Tricks for travel: how to pack a bag in a rush

Suitcase

I haven’t spent much time at home lately. Through a chaotic combination of interstate travel, opera choruses, and friends who have been left alone too long with screaming toddlers, I’ve essentially been living out of a suitcase for a month. Luckily I used to travel a lot for work, so I have packing for nights away down to a fine art.

The following tricks come in particularly handy if, like me, you have an adhoc approach to doing laundry, a largely mismatched wadrobe, and a propensity for waking up hungover on packing day. Sigh.

So what are my best tricks?

1) Have your toiletries already packed

I have a box of ‘holiday’ toiletries from which I can quickly grab what I need for a night or a few weeks away, whatever the requirement. This includes the following LLUF approved items:

  • Natio Tinted Moisturiser (SPF50) – because I spend more time in the sun and less time with make up on when I’m away;
  • MooGoo Fresh Cream Roll On Deoderant – I don’t travel with aerosols to expediate airport check in;
  • Small refillable bottles for shampoo, conditioner and body wash;
  • A lip gloss that can double as a creme blush; and
  • Sids and Kids baby wipes – supporting a cause close to my heart; making it easier to remove makeup after a late night out; and providing an emergency option for touching up an insufficiently cleaned hotel room

Toiletries

2) Always pack the basics first

Socks, jocks, pyjamas and always, always, always togs – just in case you get the chance to go swimming.

This leaves your mind totally free to focus on your outfits, without the fear of overlooking something important. Noone wants to be the family member who ends up in a blog post like this one by Mama Raj, which may or may not refer to Mr LLUF. He admits nothing.

3) Plug your phone into your charger so you remember it

We have all been through the traumatic experience of leaving a phone charger behind. Even if my phone doesn’t need charging I plug it in overnight, and when that alarm goes off in the morning I throw the phone and the charger into the bag straight away.

4) Always pack a book, a pen and paper

Lighter than a laptop, and not so hard on the eyes as a phone. Sometimes the old fashioned methods of entertaing yourself are the best. I like to use travel time as an opportunity to reflect, and write down some goals for my return to real life. But pen and paper comes in handy for many other things – including entertaining children if you are planning to be eating out with any families and actually want to be able to hold a conversation with the parents.

These tricks drastically reduce the impact that travel has on my stress levels – hopefully there’s something useful in here for you too.

A little taste of Northern Tasmania

The sun rises on a sleepy Sunday in Devonport Tasmania. It’s hours before I get up though. There is a frost, which is actually not that common in this part of Tassie, so everyone stayed rugged up in bed until the day warmed up to a ‘balmy’ 14-or-so-degrees. Mr LLUF and I have heard everyone rave about the new cafes about town all weekend, and on our last day we find some time to sit down with my darling mother at Laneway.

Laneway

I check my GPS to make 100% sure we’re not in Melbourne, as this hole-in-the-wall coffee house would not be out of place in the laneways of that great city across the Strait.

With a real nod to local produce they have some delicous options on their breakfast menu, most of which include generous servings of  Mt Gnommon bacon. If you fancy a picnic lunch to follow, locally produced small goods, cheeses and condiments are also available in their deli section.

After a quick cup of tea and some cuddles with my sister and niece, Mr LLUF and I start the trip to Launceston, where we will spend our final night before heading back to the ‘Berra.

Ashgrove

Along the way we stop in at Ashgrove Cheese Factory. Something of a ritual on our Tassie trips. We do a couple of free taste tests, and then agonise over how much of each cheese we can safely transport home. We end up prioritising suitcase space for the bush pepper cheddar. Mr LLUF’s absolute favourite, and for me it’s a close second to the Wild Wasabi cheese!!

Raspberry farm

After having filled our savoury stomach with cheese, we decide to stop off at the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm to fill our dessert stomachs. Rapberry icecream with a complimentary dark chocolate coated raspberry has me in heaven, and Mr LLUF runs around tasting raspberry jams, sauces and vinegars and suprisingly only comes away with a bottle of raspberry wine and three jams. We got off lightly this time.

Boags

And then off to our final stop in Launceston for our very last activity. A tour of the historic Boags Brewery. This has been high on Mr LLUFs Tassie-to-do list ever since he first started making trips down here with me. And it does not disappoint. A self-confessed history nerd he gets lost in the beer-lovers museum, reading about the legacy of the Boags family, and the story behind some of their beers, such as the Wizard Smith Ale. I have to track him down with high-vis and safety glasses in hand to start the tour. We are visiting on a Sunday, so the brewery is not in operation, but our guide talks us through the process and then gives us three pots to try at the end – matching each to a locally produced cheese.

We thank our stars that we had the sense to stay within walking distance of the brewery and settle in for a good session with some new friends we’ve made during the tour.

Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Daylesford and region (ethical holiday extrordinaire – Pt 2)

Oh, delightful Daylesford. Such a wonderful holiday destination I couldn’t fit two days of exploring and ethical shopping into one post.

Last week I spoke about our stay in the lovely Hepburn Springs, a sleepy little village just outside which is perfect for an uber-relaxing getaway. If you are looking for a little more buzz thoug, Daylesford itself has a fantastic blend of shops, galleries and cafes to keep you stimulated.

Good cafes are, I believe, are close to the most important part of any holiday. Specifically cafes that serve brunch. Luckily the Daylesford streets are packed with such cafes – although many don’t open til 10am – and most of them serve ‘Istra bacon’, from a local producer of small goods. A close friend of mine recommends The Book Barn, down by the lake, which also sells second-hand books (I am in heaven), but unfortunately this was temporarily closed during our stay, so I cannot comment further.

Convent 1

The Convent Gallery is probably the best known of Daylesford institutions and is well worth a visit. This beautiful old building has rooms filled with canvases, jewellry and sculpture by local and international artists and boasts an equally beautiful garden. There is plenty to explore, including an old stair case which winds up to the bell-tower, or down to the small Convent museum, held in the basement. Once you grow tired of wandering through, you can sit and reflect under the stained glass windows of the chapel, or sit and revive in the modern cafe at the entry to the gallery.

Convent 2

Daylesford itself wasn’t quite enough excitement for us so we travelled further afield to Creswick, which has a woollen mill. You can choose to do a tour of the mill, or like I did, spend hours wandering through their factory outlet instead. They have a huge range of locally made mens and womens clothing along with bedding. Although the kids section is actually quite small, they have some great products including these little jackets which are so cute I almost bought one even though I have no idea who I would give it to.

Creswick

We also drove the 40(ish) minutes into Sovereign Hill, Ballarat. Both self-confessed history nerds, Mr LLUF and I ran about this replica of an 1850’s gold rush town desperately trying to see and experience everything – the pouring of a $140,000 gold ignot, learning how to pan for gold, sharing a devonshire tea served by a woman in maids cap and apron. Incredibly Sovereign Hill has a number of artisans who work on site, hand crafting souvenirs using traditional methods.

Lollies - Sovereign Hill

We watched the making of the boiled lollies which you could buy at the1850’s Grocer store along with hand made jams and sauces. In a somewhat modern twist these can also be bought online if you don’t want to go all the way to Ballarat to try them.

Grocer - Sovereign Hill

You can also watch and even assist in the making of candles. We saw four girls working with the artisan to create some rainbow candles to take home with them and they looked to be having a really good time of it. Perhaps most incredibly, you can watch heavier industries at work such as wheelrights, blacksmiths, and the foundry where you can watch an artisan spin a lump of metal into a saucepan, a toothpick holder, a bell, and more, which you can then buy for what I thought was a suprisingly reasonable price.

Foundry - Sovereign Hill

I must admit, between all these vendors I went a little nuts stocking up on locally made goodies. And so it was with a heavy heart, and a heavy back seat, we drove away from the Daylesford region.

Hepburn Springs, Daylesford (ethical holiday extrordinaire – Pt 1)

Hepburn Springs is a quaint little village just minutes from Daylesford proper, and like Daylesford is famous(ish) for its mineral springs. A quick google of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford may have you believing that mineral spa bath, winery tours and restaurant dinners are pretty much the extent of Daylesford. But this quaint little region has so much more to offer.

We stayed at Clover Hill accomodation in private, comfy rooms that were super spacious, and CLEAN. My friends will understand the gravity of my approval when I say that it passed the ‘hair-test’ with a whopping five points remaining!!

I’m not neurotic. I’m just detail-oriented, ok?

Clover Hill provides some great complimentary facilities including gym, sauna, pool-table and dvd library. Your tarriff also includes a very well appointed continental breakfast, and champagne and chocolates on arrival. This secluded little getaway is on the far-end of Hepburn Springs, but still less than 5 minutes drive away from the myriad of antique stores, galleries and conveniences of Daylesford.

Fair Grotto - HSMR

Just up behind the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. A 150 year old garden with many little trails that lead off to rambling fairy grottos (see above), a tree-top walk, fields of daisies, and of course the mineral springs. Each of which can be accessed through an old fashioned pump system.

Tree-top bridge - HSMR

We spent a few hours exploring, and still would’ve happily returned  for a picnic the next day, or for a Rainforest Allliance certified coffee at the architecturally stunning Pavillion Cafe, if only we’d had time.

Pavillion Cafe

Access to the reserve and springs is free, but make sure you bring a cup or waterbottle with you to make sampling easier. Each spring tastes slightly different, so it’s worth sampling them all, but prepare yourself. They all smell like sulphur, and with the exception of the Wyuna Spring, we decided that one mouthful was enough!!

Wyuna Spring

With this in mind we graciously requested tap water instead of mineral spring water when offered the choice while dining with Rubens@Hepburn. This is a delighful rustic diner, with tasetfully mismatched chairs and a delicous menu incorporating local produce with medditeranean tradition. Our meal included goats cheese from the award winning Meredith Dairy and Prosciutto and Chorizo from Istra Smallgoods.

Rubens

We teamed these with a Mt Franklin Pinot Grigio and an organic Sandy Farm Cab Merlot for the full local produce experience.

So between a day at the park (to help you buy less), an abundance of local produce, access to nearby antique stores and a fairtrade coffee at the Pavillion cafe, Hepburn Springs ticks some serious – and somewhat delightful – boxes for an ethical holiday destination.

But wait! There’s more! Look out for next Thursday’s blog about more of the wonderful things the Daylesford Region has to offer.

 

 

Writing from The Rock – a series of surprises at Uluru

 Desert flowerBraceletsRedbacks

This is my first time in the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and I have to say that it has been an incredible experience. My Australian made Redback boots have set foot in the outback a number of times, and I am quite sentimental about the layer of seemingly immovable red dust that they have accumulated over time, so I jumped at the opportunity to head out to the Red Centre with two of my wonderful friends. Not only do I consider standing at the foot of Uluru something of a pilgrimige, but this is a sight I have been whistfully watching on postcards my entire life. So you can imagine my suprise when Uluru turned out to look nothing like the picture I had in my mind!!

As one of my travel buddies so succinctly put it, I had always believed that Uluru rose out of the ground like a giant bunt-cake, all smooth with a scalloped edge, and although it does look like that from a distance, as I got closer I was amazed to see that its surface is dotted with caves carved into the rock face, that its base is surrounded by jagged pieces of rock that have fallen away maybe thousands of years ago, and there are deep pools that cascade down it’s side, creating multi-layered waterfalls on those rare occassions when it rains. I was also amazed that despite the infrequency of rain, that the park is so green. There is even a beautiful waterhole tucked into the base of Uluru that acts as a perfect mirror to the cliff face above it.

I  didn’t expect Uluru to tower quite so far above me as I stood gazing in wonder from its base. It astounds me that anyone would want to climb it, as not only is it disrespectful to the Anangu, but given it’s immense height, and the fact that the climb is virtually at a 45 degree angle it seems like a very unsound safety decision to me. And what was even more suprising yet, was that Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olgas, stands some 198 metres higher than Uluru just 50 metres away*, but I had barely heard it mentioned until I started to review tour options.

Naturally I hoped to take home souvenirs of this incredible experience, and I was pleased to discover a sizeable range of lluf-approved purchases available from the souvenir shops around Ayers Rock Resort, the parks Cultural Centre, and the airport. This included soaps, bush pot purri, and various spice mixes, sauces and jams incorporating native Australian ingredients. Yum. But what was really amazing was the availibility of non-perishable items made in Australia or in fair trade arrangements, as opposed to being mass produced in more ‘affordable’ manufacturing regions. I could only make small purchases, given that my 7kg of carry-on already included a pair of boots that weigh nearly a kilo on their own and four days worth of clothing, however I have been very happy to purchase:

A t-shirt: Australian made clothing is always hard to find, so imagine my suprise to stumble across a relatively tasteful souvenir t-shirt. Samsousan, as it turns out, has a wide range of Australian made promotional and souvenir apparel, and also incidentally do a mens tuxedo t-shirt which I am very excited about – that one never gets old. You can see the complete range at: http://www.samsousan.com.au/

Bracelets: I am madly in love with the above pictured bracelets from Better World Arts. Accompanied by the story of the design, they are beautiful and functional pieces of genuine aboriginal art. Better World Arts sells some amazing handicrafts with a business model that empowers the aboriginal artists and the artisans in Peru, Kashmir, West Bengal and Nepal who bring the designs to life on cushions, rugs, bags and jewellry. These can be viewed and purchased from: http://www.betterworldarts.com.au/products

Magnets: I actually bought heaps of Australian made magnets. Some that had aboriginal symbols for beautiful sentiments such as togetherness, happiness, and friendship from a brand called Wijikura, and some that featured classic postcard shots of the National Park from a brand called Visit. A quick internet search revealed that Visit sells lots of Australiana items- some Australian made, including some lovely scenic calendars, and some not. But all its Australian made products are well signed, so you don’t have to look too hard to find them. Many of these can be seen on their website: http://www.visit.com.au/

So next time you are shopping for souvenirs, I encourage you to put in the extra effort to find out where they came from. There are genuine Australian souvenirs out there and I have found them worth the effort to find.

 

 

* See the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitors Guide: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/visitor-guide-uluru-kata-tjuta-national-park

N.B. photos above were not taken inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You may be suprised to learn that for the purposes of safeguarging the traditions and sacred places of Anangu publishing images taken within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park requires a permit and is subject to strict guidelines.