Travel

Truffle Travels....

Pine Trees – Lord Howe Island …..

Pine Trees – Lord Howe Island …..

The sand is between my toes, the ocean is  singing softly into the white sandy beach only metres away, the water I am looking at is clearer than a crystal, the wine is white and crisp and the salty breeze brings new meaning to the words ‘fresh air’. When I look around, there is no one as far as the eye can see, only a mountain that looks like it was formed purely to adorn the front of a post card….. am I in paradise? Yes. And it is closer to you than you might think….  It is at Pine Trees resort on Lord Howe Island, only 1.5 hours away from my home in Sydney.

This quaint resort is the heart and historic centre of Lord Howe Island (the most beautiful island I have ever visited) and was built on land that was acquired through an exchange for 2 tonnes of potatoes back in the 1800′s. Pine Trees is one of the oldest businesses in  Australia and is now run by the sixth generation of the same family that gave away those potatoes many years ago. And just by visiting this little island, you can feel part of the family too. The warmth and hospitality you’re welcomed with, you feel like you have your own home among the pine trees.

The resort itself is set away from the beach and is surrounded by prehistoric pine trees and lush gardens. The rooms are small, quaint and comfortable, but most importantly, they propel you into relaxation and holiday mode with a distinct lack of any modern day technology. Bliss. The only noise that can be heard is the ocean slapping against the sand and laughter from the main house and restaurant. Here, the food is served at breakfast and dinner, and guests are treated to world-class meals made from the freshest ingredients – think coconut asian broth with freshly caught king fish from the lagoon out the front and sticky date pudding with vanilla bean sauce. You’re encouraged to get out during the day and lunch can be provided in the morning for you to take on your day trips, or the hosts at Pine Trees will deliver all your BBQ ingredients and equipment at your destination of choice. If you’re social or a sole traveller, you won’t find it hard to make friends here at Pine Trees – it is almost a ritual for everyone to exchange stories and experiences with other quests, many of whom are loyal, repeat customers. I don’t blame them, I was ready to book my next trip before dinner had started.

Despite the hotel grounds, staff and food being exceptional, it is what you find across the road that will really turn you from a one time visitor to a repeat customer – The Boathouse. Perched on top of the foot hill june hugging the coral lagoon, the boathouse arguably has the best real estate on the whole island. The fridge is permanently stocked with cold beers and wine, supported only by the ‘honesty system’ box. Sitting at the Boat Shed, I guarantee you won’t wish you were anywhere else.

Pine Trees is one of the more affordable resorts on the island, and all meals are included. To book your next trip, contact them through their website here.

QUICK FACTS:

  • Location: Smack bam in the middle of the island on Lagoon Drive
  • How to get there: Qantas fly direct from Brisbane and Sydney daily
  • Highlight: Unbeatable location & friendly staff
  • Lowlight: Small rooms, not great in bad weather
  • Value for money: Decent
  • In a nutshell: Beach side, old school rustic charm
  • Perfect for: A friendly family getaway
  • Overall: 4 oinks out of 5

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

Interesting facts about Iceland …..

Interesting facts about Iceland …..

I have had a fascination with Iceland for a while now, it all started when I was booking a trip last minute to visit two friends living in London and NYC. When trying to cut corners on flight costs I discovered that flying from one city to the other via Iceland was significantly cheaper than flying direct (a tourism ploy I shall delve into later). A night in Reykjavik (Rake-a-vick) by myself?… At first the prospect scared me a little but the more I researched, the more and more I got excited by this amazing country on the opposite side of the world from home.

As a kid I was always fascinated by the atlas and would enjoy travelling around the world with my imagination whilst watching the reruns of the Brady Bunch. I remember reading “Iceland” and thinking that place sounds completely inhospitable and not much fun…. Boy was I wrong.

My second encounter of learning more about Iceland was when I watched an episode of Oprah when I was home from school sick one day. The whole show was dedicated to women across the globe talking about their culture and bringing their national dish for Oprah to taste. Most of them were run of the mill – the French lady brought snails, the Belgium lady brought chocolate, The Japanese lady brought sushi blah blah blah. As my blocked sinuses and Oprah’s annoyingness started to send me into a cough syrup sedated sleep, my ears pricked up when I heard this striking super model looking lady talk about rotten shark meat… Whaaaat?

As disgusting as it sounded, I was intrigued. She went on to explain the culture which made the others pale in comparison because where else in the world do you know of mothers of new borns leaving their children in their pram outside on the street while they enjoy coffee with their friends? ….Before you pass judgement, this isn’t because these beauty queens are irresponsible, it is because there is almost NO CRIME in this crazy little country.

As my excitement reached fever pitch leading up to my visit, a hurricane came along and ruined everything. Flights into JFK were suspended and I had to try direct a couple of days later. That was about 3.5 years ago and ever since my fasciation, or what some might call obsession, has grown day by day. After a lot of reading and research I discovered this could possible be the best place on earth – gender equality, a creative epicentre, beautiful people, organic food and free wifi everywhere? Sounds like heaven on earth… and it was! I got back from Iceland recently, so before giving you the run down on where to go and what to do, here are some interesting facts:

  • Iceland’s population is small, there are approximately 320,000 in the country, 60% of which live in the capital, Reykjavik
  • Icelanders have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world
  • Iceland has more artists per capita than anywhere in the world – hence the amazing musical talent!
  • Iceland is has more Miss Worlds titles per capita than anywhere in the world, both the women and men are gorgeous
  • It is said that the Vikings raped pillaged Ireland and Scandinavian countries, stealing the most attractive of the races and taking them to Iceland, which explains the good genes
  • Iceland is one of the happiest nations in the world and has the 2nd highest quality of living
  • 33 years ago in 1980, Iceland elected the world’s first female head of state and their current head of state is a lesbian (Iceland is a good place for women!)
  • Many people in Iceland believe in elves, or what they call ‘The Hidden People’ … surprised they didn’t mistake me for one!
  • The first people to inhabit the island nation were Irish Monks, but it has a long and proud Viking history
  • Iceland is sustainable and self-sufficient – over 70% all energy used in Iceland is produced from own resources – either geothermal energy from hot springs or  hydro-electric from the big waterfalls.
  • Iceland has barely any trees although it used to be covered in them to to deforestation in the 12th century, harsh climate and volcanic ash, trees have difficulty rooting to the ground. To combat this, 4million trees are planted per year
  • The Whale in the Free Willy movie was captured in Icelandic Waters
  • Icelandic last names are derived from fathers names, so instead of being Hannah Lewis, my name would actually be Hannah Petersdaughter, because of this, people usually only are referred to by their first names
  • Iceland is the youngest country in the world, with new mountains and islands forming as we speak, the land is still so ruggered astronauts train their due to its similarity to the moon
  • One of the country’s most unusual attraction is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts but selling any undergarments with the Icelandic flag is forbidden
  • Beer was banned nationwide until 1989.
  • Icelanders love to drive, often people can own up the 3 cars, and there is no railway system
  • The Icelandic government has banned prostitution in 2009, strip clubs in 2010, and is planning to ban online pornography as well
  • The word ‘slut’ isn’t in the Icelandic vernacular because gender quality is prevalent. Sleeping around is standard practise it is not uncommon (or frowned upon) to have several children to different partners
  • Icelandic state has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol.
  • The sale of food items containing more than 2 grams of trans fat for every 100 grams is forbidden
  • If Icelandic parents give their child a name that has not been previously used in Iceland, that name has to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee
  • About 11% of the country is covered by glaciers
  • Iceland is the most literate country in the world and has an impressive amount of Noble Peace Prizes
  • Iceland’s national sport is handball, they also love soccer, fishing and golf
  • Fishing is their biggest industry, with tourism slowly taking over. GET THERE!

Have you ever been to Iceland or re you Icelandic yourself? I would love to know your favourite fact about my second favourite country (I am patriotic after all).

Oink Oink,
Truffle Pig.

Great Australian Road Trips …..

Road trip

Now that winter has set in, the days are getting shorter and the beaches are becoming baron. So, what do you do to get you kicks over the weekend? Road trips! Here are some great road trips that you can from some of our capital cities. Next serious to come out shortly, all suggestions are welcome!

From Sydney:

Sydney is just a hop, skip and drive away from some of the most stunning country towns I have seen. If you jump on the Hume Highway and head South you will arrive at the Southern Highland region which is home to picturesque country towns like Bowral, Moss Vale and Kangaroo Vale. If rolling mountain scenery isn’t enough to entertain you, you can explore the quaint towns, antique stores and great pubs. My suggestions are Centennial Vineyards for fine dining and wine tasting and The Imperial Hotel for a good old-fashioned pub meal.  Or, if you feeling more adventurous, stop by the Illawarra Fly Walk and enjoy a view from above and a stroll among the tree tops. Tip, do not do this hungover, I learnt that the hard way.

Centennial Hotel on Urbanspoon
Imperial Hotel on Urbanspoon

 

From Adelaide:

One of the best things about Adelaide is its close proximity to the ocean and the hills – thankfully you can get both in one day. To start your road trip, head South along the coast of the St Vincent Gulf where you will come across coastal towns with cute towns filled with kitsch op shops and stunning panoramic views of the ocean off cliffs. In the afternoon you can swing East and return to Adelaide via the Adelaide Hills, home to some of the state’s best wineries to enjoy (expect the designated drive of course). My recommendation would be to stop for a long lunch surrounded by grapes at he Lane Vineyard – don’t forget to pass on designated driver duties to someone else!

Lane Vineyard on Urbanspoon

 

From Hobart:

Salamanca isn’t the only stunning waterfront location this beautiful southern state of hours. If you hot foot it out of Hobart and drive south, you will hit a lovely little town called Kettering where you can get on a barge over the Bruny Island. Once you arrive you can spend the day driving around the island, along its famous “Neck” and enjoy nature, but most importantly its gourmet food and wine offering. No Bruny Island trip is complete without a visit to Get Shucked oyster farm and the Bruny Island Cheese Company, the only place in Australia where you can buy unpasteurised cheese!

Bruny Island Cheese Co. on Urbanspoon

You will need a car to get around to all these amazing places. Check out:

John Hughes used cars

WAF car loans

 Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

Phi Phi on a Plate ….

phi phi

As some of you may know I have recently featured on Virgin Australia’s new travel website and wrote a feature on where to go and what to eat on Phi Phi islands in Thailand. Check out the site, it is an fantastic source of holiday ideas or day dreaming materials. Enjoy!

After a swift departure from Phuket and a bumpy speed boat ride across the Andaman Sea, I arrived at Ko Phi Phi — a cluster of mountainous islands surrounded by water so turquoise it makes the stone itself pale in comparison.

Upon arrival, I made my way to the eastern end of Ton Sai beach for a mandatory afternoon cocktail at Sunflower Bar. Built from driftwood reclaimed after the 2004 tsunami, the bar is one of Phi Phi’s most relaxing settings and a great place in which to enjoy a Pina Colada or a game of pool while watching the sun set.

On a quest to satiate my hunger pains, I headed to the northern end of the island, where the beaches are lined with palm trees that look like they have been plucked from postcards and slung with swings and hammocks. This side of the island is home to Phi Phi’s best restaurants, and is consequently where I dined most nights.

Surrounded by ocean and covered with lush rainforest, there is no shortage of fantastic, fresh food on Phi Phi. Renowned local dish, Som Tam is testament to this, a fresh papaya salad laden with shrimp and peanuts and dressed with limes, chilli and fish sauce.

I started every meal with my favourite Thai dish, Tom Yum Goog, a tangy soup made from lemongrass and lime leafs and topped with giant king prawns. For lunch I frequently indulged in a wok-tossed thick noodles dish called Pad See Eiu, where pork and Chinese broccoli are doused with dark soy and heaped with garlic.

My dinners mainly consisted of must-try dishes like coconut milk-based Muslim curries, Gang Keow Wan and Panang Gai. These green and red curries taste so clean, fresh and aromatic they make second servings feel guilt-free. For lighter dinners I opted for plates like Plah Kah Pung Neung Manow or Larb — whole grilled fish caught that day topped with garlic, ginger and chilli; and a Thai salad made with minced meat and a generous heap of herbs.

Most chefs in Thailand are accustomed to catering for less-than-adventurous tourist palates, and as a result dishes generally come mild. I ordered everything “Thai Hot” to taste the full punch of the famous Thai chilli.

I also accompanied every meal with staple rice, egg and vegetables dish, known as Kao Phad and with drinks like Chang beer and freshly cut coconut. Coconuts can be found everywhere on the island, but for a real treat it’s hard to go past a ‘coconut blend’ — fresh coconut water and the fruit’s flesh blended with ice and served in the nut’s shell.

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.