This week just gone has been absolutely crazy for us at Romance HQ. Mostly it’s been thanks to awesome stuff with the start of spring here in Sydney waking everyone up from their winter slumber. I’m sure there are a lot more parties on the horizon too.
We’ve been to a masterclass for Australian craft gin, rum and whisky, we’ve been backstage and beyond at Cirque du Soleil’s latest performance, and Sydney Craft Beer Week has begun too.
On the flip side to that, I’ve had a couple of health scares in the family (my brother nearly died of a heart attack last week and my mum was taken to hospital over the weekend – both ok now by the way), and our fridge packed up, which is always going to be annoying and expensive.
But we strive on, and I hope this week’s IG Edition finds you in a similar positive mindset as us this fine October morning.
Jim & Christina xx
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We’ve decided to share the full story of how were struck by lightning when we first met. And not metaphorically either. A friend of ours told us that the French call love at first sight “coup de foudre”, which translates to ‘struck by lightning’. Nope none of that.
Literally a bolt from the heavens was hurled at us!
Our beautiful friends from Nip of Courage have invited us to their latest (and quite possibly greatest) event. Nip of Courage is a distributor and ambassador for Australian craft spirits.
For the first time ever, Kath – the owner of Nip of Courage – has brought 8 of the distillers together to give a talk on their product, their history and the industry as a whole. It’s quite an ask – check out the list below to see who these amazing people are and how far they’ve had to come to be at this event.
This masterclass is in one of our new favourite city bars Grain, right down at the entrance to the Rocks and near Circular Quay. We’re going to be tasking each distiller’s products and hearing their story. It’s a pretty special experience.
Here are the crazy geniuses who make these very special spirits. Here’s a list of who they are (left to right) their distillery and how far they’ve had to travel to get to Sydney.
William McHenry – McHenry Distillery, Port Arthur, TAS – 1,100km (700 miles)
Peter Bignell – Belgrove Distillery, Kempton, TAS – 1,000km (650 miles)
Beau Schilg (and founder Dean Druce on far right) – Corowa Distillery, Corowa, NSW – 600km (370 miles)
‘Spike’ – Hoochery Distillery, Kununurra, WA – 4,200km (2,600 miles) – it takes Spike 2 days to get here.
Mel Davies – Loch Brewery and Distillery, Loch, VIC – 980km (600 miles)
That’s a total of 6,670km (5,160 miles) for everyone to get here. Impressive.
This is Raymond Dessert III – or ‘Spike’ as everyone calls him. And rightly so, this guy is prickly and sharp as a tack, but also a lovely fella and very interesting. Spike’s distillery – the Hoochery – is up in the Kimberley Region in far north-west Western Australia. It’s one of the country’s most isolated yet most beautiful regions.
Spike’s rum is absolutely incredible – but don’t ask for Coke to go with your rum when you’re there. He’ll burn you to the ground! His rum is good enough to drink neat – as all good spirits can be.
Peter Bignell of Belgrove Distillery is known as the mad scientist – even among distillers, which is saying something! Peter’s philosophy is all about sustainability and environmentalism. His distillery is almost certainly the greenest in the world.
He fires his still and runs his farm machinery (including tractors) with biofuel – or old oil from the local chippy! He even burns his sheep’s poo for fuel! All the grain he uses goes back into the land or is used as fodder, and he grows as much of his own grain for spirits as he can. He’s one of the few in the world that can be called a paddock-to-bottle distiller.
Oh, and his rye whiskies and his distilled ginger beer – the Ginger Hammer – are mind-blowingly good.
Tonight, Mrs Romance and I are out for a curry. That’s right – A curry. Our friend Carly from Smaggle.com finds it very disconcerting that I call a meal in an Indian restaurant ‘a curry’. I have no idea why I say it – it must be an English thing.
Anyway, this meal is absolutely superb. We’re at the Indian Palace in Balmain, which it turns out has been here for 34 years! So they must be doing something right.
We’ve over-ordered magnificently – to the point where our waiter said after taking our order ‘well, you can put this in a doggy bag for tomorrow, can’t you?’
That’s exactly our thought. A curry always tastes better the next day anyway!
We’re so excited about tonight. We’re going to Cirque du Soleil – but this is even better than just seeing the show. We’re going backstage. And not just backstage; I’m talking seriously backstage.
We’re really looking forward to seeing this show. It’s the latest one that Cirque have been doing called Kooza, and it’s said to be one of their best yet.
But before the show starts, we’re here in the Kooza Kitchen to see what happens in the food department. This is where all the staff and performers come to eat. It’s not normally accessible to the public.
We’ve met with the kitchen manager Shane Schipper, and he’s taken us right back behind the dining room into the secret space of the kitchen itself. We’ve even caught a tag-along: one of the performers has come with us for the tour because even he hasn’t seen backstage of the kitchen before!
Kooza Kitchen is absolutely fascinating. Shane and his team of 3 (yes, just 3 people) cook for the entire staff of Cirque all day 6 days a week and they never have the same thing on the menu in a row. It’s incredible.
We’ve got lots more to tell you – including Shane’s secret recipe for his pork carnitas, which are the crew’s absolute favourite. And I can understand why…
Tonight is Mexican night and everyone’s favourite. We get to try the food on offer, and it is incredible. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this.
So watch this space for more on what it’s like at Cirque du Soleil three levels backstage!
The hype is absolutely right: Kooza is a remarkable show. I have no idea how these people do the things with their bodies that they do. There’s a strict no photography policy during the show at Cirque, which I actually think it great. But it means we don’t have any visuals of the show for you.
However, at the end of the show, we’re backstage again, and we get to meet some of the characters. This guy doesn’t work for the circus, but we thought we’d get a photo with him anyway. Just kidding.
Behind the performance stage is a whole training and warm-up area that had us agog. Even more so were these 100kg single-arm dumbbells! I can understand people needing this kind of weight to train with… but there are four of them.
Today is the daytime gala launch of Sydney Craft Beer Week! It’s set to be an amazing week ahead with lots of very impressive brews to be sampled from all over the world.
The gala’s in an old theatre in Redfern and is the perfect setting for beer tasting!
Make sure you check out the SCBW website so you don’t miss any of the fun beer events planned for the city for the rest of the week.
Best of all, I was able to try the Tumut River Brewing Co‘s special red ale they’d made just for SCBW. You might know that I’ve become a huge fan of Tumut River Brewing – they make what’s now pretty much my all-time favourite beer – the Squealing Pig APA.
These guys are still very small and it’s incredibly hard to find any of their beers outside Tumut, a little town somewhere between Wagga Wagga and Canberra. But watch this space. Their beer’s that good it’s only a matter of time before they’re sending it far and wide!
After the gala, my mate Anton and I have made our way to the next obvious destination: the Dove and Olive in Surry Hills. These guys have transformed this locals’ pub into a great haven for craft beer.
On tap is a beer by my favourite US brewery Stone from San Diego. This is their coffee milk stout – a bitter-sweet creamy coffee-laced stout beer. It’s very moreish beer indeed!
I can’t wait to see what else this week of beer will bring.
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.
This is Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was completed in 1777 but only after they had to add the extra tower on the right. To be a cathedral in Cuba, there must be 2 towers! This country really knows how to make even an extension look stunning.
We’ve got so many amazing memories of our time here in Cuba. Check out our library of posts on what we did, where we went, what we ate and how we did it all here!
There’s something about watching the storm clouds roll in over the sea that’s incredibly therapeutic – especially when the water looks like it does around Noosa, QLD. Suppose we should probably get off the beach now though!
The coastline below the Byron Bay Lighthouse at the most easterly point of Australia is absolutely stunning. As you look down from the famous Cape Byron lighthouse, keep an eye open for turtles, dolphins, sharks and even humpback whales – there’s so much life in the waters around here.
Byron Bay has always had a special place in my heart from when I travelled here years ago – even before I’d met Mrs Romance. But since our recent visit back here, we’ve got a whole new set of reason to love it here.
Villa Noi at Aleenta Phuket is Mrs Romance’s spiritual home. This incredible self-contained part of the Aleenta resort is ideal for family groups, wedding parties or a bunch of friends looking for the perfect beach escape in Thailand. But every time we talk about this place, all I hear from Mrs R is: “can I move in already?”
If you go to our review of this resort and check out our video walkthrough of a few of the rooms here, at the end there’s a whole section just about Villa Noi. It’s pretty cool!
Pretty impressed with the breakfast selection at Aleenta Phuket too. So much to choose from and all so fresh too. This spread really does put most other hotel brekkies to shame! And all in sight of the beautiful Andaman Sea. Pretty special!
In spite of all the amazing places we’ve visited together over the years, Mrs Romance and I are always surprised by what we find right here in Australia. This is Cabarita Beach right at the northern end of New South Wales and home to Halcyon House, a beautifully converted motel and restaurant.
There’s also a restaurant attached to Halcyon House called Paper Daisy. It’s a beautifully decked out restaurant and is making a serious name for itself. Our review of our meal there isn’t quite as glowing as I thought it was going to be before we sat down… but it was still a good meal.
Absolutely love the styling at the Hua Chang Heritage Hotel in the heart of Bangkok. This place is such a hidden treasure in this crazy city – a real oasis. It feels like you’re in a different time and place when you walk through the doors here. And that’s what the designers were going for when they put this hotel together.
Check out our full review of the Hua Chang. We really like it here – in fact close friends are going to be staying here in a couple of weeks. Hope they like it too!
Well, we hope your week’s looking good from here. Tell us all about your weekend in the comments below!