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The Eternal City: Rome

by | Destinations, Honeymoons


Ms Chevron

In my quest to plan the perfect overseas trip, I solicited advice from those who had gone before me. I had heard a mixed bag about Rome… some loved it, some hated it. I can say that after our short stay, my husband and I both fell into the former category and were crushing on Rome big time. The simple magnitude of everything is what blew my mind away. Sure, Australia has history, but nothing to the scale of what Rome has. The monuments are, well, monumental! Take the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (below) nicknamed ‘The Wedding Cake’ – it is the largest monument in white marble ever created.

Rome Wedding Cake 550x365 The Eternal City: Rome

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Firstly, after getting our luggage we took a bus from the airport to Roma Termini, and then caught a cab with our non-existent Italian to our accommodation (note: have a few key phrases written down so that even if you get the pronunciation wrong, you can show them the text). We checked in, showered (the best part of getting off a long-haul flight) and walked to Campo de Fiori – a cool hub of activity. We ate at Mercato’s, sharing bruschetta, a margherita pizza, and four-cheese gnocchi with local wine and live music in the square.

 The Eternal City: Rome

Rome Love Tree 550x827 The Eternal City: Rome

Since we were only staying in Rome for 3 nights, we decided a 2-Day Hop On Hop Off pass would be ideal. We did a lap of the city first to get our bearings, and then joined a walking tour of the Colosseum, skipping the queues and learning so much we didn’t know. The Colosseum was much larger than I anticipated and interesting even for a non-history buff such as myself. We saw a stretch hummer with pink bow and a newlywed couple stopping to take advantage of the backdrop for their photos!

Rome Wedding 550x366 The Eternal City: Rome

 The Eternal City: Rome

Being a massive rom-com fan and lover of all things, well, love-related, I was excited that Trevi Fountain was our next stop. I was mesmerised by that beautiful fountain with clear water and flecks of gold thanks to the countless tourists throwing a coin over their shoulder to ensure their return to Rome. We went back later that night and witnessed a guy getting down on bended knee to propose – so sweet and the crowd was cheering!

Rome Trevi 550x827 The Eternal City: Rome

 The Eternal City: Rome

The next day brought 90% chance of rain, but thankfully it only had one downpour. Our first stop was the Pantheon – enormous outside and elaborate inside – with a group of architecture students sitting sketching on the steps. Imagine having that type of learning environment in your backyard!

 The Eternal City: Rome

 The Eternal City: Rome

With limited knowledge of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, we again opted to join a tour. The patterned and painted ceilings throughout the Vatican were by far my favourite, and 4 hours later we headed for the Spanish Steps for more gelato. Goodbye diet!

 The Eternal City: Rome

 The Eternal City: Rome

Overall, I was a little in awe of Rome. It was a fantastic place to start our trip, and we honestly could have spent a lot longer there. Rome would be a great destination for those wanting to sight-see and get a taste of Italy on their honeymoon.

Images by Mr + Ms Chevron

Swirl divider The Eternal City: Rome

The Polka Dot Travel Lounge – Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago

by | Destinations, Honeymoons


Ms Herringbone

Judt Trivago header The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago

Today we are lucky to be joined by the lovely Judy from Trivago, one of the world’s largest online hotel search site, where you can compare  rates from over 700,000 hotels on over 200 booking sites worldwide. Phew! Now that’s quite the selection! Judy has been kind enough to share her personal favourite destinations and the hottest spots to ensure your honeymoon is a trip to remember!

Judy is also a self-confessed travel addict, so it’s no wonder she has some fantastic tips to share!

What is your favourite region?

It is difficult for me to select just one region as the world has an endless number of unbelievable places, and I have an extreme case of wanderlust.  I will narrow it down to two places which are unrivaled in their natural beauty, but more importantly, these places have left permanent marks on my heart.

1)         Koh Phangan, Thailand:  In 2012, I was travelling the world with my best friend, and we decided to meet some friends on the southeast island of Koh Phangan.  Picture glittery, white sand beaches, turquoise waters, vibrant sunsets, and a laid-back vibe…Koh Phangan is pretty much paradise.  If there ever were to be a perfect setting to fall in love, this island would be it.  I did end up falling in love — with the handsome friend that my friends had brought to the island.  Fast forward two years – my husband (yes, the “handsome friend”) and I returned to Koh Phangan.  It’s every bit as beautiful as we had left it

2)          Lake Como, Italy:  My husband is German, and I am American with Taiwanese roots, so it was a challenge to find a wedding location that was both universally appealing AND logistically easy for our family and friends from all across the world.  Lake Como came as a suggestion from an Italian friend, and it turned out to be the perfect spot for our wedding.  When my husband and I visited for the first time, we were blown away by the dramatic backdrop of the Alps and the tranquil lake.  We found an intimate, romantic, waterfront villa (Hotel Villa Giulia) in the town of Lecco, which is located on the southeastern tip of Lake Como and easily accessible from Milan.  One of the reasons I love travelling in Italy is the amazing Italian food, gelato, and coffee.  Lake Como definitely does not disappoint with its abundance of cute cafes and restaurants alongside the waterfront.  We were quite fortunate that our wedding villa had a Michelin restaurant.  I think it is safe to say that all of our wedding guests enjoyed the traditional Italian feast we selected (quite notable given all of the different nationalities in attendance!).  If I haven’t sold you on Lake Como as the ultimate place for a wedding, consider this — Italians have a natural talent for pulling together all the little details that make your wedding day even more special.

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Image courtesy Discover Como

Top resort recommendation?

I am a fan of intimate luxury boutique hotels, especially for special occasions such as honeymoons.  My husband and I stayed at two exceptionally unique and special hotels, Colona Castle and 52 De Wet when we honeymooned in Cape Town, South Africa. Colona Castle is a charming villa located on a hillside with panoramic views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.  The spacious room we stayed in was carefully decorated with antiques and unique art pieces.  52 De Wet on the other hand, is a sleek, contemporary private house-turned-hotel set high on a hill.  The lounge is extremely spacious, and the terrace offers amazing views of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean.  I highly recommend both of these boutique hotels because the impeccable and attentive staff and incredibly talented chefs on-site set them apart from other hotels.

Screen Shot 2014 02 26 at 8.43.12 am 550x415 The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from TrivagoColona Castle

Deluxe Room Ocean facing Balcony 550x366 The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago52 De Wet

Suggestions for great honeymoon activities?

My husband and I love the outdoors and like to stay active, so Africa was a perfect honeymoon destination for us.  We first visited the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa and did a self-driving safari tour.  Nothing beats the thrill and excitement of spotting all of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino) together.  Then we flew to Botswana for a more natural safari experience. The land is surprisingly undeveloped, and the wildlife is plentiful.  My husband surprised me with a private sunset boat ride on the Chobe River, complete with wine and snacks, which I thought was pretty romantic.  We drove over to Zimbabwe and took a helicopter ride to view the magnificent Victoria Falls.  Cape Town was our last stop, and we spent the last days of our honeymoon relaxing on the beautiful beaches in Cape Town, hiking at Cape Point, enjoying the view from the top of Table Mountain, and shark cage diving in Hermanus.

Screen Shot 2014 02 26 at 8.49.41 am 550x364 The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago

Table Mountain

The ideal location for a proposal?

The ideal location for a proposal would be somewhere wildly romantic with spectacular scenery. But really, any place that holds special meaning to both is the ideal place!

Best kept secret honeymoon location?

Cape Town, South Africa is a perfect honeymoon location.  Of course I am biased, as my husband and I chose Cape Town for our honeymoon!  There are so many reasons Cape Town is perfect for a honeymoon:  it is relatively easy to travel, the land is so incredibly beautiful and diverse, and the cuisine and accommodations are top notch and affordable, and there are an abundance of outdoor and indoor activities to please everyone.  To top it all off, the locals are incredibly friendly.  Before I visited, I had heard positive reviews from several people, but really, I did not expect Cape Town to exceed all my expectations!
Screen Shot 2014 02 26 at 8.57.17 am 550x366 The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago
Thanks so much to Judy for her wonderful insight into some destinations I now must add to my wishlist! For more info on any of the hotels mentioned, or to lose yourself browsing – head to the Trivago website!

swirl large2 The Polka Dot Travel Lounge Honeymoon Travel Advice with Judy from Trivago

Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

by | Destinations, Honeymoons



banner adventureparc 550x344 Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would I want to go to somewhere called Thunderbird Park? Unless you are 12, in which case Thunderbird Park sounds like the dream destination. But could it be a great place for a trip with the girls? A bit of pre wedding bonding filled with giggles, but also a little bit different? I went to find out.

Nestled at Tamborine Mountain, about 45km northwest of the Gold Coast, the Thunderbird Park & Cedar Creek resort manages that unique feat of offering all things to all sorts of people – retreat and relaxation, a visit to nature and luxury, activities and exhertion. Sort of easy adventure in a nice environment. If you really want to you can certainly partake in more adrenalin fuelled adventures, or tough trails into nature. Sure there are more luxurious resorts available and ‘typical’ hen party spots (I didn’t see one penis straw in my time), but for something that lets you dabble in both relaxation and activity and will please a group of ladies with different interests and ideas, you can’t go far wrong.

Part of the McPherson Range, which stretches back to North South Wales, Tamborine Mountain stands 525 metres above sea level. The remnants of the Mount Warning volcano, the mountain is 28 square kilometres plateau in the Scenic Rim of the Gold Coast Hinterland, south-east Queensland, Australia. The high altitude and cooler climate means that its a place of diverse flora and fauna, and the 112 hectare flourishing rainforest in which Thunderbird Park sits is typical of this thickly wooded region. It’s something of antidote to the glitz of say Surfer’s Paradise, hence the attraction.

The location makes it perfect for adventure activities, which are always a bonding experience – especially when verging on the right side of challenge. The Treetop Challenge is one of those, and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. Formed of 85 ‘games’ the trail is divided into sections of difficulty, and includes wobbling bridges, high wires and zip lines. It’s great fun watching each other, offering encouraging shouts across the trail, and everyone will surprise themselves.

TTCBAN 550x344 Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

Even me. I don’t really have a problem with heights, but this course worried me – because it moves. Stable ground is my motto. So when I find that there’s at least 20m of open space beneath me, and despite the fact that I am hooked on, I quiver a little. The toy koalas back at the entry lodge look happy enough climbing, but treetops are their natural habitats – mine is with with a cup of tea and a good book. They have managed to do such a good job of building the experience within the forest and working with the trees that it is difficult to tell where the trails end, something which is both good and bad for the motivation and nerves. I make it half way through the final and toughest black stage, before retreating back to my lodge for some tea and biscuits.

There are camp spots and shared lodges available, but for some girls glamour, the Cedar Creek Lodges are a necessity. I stayed in one of the top row spa lodges, the big roomy beds, neat little kitchens, leather sofas and vast bubbling jacuzzi baths being a treat for my tired body post treetop. Want good abs before the good day? Dangle from a tree, that’s my tip. It also does wonders for the arms, essential in those nice bridesmaid dresses.

Colonial Room 234 550x344 Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

Creek Lodge w Fire 234 550x344 Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

The verandah seating outside is great for a wine and giggle with the girls, and the views over to the rainforest spectacular, especially as the rays of sunlight descend into the evening. The lodges can be booked out for parties of varying size, so whether it’s a night with close friends or a bigger party, everyone can laze back in luxury.

For something a little more sedate than the afternoon’s activities, a pre dinner game of mini golf seems in order. The short course down by the lake is one of many sports on offer, with volleyball, basketball and tennis courts all on site. Again it brings out that competitive spirit without too much stress, and it’s good to get the pulse rate up before dinner.

Dinner is in the Rainforest Lounge & Grill, which features a strong menu of modern Australian cuisine, international dishes and sumptuous sweets, and an extensive (mostly Australian) wine list – essential for any trip. Contemporary design creates a chic and stylish atmosphere, the ambient lighting enough to be scene setting, but not to dull the twinkling stars that can be seen from its open arches. If you’re interested, I recommend the wild barramundi, crisp potato fried and garlic alioli, and sticky date pudding swathed in rich butterscotch sauce. The Redgate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Western Australia’s Margaret River region isn’t bad either.

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The next morning I’m up early for a guided walk through the bush on one of the many trails. Tamborine Mountain is home to 10 different types of forest including subtropical rainforest, wet eucalypt and open eucalypt forest. Between them the forests contain more than 900 different species of plants representing 65 per cent of all the plant species found in the Gold Coast area. So we spot gum trees, bloodwoods and iron barks, we see tumbling bright blue climbers and delicate orchids. A haven for animals, bush turkeys, kangaroos, lizards and butterflies clamber in and amongst the plants. You may find yourself sharing a walk with ornithologists – feathered friends include Albert’s Lyrebird, bowerbirds, butcher birds, wedge tailed eagles, and the bright and beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets. The Cedar Creek circuit is widely known as one of the best walks in the area, and takes in rock pools, tumbling waterfalls, and open and dry rainforests.

An alternative way to discover the wildlife is on horseback, and post (delicious) breakfast, that is what I do. The riding school offer rides of varying length and complexity through the rainforest, and a gentle hour long trek is a great way to see the landscape. Trotting along up and down the trails, the feeling is almost meditative, breathing in fresh dewy air whilst the horse keeps at a gentle rhythm. The thick gum trees that line the way still startle me with their ghostly bark, and the lush rustling leaves are lovely to listen to. The horses are curious creatures, and when we meander past the Laser Skirmish site, one of the other activities on offer, although one that this time I didn’t take part in, they can’t help but stop and stare at the giggling rush of gamers. All little girls loved the idea of horses, so it seems a lovely way to hang out with girls on this occasion too.

 LASER2345 550x344 Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

Cooling off post ride, I don my togs and bathe in the natural rock pools on site. Blue, calming and soothing. The salt water pool is a bit bigger and more suited for swimming, but sometimes you just want to kick back and take it all in right? Especially on a special trip with special ladies before a special day. All too soon and it’s back to reality, driving home (although with a stop off or two at the local Tamborine Mountain distillery, having sampled their whisky the night before).

Who would have thought it – a girls weekend at Thunderbird Park…. And for something less pink and sparkles, more fun memories and bonding, why not?

Images via Thunderbird Park

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Ms Gingham says: Yep. This is my kind of pre wedding bash! Just be sure to plan it well before your wedding… you’d hate to sprain an ankle and be hobbling down the aisle!

About Francesca: Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, wine, crazy events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings here and follow her on twitter.

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