermint gum pea tart topped with dark bitter chocolate. Wow…so delicious (I think this was our favourite dish of the day).
We then tried the pickled infused lemon myrtle cucumber with macadamia ricotta, beetroot and topped with orange segments. These tiny savoury treats were rather filling but of course we kept eating and tried the salt baked sweet potato with crispy salt bush, sunrise lime and then topped with vegan sour cream; all beautifully placed on a crossini.
Our next tasting was the compressed watermelon with vegan feta, native finger lime and lemon balm; lovely and refreshing and we ate this before moving onto the sweet dishes. We first tried the almond meal ‘scone’ with vegan cream; really nice but the base was a little too dense for me. The cream was delicious though!
Next we ate the wattle seed and almond tiramisu. Rosi loved this but I think I much preferred the hibiscus and raspberry pavlova with aqua faba meringue and cream. Wow!! I haven’t eaten a pavlova since becoming vegan so was incredibly happy this one was so delicious. Rosi then tried the passionfruit and butterscotch tart with poached pears – said it was nice but still the tiramisu was still her favourite. I decided to take my tart back to our apartment as by this stage I was really full.
And our final little delight was the plum Sacher chocolate cake, but unfortunately we were too full to eat this so the waiter kindly packaged this up for us to take away also. Maybe I should of started with this one as it really looked amazing.
Next time I visit Sydney, I intend to return to this fabulous restaurant/bar and enjoy a plant based meal as by all accounts the food is fabulous judging by the many five-star reviews.
There is a new tea house in Canberra which I read about yesterday, so with me being a huge fan of a good cup of tea, today I decided to drive into the city and enjoy a cup of tea and perhaps lunch as Tea Connoisseur also offers a menu of traditional Yunnan food. When I arrived, which was just after midday, I was the only person in the cafe so I was shown to a table near the window by the owner Yun ‘Coco’ Zeng who told me she was born in Yunnan, a southern province in China and has worked in high-end hotels throughout Asia and Australia including Shanghai and Sydney. Coco said she moved to Canberra and worked at the Hyatt Hotel and then saw the need to open a tea lounge and I am so glad she did. One of the first things you notice when you enter is the array of tea canisters lining the wall; beautiful black canisters with red labels and a range of pu-erh tea. Also some great looking desserts in the glass cabinet below the teas.
I was given both a tea menu and food menu and whilst I was deciding, Coco talked a little about some of the teas which she did with authority having told me she started picking tea leaves from a very early age whilst growing up in Yunnan and has now partnered with her uncle to import the teas from China. Coco explained that these teas are appreciated much like fine wine, with enthusiasts buying and ageing them for many years. The pu-erh tea that is on display is made from fermented tea leaves which are then pressed into ‘cakes’ and aged with the ageing process lasting from months to several years causing true fermentation rather than oxidisation.
I recall visiting a tea shop in Yunnan during my travels through China where some of the pressed ‘cakes’ were worth thousands of RMB (up to $40,000 AUD). And whilst pu-erh is not the most expensive tea in the world, it is definitely up there. The most expensive is said to be Da-Hong Pao grown in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian province of China and is worth over $1m a kilogram. No adding milk to these teas!!
I ended up choosing a Oolong tea, in particular the Tie Guan Yin which as the menu says is one of the most famous oolongs in the world. The tea arrived in a little glass teapot and I could see the tea changing colour whilst it was steeping. Coco had told me to steep for one-two minutes then I was to remove the glass container from the teapot, place it in the supplied bowl and pour the tea into the little glass cup…such a lovely process and the tea was very refreshing.
There was a range of vegetable offerings on the menu but as I wasn’t that hungry I chose the pan friend vegetable dumplings and asked Coco if they could be steamed instead of fried which she agreed to after ensuring me they were vegan. Next time I will definitely order the ma po tofu with mince, chilli and shallots (minus the mince of course) and the three flavours eggplant dish with smashed garlic, chilli and coriander. My dumplings arrived in a steamer with a dipping sauce. Delicious!
The back wall is a painted ‘map’ of southern China to show Yunnan and the city of pu-erh where of course the tea of the same name originates.
There are also many other tea related items on display around the tea lounge including tea leaves, tea cups and boxed tea for sale as well as a range of lovely china tea pots. There are also a lot of dried flowers around the store which add to the ambience of the place.
All in all a really lovely place to sit for an hour or so and enjoy a wonderful cup of tea and some great Chinese food.
This month I travelled out of Canberra to Queensland a state in northern Australia. I travelled to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland for three days and then flew further north onto Yeppoon which is a town on the coast of Queensland. The reason for my visit was to see friends and have time away from the cold of Canberra so I hopped on a plane and an hour and a half later landed in Brisbane but to make the trip more comfortable, I used my Qantas Frequent Flyer points and travelled in Business Class!
A couple of my friends had recently moved to Brisbane from Canberra so once I was picked up from the airport I went to their home where Vanessa and I enjoyed a glass of champagne overlooking the Brisbane River; the river unfortunately being very brown from the recent torrential rain, but still a stunning view.
On one of my days, my friends and I went to a rather new hotel in Brisbane called The Emporium located on the South Bank river and parklands precinct. Our lunch was at the rooftop bar and restaurant and as the rain had stopped we had lovely blue skies and great views of the city skyline.
Sharon chose our beverage and we started off with a very tasty champagne (feeling there is a theme to this visit) and then we all enjoyed a leisurely lunch. My four friends shared two seafood platters and I ordered spring rolls and a tomato salad. It was a lovely way to catch up with great friends I had not seen for some time. And at the same time enjoying those outside views and also the interior of the bar which is very modern and quite glamorous.
Whilst I was in Brisbane it was National Volunteers Week being Australia’s largest celebration of volunteering. One evening my friend Sandy and I walked home from dinner over The Storey Bridge a steel cantilever bridge that spans the Brisbane River, which was lit red to support National Volunteers Week to commemorate the work carried out by volunteers. And wow…it was so beautiful! And whilst the bridge is very lovely during the day, when it was lit red it was spectacular.
After three days it was time to leave Brisbane for Yeppoon. I had to take a plane to Rockhampton which is about a trip of just over an hour then my friend of 45 years came to collect me. I hadn’t been up to Rockhampton nor Yeppoon before and I hadn’t seen Tracey for quite some years so it was going to be a lovely few days visiting in her new home.
Our first day we went for a leisurely walk with her two beautiful dogs along one of the dog friendly beaches. We had woken early and the sun was just rising with a forecast for the day of mid twenties (degrees) so lovely weather to walk early.
That day we also took advantage of the blue skies and weather and walked along the promenade in town. So glad we did as the next two days the rain has not stopped and it’s become torrential.
Today, we did drive down to the beach with the dogs to see if the rain would stop as yesterday we were fortunate to be able to walk for half an hour; today not so. So we took a long drive for me to see some of Yeppoon; what a pretty place with lovely countryside and beautiful beaches. Beaches look so different without sun and blue skies; but still lovely.
One sight Tracey showed me was of a luxury boat (said to be worth $2m AUD) that had smashed into rocks after wild seas at Statue Bay, taken on water and eventually ripped its anchor resulting in it landing at Lammermoore Beach. I was told the owner of the boat does not have insurance!!! (big mistake) and it was his friend who was bringing the boat to Yeppoon on his behalf. There is a moral to this story and it’s something about if you have multi million dollar luxury boat – buy insurance!!
And locals are said to be angry about the environmental issues (plastics and foam being consumed by turtles/fish), the time the owner is taking to remove the boat and about the amount of rubbish from the boat that is in the water and on the beach – don’t blame them!
So this has been my lovely trip away, one more day to go then back to Canberra where it’s temperature is in the low teens; chilly!
It was time for another weekend away, so with three of my friends, a few weeks ago we flew up to Sydney for a couple of nights, mainly to see Phantom of the Opera on Sydney Harbour. The musical is performed on a purpose built floating stage with the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and city skyscape as background. It was spectacular so more on that later…
My friend Natalie found a great hotel for us to stay; the Margo Kimpton; recently opened and housed in a magnificent heritage-listed Art Deco building. The heritage site was a hotel previously but before that it was space for the Sydney Water Board. The hotel is beautifully placed in the middle of the city within walking distance of shops/Hyde Park and the harbour which meant we were able to walk to restaurants and the show.
The foyer of the Margo Kimpton hotel is very Art Deco and contained on one side is the Wilmot Bar; very impressive with its 1930’s style and a large range of spirits lining the back wall.
I read that the ‘Margo’ was chosen and added to the Kimpton Hotel as a tribute to the artistic women of influence that played a leading role in shaping Australia’s design scene in the 1930s. And to tribute women, you will find stunning artwork picturing women along the corridors leading to the hotel rooms. And on occasions dogs as the hotel is pet friendly!
Our first evening we had booked Cafe Sydney a restaurant located at Circular Quay with spectacular views over the harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge; this is an old favourite of mine and my friends and on this occasion it certainly didn’t disappoint. We arrived early and ordered a bottle of champagne from the restaurant’s extensive wine list and enjoyed a glass or two whilst looking at Sydney’s magnificent harbour and bridge. The vegan menu is very good and I really enjoyed my dishes as did my friends from the non-vegan menu.
No matter where I travel, city or country, I always like to get up early and go for a walk to see the sights and even though I have been to Sydney many times and in fact lived there, it was too good an opportunity to take a walk with a friend. I met Mandy at a well known meeting place outside the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) at the bronze statue of Queen Victoria which stands three metres high where she is wearing a gown that falls over the pedestal at the front and a cloak that falls over the back. The QVB was opened in 1898 to honour the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and restored beautifully in 2009.
We took a stroll around the harbour with views, of course, of the bridge and also Luna Park, probably Sydney’s most iconic amusement park on the foreshore of the harbour. As a teenager, my friends and I used to travel on the train for an hour to get there; buy a day pass which allowed you ten rides and then buy food with absolutely no nutritional value – great day out! The most iconic thing about Luna Park is entering through the face at the entrance to the park.
After our long walk, we decided to stop for a bit of breakfast and returned to the Queen Victoria Building where we found a lovely little cafe with views of one of the two great clocks. This clock was built over four years and installed in 2000 and aims to tell a story of Australian history from both European and Aboriginal perspectives. But I couldn’t keep looking at the clock all morning as I had a delicious vegan breakfast to eat along with a pot of peppermint tea to drink.
Then it was finally time for us to meet in the hotel foyer, enjoy a quick beverage then stroll down to the harbour to get ready for the longest running show in musical history. Our other friend Sue, had driven up from Canberra that morning so she was joining us also so with about an hour to go before the start we all set off, some of us walking and others in a taxi. When we arrived, it was lovely to see some people dressed up for the evening but we had decided casual was best as the plastic seating was outside and we preferred comfortable over glamorous! We had excellent seats with a fabulous view of the stage and what a magnificent stage it was.
For those of you who don’t know, Phantom has been playing on Broadway for over 34 years and over 35 at the West End and I am really lucky to say I have seen it on Broadway, but by far this would have to be the best stage for such an incredible show and we even had fireworks at one particular part, which now I can’t remember but it just added to the magnificence of the evening.
The staircase was enormous, lighting incredible and the huge chandelier required a crane to move in and out of the stage. The score is fabulous and the voices of all were outstanding and lastly the orchestra was wonderful even thought it was hidden beneath the stage. What a night!! We all decided to walk back to our hotel, along with thousands of others but it was eerie when the five of us were walking through Hyde Park as we were the only people I could see!
Our final day in Sydney was ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp). The date marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australians and New Zealanders at Gallipoli during the First World War and was devised to honour the members of the ANZACs, however now it is regarded as a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. All around Australia there is a Dawn Service and usually followed by a March around mid-morning. In Sydney the March commenced at 9am so my friend Naomi and I met along the main street to honour those who had served and those who had lost their lives and as is said ‘Lest We Forget’. I actually did a little bit of research on this phrase and found it originated from a poem by Rudyard Kipling called ‘recessional’ written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and was adopted in its current use around a decade after the end of the First World War.
For the first time, I saw Fire & Rescue New South Wales honouring those who have served their country; a really special sight as they are the only non-military group sanctioned to march as a contingent on ANZAC Day. Very special!
So that was it for my fabulous weekend away; time to take a taxi to the airport for our plane trip home. Bye bye Sydney, see you next time!
After coming out of Lockdown last year, a day-trip was needed so with a couple of my besties, we decided to visit a country town called Young which is marketed as Australia’s cherry capital. Every year in the first week of December, the height of the cherry picking season, Young hosts the National Cherry Festival. We were a bit too early for this so it meant we found other places to visit. Young is about a two hour drive from my home so we decided to stop off at Binalong which is a very little country town and so very sweet. Wayne popped to the cafe for a coffee and Jef and I walked around the town, literally took five minutes but saw some lovely old buildings and scenery.
After the coffee arrived, it was time to head to Young with our first stop being the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden. These gardens were developed in 1992 and established to recognise the contribution of the Chinese community to the settlement of Young in the 1860s. There are two marble lion sculptures guarding the entrance to the gardens. We passed though these traditional architectural elements which are referred to as moon gates (月亮门; yuèliàngmén); circular openings and walked into the gardens, around pavilions to the Pool of Tranquility with lovely views of Chinaman’s Dam.
The Pool of Tranquility contains rock formations, a water mill where water flows over rocks creating a small waterfall, lovely water lillies and a larger replica of the famous bronze Flying Horse of Gansu or the Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow [馬踏飛燕] (unearthed in Gansu Province in 1969). [I actually made a specific visit to Gansu Province a few years ago to see both the location where the statue was found and to see the actual statue which is located in the Gansu Provincial Museum; beautiful and quite small].
Time for lunch so we drove into the main street of Young and found Wilkie’s Cafe where the boys enjoyed a pizza and sushi and I had a lovely toasted sandwich; good food and presented beautifully.
Our next stop was at local winery Grove Estate Wines which was about a four kilometre drive out of Young but on the way we stopped to look at a lovely building located on over 300 hectares of land which is now a retreat and conference centre; St Clement’s Retreat & Conference Centre…we didn’t get out of the car but stopped long enough for Jef and I to take a few photos.
At Grove Estate Wines, we went to the Cellar Door where Jef and Wayne sampled a few of the wines on offer; a pretty winery with lovely areas to sit and enjoy a meal with glass of wine or just walk around taking photos like I did.
By this time, we had to leave to return to Canberra. A really lovely day and on the way home, Wayne and I spotted a turtle in the middle of the other side of the road as we were driving past, so like a racing car driver, Wayne sped up, did a fabulously fast u-turn and drove like a crazy person (in his new BMW) to the turtle before a car coming the other way drove over him/her. I got out of the car, ran over and picked him/her up (had been given advice by Wayne not to hold the turtle close as they wee on you – thank you Wayne). At this time cars were driving towards me, so held up my hand to stop them (they did fortunately) and looked for the water where the turtle was trying to get to and placed him near there. Our animal rescue good deed for the week! What a day!!
A new restaurant has opened up in Canberra called Wilma. The location has a bit of a history as there was a murder of a Comanchero outlaw motorcycle group boss at the previous nightclub Kokomo’s. The person who committed the murder was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment late last year. I am not sure if that is why the nightclub closed but it may of had something to do with it.
Fortunately there weren’t any murders on the night we were there! The interior is dark and has a good mood about it, nothing like the bright nightclub it previously was. I particularly loved the booths surrounding the edges of the restaurant, the shiny black stained wood, the low lights and linens sheers. We were seated in a booth and I had direct views into the open and busy kitchen, so was pretty happy about that as I love to see the chefs and kitchen staff bustling about cooking our meals.
Wilma has an extensive menu that focusses on barbecuing using coals and a wood fire but it also has a separate vegan menu so I of course ordered from that.
I had several choices and nearly ordered the sticky eggplant with black beans and cashews dish; with sizzling or sticky eggplant being my favourite dish. However my friends who had eaten here previously, had tried the eggplant dish and didn’t love it. This made my decision easy; the ma po tofu it was. The dish was a little different to what I am used to as it contains not only tofu and fried chilli but sizzling Schezuan Shiitake mushrooms. The tofu was good but unfortunately I didn’t like the mushrooms in the dish.
We also ordered another vegan dish which was the morning glory vegetables in a hoi sin sauce with a chilli garlic crunch. I didn’t take note of the hoi sin sauce on the menu so this was another dish that wasn’t to my liking. My friends enjoyed it though.
My three friends ordered a range of dishes to share including the roast duck pancakes with shallots, hoi sin sauce and cucumber, the Balmain bug and egg noodles with chilli, coriander and sesame dish and the hot smoked char sui pork which were by all accounts delicious. They each ordered a roti bread but unfortunately that is made with dairy so I could not taste.
A bottle of local Canberra wine was enjoyed by us during the meal and lots of laughs at my expense over a particular new neighbour in my complex; not for further discussion here!!
An early evening as it was a school night which meant my three working friends had to work the next morning but we did return to my friend’s home for our obligatory night cap or roadie as we refer to it; being ‘one for the road’. Probably will return to Wilma and try a few other vegan dishes!
In line with me wanting to visit all new cafes in Canberra, last week I drove to a local suburb, not far from my home, to check out a new olfactory that is now offering a luxury French teahouse along with its exclusive range of luxury international perfumes. The first thing I saw upon entering the arcade was a fabulous luxurious velvet sofa in front of a wall of green plants and then a huge toy zebra in the window of the store I came to visit, Blissiomo; both making me want to see more of this store that looked so amazing on-line.
But before I entered the store I saw a hand made chocolate shop Enigma Fine Chocolates a lovely family owned business specialising in artisan style chocolates, truffles and yes…dairy free chocolates…I knew I definitely had to visit. The staff were exceptionally helpful and I ended up buying nine hand made dairy-free chocolates all put into a little box with a bow. The staff then gave me a list of chocolates I had chosen so I would not forget when selecting one to eat. I haven’t tried any yet, but am sure I will over the next few days.
After chocolate shopping, it was time for Blissiimo; it was lovely to hear beautiful French music, smell beautiful fresh flowers and I loved seeing the piccolo bottles of Moet & Chandon in the fridge alongside iced tea and other carbonated non-alcoholic drinks. Bit too early for me to start drinking champagne so I decided to take a look around the store starting off at the walls lined with beautiful smelling perfumes all displayed according to their scent with a mirrored backdrop, huge vases of flowers and statues. You are welcome to try one or all perfumes if you have the time but I am guessing you might be there all day!
As you walk through this amazing store you might have to duck your head under a fabulous chandelier or walk around a huge table arranged with fresh flowers, lotions and perfumes. One thing you will have to do is take your time to look at all the displays of candles, clothes and many many other gorgeous items. Items you don’t really need but once you enter this store you know you have to have!
The sales girl was so helpful and informative and said that Blissiimo brings more than 30 independent candle brands to Canberra, including a cult favourite Cire Trudon—the most exclusive candle brand in the world and whose history dates back to 1643 where Trudon, a French candlemaker started making bees wax candles to became a candle provider to the royal court of the King of France, King Louse XIV. This visit was like a history lesson on perfumes and candles and I found it all very interesting.
There is also an incense bar in the store and on a Monday you can have a psychic reading or have your tealeaves read! What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon along with a glass of champagne and a couple of sweet treats.
By this time I had bought myself a candle and reeds from an Italian scent and soap company founded in Sicily in 2006. I had been given one of the amazing smelling candles from my friend Mary, who ordered it from Italy for me (very kind) so once I saw the brand, Ortigia Sicilia, I wanted another candle, some lovely smelling reeds and a soap. I also wanted to buy Mary a soap and when I gave it to her, she was very happy that this brand could be bought in Canberra; saving her exorbitant postage costs from Italy. The lovely sales girl also gave me Ortigia Sicilia brand bags to put my gifts in…so beautiful.
Now, I was feeling a little thirsty so took a look at the teas on offer. There is an extensive range with 125 different teas available from all over the world with an exclusive range from the Marriage Frères teahouse in Paris which has been in operation since 1854. However, I chose a refreshing Persian mint tea from the Monista Tea Co and went and sat outside on one of the more private sofas around the side of the store to relax a while and enjoy my tea.
There are also stands of Cacao Macarons from Melbourne but I only wanted tea which did come with little biscuits but I didn’t know if they contained dairy so didn’t partake.
The store also has an Afternoon Tea or High Tea available and the menu offers gelati, whipped cream and fruit, parfaits, jelly pots and knickerbockers (layered ice-cream sundaes) for the sweet tooth and antipasto platters for those with a more savoury tooth but either way there is so much food to indulge in!
After tea, I took one more stroll around the store to look at the displays of other perfumes, some with the old fashioned pump and others with a glassed item indicating the scent and bright cushions. How fabulous!
This really is a wonderfully luxurious store – it’s a must if you live in or visit Canberra.
Lately I have been making a list of cafes and restaurants that have recently opened in Canberra with the aim of trying them all. One I wanted to visit is a Taiwanese international chain called 85º Daily Cafe selling breads, cakes, desserts as well as smoothies, coffee and teas including milk and bubble tea. So this morning after my walk with my dog Axel, I drove into town to find the cafe. It was pretty easy to find as its located near our university on the fringes of the city.
You walk into this cafe and its interior is quite pink, to say the least. Pink walls, pink chairs, fake flowers on the walls are all shades of pink and there are pastel coloured flowers in small baskets, trolleys and vases near the cash register; pretty much all pink. All very sweet I must say.
I chatted to the young Chinese girl behind the cash register and asked her if she was from Taiwan (considering the cafe originated in Taiwan), she told me she was from Mainland China and we chatted a while about my travels throughout her birth country. She told me that all products in the cafe contained egg so I ordered a Jasmine tea and chose a small table near the window to sit and enjoy. The tea arrived in a teabag which was a bit unfortunate but it was nice all the same!
As for the cakes; there are so many lining the walls of the cafe in refrigerated glass side boards. And they look great; there are slices of layered sponge cake, chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake, strawberry cream cake, egg tarts and so many more…including several Asian flavours like a matcha (Japanese green tea) red bean roll and pineapple cakes.
All different sorts of breads and brioche are also sold including cheese bread, cheese twists, chocolate chip bread, coconut twists and croissants. So much choice! Unfortunately for me, similar to the cakes in the store, these savoury treats are non-vegan as they contain either milk or egg or both. These are also beautifully displayed in cabinets where you will also see more beautiful flowers above and lovely take-away boxes on display. I can imagine taking one of the larger cakes as a gift to a friend, looking fabulous in a see through box complete with bow!
The waitress told me that the name of the cafe 85º Daily Cafe actually comes from the idea that the perfect brewing temperature for espresso coffee is 85º Celsius. Interesting! But back to the cakes…there are also full cakes on display for any occasion I guess, then again who needs an occasion to eat cake!
So whilst I could not eat any of the sweet and savoury items on display, I did very much enjoy the visit and the opportunity to practice my Mandarin and view the cuteness of this cafe!