Busselton (early COVID-19) – Western Australia

I feel this overwhelming desire to write at the moment. Not that I think what I have to say is that important or particularly insightful. I am just an average person trying to go about my life like everyone else. But right now, that (the very essence of my life and yours) is in limbo.

All because of a virus.

A virus that 2 months ago sounded just like any other that frequently does the rounds. But, it turns out, this one is very very different. This has the potential to kill not only people we know and love, but the whole economy in which we live.

Travel has become a dirty word. If you have travelled recently people are scared of you. As you know, I love to travel. Fortunately, I haven’t recently travelled but it is a huge part of my life. My husband and I spend our money on travel, we work and save to travel, we spend hours thinking about travel. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the sheer ability to travel could or would be taken away. But, here it is happening right now.

How does one be ‘The Travel Bee’ without travelling??!!!

However, I feel very grateful to be here in Western Australia. If I had to be anywhere in the world I am just really glad it is here. I know that if I can not travel for months, this place has so much to offer to feed my soul. From the amazing beaches, walking tracks and forests to the people of compassion and strength.

When I am not pretending to be a writer, I am a healthcare professional. This means throughout this crisis I will likely be working, it may not be in my normal role, but I will be on the battle field somewhere. I am lucky in that I will have an income, many I know will not. For me, the dilemma is my sense of duty at work vs my duty as a mother and family member.

I think the coming months are going to be very interesting indeed. I can already feel a change in myself, my focus and values are shifting. I read something the other day that I had to agree with. This is a wake up call to the human race. We have become greedy and too busy for others. This crisis will change that, there will be a silver lining and taking a step back into a more simple life will not be a bad thing.

Like I said. I am very grateful to be where I am. I love where I live and I love who I am with. We humans are tough and we are resourceful. We will get through this. Please remember to be kind. If you can help those that are less fortunate than you, do it.

There are some friends and family around us that are going to find the next few months very tough, both from a health perspective and financially. But if we stick together and support each other we will get through this.

‘United we stand……………divided we fall’ Father John Dickenson

TTB

Crown Theatre and Casino with Tim Minchin – Perth WA

For our 2019 Christmas present, we booked ourselves a show package at the Crown Metropol. A night with no kids, dinner and a show. There really is no bigger treat for working, busy parents!

Finally, last night was our night……

We arrived at the Crown at 3:30pm to face a rather long queue to check in. It was hard not to feel a tad disappointed. Dinner was booked for 5:30pm and we had to check out early in the morning, so we knew this was our only opportunity to enjoy the pool. We could see the plans of poolside cocktails slipping away!

But……. we needn’t have worried, the efficient staff chipped away at the line and we were up in our room, bathers on ready at 4pm. We headed down to the pool to a glorious Perth afternoon, a few fluffy white clouds in an otherwise bright blue sky, sunshine and drinks (oh and a lovely crystal clear pool of course).

Although there were no sun-lounges free, we found a comfy spot in the bar area and ordered a mojito each. It was a delicious and refreshing way to start our evening, a little bit fancy but not too sweet or heavy. We sat and chatted to each other. It really was lovely to be able to reconnect without the interruptions of children and every day life. It felt like ages since we really talked and listened to one another.

We had a quick obligatory splash in the pool and headed up to the room with 30 mins to get ready for dinner. Of course, as you would expect, the room was spacious and comfortable with a definite touch of luxury and class, including a complimentary bottle of bubbles on ice.

Complementary bubbles

Metropol is the original hotel in the complex, first built in 1985 but with several renovations over the years, it still looks fresh. Not quite as luxurious as Crown Towers, but slightly cheaper and a step up from Crown Promenade.

We entered The Atrium restaurant in the heart of the Crown complex at 5:31pm (not bad at all, considering what we had already squeezed into 91 mins!). From here it was a glorious feast! The buffet included seafood, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Thai options, as well as a traditional English roast carvery. Mr Travel Bee went straight to the seafood bar as expected.

Seafood bar

I was more conservative, although perhaps it was just pretending and started with a bowl of soup. It wasn’t long though and I was filling my plate with all sorts!! I think for me the pork belly with the divine crunchy crackling was a winner. For Mr Travel Bee it was the Oysters.

Then, there was dessert. The pictures say it all…..

I couldn’t help it, I had to taste them……..

And so….. with very full tummies we headed into the Crown Theatre for a night of entertainment with Tim Minchin. A musician, comedian, actor, lyricist, and director, we had seen him in a few things on TV and been to see his musical Matilda but really didn’t know quite what to expect.

What we got, was an evening that opened our eyes to many many things. Let’s just say he is a tad eccentric and definitely would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But there is absolutely no denying the talent this man has. One minute he is skilfully playing the piano and singing songs about growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the next lecturing us about the internet and it’s stupidity, then religion and world atrocities, next he was singing about cheese.

We laughed, sang along, sometimes dropped our jaws in shock, laughed again and I have to admit, nearly cried as he finished the show with a beautiful song he wrote for Missy Higgins. Tim is an extraordinary talent who sees the world just as it is……. ever so slightly screwed up (he has another less polite word for it!).

Before we could call it a night and head to our luxury king sized bed, we could not resist a night cap in the Casino itself. This place has always been one of my favourite places to people watch. It is fascinating to see how some people can lay it all out, risk everything, others cautious and calculating. Then there are those just so drunk they have no idea what they are doing.

I followed my previous rules, placing a $50 bill on a Roulette table. It took a bit longer than last time, but I was lucky enough to turn it into $110 before calling it a night, my win covering our fuel costs for the weekend.

This morning after a cup of tea in bed, we were up and off to watch our son play soccer. Although a pre-season friendly, there was plenty of nerves and apprehension but the boys did well with some very encouraging play.

Looks like we will be spending many a weekend in Perth in coming months. Shame not many will be spent at the Crown though (that is unless I win a bit more than $60 on the Roulette table!).

TTB

The Colony Concept – Metricup WA

Travel can be gathering a few friends together, jumping in the car and heading out to investigate something new. Living in the South West of WA, I am spoilt for choice in terms of nearby day trip destinations. Here, there are bespoke businesses and attractions opening regularly, not to mention a stunning coastline that provides endless walks and vantage points from which to admire the beautiful Indian Ocean.

My new mission is to get out there and enjoy them….. So this week, The Travel Bee went to visit bees at The Colony Concept in Metricup! This is a new shop/cafe that has recently opened to showcase Southern Forest Honey.

When you enter, you are greeted with an array of honey and honey products. You can taste and compare a variety of honeys from different local flowers and trees. It is quite surprising to discover the distinct tastes of Manuka, Karri, Marri, Jarrah, Forest and Wildflower honeys.

In this well stocked shop, you can purchase honeys, meads, shampoos, soaps, beeswax food wraps, candles, bee keeping equipment and much more.

For me however, the most interesting part was the room next door, the ‘Bee room’. Here, you are able to see inside a hive and discover the real meaning of the saying ‘Busy Bee’. Staff explain how the hive works and the roles of the bees. It is fascinating to watch the nurses, builders and cleaners going about their business. If you are lucky you can find the Queen in amongst all the worker bees and see baby bees emerging.

There is plenty of information about the plight of the honey bee, their importance to our ecosystem and what we can do to help maintain their colonies. You could spend hours here learning about these interesting and crucial creatures.

When exiting the bee room be sure to stop and taste the infused creamed honeys and meads. My favourite was the ginger creamed honey, which I purchased to take home to the family. I wasn’t sure whether the kids would like it, but it turns out Miss 9, Master 12 and Mr travel bee all loved it, it’s subtle ginger taste not overpowering the honey but rather perfectly balancing it.

My friends and I settled out in the alfresco area over looking the dam for a spot of morning tea. I was impressed with all the finishing touches from bees painted on the walls to the bee inspired crockery.

We opted for the scones and a coffee each and were treated with an unusual selection of toppings. Here, instead of just jam and cream, there is fresh butter, apple and cinnamon infused honey, homemade plum jam and whipped cream. The scones were a generous size allowing for them to be cut into quarters to enjoy each different topping.

And enjoy we did! We all had a great morning tasting, learning about bees, enjoying morning tea and some great conversation.

For those with children there is also a nature playground featuring logs and tyres (no plastic), designed by kids. We didn’t try it out but all have kids and agreed it looked pretty good!

A highly recommended south west day trip both for visitors and locals alike. 20 minutes from Busselton there is something here for everyone.

TTB

2020 Busselton Jetty Swim – Busselton WA

If you ever want an excuse to come and visit the wonderful town of Busselton in Western Australia, then the famous Busselton Jetty Swim is it. In its 25th year, the 2020 swim saw a record 3300 swimmers hit the pristine waters of Geographe bay and brought some 10,000 people to the foreshore to watch the spectacle.

In my opinion, you are unlikely to witness an event with more excitement, professionalism, grit and determination anywhere.

As the name would suggest, it is basically a whole bunch of people swimming around a jetty. But……. it is not just any jetty, at 1.8km it is the longest wooden pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere! That is a big swim, straight into the Indian Ocean. You can swim the distance of 3.6km solo, in a duo or team of 4 or in a recent addition to the event, you can walk out and do the mile swim home.

In my 10th consecutive year, my husband and I (due to a lack of training this year) decided to do the duo together. Having mostly completed solo swims in the past, it was quite a different day for me. Today I was able to actually watch part of the swim from the jetty. What a treat!

It began with 50 elite athletes taking off first. These men and women hitting the water with a hunger and strength you couldn’t help but envy. The way they were able to glide seemingly effortlessly through the water was amazing to see. They vied for their place as they headed out into the depths.

The rest of the field started a minute behind in a new ‘rolling start’. 8 swimmers were sent off every 4 seconds. This made for a continued wave of swimmers for some 40minutes. Swimmers wore coloured caps determined by their estimated finish time, allowing swimmers of similar capabilities to be grouped together.

Meanwhile, things were hotting up at the front of the field. The two leaders were clear of the pack as they rounded the end. I was lucky enough to watch them come past as I arrived at my start post 1.4km out. These two guys literally playing cat and mouse as they curved around trying to stop each other drafting. They were neck and neck the whole way in.

In the end, it was a sprint finish with only 1 second separating them. The winner a 17 year old boy from Bunbury just up the road. I could not have been happier for him. I have watched him rise through the ranks and it was clear last year he was a force when he came in second. Third place going to one of his training mates. It was clear though, that what looked like an effortless swim, was in fact a swim in which they gave everything. The winners were spent at the end, embracing each other before bending over hands on knees to catch their breath.

Of course by this stage, I was in the water (I have only seen replays of the finish). Our swim was so enjoyable! After a rather hectic changeover where we lost a lot of time, my husband and I met in the water, he tagged me and I was off.

The first 400m to end was probably the hardest as I tried to find my rhythm. There were swimmers all around me, some swimming straight, some not. It is pretty crazy, but as I rounded the end I settled down and found my groove.

From there, the years of experience kicked in. I knew which buoys I had to sight, how my line should be and how far from the jetty I should be. I just cruised along, the odd song flitting in and out of my head, I thought about what I would say if I was interviewed at the end (strange I know but it actually happened one year!) but mostly I just let the rhythm take over.

I realise now, that is what I love most about swimming, the rhythm. It is like my body just completely takes over and it all just flows and happens naturally. Considering the number of people out there, there were few times today that the rhythm was broken. By the end I felt great, I could have kept swimming and swimming in my own little world! It truly felt, in the midst of thousands of people, that I had escaped! I almost felt disappointed it was over!

As the competitors met their supporters on the beach there was much smiles and excitement. Everyone super proud of their achievement. Each had their own story, from swimmers who had only just learnt to swim, to those breaking their personal best times to those overcoming illness or injury, their achievement was simply finishing.

As a life long swimmer and a coach of many kids, I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. Today, it wasn’t about the time, it was about being a part of something big. Bigger than you or me, something that teaches people just to get out there and give it a go because you never know what you might achieve.

I know it was on my doorstep, but the stories I saw today made me feel like I traveled a long way ………. perhaps I did in a funny sort of a way. Maybe it was a journey down the lane of perspective.

TTB

Awesome Augusta – WA

Monday was a public holiday here in Australia. The forecast was hot, hot, hot. This little ‘Travel Bee’ and her kids were in a lazy mood after spending some 12 hours of Australia Day at the beach boating, skiing, swimming and eating with friends and family. We wanted to veg out.

But, Mr ‘Travel Bee’ was having none of it. We had a day off and we were going on a day trip to his favourite day trip location…. Augusta. He piled us into the car with a chorus of moans, cranked up the air conditioning and we were off.

The 90km journey was pretty uneventful. The kids eventually accepted their fate and fell asleep. Nan and myself gazed out the window and commented on how dry the vegetation looked. Dad just drove.

When we reached Augusta Bakery (a must when visiting) and stepped out of the car, we could not believe how a 90km journey and less than an hour in the car could drop the temperature by 11 degrees. Instead of a sweltering 36 degrees it was a pleasant 25! Perhaps Dad wasn’t so silly after all.

As usual the bakery pies were yummy. The pastry was flaky and rich, 3 out of 5 opted for the beef and mushroom pie, Nan got the beef and I had satay chicken sticks, chips and salad (a weird choice for a bakery I know, but I enjoyed it).

From here, we headed down to the foreshore in front of the Colourpatch cafe. We set up the chairs, esky and kayaks and settled in for the afternoon.

Augusta foreshore

Miss 9 and Dad headed off on an adventure on the kayaks, while Master 12 and I headed into the water with the skim ball. The water was warm and inviting and we enjoyed meeting people out on the sandbank. We chatted as we threw the ball. We met a kid who spent the afternoon picking up seaweed, rowing it around ‘selling’ it to people. It was so nice to see a kid using his imagination to play, just like we used to when I was a kid.

The kayakers setting off on their adventure

Nan dipped her toes in the water and enjoyed her time watching us frolick in the water, from the shade of a pine tree.

Just like magic as we exited the water we heard the call of a Mr Whippy van in the vicinity. We set off on our mission, following its call as it drove around the nearby caravan park. Finally we found our target….

Then, just to finish off the day we were gazing out into the river finishing our cones when a dog caught my eye. He was out quite deep swimming along. Suddenly he seemed to panic a bit and changed directions a few times, seemly not knowing where to go. Then his reasoning became clear as 4 inquisitive dolphins cruised up beside him. His owner whistled and he headed into shore as there was a scramble of people heading towards the dolphins, our kids included.

So, the Augusta adventure concluded with a close encounter with dolphins. They swam around and under the kayaks, putting on a show for their occupants. If there was still any doubt about Dad’s idea for the day, it was all dissolved in that moment.

Honestly there is a dolphin in this picture I promise!

And so, the message is clear……… Even when you don’t feel up to it, even when tiredness takes hold, even if it all seems too hard…… don’t waste a single day, because who knows what it might bring. Well done Mr Travel Bee, it was a grand idea!!

TTB

Combating the holiday blues…. with food!

Returning from a holiday always sucks. There is something so liberating about traveling, the feelings of freedom and adventure. When it is all over you can’t help but feel trapped by the humdrum of normality.

For me, this week was tough. The kids are not yet back to school, so it isn’t quite ‘normal’ but it was near enough. There was work, food to cook, washing to do, sports commitments and health appointments to attend. There were big bills too, with the credit card being hit with overseas transactions and a set of braces for my son.

It was all starting to get me down. I had to have a stern talking to myself …….. life is what you make it girl! There is no point sitting at home wishing I was back on holiday. I had to get out the door and do something fun, meet some friends, have a chat and eat some yummy food. Oh and yes ……. start planning the next holiday!

Lucky for me, I had a work lunch scheduled yesterday. We met at a restaurant called Nicola’s on the main street in Bunbury. I was not familiar with the place, having not really visited the centre of town in years, but my colleagues assured me I was in for a treat.

I decided on the ‘market fish of the day’ as I often do (I don’t tend to cook fish often). It was crimson snapper on a bed of Parmesan mash, topped with an olive and tomato salsa. As I was driving, I accompanied this with a glass of lemon, lime and bitters, my go to ‘sober’ drink.

It was delicious. At first I thought it didn’t look all that big, but once I started eating I knew it would be the perfect portion. The mash was indulgent and filling with its hint of cheese, the fish delicate and perfectly cooked. The tomatoes and saltiness of the olives topped it off perfectly, each mouthful pure pleasure.

When I finished I felt perfectly full, not uncomfortable and not needing more. I thought to myself, a coffee would finish things of nicely. But then the waitress informed us of the dessert special for the day…… banoffee pie. Seriously, this is probably the only dessert I can not resist!!

Fortunately, one of colleagues came to the rescue and offered to share one with me. Perfect….. I could try the pie and not feel too guilty about it, I quickly agreed to the deal!

It was amazing with the richest most decadent caramel, topped with whipped cream and sliced fresh banana. A touch of raspberry coulis breaking through for a taste sensation.

As expected, the girls were quite right I had enjoyed a lovely treat. Not only was the food amazing but so was the company. I am the ‘newbie’ at work but they have all been amazing at welcoming me into the team and making me feel like a valued member. I am excited about the future holds with these lovely, kind women.

My day wasn’t over yet. After driving back home and having a little rest, the family headed out to meet some friends at Amelia Park tavern for dinner. I know…….. how terribly piggy of me!

It was so lovely to catch up with friends and get out of the house on a Saturday night. The kids all get on well and we barely saw them as they played on the lawn, from time to time coming in hot and sweaty for a drink or food. We sat and chatted while sipping our cider and wine.

When it came to eating, I had to opt for a salad with lunch still weighing quite heavy! I went for a roast pumpkin, mushroom and halloumi salad which was delicious. Presented slightly different to what I expected, the pumpkin in wedges on the bottom with the mushrooms and halloumi layered above, then topped with greens and crunchy chick peas (which were surprisingly yummy).

I guess home ain’t so bad after all! I just have to make myself get out there and enjoy it. There are so many wonderful things on our doorstep here and it is my mission this year to discover them. From food and wine experiences, to beaches, walks and boating. Look out South West WA, The Travel Bee is coming!

TTB

Bustling Bangkok

We tacked a Bangkok three night stop over onto the journey home from Japan. I am not exactly sure how we were anticipating spending it, but it was clear as we left Sahoro (and 6 days solid skiing/snowboarding) it would be rest that was mainly required and not so much sightseeing.

The trouble is, the husband and I find that hard. If we are somewhere new, we like to see and live it, but the kids are realists and are keen to remind us they are tired. The compromise has been a couple of hours touring here and there, followed by the remainder of the day by the pool and a few of these….

Thailand has a familiar kind of feel for us, having visited the country a couple of times before. I however, had not been to Bangkok. To me it just feels like the rest of the country, but on steroids!

There are the glaringly obvious incongruities, like the buildings that seem to be falling down around people, yet they house the latest model TVs. There are new model cars zipping around the streets and I even saw someone on a freeway on an electric scooter (you know stand up style like our kids have)!!! Then there are the buses that look like a wheel may fall off at any moment.

I first remember seeing crazy things like this, an almost blatant disregard for safety, when I visited Phuket in about 1998. Back then I was new to travelling and I found it all very confronting. Today I just find it a little puzzling……. I guess the disparity between rich and poor is just more evident in some places.

Yesterday we took a trip on the Skytrain (this is great, not delayed by the crazy traffic, air conditioned and with a view) down to the river. The kids were not feeling up to a boat trip, but we assured them it was worth a look anyway. The boats down there are something else, powered by V8 car engines!

Today we wandered over to the nearby Siam Centre, a huge high end shopping complex where you could buy anything from a cheap lunch, to clothes, electronics or a Maserati!! It was quite an eye opener. In some shops you had to be invited to enter. In others, escorted around as you browsed. We just gawked from the outside!

From here, we had an hour or so fun in Madame Tussaud’s, the kids loved ‘hanging out’ with some super stars and posing for photos. I didn’t mind it too much either….

Unfortunately though this holiday has come to an end. All we have left to do now is our obligatory Thai massage, then it is a 3:20am transfer to the airport tomorrow morning.

You know what they say……. ‘all good things must come to an end’. But, dam it sucks when it does! Here’s to planning the next trip.

TTB

Food extravaganza – Sahoro Hokkaido

We have now arrived in Bangkok for the rest and recovery part of our holiday. But before I write anything about Bangkok, I feel I have missed something huge from Club Med Sahoro…… and that is the food.

We had never done an all inclusive family holiday before so we really had no idea what to expect. We thought, being in Japan, there would be sushi and sashimi and perhaps some tempura…… we had also heard about the snow crab.

We did not expect to be treated to an international food extravaganza!

Yes there was sushi… (plus sashimi, tempura, miso soup, Japanese fried chicken and Japanese curries)

Prawn Sushi
Japanese fried chicken

And there was Thai, Korean, Sri Lankan and Indian food.

Thai salmon salad

Then there was European food… French, Italian and Hungarian.

There were desserts of all varieties and influences. The presentation was immaculate. My daughter’s favourite was definitely the chocolate fountain! There is no photo of that though, because…….well it was a little embarrassing how she ended up! Something similar to a Vegemite grin.

But, without a doubt the most impressive food, both in presentation and taste, was snow crab night. Although, I am not usually one to go for crab, I figured with a food station so grand and imposing I had to give it a go and boy was it worth it. The meat so delicate and tasty, the dipping sauce setting it off perfectly. Definitely something not to be missed.

We thought we might get sick of sushi, but with the selection on offer, it was difficult to get sick of anything.

TTB

I have had to make a quick edit to this blog as I completely forgot to mention the selection of amazing cheeses and breads that we finished each evening with. Brie, Camembert, Blue cheese, Gouda etc. One of my favourite comments from little miss 9 this holiday was……. ‘Dad, I like Brie but I prefer the firmness of Camembert’. We were all in stitches. Looks like we have a cheese connoisseur on our hands!!

TTB (again)