10 reasons the Barossa’s the best place to break your New Year’s resolution

10 reasons the Barossa’s the best place to break your New Year’s resolution

If you’re tempted to take a break from your new year’s resolution, do something to make it worth breaking and take a detour to the Barossa, Australia. The award-winning gourmet food, quality wine and luxury hotels in the Barossa are just a few great excuses to place your resolutions on hold. Travel website Wotif.com has suggested ten irresistible options for us to share with you…

Top ten Barossa

1. Diet – go off course with degustation
If you’re tempted to ditch the calorie counting and craving some delicious morsels, take a gourmet food detour to Hentley Farm, where dining is more than a meal – it’s an experimental food journey. Enjoy dinner or lunch in the restored stables surrounded by the Farm’s 150 acre estate with sloping vineyards. Choose between two set seasonal menu options offering matched wines. Try a four dish course or why not take your time and let the chef take you on a culinary adventure with the ‘Discovery’ menu.

Hentley Farm

2. Money saving – splurge on luxury
On the North Para River you’ll find the lavish Kingsford Homestead, once the set of the popular ‘McLeod’s Daughters’ TV series. It’s Georgian style charm and Gothic features will take you back to another era. If you’re taking a break from your New Year’s budget, stay two or more nights in one of the suites or the cottage – it’s well worth starving the piggy bank for a week. You’ll be treated to an all-inclusive stay with gourmet country breakfasts, sunset canapés and drinks, as well as five and three course alternating dinners. The homestead also has a slate-floored cellar where you’ll be treated to vintage wine tasting. Take a walk along the river gorges or relax in the al fresco bath situated in a hidden corner of the property.

Kingsford Homestead

3. Detox – wine not?
Rather than a quick trip to your local bottle shop, head to the Barossa and take your time and sample fine drops made from some of the oldest vineyards in the area. With 150 wineries producing divine Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, fortified wines and more, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Make sure you visit the cellar door of Australia’s oldest family owned winery Yalumba. To wander along some of the oldest surviving vineyards in Australia, visit Langmeil winery. You might also like to visit some of the well known household names from Penfolds to Peter Lehmann or visit the boutique wineries such as Tscharke, where you can do a tasting in the gardens overlooking the vineyard. A guided tour is the best way to see what the Barossa vineyards have to offer, try the Best of Barossa Gourmet Food and Wine Tour for two.


4. Cut back on rich food – say cheese
Forget eyeing off that ordinary lump of cheddar in your fridge, save your cheese cravings for the delicious selections at The Barossa Valley Cheese Company. With more than 18 different types of cheese, from the award winning Barossa Washington to Camembert, Brie and a range of goat milk cheese, you’ll be glad you waited. Try a cheese tasting and then choose from your favourites and compliment with crisp bread and other condiments sold at the shop.

5. Get fit – swap sparring for spa-ing
No gym clothes here, just plush bathrobes and slippers at Novotel Barossa Valley Resort’s Endota Spa. Relax and choose from a soothing massage, footbath and facial or treat yourself to all and more with an all-day spa experience. With the Barossa Valley as your background, a fitting match would be indulging in the day spa’s red wine soak. Spa guests will also have access to the facilities at the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort. Bask by the heated pool on the terrace or play a leisurely game of tennis or chess with the giant outdoor set.

Novotel Barossa Valley Resort

6. Stay grounded – blow me away
Start the day watching the sunrise over the fields of vineyards in a floating basket. Going on a one hour air balloon ride with Barossa Valley Ballooning is an exhilarating way to see the Barossa’s countryside. Once you’re back on your feet, indulge in a buffet breakfast with local produce and sparkling wine at Harry’s Restaurant, at the Novotel Resort.

Hot air ballooning

7. No more dining out – picnic at Maggie’s
Pack a picnic rug and spoil your taste buds at Maggie Beer’s Farm shop. Here you can choose from mouth-watering pates, olives, cheeses and wood fired bread or pick up a picnic basket with a selection of treats. Try Maggie’s delicious Orchard Sparkling Apple Juice made from pink lady apples to compliment your picnic spread. The blue lake, surrounding olive trees and orchid make it a perfect spot for a luxury picnic. For a second course, satisfy your sweet tooth with a seasonal fruit tart or Maggie Beer’s ice cream.

Maggie Beer picnic

8. Budget with Cleanskins – go vintage
Save your wine sampling for a unique experience at Seppeltsfield winery. It’s famous for the Centennial Collection which includes the world’s only range of consecutive line of Tawny. Featuring every year from 1878, you can take a tour of the cellar and taste the Tawny from your birth year. For an added treat, purchase a bottle from an anniversary year or take home a bottle of the century old Tawny.

9. Eat less sweets – bakery delights
Freshly baked Danishes, warm cinnamon scrolls and crusty pies are hard to resist at the best of times but the irresistible delicious range of German influenced goodies at Lyndoch Bakery will make you forget you even had a new year’s resolution. Sit down for a hearty bakehouse breakfast, a traditional German lunch or try the Steak and Shiraz Pie. Expect to walk out with baked treats for later as you wipe away the crumbs.

10. Be thrifty – go on a shopping spree
The towns of Tanunda and Angaston offer boutique shops with jewellery, antiques and home wares that will persuade you to take window shopping to the next level. You’ll find quality hand jewellery at Barossa Birthstones. For locally designed home wares, clothing and shoes check out the selection at Alabaster. Vintage shoppers should take a look at the original pieces at Dragonfly Antiques and search through the knick-knacks at Pioneer Antiques.

Sound good? More info here.

Do you have any Barossa tips to add? We’d love your advice or input – drop us a line in the comments below.



Best meal of all! Verde Restaurant Sydney…

Best meal of all! Verde Restaurant Sydney…

Verde Restaurant Sydney delicious Italian

verde_bar8The last time I was in Sydney I mentioned on Facebook that I’d enjoyed the best meal of my life. A number of people have since asked if I was joking, but actually no, I was totally serious.

On a mission to discover a Sydney beyond the tourist traps, Cooper and I found ourselves wandering just under ten minutes from our Potts Point accommodation (or King’s Cross station as a landmark) to a suburban restaurant surrounded by beautiful tree lined streets and swimming with aromas of Italy.

Our noses led us to Verde Restaurant & Bar, recent winner of three prestigious Chef’s Hats. As the sun set across the city, we wandered into this very elegant, intimate establishment – a stunning, heritage listed Victorian building, situated on the corner of Stanley and 115 Riley Street within an area renowned as being East Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’.

Our usual dining routine is this: Take a seat, choose a main, perhaps an entrée if really hungry – both of which would be dishes familiar to us; scoff meal, leave full and with any luck, feel generally satisfied.

verde_V2At Verde Restaurant Sydney however, because we had arrived just prior to the evening rush, we had the pleasure of chatting to Antonio Ruggerino, owner and head chef (pictured below), who insisted we try it his way. Antonio is one of those truly passionate Italians who is as enthusiastic about food as he is knowledgeable.

He’s worked for a variety of excellent restaurants all over the world, but told us his real inspiration stemmed from a love of hanging out – watching and learning – in the family kitchen as a child. Antonio’s always loved food, and was smart enough to follow this passion into an adult career.

And how could we resist anyone who said to us he wanted to “Feed us like we’re true Italian family”? Deal.

So began our foray into tasting smaller portions of a wide variety of dishes (entrées, mains and desserts) featured on the Verde menu rather than one or two larger items resulting in our usual predictable outcome.

FoodPicAs we enjoyed a divine glass of sparkling wine, we eagerly anticipated what would emerge first. A large plate brimming with samples predominantly from the entrée menu appeared in no time. Take a look at the menu HERE, and as your mouth waters, let me assure you these taste even better than they sound.

The Zucchini flowers filled with ricotta and spinach are divine, and the chilli dusted calamari melts in your mouth. We tried about ten different items however, and each offered a taste phenomenon that had us longing for more in between expressions like, “wow”, “how did he do that” and “that’s sooo good”.

One thing we loved about Antonio’s food is that it wasn’t overdone. It’s not ‘too fancy’ – it’s actually quite simple cuisine but tasty and perfectly prepared, cooked and matched with complementary ingredients.

FoodPic_3Then came a round of options from the mains menu. The Gnocchi (home made), Mozzarella di Buffalo, parsley, Tomato Sugo was to die for – a delicious explosion of tomato and cheese flavours and alluring textures. I had to be restrained from licking my plate. We also tried Confit of Duck Leg with herb Gnocchi, Caramelised Balsamic Pear which to our absolute shock, we loved. We’re not really big fans of duck, but this meat was tender and not gamey at all, and the pear’s sweetness was a perfect accompaniment to the other flavours emanating from this course. Like everything he gave us, this was plate-lickingly good!

We continued to indulge in whatever came our way, and our eyes grew wide with glee when a plate of dessert treats emerged, my favourite being the Crumble Apple & Cinnamon with Caramelised Almonds and Vanilla Gelato. OMG! I was so enamoured of this dish that I only scraped a mouthful or two of other sweet delights that Cooper had quickly devoured while I wasn’t paying attention.

The entire meal wasn’t a meal, but a culinary experience. We tried food we would never have ordered therefore we enjoyed encountering something new! And we left feeling entirely satisfied but not sickly full. It seems Antonio really does know his stuff, not just flavours that will suit one’s mood or even the weather outside, but he understands portions too.

It’s about the experience

choc_fondenteThe reason this all came about, is because Antonio prides himself on being a master of selecting cuisine he instinctively knows diners will love, but that we wouldn’t order for ourselves. It’s disappointing to him that people miss out on these kinds of experiences, so much so he is now encouraging diners to let he and his team take charge. Don’t worry about decision making – entrust your experience to him, and for a fraction of the price of a traditional degustation menu, anyone can put Antonio’s skills to the test – and you really should, because we bet you’ll be surprised and delighted every time. Drop into Verde, tell Antonio what you or any of your party don’t eat, and he’ll then serve you the best meal of your life. Simple and delicious.

If you’re seeking an authentic Sydney experience and a quality place to dine where Antonio serves up his very own perfect, traditional southern Italian family recipes, we’d encourage you to try Verde. It’s just lovely! There’s a marble bar too, and an extensive wine list; private areas for functions, and many cosy options for you, friends, family and colleagues.

Buon Appetito!

Sarah Blinco

Hotel love: Urban Hotel Brisbane

The best of boutique hotels: For accommodation that’s inspiring and surprising (and a little left-of-centre in all the right ways), check out – or check into – Brisbane’s Urban Hotel. Situated at the highest point of the city, this stylish hotel is nestled in a gorgeous little pocket overlooking the CBD and within walking distance to lush parks, cafes, transport and a variety of convenience options.

Take a one-minute tour with me…


The mantra here is to offer guests ‘surprises’, and on this promise, Hotel Urban certainly delivers. We’re not the only ones who think so either, as this hotel recently scored a Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award and the Best Superior Hotel (4 to 4.5 Stars) accolade at the Queensland Hotel Awards.

The lobby − aka Moët Rosé Lounge − showcases alluring art, elegant seating and Hollywoodesque decor, as well as designer fragrances which you’re free spritz for a post-travel pick-me-up. Rooms are spacious and fitted with contemporary luxuries like Nespresso pod machines, iPod docking stations, flat-screen televisions, quality interiors, and include comfy Slow Down slippers, plush bathrobes,  and the signature Urban Snorer specially crafted underlay, snug duvet and feather pillows. There is a range of rooms on offer, including suites with enormous balconies and sweeping city views, as well as pool-side villas named after Australia’s most famous beaches. In fact, the pool-side accommodation is ideal for groups travelling to Brisbane, because the sophisticated outdoor area beyond these rooms features private cabanas, sun-chairs and landscaping that will have you and your entourage channelling the glamorous lives of Footballers’ Wives in no time. There’s a gym (‘jim’), in-room massage available, funny and friendly staff, arty and colourful public spaces ideal for reading or a quiet chat with friends, and even an amazing private rooftop nightclub, meeting and conference rooms for those interested in reserving special-event facilities.

The Gazebo Bar & Restaurant on-site is not only where delicious meals may be devoured, drinks consumed and live entertainment enjoyed on Friday nights, but friends are likely to be made too! It’s an informal yet sassy gathering-place that at any given time brings forward a mix of accents and interesting folk. If however, you’re alone at the end of the day, Suzanne the cuddle-pole has been thoughtfully positioned so you’ve got ‘someone’ to lean on as darkness falls. Or, if you’re lucky like me, you might score one of the hotel brand’s signature soft-toy monkeys to keep as a memento of a truly lovely, unique, stylish, incredibly cool facility that offers so much more than just a bed for the night. Press play on the video above to see all of this in a one-minute walk-thru.


Hotel Urban, 345 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane │ +61 7 3831 6177

IMG_2441 (Copy) The_Green_Room (Copy) IMG_2286

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Mont Tremblant in Canada’s summer

Mont Tremblant in Canada’s summer

Gareth Anderson explores Mont Tremblant in Canada‘s summer, a fun winter sports playground, and ideal for a warmer-months tour through the land of the great redwoods. There’s plenty to keep even the most dedicated adrenaline junkie happy, and he shares insight with TravelLiveLearn.com …

Mont Tremblant is most often seen under a frosting of fresh powder nestled as it is in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec. But this mountain playground is even better bathed in summer sunshine. Check out the challenging mountain biking trails, improve your grade on the many outdoor rock climbing routes or put your best foot forward and set out on a hike. This is a great destination for active families who will be well placed to enjoy the mountain from one of the many accommodation options on offer across the town.

Lighthouse Park Canada hiking outdoors travellivelearn.com


Mont Tremblant National Park has a variety of European and North American style routes to try. If you are looking for a good introduction then the Tremblant Climbing School can teach you the basic techniques to get you started. Or if you are seeking something unique why not try the Diable Via Ferrate? These ‘via ferratas’ which translates as ‘iron roads’ are made up of steps, handles and beams hammered into the rock face. Climbers are clipped into a steel cable that runs the length of the route making it safe for all levels and ages. The view from 200 metres up is truly spectacular.

Biking and running

Biking fans won’t want to miss the Quebec and Canada Cup Mountain Bike Race. Over 1,000 bikers take on the mountain in this challenging downhill race each year. There are also cross country trail races that make the most of the many miles of mountain bike tracks in Mont Tremblant. Keen cyclists can also enjoy the excitement – or of course take part in – the Mont Tremblant Iron Man Competition. Competitors must swim 3.8 km across Lake Tremblant, cycle for 180 km and as if that’s wasn’t enough, run 42.2 km to reach the finish line at the Tremblant pedestrian village. You can get a taster of the Iron Man Competition by taking part or cheering on the athletes in the Mont Tremblant Triathlon. There are different levels to choose from, so match ambition to your course!

Kayaking at Deep Cove in British Columbia travellivelearn.com

Water Sports

Mont Tremblant also offers great options for those who want to spend some time on the water, kayaking, canoeing, rafting and sailing are all readily available around the resort. Rafting down the white water of the Rouge River is about as exhilarating as it gets, but if you want a slightly more restrained experience, La Diable river or the hidden beaches of the lake are easily explored by kayak. On the lake itself sailing, water skiing and wakeboarding are available at all levels with tuition on hand for those looking to get started or to simply improve skills.

hiking in the woods Canada Deep Cove travellivelearn.com


In the winter months the trails are covered in snow and ski slopes dominate everyone’s attention. In summer the hiking map is revealed, allowing walking enthusiasts to enjoy over 12 trails of varying distances with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. For those who like to take the scenic route down, there is the option of taking the panoramic gondola – the perfect way to arrive back at base refreshed and ready for your next adventure.


We adore Canada and British Columbia and believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Take a look for yourself here on Flickr