May 13th – Fly into Amsterdam

This is not entirely a holiday, am Business travelling to EU for 3 weeks and Nita is tagging along – the girls are older and want to do things by themselves, which gave Nita a chance to get some “me” time.

It was still a hard slog for both me and Nita to get out, I have been massively swamped at work in the last few weeks and could not help Nita much with planning her side, whilst she was super scared / nervous on leaving Neha & Pooja behind. For the last 2 weeks Nita had been planning what to cook for the girls and freeze it, what to prepare for them and more importantly getting both the girls more hands on with cooking. After a crazy 2 weeks, the girls seemed ready, they both were now more excited to be cooking entirely themselves, plus we had so much family and friends support (we are truly blessed), it was really not that stressful towards the end.
In between this craziness, Nita was sorting out our weekend bookings in EU, lots of great places and restaurants to visit and book.

12th May 9pm was our Emirates flight from Brisbane to Dubai. We got to the airport just after 6:15pm. This was my first visit to the international terminal since the COVID lockdowns begun in 2020. Place was so empty with all shops closed on level 4!
Emirates had the only counters opened with long queues.
After a 30 min queue time, we were finally checked-in and through immigration quickly – one thing with COVID travel, the immigration queues were non-existent!!

Editing Pooja’s essay before boarding our flight

Our flight departed about 15 mins late (apparently the catering truck was stuck behind the aircraft!!).
It was going to be a long 14 hours of sitting in a tin can before it lands in Dubai.
The aircraft was great, we were in an A380 and I was very impressed with the Economy seats, leg room and comfort level was up there – obviously business class would be amazing but this was good. Food was not the best, or maybe Malaysian airlines had us spoiled – during our last EU vacation , all their meals to and from EU were super duper – 5 stars to Malaysian airlines for food, with Emirates I would rate it at 4.
Although the seats were comfortable, there is something about being able to sleep in a seat and not lying down…this I cannot get used to. The most I could get was around an 30-45 mins of sleep at a time. My downloads of the Netflix show – F1 Drive to Survive, kept me going in between. Nita did manage to get a bit more sleep than me but again that was not much in the scheme of things.

We landed in Dubai 30 mins ahead of schedule, it was 4:45 am local time with a 3 hour layover. First some real food, we opted for the Lebanese Breakfast – the place looked great. Food was much better than what we was provided on Emirates flight – good to eat some real food. What did surprise me was how expensive Dubai food was. A single croissant cost me $9 AUD – and I thought Darvella was expensive in Bulimba ;( !!

Nice Lebanese eatery @ Dubai airport
Breakfast time

Breakky revive done, time to look around a bit but the airport, unfortunately this airport is just not that interesting. Singapore airport is much better for a layover with more to do. It was getting time to checkin again for the next 7 hour leg to Amsterdam.

We got lucky with seating this time, had a vacant seat in our 3 row seats, much more room to relax. Flight departed on time and soon I was nodding off. This time around Nita was not able to get much sleep and since I was very already sleep deprived, it was hard for me to stay awake, and soon nodded off.

great when you have a spare seat – more stretching room!!

Flight was un-eventfull and soon we were landed in Amsterdam – local time was 1:30pm. The next step – immigration was hell!! The queues were so long, the entire immigration hall was filled. It took about an hour for us to get through it and then finally collected our luggage and out into a Taxi headed for Utrecht.

Arrived in Utrecht at our hotel in just over 30 mins, it was time to freshen up with a hot shower and then we hit the Utrecht streets. Nita wanted to get a feel of the place and get a bearing of where things were. I feel Utrecht is a smaller version of Amsterdam, much more relaxed without the tourists flocking.

Stopped for a coffee and cake, needed a coffee fix – something that was interesting, no one knew what lactose free milk was or did not stock it??? Nita was not impressed and she was then opting for English breakfast tea.

Back in the room for a bit more rest before heading out to the Miyagi & Jones Asian fusion place that Nita had booked from Brisbane.
Stepping outside, it was nice crisp fresh cold air. Well not COLD as per EU standards but cold for us. It was good walking around in freshness.

Quick 10 min walk and we were at Miyagi & Jones, the place was tucked in a alleyway with a few restaurants. Got seated in a nice area and soon were being explained the ordering process – via a TABLET!
Food was super duper, Asian fusion it was. We ordered a few small dishes to try em all – unfortunately I did not take pics of all of these. Great nite and finished off with a very nice oreo cheesecake … yumm!

It was then back to the hotel to hit the bed and get some much needed rest from the long flight.

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April 6th – Hobart last morning – fly back to Brisbane

Early start for me and Nita, we were moslty packed by 6am, and 6:30 we were out for the morning photo session. We have been doing this at multiple holidays destinations – where we get up super early and get to top vantage points for pics when there are limited to no crowds. Had done this already in London & Paris (twice), and with weather in our favour was not going to miss Hobart – had to drag Nita out of bed but it was all worth it.

Out on the streets at 6:30, the weather was clear and cold. Nice crisp morning breeze – air in Hobart is so fresh!
Headed to the water front area and setup my tripod. My sony a6000 is such a great workhorse – this has been my camera for the last 8 years and it works just as well today as when new. The best feature for me is the wifi operation, so love that, allows me to take so many great self shots. Most of these shots are via this mode.

Now to capture some pics…..

Hobart waterfront with Mt Wellington in the background

While setting up my tripod and camera, met Doc he was out for his regular jog! He is one committed man on staying healthy…. I need to do that! but for now for some self portraits

Photos done and we were back at the hotel room by 7:15am, to finish off packing.

We met Vik and Meeta at the lobby at 7:40am and loaded all our luggage in the car.
Next stop, walk to Daci Daci bakery for an early morning breakkie. Doc and Tina were not too keen on breakkie.
Final day walking in Hobart, just taking it all in.
Arrived at Daci Daci, this time we were seated inside.

Ordered our standard latte’s, Chicken Mushroom pastry, Croque Monsier & Almond crossiant to share.
Good relaxing time to replay our last few days of fun here.

Breakfast @ Daci Daci

Around 8:40, we left Daci Daci, a leisurely stroll back to the hotel. Took the waterfront route – last time to enjoy this scenery (for this trip).
Doc and Tina were already in the lobby, time to move their luggage into the car, quick re-checks and then we were off the to Airport.
Morning traffic was heavy, we had not experienced this in the last few days but it was still moving.

Got to the airport with loads of time, so had to be our flight got delayed by a further 20 mins.
Car dropped off, check in done now it was waiting in the lobby. Time for more coffees and washroom breaks.

On the plane, and home bound…good bye Hobart……till next time

We arrived in Brisbane just after 2, farewelled the gang and then taxi home.
Pooja was so excited to see us when we arrived!! Neha was at university so not meeting her till later in the evening.
For our welcome back the girls had gone early morning to Darvella to pick up some pastries for afternoon tea 🥰. So much love.

This had been a short burst of a great time with friends. Last 5 nights at Hobart had been amazing, with the best food, best drinks and the best company. Am so in love with Hobart, will need to come back here and bring Neha & Pooja with us.

Till the next post ….. ardios 🙂

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April 5th – Hobart – Bruny Island

Last full day. touring Bruny Island. First stop, coffee shop at Battery Point to pick up some Pastries, coffee’s to go. Not eating in, as that would take away more time from Bruny Island itself. Pit stop done, now back on the road.

Morning Pastry to go

Weather was not looking the best, a bit of rain coming through, fingers crossed it would clear by the time we reached the island.
Arrived at the ferry terminal – for those that do not know, Bruny Island access is via a ferry service that operates every 20 mins. No need to book, just rock up and queue for the next ferry. Cost is $46 / return per vehicle. This service is operated by Sealink.
Real easy, you just drive direct onto ferry and drive off once you reach. No getting out of the car!
Ferry time was just around 10 mins, it was docked and then one after another each car drove off the ferry – very neat!

Bruny map – Doc was navigating with key focus areas marked

We were on Bruny Island, first stop was the House of Whiskey. Lucky the rain had stopped or what appeared as not to have hit Bruny Island ;).

The Whiskey House

Great place to try some Tasmanian Whiskey and take in the nice surroundings. We ordered one round of tasting. Ladies were not too keen on the Whiskey’s.

Whiskey tasting @ House of Whiskey

Whiskey tasting @ 10:30 in the morning is so good when the weather is cold – does provide some natural heat!
Next stop was the Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Co.

This place was busy, we had to park on the road – the car park was full. The place had nice on-site fresh sourdough baked bread, plus good beer & gin range. Settled for a Cheese platter, Coffee and ofcourse some Gin tasting

A good break – energy refueling done, now to make our way down to The Neck! This is the thinnest part of the island, connecting both the north and south Islands.
It has a nice board walk with a brilliant 360 degree viewing platform at the highest point of the neck – be warned , it is more the 250+ steps to get up, but it is worth it.

Reaching the top was no easy feat, well not for me! But the view from the top is amazing – also make sure you bring your jacket – it sure is windy up here!
Whilst at the top, I approached a guy who was there with professional looking photography gear, whether he could take our group pic. He was really friendly and was more than happy to do it. He jumped on to a rock formation to get the height and helped us with some great shots.
Chatting with him further, realised he was a pro-photographer and was on the island for a 2 day shoot for an Air BnB property. He shared his instagram name – he has some very amazing pics of nature.

What goes up needs to come down, time to climb down all those stairs and head to our next stop that was lunch at Bruny Island Premium Wines. This was on the way to the light house.

Bruny Island Premium wine store front did not look much more than a big shed, but they did have a decent covered lunch area with heaters.
We ordered 3 lunch dishes to share – food was good but it did take a long time to come. Not ideal when we were on the clock to cover a few things.

Lunch break done, it was then time to head to the Light House – the lowest part of the island. This was around 30 mins away, not too far, but atleast 20 mins is driving through unsealed road. Lucky we had a rental, I would not want to take my car through this part of the road.

After a long stretch of noisy driving on the unsealed road, and the sound of pebbles hitting the bottom of the car – we finally arrived at the lighthouse. This drive was so worth it! Big cliffs on all sides with the light house proudly on the mountain top. Did not realise how windy it was until we got out of the car. Then it was a short trek to the lighthouse.

Whilst it was very cold this high up, the views were amazing! I took my time but the others were already making their way down.

Lighthouse was great, highly recommend you visit this place.
Now it was making our way to the Bruny Island Chocolate place – hoping to get some nice coffee there…. but that was not to be :(.
Reaching the Chocolate place, it was essentially a small store selling just chocolates but no hot drinks or sit down service. Ahh well, no luck there. We all bought some small pieces and then it was in the car again for the final stop – landing place of Captain Cook.
Expecting this to be something special – it was nothing but a single sign!!

Captain Cooks landing here,. not much else to see here other than this sign!!

ok now what, there was a nearby Jetty, Cheeky made the most of more pics opportunities

Bruny island was all done, it was a very nice quick tour of the island and we had covered some good spots. Unfortunately the Oyster shack was missed but you cannot cover everything. It had been a good day.
Now to head back to Hobart, as the time was still not late, we decided to go direct to Honey Badger Dessert cafe at Salamanca – this place shuts at 9 and we did not want to miss it. So why not have dessert first and then have dinner later!! Moved our booking for Monsoon Thai to just after 8 pm, and we were at Honey Badger around 5:15pm.

Ordered the much needed coffees plus three desserts. Whilst waiting for our order, I roamed around to the tassal Salmon shop – I see this brand of Salmon in Woolies all the time, good to see the actual store in Hobart.

Back at Honey Badger, coffees were arriving and then the big one – desserts – YUMM!

Desserts were devine!! This is a must visit. The best was the chocolate brownie in my opinion. Stickey Date and Cheesecake were not bad at all but the Choc Brownie was super.

We were back at the hotel by 6:15 pm and had a good hour n half to rest up. Then it was ubers to take us to the Thai Monsoon restaurant. The Thai Monsoon was recommended by PM, it was at Battery Point, a cute little restaurant. Restaurant’s here are so deceiving. From the outside they do not look like much but once inside this place was packed!

For the final night, we did not go for cocktails and opted for wines. Tina and Meeta had the sweet variety and the rest had reds.
Food was good and on par with the quality of Brisbane.
It was a good last night and great wine.

Back at the hotel, we all decided to leave for the airport at 9am tomorrow – it was time to say good bye :(.
That night I suggested to Nita that we go for an early morning waterfront photo shoot as the weather was looking better, Nita was not too keen but had convinced her otherwise. Lets see if we get up then we do photoshoot else it is simply packup.

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April 4th – Hobart – Mt Wellington, Port Arthor

The plan today was to head out to Mt Wellington, followed by lunch and Port Arthur visit.
Morning was free and as our planned departure to Mt Wellington was after 10am, we had time to squeeze in breaky and also a Hair appointment for Nita and Meeta. Ladies needed a hair recharge/refresh …not sure what the right term is, apparently the rain was making their hair hard to manage , I do not have a hair maintenance issue 😜 so hard for me to understand.
Doc & Tina wanted to take it easy this morning, so me, Nita, Cheeky and Meeta headed out early to to the Coffee/Breaky place near Salamance that we had seen busy on all days. Weather outside was great, we had sunshine and temparature was the standard 13-14 degrees , getting used to it now ;).

Instead of taking of water front route, this time I decided to take the city route and pass through some other areas – lucky we did that. After a good 10-15 walk, whilst we were making our way to Salamanca, we came across a very nice patisserie place – Daci Daci Bakers. It had the most amazing pastries and desserts! Had to stop there.

We chose to seat outside on the interesting seating area built onto the road itself – nothing like that could be allowed in Brisbane – QLD just seems so backwards with a lot of things, we are just a big nanny state :(.
Back to Daci Daci, we all ordered an Almond Crossiant, a Croque Monsier (fancy version of ham & cheese toastie), Mushroom & Chicken Pastry and coffees.
It was good to share it and not have a heavy breakfast. All the food was good and coffees were not too bad, not the best though – interestingly they did not have lactose free milk and only options were Soy or Almond :(.
Whilst enjoying the morning cool weather with this breakky, Doc jogged passed us – he is soo committed to running, a few mins chat and then he was off.

Finished here just before 9am – timing it to when hair saloons open, a quick walk to the mall area and we soon had Meeta & Nita in a saloon.
Not much else for me and Cheeky to do, already had a coffee, so just wondered about. Around 40 mins and the ladies were done. Made our way back to the hotel, Doc and Tina were already in the lobby ready – we all quickly got our stuff sorted and then it was time to head out.

Next stop – Mt Wellington – a 30 mins drive.

Was not long before we were driving up the steep incline of Mt Wellington. The weather was overcast which meant we did not have a clear sight of the top and had a lot of cloud cover higher up. It was only a few minutes of incline driving when we found ourselves driving through thick clouds or was it fog ?? Cloud or fog – it was getting thicker. Headlights were on and alertness level of Cheeky who was driving was on very high. On one side was the mountain rising and on the other was a massive drop… just have to stay in the middle. Slowlly we edged our way up and at times the clouds cleared entirely with clear visibility and sometimes it was so thick that visibility was only 5 meters or less.
At one point we pulled over as it seemed to dangerous to go up in these conditions, the place we pulled over deserved to have some pics taken…. time to get out my tripod for group pics.

Seeing more cars go up, and the clouds thinning, we decided to keep going up …. and it was definitely a good decision!
Reached the top, and wow, it was the most amazing rugged landscape with shear of clouds. Between the waves of clouds that blanketted this amazing landscape, we could make out these great mountain lines and falls.
The cloud sheers gave it a different feel – so glad we could experience that.

Light rain started , time to make our way back to the car and head down. Going below the cloud cover, weather was clear again – we found a great vantage point just below the cloud cover with views over Hobart. Weird, now the skys were clear blue on this side !!

Mt Wellington

Mt Wellington done ✅, now to make our way to lunch booked by Doc at Seagrass Long Point. Drive time was just under 20 mins.

View of Hobart from base of Mt Wellington

Seagrass Long Point, was directly next to the water, in a quiet beautiful surrounding.

Very nice lookout from here, the place was empty for lunch – maybe it is more a dinner place ??. Ordered a chowder to share and then some burgers. Not in the mood for any alcohol for lunch, most of the gang ordered a coffee. Nita opted for the Tumeric latte, I settled for my sparkling water. The Tumeric latte did look good but unfortunately the taste was a let down.
The burgers arrived but we were surprised to see the buns in charcoal colour !!! Hmmm interesting.
The flavour itself was not too bad, but it just was not that appetising 😦

Burgers at Seagrass – Black Buns!!

Not the best lunch but we did get great views. Lunch done, it was almost 2 pm, now to make the long drive to Port Arthur. (Port Arthur was not on our plans, however as we had this free afternoon, we decided to complete that).
Back in the car, time for another long car ride with music and laughs.

Around 3:15pm we reached Port Arthur, the site cloes at 5pm, and the carpark had a big sign that boom gates would close at 5, not sure which part would close but not wanting to be stuck here overnight, we quickly moved through the gates and into the Port Arthur site.

The place beyond the gates was very nice, so picturesque! Could not believe this place was once a jail for convicts, where the worst criminals were brought over.
We wondered around the place, a few interesting places and some great locations of pics.

Entering Port Arthur
Kudos to Meeta for framing this shot!

So much history at this place and it does make you wonder how people lived in those days. Cells were so small, less than a meter wide – unimaginable conditions!!

Port Arthur done, it was time to head back to Hobart, our Dinner was booked for 7pm – we still had enough time to pay the Bellerive Oval a visit along the way.

Saw the famouse Bellerive Oval and got a glimpse of the Ricky Ponting stand. We had not been inside the stadium but this was not bad.
That done, and it was only 6pm, headed out to a nearby waterfront marina we had seen earlier along they way to Bellerive – maybe we could do drinks there.
Getting there, it was not that great for drinks but there is always chance for more pics!!

Time for dinner, next stop was Pancho Villa, mexican!
Drive time was only about 10 mins – this place was just on the outskirts of the City area – so definitely no walking from our hotel.
It was in a street that closely resembled what we have in Paddington back in Brisbane – line of shops / restaurants on both sides in a suburban place. Nice area, and definitely more restaurants / bars to try here – if only we had more time.

Mexican restaurant

Place inside was very different, not the expected Mexican theme, infact this place was more like a mix between Middle East & Europe theme – but very nice.

The cocktail menu looked great, no more G&T, it was going to be aonly Cocktails tonight. Nita volunteered to be the designated driver – needed someone to drive us back!
Few cocktail varieties were ordered, these came in interesting glasses or containers … the drinks were super!! Food followed and it was all goobled up quickly – everyone was soo hungry. Taste wise it was very good!! As for what we ordered, I am not sure – but it was all very nice!!

A great evening it was, Nita drove us back to the hotel. Called it an early night, tomorrow the plan was to cover Brunny island – our final list item.

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April 3rd – Hobart – Freycinet, Lobster Shack, Lark Distillery

Early morning start – Doc had convinced us to go for a run – he was doing it everymorning.
Met him at the lobby at 5:50am, Vikash had already left as he thought me and Doc slept in – due to no response to his msg’s.
Started our jog towards the waterfront side and made our way towards Salamanca area. This was my first time jogging after a long long time, so a couple of walking breaks were needed. Towards Salamanca we met Vik who was returning back. He joined us and went for another round.
At this hour, the place is so quiet, peacful and calm. Headed to the Elizabeth Mall area and then tried a couple of coffee shops for a morning coffee, unfortunately all of them were still not open asking us to come back at 6:30 or 7am. We headed back to the hotel where the hotel cafe was able to get us our morning Picolo’s. The 3 of us sat in the lobby coffee area and chatted for a while, then it was back in to the rooms to be down again for 8:15 departure.

Morning Jog

All met at the alleyway coffee shop for a quick bite and coffee, then it was to the carpark at around 8:15am. Doc was driving today.
First stop was the Freycinet mountains, weather unfortunately was not looking too good but hoping that it cleared by the time we reached there , which was still a good 2.5 – 3 hours away.

The seating was Doc and Vik in front, me and Nita in middle and Tina and Meeta at the back. I was navigating plus being the spotify DJ taking in requests from everyone.
It was entertainment plus, with numerous stories to talk about ;), the minutes cut away and we made some quick photo stops.

@ Orford
(in the car I realised my lense was dirty, gave it a good clean, in time for the next stop)

Along the way, we passed through some dense trees on either side that made the passage of road very scenic and ideal for a photo opportunity – Vik was the first to call this out and we stopped to take pics on the road – obviously trying to do so when no cars where coming. That in itself was interesting and fun, whilst someone was posing the others had to keep an eye on the road and yell run away if cars were approaching. More often than not, there were a lot of too early warnings and we were running when we had more time. Setting up the tripod, we managed to get some good group shots

Next we stopped at the Devils Corner Vineyard – this was a highly recommended spot by Prakash Morris. It did look so good and had it not been for our lunch booked at Lobster Shack @ 1pm this would have been the ideal stop for lunch and wine.
Quick visit of the place and pics then it was on the road again.

Weather was still on/off grizzling when we arrived at Freycinet, but what we had not anticipated was that this place was a hike – all along we thought it was a viewing area where we would get a great lookout of the wine glass bay area and the freycinet mountains. Hmmmm, none of us where actually prepared for hiking , but what the hell, lets do the walk – we did come so far.

It was a nice walk, however the overcast weather did not help with the views. Still it was a good visit, now back in the car, next stop was Lobster Shack. Enroute to that, I was using the cars vents to dry up my now wet shirt :(. Lucky I had a Jacket in the car, which was my temp top whilst my shirt was being dried.

Drying my shirt after Freycinet walk

We arrived at Lobster Shack not knowing what to expect. This place is located in the most amazing location!! Wow!

Ordered a couple of lobster varities, the mixed platter and Salmon. Wow the food here was amazing. Good feed and break, Lobster Shack is a must visit place if you love your seafood.
Back in the car, now to make our way back to Hobart via the Lark Distillery which had recently opened the Lark Whiskey Village (thanks to Nilan Gandhi for sharing that article with us)
Another 2.5 hours in the car.

The Lark Whiskey village closes at 5pm, it was just past 4 when we arrived. The place has been setup really nicely, love the colonial, vintage setting. It was good being this late, no one else was there and we could talk more about the Whiskeys and Gin they had. Time to try some of their varieties.

Some interesting Whiskey flavours but nothing outstanding, it did not get any of our votes.
Next up we tried their Gins, which was better, the best one was with Grapefruit – did not realise that went with Gins. Another tip, the amount of tonic should be very low and only enough to release the flavours.

Gin tasting – Classic with Grapefruit went well together

And to finish it off, we had to try the $2500 Whiskey.
It was $100 a tasting nib, the three of us agreed to share that rather than one each. As part of getting that, they also offered a complimentary taste of their $400 bottle of Boiler edition.

Tasting done, thanked them and time to pay for this expensive tasting experience !!

Now to take some pics around the beautiful place!!

Pics done, we headed back to our Hotel, time for a quick freshesn up and then it was off to The Den Bar @ Salamanca for drinks followed by dinner at Franks.

The Den has one of the best setups/ambience – a big fireplace in the middle and dimely lit interior. We got a nice table at the back. Ordered 3 chicken Bao & 3 Spiced fried Cauliflower Bao + a round of gyoza. For drinks, ladies ordered coktails and Nita settled for a Shiraz. The guys ordered Gin – Cheeky mentioned to the bar men how we liked three cuts, he suggested we should try Spring Bay Gin, went with that.

The Gin was really good, Tasmanian Gin just seems to be better than the rest! Ladies cocktails were just as good and Shiraz hit the spot – no complains on drinks at all. Food arrived, whilst the Gyoza was good but nothing fantastic, the Bao’s were mind blowing, this would be the best Bao’s we have had for a long time. Had we not already had a dinner booking, I would have settled for another couple of rounds of Bao’s – these things were amazing!!! 5 star rating to this place. I would highly recommend coming here for drinks and food.

Next stop for Dinner was at Frank’s at the Waterfront. Our table was ready. The place had a very modern ambience with dark lighting – looked very nice. Ordered three mains and a couple of sides – we were not super hungry due to the Bao’s. For drinks, the guys opted for 3 margaritas whilst ladies already had enough but opted for a Rose mary burnt cocktail – delicious it was. Food was to Tasmanian standard, very good, and the sweet potatoe side was mind blowing. Great food. For dessert we were not too sold on the menu here and started thinking about the Drunken Admiral Belgium Chocolate….. hmmm it was not too far, so we decided to head there for dessert. It was so funny, leaving Franks, the guy finalising our bill said he had never seen a table of 6 eat and clear away in under an hour – we did not want to tell him it was cause we were rushing to get to Drunken Admiral for desserts

Quick 5-10 min walk across the waterways to Drunken Admiral.
Along the way, I was able to get a great pic of the Hobart harbourside, with both the Drunken Admiral and Grand Chancellor Hotel in view. Not a bad iphone photo!

Got to Drunken Admiral and the wait staff was the same from the prior day and was surprised to see us close to 9pm there. We got the same table and 2 Belgium Chocolate brownies arrived soon after.
My god, this chocolate dessert is the best in the world!!! So yumm!!!

Called it a night, it had been a long fun day.

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April 2nd – Hobart – Salamanca Markets & Winery Tour

Early start again today, plan was to visit Salamanca Markets then at 9:30 join our winery tour for a day of wine tasting and then have a free afternoon.

All met in the lobby at 7:15am, for a leisurely 10min walk to Salamanca area. Everyone was well rugged up, temp outside was 11 degrees 🥶 , always fun listening to the commentary on how cold it is and how many layers of clothes we had on. One big plus side of cold weather – you feel fresh a lot more then in the heat which does drain one’s energy levels faster (in my opinion).
Walk to the markets was pleasant, passing Constitution dock. This place was so picturesque, I am kicking myself for not taking any morning street pics ☹️ .

Got to the Salamanca markets , markets were not open yet, people were finalising the stalls and the members were still setting up crowd control gates and other things. These markets are on every Saturday from 8:30am to 3pm, which gave us close to an hour for breakfast.
Our wine tour operator had recommended Banjo’s as a place close to the markets to grab a quick bite. We were expecting this to be a boutique coffee breakfast place, little did we know this is a franchised bakery, with stores all around Hobart.
Still the experience was not bad at all, coffee was great and we settled for a mix of pastries and breakfast pies/rolls. The place had a much better variety for breakfast pies, rolls and pastries than we do back in Brisbane – kudos Banjo’s.

Banjo’s bakery at Salamanca

Breakfast done, time now to visit the famous Salamanca markets.
The place was getting filled in with all stalls now open but as it was still quite early crowd was only just building.

Walking around the stalls, the first stop for the guys was at the 7K Distillery stall. A Tasmanian boutique Gin distillery. It was only 8:30 but never too early to try Gin! Tried their 3 Gin flavours – Raspberry, Modern and Dry Chilli Winter edition. Wow, amazing tastes, am in love with the Modern version that goes so well with an orange – am definitely ordering that one back in Brisbane.
One great tip from the lady at the stall – try and use dried fruit with Gin rather than fresh cuts, apparently they bring out better flavours – something to keep in mind for Gin lovers.

The Gin tasting did provide some alcohol heat that was most welcome in the cold :).
More walking about. Nita found a hat stall that had my style of hats, got a nice Stanton Grey wool version, this became my go to for the next few days in Hobart – what a find 👍. As there were many stalls, the 3 of us were doing things separately.
Me & Nita were mostly done with the browsing and decided to head out of the markets to other areas of Salamanca – still had more than 40 mins before our Wine tour operator would collect us. Time to explore more areas.

Found a nice fountain area close by to Banjo’s – good photo opportunity.

We all met up at Banjo’s again and then headed to meeting point for Winery Tour – this was just around the corner at the end of the Salamanca Markets. There we were greeted by Stel from StelaVino wine tours. Great guy, he had a 12 seater mini van. Todays group had 2 other members plus our group of 6.

Making our way out of the Hobart CBD, it was great having Stel give a running commentary on some of the sights plus the history about wine making in Tasmania and why this region was one of the best in the world for a certain variety of grapes.
Did not know that Tasmania was one of the driest places on earth where the temperate did not fluctuate too much, it was due to the ocean surrounds that regulated the temps and maintained a consistent cool but not COLD environment – which was perfect for wine grapes.
This weather was great for most of the white wines and some pinot noir light varieties, the cold weather did not particular suit the heavy varieties like Shiraz – pity as that is what me, Nita and Vik appreciated more.

First stop was Derwent Wine Estate. What a location, next to the River Derwent.

We were given a private room where Stel had pre-organised for the wine tasting. There were around 6-8 varieties to be tasted, all along we were being given good advise and tips on what a wine tasting process should be about – Sight, nose, and taste. So something new for us, wine tasting scores out of 20, with 3 points for sight, 7 for nose and 10 for taste. Another interesting but hard learning when tasting wine, you are to leave wine in your mouth and breath in through the mouth whilst leaving the wine in the mouth area and avoid swallowing it in your wind pipe. A few coughs were to be expected but when it worked you could definitely taste , smell the wine in your mouth much more differently than normal drinking.

Tried a range of white, rose wines, but it was the reisling that won some of us over with its nice sweet taste. Our group was definitely not a Chardonnay or dry white wine lovers.
During the tasting it was interesting to notice how our ladies table was different to the guys. Whilst we were drinking up all the wines even if we did not like it, the ladies did not hide the fact that they did not enjoy that drop :(. After each first sip of the wine, if no good, it was going straight into a glass that was there for water. Whilst glasses on our table were empty, on the girls table this water glass was filling up rapidly with an interesting colour as all different wines ended up in there!🤣

Wine tasting done, now to take some more pics at the beautiful location – ladies were up for that!

Stel was quite surprised on the number of pics we kept taking 😳, and had to keep pushing us to get back on the mini-van.
Next stop was lunch at Cafe Czegs, our lunch was pre-ordered whilst we were at Derwent Winery, so no waiting when we arrived.
Drive was a short 20 mins before we entered the most beautiful town of Richmond.
This is a must visit, It is a colonial town with cafes and boutiques. Our stop was Cafe Czeg’s – what a beautiful boutique cafe, selling everything from pastries, breads, scones, cakes to full lunch menu’s. The interior was colonial with separate nooks theme’d differently. Definitely a place I could visit again.
We were seated in a private room and meals followed soon. I had ordered the duck fried rice – it was so well cooked – tasted yummy!

Lunch was followed by coffee and Honey vanilla cake – not a big fan of Honey, however the cake did taste good and I could have it as it did not have too much honey flavour (good for me not so for the honey lovers). Good lunch break and a must visit place for anyone visiting Hobart who likes coffee & cakes.

Back in the mini-bus, next stop was the Puddleduck Winery. Along the way we passed the Richmond Bridge – the oldest stone span bridge in Australia, built by convicts. Normally this is a drive by, however Stel had already realised how much we liked taking pics, and without us asking found a good spot to have a short photo break with good views to the bridge!
We could not say no to that!

Back in the mini-bus and drive off to Puddleduck Vineyard.

Puddleduck Vineyard

Our table of 8 was already laid out with wines ready for tasting. To be honest, none of us were enjoying these white varieties and by now Stel was also getting a hint of how much we enjoyed these wines – not. Went with the tasting routines for a bit, but it was not long before we left the tasting to roam about. This place was built really well for lunches, and was focused on family fun.

I think the missing piece in this Wine tasting tour was the lack of cheese platter or nibbles. Maybe that is not the norm, but definitely our group needs some nibbles to go with wine. Still overall a good experience and learnt a few new things about wines.
Back at the hotel, thanked Stel for the tour and the experience.

It was around 3pm and we needed a coffee, dropped off things in the room and we all headed out again looking for a coffee stop. Headed to the waterfront area, hoping to find something there. Along the way passed the oldest licensed pub in Australia. Along the waterfront we had to take a pitstop at the floating Ice Creamery – some amazing selections there but no coffee.

Looked around a bit with no luck for coffees, finally ended up at the MacQ1 Hotel Lounge, no cakes but they did have coffees – that was enough to get us a bit revived.
We headed back to the hotel post coffee for a much needed siesta – dinner was booked at the Drunken Admiral at 7:30, we had over 3 hours to kill or rest.

I could not really sleep much, so by 6:30, me and Nita decided to go walkabouts around the waterfront, we were going to meet the gang direct at the Drunken Admiral for dinner.
It was a good opportunity to take more pics at the water front.

Around 7:20 we made our way to Drunken Admiral
The place did not look much from the outside except for the big couldron outside. Saw others taking pics in the couldron, we had to do the same:

The two of us made our way into the restaurant (rest of the gang were not here yet). The moment you step into this place, it is like being transported into a different world. Everything is sea themed with a feel of the colonial ship and sailors. Soon after the the gang were all there and we were seated in our nook.

The food and drinks did not disappoint, in fact it blew us away. The oysters were so good. Then we had the amazing Chowder, seafood mixed grill, Salmon and couple of other dishes which I cannot remember :(. All of these were exceptionally tasty…. it was just wow.
For desserts we ordered the Belgium Chocolate Fudge cake, Hazelnut Brûlée and the One Legged Tom. Whilst they were all amazing, the Belgium Chocolate fudge cake is to die for !!

What a seafood experience we had here, amazing food!! and the desserts, OMG, we could not fault anything. Drunken Admiral needs to be No.1 on the list of restaurants when coming to Hobart – this place is the best!!

Made our way back to the hotel in the cold of night, it had been an amazing day finished off with the best food :). Called it a night, tomorrow was going to a big day of travelling – heading off to Freycinet and surrounds.

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April 1st – Fly in to Hobart

After more than a year when we had to cut short our Tasmanian holiday due to Covid lockdowns, we finally got a chance to head back to complete the Hobart portion. This time without Kids 😉 !

It was an early start, we were booked on a 7:20 am flight from Brisbane direct to Hobart, the plan was to meet at the airport at 6am.
Early wakeup and finalised my bags, then a quick dash to the riverside at Colmslie for good luck (old habits!) – view at 5:15am was amazing from Colmslie reserve.

view of Gateway bridge Brisbane at 5:15am

Our taxi arrived on-time at 5:45am, but, as usual we were running late with good byes to both Neha, Pooja and last minute checks. We finally got out just before 6am,
Arrived at the domestic airport without delays, here there are still some signs of the covid world we now live in, masks were mandatory within the Terminal. Caught up with Vikash, Meeta, Doc & Tina.
Checkin and baggage drop-off was smooth and then it was off to morning coffees and a quick bite.

Flight got slightly delayed by a further 20 mins, but finally after over a year we were boarding a plane!! It was weird having to wear the mask in planes but better to have that than Covid.

Flight landed in Hobart without incident, stepping out of the plane, we were greeted with the COLD, FRESH air of Tasmania. Love cold weather!
Into the terminal, Doc and Cheeky sorted out the rental, whilst I went with the ladies for baggage collection. As it had to be , our bags were the last to come out :(, but at least it did come.

We had a Kia Carnival, all bags loaded and it was time to head to our hotel @ Mantra on Collins.

Cheeky taking the first drive

Drive to Hotel was just under 20 mins,
Arriving at the Mantra on Collins, the place did look very small from the outside but turned out it was a high-rise – a lot of Hobart properties have maintained the historic front facade but have built modern interiors and high rises behind the colonial frontages – very cool indeed.

Mantra on Collins

Checkin was quick, we all freshen’d up and were down back in the lobby by 1:15pm to head out for lunch. The receptionist suggested we go to Mures which was a short walk from our hotel. Out on the streets and greeted by the cool, fresh air of Hobart, time to take it in.
Turning the corner, it was a mere 5 mins walk or less before we were at the beautiful harbour (Constitution Dock).

In a word – WOW!! This place reminded us so much of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. It was lined on one side with colonial buildings, then colour yachts and floating food outlets.

Had a great seafood lunch at Mures cocktail bar (Pearl & Co), started off with Tasmanian whiskey and then onto Tasmanian Gin. For food we ordered the 3 oyster varieties – Kilpatrick, Mignonette and the Smoked Salmon varieties plus the famous Seafood Chowder and other main dishes which I cannot remember – as we were too busy eating it all and not taking enough pics :(.
Finished off with the obligatory dessert – ordered the Chocolate Love – an amazing chocolate dessert that did not last long at all – 6 spoons attacking the one sole slice of chocolate cake – it had no chance!!
It was a great lunch – highly recommend coming to Mures for lunch, three areas to choose from and you will not be disappointed – highly recommended!!

Fully recharged, it was time to hit the road and explore the Hobart CBD.

First impressions, this place was not like Launceston – it was actually a city with people and not empty streets. In fact the city scape was great with a mixture of colonial past and modern architecture.

A bit of roaming about and then we caught up with Doc and Tina for coffee at a nice boutique coffee shop “Beaujangles Cafe”. This place was on Elizabeth St Mall, had a great cosy ambience and do they make good coffees plus the best Almond Orange cakes I have had to date!! Totally recommended.

It was around 4:30pm, we all headed back to the hotel for a siesta, and then hitting the streets again at 6:15.

We all met down at the lobby at 6:15 and then headed out, next stop was drinks at “The Lounge by Frogmore Creek” – Doc had booked this for 6:30.

En route there, time for some pics…

Nice round of drinks done, then it was a 10 minute walk to Salamanca area for dinner that Doc had booked at Maldini Italian.

Turning into Salamanca area, it was lined with bars and restaurants – this place was buzzing. Just a short walk and we arrived at Maldini – is was packed – a sign of good food, we hoped and we were not disappointed :).

We arrived at the venue to a full house, lucky for the booking, our table of 6 was available – the place inside can feel a little crowded but more than makes up in the food area. We ordered a few dishes for sharing and all of them were great. For the wine, we went with an Italian red recommended by our waitress – ended up getting two bottles – it was that good!. Unfortunately for desserts they ran out of Tiramisu – disappointed as that looked so good on the other tables that were lucky enough to have ordered the last few :(. Settled for Affogato.
A great night of wine and dine. The food was super duper and highly recommended. The Italian wine was excellent , I will be looking for this back in Brisbane.

It was good to call it a night just after 10pm, had been a long day and tomorrow was an early start to visit the Salamanca market for the 8am open and then head out to our Wine tour at 9:30.
So far a great start to the Hobart visit.

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January 8th – Launceston – Lavender farm and COVID lockdown

Normal start to the morning, breaky with the gang and the normal laughs, however it was on the way back to the room when we sported a news flash on the TV next to the foyer – Brisbane was going into a 3 day lockdown due to a positive case of the COVID UK strain who had been out in the community.

Finding out about the Brisbane lockdown

We were all like, phew, we had made it out in time and were all good. Little did we know that this was going to play havoc for us in Tasmania…..

Continued on with our plans, all met in the foyer and headed on to the Lavender Farm – was already around 10:30 by the time we left.
For this drive, we arranged the cars by the gender, girls in one and boys in the other – done for no apparent reason, but it came in handy towards the later part of the day.

Drive to the Bridestowe Lavender farm was uneventful, we reached there in about 45 minutes. At the last corner before arriving the farms, the first glimpse of the lavender covered plains were visible – wow, this was amazing, entire plains all painted PURPLE by the Lavender.

Had not realised there was an entry charge for all NON-Tasmanians, paid that and entered the Bridestowe farm.

We were greeted with amazing landscapes and out came all the camera’s clicking away 😉

Bridestowe Lavender Farm

There was a larger farm further back, but first we wanted to grab a quick bite, kids and ladies were getting peckish.
To the lavender cafe – with the menu being very limited for us, we opted for the Lavender Scones and Lavender Chai Teas.

Lavender Scones

Post the light snack and some shopping at the lavender boutique, we headed to the Lavender Plains. It is amazing to just stroll these plains and absorb the natural beauty.

Around 1 we finished the walks and pics, time to try the Lavender Ice Cream – WOW, you so have to try it. A tip – do not try the flavoured ones, just the plain LAVENDER is the best!!

It was just post 1pm we started all getting SMS’s alerts from the Tasmanian Government warning us that we could not enter Tasmania if we had been in Greater Brisbane from the 2nd of January.
Well, we were already in Tassie so that did not apply to us!! Still it made everyone a bit nervous. Me and Vik were still confident that as per the SMS we were ok and convinced all to simply carry on.

Next stop was the Wineyard in Tamar Valley. Back into the cars, and headed to the Tamar Wineyard. All the way the three of us were discussing what could happen next and Doc was convinced it was only a matter of time before we would be required to isolate since Tassie Government was targeting the message to anyone who was in Brisbane from the 2nd of January !!

Got to the Stoney Rise Wineyard, it was a very picturesque hillside Wineyard.

Stoneyrise Wineyard before we got rejected due to COVID lockdown in Brisbane

Doc was leading the pack and entered the Wineyard – getting in and scanning the COVID QR code, the very first message that flashed on his screen “are you from GREATER BRISBANE !!!”. At that very moment we all get another SMS from Tassie Government stating exactly what Doc said may happen, anyone who had been in Greater Brisbane since the 2nd of Jan and who were in Tasmania had to ISOLATE :(… Oh no, that was a bummer.
The lady behind the counter asked us the same and said she could not let us in. Fair enough, cannot really blame her, after all it was our QLD Government that declared the GREATER BRISBANE a hot spot.

Now it was plan B – well it was time for us to make plan B!! Back to the cars and on to our phones!!!

We were headed back to Launceston, and the plan was to get to a COVID testing centre to prove we were all negative, hoping the government would let us then go about our travels.
The drive was still a good 30 minutes away.
Doc meanwhile was trying to get through to the Tassie Health services hotline that was included in the SMS – and he was on hold for a looooooong time.

We got to the COVID testing centre at around 3:15pm, there was a bit of a queue, were were the third car sticking outside the testing yard. At around 3:25pm, the person directing all the cars comes to us and lets us know that we need to come tomorrow, this centre was closing at 3:30pm and we have no way of getting in today. Turns out there were no other testing centres here at all :(. We tried our best to convince him to let us through – all to no avail.

All this while Doc was on hold with the Tassie health services, finally he gets through just as we are pulling out of the testing centre. They inform us that the COVID test for us would make no difference, negative or positive – we all would have to isolate for 14 days, and also we could leave for Brisbane today as long as we did not go places and kept isolated till our flight!
That made things very clear for us.
Next was a call to Flight centre, got the 12 of us booked on the Virgin flight that evening – we were lucky we got seats – the plane was filling up fast. Flight centre also did inform us that we were going to get a refund of all the unused Hotels and Cruise bookings & the return flights would be credited- so a small bit of good news in all this mess.

Got to the hotel and as instructed by the Tassie Health person, we had to now wear masks to enter the hotel and keep to ourselves. Everyone into their rooms to quickly pack up. It must have been the fastest packup we all did. In less than 15 mins we were back in the cars and luggage loaded.

Arrived at the airport with an hour before the checkin counters opened. Parked the cars at the rental returns bay and sat around munching on the chips that Meeta had bought earlier and some snacks that Doc’s mum made for all to share – thank you Pushpa kaki :)…… we sat and just replayed what a day it had been :(.

why did Greater Brisbane had to be declared a HOT SPOT 😦

Checkin process was quick, seemed like a lot of Queenslanders impacted by this issue were heading back, the flight was full.

In the departure lounge, it was time to get some food for everyone, flight was at 7:50pm and food on domestic flights were crap – and yes I am talking about buying onboard, it is so sub-par.

The two food outlets at the airport were nice, and we were able to get a good snack for all.

Flight left on time, and arrived in Brisbane just before 10:30pm. Farewelled all parties and then to the carpark to collect my car. First stop was mum’s home, she had prepped some food for us.

It had been one hell of a roller coaster today, this morning we were enjoying the lavender farm and its amazing ice cream and now we were back in Brisbane – holiday over. Wow, this is life in the COVID times.

So instead of getting upset at what we could not do, I look at the glass half full and see what we were able to achieve:
– I appreciate the 3 days that we got to see and enjoy Launceston & its sights and the good times we all shared
– and feeling blessed that we got to attend all of Dada’s last rituals that commenced the following week and be fully there

Till next time……..

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January 7th – Launceston Sights

Launceston was putting on great weather for us – clear blue sky with a high of 26! Today’s plan was to visit the Cataract Gorge on the first half of the day, then a free afternoon to roam about and do what every we wish…

Breaky done, all met-up in the foyer just after 9:30 am.

In the foyer – ready to head out

First stop was the Cataract Gorge – amazingly small place Launceston, we were there in 10 minutes – a stark contrast to the 2+ hours it took us to get to Cradle mountain yesterday. This was great :).
Getting to the car park did require driving through some winding very narrow roads, finally made it to the carpark – and were greeted with Peacocks roaming about… !!

Peacock spotting

The Gorge area was a steep walk down from our carpark through a great park land. Very nicely setup and great for picnics. The weather was holding up very well, it was not too cool, just pleasant that made walking around comfortable.

First stop the Scenic Chair Lift, to take us to the other side of the Gorge- we were not the ones to walk more, had done enough walking yesterday ! ;).
This Chair Lift’s total span is 457 metres, and interestingly it boasts the LONGEST SINGLE SPAN in the world – at 308 metres!

The chair lift passed the Gorge with is spectacular rock formations and the naturally formed basin. It did reach a decent height and at times may get you holding on to the rails a bit tighter than required.

Getting off at the other side, it was here you pay for the tickets for the chair lift, got the return tickets and started our Gorge walk, heading towards the suspension bridge.

Lots of walking or maybe we should say lots of pic taking!! Suspension bridge was nice and you did feel the movement and the weirdness of the floor moving when walking across.
Time to head back via the Chair Lifts to the car park – next stop was the Penny Royal amusement area near the entrance to the Gorge.

This place had a couple of kiddy rides, and some very cool zip lines to hang off. Not for the faint hearted. Prashil was daring enough to raise his hand to that! Unfortunately the next session was close to 1.5 hours away. As this was the last stop in the group activities for the day, that worked out ok, Doc could stay back and do that.
During booking the zip lines, ladies and girls went on to the DARK BOAT RIDE – come back very disappointed, apparently it was just a small boat on tracks with some slideshows happening on the sides :(.
That was enough time for the guys to head to a bar there and chilax with a few beers – weather was surely warming up now.

Being a free afternoon and Doc was still going to be here for another couple of hours, Vik and I decided to head out to a Winery near by. To make the most of the time, decided to have takeaway lunch, ordered some wood fired takeaway pizzas to eat in the car (drive to Wineyard was about an hour and this way we could do lunch whilst getting to the Wineyard). Once the ladies returned Vik and my family headed out in one car, Doc kept the other car as he waited for the zip line.

As with everything unplanned, things just keep moving around, Meeta suggested the Swiss Village. Checking on Google maps, Swiss Village was a mere 15 mins away, whilst the Wineyard was more like an hour…. easy decision.
Lunch in the car was great – these were some of the best Wood Fired Pizza’s we had.
Highly recommended Pizzas from Brady’s Bar at Penny Royal.