Summer in Melbourne

Melbourne is extraordinarily beautiful with its lush natural greenery and pristine beaches and coastlines. Yet, going to the beach in Melbourne has always left me with longing to go back to the Maldives, my home country. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or the fact that I am  used to the comfort of small islands rather than the vastness of coastlines and beaches here. So far our idea of a great outdoor time here has been exploring the mountains, hiking through the sky high forests and misty waterfalls.

But, this summer we have been total beach bums. We have had lovely stretches of sun in the past few weeks and we vowed to take full advantage of it, even with two toddlers slowing us down. We really can’t complain, the main reason we get out is to see their joyous faces taking in the splendor of nature.

Our idea of a great beach is opportunity is explore and adventure. We look for rocky lagoons, shore and sea dwellers, shallow expanses of shoreline and uninterrupted views of the sunset/sunrise. We also check the presence of beach patrol (which we check online before we go)and life saving clubs.Here are some of our favorite beaches that’s under an hour from Melbourne city that we have enjoyed this summer.

Williamstown Beach

This gorgeous beach is an explorers dream. It has a wide expanses of rocky lagoons and visible sea life. Our favorite part of the beach is the reserve park overlooking the beach. It is a great spot to picnic with a perfect view of the sunset. The area is frequented by seagulls which gave the kids great joy running after them. Just half an hour from Melbourne city, this is one great choice.

Altona Beach

We enjoyed Altona beach so much that we decided that this is going to be our default beach for the rest of the summer. The rock pool area of the beach was just brimming with life. Seagulls, snails, clams and an array of crustaceans that is beyond my knowledge resided there. The tide was low when we went, so there was a wide part of the shore with ankle deep water. This was just perfect for the kids to lie on, sit in, and jump up and down. Basically for them this was a never ending puddle at their expense, and only half hour from Melbourne city .

Port Melbourne

I fell in love with Port Melbourne beach as soon as I saw all the beautiful shells. The shore is covered by shells. Most of the shells were still intact and beautifully preserved by the sand. When the sun sets, the gorgeous rays of the sun made the shells glisten much like a stars on a dark night. Port Melbourne runs a long way and we have experienced the beach at different points.

Carrums Beach

Oh Carrums! My only issue with Carrums Beach is that it takes us almost an hour to  get there and through the city (in case of northerners). The water is crystal clear and the sand must be the whitest that we have seen in Melbourne so far. Not that white is a prerequisite for us anymore, because we have fallen in love with the textured golden Melbourne beach sand.


Black Rock Beach (Half Moon Bay)

This beautiful and iconic beach proves that great things come in small packages. This beach is contained in a half moon shape and gives an alternative idea of what we know as beaches. The cliffs of Red bluff (the rocks) are so beautiful and perfect if you have kids who love climbing. It also gave an amazing view of the half moon bay once you climb to the top. It was perfect to make a picnic on top of the rocks to watch the sun as it set. This was a great place for my son to climb up and and push his limits. As the sun set, we could also see the moon rising from the other side.

St Kilda Beach

Truth be told, we have only gone to St Kilda beach for walks along the pier and to see the penguins. It’s one of the best places to check out the sunrise and makes for a vibrant fun outing at night. You can see the sun rising over the city line from the pier. There are many cafe’s and is just has a lovely city vibe to it.

Brighton Beach

This iconic beach is perfect for it’s photo opportunities and Victorian history behind the array of the Brighton bathing houses. The houses are still intact in its historical Victorian architecture and the story of morality and sea bathing. It boasts these colourful houses along the shores. My son had a great time doing pretend play at the beach, running up and down the houses and pretending to be the big bad wolf trying to blow down the doors.

Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary

This is one of the best places to introduce kids to Australian marine life. The shores are full of life and there is a lot of rock pools close to the shore that kids can wade onto. We came across a school of hulafish, lots of snails and different shells. The beach is covered with algae that is home to many crustaceans. My babies are still too young to appreciate sea life but it was a great introduction, and we had lot of fun pointing out the animals and plants.


Day trip to Pisa

Our time in Pisa was just one day, which was just enough to stroll around the city and visit the famous Leaning tower of Pisa. We decided that we will only spend our time there so that we won’t be rushed to fit in too many attractions into the one day.

The tower-  It’s one of those places, like the great wall of China which you grow up hearing and wondering how it will be to see it. The tower actually is leaning a full 5.5 degrees which is clearly very visible. It is a bit daunting to see a 55-meter tower look as if it may topple over any second. The tower is the campanile or bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral. The tilt, which was unintended happened during its construction due to faulty foundation. The tower is just one building out of four in the cathedral complex which is known as Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles. The construction took an amazing 199 years to complete, while of course trying to fix the tilting. Apparently, at one point the tower was leaning in the opposite direction. The reversal in the tilt occurred when additional stories were put up which affected the center of gravity of the building moving the tilt on the opposite direction. The history is just amazing and the architecture was majestic. To our pleasure the day turned out to be so beautiful hence adding to its magnificence.

We did few poses of the obligatory Pisa pusher and walked around the Field of Miracles just enchanted to be there. We had pizza for lunch (obviously), which was mouthwateringly soft and thin. I still cannot eat a pizza without comparing it to the pizza we had there, sitting outside a pizzeria enjoying the bustle of tourists visiting the Tower of Pisa.

Italia photodiary

Europes most romantic city- Venice!

Consisting of 117 islands, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities that we visited. Few fun facts about this “Floating City” connected by canals and bridges:

-According to tradition, a couple stays in love forever if they kiss under the bridges while riding a gondola
– Water from fountains which is actually all over Italy is safe for drinking.
– Also, Venice is sinking at the rate of 1-2 millimeters a year.

We rode a gondola on our very first night but sadly we only found out about the kiss tradition after we got off. The time we spent in Venice was just not enough and I’m not sure how long it will take to enjoy this city. Most of all we absolutely loved our strolls along the Grand canal watching the busy life around, the canal filled with gondola’s and water taxi’s while the surrounding buildings were classical and unique. There were Venetian masks at every corner, colorful and so beautiful. Some were quite daunting but mostly they were all so unique.


The Nitty Gritty’s of our adventure in Europe


After a lovely farewell dinner with my colleagues and tearful good bye to them, we started our Europe Tour. From Exeter to London by train was a quiet one where I spent time reflecting on the past months spent with friends. My thoughts on the good times spent with extraordinary friends were equalled only by the sadness I felt on parting ways. But life goes on.

From the train station in London we took a taxi to Lockaway where we stored our luggage. It was such a relief to be free of our heavy bags. The front desk guy Steve was very friendly and helpful, all the more safer we felt keeping our bags their storage units. We travelled to Canada Water Station and took a bus towards YHA Thameside. However we got off few stops early by mistake and had to walk about half a mile to reach the hostel.

When we reached the hostel we were extremely tired. Stupidly, in order to economize we had booked separate rooms (girls and boys separate rooms) when we should have taken our own private room. (Note to self: never compromise on safety/comfort no matter how economical). After a disturbed and sleepless night separate, we checked out the next day, took a bus to Canada Water Station. The meeting point was directly across the station. At this point we were energized and looking forward to the trip. We got introduced to others who joined the tour. Our tour guide Holly, was a funky British girl who was very firm and equally fun. Our bus driver Shaun was from Scotland and was equally high spirited and fun loving.

From the meeting point we travelled on the Expat Explore bus which was designed with moderately comfortable seats, air condition and TV! Our destination was Dover, which is the port from London to France. Our adventure in Europe started here, stay tuned!

‘Tracking’ in Totnes 2012

What we called tracking, serious trackers would bow their heads in shame.  But who cares! We had such an amazing time.

Totnes is known for its bohemian style; could this be somewhat related to the story of the legendary and mythical founder of Britain, Brutus of Troy who stepped on to land and said ‘Here I stand and here I rest. And this town shall be called Totnes’. Well, such legends have a way of influencing how a culture forms. Anyway, we arrived in the magical Totnes somewhere around mid-morning. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out but still as it goes without saying it was pretty cool.

After walking around town and having lunch we went to see the Totnes castle. It seemed as if we were looking at Rapunzel’s tower. We saw a curtain wall up on the hill which was apparently the castle ruins we came to see. Climbing up a long stone stairway we walk into an empty area, surrounded by the wall. So we think ‘huh, is this it?’, the kid from the family who were right behind us shouts out ‘THIS IS IT?’. How nice to voice out whatever you feel when ever you feel it!. Well so much for seeing castles, but the view from up the wall was amazing. We could see the whole town and more. The sky was spectacular, not in the sense that it was all sun and blue sky. But it had really dark clouds by then which looked as if it would give away any minutes, and then right next to that was a very white cloud, which was followed by the clear blue sky. This was good indication of the weather for the rest of the day.

While exploring we had an ‘aha moment’. We imagined people living right there, but in the 14th century. People walking, working and laughing probably right where we stood in a faraway time. We imagined the number of lives, number of feelings, thoughts that must have passed by. For all we know, a very melodramatic murder took place right on the spot we stood. I suppose its true when my friends say that I have an unhealthy attachment to murderous stories.

After this we decided, very spontaneously to go to the Sharpham Estate. Now this is where magic begins. Forget the destination, enjoy the journey; this fits completely with the rest of the trip. This was a 2.5 mile walk, and we begin it through a narrow path with greenery on either side. Walking through nature, we met few of Mother Nature’s teasing. First it was amazingly bright with sunshine, and then it started drizzling, which was followed by hail. So this circle repeats a couple of times before, thank God, it settles with sunny. As we went ahead we saw amazing green lush over the hills where the sheep were grazing. On top of the hill we could see barren autumn trees. This made a lovely wallpaper picture. What we decided to do it climb the hills, to get the best view. Now I am a professed and confessed acrophobic, but how could I miss a chance like this. And the hills had the sheep, was I going to lose face to a bunch of sheep? No way. So squatting here and there, holding hands and shoulders, I manage to climb all the way up. Well, needless to say, it was very rewarding. We could see over the river, the green grazing pastures, red ploughed fields, beautiful marshlands and this was highlighted by the beautiful blue sky. This was the colors of nature, blue, green and brown. And all this was serenaded by the howling of the wind and the sound of Devons birds. We met horses, cows, and more sheep on the way. At a point we sort of got lost, but we managed to get back on track although it took a lot of walking back and forth. Finally, Sharpham estate, on the top of the world. It had a small but beautifully designed cafe’/restaurant that serves English cheese and wine. The wine is produced at the Sharpham vineyard and cheese at the Sharpham House. The milk for the cheese is taken from organically farmed cattle and made using rennet (enzyme from animal stomach).

There were flowering trees all over the farm along with farmland, ancient woodland, streams and ponds which made the place so naturally beautiful. This is a place where you can reconnect with the natural world and possibly reconnect with ourselves. We spent hours here, just exploring, and having a good time. Unfortunately, this like all other good times was coming to an end. We walked back into Totnes, where we went to have Indian food at a restaurant where the waiters were from Bangladesh and the Indian food was definitely not of Indian taste. Well British-Indian I suppose is the closest we can get in the UK.

It was a lovely experience, connecting with the nature, connecting with friends and creating stories that will last hopefully forever.

Visit to Stonehenge and Roman Baths 2012

The beautiful blue sky, amazing green color of grass, sound of laughter, diversity of culture, taste of Sally Lunn’s buns could not numb out the cold of the winter. But amazingly it did not bother me. I was having way too much fun. We were visiting Stonehenge and the Roman Baths as the first out of Exeter experience with friends.

I had seen Stonehenge from a distance traveling from London to Plymouth and was very curious to see it up close and understand the story behind it. To my slight disappointment visually it was a bunch of rocks, stacked in a curious way. But the history was definitely very interesting, the monument is said to be built somewhere around 3000-2000 BC but no one is really sure what it was built for. So there are theories ranging from it being built as an astronomical calendar, religious site to it being burial grounds. For us, it honestly was a pile of rocks, but the age of the rocks did impress us so much. It’s not every day we come across something from the BC.

Our second stop of the day was the old Sarum, this was the first site of settlement in Salisbury. This is one of the most historically important sites in Southern England.

Climbing up the hill to the site we met a pony and horse. The interesting this is that they were dressed, due to the cold. They were very cute; especially the pony dressed in a very pretty flowery dress. We had some laughs up the hill, stories that even if we tried we will not forget. We took pictures, jumping up, crouching down, holding up, and any other creative way we could think of. I clicked couple of pictures to send home, hair waving in the wind, making sure I gave the best smile I could.

The next stop; Salisbury cathedral, mind blowing! The most amazing architecture I have ever laid my eyes on. As we entered I saw this writing on the wall, “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” and I suppose it is what I felt all through. It was so beautiful inside, the windows were mosaics designed as angels and the floors were inlaid and designed as burial chambers. This was pretty freaky; to be walking on burial chambers and not being sure if there were dead people inside. I was taken back somehow just imagining the number of people who would have come there with prayers. I felt that all the prayers, all the wishes, mourning’s and then the happiness and the sorrow would somehow leave their mark in the essence of the cathedral. This overwhelmed me, because I thought of the dead and how amazing our life is. So blessed we are and we should take time to acknowledge this every now and then.

We traveled to Bath from Salisbury, where we had booked a hotel to stay the night. We started the day with tea at the Oldest house in Bath, 1482 famous for Sally Lunn Buns. Obviously we all ordered the Sally buns, which was quite tasty. The streets of Bath were the most incredible, it is a world heritage site and named after the Baths and spa’s the Romans built somewhere in the really early AD’s. For us this looked like what we assumed all parts of England would be like before we came and settled in Exeter.

We visited the Roman Baths which was a public bathing site for the Romans back in the day. The pool as I call it comes from geothermal energy so it’s actually steaming. It was a beautiful sight. We then visited the Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent. Royal crescent is a series of houses built in a crescent shape again a long time back, but this was also such an amazing sight. It had a big open space infront with beautiful flowering trees.

For me the aura of Bath was astonishing, it was full of colors and creativity. The showcases in the shops were full of colors, the street vendors sold paintings and handicrafts which were amazingly simple and beautiful.

At last we went to visit author Jane Austen’s centre. She lived in Bath for sometime, and I liked her from what I read about her and by her. I wanted to buy her book collection which was available there but one of my friends in the end suggested I should look up the internet to get a copy cheaper and this was the deciding factor. Well, so far I have not even looked it up. That is why I need to be Spontaneous!

We all were dead tired, but immensely excited and so looking forward to another trip. I can absolutely imagine why Jane Austen wanted to live in this city, its where inspiration is born and creativity can thrive.