Good morning! Hope you are all having a spectacular week so far.
It is now Tuesday, and I spent the morning in class, then meal-prepping. I made a massive, hearty vegetable stir-fry, and ate it with some random protein from the fridge (a cheesy omelet and falafel). Now, for some blogging before I start studying.
But more importantly:
my friend and I spent the weekend at Byron Bay!
I mentioned this on a previous post, but my friend – Grace – and I planned a weekend getaway to Byron Bay, which is approximately two and a half hours from Brisbane. On Friday morning, I enjoyed a delicious homemade chai latte, some yogurt with nuts and banana bread, then packed up my backpack and a gym bag. Next, I cleaned up my room and the bathroom. I love coming home from a trip to a clean, cozy place.
Before I knew it, we were on the shuttle bus on our way to Byron!
Our hostel was the Byron Bay Beach Hostel, which was located conveniently in the city centre. We were fortunate to receive a free upgrade, and ended up with our own bathroom and a queen bed (as opposed to two twin beds and a shared bathroom for the entire floor).
This was my first time staying at a real hostel, and I was very pleasantly surprised. 🙂
- Kathmandu, Nepal: homestay with other young volunteers (perhaps the closest to a hostel)
- Salt Spring Island, British Columbia (Canada): cottage with my family
- Paris, France: family friend’s house with Seline
- St-Eustache, Quebec (Canada): homestay
- Sunshine Coast, British Columbia (2015 and 2016): hotels
- Taiwan, Macau, Cambodia: hotels
After dropping off our things, we headed for lunch at Balcony, an oyster bar. I ordered the three-cheese crab mac and cheese, which was topped with garlicky breadcrumbs and plenty of hearty crab. I loved this meal! You guys know that I love anything served on a sizzling skillet. Our lunch was almost as good as our conversation. Grace is super easy to talk to!
After that, we spent Friday afternoon at Main Beach.
That night, there were two minor disappointments:
- There was a major power outage that hit Byron Bay just as we were leaving our dinner restaurant. We ended up walking home in the dark, without streetlights, and sitting around in the hostel without electricity. That night, fortunately, the power came back – and you could hear the cheers of everyone out on the beach town.
- Our snorkelling tour was cancelled due to the windy conditions. The water would be too choppy for snorkelling. I was so sad about this! Y’all know from my bucket list that I’ve always, always wanted to go snorkelling or scuba diving.
On the bright side, dinner was exquisite. We went to Treehouse, a twenty-five minute walk from the hostel. The venue was stylized to look like a treehouse, and musicians were performing live music. The atmosphere was truly unique, and I was elated to have had the opportunity to try their renowned pizza. The caramelized onions on top were my favourite part! Dessert, similarly, was divine – definitely one of the Top Five desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life.
- 1/2 thin-crust pizza with béchamel sauce, garlic, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, basil, brie
- 1/2 caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella
- sticky date pudding topped with chocolate chunks, with homemade vanilla gelato
The next day was Saturday, and we were up early for kayaking. Our river kayaking trip was led by two experienced kayakers and nature lovers, who came to pick us up from the Byron Bay visitor centre (close to the hostel). We spent the morning on the water, watching the sun rise, and enjoying the company of Aussie wildlife. I particularly liked learning about the Aboriginal history of this region. It was also refreshing to meet other travellers: a pair from the UK, a group of friends from Sydney, and a new-to-Byron couple.
Thanks to all the excitement of kayaking, my stomach wanted some food! Fortunately, we stopped at a cafe, where we were treated to drinks. I ordered a chai latte (deliciously peppery, made with milk and honey) before we headed back to the city.
For brunch, Grace and I hit up Bayleaf Cafe, a consistent and well-known breakfast/lunch place. They are famous for their meals, which straddle the line between breakfast and lunch.
- 1/2 mango, banana, berry, acai, coconut cream smoothie
- sweet potato flatbread topped with kale, roasted beets and carrots, cauliflower puree, 2 garlic fried eggs
Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? Mysteries.
Since our snorkelling trip was cancelled, we had plenty of time to explore. We walked to a number of places, including Tallows Beach, Captain Cook’s Lookout, Fisherman’s Lookout, and more. It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch the crystal-blue waves crash into the rocks, and see the ant-sized surfers ride the waves below. I could’ve stayed here for ages, enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze.
Also, I’m grateful for the selfie stick that Dad bought for me before I came to Australia! It might’ve looked silly, but it sure came in handy.
Next up, we walked over to the lighthouse. The lighthouse of Byron Bay is an absolute must-visit – you can’t come to Byron without walking over to the lighthouse. The lighthouse trail led us to a secluded beach called Little Watego’s Beach, and we also stood at the most easterly point of Australian mainland. That was awesome! And probably the closest I will be to my family for the next few months. :’)
I. Love. Sunsets.
Another afternoon, another disappointment! I got a phone call that night (and an email shortly after) – our hot air ballooning trip was also cancelled. I was devastated about this, because, well… who doesn’t want to go on a hot air balloon?!
Luckily, we got the refund, but I’d rather be floating over Australia. Funny enough, this is the third time that I’ve planned to go on a hot air balloon. Once in Nepal, again in Cambodia, and now. All three times, it’s been cancelled due to inappropriate weather conditions. Is the universe telling me something?!
Dinner, however, was NOT a disappointment! In fact, it was the dead opposite of a disappointment. It was glorious. I made the reservation for St. Elmo’s Bar and Restaurant, which is known for Spanish tapas.
Grace and I shared the following.
- seared scallops, charred leek and preserved lemon puree, romesco sauce, migas (I’m a big fan of scallops and loved the flavours, textures, and presentation of this dish.)
- fried potatoes, salsa brava, garlic aioli, smoked paprika salt (had I been dining alone, I would’ve never ordered the potatoes. I’m glad we did, however, because they were hands-down some of the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Flavourful but not salty, these slightly-spicy, garlicky, rich potatoes were unforgettable.)
- seared local cuttlefish, kipfler potato, olives, orange, mint, smoked paprika, saffron aioli (not a calamari fan, but these were quite soft and tender.)
- slow-cooked lamb, butter-braised asparagus, homemade Greek yogurt sauce, pistachio dukkah (I haven’t had lamb for ages, but this melt-in-your-mouth dish tasted amazing with St. Elmo’s homemade labneh and contrasted with the crunchy pistachios.)
- hazelnut chocolate custard tart, vanilla crema catalan sauce, strawberry mousse, crispy hazelnut praline (ate this myself and loved each bite. Would 100% recommend, and order again!)
Before we knew it, it was already time to head back to Brisbane. We slept in (had three and a half hours of sleep the night before!) and had a lazy walk around the shops before settling on Dip Cafe for brunch.
I made quite a few substitutions on the Big Vegetarian Breakfast for an incredible customized brekkie. The smoked salmon was unbelievably tender, and the roast pumpkin extra flavourful. I also loved the creamy ricotta on organic sourdough toast, which was sprinkled with a generous amount of pecans and honey.
- 1 chai tea latte with milk and honey (the best yet!)
- 1 large breakfast plate with 3 (?) scrambled eggs, 2 pieces halloumi, smoked salmon, 2 pieces organic sourdough topped with ricotta, pecans, and honey, spiced baked beans, arugula with tomato salsa, roast pumpkins and roast tomatoes with wilted spinach
- 1 scoop Nutella and peanut butter gelato (unpictured)
Time to head back home! I fell asleep on the bus on the way back to Brisbane. Despite being the Commonwealth Games, our shuttle bus made it back on schedule.
Before coming to Australia, I never followed the Commonwealth Games. I don’t watch all the events, but follow my favourite athletes, including female Canadian artistic gymnasts. I was thrilled to find out about Daley and Goodfellow’s Commonwealth gold. With his outspoken nature, particularly towards athletic diversity and LGBT+ rights, Tom Daley is easily one of my favourite athletes.
Last night, I headed to a restaurant for dinner since I didn’t want to cook. I finally got to check Mu’ooz off of my restaurant bucket list. Mu’ooz is an Eritrean restaurant and social enterprise. As you may know, I adore supporting restaurants and spas with a good cause. I think it’s essential to support people by providing skills, rather than money – it’s more sustainable.
👆 I could write a dissertation on this.
Anyways! I devoured this meal, which was so spicy that I cried (I’m the world’s biggest spice wimp). The dessert was memorable: crispy freshly-fried Ethiopian donuts made with soy milk, flour, and sugar, with a hint of orange, topped with vanilla ice cream. More ice cream would’ve made this even better, but I was full and satisfied. 🙂
- spicy Eritrean mushroom and red/green bell pepper stew, 2 large pieces sourdough injera, mixed green salad
- 4 crispy African donuts, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
I wish you a delicious rest of the week!