What a week it’s been! There’s been so much new stuff going on, my head’s still spinning.
First off, we headed up to Port Stephens – a beautiful little beachside peninsular 2 and a half hours out of Sydney. Our plan was to help Mrs R’s sister renovate the new house they’ve bought there.
I learnt how to put up a dry wall and how to brick pave. And how much this makes your body hurt!
Back in Sydney, we learnt about the new coffee coming from Nespresso, which – if you have a Nespresso machine – you’re going to love.
We were also first on the scene to hear about the latest flavour collaboration between Australia’s darling the Tim Tam biscuit and one of the ice cream powerhouses (and Mrs Romance’s favourite).
Check out all the stuff we’ve learnt this week just gone in our latest IG Edition!
Jim & Christina xx
Port Stephens is a real hidden gem. So few people seem to know about it. It only takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to drive here and the views are all like this. All of them.
It’s incredible. And there’s so much to do here too. Here’s our Essential Guide to Port Stephens with our top tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do!
But it’s not all sunshine and beaches this visit. We’re here to work!
Mission 1: Project Pathway. The path around my sister-in-law’s new house needs to be dug up and repaved with bricks. Here is a before-and-after collage, which took me and my brother-in-law David a day and a half to do.
My first sally into the job: I load a wheelbarrow with bricks to pave with, the wheel gets stuck in the sand, tips sideways and flips me across the lawn! Excellent. This is going to be a lot of fun.
It’s lunchtime, so like the good tradesmen we are, we go to the local hardware store for timber. And lunch.
The sausage sizzle – for anyone outside Australia – is an institution in itself. The cheapest white bread you can find, average sausages and either tomato or barbecue sauce. Both if you’re a daredevil!
This happens outside most Bunnings hardware stores and at school fetes and things like that.
While we’re stacking timber in the ute, we keep our sausage sizzles warm on the bonnet! That’s how it’s done Downunder!
Here we have the lovely Mrs Romance modelling how you eat a sausage sizzle in a drive-in Bunnings hardware store.
Yes, that’s right. This is a drive-in shop. I think this is about as good as anything I’ve seen. Ever!
Now the path is finished (and my back and legs have officially fallen off) David and I are busy building a new wall. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and it’s actually quite good fun… but compared to laying bastard paving bricks, sitting in a tub of boiling acid with crows hacking at your eyes is fun.
This is where I try and make out as if I know what I’m doing. It hasn’t worked, has it?
And here’s the finished product. Minus the actual wall or door of course. It’s been a challenging job, but Foreman David and his assistant have pulled it off.
I’m surprised to hear this is David’s first stud wall too. It seemed like he know what he was doing all the way through. It goes to show what a bit of confidence will do for you!
Another first for us: driving on Stockton Beach. This enormous beach stretches for some 32km from Stockton in the south to Anna Bay in the north, and it’s one of the few beaches people can take their 4×4 vehicles on for free*.
Our slave-drivers have decided to down tools early today, so we’re all able to enjoy a bit of afternoon sun at one of the most dramatic beaches in the world.
*You do need a permit to drive on the beach here, but it’s quite cheap. Here’s where you apply online for one.
The water here is so incredibly clear and it stays shallow for ages. There are also millions of pippies – little clam-like shellfish – under the sand here.
These are like catnip to most Aussies, and Mrs R, David and Mrs R’s sister Mary are almost salivating into the water when we realise how many there are here. Shame you’re not allowed to take them from the beach. They are delicious.
Stockton Beach and Anna Bay are famous for something else other than the beach. There are over 32km of sand dunes here – the longest strip of moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere.
You can walk around this incredible national park, but if you want to see more of it, you can go on tour buses, quad bikes or even ride camels through the area.
This is an area of incredible beauty – made even more beautiful by Mrs Romance of course!
The dunes here at Stockton Beach, which is actually part of the Worimi Conservation Lands, are amazing. It’s more like some kind of moonscape than anything you’d expect to find under 3 hours out of Sydney.
If you walk just a little way into the dunes from the beach, you’re out of site from anyone. You could be in the middle of nowhere. It’s actually quite haunting.
It’s almost a relief to breach the last dune and find the beach and your car over the other side.
Now that we’ve been here once though, Mrs Romance and I can’t wait to come back and explore the dunes more!
Work is finally over and Mrs Romance and I can sit back and relax a bit.
We’ve come to the Little Beach Boathouse for lunch today. What an incredible little spot this is. Plenty of seating inside and out – we’ve chosen outside of course – and a great little menu to go with the view!
We’ve gone for the healthiest option on the menu: Halloumi and a bowl of fries! But the halloumi comes with a sesame crust and peach relish and the chips are cooked with rosemary sea salt, so it’s more than just chips and cheese!
I’ve also gone for the restaurant’s homebrew they serve on tap. It’s pretty bloody good too!
This is such a magical place. The restaurant upstairs is also good for events and weddings, or just a romantic dinner. But from the bar’s balcony, we get to enjoy the view and even see dolphins swim past.
And because you’re out over the water, the views seem to be all around you. Plus it’s a bit cooler.
It’s our last night in Port Stephens, so we’re having a bit of a stroll along the beach at sunset. And why not!
I wonder what I’m looking at…
That’s what I’m looking at!
And this amazing sunset is the perfect end to our trip. Tomorrow it’s back to Sydney and regular life… whatever that is!
Mrs Romance is at the beautiful Mille Vini in Surry Hills tonight to experience Nespresso’s latest coffee pod series: aged coffee!
The concept is quite interesting – the same way wine and cheese can be aged to develop flavour, so can coffee beans. The result is a much smoother, richer flavour. Very pleasantly surprised.
This is called the Selection 2014 Vintage, and it’s the first time it’s ever been tried. I think it’ll become a regular special in the Nespresso capsules. It’s amazing.
To guide everyone through how it works, Nespresso have recruited the expert help of coffee genius and Nespresso ambassador Mitch Monoghan, Keystone Group’s sommelier Chris Morrison and cheesemaker Kristen Allen.
They’re explaining the positive effects of the aging process have. They’re also showing us how all three elements – coffee, cheese and wine – can work together to produce something magical!
I’m out on my own tonight finding out how the amazing worlds of ice cream and chocolate biscuits can combine to make one taste bud shattering dreamscape!
Messina flavours in a Tim Tam. Can life get any better?
I’m exploring behind the scenes at the Messina factory in Rosebury. This place is fascinating. It feels like I’m one of the kids in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 – not the 2005 nightmare) but as an adult. Kind of!
The team has set up a four-station experience where we’ll learn about each of the four new Messina-inspired flavours.
Local distillery Archie Rose have collaborated to make matching cocktails to go with the surprisingly good Coconut and Lychee Tim Tam, and we’re led through three more experiential stations to explain how the other flavours came about.
There’s Black Forest, Choc Mint and of course the Salted Caramel and Vanilla.
The final room is a sit-down dessert to showcase the Salted Caramel and Vanilla Tim Tam.
This amazing sugar egg is full of yuzu and olive oil sorbet, vanilla sablé and salted caramel sauce. It’s amazing – though I’m going to need a good dose of insulin after this!
You can pick up these four amazing new Tim Tam flavours at most supermarkets and you can try the flavours that inspired them at all Gelato Messina shops!
I truly do love Tim Tams. They’re delicious. If you’ve never had a Tim Tam before but you’re from the UK, they’re a bit like a Penguin but bigger, tastier and altogether more awesome.
You can also do what’s called a Tim Tam Slam, which takes biscuit dunking to another level. You’re basically using your Tim Tam to drink your brew through, then shoving the whole choccy mess into your mouth. Amazing!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this rather long IG Edition. We’ve definitely enjoyed making it for you.
We’re looking forward to catching up again next week!
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.
Amazing views of the Brokenback Mountains from the vines of Scarborough Wines in the Hunter Valley, just up the road from Port Stephens.The wines are pretty amazing here too!
This is the opening of the Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. The tides change by 9m here, which creates a huge flow of water between these bays.
Our zodiac couldn’t get through at high tide but you can take a jet boat. We spotted little rock wallabies around the bay here too!
Classic Bondi. A tip to visitors here: the south end looks good for swimming, but stick to the red and yellow flags at the middle of the beach or the north end.
There’s a current at the south end they call ‘Backpacker Rip’ that will take you right out to sea before you know it.
Mrs R wanted to know if pineapples float, and guess what? They do!
Do you ever have dreams about meals you’ve eaten? I could go back and eat this fried oyster po’boy at Ironside Fish and Oyster Bar in San Diego right now. Not a bad negroni from there either.
Ironside is in our wrap of 7 unforgettable dining experiences in San Diego, CA. Check it out here!
How about this double rainbow we saw pop up over Sydney! Does that mean there are 2 pots of gold out there somewhere?
That double rainbow reminded us of this stunning sunrise we took a while ago. There’s no filter on this photo – this is actually the colour of the dawn sky!
The skyline in Sydney has changed so quickly and so much with the new Barangaroo towers coming up. And there are three more to come too. The last, which will be a new casino, will be twice as tall as the smallest tower on the right!
See you next Monday for another IG Edition!
Jim & Christina x