A weekend divided, a pizza night shared and a bar launch triple bill

So, did anyone get pranked over the weekend? Any April’s Fools out there? I’m glad to say I didn’t… as far as I know… starting to feel a bit paranoid now!

What a strange way to start an IG Edition.

Anyway, this week we’re talking about the fun Mrs Romance had in Port Stephens and the toil I suffered through at the same time. Our weekend up the coast from Sydney was about as divided as you can get – you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

We were also invited to the launch of a new trio of bars, restaurants and cafés in Sydney you’ll have to check out. All very exciting, delicious and beautifully designed.

Well, enjoy this IG Edition and we’ll speak again soon.

Jim & Christina x

Mrs Romance and I are in Port Stephens again this weekend. We’ve managed to wake up in time for sunrise this morning. It’s a real treat to see the sun come up over Mount Tomaree to the east.

We look on and wonder what the weekend ahead has in store for us…

I’m expecting sweat and toil helping my brother-in-law renovate more of his holiday house here.

Mrs Romance on the hand has a friend visiting too, so I’m guessing she won’t be quite as busy on the building site!

I’m always surprised at how this beautiful bit of the New South Wales coastline is overlooked. It’s never as busy as most other beach side regions but it looks like this!

We love exploring the shoreline around Port Stephens, and even though we’ve been here so many times, we still find something new here. I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising when the size of this whole area dwarfs Sydney Harbour.

Before all the work begins, we have a special guest! Mrs Romance was just outside when she spotted this little fella plodding across the road. All the cars stopped for him and he’s now making his way towards us.

We’ve now moved aside for him as he struts past. Koalas look so strange when they’re on the ground. They don’t look happy – probably a bit like how I look when I’m up a tree, so I shouldn’t judge.

He’s finally made his way all the way round the corner and up his preferred eucalyptus tree on the other side of the park. There are lots of dogs around, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered him at all. This guy is tough as nails!

Great to be able to see a koala in the wild and so close to our house here in Port Stephens. Amazing.

Before I get sent into hard labour, I do get to have a bit of fun with Mrs Romance’s mate Lauren and her lovely kids M and L. I’ve been hankering to have a go on this toy in the park by Little Beach for ages. Glad to have an excuse!

And it’s back to the hard yakka (I think that’s what it’s called) in the house that David built. Today, we’re cutting a big hole in the floor so we can fit a new staircase in.

Not that difficult, right? Well, this house was seemingly built to withstand nuclear attacks – this floor is not giving up easily. David here is working hard while I snap away!

Meanwhile, Mrs Romance has found a cat to stroke.

This beautiful Burmese strolled into next door’s house a few months back and hasn’t left. And it turns out he’s completely deaf but incredibly friendly. When he meows, it sounds a bit like a crow being strangled!

He’s also probably the only one in the neighbourhood who isn’t bothered about the noise of our sawing and hammering!

Back on the workers’ side of the fence, David and I have cut the floorboards out for the stairs and are contemplating how to cut through even thicker, harder wood.

Either David is trying to get a unique perspective of the work needed or he’s just getting an early preview of what it’s going to be like to have stairs here.

Back with Mrs Romance, things have become much tougher, poor lady. Yes, she and Lauren are having to sit somewhere lovely and eat delicious food. How tragic.

The burgers at House Café in the Home Interior are – apparently – amazing.

I still haven’t been.

That’s not the way of a tradesperson. We eat sausage sizzles at Bunnings or rushed packets of crisps and Diet Coke that goes flat before we finish them. But as long as Mrs Romance is happy…

Back at the coalface, shit’s getting real. We’ve cut through the supporting beams that basically holding the house together and the balcony outside up. Yes, stressful moments, but the wooden props we’ve put under the floor seem to be doing the trick.

The wood from hole you can now see was a combined weight of about 40kg – a huge lump of timber that almost pulled me down through the hole when David made the final cut. Exciting and satisfying.

Just glad it’s not my house I’m getting my thrills from!

Mrs Romance’s suffering continues… at the beach. Poor lady.

And now she’s having to deal with a slice of refreshing watermelon on this beautiful autumn day at Fingal Bay. #toughlife

We’ve moved back onto the deck now the hole in the floor for the stairs is as finished as it can be. The balcony runs all the way round and each piece of timber has to be measured, cut with a drop saw, spaced, drilled then screwed in with square recess head screws and an impact driver… as if I know what I’m on about.

Mrs Romance is now taking a walk up Mount Tomaree, the highest point in the area. It’s a beautiful trail that looks out over the bay and there are lots of historical points up here to explore.

Mrs R’s friend Lauren and her little ones are enjoying themselves too.

From the top of Tomaree, the views are amazing. This is Zenith Beach directly ahead and further south is Fingal Spit – a stunning stretch of sand that appears at low tides and allows the daring to walk across to Shark Island.

Finally the work’s all over (meaning David finally had to go back home) leaving Mrs Romance and me to relax. There are few places more relaxing than this part of Port Stephens. We’re very lucky to be able to enjoy it like this.

Back to work this morning, Mrs Romance and I are discussing some design changes to the site. Of course, we’ve found somewhere that serves delicious food to have our meeting.

This is the offering at Little Nel Café – a falafel, avocado and poached egg delight for Mrs R and a dukkah, egg and rocket feast for yours truly.

There’s always time for one more dip here in Port Stephens – especially when the water’s still so warm and the sky looks like this so close to winter.

What an amazing place this is. Here’s our essential guide to Port Stephens for more info on this excellent travel destination.

We’re back in Sydney this evening and this time we’re joined by our friend Steph from Lipstick and Cake. We’re checking out Dust – the pizzeria and artisan bakery in at the Tram Shed in Sydney’s Inner West.

This is my salami pizza and it’s spectacular. Very much in the Neapolitan style with a thick but crunchy crust a gooey delicious middle.

Mrs Romance has opted for the prosciutto pizza, which also looks good. I have no idea what Steph has ordered or what either of theirs tastes like: we’re not in the mood for sharing – and I’m down with that!

It’s lunchtime and I’ve been saving the potatoes in the fridge for just a day like this: the rain is pouring thanks to the fallout from terrible Cyclone Debbie that’s ruining Queensland at the moment, and we’ve got nothing in the house.

I’ve popped some salad potatoes and chopped carrot in a hot oven covered in a dusting of meat rub we got from our local butchers, some polenta, smokey paprika, salt and chilli flakes. They’ve come out pretty well!

Tonight we’re at a very special event – again with our lovely friend Steph – to check out the launch of a multimillion dollar refurb and expansion.

The Sydney Harbour Marriott has done an amazing job renovating the whole space that is essentially the entrance to one of the keystone hotels in Sydney.

This is Three Bottle Man, which is now a café by day and cocktail bar by night, and is one of the three venues to open as of now.

This evening the food on show is incredible. Look at that huge tuna at the seafood station in front.

They’ve also got some other amazing products on offer like the cocktails from The Aussie Tipple Company, who make bottles of mixed cocktails using Australian craft spirits. They’re amazing. Here’s a bit more about them.

The other two venues that the Marriott is launching tonight are Silvester’s – a contemporary Australian restaurant – and the expansion of Customs House Bar, which we’ve written about before here.

It’s more good news for Sydney as the city just keeps reinventing herself with ever newer and more interesting places to go and explore.


This week’s Travel Recap

Each week we go back in time over some of our favourite travel destinations using never-before-seen photos of our travels. Here’s where we’ve been looking back on this week.

Can’t drag Mrs Romance away from shooting sunsets, though when they look like this it’s easy to see why. The sun going down over the East China Sea in Okinawa is one of those memories we’ll always hold dear.

The coastline around Okinawa is so strange. This looks like volcanic rock (and it probably is – I’m no geologist) but the sand isn’t dark enough for this to be a volcanic area.

And don’t get me started on the water. How it’s this blue when the sky’s so cloudy has had us puzzled from the beginning of the trip.

We found an old road leading to an old broken bridge. It’s amazing the little things that are just so fascinating you can find in Japan.

Here are some of the other unusual things you can do in Okinawa.

We became absolutely obsessed with the blues and greens along the coast of Okinawa. In the distance here you can see the bridges connecting the little islands of Kouri and Yagiji to the main island.

This place is the perfect driving holiday – the roads are well-maintained, the drivers are careful and it’s easy to pull over and explore whatever you see by the roadside.

Here are some more reasons to drive in Japan – also some tips on driving here safely.

The people of Okinawa are said to live the longer than anyone else in the world – and I think this is the secret.

This amazing lady is Oona Okinawa and she’s 83 years old. We had the pleasure of meeting her every morning at breakfast and she smiled and laughed like this every time. She’s an absolute treasure.

The beach in front of our hotel in Okinawa is pretty special. So special in fact that the hotel has erected this pier for people to get married here. Watch this space for our full review of the JAL Private Resort Okuma, where we’ll be showing you around the rest of this beautiful northern Okinawan resort.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s IG Edition. Let us know if you had a favourite part in the comments below!

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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