Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sydney, Australia: A taste of Watsons Bay

One of our favorite things to do each of the six days we stayed at Sydney’s Circular Quay was to hop one of those fantastic ferries headquartered there and head out to explore other small hamlets that dotted the coastline.
Sydney, Australia's Circular Quay

Watsons Bay, a suburb of Sydney, just 11 miles away, was our Sunday lunch destination because a few months ago we’d read a murder mystery novel, The Bat, by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo. One of its scenes was set in Doyles, a restaurant operated since 1885 on Watsons Bay beach. It sounded worth a visit if we had the opportunity during our stay.

[Travel Tip: We have visited some interesting places in our travels and many of them we’ve learned about by reading novels set in those destinations. We follow up with a bit of research before the trip and then figure out how to include them in the itinerary. We don’t rely solely on travel guides.]


Our decision to go there, however, on that Sunday was rather spur of the moment. After arriving at the restaurant, we realized that we were lucky to get in to this in this beachfront, family-owned and operated (for five generations) eatery even though it has expansive indoor and outdoor seating areas.  

Doyles was one happening spot on Sunday

It seemed most of the passengers on the ferry were headed to the same place that we were – Doyles is ‘the place’ to go on a Sunday, not just for tourists like ourselves but for Sydney-ites as well. Those in the know were able to go straight to the ‘with reservations’ line whle we joined a short line of others in the ‘without’ line.

We each ordered a bowl of their seafood chowder and we knew we were in for a treat when the waiter came and set up the tools for each of us to use when consuming it. “We put seafood in our chowder. You will need to eat it,” he explained.


Soon after, he brought the bottled water we’d ordered as well as a finger bowl with lemon-scented water in which to rinse our fingers as we ate our chowder and another large bowl for the emptied shells. These were bowls – not dainty dishes.


The bowl of chowder at $18.50AUD,(then about the same in US$$) was not inexpensive, although it was one of the least expensive items on the menu. But, was indeed full of seafood including mussels, lobster, scallops, shrimp and crab.


The small loaf of sour dough bread (pictured below) that came as a side, and cost an additional $7.50AUD.


It was a delicious and filling lunch in a beautiful setting ( from some areas of the restaurant you could see the Sydney skyline off in the distance – tables in those areas had been reserved, by the way).

So we agreed that while paying $44.50 was more than we would normally pay for an alcohol-free lunch, it had been worth it.  You can image our surprise when the bill arrived at the table and we found that an additional $5 per person had been added as the ‘adult weekend surcharge’ bringing our bill to $54.50. 

Hmmm. . .that ‘ding’ left just a bit of a bitter aftertaste. Have you ever paid a restaurant 'weekend surcharge?

If You Go:

Ferries regularly depart Sydney’s Circular Quay for Watsons Bay. It is also accessible by water taxi or bus.

Map picture
Doyles Restaurant is located at:
11 Marine Parade, Watsons Bay, Sydney
phone: (02) 9337 2007 Web:  
Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, closed Christmas Day.

The restaurant’s website offers a link to Alice Doyles’ recipes; recipes like:

 Do Drop in Salmon Spread
Fry sliced onions gently in a little butter until soft, mix in sugar.
Drain salmon, reserving liquid in case needed. Mash salmon, add onions and all other ingredients together. Make the spread very moist -if it seems too dry, add some of the juice from the salmon.
Serve with potato crisps or savoury biscuits. Makes about 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 large brown onions, fine sliced
  • butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large can red salmon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • pinch basil
  • few drops Tabasco
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
We’ll be adding this post to the Foodie Tuesday linkup over at Inside Journeys, so head that direction then and be sure to come back here for Travel Tip Tuesday when we have more money saving updates for you!.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Travel Tuesday: A serving of Australian Pie

The one ‘must do’ on my list for Australia was to sample its famous pie.

Not the fruity dessert variety we know in the United States, but the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind they make “Down Under” in both New Zealand and Australia. A dish so popular that Wikipedia claims that Australians, on average, consume 12 and New Zealanders, 15 annually.

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I had my pie and ate it, too at Hamlets Pies  a small storefront on the pedestrian Corso in Manly, a wonderful beachfront town just a short ferry ride from Sydney. (I’ll tell you more about this postcard perfect town in a future post but today’s focus is food and I don’t want to detract from this little shop that has been serving up pies for more than 25 years!)

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Similar to the United Kingdom’s meat pies, the Australian and New Zealand versions of the pie typically include a minced meat, gravy, onion, mushroom, cheese, potatoes and crust (I know, it sounds like starch and calories. . .it was, but sometimes you just have to seize the moment  ~ and all the calories that comes with it!)

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The pies are most often sold as take-away food so the shop had but a table or two for on-site dining.  A freezer case was filled with boxed pies and the display case filled with the fresh-baked, hand-made-on-site pies.

Think adult candy store.  So many choices. . .garlic prawn, pumpkin, feta and coriander, chicken, bacon avocado. . . We chose the traditional meat version for our introduction:

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It was a beauty, this pie whose beginnings can be traced through history, beginning with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Luckily we’d decided to share one as it was a hefty little fellow that satiated the hunger pangs for both of us.

The only disappointment was that we only ate one during our five-day stay. The good news is we have an Australian Pie Company back home in the Seattle suburb of Burien!  This eatery, which looks much like the one we visited in Manley, has been baking up pies since opening in May 1998.  I’ll be heading there to pick up some pies real soon!

For those in (or visiting) the Seattle area:  The Australian Pie Company is located at 425 SW 152nd St. (across from Burien Town Square), 98166, phone 206-243-4138. Check it out at

In Manly, Australia: Hamlets Pie Company is located at 13 on The Corso.  You can find them on FB as well.

And for you Foodies who like to cook, here’s a link to a recipe for Australian Meat pie.
For more foodie news, head over to Inside Journeys where we are linking up today at Foodie Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Strolling Along Sydney’s Writer’s Walk

Sometimes the path you walk along is as interesting as what it is leading you to. . .

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Sydney Harbour ferry
As we made our way along the busy Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour’s transportation hub – buses, trains, ferries and taxis converge here -- we noted directional signs for the “Writer’s Walk”.
So, as any inquisitive traveler and writer would do, we set out to explore . . . and ‘met’ some interesting scribes along the way. . .

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And pondered their observations . . .

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And through the eyes of these writers, learned a bit more about Australia and  its history. . .

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The Writer’s Walk, a series of 47 metal discs the size of manhole covers embedded into the sidewalk, celebrates the lives and works of writers – both Australian natives as well as others who visited or relocated here. 

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While the lighting on Elizabeth Jolley wasn't the best, I am including this because I found her own story inspiring. Her first novel was accepted when she was ‘almost sixty’ – and she had  nearly two decades more during which time she produced 22 more works. 

If You Go:

The Sydney Writers Walk at Circular Quay

The Writers Walk plaques of honor are embedded at regular intervals along the Circular Quay stretching from the west, at its Overseas Passenger Terminal (near the bridge) along the train station walkway, then east to the Opera House forecourt. (Notice the one in the walkway above).

For a look at all 47 plaques:

Note: November 2013 marks the 15th year of the annual National Novel Writing Month ( Its a time when amateurs and professionals challenge themselves to write 50,000 words. Whew! ~ this post is only 295 words, so you see what they are up against. Good luck to you all.

We are linking up to and then doing some armchair travel at these blogs this week:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox,
Friday’s Oh the Places I Have Been at The Tablescraper

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time Flies When You Travel

Just like that it is over.
A month.

It seemed, back in January, when we started putting this adventure together that our departure date would never arrive. Then as we set out on October 1st, the month-long trip sounded as though it would stretch endlessly into the South Pacific.

sydney2013 007 

Tomorrow on a springtime Monday evening we fly out of Sydney, Australia and some 20 hours later we will arrive home on a late Monday evening in the midst of autumn.

While the month has gone far too quickly, this trip is one that has definitely made our Pacific Northwest life seem long ago and far away.  We’ve heard very little from family and friends.  We’ve seen bits and pieces of headline news and sports from home; a good reminder that there’s a big ol’ world out there with lots going on beyond the United States.

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Our days at sea provided a pleasant mix of time for relaxing and introspection.  And thanks to Celebrity we had a variety of special on-board experiences like dining with the captain and visiting the bridge. . .all of which we will tell you about in  future posts.

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A warm welcome in Papeete, Tahiti

Our three days in French Polynesia was a wonderful taster plate of experiences that calls out for  a second helping of this amazing tropical paradise.

Many of you know that I was ambivalent about visiting New Zealand and Australia prior to the trip.  Not so, any longer.  We have seen stunningly beautiful parts of both countries and will long remember the warm welcomes that have greeted us ‘Down Under’. 

If the travel gods smile upon us, our next report will be written from back in Kirkland.  Hope you’ll come back later this week because our Tales of the South Pacific are just beginning!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

G’Day Mates from Down Under!

After an 18 day journey that covered more than 6,400 nautical miles we glided through Sydney Harbor Wednesday morning past the Opera House and docked at the International Terminal near the Harbor Bridge. The shadowy outlines of those two icons were  rather welcoming sights I have to admit!

 sydney2013 004 
We arrived sunburned, wind-blown (probably weighing more than when we left) and about as relaxed as one could get before entering a coma state.  The waters of the Pacific and its winds kept us rocking and rolling at times – unlike the Atlantic crossings we’ve made, so we didn't get quite as much 'lazing in the sun' as we'd hoped, but still got plenty.

This was our longest voyage. All but six had been ‘at sea’ aboard the Celebrity Solstice – a floating home-away-from-home.  However some of our fellow passengers had boarded the ship back in Seattle and had been aboard for seven weeks!

One of the best parts of such long periods at sea are those travelers you meet and friendships that are forged along the way.  We have a wonderful new group of friendships that span the globe from Australia to the U.S. and on to Greece.  (Many of these folks make our travels sound like we are ‘stay at homes’ in comparison to their adventures.)

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Our appreciation of the size and vastness of the Pacific Ocean has grown. It is amazing to go for days without seeing another ship, bird or plane.  I heard a siren today in Sydney’s early morning and realized it was the first I had heard for weeks. Although the ship was as modern as one could be, in the midst of that ocean there were times we had no television or internet signals . . .

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We were off the ship and settled into our room at the Marriott Harbourside Circular Quay before 9 a.m. – a record for smooth disembarkation and check-in (20 minutes from start to finish).  We hit the deck running and covered nearly 10 miles of the city yesterday and a similar amount today.  Tonight (for those of you who didn’t see my Facebook post) we are attending a performance of the musical, South Pacific at the Sydney Opera House pictured above.  So our journey continues. . .

It was sad seeing our ship set sail last night as it begins its South Pacific season. I’ve taken loads of photos and have Tales of the South Pacific to tell you after we get home and settled back into the Northwest – until then we wish you safe travels and hope this post finds you well. That’s it for Travel Photo Thursday!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dateline: Honolulu

We left a drizzly Seattle Tuesday evening and arrived in a drizzly Honolulu some five and a half hours later. And then we had an irritatingly long wait for our shuttle and an hour-long ride to our hotel in a van called “Speedy Shuttle”. Love that irony?

It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that I started thinking ‘tropical paradise’. . . the view from our deck over Waikiki Beach was a good reminder that we, were indeed, in a tropical paradise. We stayed at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort. The photo below was taken from our deck. (If you have ever questioned the worth of those loyalty programs, let this be an example of what earning points/stays/other can do. We were upgraded to this ocean view room because of our participation in the Marriott loyalty program.)

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And from that same deck on Thursday morning we watched our soon to be floating-home-away-from-home, the Celebrity Solstice, arrive. 

Later today we will be boarding this ship and then just before midnight we will set sail for Australia.  And then the adventure really begins. . .

waikiki2013 019I've been worried that my little Fuji point-and-shoot might give out while we were crossing the Pacific. And  because no shutterbug in her right mind would consider being without a camera, I bought a new camera-- another Fuji point-and-shoot but with a few more bells and whistles to be conquered. It arrived four days before our departure.  I am still building a relationship with the new side kick, so bear with me. . . (yes, I know you should never do that, but sometimes you just have to live on the wild side, right?)

We hope you’ll come along with us the next few weeks as we head out South, by Southwest. . .we depart at one minute before midnight tonight: first stop, Lahaina, Maui.

We'll touch base with you again as internet connections allow. Aloha!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Ready! Set! Aloha!

By the time most of you read this post we’ll be winging our way to Honolulu, Hawaii, the first stop on our island-hopping route across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, Australia.

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Approaching the island of O'ahu Hawaii
We were at our timeshare home in Hawaii last January when The Scout found this deal of a cruise while surfing his favorite cruise travel sites.  Sydney and/or greater Australia for years has bounced up on down on our travel bucket list and finally this cruise, its price and our schedule aligned.

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Waikiki Beach - Honolulu, Hawaii

OVeniceSanJuanIsl 068ne of our favorite ways to travel is to mix a bit of the old familiar with new experiences.  We are doing that on this trip, with a couple days in our old-favorite, Honolulu, prior to boarding our ship, the Celebrity Solstice. The Solstice is also an old-favorite as it was the first Celebrity ship we ever sailed. What a fabulous introduction she provided to that cruise line.

The Solstice will be our floating home-away-from-home for 19 nights, as we travel to French Polynesia, to New Zealand and then on to Sydney.

PicMonkey Collage
Inside the Celebrity Solstice 
We’ll have a dozen heavenly days ‘at sea’ – one of our favorite parts of these ‘repositioning cruises’ that move ships from  summer to winter routes. 

For those of you wondering how we pass the time on  sea days, I’ve included the photos above which were taken aboard the Solstice as she transported us from Florida to Europe two years ago.

I’ll be posting updates here about our South Pacific adventure as internet connections permit. We hope you’ll come along with us as we island-hop our way to Sydney. 

VegasHawaii2012 067Next update will be from Waikiki. . .until then,


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Travel Tuesday: ‘Trusted Travelers’ Down Under

The United State’s Trusted Travelers Program* just got better!

(*aka Global Entry/PreCheck that we've told you about in earlier posts – click the blue link above) 

KOandSeattle 041First, I must tell you that we used the Trusted Traveler fast-track Pre-check lines at Seatac and  Honolulu airports in January.
And what a snap!

Laptop and our quart-sized bag of liquids stayed in the carry-on bag; we wore our shoes and jackets. There was no one else in line . . . were through security in less than five minutes! 

Trusted Travelers  ‘Down Under’

Note: The following information is from an email we received last week from the Department of Homeland Security:

KOandSeattle 046“Visiting Australia is now easier than ever for U.S. Trusted Travelers. Late last year, Australian Customs and Border Protection opened up access to its automated border processing system, SmartGate, to U.S. Trusted Travelers. Now when you arrive in Australia, you can bypass the passport processing queues and self-process using an ePassport¹.

How does it work?

SmartGate uses facial recognition technology and biometric data to perform the customs and immigration checks usually conducted by an Australian Customs and Border Protection officer. You can still choose to talk to an Australian Customs and Border Protection officer if you prefer, but as long as you have a U.S. ePassport¹, you have the option to use SmartGate.

Can I use SmartGate?
You can use SmartGate provided you are:
  • flying into Australia;
  • 16 years or older; and
  • traveling on a valid U.S. ePassport¹.
There is no additional enrollment process to participate in SmartGate and it is open to all U.S. citizen Trusted Traveler members enrolled in the Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI programs.
Tips on using SmartGate in Australia

Australian Customs and Border Protection has produced a new fact sheet to help US Trusted Travelers use SmartGate with confidence. The fact sheet is available at:

Australian Customs and Border Protection would like to hear from you

Have you tried SmartGate in Australia? Australian Customs and Border Protection would like to hear about your experience. Please email your comments, suggestions or any questions about SmartGate to
For more information on using SmartGate in Australia, visit
¹ For more information on ePassports, please visit

And TravelnWrite wants to know if you’ve tried Global Entry yet?  What have been your experiences? If you are a subscriber and want to leave a comment, click the blue TravelnWrite link or the headline on the article to reach the blog's comment section.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Sailing to Oceania

“You are sailing to where?!” 

Oceania. . .you know, that region also called the South Pacific

We’ll be boarding our old favorite, the Celebrity Solstice this fall in Honolulu bound for Sydney, Australia.  Our journey by sea to the land ‘Down Under’ will take 19 days to complete.

As shown on the map above, our route will take us through the Pacific Ocean with stops at a few of the islands that make up French Polynesia, give us a sneak peak at New Zealand and provide two long, lovely stretches of leisurely days at sea. 

As seekers of great adventures at great prices, you know we sometimes have to have patience while waiting for the travel gods to bring those concepts into sync.  We’ve had this routing on the radar for at least two, maybe more, years.

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And, as seekers of great adventures at great prices, we know we  must be able to act when opportunity knocks on the computer screen.

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It rapped while we were in Ko Olina last month.  There it was in an email announcing the week’s Top 20 Travel Deals sent by Travel zoo. 

Even better, it was offered by our friends at Crucon, the New Hampshire on-line cruise agency that we’ve used (and recommend highly) for our recent cruises.

The Scout did a quick comparison of other cruise web sites we use, we checked dates and within hours of reading the email had made a deposit to hold the room.  We’ve learned good deals go fast.

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The Good Deal:  The price of $2,199 per person guarantees us an outside balcony cabin, (my favorite place on the ship!) and includes prepaid gratuities ( a savings of about $450) plus complimentary alcoholic and specialty drinks (a savings of about $900 per couple over purchasing the cruise lines “drink package.”)

This illustrates our mantra: There are travel deals to be found out there.  Check TravelnWrite’s Deal Finder page for other tips on finding deals.  We’ll see you back here for Travel Photo Thursday!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Planning to Head “Down Under” in 2012

You know you are hooked on travel when you are making airline reservations before opening gifts on Christmas morning. 

But then, at our house, we think travel is the best gift we give ourselves. . .so in a way, we were opening a gift.

Our plans are to head “Down Under”  in 2012 to explore areas we’ve never been and along the way we will visit an old favorite, Singapore, a place where we celebrated New Year's Eve 28 years ago. 

It’s a trip that will guarantee we won’t  be home for Thanksgiving and will barely be back and over jet lag by Christmas. (Note to friends: the cards and gifts will be late).
DSCF2235It’s a long way off, or so it sounds right now, but it was even more futuristic back when we set the trip in motion eight months ago. It began with a $200 deposit on a future cruise, paid while we were sailing across the Atlantic in May on Celebrity’s Solstice. 
Frequent Flyer Seats

The reason we were making airline reservations on Christmas Day is because we are using frequent flyer (FF) miles to get us to Singapore and back home from Bali, Indonesia.  As those of you who use FF miles know, you can’t sit back and wait if you want to nab those precious seats – especially for flights around the holidays.

DSCF2366Thanks to Joel’s diligence  (it took calls made over a three-day time span to book the flights because of  time changes we’ll experience on our return flight)  we will fly to San Francisco on Alaska Air and there connect with Cathay Pacific which will take us to Asia. That airline will also return us to Vancouver, B.C. and we will fly Alaska Air home.   The Asia flight is some 14 hours so we’ve each used 100,000 Alaska Air miles to secure Business Class seats. . .which will make the flight almost fun.
Money Saving tip: we spent 100,000 air miles each and about $100 in taxes and fees.  To put that in perspective, a Business Class round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Singapore costs $6,018.75 per person! We got a good deal to our way of thinking.

The Cruise

The cruise will depart Singapore and over the course of 17 days will take us to Sydney, with several  ports of call along the way. We’ll spend a few days in Sydney then head to Bali. It’s a six hour flight between those two cities. . .somehow I thought it was closer. 

Money Saving Tip: We’d made reservations for a cabin in Concierge Class – the one that offers a some special amenities on board – but a recent cruise sale email from our travel agency caught Joel’s eye . . .with a quick phone call, he got us  moved to a regular cabin – same size  as Concierge Class – saving us $1,800 on the price of the cruise. (We can buy a lot of ‘amenities’ with that savings!)

We know ‘life happens’ and plans can change – final payment for the cruise isn’t due until next September which means changes can still be made until then. The airline seats can be cancelled (for a fee) and the FF miles returned to our accounts.  But for now our gift is open: the planning, reading, research and dreaming begins. 

So blogosphere friends, do you have some recommendations for us as we begin to plan? If so, please send us an email, or jot a comment below.


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