A weekend at sea is a great idea - what better way to switch off and unwind than jumping on a cruise ship from your home town and sailing up and down the coast for the weekend whilst your every need is taken care of.
Since cruise ships started visiting Adelaide a few years ago we have taken advantage of this opportunity to cruise without the need to fly first to the east coast - and what a new world of travel it has opened up.
Whilst those in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth have enjoyed this opportunity for many more years than little old Adelaide, the weekend cruises departing either on a Friday or Saturday for a three night getaway for us have included trips such as a weekend to nowhere, comedy cruise weekend and a girls trip.
Our most recent adventure was the P&O Food and Wine Cruise - one of the last cruises on the Pacific Eden before it sailed to Singapore to be handed over to new owners (who incidentally have purchased it to return to Adelaide!- watch for the new badged CMV cruises).
So what does a weekend Food and Wine cruise entail? And what can you expect from the experience. Apart from all the great incentives of a cruise that we already know and love - here are some of the highlights that a Food and Wine Cruise offers.
Well the theme of the cruise kind of gives this one away - but there really is a great showcase of wines onboard for you to experience. And best of all - no one has to be the designated driver!
Although South Australia is rich in wine resources, I really enjoyed trying out the wine tasting session from Perth’s Margaret River Region. With a representative from Watershed Wines on board to take us through the tasting notes and the history of the winery this session opened a new variety to me otherwise unknown.
There were a number of food and wine pairing classes on offer over the weekend. Cheese and wine, Egyptian food and wine were just a few. At $16 pp it included four wines matched with a sample of food to open the discussion of how wine can change the taste of food and vice versa.
If you are a budding chef - or even a real one - the ship had a full demonstration kitchen where guests chefs shared tips and tricks. Onboard for our cruise was Chef Dyna Eldaief from Taste of Egypt who showcased Egyptian cooking.
Dyna presented a conversational workshop talking about her experiences on the television reality show MasterChef, whilst showcasing some simple Egyptian dishes that all the passengers could go home and prepare. So simple were they that I even got up on the stage and joined her! If you prefer to participate than simply observe take the opportunity when a volunteer is called for and you will get an up close and personal cooking class from a renowned chef. Where else would you have that opportunity!
Chef Prue Daly from Grass Tree Kitchen was also onboard who presented a Sensational Seafood Masterclass and Canapes to Entertain. So no matter what your culinary taste, there was a good range of cooking demonstrations available over the weekend.
On our cruise cheese deserves a special mention as it was a feature in itself. Peter Gross from Black Pearl Epicure was onboard and he proved to essentially be a walking encyclopaedia for all things cheese. He was so passionate about his cheese and his knowledge was second to none.
We enjoyed a cheese and wine pairing session that Peter guided us through and for those that really love their trivia he also hosted a Food and Wine Trivia.
We learned how to pick a great cut of camembert and what the actual difference between Brie and Camembert is (apparently not much at all but a bit of an extra helping of cream in the Brie). I was even convinced by Peter to step out of my comfort zone and try a Blue cheese. I still did not enjoy it - but I did at least give it a go seeming I had a glass of red to wash it down with!
Even if you don’t love your wine - there was no discrimination against the beer drinker with options of “Hops and Malt” Beer tasting with The Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn and a Food and Beer Pairing class. Additionally a Beer and Cheese Tasting was on offer.
Add to this the usual mixology classes that you can always expect on a cruise and there was no shortage of drinks on offer for passengers no matter what their taste.
The food and wine options were sprinkled throughout the daily list of activities and at night the entertainment returned to what is usually on offer with a cruise - theatre shows, movies, themed parties and great restaurants to try a new bottle of wine with.
Have you ever taken a Food and Wine weekend cruise - what were your highlights? Leave a comment to let us know about your experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
When travelling there are so many different options and styles to accommodation. From budget hotels to independent Air BNBs to fancy resorts and five star hotels We’ve just about tried them all - and always happy to give something new a go.
Although not on purpose - we have even managed to stay at a few memorable quirky themed hotels. And whilst we didn’t particularly go out of our way to stay in them, they just happened to have a good rate on the day we were in town, they have certainly left a lasting memory.
Here are a four quirky themed hotels that you may want to try on your travels that have left an impression with us.
StayPineapple Hotel - Seattle
Yes you read it right, there is a pineapple themed hotel! Why, I really could not answer, but we have stayed there! In fact there are a chain of StayPineapple Hotels across the USA with the newest addition opening in New York’s Midtown Manhattan.
From the moment you first step foot in the lobby there is no mistaken the obsession here with pineapples. In the afternoon the lobby features signature pineapple cupcakes and pineapple infused water to greet arriving guests and the walls are adorned with pineapple themed artwork.
From the subtle print of the pineapple on your room key, through to the pineapple sticker on the toilet paper roll to the more obvious pineapple embroidery on the pillows and slippers, there is a lot of yellow going on in this hotel.
And if you like to travel with your pooch, these boutique hotels are dog obsessed and your canine companion is always welcome. For more details, visit the StayPineapple website.
Nickelodeon Suites - Orlando
When our son was young we took a trip to Orlando, Florida and ended up staying in the Nickelodeon Suites. We booked the hotel as it had a great rate and it provided apartment type accommodation - but the added bonus was the Nickelodeon theme.
The centre of the resort homed a massive water splash park and every afternoon the splash bucket would be filled with the trademark Nickelodeon green slime for a good old slime splash session! What more could you ask for than being dumped with green slime - right!
The rooms featured pictures of Nickelodeon stars on the walls and there was a themed breakfast in the restaurant where you could dine with Spongebob and Dora. Unfortunately our son was terrified of the giant characters walking around - but many kids loved getting up close and personal with Diego.
This resort is no longer operating as Nickelodeon Suites, it is now a Holiday Inn, but the fantastic waterpark still remains.
Hard Rock Hotel - Mexico, Bali and Penang
We seem to have a bit of an affinity for the Hard Rock Hotel. Before children we would always seek out Hard Rock Cafe’s in every city we visited, we even have a quirky collection of Hard Rock Hotel hurricane glasses from across the globe!
Since having the kids we tend not to buy the glass but instead have taken to staying in the themed resorts. So far we have tried the Hard Rock Hotels of Bali, Penang and probably our favourite the all inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
If you like your music memorabilia, these hotels certainly cater for that obsession. From a Jimmy Hendrix guitar to a Michael Jackson glove, the corridors are filled with framed bits and pieces from iconic popular culture.
The resorts offer a few signature extras such as the option to have a guitar in your room to use during your stay and in Bali the hotel featured a sound booth to record your own album.
Visit the Hard Rock Hotel Website for Details.
Peabody Hotel - Memphis
Now the name of this hotel really does not give any indication of the theme, which is why we were a bit surprised upon arrival - but this hotel is duck obsessed.
This charming southern hotel is home to some very pampered ducks who entertain international visitors every day with the Daily Duck March. At 11am and 5pm the Peabody Duck Master escorts five ducks as they ride down the elevator from their rooftop sleeping quarters to the lobby of the hotel where red carpet is laid out for them to parade their way to the atrium fountain.
Visitors line the red carpet and forward book tables in the restaurant for an up close and personal viewing of the internationally renowned spectacular.
The duck obsession is not contained to the lobby - the hotel room carries the theme through with duck embroidered linens and towels, duck shaped soap, ducks printed on the stationery and duck shaped pillow chocolates at your turn down service. In nearly every corner of your room you will find a duck weaved into the design.
Interesting fact that duck is strictly prohibited from being served in any of the hotels restaurants! Find more fun facts at the Peabody hotel’s website.
Have you ever stayed in a quirky themed hotel - let us know in the comments.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Noosa, located on Queensland’s sunshine coast, is a great destination for families, solo travellers, couples and everything in between. There is a bit of something for everyone - and great weather most year round to greet you.
On a recent visit we discovered the Noosa Heads Coastal Walk - one of the great coastal walks in Australia, up there with the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk in New South Wales. If you like getting outdoors and experiencing amazing scenery, this walk ticks those boxes.
Starting from Hastings Street, the main street of Noosa, the start of the walk is easily accessible. Grab your morning coffee from a Hastings street cafe and then meander north in the uphill direction and you will join the boardwalk path.
There are a number of walking tracks to take in this area that allow you to discover the National Park, we opted for the Coastal Track - but an inland track is also available for those that like to discover that sort of terrain.
The walk starts out as a beautiful wide boardwalk path making it accessible even for those with strollers or wheelchairs. Most of the path is accessible - up until Dolphin Point where we saw those with strollers turning around as it gets a bit narrow with rougher terrain.
The coastal walk is a great fitness track and many locals use it for their regular routine, however as tourists we took the opportunity to do a slow meander and enjoy all the scenery had to offer.
Rugged coastline, crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, this is a stunning part of Australia.
There is a look out called Dolphin Point - where I did not see any dolphins, but at another stop along the way I watched a pod of some 15 dolphins playing in the waves - it was amazing. If you have the time to enjoy the walk at leisure, be sure to take some regular stops to soak it all in. Whales are regularly sited in-season (August to November) and Koalas can be spotted in the trees.
We walked as far as Hells Gate, about a 3.7km walk from Hastings Street, there is an option to follow the heads around to Sunshine Beach and then grab a bus to return - we opted for the return walk from midway point.
Take a Swim
If you love the surf, there are plenty of opportunities to stop off for a swim or catch some waves at quiet secluded beaches. The crowds at Noosa Main Beach are overwhelming during peak seasons, the beaches along this walk offer a much more isolated experience. The sands are white, the water is clear and they offer welcome relief from the crowds. However look out for the stingers - Queensland beaches can be unforgiving when it comes to marine life that sting and the beaches in Noosa are no exception.
There are plenty of picnic spots along the way with welcome shade from the harsh Australian sun. There were very limited toilet or water spots along the trail so be sure to pack a backpack with the essentials - hat, sunscreen, water - and if you have the time pack a picnic and enjoy one of the many stops along the way to soak it all in this a great place to do it.
Have you ever taken this walk? Leave us a comment about your highlight of the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are wanting to up your anti on your Australia Day celebrations, a unique option is to take an Australia Day Cruise out of Sydney that will have you spending the iconic Aussie Day in Sydney Harbour amongst all the action.
Departing out of Sydney we experienced the P&O Australia Day three night cruise aboard the Pacific Explorer in 2019. A great option for international visitors and locals alike, here is a wrap up of the highlights you can expect.
Sydney Harbour Activities
Whilst the three night cruise is a “cruise to nowhere” - ie the cruise departs Sydney Harbour and does not dock again until disembarkation - the ship does drop anchor in Sydney Harbour for Australia Day. The Harbour is abuzz of activities and the cruise ship is right in the thick of it.
With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House within your camera lens shot, there is a festive atmosphere on the top pool deck with a fever of activities going on in the Harbour. In the sky RAAF fast jets, a Navy helicopter and a Qantas aircraft all do low fly overs. On the water the iconic Sydney ferries take part in a ferry race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and then back to the finish line of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a tall ships race, a tug and yacht ballet and a stirring 21-gun military salute. There is so much activity in the Harbour you could literally just pull up a sun lounge and sit and watch it all unfold in front of you for the day. Tall ships, luxury yachts, catamarans and ferries - if it floated it was on the Harbour proudly flying Australian flags and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Lamingtons, Pies and Prawns
Food is always an important element to any cruise and on an Australia Day celebration cruise there are certain items you would expect. Lamingtons and prawns featured in the pantry, or you could buy a bucket for $15, and if you were wanting a meat pie with sauce there was no shortage of them.
For those that love their pies a pie eating competition was on offer - the fastest to eat three pies washed down with a XXXX can of beer the winner!
Thong Tossing Competition
Thongs, Flip-Flops, whatever you want to call them! Australians love spending summer with a piece of rubber strapped to their feet - they are essential Australian footwear - Haviana hit the jackpot when they landed in Australia. What better way to waste away some time than throwing a thong at a target! The thong throwing competition was hotly contested - shortly followed by the beer can ring toss!
Aussie Rock Anthems
Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Darryl Braithwaite, John Farnham and Cold Chisel - all the classics you need played on Australia Day - they were all being belted out on the top deck. Groups of friends singing Horses, followed by Karaoke on the big screen on the pool deck, there was no shortage of opportunity to join in on a classic. It wasn’t the Triple J Hot 100 - but it was a great collection of Aussie anthems creating a buzzing atmosphere all day long.
Aussie Legend Dress Up Competition
Passengers were invited to don their best for a Look Like A Legend competition. From the Wiggles, Kath & Kim, Dame Edna and Steve Irwin there were some passengers that went all out for this one. With a $10,000 cash prize to be won there was some serious competitors in on this one and it created a great atmosphere onboard.
Aussie Movie Classics
For those that love their movies, a classic Aussie movie marathon ran throughout the day both indoors in the theatre and out on the pool deck. Classic Aussie films Muriels Wedding and The Castle featured.
The one question that everyone asks is - Did you see the fireworks? And the answer is no. The ship had to depart the Harbour around 4:30pm so we were not docked for the evening fireworks display. And whilst it may have been nice to have seen them - there was certainly enough activity in the Harbour during the daytime that made this a special cruise and one that we would do again for the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are visiting Port Villa, Vanuatu for an extended stay, or on a cruise port day visit, and are looking for something adventurous to try a fun activity is Zip Lining through the jungle! Popular with both locals and visitors, this is a great way to see the lesser visited areas of this destination.
We have only ever visited Port Villa on cruise ship port days and have tried a few of the excursions on offer, for our Christmas 2018 cruise visit we opted for flying through the jungle on a zip line.
From the cruise port we joined 10 seater vans for the 30 minute journey out to the location. Along the way there was plenty of opportunity to see a bit of the town and our driver provided commentary as we passed a local school, the prison and drove through the main street.
As the activity is up in the mountains we were transferred at the base of a very steep driveway into 4WD vehicles with a bit of grunt for the descent up. A narrow and windy road took us to the top - a drive I would not like to attempt in my city SUV.
Upon arrival we were strapped into harnesses, given gloves and hard hats and triple checked to make sure we were secure before heading into the jungle. As our guides pointed out - the equipment is faultless the only thing that can go wrong is human error. They were very thorough in checking the equipment, something I was very thankful for once I was in the air!
Before we took our first leap of faith we needed to climb a few flights of stairs of a man made platform to our first launching point - from then on in it was all zipping through the jungle from one tree to another like Tarzan! There were a couple of short lines to get us warmed up and used to the experience before we crossed a rope bridge to our first serious experience - and what an experience it was.
As we came out of the jungle we were zipping across a ravine with views of the beach to the right, beautiful cliff faces to the left - and a massive drop beneath our feet! (This is where I was thankful for the triple check of the equipment.)
The great thing about the experience is all the landing platforms are built into the jungle trees. You really do get a Tarzan like experience as you fly from one tree to another.
Generally people were propelled as single fliers, however on one of the longer lines our 12 and 9 year olds were clipped together to ensure there was enough weight to get them all the way across to the other side. An experience they enjoyed!
There were six lines in total and a couple of rope bridges hanging amongst the trees to walk across. Definitely not an experience for anyone afraid of heights - a great experience for travellers that like to do more in a city than just sit in a bus and see the sights.
At the end of the experience there was a bit of a walk through the jungle, including one steep climb of stairs, but there were some great views along the way to take away from the burn in the legs!
We booked our tour through the P&O excursion desk onboard. Tickets were priced at $129 per adult and $99 per child. We got lucky when we booked - they had kids fly free so it only cost us $258 for the family of four.
There are some great youtube clips showcasing the experience if you are after a visual of this fun activity take a look.
Verdict from our family - mum, dad, 12yo boy and 9yo girl - would definitely do it again!
Another great experience added to our travel memories.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family.
After having such a great time on the Pacific Dawn for Christmas in 2017, we decided to head back for more in 2018 this time celebrating Christmas onboard the Pacific Explorer with a 10 night South Pacific cruise which departed Sydney December 18, 2018 -stopping in Noumea, Port Vila, Lifou and Mystery Island.
There are so many great reasons to cruise at Christmas time and the extra effort that the crew put into the festive season really make it a great way to celebrate. Here are some of the festive additions we experienced on the Pacific Explorer this Christmas.
There must be someone out there with the sole job to interior design a ship for the Festivities - nearly everywhere you went there was some sort of Christmas decoration. From trees, gingerbread houses, Nutcrackers and more, the ship was decked to the halls with Christmas decorations.
And for the passengers in the Christmas spirit, many of the cabin doors were also decorated - it was fun walking past the cabins to see what people had come up with.
Letter to and from Santa
Just because you are on holidays, does not mean you can’t send a letter to Santa. At reception there were special letter to Santa printed sheets that the kids could write a short note and post in the Santa postbox.
On Christmas Eve, Santa wrote back with a personalised letter delivered to our cabin for the kids to read before going to bed. Our towel animal on Christmas Eve, placed on the bed was a reindeer complete with a red nose!
Gingerbread House Making
Whether you are crafty or not, making gingerbread houses at Christmas time is a fun family activity. On Christmas eve the youth team put together a Fun Family activities afternoon on the lido pool deck to get us all into the festive spirit - including all you needed to make a gingerbread house. There was plenty of icing, decorations and piping bags to create a masterpiece - unfortunately ours looked more like a tornado had gone through so we just had fun eating the decorations on gingerbread cookies!
The pool deck was a hive of activities with pin the heart on the grinch, water balloon games, a kids raffle and a raft of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy together.
Yes, who would have thought in the middle of the Pacific Ocean you would get snow - well we did. On Christmas Day the atrium became a magical place to be as snow rained down from deck 7 to deck 5 and the kids were covered in white whilst Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas played!
The Entertainment team did the countdown, the atrium was packed with children, parents and grandparents dressed in the Christmas Day outfits to experience a glimpse of a white Christmas. Little as it was - everyone enjoyed the experience.
Towel Decoration Display
The housekeeping staff can be very creative when it comes to towel art. For Christmas they put an amazing display of creations in front of the waterfront restaurant that we could walk past and admire - much like a store window display we walked along and admired the amazing creations.
From a towel Christmas tree, to a kangaroo with a joey in a pouch, there is a very creative crew working aboard this ship!
Visit from Santa
Christmas would not be complete without a visit from Santa and all 300 children on board from age 0-17 received a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. The Black Circus was transformed into a magical sea of green and red balloons and Santa made his way to the stage sitting for hours as every child filed through for a photo, a chat and to receive a gift. The youth and entertainment staff do an amazing job to make it feel festive all decked out in Christmas t-shirts and elf costumes.
If you like to sing carols at Christmas, there is plenty of opportunities to do so on a Christmas Cruise. There is a passenger choir that is formed with rehearsals leading up to the performance and the Officers take the opportunity to try out their pipes with a special carols performance in the atrium.
Not forgetting the origin of Christmas, a midnight mass was held as well as a non-denominational service on Christmas morning. If you are wanting to join in a congregational activity - you can do it at sea.
Food plays such an important role to our festivities and the Pacific Explorer delivered. A special menu was served across all restaurants for Christmas dinner. Regardless of whether we dined in Waterfront, Angelos or Dragon Lady, we were treated with a special menu that included ham, turkey, pudding and all the trimmings.
The tables were decorated with Christmas crackers and beautifully presented with the special menu. We were able to pop a bon bon, wear a paper hat, tell bad Christmas jokes and enjoy it with our roast dinner and gravy. And no-one had to bring a plate, prepare the ham or even clean afterwards. It was just like any Christmas dinner you would have at home.
The entertainment team go all out at Christmas - we had a special Christmas presentation on Christmas Eve and then on boxing day a performance of a Christmas pantomime. There was a pretty funny rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, (5 Toilet Rolls! for anyone that was on board) some great vocals singing Silent Night and of course renditions of All I Want For Christmas. If you like to be entertained in the main theatre you will not be disappointed by the Christmas performances on offer.
Home Alone, Elf, 42nd Street - all the Christmas classics were shown across our 10 day cruise. Some shown on the big screen on the pool deck, some in the Black Circus, others in our stateroom - but there was no shortage of opportunity to squeeze in a classic Christmas movie on our festive cruise.
There are many pros and cos to Christmas cruising, but we believe that the pros far outweigh the cons and after four Christmas cruises now on the Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden, Pacific Dawn and now the Pacific Explorer - we look forward to continuing the tradition.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you're looking for a family holiday that’s full of adventure, sunshine and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet (if we do say so ourselves!) then heading Down Under is the perfect option. That said, it’s a pretty enormous country, so for those of you who aren’t familiar, it can be hard to decide where to go. Here are our recommendations for the best places in Australia for a family holiday.
Sydney certainly doesn't disappoint. When we did our 24-hour Sydney adventure, we managed to get on national TV, explore the stunning botanical gardens, visit Macquarie’s Chair, stop off at the Opera House for some great photo ops, check out the Harbour Bridge and even catch a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Imagine what you could fit in if you were here for a week!
Brisbane is the perfect city for children, with so much to see and do. Take a ferry ride and head to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to fulfill a dream of snuggling with one of these furry little critters. The Streets Beach is man-made and as such has shallow water, ideal for your little ones.
For some free fun, the treehouse playground at New Farm Park is popular, or soak up some culture with the Queensland Art Gallery, or the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre – both of which cater to children.
If you’re looking for the perfect family driving holiday, jump in a campervan and head to Tasmania – small but perfectly formed. Check out the Freycinet National Park for some of the most stunning views you'll see, and explore Mt Wellington on your bikes. There are so many different museums for those rainy days, but otherwise, you will probably want to be out and enjoying the accessible wilderness.
Darwin and the Top End national parks
Nature loving families need to head to Darwin and explore the Top End National Parks for their holiday. Litchfield National Park has beautiful waterfalls, ideal for cooling down. Alternatively, head to Kakadu National Park to check out the amazing indigenous rock-art galleries, as well as spot some crocodiles and other crazy creatures. The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is ideal for a stroll after a busy day, or unwind as a family at the Deckchair Cinema.
If you’re a family of daredevils, the Gold Coast is a fantastic option, with five enormous theme parks! Head to the beach to try out surfing, jet skiing, and kayaking, but remember, if you’re going for some of the more extreme activities, you’re going to want to check that your insurance covers them – just in case! For example, base jumping is not something most insurance providers will cover. For a more relaxed afternoon, spend some time whale-watching or head to the Australia Zoo, where you will not be disappointed.
As you can see, there’s so much to offer families in Australia, and these are just five of the best – we could keep going on all day! Whether you want to soak up some culture, get your adrenaline pumping, or just relax, there’s somewhere for everyone.
So, what are you waiting for? Have you been to Australia before? Where would you recommend, or where would you most like to visit?
By Guest Blogger: Vixen Mixer
Food and holidays certainly go hand in and hand, following Itchy Feet Family’s review of Juan More Taco’s Walking Foodie Tour in San Jose I happened to be in Cabo San Lucas so decided to try Juan More Taco’s Cooking Class.
Each day the cooking class’s food agenda changes and whilst I was pretty flexible on what I cooked my inquiry to join the class the following day was promptly responded to by Issi with encouragement to do hold out for Thursday Paella Day. With the weather looking average for the next few days I locked in his suggestion and waited hungrily for Thursday to arrive!
The cooking tour is a small group activity with no more than 10 people. The tour starts by visiting a few local shops, including a tortilla factory where the majority of the town’s tortillas are produced. The group were able to sample the tortillas whilst they were still warm, crisped up and touched with salt. We knew the day was looking good after the first salty bite! We also visited a local grocer and fish supplier and Issi quickly moved through the stores making sure we had enough time to see a little part of daily life, but respecting that cooking was our main game and reason for joining him.
The actual class is conducted in Issi’s home with a converted area as a work kitchen (separate from the main area of the home). Around a long table the other seven tourists I’d just met became friends as we squeezed limes, seeded chillies, chopped seafood and vegetables and listened to Issi share his tips on preparation and Mexican cooking.
This tour is just as much for kids as it is adults. On our tour we had a father and daughter enjoying the day and Issi confirmed that many children come along, mostly over the age of 10 years old.
The class is as ‘hands on’ as you wish. We were all keen participants and I was particularly pleased when the first item we made and shared was a Margherita – certainly I can make that! My view on tequila quickly changed as Issi introduced the higher grade of tequila and shared his prepared recipe. Of course you can enjoy the virgin version as well, for the children and non-drinker just as much fuss is made to make special drinks sans alcohol in keeping with the family friendly activity.
Moving into appetisers we chopped and diced and the plain tortilla chips were transformed into taste sensations as we enjoyed a range of salsas. There were lots of variations on what you find in traditional eateries which highlighted the delight of home-made food. We had to forcibly stop snacking so that we could enjoy the paella in the next phase of our class!
Over the stove we stirred, fried and watched our paella come to life, with lots of wonderful spice tips. Whilst some of us stirred, others pressed dough into small tortillas and flipped them on a hot grill.
When the main meal was served a quiet calm came over the room whilst we all savoured every bite and nodded a lot, motioned to each other to ‘try a bit of this’ and generally just enjoyed food in the way we genuinely should. After lunch we were chatting so much dessert was nearly forgotten, but Issi quickly rectified this and his generous assistant whipped up a delicious finish to our incredible meal.
In such a wonderful atmosphere the group shared stories of home, travel, love and more. At the end of our several hours together we left not only full of amazing food but also with some new friends from around the globe and memories that are deeper than just a good feed.
The warmth of Issi’s home makes this experience something more than just a tour and as the food changes daily you could easily do more than one day – if you’re not committed to weighing in on your return home!
Until the next adventure…..The Vixen Mixer
If you have no idea how to play golf, more swing and miss than hitting targets - here are 7 reasons to visit Top Golf Gold Coast and why it is for you. If you are a pro at all things golf and enjoy a challenge - Top Golf Gold Coast is for you. And If you are a kid that has never even picked up a golf club before - Top Golf Gold Coast is also for you!
Top Golf Gold Coast is a triple level state of the art golf driving range, the first in Australia, and here are seven reasons why you might like to give it a try.
1. All Automatic
There is no guessing the scores here - the balls are microchipped and the computer system knows exactly where you are landing. Your name comes up on the screen, you swipe your club for a ball to appear and away you go. The chip tracks how far the ball goes, whether it has hit a target or not and provides you with a score. No-one needs to sharpen their pencil or guesstimate how far the ball has travelled. Mind you for those golfers that like to exaggerate how far they can drive a ball you are in for a reality check here!
2. Variety of Games
There are a variety of games available that are programmed into the system. Whether you want to just swing and track, or if you want to be challenged to hitting certain targets, there is something for all levels of experience - and plenty of choices to make you want to come back. There are both men and women’s clubs in each bay (kids clubs are available from reception upon arrival) or you can bring your own. And both left and right handed tees are in each bay.
3. All Ages
Top Golf is an activity for all ages. We visited for a corporate function with adults and then returned as a family. Our Miss 8 barely knew what end of the club to hold, but she managed to hit a few of the targets and not once threw her club over the edge!
4. Great Atmosphere
We visited on a Thursday night for a corporate function and walked into a funky, vibrant, atmosphere for 80s night! There was a DJ on the decks of the roof top bar and there were some great tunes being blasted through the speakers. There was a really good vibe at the venue and, as well as our corporate function of 50 people, the bays were filled with groups of mates of varying ages and genders. There is a bar/eatery on the ground level as you enter the venue and then another on the rooftop level.
Our second visit was on a week day before lunch and although not as vibrant as the Thursday evening, there was still a good vibe about the place.
5. Comfortable Bays
Each bay can cater for up to six people. The bay consists of a six seater lounge area, or high tables, that offer table service for food and drinks. They have self controlled televisions with a range of sporting channels to choose from and self controlled heating, ceiling fan or mist sprayer.
6. Table Service
Everyone loves table service - especially when you are paying for your bay by the hour! The fully licensed venue serves up brunch for the early arrivals and share plates and cocktails for the late night crowd. The attendants were friendly and service was prompt for our pre-lunch time visit.
7. Bays by the Hour
The Top Golf structure is you get to hit as many balls as you possibly can in your allocated time slot - you pay for your bay by the hour. Prices vary depending on when you visit but start at $55 per hour for a midweek day time bay.
When you arrive at your bay you are set up for an hour (unless you ask for more) and when 15 minutes remains you will be prompted to see if you want to extend.
Top Golf Gold Coast is located right next door to MovieWorld on the Gold Coast - a great after theme park day out activity!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
We love a sunny resort holiday and Mexico has always delivered. We have travelled to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and also visited the Costa Maya as part of a cruise out of Florida. Just a few hours flight from the US, Mexico offers plenty of options for a resort holiday to relax and enjoy some local culture - or simply hang out in a full service hotel relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.
This trip we visited the Cabo area with a stay at the Royal Solaris in San Jose Cabo.
The Royal Solaris is actually a time share, so although we simply booked through a normal hotel booking website, we were still exposed to the timeshare sell. Upon arrival at the hotel we received an individual “Concierge” to explain the hotel features to us. However after declining quite sternly for the third time to attend the VIP breakfast, (to find out about the amazing opportunities for time share at the hotel) our Concierge had very little further information to give us! Not a great start to the stay - but thankfully it did not really dampen the experience and we were not bothered about timeshare any further.
The Royal Solaris is an all inclusive resort. This means that all our meals, drinks (including alcohol) and entertainment were included. If you have ever cruised, a resort like this is a very similar experience. Once you arrive there really is no reason to have to spend any money - except for tips if you are wanting to do so.
The hotel had a number of eatery options a pizzeria, snack bar serving hot dogs, burgers and nachos, a sushi station (which was amazing), a buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a couple of specialty a la carte restaurants one of which served Churrasco Argentinian (char grilled meats served to the table on swords and carved at your table). Add to that 24 hour room service (with a delivery fee) and a stocked fridge of soda, water and beers in your room - there was no reason to go hungry or thirsty.
Add to this all the bars around the hotel that were also included. Cocktails from the pool bar, tequila shots by the beach, wine with your dinner in the restaurant, late night night-caps in the lobby bar - all included. And the free pour serves of spirits put hair on your chest!
Then there was all the entertainment included. There was a kids club where kids could be signed in from 9am - 5pm (our kids chose not to use this but it was still an option and looked like it had a great range of activities), poolside entertainment that ranged from darts competitions, black jack, movie trivia, aqua aerobics, ping pong tournaments and more - there was never a dull moment poolside.
And in the evenings there was a large theatre with entertainment that for us included a Michael Jackson tribute show and a traditional Mexican dancing show. And if that wasn’t enough the entertainment crew also kept patrons busy in the evening at the lobby bar with activities such as karaoke and various game show type entertainment.
On our first night we joined in on the Karaoke at the lobby bar and discovered one of the entertainment staff, a dancer named Holly, was in fact from Adelaide, Australia (our home town). She had only arrived at the hotel in the last week, there was also one other dancer on staff who had been at the resort for 12 months, also from Adelaide.
The girls were comforted by having someone from home at the hotel, they told us in 12 months they had only come across four other Australian visitors at the resort. And they always seemed to be from South Australia! If you visit, be sure to say hello to the girls - maybe take them some Vegemite.
The resort is located on the beach, we stayed just before Hurricane Bud was heading for town so the beach was rough and not swimmable. However we still enjoyed walks on the sand, listening to the sounds of the sea and getting hair braids from the beach vendors.
From the street in front of the hotel a local bus could be caught for the cost of $1USD to take you to downtown San Jose which was filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries. Just beware the local buses stop at about 8pm so if you are going for dinner you may need to get a taxi back. We visited downtown on a Sunday night and got caught out with no buses or taxis around, luckily the restaurant owner gave us a ride in the back tray of his single cab truck - when in Mexico!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.