Cane toads, cockroaches and ants

Greetings from paradise – Surfers Paradise that is. We fled from Melbourne to the Gold Coast after packing up our entire house just before term 1 ended. It’s been a delayed holiday from last year when we’d planned to take a break over Melbourne Cup Week and stay at Peppers Soul (which we could no longer afford after shifting dates to this year’s peak holiday season).

HOTA Gold Coast

We were able to move our holiday (after the extended lockdown in Melbourne) to these Easter school holidays booking a self-contained apartment on Stayz with a wrap around balcony and ocean views and feel very grateful to have flown out of Tullamarine Airport prior to the craziness starting with peak passenger numbers. We did lose a bag on arrival up here but Virgin was able to locate it and drop it off to us on our first night. Tip: pack your toiletries in your hand luggage just in case!

We’ve now been in Surfers for a week and spent the first few days just settling in and recovering from the two years that have been so arduous for most of us – we’ve not taken having a holiday for granted. While we’re yet to set foot in a theme park or visit the beachfront markets held on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, we’ve simply enjoyed the warmer weather and spending time at the beach swimming and going for runs as well as some retail therapy at Pacific Fair (by lightrail) and Harbour Town (by car) shopping centres.

SUP? Me on a paddle board

It’s been fun to do a family stand up paddle boarding (SUP) lesson (an activity I think I could get right into if I lived near a river) at Budds Beach on the river followed by coffee at Bumbles cafe located right next door in a very peaceful and picturesque part of Surfers Paradise walking distance from our apartment. Mr Rosanna and I also discovered the Asian food arcade (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Indian and Nepalese cuisines not to mention the Crazy Cat Cafe!) where you can also find the hole-in the-wall Stairwell Coffee which does good coffee and toasties. Recommended but a bit further out are The Paddock bakery in Burleigh Heads and Miama Marketta night market in Miami for food (and live music for the latter).

Outdoors at Bumble cafe overlooking the river

Here in Surfers itself, live music is held at B.O.B. brewery (and restaurant) and Elsewhere Bar plus a bit further out at Vinnie’s Dive Bar in Southport (if you don’t have children in tow). We’ve had a number of great meals out at Northcliffe surf life saving club (further south down the beach in Surfers which we discovered all lit up running on the beach at night when the tide was out), authentic Japanese dining al fresco at Sagano in the Chevron Renaissance building and upmarket Japanese at Yamagen housed in the very stylish QT hotel complex – the pool and outdoor area look amazing at night.

Crazy Cat Cafe

We’ve still got a few more days here but bought a discounted HOPO (hop on hop off ferry) family ticket to visit HOTA (Home of the Arts), Sea World and Marina Mirage as well as Sunday lunch at Hyde Paradiso restaurant in the Peppers Soul building. It’s been a different, more relaxed vibe up here – more downmarket compared to places like Noosa and Port Douglas but also more real in many ways with a lot of ink (tattoos) on show.

Yamagen restaurant – QT Hotel

I had contemplated booking Byron Bay last year but ended up going with Surfers given my mum lives here. Given the flooding in northern NSW it’s been a wise choice in hindsight. I’ve been glad for the organisers of music festival Bluesfest (and would have loved to have seen George Benson) and Melbourne Grand Prix as much as I’m not a petrol head. I have caught an episode of Drive to Survive on Netflix and know that F1 has started to attract more women, which I think is a good thing.

Me and Mr R under the lights @Yamagen

Lastly, I was once asked by a older gentleman and local if I was ‘a cockroach or an ant?’ on arriving in far north Queensland. Yes, the lovely terms of endearment for Sydneysiders (cockroaches) and Melburnians (ants) that Queenslanders have for us. I guess not all of us can be cane toads like him! I hope you’ve had a great Easter and lucky you if you’re still on holiday. If you’re after some holiday inspiration, this article on Australia’s best travel experiences is a good one.

Me at the HOTA rooftop bar

An unwelcome visitor

After dodging COVID-19 for over two years, it finally caught up with us two weeks ago. One by one, three out of four members of my family came down with the virus with me the last card to topple and fall the hardest. I’m very glad to have been triple vaxxed as my ‘mild’ symptoms last weekend felt anything but from pounding headache, to fever, fatigue, chills, body aches, sore throat and stuffed up nose. It’s not been pretty – I’ve missed a whole week of work but also other events I was too sick to attend.

I think if you were lucky enough to evade the first Omicron variant, this second one unfortunately has found its way to most people. I have my fingers crossed you don’t come down with worse symptoms than me as it was something I won’t forget in a hurry. I feel quite depleted and it’s going to take time to build myself up again. You do need to take it seriously if you test positive for COVID and you’re symptomatic. While I’ve kept my sense of taste and smell, I can’t eat salt and vinegar chips at the moment as they taste quite strange. We will see if I have any longer term issues with the passage of time…

Speaking of smells, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show opened this week at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton and if you’re into not only roses but house plants and balcony gardens as well, then this year’s event has you covered. I’ve amassed quite the collection of house plants over the past two years and they’ve been a constant source of joy and comfort – nature as therapy.

There is also a lot happening locally with Banyule Open Studios on this weekend – a chance to step into an artist’s world and see their private, creative spaces. A reminder too if you’re a local business that COVID-19 Banyule Business grant applications close on 7 April. There are two types of grants available and whether you’re an existing or new business, it’s always worth checking to see if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Image via Mr Chu’s Kitchen Facebook page

I’ve noticed the Ivanhoe Traders are currently offering discounted mid-week dining as per CBD businesses, which is an excellent idea. It means you can claim 25% (up to $125) of your bill when you spend $40 or more by submitting your receipt (until funds run out). It’s also been great to find out about a few new local businesses like the cute looking Chinese & Vietnamese diner Mr Chu’s Kitchen located just around the corner from Cinch Training in Heidelberg Heights.

Image via Earth Greetings

Easter is fast approaching and I discovered there are not one but two local chocolate businesses with Birdsnake Chocolate in Fairfield and Good Boy Chocolate in Ivanhoe. I also love ethical stationery business Earth Greetings which has teamed up with Loving Earth chocolate to create a bamboo bilby/choccy promo with $1 donated to the Save the Bilby Fund.

Lastly, it has now sold out but the Star Gazing with astronomers event (with volunteers from the Astronomical Society of Victoria) is on next Saturday night at the Anthony Beale Reserve in Greensborough. I’ve long found the stars, planets and space in general fascinating and lucky you if you’ve managed to book a spot at this free event where you may catch glimpses of the moon, Jupiter and Mars dancing in the evening sky.