travel

Review: The Crown Metropol ….

Review: The Crown Metropol ….

Metropol

Southbank is a great alternative if your visiting Melborune to explore the city because you get to admire the views of the city and other Melbourne landmarks like Flinders Street station, the Yarra River and Federation Square from your room. Crown has plenty of hotel options in close proximity to their casino which is home to some of the biggest names in Australia’s restaurant scene (Rockpool, Spice Temple and Heston Blumenthal ‘s Fat Duck to open there soon).  The best thing about the Metropol is that it is brand spanking new as far as hotels go, so no feeling like you stepped back in time into a bad 80’s movie set here. The views are incredible, especially if you are awake for the sunrise and watching the hot air balloons descend over the CBD.

The service: Professional and friendly
The food:  Fantastic. Not just your normal room service here, you can order selected items from the resort’s restaurant menus and the breakfast buffet is -Off. The. Charts.
The rooms: Generous with space, open bathroom lay out with separate toilet and showers with an open large bath tub, a good variety of magazines and TV channels. Great modern design, natural light and comfortable interiors, definitely a room you want to spend a bit of time in.
Amenity: my favourite part of staying at the Metropol is doing early morning laps in their roof top pool with double height ceilings with views spanning across the city. The roof top bar and gym are also get the nod of approval from me – nothing better than working out and drinking on top of the world.
The Lobby: Huge, grand, modern and it features a stunning piece of colourful art I would love in my own home.
Best for: Work travel or Melbourne weekender.

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

Top 100 Best Things to do in New York

Top 100 Best Things to do in New York

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Just like the tacky tourist mugs and t-shirts say – I HEART NYC! After living there once (very briefly) and visiting many times, I never get sick of the city that never sleeps. Here is a list of 100 of the best things to do in the Big Apple (in no particular order) and a few what not to do’s:

1. Have a boozy brunch at Clinton Street Baking House

2. Have a day of eating at Eataly

3. Walk around the Guggenheim
4. Go ice skating at Rockefeller or Central Park
5. Go bowling at Brooklyn Bowl
6. Walk down Fifth Avenue
7. Watch (or play) street basketball at Riverside Park
8. Marvel at the art at the Met
9. Take a step back in time at the Natural History Museum
10. Walk the highline
11. Sit on your lap top at the Ace Hotel lobby
12. Catch the subway… you never know what will happen
13. Bar hop in the Lower East Side
14. Go to tranny bingo at Lips
15. Row a boat in Central Park
16. Go to Yankee Stadium and watch a game
17. Kayak on the Hudson River
18. Have high tea at the Plaza
19. Walk done Madison Avenue
20. Wonder through the Chelsea markets
21. Go shopping in the meat packing district
22. Have a cocktail at the Boom Boom room at sunset
23. Have a cheese burger at the Standard Grill
24. Have afternoon drinks at the Frying Pan boat bar
25. Go to the Chelsea Pier driving range
26. Get a chopper ride around Manhattan
27. Pick up a bargain at the Brooklyn flea market
28. Go op shopping in Brooklyn
29. Have a drink at the Wythe Hotel roof top bar
30. Wonder the cobble stone streets of West Village
31. See live comedy at the Comedy Cellar
32. Go to the top of the Rockafeller
33. See a Broadway show
34. Cycle around central park
35. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge
36. Have a picnic in Central Park
37. Gallery hop around Chelsea
38. Go shopping in Soho
39. Have lunch at the Boat House
40. Eat a gyro platter from the Halal guys
41. Get a massage at Okuyama Bodywork
42. Watch an outdoor movie at Bryant Park
43. Eat a slice of cheese pizza at Joe’s
44. Eat Mexican at La Esquina
45. Take a street art tour of Bushwick
46. Eat a rack of ribs at Dinosaur kitchen
47. Taste some beer at Brooklyn Brewery
48. Go to the big apple block party
49. Get drunk at a dive bar
50. Watch a game or concert at Madison Square garden
51. Volunteer at the Eagle Street Roof Top Farm
52. Go for a swim at the Equinox Printing Room roof top pool
53. Take a break and the Elevated Arce
54. Check out the old city hall subway station
55. Pay your respects at the 9/11 memorial
56. Drink beer at the movies at Nitehawk cinema
57. Eat a sandwich a pastrami at Katz Deli
58. Eat a cream cheese bagel at Murray’s bagels
59. Do sunset yoga in Fort Tryon Park
60. Eat dinner at Baltazar
61. Eat a burger at The Spotted Pig
62. Have lunch at ABC kitchen
63. Stay at The Standard Hotel
64. Admire The Frick collection at The Met
65. Explore the up and coming art scene in Dumbo
66. Drink at a college bar in Union Square
67. Go to a gay bar on Christopher Street
68. Eat dumpling’s at Ping’s Seafood, China Town
69. Eat tacos from the El Ray del Taco food truck
70. Grab a book and a coffee at Housing Works Book Store
71. Eat Sushi at Nobu
72. Spend the night at the Crosby Hotel
73. Have a coffee at Toby’s Estate
74. Go to the underground Apple store
75. Play on the giant key board at FAO Schwartz
76. Hit the d-floor at Brass Monkey
77. Eat meatballs at the meatball shop
78. Eat lunch at Pastsis
79. See a gig at terminal 5 or Radio City Music Hall
80. Go to MOMA
81. Buy designer fashion from a consignment store
82. Eat a cronut from Dominque Ansel Bakery
83. Make dumplings at Brooklyn Brainey’s cooking school
84. Take a Tribeca loft tour
85. Hail a yellow cab
86. Go to the Tenement Museum
87. Admire the view from 230 Fifth
88. Eat a cup cake from Mongolia Bakery
89. Take the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island
90. See jazz at the Village Vanguard
91. Eat a pretzel or hotdog off the street
92. Catch a train from Grand Central
93. Go on the roller coast at Coney Island
94. Admire the Statue of Liberty
95. Go to the top of the Empire State Building
96. Ride the Wall Street bull
97. Spend an afternoon drinking at Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
98. Walk the streets of Little Italy
99. People watch… anywhere!
100. Have a sleepless night in the city that never sleeps.

3 things NOT to do:

1.  Go to Time Square – It looks just like the photos, don’t waste your time
2. Go to Mid-town – boooooring
3. Ride the horses in central park – horses don’t belong in the CBD, don’t encourage it!

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

P.S Send me any I missed!

Top 20: Best things to pack for a holiday …

Top 20: Best things to pack for a holiday …

DSC_00641. Noise cancelling head phones – Boarding a plane is like Russian roulette – you never know who you are going to sit next to. If you are next to a screaming baby or a heavy snorer, these will become your best friends.

2. Notepad & pen - Technology is great, but nothing beats pen and paper to write down tips you hear along the way, exchanging details or drawing diagrams for those large language barriers.

3. A printed itinerary – Customs is becoming more and more strict and many places require you to have printed itineraries and hotel bookings. I have learnt that lesson the hard way and trying to find an internet cafe with a printer after a long haul flight is not a great way to start or end a trip. Don’t think showing them your iphone will work!

4. A camera – this one might be obvious but with smartphones becoming more popular, people are becoming less inclined to pack a quality camera. Good luck trying to make that ‘totz amazeballs’ instragram photo look good blown up in the pool room.

5. Extra memory cards – don’t be left with no memory on your camera, better too many photos than not enough

6. Paw paw ointment – this little red tube is full of goodness – a lip balm as well a an insect bite, burn and rash cure all in one. It even cures nappy rash… hey, you never know.

7. Multi vitamins – there is one thing worse than being sick, and that is being sick while travelling. Berroca is a good way to start the day as it is packed with vitamins so you can get on the front foot to avoid getting sick and it even helps with self-inflict illnesses (hangovers).

8. A book – ipads and kindles might be convenient, but when your battery is flat or your stuck on the tarmac, you’ll regret not packing a good old fashioned paper back.

9. A rain coat – Good weather is never a sure thing, so be prepared and don’t use rain as an excuse sit around complaining that it rain ruined your holiday.

10. Warm socks – Even if it is the Middle East in summer you’re travelling to, you don’t want to be caught on a plane unable to sleep because you’re so cold. They can also double up as a good camera bag or to put delicate new purchases in.

11. Travel money cards – Credit card fees suck as do currency conversion fees and they can add up quickly. Save yourself the money and hassle and get some prepaid travel cards that act like credit cards without the ATM withdrawal fees, try and buy them then the exchange rate is in your favour.

12. iPad – long lay overs or planes without entertainment can become bearable with an iPad loaded up with TV series and movies.

13. Snacks – plane food sucks and I have a theory that is clogs your digestive system. Do you think airlines want 200+ people all needing to go to the bathroom on a 14 hour flight? I think not…

14. Small bag – a long day of exploring a city can be a drag with a huge handbag, pack a small one so you can travel as light as a feather. For the mean reading ñ all normal rules about the man bag go out the window when travelling, embrace it.

15. A Turkish towel or sarong - These are the perfect travel companion as they are light, take up minimal room and can become everything from a scarf, pillow, towel, sheet, or something to wrap yourself in when you’re going to temples or mosques.

16. Hand sanitizer – to sanitize your hands, obviously..

17. Face wipes or wet ones – hand cleaners, face cleaners, toilet seat cleaners, everything cleaners.

18. Tissues – Sad goodbyes to emergency toilet stops, tissues always come in handy.

19. A watch – Travel is one time that punctuality is completely necessary, don’t miss a flight because your phone died.

20. A large lightweight bag – make sure it can be folded into a tiny ball. It is always unrealistic to think you won’t go shopping at least once on a holiday. Save yourself the hassle of the last day rush around trying to buy an extra bag to carry all your new purchases home.

Oink oink,
Truffle Pig.

P.S. I am assuming you are all smart enough to remember a passport and tooth brush!

A Guide to Vietnamese Street Food ….

A Guide to Vietnamese Street Food ….

Before visiting Vietnam I already loved the cuisine thanks to the exploding popularity of Vietnamese food in Australia. Although there are many good places to try here at home, nothing beats the real thing and I spent my 10 days in Vietnam eating my way through the country the best way possible – on the street. My suggestion is to ditch any restaurant reservations you have and eat like the locals do, you will have some of the best food you will ever taste.

How to find good street food:

  • If you see small plastic table and chairs – gravitate towards them. No, this isn’t a set up for a kids party, this is just how to eat in Vietnam. If you see local people gathering around them, join in. If they look at you funny, this is a good sign, it means they don’t accommodate for tourists and their food is authentic.
  • If you see people standing around or visiting a glass box with a lady standing behind it, line up. This usually means she is preparing delicious food, like banh mi, made to order.
  • If you see a congregation of scooters on the street, it usually means there is a congregation of locals enjoying lunch. Where ever the locals are eating, you should be eating.
  • If you want a coffee, listen for the loud pop or techno music and look out for lots of people sitting around – this is usually a good sign of a great coffee shop.

The best Vietnamese street foods to try:

Phở bò (beef noodle soup) – This is the bacon and eggs of Vietnam and the breakfast of champions. Pho (pronounced ‘fur’) is made from thinly sliced rare beef thrown into a steaming soup with rice noodles. Add chilli, bean shouts, lime and fresh herbs to suit your taste and enjoy.

Bánh mì (sandwich) –Thanks to the French influence, the Vietnamese have become masters at making the perfect baguette. You can fill our banh me with any combo you like – my favourite being the traditional roast pork with pate, chilli and fresh salad.

Cà phê (Iced Coffee) – Coffee in Vietnam is made with condensed milk and the results are phenomenal – icy, sweet and strong coffee make for the perfect combination.

Cao lầu (pork noodles) is a regional Vietnamese dish made with noodles, pork, and local greens, that is only found in the town of Hội An, in the Quang Nam Province of central Vietnam.

Cháo vịt-(duck noodles)- This dish is light, refreshing and made from shredded roasted duck with noodles, fresh vegetables and fried noodles for an extra crunch all swimming in a sweet sauce.

Cơm tấm (broken rice) – perhaps one of the most famous street foods is made from small rice, pork chops, fried eggs, sliced cucumber and tomatoes all brought together with a chilli flavoured fish sauce.

Gỏi cuốn (rice paper rolls) – another very popular dish in Australia which originated in Vietnam – fresh sheets of rice paper filled with vermicelli noodles, prawns and vegetables dipped in a sweet peanutty soy sauce.

There are just a few, there a millions more and I would love you to let me know which are your favourites so I can try them next time if I haven’t already.

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

A Guide to Downtown LA …

A Guide to Downtown LA …

As a travel lover I usually leave places because I have to, not because I want to. Obviously there are some exceptions, and up until recently LA was one of these. The sprawling city, smog and pretentious Hollywood crowds spoiled any allure the city had. But, on a recent holiday I was forced to stay overnight on my way home from Mexico and to my surprise, I enjoyed myself. After a lot of research I discovered a little gem perfect for a laid back traveller who loves art and food – Downtown LA. So if you’re like me and looking for an LA experience outside of Hollywood, here is a quick guide on how to enjoy your day downtown.

Morning:
Most people in LA drive which means that you are bound to get stuck in traffic so put on your comfy shoes and get ready to walk. Make your first port of call to Louie Bottega for breakfast which is a huge bakery and café open morning to night with an endless amount of delectable pastries that can be enjoyed on the go. If you want something more substantial you can take a seat and enjoy a la carte menu items like a New York egg sandwich, lemon ricotta hotcakes or the highlight dish of prosciutto and burrata on a plump potato rosti.

Once you have fuelled up on breakfast you can spend the morning exploring the museum trail. Walk past and admire the Los Angeles Music Centre and The Walt Disney Concert Hall which is an incredibly beautiful building designed by Frank Gehry which is conveniently located across the road from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). The collection at MOCA dates back to 1940 and includes installations, sculpture and paintings. From there hot foot it to Little Tokyo. As the name suggests, this part of town has many bakeries, stores and restaurants with Japanese influence, as well as the Japanese-American National Museum.

Noon:
All the culture consuming and walking will make you pretty hungry. Once you’re ready for lunch head to the Grand Central Market where you will probably spend the good part of an hour walking around trying to decide what to eat. This huge warehouse space is almost 100 years old and has been the go-to place for locals looking for fresh produce. As DTLA has evolved, so has the market and it now serves as a cheap and easy place to grab groceries, coffee and lunch. You can choose from hawaiian BBQ, oysters, Mexican, pizza, fresh juices and many, many more. My top pick is Sticky Rice which serves delicious authentic Thai cuisine to go, or you can pull up a seat at the bar to enjoy fresh coconuts and tasty dishes made to order. After lunch, stop by G&B to grab coffee. This is one of the only decent coffees in the entire the United States I have ever had (you can thank the Barista from Melbourne for that).

Afternoon:
Downtown LA is home to the world’s second largest jewellery district and an impressive fashion district, so if you’re in the mood for shopping they are definitely worth a look. Or if you’re like me and want to kick your feet up for a relaxing afternoon, head to pool on the rooftop of the The Standard Hotel which has been voted as one of the world’s best. The Standard is the ideal place to work on your Californian tan and enjoy panoramic views of Downtown LA and the mountains in the distance. If you settle in for long enough you can enjoy happy hour and the nightly DJ.

Night:
California has a huge Latin community and as a result is home to some of the country’s best Mexican cuisine. For dinner, head to Yxta Cocina for fantastic food and margaritas. Once dinner is over you can bar hop and dance the night way in the many haunts around the neighbourhood including: La Cita for a fun unpretentious crowd, The Varnish for the incredible cocktails, The Perch for the views or Far Bar for something more relaxed.

Dawn:
After a big day of walking, art-ing, shopping, tanning, eating, drinking, dancing and LA-ing – head back to the The Standard and enjoy a meal in their famous yellow, 50s inspired 24 hours restaurant for some good old fashion diner food with a modern twist.

Oink oink,
Truffle Pig.