Posts tagged: Champagne

Australia: Cairns & Outer Great Barrier Reef

By , February 14, 2011 4:00 am
In The GBR For New Years

In The GBR For New Years

“Guess who’s back, back again?” To celebrate New Years, we head out to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Our friend, Zhi, who we visited while in Sydney, joins us.

There is not much charm to downtown Cairns with a few bars and restaurants. After setting our resolutions for 2011 over dinner, we join the crowd in the Esplanade for fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, we cheer with our Champagne-filled McDonald’s paper cups and end the night with a group hug.

Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Fireworks On The Esplanade

Fireworks On The Esplanade

Early next morning, we board The Encounter for a 2-day/1-night trip to explore the Outer GBR. We are told that the deadly jellyfishes are mating so it is best to wear a wetsuit. Zhi tries diving for the first time and loves it. MuiMui sticks to snorkeling and I decide to do an advanced diving course.

Onboard The Encounter

Onboard The Encounter

Boris Snorkeling In The GBR

Boris Snorkeling In The GBR

Millions Of Small Fishes

Millions Of Small Fishes

Live Coral & Fishes Everywhere

Live Coral & Fishes Everywhere

On the first day, we visit Norman Fingers and Norman Playground. Snorkeling is pretty awesome as we are right above the colorful coral reef. But diving is even better. During my deep dive, I see a family of 7 lionfishes and a sting ray over 3 meters wide.

Underwater Landscape

Underwater Landscape

Feels Like Swimming Through A Colorful Screensaver

Feels Like Swimming Through A Colorful Screensaver

Beautiful Lionfish But Dangerous

Beautiful Lionfish But Dangerous

Clownfish AKA Nemo

Clownfish AKA Nemo

On the second day, while diving at Saxon Turtle Bombie, I observe a baby shark, sea turtles, and barracudas. MuiMui has a blast chasing a turtle and it doesn’t mind as she touches its shell. Zhi accidently touches a poisonous soft coral and as he comes out of the water, it looks like a sea monster attacked his knee.

Live Coral

Live Coral

Giant Sea Anemone

Giant Sea Anemone

Enormous Clam

Enormous Clam

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Zhi's Coral Attack

Zhi's Coral Attack

At nightfall, the divers onboard start getting excited for their next dive while someone outside on the boat screams “Shark!” A few black-tipped sharks are hanging around the boat because the light helps them hunt easier. I start to feel a chill in my body, but it is quickly overpowered by the excitement. We are given flashlights and a short briefing: Large Trevally fishes are going to follow you because your light makes it easy for them to spot small fishes. We know it is fun to see them hunt, but please try not to get more than two fishes killed.

I am the first one to jump in the water and there are about 10 or more sharks less than one meter away from me. The fear gets to me again so I shine the flashlight on me to make sure the sharks don’t mistake me for a turtle or a big tuna fish. When I reach the bottom of the ocean and look back up, I can see all the sharks circling the boat.

While back on the boat and telling the non-divers about my night dive, we suddenly see a flying fish jumping out of the water and then 50 sharks rushing in its direction. If one shark had mistaken me for a fish, it would have been the end for me.

After a total of 6 dives, I am exhausted and join MuiMui for one last snorkel. While trying to get a good picture of a Nemo (Anemone fish), MuiMui points between my legs. A leopard shark swims right by us and it looks mean.

Snorkeling Right Above The Coral

Snorkeling Right Above The Coral

Coral Sea

Coral Sea

Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark

While our boat trip was pretty pricey, it was totally worth it. We learn there is an option where you can work onboard (cleaning, etc) in trade for free diving, lodging, and food. This is a great option for backpackers or anyone on a tight budget but eager to see the GBR.

For our last day, we rent a car to visit Port Douglas. It is a small little beach town, but we can only swim in one area with nets because of the deadly jellyfishes and the salt caimans. During our drive back, we spot a few Wallabies in an open grass field so we pull over to take photos. There are hundreds of them hanging out, eating grass, or boxing each other.

Wallabies

Wallabies

Boxing Each Other

Boxing Each Other

Thanks again Zhi for joining us; we had a memorable start for the New Year. You will now be known for surviving a sea monster attack.

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Beware Of Deadly Jellyfishes

Beware Of Deadly Jellyfishes

Little Holes On The Beach

Little Holes On The Beach

Coral Arch In The GBR

Coral Arch In The GBR

Orangespine Unicornfish

Orangespine Unicornfish

Coral Rabbitfish

Coral Rabbitfish

Don't Bother Me

Don't Bother Me

Blue Lined Surgeonfish

Blue Lined Surgeonfish

Zebra Fish

Zebra Fish

Interesting Coral

Interesting Coral

Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish

Blue Green Damselfish

Blue Green Damselfish

Yellow Mask Angelfish

Yellow Mask Angelfish

White-Tipped Reef Shark

White-Tipped Reef Shark

Giant Clam

Giant Clam

Down Under With Divemaster

Down Under With Divemaster

Boris Going Down

Boris Going Down

Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

Wrasse Fish

Wrasse Fish

Nudibranch Sea Slug

Nudibranch Sea Slug

Spotted Sweetlips Fish

Spotted Sweetlips Fish

Prickly Red Sea Cucumber

Prickly Red Sea Cucumber

Our Buddy, Zhi

Our Buddy, Zhi

What We Paid: AUD USD Euro
– Virgin Blue Flight From Brisbane To Cairns 234/pp 234.50 173
– 2 day/1 night onboard the Encounter for a trip out to the Outer GBR 300/snorkeling 410/diving 301 / 411 222 / 304
– Private room with own bath at the Best Western in Cairns [AC, clean, up to 3 ppl per room, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, book online for better rate and when they say they’re full] 89/room 89 66
– Private double with shared bath at NJoy Hostel in Cairns [fan, basic, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, free early morning transfer to airport, recommend only if on tight budget or if everything else is sold out] 50/room 50 37
– Underwater camera rental 33/day 33 24.50
– Average Breakfast 7.50/pp 7.50 5.50
– Average Lunch 15/pp 15 11
– Average Dinner 25/pp 25 18.50

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Visiting Coromandel

By , January 24, 2011 5:00 am
The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

Joining us for the North Island is Boris’ mother and her boyfriend. They greet us French style, with lots of kisses and Champagne! We make a compromise with them. From this point on, we travel their style and in return, we cook for them when feasible. Thank you Marie Hélène and Gérard for giving us the better end of the deal. :)

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

We go for a road trip around the North Island and it reminds me a little of Maine because there is always some place to stop for delicious seafood. We stop at Coromandel Oyster Company for lunch. It is a small shack right off the road and they have a darn good seafood chowder.

Coromandel Oyster Company

Coromandel Oyster Company

Our lodging at The Church, in Coromandel, is one of the cutest accommodations. There are a handful of designer cottages all equipped for a relaxing night stay. With the four of us, we decide to go with “The House #12”, which gives us more space and amenities than we actually need.

The House

The House

More Champagne Please

More Champagne Please

We dine at the hotel restaurant the first night and the food and wine is excellent. The next night, we grill it up on our very own porch. Every French meal includes, at least, Champagne, wine, and delicious meat. With Gerard and me around, we also like to have the American delight called chips.

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Nearby are two popular attractions. At the Cathedral Cove, the hike in is an easy 30 minutes with wonderful views. At the end, we arrive at a great beach spot for pure relaxation. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear.

Magnificent Views

Magnificent Views

Not Permitted To Enter

Not Permitted To Enter

Rock Island

Rock Island

The other attraction is called Hot Water Beach. During low tide, we enjoy this underground hot spring by creating a hot water pool, which we share with the other hundred folks that are here. We borrow a shovel and dig into the sand for some time to allow the hot water to escape to the surface. While enjoying the warmth, the cold tides come in and collapse all that hard work we put in to have us rebuild all over again.

Group Hot Water Pool

Group Hot Water Pool

Stay tuned for our next post on our North Island favorites.

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

First Stop in France: Pari(s)!

By , October 1, 2010 11:41 pm
Fromage

Fromage

Boris is from the south of France but with an international airport and lots of flight options, Paris was an obvious choice to fly into. We were so grateful to be greeted by Boris’s uncle, Bernard, and aunt, Elizabeth, who live right outside of Paris.

Elizabeth and Bernard take French hospitality to new limits. The best way to describe Elizabeth is you can think of her as a French Martha Stewart. From the day we arrived in Paris until we left, we were completely pampered and it felt wonderful. Every morning, I had coffee and a croissant paired with homemade jam. On top of that, the view from the kitchen through the French doors onto their meticulous garden was exactly what I needed.

Every Morning Comes With A View

Every Morning Comes With A View

Ooh La La ... Hidden Wine Cave

Ooh La La ... Hidden Wine Cave

As a surprise, they took us to our first Michelin-starred restaurant in France: Auberge de la Brie! When the food arrived, nothing mattered anymore. Each bite was exceptional and just brought back the sensations I had forgotten. For a starter, I had a glass of Kir Royal, which is Champagne with blackberry liquor. Then came my favorite part, my own plate of foie gras. Oh, how I miss you! Things start to get serious at this point with our bottle of Henriot Champagne. For my main dish, I had the finest grade meat in my mouth cooked at perfection. The next part is Boris’ favorite. When the fromage (cheese) cart came, I became the second most important in his life. Keep in mind, there are also a few amuse bouches (small bites) that come at random times throughout our entire dinner. What separates a really great restaurant from a Michelin-starred restaurant are the desserts. At this point in time, I just couldn’t take another bite of food but you can never say no to pure sweetness. While most of us had one dessert, Boris had to top us by having two. I don’t know how he does it; it must be the French in him.

Foie Gras

Foie Gras

Main Dish

Main Dish

Boris Misses Fromage

Boris Misses Fromage

Dessert

Dessert

We cannot thank Bernard and Elizabeth enough for their love and hospitality.
Thank you!

Inside Le Train Bleu

Inside Le Train Bleu

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Subway Of Paris

Subway Of Paris

Both Boris and I have visited Paris numerous times before so this time around, we didn’t do too much sightseeing.
MuiMui’s favorite: The gardens of Versailles
Boris’ favorite: Angelina for hot chocolate

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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