The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Cairns’

Cairns’s La Pizza

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on March 23, 2010

During the afternoon on Friday, as we wandered through Cairns, we saw lots of restaurants with outdoor dining; many of them offered essentially early bird specials – 15% to 25% off if seated by 6:30.  My assumption is that by filling up their tables early with the special rates, it makes them look popular, enticing other diners to do the same.  We weren’t hungry in that timeframe, unfortunately, and meandered through the many restaurants.  When we got to La Pizza, the good pizza smells enticed us and after a quick review of the menu, we decided this was where we would have dinner.

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To continue our desire to sample Australian wines and beers, I ordered a glass of the Beresford Beacon Hill Chardonnay.  I’m not sure where this winery is, but I really enjoyed the Chardonnay.  It was fruity and slightly sweet.  The Husband ordered the James Squire Amber Ale.  The James Squire enticed us, after a recommendation from his brother’s friend Marcus.  This Amber Ale was excellent and the first beer we’ve enjoyed in Australia!

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For our meals, we decided to share a pizza and a pasta and to each get a salad.  The waiter suggested bringing out the pizza first and then the salads and pasta at the same time.  To start, we had the  Mare Fantasia pizza.  We could select from a small, medium or large (4, 6, or 8 slices) and chose the Medium.  The pizza was thin crust with tomato, mozzarella, mixed seafood and topped with New Zealand mussel and prawn.  We thought it was funny that there was literally a mussel and a prawn.  Additionally, when we asked the waiter later what was on the pizza (specifically we were wondering what the “mixed seafood” was but didn’t explicitly say that), he said “seafood.”  We laughed and asked him to clarify.  It appeared to have shrimp, mussels, octopus/squid, and possibly scallops.  This pizza was fabulous! We enjoyed every last bite 🙂

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The pasta we selected was the House Made Raviolli filled with lamb ragu and served with truffle  oil.  We enjoyed that the filling really was as described – a lamb ragu – chunks of lamb and not a puree filled with cheese.  This was quite flavorful.  In the center, there was also a rocket and tomato salad (rocket seems to be the lettuce of choice here).

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For our salads, we chose Caesar Salads.  We were particularly drawn to the poached egg and anchovy descriptions on the menu.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much anchovy flavor (and we didn’t see any anchovies in the dish) and like most of the poached eggs we’ve had, the yolk wasn’t runny.  The egg itself went nicely with the salad, but wasn’t quite what we were looking for.  If we were to go back, we wouldn’t have ordered the salads, especially for their price.

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Again, like many of the restaurants, we were unsure how to handle paying.  In general, we are finding that you definitely are supposed to just get up from your table and head to the cashier.  I don’t think it’s something we’ll get used to though – leaving your table without having paid at the table is just a bit unnerving.

But back to the restaurant itself, this meal was quite enjoyable and we recommend it to anyone in Cairns looking for some good pizza and pasta and good atmosphere. 🙂

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Cairns

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on March 22, 2010

*Note* A bit of a long post that jumps around.  It won’t hurt my feelings (too much) if you don’t make it to the end.  If you don’t like some potentially scary creatures, you won’t make it that far anyway (but I do provide a warning before those pictures appear!)

When we left Mission Beach, we decided to try to grab breakfast along the way at a cafe.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find one we wanted to stop at and as we got closer to Cairns we definitely needed something to eat since it would be a while before lunch.  We stopped at a petrol (gas) station to pick up something to munch on.  We grabbed some salt & vinegar chips and we had to get the “real” Tim Tams.  Holy wow.  These cookies are good! So very good! We also enjoyed sodas from Bundaberg which we had bought in our six-pack a few days earlier 🙂 Not the most nutritious breakfast, but it held us over till we got to Cairns.

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The only thing of note on the drive was the following truck (we mentioned in an earlier post that trucks can be longer here).

IMG_2210 When we arrived in Cairns, we headed straight to our hotel – the Mercure Cairns Harbourside.  It’s located near downtown Cairns but a little bit farther out on the water.  The assistant front office manager Kate checked us in and she was as sweet as can be! She noted that we were celebrating our anniversary during this vacation and gave us a free upgrade to a King Suite 🙂

As with all of our other accommodations, this hotel really met our needs.  With the upgrade to the suite, we had a living area, a kitchen, and a separate bedroom.

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We had a mountain view which was quite lovely (especially in between tropical rains!)

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After we went exploring in town, we came back to the room to a sweet surprise from the hotel – champagne and two glasses.  We enjoyed these after dinner at La Pizza later that night.

IMG_5842 On Saturday night, we decided to stay in after our day of exploring a few of the local options.  We ordered room service and were quite impressed with the food!  The Husband hasn’t had much experience with room service but commented that it was the best room service he’s ever had.  We also loved that it was available 24 hours (which would have been appreciated at some of the previous places we’ve stayed on this trip) although we didn’t need it.

Ok, back to Cairns itself 🙂 After checking in on Friday, we ventured out onto the Promenade, a walking path that started past our hotel and headed toward the downtown area along the water.

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It looked like the tide was out during our walk as there was little to no water near the Promenade/Boardwalk (it turned to boardwalk when we got into the downtown area).  You could see birds like sandpipers as well as crabs and some sea snakes.  Along the boardwalk, there were informational signs telling us what creatures we could attempt to see.

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IMG_5798 Along the walk, there were areas for recreation including a small water park for children, playgrounds, bbq pits, and a skate park.  This sign gave me a bit of a chuckle.  It’s a skate plaza yet the top part of the sign says no skateboarding 🙂 IMG_5800 Since the Cairns residents can’t swim in the ocean, there is a large public pool called the Lagoon right in the downtown area.  On Saturday, it was packed with people enjoying the beautiful weather.

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IMG_6362 Just past the Lagoon was the boat harbour and the Shangri-La hotel.

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IMG_6380 The downtown area was filled with shops and restaurants of numerous cuisines.   While many shops close at 5 or 6 in Australia, Cairns has an area called the Night Markets which don’t open until 5pm or so and stay open late.  There is a food court there as well as many vendors in a flea market type venue.  We didn’t go into many stores, but enjoyed our stroll both during the day and in the evening both days.

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IMG_6406 On Friday for lunch, the Husband was craving Chinese food.  We found a reasonably priced restaurant on one of the downtown streets and enjoyed lunch.

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On Saturday afternoon, we decided we wanted ice cream! Throughout Awesomestralia 😉 we’ve seen Cold Rock Ice Creamery, reminding of the U.S. versions Cold Stone and Maggie Moo’s.

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There was one in downtown Cairns that we finally got to try out the Australian candy mix ins.IMG_6343

We asked the server what his favorite ice cream flavor was and he recommended Chocolate Hazelnut. The Husband and I were both sold on the suggestion.IMG_6344

We each chose two mix ins for our Chocolate Hazelnut.  I went with a Tim Tam and Freckles (see below).  The Husband chose Maltezers (malt balls) and a Tim Tam as well. IMG_6346

The delicious outcome 🙂  I have been missing my Tasty Yo while gone, but these filled the void… IMG_6347

*Warning* If you don’t like pictures of potentially creepy creatures (i.e. bats and ants), read no further!

While we were in Yeppoon, we first noticed bats in Australia.  On Friday night, while wandering around the restaurants and shops in Cairns, we first heard, then saw, the large Fruit Bat population here in town.

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They don’t hurt (or really even come close to) humans so we stood in amazement as they flew from tree to tree.  On Saturday afternoon, we parked along one of the downtown streets and could hear them again.  We looked up and saw lots of them.  With a better lens, the Husband was able to get some great photos!

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They were fascinating 🙂

The other creatures we saw a lot of in Cairns were ants.  In other parts of Australia, we mostly saw black ants, but while waiting for the hotel shuttle to downtown, we came upon what appear to be green and red ants.  We couldn’t recall if these sting/bite, so we erred on the side of caution (a good idea in Australia where everything is apparently deadly!) and steered clear from these where we could.

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IMG_2125 Cairns itself is a quaint town, but unfortunately there isn’t much in the town itself (at least from what we experienced).  We were impressed, however, with how much there is to do in the surrounding area.  The Husband will cover what we did on Saturday, but after a fun filled day, we were disappointed actually to not have a few more days to explore the region.  Perhaps on a future trip…

Posted in Hotels, Restaurants, Things To Do, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Kuranda and the Skyrail

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 21, 2010

As we left Coffee World, we headed for Kuranda.  We had heard from a couple folks that Kuranda was a nice little town and we “had” to ride the Skyrail.  As Kuranda was on the way back from Coffee World, it seemed like a no brainer to us.

IMG_6048Well, we’re pretty sure that Kuranda is Australia’s version of a tourist trap.  Like any port in the Caribbean, it was packed with little stores and kiosks, selling all sorts of tourist-oriented wares.  The markets were well, laid out, and attractive, but they didn’t seem authentically Australian, as they were too well organized.

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IMG_6029 As we finished up this market, we realized we really hadn’t had anything to eat except the chocolate, and the Skyrail would probably take several hours, so we should probably get something to eat.  As we walked around Kuranda, we came across, of all things, a German restaurant.  We simply couldn’t resist.

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IMG_6035 We popped inside for a bite.  It was remarkably full, but we found a table.

IMG_6037 We sat down and checked out the menu.  We couldn’t help notice the note at the bottom.

IMG_6041 As we waited, we noticed the equivalent of a German public service announcement.

IMG_6042Aside from a list of wursts, they really didn’t have anything special.  They DID have crocodile and emu wursts, though, which we thought was interesting.  We both ended up getting kaseknocker, though.

IMG_6047 I also had a German beer.

IMG_6046 From lunch, we went on our way, coming across another market.  We noticed, conspicuously, that a lot of the products and kiosks in the first market, were also present in the second.

IMG_6039 We headed down toward the Skyrail station, and enjoyed the rest of the town.

IMG_6289This is a single tree.  We haven’t figured out what kind of tree it is, but the “root” system is just amazing.IMG_6291 Finally we got to the Skyrail station.

IMG_6059 For $59 AUD, per person, we got round trip tickets on the Skyrail; 7 km, about 45-minutes each way, with 2 stops.  During each stop, there were things to see, including a walk through the rainforest, and a view of Barron Falls.

IMG_6064 Each car would hold up to 6 people.  Really, it was like any skyride at an amusement park; just very, very long and high.

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Our first stop was Barron Falls.  We got off the cable car, and headed down the walkway, through the rainforest, to a couple overlooks where we took some pictures.

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IMG_6101 Then we got back on the rail, and off we were again.  We had another view of the falls from the air.

IMG_6107 As we continued on our way, we had great views of the mountains, and the rainforest canopy from above.

IMG_6142We reached the second stop, and this time, we had a walk through the rainforest with an overlook of the valley.  This tree was huge, and the picture really doesn’t do it justice.

IMG_6149 We also got a close up view of some of the natural flora.IMG_6272 We got back on the rail for our last leg, and we were off to the highest point, at over 850 feet high.  It was breathtaking.

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The view was equally stunning.

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It’s amazing how it goes from mountains to “plains” so quickly.  That’s the ocean in the distance.IMG_6188 We reached the bottom, got a couple bottles of water, and turned around for the return trip.  I had a great view on the way back.  =)

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IMG_2186When we got back to Kuranda, everything was closed!  It was only 3:20!

IMG_6285 So we packed it in and headed back to Cairns.  It had been a pretty full day, as it was, and we were ready to get some pictures of Cairns.  Stay tuned for a post on the town!

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Coffee World – An Unlikely Cairns Hit

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 21, 2010

During the trip, I recently finished the book, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage.  It was a wonderfully interesting book about six drinks that had a tremendous impact on how cultures developed throughout history.  Among them were coffee and tea.  The history behind tea and coffee, and its impact on world history and the former British colonies is fascinating.  Suffice it to say, the book has had me “fired up” about tea and coffee, recently. IMG_5990 While we were leaving Brisbane, I was wondering if Australia produced any coffee.  It seemed like the perfect climate, being humid, warm/hot, and mountainous.  While we were in Hervey Bay, I asked a barista if coffee was grown in Australia.  She confirmed that it was, in several locations along the coast.  I ended up buying some coffee in Miram Vale; coffee grown on the Capricorn Coast.  When we came to Cairns, we expected to take one day and go up to Daintree National Park.  As we were looking through the regional guide, we realized that there are all sorts of things to do in northern Queensland.  Among them were the coffee plantations of the Atherton Tablelands.  Northern Queensland produces 90% of Australia’s coffee crop, and in the heart of the coffee region, was Coffee World. It seemed like a cheesy kind of touristy thing to do, but I wanted to do it.  It included tastings of 21 coffees, 4 kinds of teas (Northern Queensland is also a significant producer of tea), chocolates, and liqueurs.  It also included an exhibit of the history of coffee. IMG_5844When we arrived, the parking lot was empty.  Coffee World is about an hour west of Cairns, and because we had other things on the day’s agenda, including the Skyrail Kuranda, we left Cairns early.  Coffee World is open from 9 am – 4 pm, daily, excluding Christmas.  We arrived about 9:45, and the lot was completely empty.  We weren’t even really certain where to go as the parking lot is separated from the building by a hedge of tropical trees.  We found our way inside, though, and it was quite inviting.  The $19 AUD per couple was about the most inexpensive attraction the Wife and I have been to in Australia. IMG_5847 IMG_6017The young lady at the reception area collected our money, and gave us a thorough rundown on Coffee World’s paid attraction.  It included a large tasting area, including the promised 21 coffees, four teas, 12 kinds of chocolate, and three liqueurs.  There was a sizable seating/cafe area for enjoying the coffee.  Then there was the “history of coffee.”  We’ll give you the full story in a minute, but for now, suffice it to say that it wasn’t quite what we expected.  Once we were finished with the tour and tastings, we were welcome to enjoy the gift shop, the chocolatier, and the small outdoor cafe for a light snack. IMG_5895We jumped right into the coffee, and had a taste of authentic Australian coffee to start.  One small cup, and then off to the “history of coffee.”  This exhibit was amazingly complete. IMG_5991It included professional placards detailing the legends of the origins of coffee, timelines of how coffee grew to worldwide consumption, and interesting stories about its impact on events throughout history. IMG_5855It included over 2000 pieces of coffee paraphernalia, of all sorts.  Coffee pots, coffee brewers, espresso machines, coffee grinders for coffee shops, coffee grinders for industrial production, coffee roasters using flames, coffee roasters using hot air, french presses, steam presses, peculators… it went on and on.  Some of the artifacts were well over 100 years old, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed something that was over 200 years old. IMG_5856 Industrial coffee roasters. IMG_5857 Another industrial roaster. IMG_5858 An italian-made espresso machine from the 1960s, as I recall. IMG_5861 A selection of home espresso machines, if I’m not mistaken. IMG_5862 And more…IMG_5865Coffee shop and home coffee grinders. Each item had a number attached to it, and they had “walkie talkies” with audible commentary for several of the items.  The audible commentary was provided by the collector, who was remarkably knowledgeable about coffee and its histories, including the context as to why individual pieces were significant at the time. IMG_5854 I was in awe, listening to probably only a tenth of the audio tour. IMG_5918 There were also multiple room with “interactive,” coffee-inspired, automated skits.  One had a “World Coffee Olympics” theme.  These WERE cheesy, and I wasn’t able to get through any of them.  But they WERE inspired, and they were three more rooms packed full of coffee artifacts. Believe it or not, there was also a whole second floor devoted to TEA and TEA history.  It wasn’t nearly as complete as the coffee floor, but it was an impressive addition to Coffee World. IMG_5924 IMG_5938 After a little over an hour in the exhibit, we went back out to indulge in our free tastings. IMG_5881 The coffee selection included Australian coffees, exclusive blends of the Australian coffees, and then several imported coffees from around the world.  The usual suspects, really: Nicaraguan, Columbian, Ethiopian, etc.  There were also flavored versions of their coffees.  I made my way around to several of the coffees.  I still think the Australian coffee is made pretty strong, but I have to say the Australian Arabica coffee was very good, as well as a couple of the flavored coffees. IMG_5879The selections of chocolate were intriguing, so we tried a couple of all of them.  They had several of the chocolates made with coffee, including dark, milk, and white chocolates.  They had chili chocolate, and multiple kinds of bark, including macadamia bark. IMG_5889 It was all wonderfully scrumptious, and as you might expect, went very well with the coffee.  The Wife jumped on the tea right away, and the local teas were mild (but not weak), without any overbearing bitterness, and generally exactly how each tea was described, respectively.  IMG_5883 We also tried the liqueurs.  There were two coffee liqueurs and a chocolate liqueur.  They were amazing.  They each captured a strong essence of the appropriate flavor, with almost no alcohol flavor (which is generally appropriate for a liqueur). IMG_5884In the tasting room, there were still more professional placards about coffee, its production, and the Australian coffee industry.   IMG_5903Here’s is a picture (of a picture) of ripened coffee berries.  If you don’t know how coffee is made, coffee bushes grow berries.  These berries grow to full size after a couple months, but once they are full size, it takes another several months for them to fully ripen.  They go from a green, to yellow, and eventually to red. IMG_5909Here is a picture of them on the bush before ripening.  Once they ripen, they are harvested.  The seeds are removed from the berries; two seeds per berry.  These seeds are roasted, which becomes the coffee beans that are ground into the coffee grounds you buy at the grocery store. IMG_5915 After we enjoyed all our coffee, chocolate, and tea, we headed out to the gift shop. IMG_5850 The gift shop had pre-packaged and “bulk” coffee.  We were interested in all kinds of coffee, but were considering how we would carry it and get it home, through four major cities, yet, with minimal problems.  So we asked if they ship internationally, and they do!  Check them out!IMG_6001 IMG_6003 The selection of liqueurs were also available. IMG_5997We headed over to the chocolatier to see what was available there.  Chocolates were even in the shape of little coffee beans, which were the perfect size.  The chocolatier was climate-controlled, which made sense in the otherwise open-air gift shop.  The tropical heat would have made chocolate soup out of all that chocolate.  Keeping this in mind, they did not, generally, ship chocolate.  Not that they WOULDN’T ship chocolate, but they generally said they had problems shipping chocolate around Australia, let alone internationally.  Sorry, folks. IMG_6009 This picture really doesn’t do justice to these two chocolate eggs.  These eggs are probably 18 inches tall, and remarkably well-decorated. IMG_6007Alas, it was time for us to move on.  We had stuck around for over two hours, learning about coffee, tasting it, and we needed to get going to the Skyrail in Kuranda, which was suggested to us by a friend, and was reiterated by a couple from Atlanta that we met in Cairns they night before.  We weren’t sure how late they would let us get on the ride, or how long it would take us to get to Kuranda, so we headed out around noon. As you’ll see in our upcoming posts, Cairns itself is a fine town, with both shopping and dining options, but really it relishes its position as a staging point for visitors to enjoy the surrounding Northern Queensland environment.  If you have an opportunity, and you have any interest in coffee, we would definitely recommend Coffee World as a “different” and yet wholly-enjoyable attraction outside of Cairns.  Drink up and enjoy!

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