31 March 2016

Suitcase. Tegernsee, Germany - Travel Guide

I take great pleasure from visiting destinations that are a little more under the radar. Sure big capitals like Paris and Barcelona have their drawcards, but there's something majestic and quaint about visiting a smaller town for a few days. Living a local way of life.

Tegernsee is a storybook little town in the Bavarian region of Germany. It's somewhere I've long wanted to visit - my mum was here in the '80s and has often spoken of its magic and charm.

Last week, I arrived. I checked into my jaw-dropping home for the next few days - Das Tegernsee and set up camp in my beautiful suite overlooking the lake; complete with balcony, shower large enough to host a party and bath tub with lookout.

Whilst spring had arrived there was certainly still plenty of evidence of winter with bare trees, brisk air and snow-covered ground. I stood in wonder on the balcony of my chic alpine chalet, marvelling at the lake and giggling as a trickle of falling snowflakes landed on my nose.

After settling in I headed for the centre of town. English isn't very widely spoken here and in my three days in Tegernsee I had to resort to charades a handful of times. It always worked and the locals seemed to think I was a laugh. Twice I ordered food off a menu with no idea what it was. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised both times.

I don't know about you but I've always thought of Germans as a stern nationality. But it looks like the Bavarians got the friendly gene. Everywhere I went I was smiled at, locals attempted to strike up conversation and were always willing to help. Even more charming is the fact that the men actually wear those Tyrolean hats that you see in the movies.

Down by the lake you'll find the Tegernsee Abbey. Always one to enjoy churches I took a gander and was highly impressed by its ornate ceiling. Across the road, I found myself entering the town's cemetery. No morbid stories here, only fascination with the fact that on every gravestone I saw evidence of a long life. 80 years, 90 years. This town obviously promotes good health.

Time for a spot of lunch at Aran right on the lake's shore. Be sure to try their toasted sandwiches here, choose your flavour and then go for a hot chocolate on the side. You won't regret it.

With a full stomach the weariness of my 4am start struck so it was back up to the hotel for a luxurious afternoon in the spa complete with indoor/outdoor infinity pool.

That evening I checked out the hotel's Senger restaurant. With all those pool laps and lounge-lazing I'd worked up quite the appetite. I opted for the beef carpaccio for entree with such beautiful, delicate flavours.

For main I choose the king prawn risotto. It's served with asparagus and vanilla tomatoes which provided the most beautiful flavour combination.

To finish I had to taste the region's finest cheese platter. Extraordinary.

I awoke to my view of the lake overlooked by sleeping giants covered in clouds of mist, heading for the breakfast room to sip warm tea and tear into flakey pastries.

I hired a car for this trip and after so long without driving in London I was chomping at the bit to hit the road. Time to explore the lake region. Lake Tegernsee is dotted with villages around its 25km circuit, of which Tegernsee is just one.

Each one has such Bavarian charm. The architecture is undeniably typical of the area, huge wooden homes with painted details, heart carvings and wooden shutters. It's just like a storybook.

Having made my circuit I couldn't say no to viewing it all from the lake, taking the little local boat on a round trip that afternoon.

The way of life here is simple. Pure. It's like they've wound back the clock 30 years. It was certainly a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of London. If the UK capital is fifth gear then this was neutral. I left feeling relaxed, revitalised and reminded of what really matters in life.

If you're looking for an incredible experience then you simply must stay at Das Tegernsee. No detail is missed, no desire is left wanting. There is a little touch of unpretentious luxury in every experience. Thank you for having me.

Next stop, Neuschwanstein Castle...

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Photos by Krissie.

27 March 2016

Plate Up. Cooking With Qatar Airways

I'm a huge fan of Masterchef. Particularly the Aussie version. It's a total guilty pleasure of mine to wile away a few hours watching regular people battle it out in the kitchen to create delicious dishes, with the addition of plenty of drama of course.

Being the foodie that I am, I was especially chuffed when Qatar Airways invited me to a cooking event with celebrity chef Theo Randall. I was ready. I donned my apron feeling just like a Masterchef contestant myself.

In honour of Qatar's authentic cuisine, we were to prepare a national dish with a modern twist. Qashid sea bream and rice. Theo led the way, then it was our turn to recreate it, filleting a fish and everything! (I'll admit I needed a little help with this bit. Ok a lot.)

It's a delightfully fragrant dish, packed full of flavour that is sure to have your taste buds tingling!

What you'll need - (serves 1, increase as required)
1 fillet sea bream
1 cup basmatic rice
1 onion, sliced
1 green chilli, chopped
1 red chilli, choppped
8 datterini tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes but extra tasty!)
1 lemon
Pinch of saffron
1/2 teaspoon ginger root, diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard

What to do
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

In a small saucepan set your rice to boil with just enough water to cover it and pop in the pinch of saffron. Season well and leave to cook.

In a fry pan, heat half your oil and stir fry the onions until soft. Add the green chilli, half your red chilli, the ginger and half your garlic.

Meanwhile use a mortar and pestle to crush your cumin and fennel.

Next, add in your tomatoes, parsley, coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon and the juice of half your lemon. It should be smelling incredible. Leave to cook down on medium heat.

Take your fish fillet and score the skin side. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt then take another fry pan, heat a tablespoon of oil til it's nice and hot, then add the fish skin side down. It should make a lovely crackling sound.

When the fish is cooked on one side, flip it over and place your onion mixture on top of the fish then place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes until cooked through.

While that's in the oven, take a large saucepan and bring some water to the boil. Add in your swiss chard and cook until tender. Drain and in the same saucepan return it to the heat with your remaining olive oil, the rest of your lemon juice, the other half of the chilli and the other half of the garlic. Toss around until fragrant.

Time to serve. Place your rice on a plate and balance your fish on the top. Serve your greens on the side. Tada!

Thanks to Perowne Charles Communications for hosting such a great event. If you're looking to visit the Middle East or hopping over to the other side of the globe then be sure to check out Qatar Airways.

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 Photos by Krissie.

24 March 2016

Eat Me. Farm Girl, Notting Hill

Notting Hill. A true favourite of mine when it comes to neighbourhoods in London. How could you not love an area that's dotted with pastel tones and lined with colours?

Last Sunday it was with a grumbling stomach that I found myself in this neck of the woods. Farm Girl was my destination. When I heard this brunch cafe was run by Aussies, I had to visit for a little taste of home. After all, no one does eggs and avo like we do.

No bookings so you'll likely have to wait but it's worth it I promise. The heated courtyard is great for people watching and you might even make a new friend or two.

Once inside, the rainbow of fresh produce certainly kicked my hunger levels up a notch. From fresh baked goods to healthy smoothies, something is sure to tickle your fancy.

The scrambled eggs with guacamole and the berry pancakes tickled mine. I tell you, these eggs are damn good, possibly the best I've had. Made even better with the avo. And not usually one to be a fan of pancakes, these may have converted me. Must be all the coconut shavings. Yum.

If you find yourself on Portobello then be sure to swing by. Breakfast. Brunch. Lunch. It really is eggs-cellent here.

Where: 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB
Phone: 020 7536 2108
Bookings: Not taken, just rock up with a book and wait.

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Farm Girl Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Photos by Krissie & Farm Girl.

20 March 2016

Style It. Birds Of A Feather

Having grown up living on a lake, I guess you could say I'm very used to all manner of wildlife. A bit of a bird watcher if you will. As a child I fed the ducks and watched swans hatch eggs in my backyard with wonder; amazed at how a fluffy, squeaky little grey thing could transform into a great majestic bird.

London's not short of wildlife either and when I took some crumbs to Hyde Park the other week, they all came a flocking. Literally. I could hear David Attenborough's iconic voice narrating the whole thing.

We were blessed with some magical clear skies that day; shooting in the sunshine is always a treat. If you find yourself with some spare time this weekend, then get yourself down to the park. After all, now that spring's here, it's officially picnic season. The best time of year.

And if you missed it, take a look at the video we shot the same day.

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Photos by Jessica Marano.

17 March 2016

Suitcase. Hilton London Syon Park, Brentford

You all know how much I love to travel. But with my international explorations comes a lot of wait time. Airports. Planes. Trains. Stations. That's why when an opportunity to getaway at home came up I jumped at the chance. Jumped right over to the Hilton London Syon Park, just a hop and a skip away from Fulham. How's that for travel with no wait time?

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax
Coat (similar) / Gilet / Boots

Tucked away in a corner of London you wouldn't think to explore, the Hilton Syon Park is a true hidden gem. The rooms are so chic, furnished with modern Victorian designs, and their plush chairs just lure you in where you could easily lose an afternoon with the paper.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Our balcony overlooked the grounds so after a quick change of clothes we set off to explore Syon Park itself before the light faded. The grounds here are truly magical. I felt like I had stepped into an Enid Blyton book, expecting to spot the Magic Faraway Tree at any moment.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

The park isn't all neat and manicured but its overgrown feel adds to its charm. There were wild flowers, fallen trees, a trickling stream and even some toadstools. I watched squirrels racing across the grass and scurrying up trees with much amusement before scurrying down a tree myself!

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

At the edge of the gardens by the hotel you'll find the most beautiful observatory. Its hedges simply begged for a game of hide and seek. How could I refuse?

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax
Knit / Boots (similar)

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Then it was back to our room to prep for dinner and kick things off with a glass of bubbles. Pop went the bottle and clink went the glasses. I nearly spilled it. Almost.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax
Jumpsuit - my new favourite!

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

The hotel is home to a Marco Pierre White restaurant so with grumbling stomachs and steak in mind we set off to the lobby. After a glass of pink Laurent Perrier and a delectable salmon amuse bouche, we were ready and raring to eat.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

We chose the baked Camembert and smoked trout tartare for entree. The trout wasn't quite what I expected but all eyes were on the Camembert anyway with its delightful gooeyness.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Then of course we had to have the chateaubriand for main. What else? It was delightfully tender and cooked to perfection.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

We were just about stuffed but of course we couldn't say no to dessert - squeezing in the Knickerbocker glory (ask for coconut ice cream instead of vanilla!) and the sticky toffee pudding.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Thoroughly sated we rolled upstairs to bed where I fell into a dreamland of magical pixies who were helping me find the perfect set of fairy wings in the park.

When dawn broke we were up and at em', first stop the hotel's Kallima spa for a swim and a steam.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

By then we were famished again (amazingly!) and set off for the well-stocked buffet breakfast.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Rain was threatening later that afternoon so we took our opportunity for another walk in the grounds, this time stopping by the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

We'd just arrived at the observatory when the heavens opened and a sun shower broke through. The scent of freshly cut grass being hit with the slosh of rain wafted in on the breeze.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

Then before we knew it it was time to head home, our little escape from reality was over but we rejoined the hustle and bustle of London life with renewed vigour. Book your own break at Hilton London Syon Park here and tell them I sent you.

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

hilton london, syon park, getaway, weekend, spa break, relax

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Photos by the ever-talented snapper @curioussophia