Nepal Calling…

2 years ago, I went to Nepal.

That’s what the date on the saved draft says anyway. I’ve been wanting to write about Nepal and my travels and time there so badly but I never got to it! Just like I never got to writing about my Europe travels and most probably India too.. or did I already write about India?

Lately I’ve been dreaming Nepal. My memories on Facebook keep notifying me about the good times had in Oxford and the amazing time I had travelling through Kathmandu and Pokhara and I’ve been playing Nepalese music on loop on my YouTube playlist that I set in 2009. I miss Nepalese food, my Ghurkha friends and the amazing people I met in Kathmandu. I can’t wait to travel back in 2017!

Nepal was a magical experience. Kathmandu reminded me of the old Mumbai perhaps, a bit crowded and polluted but that doesn’t take away from the big smiles that people carry. The people are always so friendly and chirpy. Not that I had a doubt about Nepalese hospitality before, but even the small ‘chiya ko dukaan’ (tea stall) to the fancy hotels, the big smiles and big hearts were always so welcoming. I made friends with the bellboy and the receptionist and the milk man and the guy in the souvenir shop in the midst of bustling Thamel. It was hard not to!

The minute I would say ‘hajur’ with respect like my ghurkha friends in Oxford had taught me or ‘kathi daam ho?’ (how much is this?) with a smile, they were won over. Not in a shrewd way of course, but they were so impressed that I got the best of the hospitality packaged with a whole lot of love. Getting love from people and getting people to make you feel like home… now that’s something you seldom experience while travelling. Having travelled a fair bit, I know Nepal made me feel so welcome and embraced my insides. Such a warm feeling!

I was in Kathmandu in December 2014 so it was a bit chilly. Though the weather varied heavily in Kathmandu from mid 20s to 30 degrees in one afternoon, Pokhara was constantly chilly and cloudy. Luckily for me, it wasn’t too cloudy to hinder the paragliding, zip lining, bungee jumping and the treks that I did. I did a short trek to the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara and another night, got on a bike of a dai I met via this blog, at 4am in the morning to climb the Sarangkot view point to see the sunrise over the Himalayas. Typing the words out now, there are goosebumps forming on my skin- the view was that mesmerizing. Magical.

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The sun slowly rose from behind a heavy blanket of clouds and the orangey yellow glistened through. When the first ray of sunlight, hit the first mountain on the Annapurna range, the peak turned to pure gold. And then a sea of warmth shone brightly through the clouds, like a waft of golden honey being dripped on the entire mountain range, pinnacle to foothills and the whole range glimmered in the ocean of gold! I will always remember that magical sunrise as one of the most exhilarating and magical moments of my life. I’ve seen beautiful sunrises and sunsets but having trekked up at 5am, having done a freezing bike ride at 4am and knowing that the sun rose from behind one of the Everest ranges- nothing beats it.

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If I can disconnect myself from that fantastic view and moment, the momos of Busy Bee bar in Pokhara were the bomb! A backyard connected to a small alleyway leads you to Busy Bee where mind you, it is very busy. As the sunsets, live musicians serenade you to popular English songs where you sit around an open fire, shisha for those who prefer it and beers for others with steaming hot momos, ordered by the plate. Busy bee is definitely worth a visit, or worth many visits for the ambiance it creates and the momos! Momos are steamed dumplings with either chicken, vegetables or pork filling. Unfortunately pork ones were not available that night but I had the pleasure of having some on a short stop riding a bus to Pokhara from Kathandu.

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I also met a group of Chinese travellers who I eventually went paragliding with and did some lunch with. They thought I was someone special and we had some very nice photos together. On a weekday, Pokhara is quite lovely to just stroll around or sit by the Fewa Taal (lake) and collect random thoughts about life. Its so very peaceful and beautiful. The little tourist shops here maybe a bit more expensive than usual even though they are very luring and the products look very good! I brought back heaps of little artifacts and a Khukri (Nepalese dagger) home and you just feel like buying everything but its wiser to buy in Kathmandu.

Back in Kathmandu, I did the usual sight seeing of Swayambunath Temple and a few others including Bhaktapur square. The holy places, old palaces and ruins, its all so beautiful and some of them looked Tibetan inspired as well. For a solo traveller, I felt quite safe but I did not wander out after 9pm on my own as Thamel turns into a little club after hours. All the tourist shops close and the bars on the top floors of the buildings start coming to life. Most of them are called ‘dance bars’ and out of curiosity on asking, I found out that a Dance Bar has women dancing and people can dance which to me spelt out as a male attraction so I steered clear from it.

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I plan to hopefully do Everest Base Camp next year so counting down 359 days until then to visit Nepal again and relive the magic!

And a shout out to all my beautiful friends from Nepal. You guys are as beautiful as your little magical country!

Love,

-T xx

Group of Friends.

I was chatting to F about friends and groups of friends and I started to reflect back on how I grew up. When I was very young, I was mostly a loner with one or two close friends. I was not accepted into any of the popular ‘groups’ with doll clubs and what not. I was a chubby child. Even kids used to be snobs! When I grew older and was in junior high, I had a tight knit group of very close friends. It wasn’t exactly a group. It fluctuated from a duo to a trio back to a duo until it hit the number 4! That can be called a group yeah?

I hit high school and and my foursome broke up but with the original duo, we went on to become six girls and about nine boys. A big group! I always wanted to be in a big group of friends who were like-minded and shared the same passion for hobbies. Once we graduated from high school, most of the boys parted ways and we all had to become educated people with degrees and earn the big bucks so we moved around and shuffled until we were about five girls and 4 boys perhaps.

When I moved to Oxford to study, I made new friends there. At my part time job and at my university and even though two of my best friends from high school eventually joined me there and we lived the ‘dream life’ that we always spoke off back in high school, it wasn’t so dreamy all under one roof and my new friends seemed to be more like-minded and similar to me than my life long friends were.

It’s a bit odd. I spent my entire life fitting into a group of Muslim friends, who I still wish were as close to me, as we used to be in high school, but without realizing that I was neglecting the craziness in me. When I moved to Oxford, I met people of all walks of life. Local British people, Egyptians, Arabs, Africans, Far East, Europeans,  Nepalese, Russians and from countries I hadn’t heard, Australians, Americans.. it was a whole bunch of  people from all over the world! I had always grown up in a multi-cultural society, in a melting pot of culture where I was enriched with all sorts of people but being in school, it never exposed me completely, only made me comfortable being in a mixed bag.

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Having had the chance to mature in Oxford and to be able to make decisions and judgments on my own, to trust wisely and to choose for myself, I was able to discover a part of me that I’ve been sweeping under the rug to be able to ‘fit in’ and finally when I met people I could be free with, I changed, of course. I was truly able to be me.

The group of friends, I was so fond of (the theory and all), I had lost in the process of letting go of the need to fit in, because I wasn’t in sync anymore I guess, or at least I thought so and moving home after graduation it was all new. I had to start from scratch. I still have a small group of friends, mainly the boys. We are still struggling to find the divide between being in a group (also called a Whatsapp group) but 4 out of 6 people in the group are not fond of the same things. A, my friend is the only one who is all out and about and willing to do whatever ‘fun’ maybe defined as whereas as the rest are very preoccupied or disinterested. Having said that, in the rare occasion we do catch up for a good meal and laughs. I love these boys, they are always there for a good chat but by declaring that I miss a ‘group’, I think I mainly miss the ones with that streak of craziness. The girls though are nowhere to be found. We had our own crazies when in high school, but now they’ve just disappeared, like a hole was dug up on the floor and ate them all up!

When I say I miss a group, I miss those big groups of friends doing afternoon tea, or going for a lazy afternoon dip in the pool, a big happy brunch or a trip off to the wilderness. I find myself more often than not, convincing the people I know to do things and I’ve come to realize that, its not done that way. If people are not interested, they aren’t. You don’t need to convince them. A lot of the times I find myself straying a bit from invites to go clubbing for example because I’m more of a pub person and clubbing is not my jam so must be the same for others.

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So how do you find these people that are waiting to be a part of your ‘group’? The group is waiting to happen. Where do you find the like-minded people with a streak of crazy that fits your crazies? A lot of the times, joining communities with similar interests usually work well but usually I tend to be a little awkward walking into random mixers events. Most people seem to naturally fit into a ‘group’ or randomly fall into one. Is that the case? Have you found yourself in a similar situation with lack of belonging?

There’s however the argument of big groups mean fake friends vs. smaller groups of true friends. True?

Love,

-T x.

 

 

Just be. 

Sometimes you meet the perfect people and everything feels absolutely amazing. Reflecting back, I cherish the moments that have been had. It’s a wonderful feeling being with someone who makes you feel like an amazing, important person. Complete on your own and completed by them. Dependent yet independent. 
The person who makes you feel special and loved even when you are silly, embarrassing and would never show your true crazies to the world, they hold your hand and tell you that they can be silly with you because you are wonderful and that the world is missing out because they can’t be silly with us. That person who gets you excited to wake up in the morning because you have to tell them about your dreams, your passions that you’ve missed out telling on during the few hours that you sleep. The person who’s ecstatic as you are to hear your voice and know that you are together, in the world with each other. A kind of joy and magic that you’ve never shared with anyone or felt before.

The person that you want to be honest and genuine to because you want them to know the purest form of you, filter free. You want them to see the ugly, the bad and also the good- the fifty shades of you. Or all hundred of them. The same person that loves all the shades and takes you in, sweat and soul. The kind of person that makes your heart explode with joy and love, the kind of love that they do to you makes you want to shine so bright and scream off rooftops. Because when they say it, it sounds more beautiful than those three words could ever have been. 

The kind of person that you can watch sleep for hours and just have comfort with their warmth next to you. To see them sleep soundly like a child, with a little pout of their mouth and to feel them pull you in closer and give you that kind of peaceful sleep knowing you are safe in their arms. To just hear them breathe, chest heaving up and down, which automatically calms you down. 

When you find the person that makes you feel more beautiful from one photo that you send them than a lifetime of compliments ever given to you. If they tell you that could wake up to your face after a 1000 years of sleep, you know that you mean the world to them. The highest compliment ever paid. 

When they tell you that you are annoying, lazy, inconsiderate, mean, be with them because they see you as a complete, three dimensional person with flaws and all yet they trust to tell you upfront because they know you will take it. They make you realise that they know you aren’t a fragile rose petal who can’t handle the truths about life but a human being, a work-in-progress who would love their advice, comfort and concern and have the courage to brave the reality.

The kind of person whose accomplishments make you happy, their joy gives you pleasure and whose pain brings tears to your eyes. When a person has the power to affect you, be with them. If you’ve ever cried for them and they for you, especially a man, you know you mean the world to them.  That person who pushes you to surpass your best, who talks sense into you and keeps pushing you because they know that you are capable of much more and they believe in your potential. They know you can take it and you have the courage to endure what ever may come and know that you give yourself credit for too little. 

The person who makes you understand the power of caring for someone else and putting their health, safety and security beyond your own because it’s in these moments you realise who is really there for you and the immense amount of love and passion that can exist between two human beings. Proudly be with the person that makes you want to be a better person not because of pressure but because they instill so much respect and pride in you for them, that you want to strive to work harder for them, everyday of your life to be the best person you could be.

If the person has a scent that makes you feel at home, that you sniff out from a distance, that you keep sniffing on your clothes long after they’ve left, you know you can be with them. They can make you feel like a big massive cuddle and home with a spray of scent, imagine the power of other things. They make you open up your uglies and break down the walls and embrace your vulnerabilities because you know if you fell, they’ll catch you. Because they tell you they are here with the hammer to break the walls down but if ever needed, they will be your rock. Be with them because you know, that despite your reluctance and uneasiness, you will be safe opening up to them and free, more freedom than you’ve ever felt. Be with them because they’ll make you feel like a meek lamb and a wonder woman at the same time. 

They won’t make you feel like you are useless or like you are carrying the world’s weight on your shoulders, but they will make you feel like a part of a hell of a great team. One half of it. So that you can lean on them when you are hurting and they know that you can summon every ounce of courage and strength possible to be by their side when they are hurting and to keep them safe.

Be with them if the thought of losing them scares and shakes your insides or if something happening to them will sweep the world from under your feet and like soul mates ring true to its word where a part of your soul lives in them. Not because the worry and burden is something you deserve or are worth of but it makes you realise how real life is and how only real bonds and relationships can be taken into the universe and be counted amongst stars. Not materialistic things. They make you forget about materialistic desires, if they are there, that’s all you need. They will teach you what real love and happiness is and how it is truly branched out of people you care for. 

Be with that person who makes you feel so real and alive. Who makes you feel like the best version of you that you’ve ever been. It’s not because they define and determine who you are, but because of your feelings for them, the tendernessness, love and willingness to do anything for them in the world to make them happy are the things that make you feel the most human and feel the essence of your being- the essence of love. 

When you find those people, it’s like the perfect tango every danced and ever witnessed. It’s like magic. 

Love,

– T xx

P.S- once a woman left a comment on my blog. If she ever comes back and reads my post, she should know that it takes ‘two’ to tango. You can’t tango on your own. 

Williamstown, Yaraville, Yarra Valley wine tour!

I spent the last couple of days doing more walking about in the outside suburbs of Melbourne and then went an hour and a half outside of Melbourne to Warragul to meet F’s parents, family and friends that I’ve been told so much about. 

Starting off with my first adventure to Yarraville, a couple of days ago where I had some amazing Avocado toast for brunch from a little cafe down the road! So I get up a little late-ish on this day (around 9am) and I get a message from F suggesting a few places that I could go and somehow Yarraville and Williamstown sounded exciting to me, so I got ready and head out to this ‘ville’ which I thought was a village. So turns out, it was small… After a small/medium sized train problem and a couple of hours waiting later, I hopped on a few trains that dropped me off in little sleepy Yarraville and it was small, a couple of streets and that summed up the town but it was so calm and reserved, that it completely relaxed me. I’ve been doing rigourous exploring and walking the past week and even though it seemed like a lot of walking was done, I was instantly relieved and relaxed to see how quiet and pleasant this town was. F had also suggested this amazing little cafe called the Cornershop for a bite, so I had this amazing avocado toast.. If you are down in Melbourne, I would say it’s worth the visit! The staff are lovely and the food and coffee is delicious! Grab a paper, sit at a corner and watch the world go by. I did a lot of people watching here, so many different people with different stories but it’s amazing how you can just sit and unwind amidst it all. 

I then hopped on a train as instructed and got off at the beach stop (instead of the town) of Williamstown because the beach came first and I love water! Breath taking! The beach was so beautiful, in this affluent little town that had big glass houses and massive front porches, huge rose hedges and antique outdoor furniture set up in their patios. Some very fancy cars parked either outside these houses or inthe garages and I personally fell in love with one house that had a massive wall lined bookcase which was glass!! I bought a lemonade and sat on the rocks at the peaceful beach, under the sun watching the waves. Barely a few people lining the white sands on the beach, one small family, a couple of dog walkers and lots of sea gulls! I loved it. Great photo shots too. After a couple of hours here, I walked to the town and it had a very California/Beverly Hills vibe to it. Palm trees and blue skies and boutique stores, very different from everywhere else in Melbourne that I had been too. No grafitti to start off with and no street art that I had fallen in love with, though it was definitely a pleasant change to the rest of Melbourne. 

Heading up towards the end of the street, I found an amazing pier and docklands. This was obviously a surprise because I didn’t expect it even though I should have if common sense had kicked in at all! I absolutely loved this town, the water was so so blue and the skies were even bluer. Black swans dotted the lakes and I just sat there on the grass taking it all in. Sail boats everywhere and better yet, the entire city of Melbourne and the skyline from the distance was a stunner. Nearly stayed until sundown before grabbing a bite and heading back into town. Another recommendation, definitely get out of the city if you are visiting Melbourne and check out the suburbial beauties like Williamstown!

Yesterday, I checked into town really early as I had booked myself onto a winery tour in Yarra Valley. As promised, they picked us up in a Merc mini van (great start as it was my first air conditioned carrier in Melbourne!) and we drove about 50 minutes into Yarra Valley. We first stopped at Yering Station for a wine appreciation Masterclass where we were taught the techniques of wine tasting and spotting and once that was through, for the next hour we tasted around 20 wines- at 10am!! Yes, luckily I grabbed a coffee and sausage roll before getting picked up or I would have been in a bit of a trouble. The tastings were pretty good and the staff very accomodation, I was sucked into buying some amazing Cuvée de creme which was a sparkling Rose and a dessert wine. I’m usually never fond of dessert wines but this time round I just had to! I loved everything I tried!

We then head off to a cheese farm- Yarra Valley dairy farm where we sampled some lovely goat and cow cheeses and a few people, like my sister, did some purchases (which was refrigerated in the mini fridge in the mini van) and then head off to Domaine Chandon, the champagne makers winery. They obviously don’t call it Champagne in Australia because only Champagne’s made in France, in the Champagne region are allowed to be called Champagnes but here they call it Sparkling wine and in Chandon winery, we tasted 4 different kinds of sparkling wines and was treated to a full glass of our choice. The views from the Chandon winery was amazing. The mountains in the backdrop, blue skies and sunshine, the vineyards stretched right in front of us- what a spectacle! Our guide told us an interesting story about the rose bushes grown in front of all the vineyards that we noticed. Apparently, they grew rose coloured roses in front of the Rose, yellow roses in front of the Sauvingon Blanc, white roses in front of sparkling whites, red roses in front of Pinot noir and so on. It was a really cool and innovative idea, I thought! More purchases later … We head to Rochford Wines for another tasting session and some lunch.

At Rochford Wines, we selected our main courses and then were led into a really boutiquey looking private tasting room where we tasted about 10 more wines. 2 of each variety. Some of the Pinot Noirs were really good- desperately needed lunch by this time so we had a wonderful lunch waiting for us. Once lunch was done, we head to the Yarra Chocolatier for some chocolate tasting. Now I’ve done a lot of wine tastings and cheese tastings and food tours but chocolate has never been on the list. Honestly, I rolled out, I kid you not! We walked in and were treated to three types of ‘all you can try’ chocolate pellets in white, milk and dark chocolate varieties. We did not know what awaited next, so grabbed a handful of each because we hadn’t had dessert and walked around before we were all herded to a table setup with 15 different chocolate types- all gourmet and all had little sampling bowls! The flavours varied into interesting combos like violets and berries (which actually tasted like flowers and potpourri), orange and nut, lemon myrtle, mint and lime and other such flavours. We were given each and every flavour to try, it was the most chocolate I’ve had in a lifetime! At the end  of it, we even tried rocky road chocolates and because Yarra Chocolatier had their ice cream festival going on, we tried some cool gourmet ice cream flavours like peanut butter and cocoa, bacon, apple crumble etc! 

From the chocolatier (where I literally rolled out from), we head to our last winery which was Yileena Park. This one was a cute boutique winery owned by a couple who grew their grapes on their private property and owned about 10 acres, 10,000 vines, 2 donkeys, a cow and a a few sheep. Here we tried another 12 wines in different varieties of reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines and also tried some of their smoked products (they oak smoke in house too) like blue cheese, cashew nuts, cheddar, olive oil and dukkah. During my last shot of dessert wine, I knew, anymore and I would just lie of the floor and stay there. The wine store itself was really cute, two storeyed building in the middle of the park and the lady owner gave a bit of a history about how Yarra became a wine valley. We tasted all the wines on the deck and it was again so peaceful and calm, I could easily stay there if the store was a guest house!

After a full day of wine tasting, we made it back to town only to join friends for more drinks later on, Friday night being a ‘thing’ in Australia. Heavily recommend Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tours though. I throughly enjoyed it as something different, outside the city, stellar views and a good tasting of everything on offer! It’s also great to do a few purchases as you get discounts on everything as a part of the tour and it makes up a better gift story!

Love from Melbourne,

-T xx

Warragul and St Kilda Fest.

You know sometimes you anticipate a moment or a day and you talk about it forever and think that when a certain thing happens, it’s going to be wonderful? Surprise surprise, it goes like nothing you imagine. The element of shock, surprise, wonder, disbelief will always exist which is why there is always the fear of leaping into it. Which is why the fear exists at all. When your gut starts to feel uneasy and you are nervous doing something that you usually do quite easily, you know there is a reason for it. 

I was invited to my friend F’s BBQ gathering in Warragul last Saturday and it was something he had spoken so fondly off for a few month before it was planned and forever as something he’d someday like to do. Make me meet his parents, friends from school days and sisters and pups and it’s a very warm thought so I was always very excited to go along with it. Where we live back in Dubai, my family and friends are all accessible and it’s easy to put a face to the names as we go, but F having his family and friends, 7000 miles from home, it’s not the easiest and when our holidays clashed and we were in the same time, same place, he jumped at the idea and invited me over. For me, as excited as I was, it was also pretty intimidating. One girl, amidst all the people he’d grown up with and have known forever. There is always the fear of being left out, not fitting in, being judged or all the other things that could go wrong. 

  
So I dragged my sister along and hopped on a coach, an hour and 20 mins to Warragul, which as F tells me, is regional Victoria! I was pleasantly surprised to meet F’s dad and mum. I get along with dads just fine and I know it usually ends well so I wasn’t too worried. His dad and mum were some of the loveliest people I have met and since I haven’t been meeting people’s parents off late, this was really nice and warm. I met his two friends that have been buds with him since junior school and every time I saw them, or I saw them tease each other, it reminded me of my school friends and made me wonder if someday, we’d have the opportunity to be like that. Growing up in Dubai, it never has been a strong home base even though it’s home for many of us, we know that one day, we’ll be all over the place, if not already. The BBQ went really well, and F’s dad was really proud about his pizza oven, almost reminded me of my dad and how he loves a good party and hosting. He kept coming over and telling me little stories or telling me how F would usually forget that the BBQ is on! (quite the contrary that F usually tells me!). His mum too came over at one point and started telling me other stories from her school, the neighbours and life in general. Felt quite at home with them. The friends and their spouses were lovely too, they all chipped in and involved us whenever possible (let’s ignore my sister for a while because she’s not the conversationalist and though F’s dad kept suggesting things, she was mostly quiet/bored) but I quite enjoyed everyone’s company and finally meeting everyone that F have always spoken about, told me tales off, mentioned names, his home, his people and to have such a thick friend and to finally meet his side of the world, was pretty wonderful and heart warming. So shout out to F for having us over and actually fulfilling one of the things that we’ve always (or he more than I) have spoken of wanting to do. 

The Sunday that followed, we headed off to the St. Kilda beach festival. The St. Kilda festival happens once a year and apparently sees about 400,000 people! The first time I visited St. Kilda, I had seen advertising for the festival all over the place and even while doing my walking around the centre, I had seen so much hype around it, I had to visit. We took an overly packed tram to Albert Park and then just walked to the beach area. All the roads were closed and a lot of festival goers were on foot, eating from food trucks and shopping at the little stalls. A massive stage setup was in place for local bands to play music and serenade the crowd. The festival vibe was really good but I was expecting a lot more (maybe just a tad bit of difference from the usual festivals being a tourist I guess), it was really good but I think I just expected a tad bit of difference. It was a gorgeous day, so the blue skies and sun shining was wonderful. It quite surprised me that the festival was a dry zone. We headed to Ackland street for some lunch which is lined with awesome little cafes and cake shops. Did I mention cake shops?! Yes so the cake shops… (Can’t get over that one) were amazing! We picked up a white chocolate cherry cheesecake and took it to a grass patch near the beach to devour it. We headed back after lunch to Southbank, another one of my favourite spots in central for a walk along the South Wharf and then a snooze on the grass. 

  
Melbourne can be really relaxing and malleable when you want it to be. This holiday has been very relaxing, mainly because I’ve had one week of crazy walking and exploring and a whole other week to just relax. It’s also really nice to spend some time (even if we are almost always at loggerheads) with my sister before I leave her here and go away. Today seems to be a very windy and cold day. I’ve had to borrow a huge oversized jacket from my sister to wear on top of my pretty maxi dress just because I hadn’t packed for weather like this and luckily it’s hood protected me from the rain. While sitting in the Country Bred, a little cafe which is an extension of the Marriott in Melbourne on Lonsdale Street, I can see the sun shine through finally this afternoon and while this is the perfect writing spot, great coffee, good sticky pudding and a great street view, I should probably make a move- oh but I did forget to mention that a couple of days ago, I was running to catch my train and I twisted my ankle. It’s been throbbing since then limiting my walking or making it a painful walk. Sometimes it’s pretty good but then it has a mood swing and starts throbbing again, so the writing cafe is quite pleasant but what the hell, the fourth night from now, I’ll be boarding a flight which will take me 7000 miles away from this big island with friendly people, far from my sister and from F’s family and friends that I met, away from interesting mood swings of the weather and the city that swallows you whole, so I might as well take it all in, before its time to call it quits. 

  
With love from Melbourne, 

-T xx

Williamstown, Yaraville, Yarra Valley wine tour!

I spent the last couple of days doing more walking about in the outside suburbs of Melbourne and then went an hour and a half outside of Melbourne to Warragul to meet F’s parents, family and friends that I’ve been told so much about. 

Starting off with my first adventure to Yarraville, a couple of days ago where I had some amazing Avocado toast for brunch from a little cafe down the road! So I get up a little late-ish on this day (around 9am) and I get a message from F suggesting a few places that I could go and somehow Yarraville and Williamstown sounded exciting to me, so I got ready and head out to this ‘ville’ which I thought was a village. So turns out, it was small… After a small/medium sized train problem and a couple of hours waiting later, I hopped on a few trains that dropped me off in little sleepy Yarraville and it was small, a couple of streets and that summed up the town but it was so calm and reserved, that it completely relaxed me. I’ve been doing rigourous exploring and walking the past week and even though it seemed like a lot of walking was done, I was instantly relieved and relaxed to see how quiet and pleasant this town was. F had also suggested this amazing little cafe called the Cornershop for a bite, so I had this amazing avocado toast.. If you are down in Melbourne, I would say it’s worth the visit! The staff are lovely and the food and coffee is delicious! Grab a paper, sit at a corner and watch the world go by. I did a lot of people watching here, so many different people with different stories but it’s amazing how you can just sit and unwind amidst it all. 

I then hopped on a train as instructed and got off at the beach stop (instead of the town) of Williamstown because the beach came first and I love water! Breath taking! The beach was so beautiful, in this affluent little town that had big glass houses and massive front porches, huge rose hedges and antique outdoor furniture set up in their patios. Some very fancy cars parked either outside these houses or inthe garages and I personally fell in love with one house that had a massive wall lined bookcase which was glass!! I bought a lemonade and sat on the rocks at the peaceful beach, under the sun watching the waves. Barely a few people lining the white sands on the beach, one small family, a couple of dog walkers and lots of sea gulls! I loved it. Great photo shots too. After a couple of hours here, I walked to the town and it had a very California/Beverly Hills vibe to it. Palm trees and blue skies and boutique stores, very different from everywhere else in Melbourne that I had been too. No grafitti to start off with and no street art that I had fallen in love with, though it was definitely a pleasant change to the rest of Melbourne. 

Heading up towards the end of the street, I found an amazing pier and docklands. This was obviously a surprise because I didn’t expect it even though I should have if common sense had kicked in at all! I absolutely loved this town, the water was so so blue and the skies were even bluer. Black swans dotted the lakes and I just sat there on the grass taking it all in. Sail boats everywhere and better yet, the entire city of Melbourne and the skyline from the distance was a stunner. Nearly stayed until sundown before grabbing a bite and heading back into town. Another recommendation, definitely get out of the city if you are visiting Melbourne and check out the suburbial beauties like Williamstown!

Yesterday, I checked into town really early as I had booked myself onto a winery tour in Yarra Valley. As promised, they picked us up in a Merc mini van (great start as it was my first air conditioned carrier in Melbourne!) and we drove about 50 minutes into Yarra Valley. We first stopped at Yering Station for a wine appreciation Masterclass where we were taught the techniques of wine tasting and spotting and once that was through, for the next hour we tasted around 20 wines- at 10am!! Yes, luckily I grabbed a coffee and sausage roll before getting picked up or I would have been in a bit of a trouble. The tastings were pretty good and the staff very accomodation, I was sucked into buying some amazing Cuvée de creme which was a sparkling Rose and a dessert wine. I’m usually never fond of dessert wines but this time round I just had to! I loved everything I tried!

We then head off to a cheese farm- Yarra Valley dairy farm where we sampled some lovely goat and cow cheeses and a few people, like my sister, did some purchases (which was refrigerated in the mini fridge in the mini van) and then head off to Domaine Chandon, the champagne makers winery. They obviously don’t call it Champagne in Australia because only Champagne’s made in France, in the Champagne region are allowed to be called Champagnes but here they call it Sparkling wine and in Chandon winery, we tasted 4 different kinds of sparkling wines and was treated to a full glass of our choice. The views from the Chandon winery was amazing. The mountains in the backdrop, blue skies and sunshine, the vineyards stretched right in front of us- what a spectacle! Our guide told us an interesting story about the rose bushes grown in front of all the vineyards that we noticed. Apparently, they grew rose coloured roses in front of the Rose, yellow roses in front of the Sauvingon Blanc, white roses in front of sparkling whites, red roses in front of Pinot noir and so on. It was a really cool and innovative idea, I thought! More purchases later … We head to Rochford Wines for another tasting session and some lunch.

At Rochford Wines, we selected our main courses and then were led into a really boutiquey looking private tasting room where we tasted about 10 more wines. 2 of each variety. Some of the Pinot Noirs were really good- desperately needed lunch by this time so we had a wonderful lunch waiting for us. Once lunch was done, we head to the Yarra Chocolatier for some chocolate tasting. Now I’ve done a lot of wine tastings and cheese tastings and food tours but chocolate has never been on the list. Honestly, I rolled out, I kid you not! We walked in and were treated to three types of ‘all you can try’ chocolate pellets in white, milk and dark chocolate varieties. We did not know what awaited next, so grabbed a handful of each because we hadn’t had dessert and walked around before we were all herded to a table setup with 15 different chocolate types- all gourmet and all had little sampling bowls! The flavours varied into interesting combos like violets and berries (which actually tasted like flowers and potpourri), orange and nut, lemon myrtle, mint and lime and other such flavours. We were given each and every flavour to try, it was the most chocolate I’ve had in a lifetime! At the end  of it, we even tried rocky road chocolates and because Yarra Chocolatier had their ice cream festival going on, we tried some cool gourmet ice cream flavours like peanut butter and cocoa, bacon, apple crumble etc! 

From the chocolatier (where I literally rolled out from), we head to our last winery which was Yileena Park. This one was a cute boutique winery owned by a couple who grew their grapes on their private property and owned about 10 acres, 10,000 vines, 2 donkeys, a cow and a a few sheep. Here we tried another 12 wines in different varieties of reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines and also tried some of their smoked products (they oak smoke in house too) like blue cheese, cashew nuts, cheddar, olive oil and dukkah. During my last shot of dessert wine, I knew, anymore and I would just lie of the floor and stay there. The wine store itself was really cute, two storeyed building in the middle of the park and the lady owner gave a bit of a history about how Yarra became a wine valley. We tasted all the wines on the deck and it was again so peaceful and calm, I could easily stay there if the store was a guest house!

After a full day of wine tasting, we made it back to town only to join friends for more drinks later on, Friday night being a ‘thing’ in Australia. Heavily recommend Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tours though. I throughly enjoyed it as something different, outside the city, stellar views and a good tasting of everything on offer! It’s also great to do a few purchases as you get discounts on everything as a part of the tour and it makes up a better gift story!

Love from Melbourne,

-T xx

Fitzroy and Brunswick!

Before I pour out my day onto paper I have to share my excitement that I am writing this post from the Queen Victoria State Library and I think I’m going to pass out with excitement. One of the simplest yet biggest joys in life are books, big spaces and the silence to read and write without any sort of disturbance and not only that, there are heaps of similar enthusiasts sitting around me, in pin drop silence, on the third floor of this gorgeous library building. I think I will pass out though!! 
Anyway, *deep breathes*, I had a plan this morning. The plan was to not leave at 8am in the morning, scrounging for discoveries…. But just to leave at about 10am so that my legs can actually recuperate from the excessive walking that has been done in the past 5 days! So I left according to the plan and got to the train station at Gowrie where I’m currently staying, the friendly/creepy neighbourhood of Fawkner. Yesterday my train was delayed but today it was cancelled all together. I was about to take the left turn to the station when a couple of young men disappointedly told me that the trains were cancelled. So I obediently followed them to Plan B. Apparently free buses take you to the next station whenever there is a cancellation. How convenient. That was kind of cool. So I hopped on this bus and got off at the Coburg Station where I took a tram to the centre. 

   
   
Nope, I didn’t do that. I decided that instead of heading into the town, I should go to Brunswick as per the morning discussions of a possible itinerary with my bae, F. Yes, I’m going to be gay and call him my bae because honestly, I don’t know what else to call him. Boo or Bae is fine but boo is also sometimes an expression of fear! So I thought it was a great idea and got off at a stop called Brunswick depot- nope, just because it was called Brunswick, did not mean it was anywhere close! Walked about a kilometre before I hopped on another tram to get off at another stop, still not right, I kept hopping on and off trams and buses with a few walks thrown in there, to eventually reach Melbourne Central (twice because I thought Bourke Street Mall was on Mars!) and was pretty irritated with my course of action that I just started to walk up across Lonsdale St. Where I came across ‘Don Don’ which is now called ‘Dontoo’ as suggested by F. I expected a bread roll but I got main meals so I skipped eating and kept walking. Ended up in front of Pelligrinis which had fabulous espresso. I tried out the espresso yesterday and F and his dad both thought the pasta there is legendary. It was noon and I hadn’t even had any coffee so I decided to tuck into some pasta to see what it was all about. 

Pelligrinis espresso bar is really a bar, by Italian standards. In Rome, anything called a bar has barely any space to dine in, it goes with the concept of having an espresso or a coffee, standing at the counter before moving on with your daily business. Pelligrinis had bar stools all over the place, completely packed with people so I was doubting my decision when a friendly face shoved me into a spare bar stool and asked me what he could get me. I was a little surprised to be honest, no menu, no prices. I was confused. He asked me if I liked some pasta, lasagne and listed a few types of pasta dishes and coffee options. Coffee is easy, I asked for a latte but pasta.. I usually take a long time even with a menu, without a menu, Lord help me!

Tried not to get too embarrassed so quickly ordered a pasta with white sauce and seafood. The old man behind the counter practically made that up because I didn’t want a red sauce, I didn’t want meat, I didn’t want pasta sheets and gave me a piece of bread with butter. Odd I thought, but reminded me of Sri Lanka and breakfasts there. My latte came pretty quickly as well. When the main arrived with a whole jar of Parmesan to help myself and the offer of more bread, I couldn’t resist. The food is simple. Very simple. Seafood- checked. White sauce- checked. Spaghetti- checked. Not amazingly pretty but the flavour is pretty awesome and the smiling faces across the counter is worth it. The coffee is simply amazing. I could pack up the beans and take it home! Pelligrinis is an experience, everything is rustic and ancient and tight but the place never stops. While I was seated, I saw at least 5 rounds of customers come in and leave and most people seemed to either be old or from around the area because the owner and the staff seemed to be very familiar with the faces that were coming in. 

I finally found the right tram to Brunswick after my meal and ended up in Fitzroy. Yeah, a bit confusing but the neighbourhood was Fitzroy with Brunswick street within it. In the beginning, I found it a bit quiet but slowly as the afternoon progressed, people started to swarm in, all the pubs and cafes were occupied even for a Wednesday afternoon and it started to get pretty lively (and hot!). I walked for about 5 hours in the area, through all the streets admiring the street art, the funky cafes, the silly cafe names, happy people, crazy people…(story goes that I bump into a woman with a dog like my little Loubi and while I we were talking and engaged in casual banter, a man bee lines to the dog, named Maggie, does a quick pet and then ran away angrily screaming ‘cancer’!. The lady was just as shocked as I!) and half way through my little exploration, I remembered a blog I once saw on street art and looked it up and tried to find all the art pieces in it. I found almost all except a couple which were repainted. My final piece, I knew was there, and I spent the last two hours of my time in Fitzroy, literally looking for this particular one, only to realise that I must have passed this piece 6 times or so but just never saw it. Street art in this city is like that. You need to walk the same route up and down, and twice around to actually have seen it all properly and chances are you might still miss something! 

   
 
  

  
*taking a break to look up at a stupid tourist with high heels, leisurely walking through the silent hall with the tick tock*

Fitzroy was rewarding and tiring. I even found ‘George’s bar’ which is themed around Sienfeld and the character George. Unfortunately it only operated from 6pm, which means another Fitzroy visit is due but at least I know I won’t be spending 5 hours trying to look for it! Chapel street and Church street were pretty good too, great shopping around the precinct if there are sales or if the budget doesn’t worry you too much. I think I may have been lucky! Well I think I deserve some luck after dad accidentally unpacked half my travel wardrobe thinking it was my sister’s and I ended up having barely anything!

   

  

  
Back in the city, I’m just enjoying the wonderful library and how peaceful and rewarding it is to actually write here. So many people working on their laptops or reading, or studying but spaces dedicated to reading and writing, which aren’t a million miles away, always excite me. Oh and free wifi too! Winning!

Queen Victoria Night Market awaits me now and I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned home from Australia a few pounds lighter. The excessive walking with shopping at tow… I repeat, no easy feat!

Until the next time, have a good one mate (like they say around here!),

Love from Melbourne,

-T xx.