Palm Bay Resort

Just as I sat down to write this post I jumped up for a quick drink – a cup of tea perhaps or maybe a nice cold glass of wine – it’s almost 5pm after all… I stood up, stretched and looked out the front of our little bungalow and there I saw it. Just like in London if you were to peer out your window and see a cat crawling a long, or let’s face it – a fox, there’s a little wallaby standing on my doorstep.

I’m staying for two nights at the Palm Bay resort, settled on Long Island in the Whitsundays, off the East of Australia. In our planning for a three week trip, this last stop before we head to Melbourne was the first accommodation we booked almost over a year ago.

The listing on booking.com seemed too good to be true – Under £200 for two nights in our own bungalow on the beach of a private island… so where’s the catch?

Well, it seemed there weren’t any. I’ll explain further on as to how there were a few things in our trip that could’ve been made smoother with a bit of a heads up from the island. But if you’re after true tranquillity and solitude then Palm Bay island can offer all that. However, if you’re after luxury and opulence then maybe nearby Hamilton Island might be more your bag, but otherwise… read on..

The island is by no means budget, but it is quiet, and if you’re after some time by yourself or with your partner then it certainly delivers. The self-catering island is made up of several beach-front cabins. These range from little one-bed huts with a small terrace and hammock, to large cabins with fuller terraces. The ocean at the front does swell quite a bit in the mornings, so from some cabins it seemed like you could walk out straight into the sea. 

Apart from a small power cut on the second morning – easily rescued by boiling water for cups of tea on a gas hob, and washing ourselves with a quick dip in the swimming pool, it’s been a stay without a hitch.

One thing I’d comment about the resort is the preparation for your stay here is really to your own prerogative. Doing some research in the lead up to our stay – mainly by looking at other reviews on TripAdvisor – I gleaned that it was a self-catering resort with options to eat and drink at the local restaurant, but there were communal kitchens and a very small shop on site where you could buy groceries to cook (albeit it at a marked up price).

The island is a fully-licensed island so you’re technically not allowed to bring your own booze, although this was something we didn’t realise either so we rocked up with bottles of wine with us. They kindly turned a blind eye to this and we were able to still enjoy a glass of wine at the front of the hut in the evening – that was before we discovered that’s when the mosquitoes like to come out….

If you book a stay here and plan to arrive from the (arguably closer) airport on Hamilton Island, it will cost you an extra £30 pp to get onto a boat to jet over to the island. It should really be mentioned prior to booking, but you can’t complain especially when for us it was just us two on a boat for 12 people, with a really friendly captain.

When you book to stay at the island it comes with a range of activities you can enjoy for free, including kayaking, tennis, snorkelling and use of the facilities swimming pool. I had to put free into italics as of course everything that’s ‘free’ comes with added extras. To swim in Queensland in ‘stinger season’ you are highly advised to wear a stinger suit, which is something we decided to go for after googling what critters were out there waiting for us…

There was a hire cost for these suits, in addition to extras such as a glass bottom kayak etc. But it still didn’t push the boat of being too expensive overall.

For food, I mentioned earlier in the post that this is a self-catering island if you want it to be, but there is also a restaurant and bar on the island that we used on our first night. It was a reasonable meal for two, consisting of a starter, a pizza to share and a bottle of wine, but if you’re at the island for a week you might run out of eating options.

We chose to cook for ourselves on the second night using the communal kitchens located next to the pool, and cooked up some local barramundi which was a treat. The shop located on the island certainly isn’t cheap, but between the two of us for a meal of fish and veg it still worked out cheaper than a meal at the restaurant.

We still took advantage of the daily Happy Hour by the pool though, and I can heartily recommend the cocktails. A tequila sunrise has never tasted so good!

Another advantage of the island resort is that everything you purchase is added to your room tab which is settled on departure. That includes everything from your orders at the bars and restaurant, the stinger suit hire and whatever you pick up from the mini mart. It’s all picked up at the end so there’s no need to worry about travelling around the island with cash/cards on you.

If you find yourself in Queensland and looking for an option of places to stay I would definitely recommend Palm Bay resort. It may be on the more basic side, but that doesn’t take away the uniqueness of the experience you have there. There’s nothing nicer than swinging on a hammock, laying back and listening to the wallabies hopping through the bushes nearby…

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Australia posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

 

Where To Eat In Chicago

It’s safe to say that no holiday has ever left me feeling so full and satisfied. The food options around Chicago outnumber any possible opportunity to eat, and looking back at our trip we only scratched the surface of what was there.

During our visit we enjoyed several meals at the 5 venues below, and I would definitely recommend a visit to any of the below if you’re visiting the city. Take a read if you’re looking for some Chicago inspiration, or just an excuse to look at some nice food!

Pizzaria uno/Due

As Chicago is the home of the deep dish pizza it would’ve been sacrilege not to try one for the first time. Both Pizzaria Uno and Due we’re close to our hotel, as they’re practically on the same street. Each night we would spot a queue out the door which tempted us to pay a visit, and we certainly didn’t regret it.

Whereas they don’t take bookings here, they do make use of a great waiting system whereby you leave your number and therefore can leave and come back when your table is ready they pop you a text.

In addition, when you turn up to take your place in line you have to order there and then. We chose a small deep dish pizza and believe me when I say that’s more than enough for two.

When we were seated we were offered ‘cheese sticks’ which we accepted under the impression they’d be a little appetiser, and well, Tesco cheese twists they are not. A large basket of deep fried mozzarella sticks were served up, and they were certainly more than enough for two.

If you’re in the market for some deep dish pizza during your stay in Chicago (and why wouldn’t you?) then definitely give either of these spots a try!

Aster Hall

One of the huge advantages of Aster Hall is that its great for a meal when you’re travelling with someone else and can’t decide on one place you both want. As a long time fan of some deep fried chicken when my partner isn’t, this was a great shout for me to indulge whilst he could have something else.

To give some context, Aster Hall is a self-described ‘culinary oasis’, which means a food court but in a luxurious setting. Marble floors and tables surround several food outlets ranging from ramen to seafood to fried chicken.

Ordered via electronic tablets – and drinks are ordered self-serve – no alcohol options as far as I could tell. Your order is placed with the food outlet and you grab your meal when your order is called.

The fried chicken I had from The Ratisserie was delicious, and I was a huge fan of the waffle fries – not something I’ve tried before. Believe it or not I even indulged in the celery too, because balance…

If I haven’t sold you already they have unlimited condiments at Aster Hall, especially Garlic Mayo. Which should sell it enough for you.

Cochon Vilant

Cochon Vilant came recommended from a local Chicagoan and it was probably one of the fanciest places we ate at during our stay, but still reasonably priced. This French-style cuisine restaurant proved a perfect spot to indulge and enjoy some nice food for my birthday. We both chose Moules Frites with a side of Parmesan dusted charred broccoli.

I’ve never had moules frites were the mussels are served in the same dish as the chips but it certainly cut out the middle man of having to dip your chips in the sauce. It was also drizzled in garlic mayo and if this post – neigh this blog – hasn’t persuaded you otherwise, I am a huge fan of garlic mayo.

Yolk

So good we visited twice. Yolk came recommended from a friend and we enjoyed it so much we returned for our last meal.

I have to admit, visiting America I always to indulge a bit in how large a brunch portion they will provide, and Yolk hit the spot. The menu is unbelievably large and there were plenty of options for brunch or dinner, and despite the name they really didn’t all include eggs.

Both times we visited we were met with great service and a reasonable bill at the end, which considering how much food we ate meant we were pretty chuffed with ourselves.

Labriola Chicago

Our first experience with deep dish pizza proved so large (and we ordered the smallest size) that we ate this for lunch and still didn’t have any room at dinner time.

The service was brilliant – I always appreciate when a waiter is honest about the portions and doesn’t force a large size on you. We were recommended the smallest size for a first experience of deep dish pizza and we still couldn’t finish it between two.

The restaurant had a nice vibe to it and wasn’t too busy. It also boasted a pretty good happy hour deal we didn’t have the chance to take advantage of, but I’d advise trying to visit between 4-7pm if you fancy a bargain.

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Phew, even reading all that back is giving me the meat sweats. I’m lucky enough that I’ll be returning to America later this year, so I can indulge in some more American larger-than-life meals.

If you’re heading to Chicago city anytime soon I hope you find this post helpful. I would 100% recommend any of the five spots above to visit for a meal, as I enjoyed them all immensely – some so good I visited twice.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

10 Ways to Experience Chicago

To my shame I went into Chicago with low expectations, and I’m incredibly happy to report it went above and beyond anything I could’ve expected. My main worry being that there wouldn’t be enough to do, but boy was I wrong. As this post will detail, there is plenty to do in the Windy city.

If you’re planning a trip to Chicago anytime soon, or hadn’t thought of it at all before, please take a look at the below! There’s so much to do on the trip, and we still left wanting to spend more time there – which is a great sign of a good holiday if you ask me.

Millennium park

One of the most iconic images of Chicago has to be of ‘The Bean’. It really was great to see it in person, nothing a picture can quite convey!

The best way to explore Millennium Park is just to walk around and enjoy, preferably with a coffee in hand! In the Spring there are free open air concerts at the park too, so if you’re visiting then it’s a great opportunity to enjoy an evening for free.

Try the Deep Dish Pizza

I mean, can you go to Chicago and not try a deep dish pizza? It’s a serious treat, and I love how the waiters we encountered were very honest with the portion sizes, advising us to stick with small – rather than overselling to us. We could only manage a small pizza to share between two, because they’re just so deep and delicious they’re incredibly filling.

Whilst there we ate at both Pizzaria Uno and Labriola to try their signature pizza pies, and we were not disappointed. And a heads up if you go to Uno, the ‘cheese sticks’ are more than just an appetiser…

Lake front trail

Walk, run, cycle or even roller blade it, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city’s Lake Front Trail. It’s a 18 mile stretch of pavement that spans along the side of the city and Lincoln Park, which provides incredible views of the city and the Lake.

We started at the park and made our way down, past the Navy Pier and finishing at the Planetarium. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re lucky enough to have good weather!

The Signature Room

I feel like this should be my catchphrase at this point, but I’m a big believer in finding a rooftop bar that’ll get you a better view than a pay-for viewing platform. Luckily Chicago has just that!

On the 95th floor of the John Hancock Skyscraper you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat at the Signature Lounge. Granted, you may have to queue and make sure to specify if you’re willing to wait for a window-side table. We did – and we only waited for approx 10 mins – and our view was incredible!

On the day we went there was an apocalyptic-looking haze over the city, but it just made the view more spectacular. As with all rooftop bars I’d definitely recommend trying to visit in both the day – when it should be quieter – and at night, because the different views you can get for the different time of day are so worth it.

Wicker park
If you’re in the mood for some vintage shopping or brunch then head over to the Wicker Park earlier. Granted when I was there I wasn’t in the mood to shop, but the vast amounts of vintage and concept stores on offer were a lot. I can’t vouch for them myself but the vintage stores I was recommend were Moon Voyage and P.45.
If you’re not up for a shop like I was then there are plenty of spots for a drink or something to eat, even just so you can sit back and people watch, which is always a great – and cheap – way to experience a new city.

 

Architecture tour/river walk

Chicago is the home of the skyscraper after all, and what better way to take a look than from the river?

The architecture tour was recommended to us a lot in the lead up to our trip and I can definitely join in the party and say it’s worth it. We chose the Shoreline Sightseeing Tour mainly because it was the cheapest on offer, but also the highest rated on TripAdvisor.

If an hour architecture lesson really isn’t your bag then you can still enjoy the river along the River Walk which is dotted with bars, cafes and spots to sit and enjoy the view.

Improv

My time at The iO Theater in Chicago was shamefully my first time at Improv comedy and I can now say I’m a huge fan.

We saw ‘Whirled News Tonight’ which lasted almost 2 hours – a pretty good bargain at $16 a ticket! As with most shows in Chicago they offer table service for food and drink so we never went without.

If you’re in Chicago for the evening then definitely make Improv high on your list to enjoy. Both the iO theatre and Second City offer shows throughout the week and provide a great night of entertainment.

Live jazz

Chicago is known for it’s tradition of live music, and there are countless jazz and blues spots around the city to enjoy. When we were in town we actually saw some live Blues at Blue Chicago and it was an absolute treat.

There’s really nothing as enjoyable as live music, and in such a small and intimate setting it was a great way to enjoy the evening with a few drinks.

Visit the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Stadium

Granted, we didn’t get the chance to do this during our visit as the season hadn’t started yet. However in absence of any baseball to watch (apart from on TV, because trust me, it’s always on TV) visit the Sluggers bar opposite the stadium and have a go yourself!

The sports bar has daily discount deals, a proper, bargain sports bar style menu and the added bonus – batting cages upstairs. We visited on a rainy day and we had such a good time. For $2 for 10 tokens – which provide 10 batting goes each – we started off in the ‘slow’ cage before my graduating to the ‘medium’ – but even a slow ball was hard to hit for me!

I would definitely recommend Sluggers for a an afternoon playing baseball, but if you’re visiting in Summer and the option to see the Cubs play is there I would also definitely give that a go! The atmosphere would be incredible.

Navy Pier

Yes, it may be a tourist spot but if you’re a tourist then why not! It doesn’t take too long to do a lap of the pier, but if you’ve got good weather like we had then there’s no harm in sitting in the sun to watch the tourists walk past and look out at Lake Michigan.

We chose to stop by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – seriously don’t judge me – as they offered strong, cheap and large margaritas to take away which meant we could sample several out in the good weather.

And there we have it! A round up of what to do in Chicago as what I’ve only experience – because there’s plenty more to enjoy.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

Byron Bay

What can I tell you about Byron Bay? It’s exactly how it looks since last time I came here two years ago, but I’m lucky that this time we’ve had more time to stay here and explore further.

As I write this – on our sheltered balcony with an Australian coffee next to me – I’m watching the rain absolutely bucket it down outside. Considering we’ve been travelling around Australia for two weeks and this is our first encounter of rain, we’re feeling pretty lucky so far.

I’ve just written out everything I’ve been thinking about our stay, so this is more of a rambly, diary style post. I hope it makes some sense, so let’s get going…

On our first day here we attempted the Byron lighthouse walk – highly recommend from everyone when we told them we were visiting. And it was a really gorgeous walk on the way up – albeit it really hot. Perhaps if you’re here and fancy doing it yourself it would be best to try it at sunrise or sunset!

Whereas the walk up to the lighthouse was along the coast, giving us plenty of stops to take in the view and watch the kite surfers – the walk down was through a woods filled with critters – and possibly the largest spider I’ve ever seen… If you give the walk a go yourself just be wary that half of it is through a woods and some steep steps!

If you do the coastal route alone it’s really scenic and definitely worth it. there’s also plenty of stops along the way for a drink or something to eat if you fancy doing it in the evening.

Our second day in Byron involved a private surfing lesson for us two. I’m so glad we chose for a private lesson as opposed to joining the group option. I know it might seem a bit bouji to do this, but it only cost an extra $15 each and it was definitely worth it to have the extra attention from our surf teacher.

And it was brilliant, but guaranteed I was exhausted! I kept getting caught in the current on the way out as I couldn’t keep up with the boys, but luckily the instructor was very kind and kept helping me to get out there. He would lead me up to the good waves and shout instructions at me – I got up on the board a few times, but my arms were shaky and I couldn’t get there. Regardless, the thrill of gliding along on a wave – even on all fours – was exhilarating. And made me think perhaps body boarding might be more my thing…

After our surf lesson we were both exhausted – it lasted just over two hours but went by in a flash. We headed off to The Treehouse on Belongil further along the beach, which was a great spot for lunch.

We then drove up to Minyon Falls, which considering it had been dry (up until now) meant there was no waterfall to see, but the journey up there and the view from the platform was incredible.

Whilst hit with a spot of rain the next day we paid a visit to the Byron Bay Brewery, which was a great way to spend a few hours hiding away from the rain. My fiance chose a flight of several beers to enjoy whilst I sipped on a glass of prosecco. The brewery is also handily attached to a small cinema showing the latest releases, so if you’re in Byron and the weather is truly awful, there’s always that as an option!

We’ve been spending each evening having BBQs at our accommodation, but when we have eaten out we chose the same place twice…. bear with me here! Byron Fresh Cafe had exactly the same effect on me last time – as I ate here twice back then too.

What can I say, it’s perfect for brunch and dinner, or even just drinks. The location, the interiors, the pricing and the food are just a myriad of reasons why you need to make this place a must if you’re visiting Byron Bay!  It’s so nice in there, from the bakery, the assorted flowers outside or just the fact they had plenty of fans blowing cold water at us.

I think before I finish up this rambly post I need to mention the accommodation we had for our stay as I thought it was a pretty good bargain for Byron. #BargainforByron is a pretty good hashtag if you ask me…

The U8 Apartments were a really good find via Booking.com, in that they had a self contained studio, communal BBQs and a pool that could we used. The room had its own sheltered patio area and wasn’t too far from the centre of the town. It also had free, underground parking which was a huge bonus for an area quite sparse for parking spots!

For the amount we paid – which I listed here in a special Australia accommodation post – we had a really good deal. The other options for Byron Bay we’re either hostels or luxury accommodation, and there didn’t seem to be a lot in between. But with these apartments we found a nice middle point for not too much money, and we both enjoyed our time there!

I love looking back at our time in Byron Bay, I hope this rambly diary-style post makes some sort of sense, and has been of any help to anyone planning a trip there anytime soon.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Australia posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

 

 

 

The Bondi to Coogee Walk (and back again)

The infamous Bondi to Coogee walk had been recommended to me countless times before I’d even set off on my trip to stay at Bondi beach, so I’m glad to say it’s something I’ve finally ticked off the bucket list.

I can also finally attest for how good it is, and would definitely recommend completing the walk, whether just a part of it or the whole hog. If you find yourself in Bondi with a few days spare (lucky you) then definitely give the walk a go, as the beauty is you can pick and choose however long you spend at each stop along the way!

Below is how we chose to do the walk!

Starting in Bondi we chose to walk over to Coogee beach first thing in the morning, stopping off for brunch first of course – #priorities. Speedos cafe is a particular treat of an eating spot as it’s just up the hill so you get a panning view of the beach from the window.

The menu options are also spectacular – I went there two years ago and it was top of my list to return to. The vibe leans towards the #healthyeating side, but the menu gives plenty of options, healthy or otherwise.

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The first thing to know about the walk is you can choose to do it in a myriad of ways. You can either power through straight on to Coogee, or pick and choose which beaches to stop at on the way – even all of them if you fancy. The main stops according to the walk website, are Bondi – Tamarama – Bronte – Clovelly – Coogee.

We chose to beach hop on our way to Coogee and it was a gorgeous way to spend the day. I’ve written about the Bondi Icebergs before, and so can enthuse even more about the swimming pools dotted along each beach if you fancy a dip!

If you don’t you can just lay back on the sand and watch the surfers trying to catch the waves. There’s roughly around one cafe stop at each beach so if you fancy a coffee, ice cream or an alcoholic bev you can stop and enjoy the sun and the views.

Bronte Beach

The first beach on the walk, Bronte beach is certainly a smaller option than Bondi which means you won’t be battling the big crowds. About 25 minutes into the walk it’s really not too far, and we chose to stop at the beach for a swim. It’s a great spot to also watch the surfers trying to catch the waves, while still providing enough space to enjoy a swim – there’s also a swimming pool by the ocean for us scaredy cats who don’t want to get into the ocean!

Clovelly Beach

Next up on the walk – about 40 minutes later – you find yourself at Clovelly beach, which is a tiny stretch of sand with a swimming pool as well. There’s a lot of concrete here and not as much sand – so  warning if sandy beaches are more your thing!

We stopped for a coffee at Seasalt which was at the side of the bay, to sit in the shade. Whereas we only had a drink we were watching our fellow patrons tucking in to some really good looking food, so if you fancy a spot to eat this could be a good option!

Gordons Bay

Just round the corner from Clovelly is a little bay, which is certainly a quieter stop to sit back and sunbathe. There is a little patch of sand, and lots of boats docked up on the beach, but a lot of sunbathers had  spread themselves out on the nearby rocks around the bay. If we’d have had more time it would’ve been a great spot to sit back and enjoy the view – or if there’s any Airbnbs nearby I would definitely try and snap one up – what a spot!

Coogee Beach

And then onto the finale! Not too much further from Gordons Bay (although it is up a  hill…) you arrive at Coogee – approx 2 hours from the original start point. On our trip we finished off the walk with a sunbathe before sharing a pizza at Coogee Pavilion 

This was another spot I’d recommend along the walk as it seemed to be a great spot for all types of food – and some really good rose. Whatever you’re after – food, ice cream, a sit down meals, they seemed to have it all.

Once you’ve done the walk – and regardless of where you’ve stopped off along the way – you can choose to either grab the bus back, grab a lime bike, or even walk it back! We chose to walk it back as we had plenty of time to do so, and we wanted to have another dip in the sea before the sun set.

I would definitely recommend doing that as watching the sun set over Bondi Beach was a really lovely sight. We finished off all our hard walking with fish and chips by the sea.

I love looking back at the pictures from our walk along the Bondi-Coogee walk, it was a day we both remember so well from our Australia trip. Bondi in general is such a lovely place to be, and if I were back for longer I’d take the time to visit each of these beaches for more time!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Australia posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x