Christmas? Plan for a Cool Yule – now

Winter in the Blue Mountains 
After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of New South Wales, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining, festive decorations, music and rousing entertainment.

A regional tradition since 1980, Yulefest is held mid-winter (officially throughout July but often beginning in June and extending into August), with many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and restaurants taking part.

Escarpment Group of luxury hotels guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’

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Here’s an early bird Yulefest list to choose from:

Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba
French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.

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Owner Lorraine Allanson says: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’

Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.

Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.

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Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 1. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.

This is English tenor Brad Cooper (not the other Star is Born Bradley Cooper).

Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.

Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany your repast with delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.

Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba
Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.

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Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba
For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.

Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown
`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.

The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.

Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.

A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.

Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett says: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’

Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.

The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show 
The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.

It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.

Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.

The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.

Visit:

Parklands in Spring 12

 

Anzac Day – Lest We Forget

Anzac Day – Lest We Forget

I wrote this blog post last year and my thoughts are still the same. At the end of last year an aunty sent me a letter that she had found that my father wrote when he was stationed in Darwin during WWII, to his mother, my nanna, Isabelle. This wasn’t a letter of great political or even sentimental import, just a simple note from a young man to his mum, with the underlying message of missing his family. I would like to share it, there is no date just his title, and army numbers and I can’t work out whether it is pre Darwin bombing or after, I suspect ‘pre’:

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Dear Mum, 

I have just received your ever welcoming letter but I must say you took your time about it. Every day I looked forward to getting one and I had started to think you had forgotten about me, it was real good to hear from you though.

So George Breen and Jimmy have joined up have they, I wonder when pop is going to, I think I’ll join the A.I.F.again when I get back, this is on the nose up here.

I’m glad to hear that Bert (his brother) is on a boat now and that he passed his exam, he’s worked hard enough for it.

It’s still the same up here, hotter than hell with the lid off, we’ve had a change the last couple of days, it’s been raining like hell.

I received that Christmas card you sent me and it was very nice, thanks mum.

P.S. I’m sorry to hear about Sam getting wounded.

Is there any chance of getting a pair of pyjamas, these have started to rot. Nice long legs if you can get them.

Love Bill xxx

 

In Australia (for my overseas readers) we honour the soldiers who fought for their country in past wars that they were involved in. On the 25th of April it’s Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day.

I’ve serendipitously arrived in countries that have similar traditions, Veterans Day in the USA, Ochi (No) Day in Greece plus Greece’s Independence Day and Armed Forces Day in Britain. And there must be many marches/processions around the globe – as there would be a rare country that wasn’t involved in a minor political skirmish or a major. all out war in the past or in the present..

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Australian 1st Division troops march through the London streets on the anniversary of the first Anzac Day in 1916. Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament can be seen. 

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In Sydney in 1916, one year after WWI ended, wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended the march in convoys of cars, attended by nurses.

I have a complicated emotional history with Anzac Day. When I was a child it was a tradition that we went to the march (always called ‘the march’) in Sydney – my mother, myself and my little sister. We would watch the veterans from the WWI on through to Korea march by or be transported in the back of an open car. We, and the thick crowd would clap and wave our flags. Waving at our father – for we knew not what. He had never spoken about the raid on Darwin which I found out he had been under serving as a young lad who lied about his age to join the army.

Darwin being bombed – 9 February 1942.

At the end of the long march, we would head to Hyde Park to eat sandwiches and drink cordial that my mother had made. Our father would join us before he headed off to the pub to meet up with his army buddies. To me this was a heady thing. Who were these men, what did they talk about. As a kid I had no concept of war and participated in Anzac Day like it was Christmas Day or the Queens Birthday – some sort of celebration.

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Two young men went off to war, one went to the army (my father Bill Wroe) and one went to the navy (uncle Bert Wroe).

While my father was in the pub involved with secret men’s business we went up to Kings Cross – notorious for Bohemians and gangsters in the late 50s. My colourful aunty Jean had a flat there and somehow my mother and the aunties disappeared and us cousins just roamed the Kings X streets. We hung around the pubs as every space was taken up with blokes playing two-up. There was a lot of change dropped by careless punters and we cleaned up. The Greek fish’n’chip shop in Darlinghurst Road got most of the booty as we feasted on chips, scallops, and battered savs.

These were idyllic days. And never an inquiring mind when at my grandmother’s as I gazed at the oval picture frames holding images of my great uncles. My nan said that she “lost four of her brothers in the war” – and all I thought that how could you lose four men. Where did they get lost?

Marching in the 1950s.

But as I grew older and the Vietnam War was front of mind and claiming space in the nightly TV news, I became enraged at the idea of a lottery, a barrel full of names where a young man of 19 years of age would be stamped on a ticket and they would be conscripted into the army to go fight a war in Indochina where nobody of their tender age even knew where it was. So I turned my back on Anzac Day and protested in the streets against the war. This wasn’t about the soldiers, who when they returned to Australia were unfairly spurned and were given a hard time, it was about our engagement in this terrible war. When Gough Whitlam was elected to Prime Minister he declared that the war was over for Australian soldiers in Vietnam and they were to be brought home.

Sadly it was a few decades until the returned Vietnam vets were recognised and honoured for their service. And through those decades, many were fighting for compensation and assistance with the cancers they came back with from Agent Orange – a deadly poison dropped across the south Vietnamese paddy fields to starve the enemy. And many of those young men who came home died from cancer and now men into their late 60s are still suffering from PTSD.) What a dirty little war it was.

I softened towards Anzac day about 20 years ago when I was in Winton, a little town in the middle of Queensland – out the back of beyond. I had a few days there and one of those days was Anzac Day. I wanted to see how it played out in the country town.

I woke before dawn and walked to where the town’s War Memorial stood. There were probably about 30 people there. Two kids from the local Scout troop stood sentinel at the memorial, and a couple of soldiers who had driven down from Townsville (600km) were here. A couple of old guys in wheelchairs were attending wearing their best suits and rows of medals pinned to the left side. A ratty old tape recorder played a creaky version of the Last Post and as the final sound faded out a huge flock of budgerigars took to the sky as dawn was breaking. I felt my heart stop and a great sadness come over me. What were those old guys remembering?

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Winton War Memorial.

Along the way I asked my father about the bombing of Darwin and he always kept it light but said “the bastards kept on coming”. Dad was on the Ack Ack guns, he found Darwin very hot and his mates a good bunch . . . that’s all I got.

It’s funny that in the mid 60s when my parents separated that my dad went back to Darwin to meet up with his foster-brother (our Uncle Alf) and except for rare visits to Sydney he lived in Darwin until he died in 1995.

With the constant barrage of news we suffer every day from television and social media it seems like the world is on fire with war hotspots. People going crazy with grief, going crazy with rage, going crazy with a lust for blood. Will it ever end? I think not.

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Dad to Beverley and Dianne – Bill Wroe.

So for this coming Anzac Day let’s make it a day of remembrance for the fallen and for those who served and suffered. And importantly, remember the current/contemporary victims of war and how they flee their ragged and war-corrupted lands for a better and safer life – remember the grand deeds of our past – but there are less than grand and kind deeds occurring now.  Lest We Forget.

Writer Bev Malzard does not attend ANZAC marches in Sydney now and cannot watch it on TV as she tends to tear up. Does this happen because of age, sentimentality, empathy or a greater understanding of the world? Who knows, but as she slips back into hippiedom, she’s back on the streets crying out “make love, not war”.

 

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Morocco gets on my goat!

Morocco gets on my goat!

This is not fake news or fake photos. There we were, driving along a flat, dry part of the western Moroccan landscape dotted with small farm houses and solitary argan trees (agania spinosa), endemic to Morocco.

I squinted at the tree in the distance, with its limbs spread out in the sun and great clumps of wooly white stuff mid branches.

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As we drew closer I doubled up with laughter – goats up a tree. I had never seen such a thing.

On top of a tree! Here, in the south-west of Morocco, in North Africa where the plants and trees are far apart and fewer, goats use their climbing skills to find their food. Here the animals have climbed up an argan tree to get to the fresh fruit at the top. They can climb an impressive 8-10 metres to do this.

The good oil

Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta.

Argan oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and has moisturising, anti-aging and antioxidant properties. … in short, it promises results as a powerful anti-wrinkle cream. (I hope this works!)

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Moroccan argan oil is made from the seed of the Argan tree), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and Algeria. While the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk, some Berber women will hand-pick and open the nut to get at the seed.

The trees often grow to up to 8 metres and the goats have no qualms about moving along the thorny branches in search of the tree’s bitter fruit.

The argan fruit resembles a shriveled golden apple. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel and contains the fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that looks like a dried olive.

The crazy tree goats love the pulp. They eat the whole fruit despite the fact that their bodies can’t digest the nut. Greedy goats!

The argan nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats and once they are excreted, people gather them from the droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside.

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The production and marketing of argan oil is a valuable resource for Morocco – economically and for education. Stats (compiled by the University of California) of enrolment data from 1981-2010 concluded that the rise in production of argan oil is directly linked to an increase in Moroccan girls being able to attend secondary school.

And back to goats in trees  . . . even after feeding their faces, the goats hang around on the branches of the trees just looking out at the horizon . . . excellent for photography and tourism.

Writer, Bev Malzard was smitten by the goats-in-trees phenomenon and grabbed a baby goat to cuddle while standing under the tree. She took the goat to Marrakech, bought it dinner, a new cardigan and a phone card. But nothing persuaded the animal to get on a plane to travel to Australia. Goat’s loss! Malzard is currently under arrest for trying to smuggle a baby donkey into Oz, will she never learn?

Travel to Morocco with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

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Flat out with a flat white in Marrakech

It seems the Aussie cult of the ubiquitous ‘flat white ‘ coffee has slipped its frothy tendrils of crema and aromatic caffeine fairy dust itself into every corner of the globe. Countries where coffee is king has had to surrender space to this cheeky coffee kid and are now sharing sipping time.

You can get a flat white in England now, New York, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Paris (a reluctant host who still calls it cafe latte), South Africa and surprise, on top of the African continent – Magical Marrakech in Morocco.

In a very classy part of the ‘new town’ there’s an elegant and stylishly sparse restaurant called +61, owned and run by Australian Cassandra Karinsky.

‘Cassie’ , originally from Sydney has been living in Marrakech for almost 13 years now. +61 has recently obtained a liquor licence and as well as lunches the dinner crowd has swelled to enjoy a mod Oz style menu with a continental flavour and a Hint of Moroccan spice.

I enjoyed Asian dumplings in a fragrant broth and my companions devoured salted cod and a chicken salad.

We finished off the lunch in a modest manner – we shared one lamington (yes, lamingtons have arrived in Marrakech) and flat white coffees all around.

Cassie was asked to make lamingtons for the Aussie ambassador in Rabat for an Australia day celebration and managed to roll out 400 of the little buggers. And all were devoured.

The lamington on the menu at +61 was put up for fun originally but they suddenly became celebrity cakes and are a mainstay in the menu today.

I don’t long for tastes of home while travelling but to encounter a fellow Aussie working in a foreign city and bringing a tiny bit of Oz culture to town is kind of fun.

And this lunch fortified me to jump back into to the Marrakech melee in search of more shoes – yep, keep your strength up and drink coffee.

I’m a bit slow – had to update the blog because I just got the meaning of the name of the restaurant – +61 – of course it’s the international prefix to Australia’s phone numbers.

Writer Bev Malzard is travelling in Morocco with @bypriorarrangement who has shown her many cities, meals, co,ours, adventures and a damn fine time.

Visit plus61.com

Visit http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

Drumming up light and love

Drumming up light and love
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Something happened to me in my mid 30s (a few years ago now) I stopped doing any regular exercise. I had dabbled in yoga and even had personal trainer for a short while. And as a teenager, had played competitive squash and tennis. But time and work and the party life offered little useful movement and the promise of sedentary comfort.
But over the past couple of years with decades of sitting on my bum in front of a computer, travelling and sampling the best food in the world . . . my weight ballooned and my fitness added up to being breathless while walking up slight inclines.
So, with a changed work routine, less time at the computer, I now walk as much as I can and spend time at the local pool doing aqua aerobics.
I’m feeling damn good these days, better energy and actually motivated to move more.
Recently I went to a yoga retreat for a couple of days with a group of amazing women. Yoga, schmoga! I liked the idea of it but draw the line when I see pictures of people yoga- ing in various locations from around the world.
Anyway, I did the weekend, attended half the yoga classes (bit old and stiff to fully immerse) and enjoyed the weekend immensely.
Aside from brilliant vegan food – yes – brilliant – created by the ‘laughing chef’ which I went back for seconds, there’s the  drumming circle.
Now, in the past I had, I admit, put crap over the ‘wimmins’ drumming circles. But full of peace and love by way of Happy Buddha Retreat I surrendered to the drumming experience.
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Wow.
What a wonderful experience, bashing, tapping, humming and smiling as wide as the Megalong Valley I am a convert. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be shaken off, damped down or moved out of your mind while the drum rhythm is vibrating through your hands, body and mind.
The beds here are comfy, you can share or have your own room, there’s an ensuite bathroom, a swimming pool and peaceful grounds for relaxing and breathing in the pure mountain air.
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Jeevi, originally from Nepal is known as the Laughing Chef and prepares the Happy Buddha Retreats’ brilliant dishes. 
Below is some information on a weekend away to immerse yourself in the drumming circle.
This is not a sponsored post, I don’t get paid to talk up these types of experiences – it’s just that I loved it and want to share the happy vibes of the Happy Buddha Retreat. I caught the train from Sydney to Wentworth Falls, about 90 minutes or so from Sydney. The drive is quick and easy and there’s parking.
I may even head back there again myself. Drumming yes, but not the downward dog, who has time when there’s vegan curries to eat . . .

 

Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee snob? Think that cafe latte is the one and only? When you take a sip of this beautiful beverage it’s about the shot, the kick, the blend, so take a chance and discover other coffee styles.

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Australia has one of the most eclectic, thriving food scenes around and a cafe culture to match. So naturally, we don’t mess around when it comes to coffee. But do we know our way around the world’s coffees? Read on.

1 ITALIAN CAPPUCCINO

This splendidly evolved cuppa is named after the Capuchin friars’ cloaks. The word ‘cappuccio’ means ‘hood’ in Italian, and the ‘-ino’ ending makes it what’s called the ‘diminutive’.

In other words, instead of just meaning ‘hood,’ ‘cappuccino’ means ‘little hood’.

It’s because of the hoods worn by a particular order of Franciscan monks which was founded in the early 16th century that they were given this moniker – Capuchin monks, or “Cappuccini” in Italian.

The wonderful beverage is: double espresso with steamed milk creating a lovely ‘crema’. (Italians do not drink cappuccino after midday.)

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2 GREEK COFFEE

This is a strong brew, served with foam on the top and the grounds in the bottom of the cup

Strong ground powdered coffee spooned into a briki (Greek coffee pot), water added with a little sugar, boiled and stirred roughly. The ‘crema’ is a shiny foaming surface. Served in tiny cups and downed in two sips. (Order cafe metreo for a little sugar included.)

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3 VIENNA COFFEE

An indulgent traditional drink made with two shots of black espresso in a standard size cup and infusing the coffee with a generous amount of whipped cream. Swirl the cream and dust with chocolate sprinkles. Expect this elegant coffee to arrive at your table served on a small silver tray accompanied by a glass of water.

https://www.wien.gv.at/english/culture-history/viennese-coffee-culture.html

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4 NOUS-NOUS, MOROCCO

“Nous-Nous’ is Arabic for ‘half-half’, half coffee, half hot milk. A strong, tasty drink served in a little glass tumbler.

5.VIETNAM’S EGG COFFEE

Everyone at Hanoi’s humble Cafe Giang have come for “cà phê trúng,” or egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty of a creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam perched on dense Vietnamese coffee. Nguyen Van Giang invented the recipe while working as a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in 1946. There was a shortage of fresh milk then, so whisked egg yolk was used as a substitute.

“All the foreigners and the Vietnamese in the hotel liked it,” says Van Dao. So he decided to leave the hotel to start selling egg coffee and create his own brand.

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6 BALI COFFEE

Or ‘Cat Poo’ coffee. Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a civet cat that selects the finest, ripest coffee cherries to eat. It can’t digest the stone (the coffee bean) and poos them out, its anal glands imparting an elusive musky smoothness to the roasted coffee.

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And for coffee fiends there’s so much more . . .the heady Turkish coffee, Kahve; the Ethiopian Ceremonial coffee; the Ipoh white coffee of Malaysia . . .and the all-time great Australian flat white. A shot of espresso and hot milk, no adornment. Drink up!

Writer, Bev Malzard could not find a picture of Morocco’s nous-nous nor has she ever tasted it . . . but . . . next month she’ll be in Morocco and will hunt this coffee down. Watch this space.

All images from @unsplash http://www.unsplash.com

 

 

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Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.comA quick fix blog this week as I am away on a yoga retreat in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney (I knoooow, what was I thinking) and am short on blogging time this week. A post on the yoga experience might even make its way here if I survive bending, stretching and being ‘mindful’. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe maybe.

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One of my fave shots: there’s always a bride waiting to be photographed.

So, following on from last week’s Vietnam cruise story here are a few images I snapped in Hanoi pre and post the cruise. What an amazing city is it; brim to overflowing with personality, pragmatism and sassiness. The French colonial theme still stands in some quarters with rather lovely buildings, parks and he aroma of freshly baked bread . . .which is the legacy the Vietnamese were happy to retain once the colonialists had departed.

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IMG_1655IMG_1653Spot the tourist.

 

Writer, Bev Malzard has visited Hanoi several times and the last visit she stayed at super posh Hanoi Metropole Hotel, a divine establishment breathing history and charm. Here she cosies up to one of the doormen who gave her cheek every day, and she gave back as good as she got.

 

IMG_2753http://www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com

 

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