Como Melbourne, Chapel Street


Almost on the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel St in Melbournes CBD is the Como Hotel. I was put onto it by a friend who had stayed a few weeks before and raved out it – Not only for the location and the rooms, but the price – from around $220 per night in the lead in room, which is what we stayed in. It’s the Como Suite, and is huge. It has a king size bed, floor to ceiling mirror in a funny frame facing the bed, flat screen TV and a large desk, chair and mini bar. All of the drinks and snacks are gourmet and local, as are all the bathroom amenities.

Things I loved:

Chilled Champagne in a bucket on arrival because when we booked we wrote that it was out anniversary in the comments (which it was!). Considering they didn’t know what time we were arriving and we were quite late, this was great!

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I had considered upgrading to the Japanese Spa Suite, because this was the recommended room but as a couple on a ‘house saving’ budget I opted for the basic room. I’m so glad I did because our bathroom had a huge jacuzzi bath anyway! And just to be completely ridiculous, it even had a ‘Bath Menu’ – $30 and you ‘self draw’ your bath but you’re given bath salts etc, right up to a butler drawn bath with champagne!

The size of the rooms – Even though we were only there for the night, the rooms were so spacious, with ample storage space, huge grey bathrobes and a gorgeous grey black bathroom.

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Even each floor, on our way to our room was grand, broken up with big sitting areas and wide hallways.

The location was so handy – We walked to a wonderful dumpling bar, past rows and rows of cool bars. We were heading up for the Melbourne Storm game at Aami Stadium, only a 10 minute cab ride from here.

They have a parking garage right next door that almost connects, but is not actually owned by the Como. It’s only $9 per day on weekends, which is super cheap for Melbourne (yesterday we paid $5.50 an HOUR!).

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Room service is 24/7 and you can put out your breakfast menu with what time you would like it brought up and as long as it’s on your door handle before 2am, you’re sorted!

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There isn’t anything to add on the’ things I don’t like’ list. It’s refreshing to find a wonderful hotel, with great service and prices in such a central location. Highly recommended!

*This was not a commissioned piece.

Awesome things that will cost you under $50


Published in Forte Magazine 

There are so many amazing sights and activities in the world, obviously. From the best places to enjoy a macaroon in Paris (Angelinas near the Louvre is amazing, and although there are always queues to eat in, you can buy pieces from the side store!), to hiring a convertible mustang to drive the route 66 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles ($50 per person for one day hire). But for even the most cashed up traveler, spending a lot of money on different activities can be a drag and so I’ve come up with a great list of cheap or free things to do and see in a few of my favorite cities!

• Walking tours – Sometimes these are free, sometimes they will cost around 10 euros. I went on one years ago in Barcelona, and paid a small fee. It was the best thing I did for the 5 days I was there because we got a huge walking tour of the city at night (safety in numbers with locals!), went out for a paella and sangria dinner (delicious), and finished with a flamenco show! It was the best way to see the city, and also meet people without feeling to much like a ‘tour’. They can easily be found at most hostels.

• Arc de Triomphe – This is my pick for Paris. It costs 9 euros, and 6 euros for people under 26. It hands down has the best views of Paris, with all of the streets like a spider leading away. It has awesome views of the Eiffel Tower, and is a perfect way to finish walking down the Champs Elysees as it’s on top of a roundabout. It also has an eternal flame and an abundance of history about France and the wars. Also, buying a weekend saver metro card for the weekend is around 2-6 euros for 2 days, instead of buying a per day 9 euro ticket!

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• For the best views of the Empire State Building, climb to the ‘Top of the Rock’ at the Rockerfeller centre in New York City. People go to the Empire for views, but don’t actually get to see to see it from the outside! It’s also cheaper, at only $29 USD.

• Drinking beers in Cambodia – These start from 50c (where realistically a lot of things will!). Grab a few, sit by the pool, rent a motorbike, or enjoy with a bowl of cheap street food like glass noodle soup!

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• Every day in Times Square, they have discounted Broadway tickets on sale where you can queue for a different show, depending on the day of the week. Get in super early though to minimize your time lining up!

• Starbucks always have free WIFI  Enjoy a coffee (because even though it’s not ‘roasted and dried in Algeria and cold dripped through a funnel of unicorn hairs’, it’s a consistent franchise to enjoy a quick cuppa and check your emails! And upload photos of yourself doing all of the cool things above!

Simple things like pre purchasing tickets for things will always keep the costs down. The Eiffel Tower lines in peak season are 3 hours long and cost 14 euros but there is an empty line next to the main line for people who pre purchase it online, for the same cost. Being prepared makes a world of difference!

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The Royal Standard of England, Beaconsfield.


When my Aunty asked me if I wanted to go to the oldest pub in England for lunch my reaction was .. ‘Why haven’t I been there before!’. So a 15 minute drive through the tiny, windy roads from Great Missenden to Beaconsfield and we arrived at the Royal Standard of England. It is the oldest ‘freehouse’ in England, which just means it is independently owned of the breweries that supply it. It’s been serving people for over 900 years and has rich history, and of course a couple of ghosts. We’re lucky it’s a stunning day when we arrive, and the courtyard is decorated by the flower of the moment, red geraniums.

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Inside is a maze of rooms, old wooden beams decorated with an assortment of armoury, old stale flowers, signs and more. We choose a sunny table inside and peruse the menu. It’s a brilliant mix of typical English (Fish Pie, Fish and Chips, Sausage and Mash), to the more interesting (Welsh Rarebit, Devilled Lambs Kidney, baked Camembert and Bread), and a super specials board (Bacon Badger, Monkfish and salad). They have a great selection of Lighter Meals, through to Mains and Desserts. It also has an extensive wine list, which remains unpretentious with its simple wine categories of Red, White and Pink.

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We order the baked Camembert, Crevettes – large Mediterranean Prawns, and the Fish Pie, with a glass of french Sauv Blanc. The Camenbert absolutely blows me away when it comes out .. I was expecting a slice, but instead we got the entire wheel with a crusty baguette to dip in! It has been baked whole, and scored with sprigs of Rosemary and I dare anyone to find something more incredibly delicious!! The prawns had a great lemon dipping sauce, and the fish pie was creamy and so moreish (thats a word – it is). The sun really came out mid meal, so after 2 hours of trying to consume way too much food, we took our drinks outside and soaked up the sun. They have 3 (soon to be 4) local cats that swan around, which of course I was delighted with and topped the day of perfectly.

They have a sister pub a short walk away, and on their website they have a map of a local walk you can do around the area.

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The Royal Standard of England,
Forty Green,
Beaconsfield,
Buckinghamshire,
HP9 1XS,
England.

Tel: (01494) 673382

A day in Leeds, West Yorkshire.


As seen in Forte Magazine

If you’re after a town thats huge, with all of the high street stores you could imagine, but whilst still retaining the quintessential english feel, then Leeds in Yorkshire, England is that place. 

Leeds, in a 2011 survey of the urban area, had over 1.7 million people living there! They operate a one way driving system through town, which I suppose was implemented to help people, but to me seems to make things a little harder than they should be! With the smaller english streets though, and roads that turn into pavements it seem to keep the traffic in order.

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Getting there by motorway or by train is easy. Leeds train station is in the centre of town, and if you walk not 50-100 metres out of it, you’ll be sure to hit your first of many Primarks. Although it is teeming to the brim with Topshop, River Island and Next to name just a small few of the brand stores around, it keeps its English feel with them being situated in all of the original buildings and architecture that gives Leeds a homely feeling. There are rows of tall brick buildings, cathedrals, clock towers and old dome shaped establishments filling and making up the streets, and of course a pub or two on every corner.

We arrived in the late morning and set off through the Leeds Centre Market. We parked in a huge story carpark next to them, which cost over 10 pounds for less than 4 hours, so I certainly suggest finding one of the 4 pound all day parking lots! The markets have an outside and an inside market, selling everything from produce, to phones, flowers and clothes. Once outside, you have your choice to wander into any H+M, Primark and more. There are your typical Starbucks coffee shops, but also a lot of little local places to buy lunch, and dark little pubs to enjoy a local ale or two. 

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As mentioned previously, Leeds also has Jamie Olivers Italian Restaurant – Which I can say first hand is amazing! From the decor, to the service, to the food itself, you pretty much can’t go wrong if you wander into here. Unfortunately no Jamie himself cooking for you, but theres always hope ..

On top of that there is an award winning Cross Keys gastro pub, Shaky Jakes 50’s style diner for every flavour of milkshake known to man, and if you fancy a bit of history with your pint, try Whitelocks – It’s the oldest pub in Leeds and dates back to 1715. 

Leeds has a large entertainment history and current vibe to it, so if you’re there is November head to the annual Leeds International Film Festival. There are also heaps of theatres around, like the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the biggest one outside of London! 

Just outside of the Leeds train station is the huge, majestic Queens Hotel. As far wide and eye as the eye can see, it takes over at least one whole block of white brick building. It’s popular among travellers and locals alike, and a guest bedroom overlooking town will only set you back just over 100 pounds, even in peak season (June time). There’s wifi, room service and laundry service so if for some reason you’re too tired to explore the stunning town, you’ll be in fine hands.

 

Aloha Hostel – Paris, France.


I thought I was past my hostel days. Not because I’m a snob. Okay, maybe a little bit but one must understand that when I lived above a pub in England, on a mattress on the floor which poked me with springs for months on end, I decided I would always have enough money for hotels for future travels. Great in theory, not so great in practice, especially when you travel as much as I do!

I recently stayed at the Aloha Hostel in Paris, because I was only there for one night and I had friends already booked in. We arrived early evening, after finding our way there super easy. The hostel is closest to Volontaires Metro stop in Paris, and it’s such a nice area! I had never been here before, but when we got off the metro stop and looked around the streets, it was typical Parisian tall buildings with rows of balconies, and you can actually see the top of the Eiffel Tower peeking above the trees on your walk. 

 

Heres a small overview:

Rooms: Like most hostels, they have a range of dorms and privates. We stayed in a 6 bed mixed dorm for 30 euros each per night. The rooms are spacious, clean and in bunk beds with large open windows that open up on the street with a good view. There is also a sink in each room, but a lack of electrical sockets (one per room, high above a bunk bed!). You have to rent sheets with a refundable 5 euro deposit, and towels can also be rented for a non refundable 2 euros. 

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Lobby/Reception: There is free wifi throughout, and about 6 computers to use. You can buy beer and water from the front desk, and there are a few seating areas around. They also have an outdoor patio area for drinking, smoking and relaxing. At reception they can help with a number of things, from metro info and maps, to booking things like Moulin Rouge. 

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Other facilities: Breakfast is included from 7.30am – 9am. It’s not brilliant, just a bread roll with butter and jam, and cereal is available. It does the job though! Tea and coffee is also provided. 

There are communal bathrooms on each level.

On a whole, I really enjoyed the hostel (apart from the drunk Belgium lads who turned up at 3am – joys of shared rooms!). The location was a really clean, vibrant area with a supermarket at the end of the street, and heaps of cafes and restaurants around. Had I more time, I would have definitely spent more time here! 

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Getting to and from Paris – Beauvais Airport


Chances are if you’ve traveled to/from Paris by plane and you’ve opted for the budget route, you’ve ended up flying in/out of “Paris”-Beauvais Airport. I use the term Paris lightly, as this airport is almost 1.5 hours OUT of Paris so isn’t exactly known for it’s convenience! I recently flew out of there to Rome with Ryanair and was googling the best way to get out to Beauvais Tille – I found a great website who gave me great directions with everything else I needed to know, but still insisted the best way was a train from Gare Du Nord into the town, then a shuttle or a 30 minute taxi – What a drama! I was instantly regretting my cheap skate decision to fly out of there (at 9.10PM no less), when I mentioned it to out front desk at the hostel. And Voila, my problems were solved! We could either a) get a 143 Euro Transfer (um, do they not realise I am poor?), or b) go to Port Maillot metro stops 3 hours prior to my flight, and get a bus straight to the airport doors! It was so easy.

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Heres the steps.

Port Maillot is on Line 1, the yellow line. Get on direction ‘Chateau de Vincennes’.

When you get off, there are signs pointing you out of the metro stop towards shuttle buses. There is a shuttle opposite the metro stop to Charles de Gaulle Airport, but if you keep walking past the department store to the very end and cross the road (there are also signs, so just follow), you find the bus stop for Beauvais. 

You can either queue up, or use the super easy ticket machine. The trip cost you 17 euro, and the bus takes approx 1.15 hours. If you are here 3 hours prior, buses leave all the time and will get you to the airport in time to bag drop! Don’t forget with flying Ryanair, you have to check in and print your boarding pass prior to getting there (or risk a 70 euro/pound fee – such bollocks). 

Beauvais Airport has 2 terminals, so just check which one you need to check into and you’re off!

So, although the airport is in the middle of absolutely no where, if your ticket plus the 17 euro bus fee is heaps less than the next flight option, it’s not a complete stuff around to get to. Just be prepared for Ryanair to delay your flight. That’s normal.