A Caffienated Taste of Australia
|Aromas café, Noosa, Queensland|
|Berardo's on the Beach|
They have become a day-into-night gathering place, the lines blurred between breakfast, “morning tea”, lunch, afternoon break, and into the wee hours. Many have also added wine and even music to their portfolio to appeal to a broader crowd. And what better way to enjoy an afternoon macchiato than with a side of wine!
|Jazz at the Union, Newtown, Sydney|
|View from Mt Ainslie over the Australian War Memorial in the foreground, Lake Burley Griffin|
and the old and new Parliament Houses in the distance.
Nowadays, however Canberra has emerged as an architectural fascination, with jaw dropping radical modernist structures, vying for space between the historical and cultural buildings. Streets once home to car yards and delis now have been converted into hubs of serious small cafes, happening bars and brimming restaurants. Suburbs of considerable wealth, pay homage to elegant boutiques decorated with drinking and dining holes to “be seen” or “not be seen”, all outlining the picturesque landmark of Lake Burley Griffin. All through the city, you can find extreme and adventurous, yet well-orchestrated restaurants, some snuggling into some equally extreme hotel lobbies and delivering food that has cleverly mastered fusion in its truest form. A spider web of cycle paths enables you to master the city on bike without ever having to second guess the cars.
|The quirky Hotel Hotel|
|Outdoor Art in Canberra|
Urban Pantry, Manuka Canberra
They make a marvelously traditional Australian iced coffee, with espresso, milk, vanilla, a dollop of ice cream and a crowning glory of delicate whipped cream. Sit and enjoy people-watching as well-heeled Euro chic shoppers meander from boutique to café, sipping on sparkling wine or Ristrettos and blending with the suited business crowd . The menu also boasts wines from the surrounds and afar, which pair well with the eclectic salads, pastas, burgers and house made breads.
Hotel Kurrajong – A few minutes from the lake in the heart of the Parliament triangle, the Hotel Kurrajong has been restored to its art deco grandeur, with all the mod cons. Rates from $150.00
|Hotel Kurrajong Canberra|
The Blue Mountains,
Few cities in the world can boast a world heritage listed region just over an hour from the city centre, but Sydney can, with the glorious Blue Mountains. Over one million hectares of eucalypt-covered landscape lined with sheer cliffs that stand sentry over rugged tablelands, deep valleys, stunning waterfalls, rivers and lakes, and a network of hiking trails throughout. Then there are the wallabies, wombats, native birdlife, such as bellbirds and Rosellas and glorious native trees, the air filled with that head clearing scent of Eucalyptus. The mountains actually gain their name from the blue haze that emits from the Eucalyptus oil in the leaves, and which also lulls the koalas into their deep 20 hour a day snooze. The region is dotted with small towns, all with their unique charm and character, and breathtaking vistas. Add to that the amazing gastronomic diversity, and you have a destination well worth the journey.
One of the most dedicated cafes to the art of coffee in the mountains, is Cassiopeia, quietly hidden amongst overhanging trees, and a block from the bustling main street. Though off the beaten track, serious coffee mountain buffs know it well, so you'll be in good company. Their biscuits (cookies) and cakes are all locally made, and rustic in nature, such as my favorite, the ginger molasses friand.
Lilianfels – Pampered, comfortable luxury hovering on the edge of the cliff face, there is no better view than here or the sister property next door, Echoes Boutique Hotel. A spa, infinity and indoor pool, billiards room and magnificent lounge add to the experience. Both have fabulous restaurants. Rates from $200.00.
|The View from Echoes Guest House Restaurant|
For a taste of historic Katoomba, The Carrington is well worth a stop, even if just for a cocktail at their happy hour with live music on Friday nights. Entering the lobby you feel like you are entering a bygone era, elegant, charming and with the "grandmother" welcoming touch. The hotel is passionate about sustainability too, being active in the Blue Mountains gaining status with the International Cittaslow. For boutique local and international wines, and gourmet foods, the Carrington Cellars is a must. Rooms from $100.00.
Noosa and the Hinterland, Queensland
The town itself is a little like a small Aspen on the water, upscale and modern with a huge array of stylish stores, restaurants, gelaterias and boutique hotels. Yet the vibe is relaxed and family friendly.
For the curious, small cruises such as the Noosa Ferry Cruise Company take you to the everglades, or exploring the canals on an eco-tour to see local wild life and magnificent waterfront homes. They also dish up a pretty amazing platter with tropical fruit, homemade cakes, and a few jokes mingled with their extensive knowledge.
Within an hour you can drive to lush rainforest, quaint rural towns with stunning views, and the famous Eumundi markets, one of the most diverse and interesting I’ve encountered.
|Exotic Ginger and related plants |
grace the Buderim Grounds
The Buderim Ginger factory is a breath away, offering educational seminars on bees, a Disney like ride finding the Gingerbread man as he travels around the world, eateries and more ginger products than one could dream up.
A Noosa institution for visitors and locals alike, Aromas is Paris meets the beach. Woven chairs face outwards to the sidewalk arranged distinctly for people to watch the eclectic mix of passers by - board short clad bleached blond surfies, Gucci adorned beauties, motorcycle drifters and laughing children, with ice cream dripping down their salty, sand dotted faces. The coffee is prepared with deliberation, and whisked to your table post haste so the velvety mouse has no time to settle. Paper cups? Well, yes, but how could one take away when life awaits here in the slow lane. This is the place to revive and recuperate or enjoy a relaxing rendezvous. Not just coffee, though. Aromas offers three meals a day, incredible health brimming smoothies, classic breakfasts and their house made pastries and cakes are a specialty.
|Grilled Haloumi Salad at the Bohemian Bungalow|
|Cabin deck at Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat|
If you are fortunate enough to travel Qantas (and I highly recommend it), your trip will begin once you board the plane, not disembark. Relaxed Australian hospitality greets you where you can learn a bit of the local ‘lingo’, not to mention enjoying an Australian seasonally changing menu and wine list, featuring some of Australia's finest purveyors, no matter what class you fly. If you happen to be flying Business or First, you’ll have access to the marvelous lounges, with food by celebrated chef, Neil Perry, showers, complimentary Australian wines, cocktails, and one of Australia's premier coffees, Vittoria.
Here's a sampling of what's on offer for this season:
The wine list compiled by leading Australian sommeliers. In fact, the Qantas Group received nine medals at this year’s Cellars in the Sky Awards, the most of any airline group, including a Gold award for Best First Class Sparkling and Best Business Class Fortified/Dessert wine.