Tuesday, May 31, 2011

8 May 2011: Bourke Street Bakery

8 May 2011 (Sun): It was Mother's Day! To let my mother have more time for rest on this day, I volunteered to go out to buy breakfast. My choice for breakfast was Bourke Street Bakery.

Why did I choose Bourke Street Bakery?
According to a review by a travel guide entitled "i am SYDNEY - your very own travel guide to uncovering hip Sydney", Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills is one of the places for the best pastry in Sydney. The review wrote that this bakery "is the place to go for fresh goodness out from the oven. Its artisan breads, croissants, tarts, pies and rolls look good, smell great and taste even better".


The journey to Bourke Street Bakery
I had a fun time trying to find my way to and from Bourke Street Bakery by foot! I figured that it would be a pleasant walk and it was. It was a delightful walk and I could put my navigation skills to a test. I took about 40 minutes to stroll to Bourke Street from my apartment at Darling Harbour.

Walking along Bourke Street.

The Bakery and its pastries
The bakery looked modest from the outside. Yet, I could tell that it has a good reputation of serving wonderful pastries. It was located along a rather quiet street. Yet, as early as 8.10 a.m., there was already a considerable queue waiting to order pastries from this bakery.

I ordered tarts, croissants and a roll of bread. The pies would only be served from 10 a.m. that day and I was too early. That meant I had to give the pies a miss.

The croissants indeed looked good and tasted great! My favourite were the dark chocolate tart and the apricot tart. My mother did not give any negative feedback so I took it as her indiscreet way of expressing her satisfaction with the breakfast that I had gotten.

The folks at the Bourke Street Bakery gave me directions that I could walk to Central Station via Devonshire Street. That was a much shorter route compared to the one I had taken to get to the bakery. I then took a Light Rail to return to the apartment.

Breakfast was delightful. I didn't mind not having a cake on this special day. The tart were wonderful and apt for the occasion.

Bourke Street Bakery
Surry Hills outlet
633 Bourke Street
Tel: (+61) 2 9699 1011

Please also see: My visit to Sydney, May 2011
All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Buddha's Birthday Festival

7 May 2011 (Sat):
My mother caught a glimpse of a statue of a Buddha while we were on the tour bus. I vaguely recalled it was located at Darling Harbour. When she spoke of her intentions to take a look at the Buddha statue during dinner and asked the staff of Supermeal Chinese Restaurant for directions to get there. I guessed that it would be a good idea to bring her there even though it was not part of our initial plans.

On our way there, my dear mother had almost wanted to head for the apartment instead perhaps because it was getting dark. On hindsight, I was thankful that I had insisted that we went to look for the statue of the Buddha.

We later learnt that the Buddha's Birthday Festival was being held at Darling Harbour area. This event was organised by the Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple. This festival seems to be of similar significance as Vesak Day that is celebrated in my hometown of Singapore. The Buddha's Birthday Festival celebrates the timeless and universality of Buddha's teachings.

There was a firework display that night in conjunction with the celebration of the Buddha's Birthday. That was a pleasant surprise for us.

This was taken using the camera's "Fireworks" program.

The next day, my mother visited the Buddha's Birthday Festival again. There was a special blessing service in the morning followed by a Buddha's Bathing ritual. I have a feeling that my mother, who is more influenced by Buddhist teachings, might be counting her blessings when she visited the festival. It must have been great luck that she chanced upon the Buddha's Birthday Festival in a foreign land.

I suppose the lesson learnt here was to be open to the unexpected yet positive experiences?

All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

7 May 2011: Delicious wanton noodles at Supermeal Chinese Restaurant

7 May 2011 (Sat):

It was autumn and the skies turned pretty dark even before it was 6 p.m. After a memorable day out at Hunter Valley, the best way to conclude the evening was a treat to sumptuous food. My mother and I decided on Chinese food for dinner. I brought my mother to Supermeal Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown area. This place is known to serve delicious wanton noodles.

In this post, I shall attempt to bring you to a mini visual treat to wanton noodles and more food. Using various functions of the Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera, I attempted to add a poetic touch to the photographs of our delicious dinner.

Our orders were:
- One bowl of mixed combination wanton noodles
- One plate of pan-fried dumplings

This photo was taken using the "Miniature" function.

The interesting mixed combination wanton noodles at AUS$13.50 each.

This photo was taken using the normal mode.

I have high expectations of pan-fried dumplings and found the pan-friend dumplings pretty average. My mother gave very positive feedback of the wanton noodles. The prawns were succulent and the wantons were delicious. The servings were generous. My mother and I could happily share a bowl of wanton noodles. I love the vegetables and you have probably realised that I have a love for fresh leafy vegetables by now. Our dinner was pretty affordable and only cost a total of AUS$19.

I will visit Supermeal Chinese Restaurant if I would like wanton noodles. I will give the pan-fried dumplings a miss in the future. Interestingly, my mother visited Supermeal Chinese Restaurant for lunch on the following day and she raved about the curry beef with vegetables. The serving was very generous and the curry was great tasting, she said.

Supermeal Chinese Restaurant
39 Goulburn Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (+61) 2 92111568

Here are some reviews on this restaurant:

Please also see: My visit to Sydney, May 2011
All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I have learnt from the wine tasting sessions

The Scenic Wine Tasting Tour has given me an introduction to wine appreciation. I still prefer to avoid drinking alcohol for health reasons. Nevertheless, the wine-tasting sessions at Hunter Valley have been an interesting experience.

I shall attempt to share as a novice what I have learnt from the wine-tasting sessions. I visited wikipedia and learnt that "wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine".

In wine tasting, there are four recognised stages:
1) The appearance of the wine.
2) The aroma of the wine.
3) The "in mouth" sensation of the wine.
4) The aftertaste.

You would notice that to enhance the assessor's aromatic experience of the wine, the shape of most wineglasses are typically wider toward the bottom, and more narrow at the top.

I noticed that the professional staff members at the wineries who had attended to us would taste the wine in five basic steps. These are:

1) See the colour.
2) Swirl the wine.
3) Sniff the aroma of the wine.
4) Sip and taste the wine.
5) Savour the wine.

Caesar Salad with Prosciutto and Shaved Parmesan.

I realised that wine can greatly enhance and complement a meal during the special lunch that was arranged for the tour group. The lunch was a wonderful tasting experience. We were treated to various food served with four different kinds of wine to mix and match.

I learnt that semillon, which has a citrus-like flavour goes best with seafood. It is also best drank when the wine is young. Generally semillon last between 15 to 35 years.

Chardonnay, which is a white wine, was a good complement with Caesar Salad that we had for our lunch. I learnt that Chardonnay generally does not last well more than 10 years.

Read wines seem to go very well with Italian pasta. Shiraz is a red-wine variety that has a prominent red colour, I recall. It is also the oldest growing variety in Hunter Valley. Penne Pasta when complemented with Shiraz tasted perfect.

Penne Pasta with Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Roasted Olives & Baby Capers.

Wine-tasting is quite an art itself. I am glad to have a pleasant introduction to it at Hunter Valley.


All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

7 May 2011: The Scenic Wine Tasting Tour by the Red Carpet Tours

A glimpse of Hunter Valley.

7 May 2011 (Sat): Sydney has many natural attractions that would mesmerize. I had wanted to consider one of the natural parks so as to spend some time away from the city. Yet, I felt that I would be too tempted to walk very long distances when I am in a natural park such that it may be too tiring for my dear mother to catch up with.

A visit to Hunter Valley with a tour operator seemed to be a solution that could please both my mother and myself. I could be out in the suburbs and enjoy the views of the vast valleys of Hunter Valley while my mother could experience the beauty of Hunter Valley with occasional stops for wine tasting. Actually, both of us rarely drinks. I thought it would be good fun to do something different from time to time.

My mother and I visited one of the Australian Travel Specialist outlets to get some ideas and decided to sign up for The Scenic Wine Tasting Tour by the Red Carpet Tours. The Scenic Wine Tasting Tour is a tour that I would recommend especially if you prefer to travel in a smaller tour group. The service is thoughtful and our guide is knowledgeable about Hunter Valley.

Our first stop was the Australian Reptile Park.
The stop at the Australian Reptile Park was a relatively short one. We were there for morning tea. Nevertheless, during our short visit to the Australian Reptile Park, we were pleasantly surprised by a koala which greeted us wide awake, and many hungry kangaroos which were waiting for their morning feed. I sensed that my mother was pretty delighted by the Australian wildlife that she had gotten close with at the Australian Reptile Park.

To complete the experience, we met a young American alligator which was pretty harmless to caress. It seemed to be one of the Reptile Park's most appropriate ambassadors.

The scenic circle route
One of the highlights of this tour that I greatly appreciate was the fact that instead of using the free-way, the tour bus took the more scenic route to Hunter Valley. While travelling on this special route, we managed to catch a glimpse of free-ranging Australian wildlife and the beautiful scenery of the countryside. During one occasion, the tour bus stopped by for us to quietly listen to bell-birds singing away. Their singings may be ordinary and yet were like music from heavens for yours truly.

Visit the Wollombi Tavern for enjoy some Jungle Juice.

Dr Jurd's Jungle Juice was one of our stops for a tasty and sweet concoction of the alcoholic Jungle Juice. I could not make out what had made up the concoction. I could only tell that it tasted pretty nice.

Take a sip of Jungle Juice.

Cheese-tasting at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop was a memorable and positive experience. I gladly enjoyed the dairy products that were offered to us for sampling even though my usual diet has minimal dairy product in it. Cheese galore at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. One of my favourites was the Feta with Pesto. Lovely treats to cheese!

Yummy Cows Feta with Pesto

Wine-tasting experiences
During our tour, we visited Brokenwood and Oakvale for professional wine-tasting sessions. From white wine to red wine, we had the pleasure to enjoy wonderful wines. I was introduced to varieties such as semillon, viognier, chardonnaysangiovese, shiraz and more. The wine-tasting sessions ended with dessert wines that were golden in colour with a nicely sweet taste. My favourite was the Old Liquer Muscat from Oakvale perhaps due to the recency effect.

There were of course better treats than wines at Hunter Valley. I appreciated the beautiful sceneries and the occasional fragrance from the roses that were grown side-by-side the vineyards. I learnt that these roses serve as first-line indicators to the conditions of the vineyard. If the roses were found to have fungus, the farmers will be very vigilant and spray the vineyards before the fungus spread to the vineyards.

Delightful lunch with wine appreciation
We had a hearty treat to wonderful delicacies and four different kinds of wines during lunch. Lunch was prepared with pride and joy by the team at Bluetongue Brewery Cafe at the Hunter Resort. Till today, the images and tastes of the lunch still remain positively in my memory. Life has been great.

Hunter Valley Chocolate Company
Rounding up the tour was a visit to the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company where we have had some sampling of some fine chocolates.

Hunter Gardens
A few of our tour-mates paid an extra fee each to visit the famous Hunter Gardens which has interesting floral displays. My mother and I gave the Gardens a miss that day.

You may notice that there are minimal photographs of the beautiful scenery of Hunter Valley in this post. This is because I realised that it is better to experience the beauty of Hunter Valley personally than through photographs. Furthermore, I was too busy enjoying the scenery to take much photographs.

A friendly tour guide and driver. Safe driving. Scenic routes. Fine wine-tasting and an indulgent lunch. A comfortable group size and a comfortable bus. A friendly and helpful group of tour-mates. Interesting itinerary delivered with sincerity and an x-factor. These are wonderful reasons that led me to recommend you to consider the Scenic Wine Tasting Tour by the Red Carpets Tours.

Red Carpet Tours
Tel: (+61) 2 9971 0796

Please also see: My visit to Sydney, May 2011
All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

Monday, May 23, 2011

6 May 2011: The rest of the day

6 May 2011 (Fri): The title of this post is most apt. After boarding the ferry to head for Circular Quay, the Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera's battery decided to take intermittent rest. By the evening, it was almost at total rest mode. Thank goodness, at the end of the night, a battery recharge back in our apartment room revived the battery back to life again.

The rest of the day was restful in nature, I hope. While on the ferry heading from Watsons Bay to Circular Quay, I admired the beautiful views of the Sydney harbour. Sydney Opera House definitely caught my eyes. The Sydney Harbour Bridge also captivated my attention. I strongly recommend a ferry ride in the evening in Sydney.

My mother was kind to go along with my wishes for another ferry ride. We took the next available ferry to Milsons Point. The ferry brought us to Luna Park, which was situated right next to Milsons Point wharf. At Luna Park, my mother shared with me her positive memories riding on a carousel when she was a child.

Luna Park has many interesting rides. I learnt that Luna Park is a superbly restored 1930's amusement park. It was reopened in 2004 under a new management. One could walk about Luna Park free-of-charge except that to take the rides, one would have to purchase an appropriate ticket. If you enjoy taking rides to entertain and amuse yourself, be sure to check out Luna Park when you are in Sydney. Luna Park is also a good place for some nostalgia of the 1930's style amusement with modern-day effectiveness.

Luna Park Sydney
1 Olympic Drive
Milsons Point, 2061
Tel: (+61) 2 9922 6644 (Main Office - General Enquiries)

After visiting Luna Park, my mother and I spent some time enjoying the views from Milsons Point. I caught the sight of a beautiful evening skies. Milsons Point is a place for some quiet moments with a pretty good view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

We then took a bus to Milsons Point station, and subsequently took a train to the city. I had decided to head for the city via the CityRail train so that my mother could claim that she has crossed the Harbour Bridge on the train! The city-bound train was pretty empty until it reached the city's Wynyard station.

Our destination was Queen Victoria Building (QVB) where we decided to have dinner at Laksa House, located at the basement of QVB. We went there because we met a fellow tourist who had strongly recommended this outlet. There are a number of positive reviews about the food from Laksa House and here is a link to some of the reviews.

I may be too critical. I think there are more fabulous laksa in my hometown of Singapore, so please visit Singapore for better laksa. To give Laksa House the due credit, its laksa seemed to suit the taste of non-Asians who may not be used to spicy flavours. The prices of the laksa were generally affordable too. I had one bowl of vegetable laksa at AUS$6.80 only.

Laksa House
455 George St, Lower Ground, QVB, Shop 17
Sydney 2000

Tel: (+61) 2  92834777

Even though the camera's battery was eager for a rest, the opportunistic yours truly took a few photos of the QVB shopping mall whenever the battery decided to work for a brief moment. Maybe the battery knew that the camera lenses felt that QVB was too beautiful to be missed? Most of the shops closed by 6 p.m. so my mother and I were left to admire the architecture and interior beauty of the QVB.

The day was great. I was grateful for the good weather and my mother who had so willingly went along with my fascinations with walking on foot, travelling on ferries, taking a train to cross the Harbour Bridge and sketching. I was thankful that I had an extra camera to continue taking photographs even when the battery of the official camera wanted a rest. I continue to practise counting my blessings each day.

Please also see: My visit to Sydney, May 2011
All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.