Category Archives: Country

6 cafes, 2 neighbourhoods, 48 hours in Melbourne

Anyone that knows me is fully aware that Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in Australia.  So much so, that Michael and I try to  head down to Melbourne at least 3 times per year.

Sunrise Flight to Melbourne

1 – 2 nights is enough to give you a bit of a teaser of what Melbourne has to offer. On weekends, our favourite things to do is to eat, travel and walk walk walk (even within Sydney itself). We are avid walkers and can get up to 30,000 steps per day! We find that It’s the best way to explore new areas and work off all of those scrumptious calories 🙂

I would say that our best experiences in Melbourne is when we visit the neighbourhoods. This weekend we decided to pick 2 neighbourhoods to explore. We headed north to Brunswick and north-east to Collingwood.

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After a Gap Year… What’s Next?!?!

Well, it’s almost been 3 years to the day when my fiancé (at the time) and I took off for our 1 year adventure across Europe and the US. I still remember that anxious feeling of packing everything I needed for 1 year in only 1 suitcase! It was a feeling of nerves and mostly excitement. I was off on an adventure with my husband-to-be in my favourite place in the world… Europe!

Needless to say, it was the best year of my life. We drove through Europe for 8 months which enabled us to explore the smaller cities which we never had a chance to earlier. We got married in Dubrovnik, Croatia with our family and friends by our side. We also spent 4 months in the US visiting my family and friends. What can I say, but this was the best time of my life and I have absolutely no regrets. We grew not only as individuals, but as a couple. From being thrown in stressful situations, being on a daily budget and sometimes being the only other person we could speak to when in remote areas. It was a trip of a lifetime and only made my thirst for travel that much larger!

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It’s been 2 years since we came back to Sydney and to this day I feel that I am still transitioning back into “normal life.” We were both lucky enough to go back to the companies we previously worked for. This was a great boost as we had new job opportunities at companies we really enjoyed. This was definitely great for the bank account.

I am not going to lie, going back into the workforce after a gap year was a big transition. We had to wake up to an alarm clock again and we counted down the days to the weekends. It definitely had its ups and downs.  To help combat the downs we decided to follow a few tactics:

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The land of the Dwarfs – Wroclaw, Poland

After spending 2 nights in Krakow, we decided to spend 1 night in Wroclaw to break up our drive from Krakow to Prague. As a result of us using Booking.com so much we have actually become classified as a “booking genius” which allows us better discounts on certain hotels. This was a great surprise as when we were looking for hotels in Wroclaw, we qualified for a great discount on a 5 star hotel, so we decided to splurge a bit and book it. We spent the day in Auschwitz so arrived to Wroclaw a bit late which was a pity as we would have loved to enjoy the amenities of this hotel a bit more. We booked into the Executive Suite at the Granary La Suite Hotel and were welcomed with orange slices, an apple and macaroons! This was such a change to some of the Ibis Budget’s and dodgy apartments we have stayed in during our stay 🙂

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Maksimilian

After the sad stories in Vukovar, we headed to Osijek to hopefully hear happier stories and find historical buildings and monuments intact. Osijek is currently the 5th largest city in Croatia. It is growing due to a mini tech boom with some leading technology companies in Croatia beginning in Osijek. It is also much easier to access for tourists with low cost airlines beginning to fly to the airport.

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Did someone say Beer Festival!!

On our way down to Istria, we stopped off again at Michael’s village to see the family one more time before continuing on our adventure. As this was our last time to see them for a while, it was a bit emotional. We had always been able to say we will see you soon but now was the end of the road for Croatia.

Our end in Karlovac coincided with the Karlovacki Dani Piva, which is the beer festival run by the local beer company. This is a huge event in the calendar of the locals and we were pleased to be going to try the beer and some food. Below are pictures of our food and drink and Michael’s family.

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Honeymoon Hvar

One of the tough decisions when you are away for 12 months is choosing where to celebrate your honeymoon. After some deliberating, it didn’t take us long to decide on the island of Hvar. This island scattered in the middle of Dalmatia is famous for having some of the sunniest weather in Croatia and was to now become our official destination for the honeymoon.

We left our car in Split and caught the ferry over. Parking in Split can be hard to find but luckily we had a contact that has apartments in Split and gave us a parking spot for a few days.  We boarded the catamaran for the 1.5 hour trip from Split. There are boats that carry cars across but our guides showed that we could explore the island without a car. The ride was smooth and quick and before we could even plan what to do on the island, we were there. The island truly looked amazing but we were lost and couldn’t find which direction to head to our accommodation. We eventually got our bearings and began the climb up the hill to our accommodation. We continued to climb until you couldn’t climb no more and got to the top of the hill. It was worth it with the most amazing views of Hvar town and the neighboring islands.

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Back to Croatia

After our amazing wedding and spending some time travelling with Meagan’s family was done, we headed back to Croatia for some R&R and to celebrate my cousin, Anita’s wedding. We did the difficult drive from Lake Como to Volosko in Istra. The drive in this stretch of Italy was daunting as there are so many trucks driving this route. There are also many irritable drivers and in our case, a crazy Austrian driver who followed us and hurled abuse for kilometres after I had cut him off.

It was pleasing to arrive in Volosko, Istra for 1 night of relaxation. Our experience on AirBnB has been mixed but we were succeesful this time. We found a cute little apartment above the restaurants on the water in Volosko, only a short walk from Opatija. We checked in and then quickly made a beeline for the walk along the Lungo Mare to Opatija town centre.

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Our 1st night in Volosko was a mixed evening of fitness and indulgent food. We ran the few kilometres to Opatija and back and then checked out one of the local restaurants in Volosko for some delicious Ligne na Zaru, one of our favourite meals in Croatia. This meal consists of grilled calamari/octopus with potatoes and swiss chard. Yumm. Volosko is a scenic and pretty town very close to Opatija without the huge prices. We recommend staying here if you head to this part of Croatia.

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The next day we headed to Zagreb. Meagan had some stomach pain so we checked out what the reason could be. We found a clinic in Zagreb who did an ultrasound on her. The $350 diagnosis was basically that Meagan was getting older and her body was changing. No news but at least Meagan was slightly more relieved.

After the great diagnosis, we headed to Karlovac to get ready for my cousin, Anita’s wedding. We went to my cousin Damir’s house to get ready and drove to Anita’s house which is located higher up in our village. We could hear the noise coming from the house as we were driving, music playing and older people laughing and carrying on. This was our first wedding we were attending as husband and wife and Meagan was in for a shock.

The weather was hotter than normal this summer and we were sweating bullets in our clothes. Fanning did little to help, although the cold wine (gemist) was our saviour. The gathering was as expected at a Croatian wedding with plenty to eat, drink and talk about. The expected platter of cakes were also on show which we tried of course.

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As happens at Croatian weddings, the groom arrives at the brides house and then begins to barter for the bride. The brides family had many surprises in store. Firstly, after paying over a little ransom, the groom thought the bride was walking down the stairs but in fact it was a man dressed as a bride. Next, the brides family placed a barrier so the groom could not come in. After some talking, shouting, drinking and firing up a chainsaw to cut down the tree trunk stalling there entry, the groom finally made it in and the bride came out.

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After some more food and drink, it was time to go to church. The ceremony was wonderful and after the ceremony, we had more wine outside the church. This time the priest was also drinking with us.

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Next stop was the reception, but getting there was difficult. We had to follow the lead car with the bride and groom, and their car was stopping constantly. A drive which would normally take 30 minutes took 1 hour 30. When I told Meagan that the reception can sometimes go to 6am in the morning, she was dumbfounded and couldn’t believe that we would be eating, drinking and dancing until such time. Food and wine were always present as was the band playing Croatian hits all night. By 4am, Meagan and I couldn’t handle it anymore and so we headed home. One the way home, we drove through the dark and came across wild deer on the side of the road. Driving tired and seeing a deer with its bright eyes and huge horns was a crazy sight to see.

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The next day was a big day as it was St Ana feast day, and this is big in our village. We have a chapel in our village named after St Ana and we often celebrate with more food and drink. This year was slightly different as both Meagan and I were present along with my dad and his friend. The day started with a mass in the chapel before we made it back to the house for lots of food and drink. The night ended when we went down to the local school to see a band playing music and again more drinking. We ended the night early as the next day we had to leave early for our drive to Zadar so Meagan could start school.

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