20.5.15

Tasty Travels: Montebello, Quebec

Chateau Montebello lobby fireplace

The idea of having a "10 + 1" celebration was created when my husband and I were on a cruise in Australia last year for our honeymoon. On the first night of the cruise we introduced ourselves to another couple and said we were on our honeymoon. The couple said they were celebrating their "10+1:" 10 years together plus 1 year of marriage. We realized that the following year we would celebrate our own 10+1. That year we celebrated 9 years together and one month of marriage by looking up at the stars of the Whitsunday Islands on a tall ship cruise. How do you top that? As well as the wedding itself, it was hard to think of something special to do that was equally as good. Since moving to Ottawa, I have obviously explored Ottawa and a bit of Montreal and discovered there is a piece of Canadiana luxury right in between. So to mark our anniversary, we seriously splurged on a weekend getaway to the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Montebello. 


Located on the Ottawa River between Ottawa and Montreal, the spectacular resort was built in 1930. We were greeted by a bell hop who gave us some insight into the history of the place as he helped take our bags to our room. The three main buildings were built in the span of 4 months with about 3500 construction workers who used 10,000 red cedar logs to build everything. The hotel is built on the grounds of what used to be a 17th century Seigniorial estate. In the 1800s, the Papineau family of Quebec purchased the land. The resort as it is known now was opened to the public in the 1970s and now attracts visitors from all over the world. 

Chateau Montebello lobby

The focus of the lobby is the spectacular hexagonal rotunda shaped fireplace. All of the 200 guest rooms in the hotel fan out from the middle of the lobby into four wings. The main dining room and banquet rooms are also off of the lobby. This means the lobby is an ideal spot for an afternoon break, pre-dinner cocktails or a late night cocktail. To appreciate the craftsmanship and sheer size of the lobby, it is something you have to see in person. The reviews I read beforehand said the rooms were on the smaller size, so it is best to hang out in the lobby instead of the rooms to appreciate the experience. 

Chateau Montebello deluxe king river view room

Originally, we booked a regular room with a Queen bed. Earlier in the week I tweeted that I was staying there for our anniversary and I guess they got the hint because they upgraded us free of charge to the deluxe room with a King bed and river view. Don't say tweeting never gets you anywhere! The room was spacious with a couch and seating area, television, coffee maker and kettle. We were also greeted by the lovely tray of desserts shown in the above photo. They didn't have to do that at all--and during the busy May long weekend too--so I appreciated it very much that they went the extra mile to make our stay memorable. I can't say enough about how wonderful and attentive the staff were at reception, in the dining rooms and on the grounds. There are many people buzzing around all of the time making sure everything is taken care of and comfortable for each guest. The resort mascot Monty, an old Golden Retriever dog, even has his own log cabin dog house in the lobby to take naps in between greeting guests. 

Chateau Montebello deluxe room

Chateau Montebello deluxe king room

We arrived Friday night around 6pm and had dinner at the Seigneurie Bar in the basement. The bar is one of the resort restaurants and serves standard fare like fish and chips, burgers and sandwiches. I had a Caesar salad with chicken and Mike had duck confit gnocchi. Since we were staying in May, it was a little early for a BBQ dinner on the terrace. The staff said it usually opens in June. The terrace seating was set up outside, but sadly no BBQ yet. We will have to go back for a terrace meal later in the summer. After dinner, we took a quick walk around and sat by the river on the Muskoka chairs and then went back to the room and both fell asleep while reading books. That fresh country air will do that to you.


Even the smallest details show the rustic charm of the place down to the paintings, decorations and lamps, like this epic bear lamp in our room. If you are expecting a modern, boutique hotel with brand new finishings then this won't be the place for you. Although all of the amenities are quite modern and clean, the beauty is in the coziness and sense of history. When I say history, I don't even mean like a giant, haunted old hotel either. It by no means has the vibe of an abandoned lodge. It felt like I was an exclusive guest at someone's grand home. 


Although room service is available at all hours of the day, we chose to bring some things to make our own breakfast in the room. Mike picked up some pastries from Art Is In Bakery in Ottawa the day before. We had coffee and pastries, such as almond croissants, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls and chocolate croissants--way too much for two people. On Sunday morning, we even had some Mimosas with breakfast. I brought the bottle of champagne that was left in our room for us on our wedding night by the Elmhurst Inn; it was a bottle of Lakeview Cellars 2008 GMR sparkling. 

Pastries from Art Is In Bakery Ottawa

Saturday was a full day at the resort to explore, relax and try some activities. The hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool, spa, 18-hole golf course and 26 km of trails. Silly me was actually worried there wouldn't be enough things to do since it wasn't peak summer time. Instead of paying for each activity individually, there is a $23 per night resort fee for each room. Although that is an extra charge, it does mean you can take advantage of most of the activities for free. There were kids in every corner of the resort trying some sort of activity and a lot of things for adults to do as well as the obvious relaxing that needs to get done. This was the first weekend of the year they had canoes, kayaks and boats out on the water. 

Le Chateau Montebello

We took a stroll through the forest trails to the village to see what Montebello was like. The focus of the town most obviously seems to be the resort, however the village has a few small bistros, pubs and shops. For souvenir buying, there is a local cheese shop and chocolate store. I always like walking around seeing a place instead of staying cooped up in a hotel room. Another exciting activity close by is Parc Omega, which I like to call "Quebec's version of African Lion Safari" with drive up paths to see wild animals.   



Instead of worrying there wouldn't be enough to do, we actually found it difficult to do everything. We had a swim in the indoor pool along with half of the hotel who all had the same idea. The indoor pool is more than big enough for everyone with two hot tubs and two saunas, as well as a spa. I would love to go back in winter and try out some of the winter activities and then warm up by the fireplace with a hot cocoa. 

Le Chateau Montebello

On a side note, I thought it was funny there were so many trilliums blooming around since the trillium is Ontario's flower and not Quebec's. Does that mean it is technically not illegal to pick trilliums in Quebec? Not that I would, of course. 

trilliums

There was a wedding going on that day, so we snuck a peek at the preparations. I could hear the wedding celebrations later that night in one of the banquet rooms, but the sound didn't carry to the rooms even though some of the rooms are right off of the lobby. The Chateau Montebello would be a gorgeous spot for a large or intimate wedding. And how symbolic yet again that it was exactly a year since our wedding day. 

wedding at Chateau Montebello

After walking and swimming, we both got ready for dinner with a pre-dinner glass of champagne. I put on a fancy dress and we headed down for dinner to the main restaurant Aux Chantignoles with food by Executive Chef Jean-Francois Fortin. Perhaps my only slight criticism would be the price of the restaurants. I know the Fairmont has a reputation for luxury. Having lunch and two dinners at the resort ended up costing almost as much as one night's stay. I found the prices a little on the expensive side. Mike was taken a back at lunch when he ordered a beer and it came to $15. That being said, the food is good with many options to choose. The menu is mostly French inspired featuring local Quebec ingredients.


It was a our anniversary after all, so we definitely splurged on the room and the food. The main restaurant is a grand ballroom with windows overlooking the patio. They also have a buffet option for brunch and lunch. To give you a clue of my level of fanciness, I saw that the buffet was open at dinner and I asked the hostess if it was available. She then replied that "at dinner time, the buffet is only for children." Mike had a laugh at my expense over that one. For dinner, we started with a salmon gravlax appetizer. 

Dinner at Aux Chantignoles Chateau Montebello

Dinner at Aux Chantignoles Chateau Montebello

Mike had the trio of Quebec rabbit stuffed with herbs and mashed peas. I had the grouper fish "catch of day" with white asparagus and 7 grains. We were also given a few amuse bouches in between courses to cleanse our palates even though we did not opt for the 3, 4 or 6 course meal options. That is another example of the exceptional level of service of the place. 

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

On Sunday we had breakfast and then played tennis. Pro tip: playing tennis after drinking Mimosas isn't the best idea. We whacked a few tennis balls around and then called it a day. It was nice to be outside and enjoy the long weekend sunshine. I couldn't take enough photos of the Chateau Montebello. Mike asked me when I wanted to head back to Ottawa and I was like "hold on, I want to take more photos." 

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

Chateau Montebello Quebec hotel

Why would you ever want to leave? I mean, look at this. You can see by the crowds in these photos that it got busier on Saturday and Sunday. Between weddings, spa visits, business meetings, family vacations and couple's vacations there must be hundreds of people coming and going each day. The exciting thing is that is shows that log cabins don't have to be associated with some small place in the middle of the woods. They can be luxurious, grand and elegant. 

Chateau Montebello Quebec

We also opened our anniversary gifts for each other. For Mike's gift I framed one of the sheets we had guests fill out at our wedding with marriage advice as well as the magazine spread of our wedding in Wedding Bells magazine. He got me an engraved jewellery box and printed out some of our old email correspondences from years ago. Who says romance is dead after marriage?


Then it was back to Ottawa on Sunday. And the start of working towards marriage year 2. Here's hoping every year will be as wonderful as the first one. Thank you to the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello for a lovely weekend getaway.

Ottawa River

12.5.15

Food News: New flavours from French's Mustards

I am trying something new on the blog. Since I get many emails in my inbox related to food and I am always reading about new food trends, I thought I would share some of those exciting things with you. I will be sharing new products, food news and anything that catches my eye.


Today is all about getting ready for BBQ season. To do that, you need some serious condiments. French's Mustards has released two new mustard flavours and revamped their ketchup flavour in Canada. So what's changed from the traditional French's mustard you remember?

French's Classic Yellow Sweet Mustard: A touch of brown sugar now sweetens up the classic yellow mustard.

French's Classic Yellow Spicy Mustard: Now with a little kick, the new yellow spicy mustard has a dash of cayenne pepper.

French's Tomato Ketchup: The new tomato ketchup recipe is now made with 100 per cent Canadian tomatoes with no preservatives, artificial flavours or colours.

This is the first innovation in their yellow mustard in more than 100 years. To celebrate, they are giving away free groceries for a year to two lucky people. Log on to Sweetorspicy.ca to vote for your new favourite flavour. There are also coupons on their website via the SmartSource coupon portal to save $0.50 off your next purchase of French's mustard.

Lastly, the French's website lists some recipes using their new flavours or to pair with the mustards and ketchups like Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Easy Weeknight Sloppy Joes and Cheeseburger Burritos.

10.5.15

Triple layer carrot cake with cream cheese icing and toasted coconut

Birthday cake with sprinkle numbers

There was a time--when I had more time--when I would spend all day making a cake. Sometimes for a special occasion, other times for fun or simply to practice. The process of making a cake from the icing to the layers to the decorating takes time. If I was on one of those Master Chef type shows and had to make an entire cake in an hour or less, I don't think I could do it. Luckily I had a day off last week and it was my husband's birthday, so I made him a cake. Maybe it sounds ultra domestic of me to spend a whole day in the kitchen, but I enjoy creating something from nothing and admiring small details. I do it for myself as much as I do it for other people.  


Pardon the obvious clique: Sometimes you need to "stop and smell the roses." Like making a cake from scratch, it is nice to admire the beautiful details of things, especially in nature. This weekend in Ottawa was the start of the Canadian Tulip Festival. The festival celebrates Canada's role in liberating the Netherlands during World War II and the gift of thousands of tulips the Netherlands gave to the capital city afterwards. Only a few weeks ago, we were freezing cold covered in snow and now the flowers are in full bloom for the start of spring. 

Canadian tulip festival Ottawa

Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Ontario

Canadian Tulip Festival Ottawa

When you think about each individual petal on each flower, you start to see how each one builds a bigger picture. I love the photo above of one tulip standing out from the crowd. There were seas of different colours of tulips along with massive crowds hovering around to get a good look. Taking a few minutes to admire nature is another way to relax and enjoy the moment. 


It is funny how during a celebration, you often gift someone with either flowers, cake or balloons. They are required things for every celebration; momentous or small. Like the tulips sent to Canada, they signify a tradition to uphold. In the case of birthday cake, well, it isn't a birthday without cake. You also need the right tools if you're going to get everything right. My Mother-in-law got me the deluxe Wilton decorating kit for Christmas last year which has everything I need to pipe icing, make icing flowers, cake designs and much more. I used the carrot cake recipe from my favourite baking cookbook: The Happy Baker. 

Carrot cake with toasted coconut and sprinkle numbers

"You can kiss my triple decker carrot cake goodbye" by The Happy Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add sugar, oil and eggs; mix together for 3 minutes with a hand mixer. Stir in carrots, pineapple, chopped nuts and coconut. Pour into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes. 

Carrot cake layers

Cream Cheese Icing:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
500 g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup toasted coconut for decorating. Bake at 300F for about 5 minutes until coconut is light golden brown; stir often.

Directions:

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla. Stir in the icing sugar. Spread evenly on the top of the first layer, add the second layer, spread evenly on that layer. Add third layer spread icing evenly all over cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. 

naked layered carrot cake

I kept this cake simple with the design. It would have been fitting to make icing flowers to coincide with the spring flowers around town right? As lovely as they are, icing flowers are a blessing and a curse. The inspiration for this cake came from a sprinkle birthday cake I saw on Pinterest. You use cut out numbers and place them on the cake and then sprinkle the sprinkles around the numbers. 


For my cake, I printed out numbers and then cut them out and placed them on the cake after it was iced. Then I sprinkled the coconut around the numbers. Make sure to press down on the numbers and brush away any coconut that gets on the numbers. The only problem is that the paper numbers then lift off any icing that is underneath. You could either re-ice the number area or add a different colour of sprinkle to the area. 


I added chocolate sprinkles to make the cake look a little less naked. The sprinkles also looked more uniform instead of trying to make sprinkled numbers by hand. I also piped some stars at the bottom of the cake to make it look nicer. I am not the best at the crumb coat icing part. As much as icing can fix mistakes with cake, fiddling with the icing too much can ruin a good thing. With baking each layer individually, making the icing, assembling the layers, icing the cake and decorating the cake, the whole process took a few hours. Making a cake is only something I do once in awhile. Maybe we all need to spend some time to do something nice--for someone else or ourselves--more often. 

carrot cake with birthday numbers with sprinkles

24.4.15

Tofu vegetable barley bowl with Korean BBQ sauce


Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory that humans have 5 categories of needs. At the bottom of the triangle is physiological needs, and then it progresses up to the top with safety, love, esteem and then ends with self actualization. Basically, we need our physiological needs met before we can move on to those tricky psychological ones. I have my own hierarchy of needs that include coffee, meals, sleep, snacks and internet before I can properly function. When I don't have these needs fulfilled I suffer from devastating side effects including being "hangry"and "grumpy."

SoLo energy and nutrition bars

Have you heard of something called the "3 pm slump"? It is real. I have even experienced it working from home. Sometimes I get too much into work that I forget to rehydrate and refuel. When those hierarchy of needs aren't met, then work doesn't get done; it's as simple as that, whether you work in a busy office or at home. Cogan PR sent me a box of SoLo energy and nutrition bars to try to see if they could alleviate symptoms of the "3pm slump" for me. SoLo energy bars--at about 200 calories per bar--come in eight flavours including lemon lift, peanut power, dark chocolate almond and mocha fudge. The bars are low glycemic which means they release glucose slower and steadier. Low glycemic foods relate to a person's blood sugar and are supposed to help balance blood sugar, give you energy and make you feel less hungry.

home office

Generally, I don't eat a lot of protein or power bars. My Dad used to eat power bars a lot when he ran marathons and I remember trying them and thinking they were gross. The traditional power bars I remember were chalky, flavourless and not an enjoyable snack. I was surprised at how far protein and power bars have come now that something like SoLo is on the market. The flavours tasted like what they promised and were almost like chocolate bars. Because I love lemon desserts, my favourite bar was the lemon lift. The other chocolate flavours were also great and didn't have that traditional power bar chalkiness to them. SoLo energy and nutrition bars definitely helped get me through the afternoon slump. 

Tofu, bok choy, eggplant and cashew platter

Another way I try to stay fuelled throughout the day is by eating well. I try to eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, protein and have little snacks throughout the day. My Mom has been praising nutrition tips from Dr. Oz. We both know to take what he says with a grain of salt, but on one of his recent shows, my Mom said he suggested eating meals as "bowls" of food stacked with healthy grains, vegetables and protein. "Bowls" are the new hip food trend. It's not just eating food in a bowl, like soup; it's adding a bunch of healthy elements to make a "bowl." Sounds a bit strange I know, but check out a restaurant menu the next time you're out and you will most likely see things like "green goddess bowl." "stir fry bowl, "acai berry bowl," and "tofu bowl."

For my tofu vegetable bowl, I was inspired by this recipe and used barley as the base to my bowl. After that you add anything you like to the bowl. It can be a mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, savoury or fried. I made some sliced cucumbers into a quick pickle for mine. It's like a salad bar in a bowl, so have fun with it.

pearl barley

eggplant and cucumber

tofu vegetable bowl prep


Ingredients:

1 cup pearl barley, cooked
1 Chinese eggplant, sliced
1/2 package firm tofu
1 cucumber sliced
1 package of baby bok choy, chopped
1/2 cup cashews 

Directions:

In a small pot of water, cook the barley until done. Drain the tofu and squeeze dry. Slice into triangles. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, sauté the eggplant, tofu and bok choy. You may have to cook all of the components separately depending on how you plan to present everything. Add the cucumbers by themselves or use the "quick pickle" recipe above. Add the cashews to garnish. Build the bowls by scooping some barley into a bowl and then the remaining components on top followed by a drizzle of the sauce. 

Tofu vegetable bowl

Korean BBQ sauce (inspired by this recipe)
Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp chili garlic paste and/or Siracha sauce 

Directions:

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, chili garlic paste, sesame oil, ginger and garlic in a saucepan. Heat on high until it boils. Reduce the heat and add the cornstarch. Whisk until it thickens. 

Tofu green bowl components

Serve on a platter to build or already in the bowls. I think the ends of the bok choys make lovely decorative touches to a green plate, so I usually keep them instead of throwing them out. The leftover components make a great lunch the next day. All you have to do is make some more grains and you have satisfying leftovers. The whole meal came together in about 30 minutes, so it's also a quick meal idea, as well as a chance to use up vegetables from the fridge. 

tofu vegetable barley bowl with Korean BBQ sauce

What do you think of the new "bowl" trend? Have you tried it? What do you like to put in your bowls of food? Comment below or visit Food.Love.Happiness on Facebook

More bowl inspiration:
Lunch bowl recipes
Stir fry zen crunch bowl
Chicken and quinoa bowl
Quinoa sushi bowl with baked tofu

28.3.15

Tasty Travels: Melbourne

Melbourne park

In today's world of oversharing, it's almost an unwritten rule that you need to document everything that happens to you. Like they say, "photo, or it didn't happen." Sometimes I am really into that concept and other times I cannot be bothered. Last June--almost a year ago now--my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Australia for a month. We took a lot of photos like we normally do on trips. This time however, I was a little less concerned about capturing perfect shots, and getting all of the tourist appropriate photos, and more focused on enjoying myself. It was also so unlike me to hardly take any food photos. The trip was a much needed vacation after all of the wedding craziness. Australia was the perfect place to unwind and take in the beautiful sights and adventures. 


The only problem with Australia is that it is far from Canada. Like about 29 hours of traveling far. I can deal with sitting on one plane for a long period of time, but I hate transferring from plane to plane for short bursts of time. We flew from Ottawa to Toronto to Chicago to Sydney and then to Melbourne. There were times when you are sitting on a plane for 15 hours when it can drive you crazy if you let it. You actually lose a day of your life. 

The first stop of the trip was Melbourne. We wanted to start up from the near bottom of Australia and make our way up the coast. It would have been easier to fly into Sydney, as everyone goes to Sydney. I wanted to see many aspects of Australia and Melbourne were also on the list for me. I would suggest anyone going to Australia make a stop in Melbourne. To be honest, when we first arrived I didn't think the city seemed very "Australia" at all. It seemed like most other big cities. Seeing that we went in June, it was actually the middle of winter. At first, I was a little underwhelmed. Then I started to discover neat little pockets of the city--and all of its charm and culture--and realized that it ended up being my favourite city of the trip. 


Melbourne is located on the coastline of Victoria and has a population of about 5,000,000. If you were to compare major cities in Australia to Canadian cities, Melbourne would probably be Toronto and Sydney would be Vancouver. I would say it is probably the fashion, food, art and culture capital of Australia and the city knows it. You could say it is where the country's hipster culture resides. It has a lot of art galleries, restaurants, concerts and boutiques, as well as a neat mix of architecture in the city centre and surrounding suburbs. 

On the first day we hopped on the free City Circle tram rides around the city with somewhat cheesy commentary of the sites. I usually feel bad for the first city we travel to because I'm either jet lagged or just getting into the traveling rhythm. It takes a few days to adjust to any new situation, so I usually start off slow by going for a few walks around the city interspersed with adequate naps. 

Melbourne park

The above photos were taken near Federation Square, which is one of the main public, green spaces of the city. You know, the one every major city has usually smack in the middle of all of the action. The square also has a visitors centre, art gallery, theatre and restaurants. When I go to any new city I usually either check out the main market or the main square first. You will usually see and experience the hustle and bustle of the city's natural groove there. 

On one of the days we met my cousin for lunch in the Southbank area, another bustling Melbourne spot with the main focal point being a casino and entertainment complex. My cousin has lived in Melbourne with her husband and little boy for a few years now. It is also nice to know people in the cities you travel to so they can give you recommendations and suggestions of where to go. Catching up with someone you haven't seen in a long time is also nice, especially when you are somewhere unfamiliar. 



After a few days of getting over jet lag, we booked a day tour to Philip Island. Everyone I talked to about Melbourne said "you have to go see the penguin parade on Philip Island!" It is one of those essential--albeit completely tourist--things you have to see. Day trips are fun and penguins are cute, so we thought, why not? We hopped on a bus in the morning at a Melbourne tourist office and headed out for a day of activities. The penguin parade didn't actually start until the evening, so the tour made sure to fill the day with other things. 

The first stop was at the Moonlit Sanctuary about an hour outside of Melbourne. This was the typical Australia I was expecting. The sanctuary is a wildlife park where you walk around and see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes and all sorts of other animals up close. See a koala and or kangaroo in the first few days of being in Australia: check! 

Koala bear, Australia

Moonlit Sanctuary, Australia

Moonlit Sanctuary

This precious dingo with only one eye was behind a fence. Obviously he's a little too dangerous to be walking around the park. The place is actually a sanctuary for rare and endangered animals--and not only a tourist attraction--so they take great care of the animals. The animals not behind fences are super friendly. 

Dingo, Moonlit Sanctuary

wallabies, Moonlit Sanctuary

You get bombarded with licks and nudges if you're holding a bag of food. As soon as we turned the corner of the first path, a group of wallabies emerged from the bushes ready to see our group. And you can't give all of the food to the first few animals you see. We had miles of animal paths to cover. I'm sure the animals also appreciate selfies and the many photos people take as appropriate affection. 

Moonlit Sanctuary, Australia

Moonlit Sanctuary, Australia

And yes, there is a difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo. Although they are both marsupials, kangaroos are much larger with longer legs. Wallabies usually have a lighter coat. Think of it like kangaroos being regular dogs and wallabies like corgis. You can definitely tell when the kangaroos jump toward you, like this guy:

Kangaroo, Australia

I know it's a rarity for me to take way more animals photos than food photos. It was Australia after all; it's the home of the Steve Irwin legacy and getting right up close to cool animals. Then there are the not-so-cute animals. Sorry Tasmanian devil, you are not the most appealing of the bunch. 

Tasmanian devil

After the sanctuary, we stopped at Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. It was another fun tourist attraction with exhibits about chocolate and chocolate goodies for sale shaped like penguins and koalas. I bought a few chocolates that I was going to give away when I got back. Unfortunately they smushed in my bag so I just HAD to eat them myself. 

Then, right before the penguin show started we saw the sunset near the beach where the penguins make their burrows. The coastline was pretty cold that night--it was winter--so we had to bundle up before going to see the penguins. The island covers about 100km and sees a lot of surfing activity as well as Grand Prix racing. 

Philip Island

Philip Island Australia

These are some of the burrows that the penguins find when they come in out of the water. You are probably wondering what the "penguin parade" actually entailed. Every day on the island, thousands of penguins emerge from the water and race along the sand to their burrows. It is quite literally a "parade" of penguins. 

penguin burrows Philip Island Australia

Philip Island Australia

It is one of the most bizarre tourist attractions I have ever seen. There were huge concrete bleachers set up on the beach with spotlights shining down on the water. Hundreds of people wait eagerly to see a glimpse of the penguins. The staff there have to make sure everyone is quiet when the penguins come and especially make sure no one takes any photos, which is why I have none. 

Mike and me were joking that it is like hundreds of people staring at you on your commute home and you being like "I just want to get home in peace, come on man!" The crowd freaked out when the first few penguins emerged in a group and then left into the sand. I was like "that was it?" Then more and more groups of penguins emerged. The best views we got were walking along the boardwalks and following the penguins instead of sitting on the bleachers. There is also a giant gift shop of everything penguin related you could ever want. 

Penguin Parade Philip Island

Philip Island Australia penguins

Melbourne has many other things to experience besides a penguin parade. Our hostel was in the Fitzroy area, a suburb of Melbourne that has gone through an extreme gentrification. It is now the hipster spot to go to in my opinion, for shopping, cafes, restaurants, live music and bars. One of the main streets called Gertrude St is Melbourne's "street of the moment" according to Lonely Planet. Every night we were there we walked down into the neighbourhood and had a hard time deciding 
which restaurant, boutique or coffee shop to choose. 

Melbourne's Chinatown is another solid choice for food. The driver of the Philip Island tour dropped us off in Chinatown on the way back from the tour and we had dinner there that night. Lygon Street is another popular food destination with more pizza and pasta restaurants than you know how to deal with, as it is also the city's "Little Italy." You won't have a hard time finding good food in Melbourne--and you know how I feel about cities that deliver on that promise. 


Our hostel was across the street from the Melbourne Museum and was about a 10-15 minute walk from most things. Now here's where I tell you about the one somewhat bad thing that happened on our trip. That one bad thing also clouded my judgment of the place. We stayed at The Nunnery. For the most part it was a nice hostel, for a hostel. This trip sort of pointed out to me that I am over the whole hostel scene. It was a nice hostel, for a hostel. We got a private room with shared bathrooms.

At nighttime it was noisy, the bathrooms were not great and the room was just alright. Then on the second night Mike found bed bugs crawling along our bed. I discovered the next day that I had been bitten all over by the bed bugs and we had to wash every single item of clothing we brought--only a few days into our month-long trip. The staff moved us to a much nicer room in the guesthouse that was also much quieter. So yes, I am over the hostel thing now. I am getting too old to deal with it. I would much rather stay in cheap hotels than in a hostel again. At some point you are over that scene. 


Melbourne Museum

For that being the only bad thing to happen, we were lucky. I am always careful when traveling anywhere to avoid bad things like that happening to me. I hold my wallet a little closer, don't take my nice camera to certain places or only find licensed taxis because that's how I am. I would much rather over think things than have unexpected bumps in the road happen. I am an a-type, need things planned type of person who can also have fun. 

St. Kilda beach Melbourne

Speaking of fun, how awesome is it to take a 20 minute train ride to a gorgeous beach? Australia, I am so jealous. St. Kilda beach is another hot spot for beach goers, nightlife cravers and penguin seekers. Yes, they also have a penguin viewing area. Like I said, it was winter there when we went, but if this is what winter looks like then Canada could take a few hints. 

St. Kilda beach Melbourne

Sadly, this was the only food photo I took in Melbourne. I told you, I was less focused on the perfect food shot and more focused on animals, beaches and other cool things. This photo was of the sliders I had at Belle's Diner in Fitzroy. I recently read that they have re-branded themselves to be more of a fried chicken focused establishment. It was one of the many awesome places we visited in Melbourne, including these places listed below. Then it was off to Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane, Noosa and the Whitsunday Islands.

Belle's Diner Melbourne

Favourite Restaurants in Melbourne:

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