Tag Archives: travel

On the go in Tokyo

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

From the old-fashioned manners to modern madness, from the understated to the wild and whacky, Tokyo is a pulsing city with a calm energy that will take you by surprise.

Arriving in Tokyo, we are immediately thrust out of our comfort zone. For a start, getting our bearings is almost impossible – and then there’s the language barrier.

Losing yourself in a strange city is all part of the adventure – and quite complicated in a city like this. But we soon discover the locals are always willing to show you the way – even if you don’t ask (looking confused is a dead giveaway, apparently).

Japanese people are helpful, respectful and always up for a laugh, so overcoming the language barrier wasn’t as hard as we thought either.

It just takes some ‘interpretive dance’ and Pictionary-style illustration skills (like explaining you’d like a fish fillet if possible, rather than a whole fish!). Being able to laugh at yourself is also quite useful!

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016The most astonishing thing for me is how everyone negotiates the city streets with absolute calm. It’s like a school of fish out of sync, but still not banging into each other.

We’ve been walking the city streets for two days now (yes constantly, thanks EB!) and we haven’t even been lightly bumped by anyone yet.

In the wide brown land we call home, you can’t walk down a 2m-wide footpath without being shoulder-charged (and I have the path rage to prove it!).

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Meanwhile in Omoide Yokocho, also known as piss alley (now they tell me), the alleyways are lined with steamy eateries full of locals. We join them on stools at the bar, drawn in by the delicious sizzling aromas…

After taste-testing local favourites like yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), raw fish and something on skewers, we pass a steak bar where all the patrons are standing at benches, wearing bibs and hoeing into succulent cuts.

What’s not to love about Tokyo?

Vending machine heavenYou can get just about anything out of a vending machine here – even beer and spirits. Back home, the whole machine would be tossed in the back of a ute and disappear in a blink.

By 8 o’clock (which feels like midnight) we’re back in our 3.5m x 1.5m room drinking a nice Bordeaux red bought from the local 7-eleven.

Those comfort zones we stay in? Definitely over-rated, I reckon.

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

 


Taking flight… soon

In a few days we’ll be literally on the flight path as we take off on our 10 week trip to Portugal and Spain, with stops along the way in Japan, Switzerland, Morocco and Singapore.

And, of course, the pre-travel madness has set in.

What is it about travel that makes you get everything done before you go? Talk about emptying the in-tray. Sheesh.

I mean, all we’ve been doing these past few weeks is renovating our house (at least it’s lockable now!), closing EB’s business (after 30 years, because he’s over it… wait, that happened 29 years ago), getting my own work projects wrapped up before I go, and all the usual family dramas (mostly the mother/granny-lou-thing about leaving them for over 2 months).

I’m exhausted already.

And did I mention the packing dilemma? Our trip will involve lots of train hopping, so travelling light is the only way to go. Between us we have two cabin-size bags and a couple of small backpacks… and even that feels like too much!

So the countdown is on. Just a little bit excited now. See you on the flight path…


Hanging out at the Farm Gate Market

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Criterion Street art

There’s nothing better than a lazy Sunday morning in Tasmania. And stumbling across a vibrant farmer’s market in the heart of Hobart city is, quite simply, a treat for the senses.

While I was checking out some street art, EB wandered off (as he does) and discovered the Farm Gate Market in Bathurst Street. What a find!

The markets opened five years ago with just 12 stallholders – and the simple philosophy  that ‘if you can’t eat it, drink it, grow it or meet the producer, then you wouldn’t find it at the market‘.

IMG_1524Now it’s one of the top ten Farmer’s Markets in Australia and it’s easy to see why. If you love fresh produce and delicious treats plus a little local flavour, this is the place to be.

We’ll be living in Hobart next year (if all goes to plan), so there’s no prizes for guessing where you’ll find us on a Sunday morning.

Here’s just some of the deliciousness…

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Magic mushrooms…

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Lovin’ the horse float!

 

 

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Bury me standing? Yes please

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Who knew all that about garlic?

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

All this fabulous freshness feels like France

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

And down the road, you’ve gotta love the winter streets of Hobart


Tell me a story: travel writing tips

Yurt in Mongolia

A Yurt in the Mongolian Steppe (iStock image)

Have you ever eaten an eyeball? Me either. Dissecting one in biology class was enough. But I’ve done a bit of writing and read a lot of travel articles and blogs, so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve picked up along the way…

Beyond the daily grind

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start your travel story. Which makes it too easy to get caught up in an (endless) checklist of your day, from the time you open your eyes to the moment you fall into bed exhausted after visiting 24 churches and museums.

Avoid starting with ‘I woke up in the morning’, because that’s kind-of obvious, right? Unless you woke up in your hotel surrounded by water after torrential rains caused flash flooding.

And we don’t need to know that you ate breakfast before setting off – unless you’re in a Mongolian yurt eating pickled sheep eyeballs.

Find the hook

Remember as a kid telling a story? It went from ‘and then and then and then’ to the climax – while your parents developed the art of sleeping with their eyes open.

That was then… Now your online readers are gone in the click of a mouse, so you need to hook them into your story. Here’s a clue: start with the action.

Tell me you took a long haul flight from Australia, had a six hour stopover in Beijing, did some duty free shopping, and – I’m gone.

Start with those eyeballs and you’ve got me hooked. Then I want to know what you’re doing there, how you got there, and what you’re getting up to next.

How do you find the action? First write the whole blog, then do some serious editing, pulling the action up-front, and re-crafting the piece so it all works.

Finally, wrap it all up by bringing the focus (or action) back into your ending. You started eating eyeballs, now you’re ending with another meal around a fire. Maybe you spent the day with nomadic shepherds and shared a meal with them, serenaded by the quiet bleats of sleepy sheep – no pickled eyeballs in sight.

Old Mongolian man in national clothing, Central Mongolia

Old Mongolian man in Central Mongolia (iStock image)

Take me there

Tell me what it’s like to be there, and tell it with all your senses. Take me there through the smells, tastes, colour and movement around you – and don’t skip over the anxiety, the fear, the loathing, because those are what make you human.

It’s also what brings your story to life. Can’t you just feel that eyeball pop between your teeth and the warm jelly stuff inside squirting down your throat? But you can’t spit out this delicacy and offend your hosts, so you anxiously try not to gag while you work up the courage to swallow it. And you’re a vegetarian.

Keep it short

Applying the KISS principle (keep it simple for success) to writing is my life work, I’m sure. As a writer and editor, reading ‘brain dumps’ just feels like work. Hard work.

And that’s the writer’s job, not the reader’s.  And yes, it is definitely harder to write ‘short’ and keep it simple. It requires editing (read: slash and burn) and losing some parts you’re attached to because they don’t advance your story.

Earlier, I had a bit about walking out of Indira Gandhi International Airport into a wet wall of heat and being enveloped in the heavy rancid odour of rotting vegetation or something festy I didn’t want to think about. Gone. Well, it’s here, but you get my point. I stuck with the eyeballs, as you do.

Copyright: Louise Creely

A cheeky local in Vietnam – proof that a smile is the universal language

Tell me a story

Most of all, tell me a story. Talk to the locals, use interpretive dance if you have to. Find the funny side or the dark side.

Take me beyond the guide book, down the back alleys and side streets, away from the tick-off tourist sites and photo opportunities, and into your adventure.

Because travel is about living at the edge of your comfort zone. So go there, and tell me what it’s really like. You may inspire me to follow you…

 

 

 


Five great reasons to visit Portugal

MP900305799I’ve wanted to go to Portugal for such a long time – and it’s finally happening! Why Portugal? I thought you’d never ask!

Here’s five great reasons to visit Portugal:

  1. Lisbon – a city that is truly vintage Europe, with all the traditions and gorgeousness without the hype.
  2. Feasts – naturally it varies from region to region, but there are national obsessions like bacalhau (salted cod) and cozido à portuguesa (stew), and other gourmet delights matched with perfect Portuguese wine, mmmmm.
  3. Pilgrim’s trail – the Camino Portugué is a more rural take on the traditional pilgrim’s trail in Spain… passing through lush forests, terraced fields, vineyards and sleepy villages (sounds perfect to me!).
  4. Porto – the home of port of course. Add cruising on the Douro with some port tastings along the way, and strolling through the maze of steep, narrow cobbled streets. Perfection right there.
  5. Beachy bliss – the Algarve region is a favourite coastal hangout for locals and tourists. With year-round sun and gorgeous temperatures, a stunning coastline and all the culture of Portugal, it’s a no brainer we’ll be spending some time there – and coming back to cycle it sometime soon!

But my favourite part is that Portugal is fresh – off the beaten tourist trail and the perfect place to hang out as part of our very compressed ‘golden gap year’ from September to mid-November. Bring it on…

 


Postcard from the Dolomites

Copyright: Louise Creely

Legends of the mountain. Apparently.

If you’re going to learn to ski, you may as well start at the top. In the fabulous Italian Dolomites, that is.

EB had never been on the slopes before (ones with snow on them anyway) so back in 2000 we took our first ski trip together – to La Villa in the valley of Alta Badia.

We went with Skiare Ski Tours and it was the best decision we made. Thomas, who owns and operates Skiare with wife Debbie, easily spotted us Aussies at the airport.

The clue: I wasn’t wearing stilettos and skin tight jeans for the flight, he said.

By the time we’d been skiing for six days under the expert instruction of Thomas, Macca and others, we were carving up the slopes… and sometimes spectacularly crashing out, usually when attempting jumps (more like bumps actually).

On our last day there, we even took on a black run. With plenty of enthusiasm and sub-zero style of course.

The following year I managed to pop my ACL in New Zealand, and haven’t been back on the slopes since.

But my sista and bro-in-law are skiing at Silver Star Mountain in Canada right now, so the itch is starting up again.

Ah yes, the call of the Dolomites (and delicious prune schnapps) is getting louder…

View from room at Gran Risa

A room with a view… at the Gran Risa, in the gorgeous village of La Villa.

Gondola at back door

…with the gondola to the ski slopes right at the back door. (Hard to take, I know)

World Cup black run behind hotel

…and a perfect view of the World Cup black run from our hotel window. Chilled bliss right there.

 


Take an art break… at Tweed Regional Gallery

Copyright: Louise Creely

Pursuit (2004) by sculptor John Petrie at the Tweed Regional Gallery

If you’re living or staying on the coast in the NSW Northern Rivers region and you’re feeling a little ‘beached out’, it might be time to head inland to Murwillumbah for a change of scenery – and to visit a simply stunning regional art gallery.

The Lonely Planet describes the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre as ‘exceptional’ and ‘an architectural delight’ – and you won’t be disappointed.

While it wouldn’t be out of place in a major city, the gallery sits with elegance and attitude in the hills overlooking the Tweed River.

Copyright: Louise Creely

View from the deck…

From Wednesday to Sunday you’ll see an amazing collection of works in a variety of media, along with touring exhibitions of national significance across six exhibition spaces.

The Yellow Room - a plaque at the gallery describes how Ollie painted in different rooms of her home studio, 'following the light around the house as the sun moved across the sky'.

The Yellow Room – a plaque at the gallery describes how Ollie painted in different rooms of her home studio, ‘following the light around the house as the sun moved across the sky’.

And then there is the incredible Margaret Ollie Art Centre.

Here, the celebrated Australian painter’s home studio has been meticulously recreated from photographs taken within 10 days of her passing in 2011.

All that art can work up an appetite, but that’s covered here too.

Step into the Gallery Cafe for some delicious food and bevs, before heading off to soak up the vintage village atmosphere in the township of Murwillumbah.

It’s a perfect way to spend a lazy summer’s day. No sunscreen required.

 

 


First stop, Surry Hills

Copyright: Louise Creely

Last weekend we took a quick trip to Sydney to try out a tandem touring bike (as you do), to catch up with family and, the unplanned bit, to fall in love with Surry Hills.

Located on the city fringe, adjacent to notorious Kings Cross and right near Central Station, Surry Hills was once a bit of a slum area.

Today, it’s a melting pot of cultures, with a delicious retro, arty, entrepreneurial flavour – a happening place that has a village feel and a real sense of community.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Sunday breakfast in Surry Hills

Wander along its tree-lined streets window-shopping, then stop for a coffee (or vino) to watch the world go by.

It’s the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon – and you’re likely to be served by switched-on wait staff, who are easy going and up for a chat.

If you’re keen to see some great parts of Sydney on foot (I’m with EB, so keen or not…) take a stroll past the Domain to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, then walk along the foreshores of Farm Cove to the Opera House, and back through the city to Surry Hills.

Of course, you can always take the civilised option and jump on a train to Circular Quay to catch a ferry around the harbour… but this 1.5 hour easy walk is worth every step.

The ‘civilised’ option comes later at one of our favourite restaurants, Longrain. It’s just down the road from our hotel and a perfectly delicious way to end a great stay in Surry Hills.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Fort Denison is a former penal colony and defensive facility

Copyright: Louise Creely

A swim with a view – a battle ship docked at the Garden Island Defense Base


Road trip – first stop Trial Bay

Copyright: Louise Creely 2015

Some of the most surprising places we’ve discovered lately are actually places one of us has been to in another life, another time.

I haven’t visited Trial Bay on the NSW coast for at least 30 years. And I don’t remember it being quite this stunning.

When you’re a kid, you’re into surf, scenery and wildlife. Just not the same kind of scenery and wildlife as now…

This was once my parents’ stomping ground. Their place in the world.

Copyright: Louise Creely

 

For the first time, I understand why they loved it – with its rugged coastline, wild-flowering coastal heathlands and secluded coves, it is one of the true gems in the North Coast region of NSW.

We are in awe as we take the coastal walk from Trial Bay Gaol to Little Bay.

It’s been the first non-travelling day of our holiday and EB has me up at the crack of dawn, breakfast eaten, and cycling into South West Rocks for espresso.

 

 

A short respite and we’re cycling back for a swim, before walking to Little Bay.

Yep, my usually desk-bound butt is feeling it! Perhaps calling this a ‘holiday’ was stretching the point…?

Copyright: Louise Creely

The best thing about road trips, apart from discovering new and amazing places in Australia, is that I always sleep well at night.

But the day is only half done, the tide is rising in the bay and… it’s time for another swim perhaps?

Common Fringed Lily and a scribbly gum...

Common Fringed Lily and a scribbly gum…


Go wild, in a civilised way:

Camping at Arakoon Conservation Area is a great choice if you love nature, coastal walks, pristine beaches and bays, and history – and you like to be a bit civilised too, with showers, toilets and cooking facilities.


Note to self: Just start

It’s Monday morning – and that’s always a bit of a blah moment, wherever you are in the world.

If you’re like me, and especially if you often work from ‘the home office’, it’s Perpetual Procrastination Day. I’ve already pulled the coffee grinder apart and cleaned it.

Why? Because our coffee machine isn’t working, but I have an article to write. Confused? Me too.

So here’s my official note to self today, from the pen of Jack Canfield, because it makes me smile – and I thought you might need this piece of advice too…

Don’t keep putting things off, waiting for twelve doves to fly over your house in the sign of the cross before you begin. Just start.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Happy Monday!