A Little Icing Sugar

Attention all fellow winter-haters: think again.


What happens when you infuse stunning alpine landscapes with adrenaline rushes, dangerously low sleep, and ten days of alcoholic merriness? Apart from serious fun (and what turned out to be over a month of pneumonia), cue juicy insights and that fabulous travel high.

Sliding off the best corner of the map is a magical stretch of mountains that look as though they’ve been delicately sprinkled with icing sugar. Less delicate however, is the descent into these mountains, which is said to be one of the most turbulent and difficult flight paths you can make in winter. Definitely sifting out the worthy there. But plummeting down through those clouds and bouncing unpredictably along the tarmac is surely one of the most stunning sights to behold. Especially with the bestie grabbing your wrist and squealing in belly-dropping anticipation by your side.

Unfortunately, this was not me, as I discovered at the airport a few hours earlier that I had booked the wrong flight, so was forced to abandon my travel buddies and bolt to the opposite end of the airport to board my own plane. Yes, we paid extra to get adjacent seats – which we DID – but on different planes… Good start.

So there I was, looking out fondly over an empty 25A, through the window, at Queenstown. Let’s establish my morbid fear of all things cold, so a blast of one-degree air when disembarking the plane is about on par with death. Despite this, the view of The Remarkables for the second time this year was still striking enough to settle me till I got into the terminal. Then it was just a matter of circling the tiny airport till the homies landed (side note: ninety minutes alone in an airport with only a handful of stores and unlimited free fudge can only go well, right?).

Any prediabetic concerns were obviously cured by the magnificence of Ferg (all hail) and the first night of an illegal ten-day bender. Not even mid-way through the month and I watched Dry July drown helplessly in the rest of the night. And because luck was in our favour, we managed to coax out the snow, so day one was filled with much midnight snow dancing by the still lake with happy faces that were sprinkled with snowflakes.

Picturesque views for 360 degrees

This special little town not only quenches all those crazy adrenaline dreams, but even has local activities to amuse you. Where else can you use your frozen fingers to launch a frisbee blindly through a forest of stunning pine trees in the hope that it doesn’t take out an innocent tourist or land in the lake, but rather perfectly in a designated basket that you can’t see? Frisbee-golf is a legitimate thing, and despite taking hours to a complete a course (with mild tricep casualties), is the most entertaining forest activity. And then there’s the main reason for booking tickets: the Luge. Yes, you can race toboggans down a mountain with the pressing fear of getting pushed off the road by a fellow luger, or obliterating a child who’s stopped mid-course.

And when you thought it couldn’t get much better, think free pub crawl. I’m talking limbo contests (double yes) at bars where you can play connect-4 while sipping hot rum chai and being served free shots all night (Dry July was a joke). Nightlife where etiquette is to dance on counters, swing on beams, and run into endless streams of adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers from all over the globe. You know it’s been a big one when you actually delete your late night snap story the next day before anyone’s had a chance to behold its insanity… In this snow-sport hub where people literally bid farewell with “see you on the slopes tomorrow”, predictably we didn’t make it up for skiing the next morning.


When we did manage to get ourselves up the mountains however, it was James Bond-style darting between other skiers and round flags (ft. one fall off the ski lift, getting stuck on the chair as it started going back down the mountain, and an ironic crash through the ‘Go Slow’ sign). Injuries acquired: zero. Score.

Whooshing down sun-kissed, snowy slopes?

The rest of this wintery adventure included running off a cliff into free fall (said limbo contest prize), eye-popping pizzas bigger than dinner tables, ludicrous punch concoctions (NB: shower and shave BEFORE your first drink), late night yoga bliss (hang in there stretchy jeans!), heavily endorsing swimming in icy lakes (friend of the year award), being offered jobs daily in such a employment hotspot, and it wouldn’t be a true Catherine trip without smashing a glass.

Air temperature: slightly above zero, water temperature: don’t even want to know, but my legendary mate managed to go head-under and come out alive

After skipping Dry July for good reason, I’ve had five bedridden weeks of a definite Dry August (including many an antibiotic to cure me of what x-rays revealed to be a pretty brutal lung infection) to confirm that it was all undoubtedly worth it.

In love.








My Most 007 Trip Yet

If, like me, you are an avid James Bond devotee, you may be aware of a little visit Sir Roger Moore makes to a glamorous Indian land to take on Octopussy. While my own adventures in this Rajasthani city – christened Udaipur – did not include any battles on top of planes mid-flight, classy crocodile submarine disguises, or yoyo blade throwing, it did turn out to be the most undoubtably beautiful city I experienced in India, leaving me awestruck repeatedly.


The contrast from Mumbai was shocking. There was grass here. There was shimmery water here, space to think, room to breathe. Trailing around the winding, intimate stoned streets instantly took me back to Venice and the dreamy parallels didn’t end there. I’m talking beautiful bridges overlooking stunning historical architecture, wandering lovers, sparkly rooftop dinners, and the perhaps obvious factor that Udaipur is known as “the Venice of the East”.

Grass > Pollution
Hard to find a bad view
Feeling familiar?
That archway love

For a start, our hostel was unimaginably gorgeous. After stumbling around the cobblestones in the heat with too many bottles of sunscreen weighing down my backpack, arriving at a palace was out of this world. It was fit for a king. Bunkyard was exquisite with exceptional service and an amazing vibe, making the short time in Udaipur extra sensational.

I was actually so obsessed with taking photos of this stunning stairwell that most of my Udaipur photos are of it…
Unparalleled luxury

The diary entry of the day read:

“I’m sitting by our window, looking out across mirrored lights on the lake. I can see hundreds of archways. It feels baroque and Muslim and Balinese and Islamic and Arabian. Many mountains. Rooftop chai bliss as the sun sets. Amazing. Why were we in Mumbai when this exists…”

Room with a view?
At 6:10 every night, there was a “chai bell”. This is at 6:15.
Night strolls around the City Palace and City Temple

So it was quite a treat. Getting lost in the streets and culture of “The City of Lakes” was a highlight of its own, but if you’re a fellow view-hunter, this place is heaven. Climb above two floors and it’s eye ecstasy. The merchants in this character-rich city have a solid, unofficial competition for the highest restaurant. As you can imagine then, there were a lot of stairs to be climbed. Though the “high” buildings only reach five or six floors, when one is expected to climb to the top before being able to assess the suitability of each menu, believe me there was much quad work. It has got to the absurd but equally brilliant point where many buildings have fashioned several somewhat dodgy extensions to their rooftops to achieve an extra few metres with which to brag. Despite this though, almost every restaurant we came across boasted “highest restaurant in Udaipur!” The other brag point, is obviously the Octopussy card. And yes even though it’s been over thirty years since the film hit screens, locals honestly milk it at every possible moment: the restaurants around us had nightly screenings of the spy movie. Nightly.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
“Best view in Udaipur” ft. more arches

When we weren’t trying to avoid being run over by rickshaws speeding around corners, or getting told by palm readers that I am emotionally weak, we were watching women dance while balancing mountains of pots on their heads, bargaining clothes vendors to their most “happy price”, getting lost in the maze of colourful streets, staring in amazement at puppeteers manipulating their dancing puppets, and learning the secrets of Indian cuisine from the Indian cooking greats themselves: the locals.

Findings: emotionally weak, two kids, strong creative force, not ambitious enough.
The blur of colours at the Rajasthani Cultural Show

One particular morning I woke to the normal blare of repetitive but joyful singing somewhere in the city. This was the day to visit the City Palace and cruise over the lake to Jagmandir Island for some prime Bond-location-hunting. Whilst waiting for the boats to start running, we hovered around the entrance to the majestic City Palace and decided to get some street food for breakfast. This is a big deal for me as allergy is high and Australian to Indian communication is often poor.

Once back in Sydney, I discovered that Bond has a car chase past the stall we stopped at. With that Hollywood value in mind, you’d think this street vendor would be quite civilised right? Not quite. After clarifying numerous times “no mungfally (peanuts)”, I cautiously bit into my first 30c meal – kachori. This spicy snack is basically a deep-fried pocket of flour stuffed with curry. Once the anxiety that I wasn’t going to die from it had passed, I started getting up to get the attention of the teenager who had served us initially, to ask for another one. It was at this moment that I felt a significant cultural difference. Here in the doorway of the tiny seating area, sat the teenage waiter on his phone with his back to us. The seating area was so small we could see everything on his phone with minimal effort. This young man was unashamedly invested in an unmentionable video. After several days of witnessing the different culture India had to offer, it hadn’t occurred to me that the people here might watch porn too. What was most surprising though, was his ability to switch so intermittently between serving customers, and returning to his phone. In fact, I was somewhat impressed at his diligence to return after each customer and find the spot he was up to so he could resume his absorbed and curious stare.

I was less impressed when he then served me my second kacholi with his bare hands…


Several “Namaste”s later, we were zooming around the majestic Lake Pichola Bond-style (it was much more of a slow chug on one of the tourist boats), till we got to Jagmandir Palace. This exquisite island is everything I imagined a romantic Indian city to be: elephant statues, breathtaking views, archways looking out to historical cities…

007 island – check; stunning architecture – check; view over crystal waters – check

And then there was Monsoon Palace. If you too are on a quest for sights that make your eyes leap out of their sockets, this is the place. If brave enough to venture up the twisting mountain side in a rover that’s managed to squeeze upwards of 12 people in, without falling on the driver as he swings round the corners, then you’ll find yourself face to face with the glorious Aravalli Hills that envelope the city (complimentary monkeys swinging around the stunning architecture).

Scarf about to escape
Locals at the Monsoon Palace
Some pretty stellar views from the highest point



In terms of sheer beauty, cultural immersion, and “that one place on the trip you’d go back to”, Udaipur has smashed out first place 110%.

Cue Bond theme.

Hard to deny
I fell in love with Udaipur’s cheeky charm
Truly spectacular

Tips to Surviving Mumbai

Landing in Mumbai was a wake up call.

With just under the same population as the whole of Australia, this city can be quite overwhelming.

Here are some handy survival tips:

  1. Carry your own toilet paper
    We were often fortunate enough that the hostels would ration us a roll upon assessment of our ethnicity. Other than that, public toilets are a no-no if you don’t
    have your own supplies…312991
  2. You cannot bring too much hand sanitiser.
    Indian food is wonderful, and often it is eaten with the hands. It’s great to know that your hands are clean when you do this, plus, Mumbai calls for stray dog patting, visiting dirty bazaars, and shaking hands with many other people. Come fully stocked with hand sanitiser.


  3. Only drink bottled water.
    This includes for tooth-brushing. Most travellers in India get sick at some point, and water can be quite risky if you’re not used to it. It’s also essential to check the seal on the bottled water you buy. Make sure you open it in front of them before you pay for it incase they’ve just recycled old bottles and used tap water.
  4. Accept that your body will respond differently.
    Forget your normal bodily functions, curry and spice is no longer a one-off. It’s daily. And Indian cuisine uses a lot of spice that westerners are not used to. I’m talking spicy breakfasts (because their attempts at western breakfasts aren’t really worth it), spicy soda if you’re into that, spicy pasta and spicy snacks. Get ready for the spice, go gently on your body, and don’t be surprised if your routine is quite different.

    Get prepared for lots of carbs and lots of spice…
  5. Take advantage of the Hyralyte your mum encouraged you to bring.
    India is hot. It’s sunny, and if you’re on the move a lot, you probably won’t notice yourself start to get dehydrated. Electrolytes in tablet form are super easy to pop into your water for some extra hydration. It’s also really handy in case you do get sick and can’t stomach too much fluid.
  6. Bring your own pillowcase.
    I swear by this as my one main travel tip. If you are going any place where the hygiene standard is less than home, it makes such a difference putting your face against something that smells neutral and that you know is clean. A pillowcase is tiny and light so it won’t destroy your weight allowance, and you can just throw it over the pillow.
  7. Get used to avoiding eye contact.
    Locals will stare. Men will stare A LOT if you’re female. I spent the first several days trying to work out the rationale behind this since I stuck to the guidelines religiously and covered up ft. long, loose pants and a shawl. If you’re blonde like me, it’s best to keep your hair tied up when on the street, as i’ve found a wave of golden locks stands out like a sore thumb. It’s best to accept it’s going to happen, stay in a group, and don’t let the pointing, talking, photo-taking and occasionally curious giggling slow you down. Imagine you’re a celebrity for a few weeks and appreciate you’re something interesting.
  8. Get amongst it.
    This was the quote of the trip as Mumbai is such a different culture, and if you’re not open to going with the flow, you’re going to get frustrated and struggle. Most Indians are vegetarian – roll with it. The driving is pure anarchy (no seatbelts, no indicators, no lanes etc.) – roll with it.


  9. Eat well.
    Your appetite may completely vanish for a while due to the unfamiliar surroundings and often confronting hygiene of the city. It is, however, important to have enough sustenance for all the walking, and for the energy that is unknowingly expended in the hectic business of the city and the heat. We found that having one or two main meals during the afternoon and evening was best for keeping alert.
  10. Accept that you can’t fix everything.
    It can be quite an overwhelming place to be in terms of poverty, pollution, and animal treatment. People will come up to you. If you give them something, there will be many more who will then plead you for something (yet Mumbai is home to the most expensive house in the world – worth $1 billion!). It’s better instead to have conversations as best you can about where you come from, and get to know the people and their fascinating culture.

    A regular day: swerving round sacred cows on the street.

What are the first 5 words you associate with “health”?

Today as I was driving home through Sydney’s Northern Beaches, I was considering what the first five words are that I associate with ‘Health’. Using common sense and my own life wisdom so far, I usually consider “healthy” to be synonymous with “happy”, the five words I would normally list as follows:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Energy
  3. Nourishment
  4. Stability
  5. Self-awareness.

However, after a morning of wandering round various health food stores and conversing with a bestie over the current craze – acai bowls – I landed at the following five:

Organic. Vegan. Antioxidants. Juice. Raw.

Wandering around my favourite Sydney town, Manly

This morning I brunched at Bare Naked Bowls in Manly – a trendy, local hotspot for beachy health-lovers (so much so it needed recent renovations to triple the kitchen size). Sitting in this beloved café of mine, it dawned on me that young, white women dominated the demographic of customers. We had all paid our $15 for our organised arrangement of fruit and were chatting away in plant-based indulgence.

As a vegan and passionate member of the yogi tribe, cafes like this get me jumping, but are we all just making a delightful fuss about a smoothie in a bowl? Have we got so carried away overthinking what should be organic to our bodies that we’ve forgotten to listen to our bodies? What does “organic” mean to consumers these days anyway? Do acai bowl devotees know what antioxidants do and why they are considered valuable? I’ve begun to realise that the current social attitude towards health often seems to be based on buzzwords that people may or may not understand.

Health-food aisles are stocked with words like “paleo”, “whole” and “clean”. Is the rest of the food out there unclean? Am I going to drop dead if my soy has been genetically modified? The vegan staple of coconut oil is now worth its weight in gold, even though it is 94% saturated fat (that fat we’ve been taught to avoid like the plague – the same fat the vegan diet boasts about avoiding due to no nasty animal fats). Do customers see an “insert word here – free” product and instantly assume it is going to be beneficial to their bodies? It’s similar to the “ancient grain” movement, or virtually any food that originated in South America thousands of years ago. Since the uprise of these “superfoods”, it seems impossible now to walk through a health-conscious community without being ambushed by the sound of cutlery scraping through quinoa salad or food smothered in avocado, chia, or the latest rediscovered Incan berry.

Organising my “superfoods” into the other great trend at the moment… jars

As a medical science graduate, I am well aware that the physical aspects of health are largely based on factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol level, metabolism, vitamin concentration and a general absence of disease, and while fruits and seeds are hardly bad for you in a conventional sense, current café culture and social media seem to have a different focus.


When did health become a hashtag on Instagram? When did it stop becoming about eating and doing what you felt like, and turn into eating and moving in accordance with what works for someone else, or to a set of circumstances that applied to generations long before us? We are told of the way our ancestors moved and ate, and that we should follow that. If it’s all about descendants and evolution, then my descendants will surely evolve to be toothless, as so much of the “health” food I’m exposed to is blended and sipped through a straw, requiring zero chewing.

Acai bowls have even made their way into my home…

I’ve done the juice cleanses. I’ve eliminated all animal products. I’ve lived with a wheat allergy for three years (so am all too familiar with the gluten-free cult), and taken a stab at the raw food movement. Sure there is ample evidence of beneficial results when cutting out added sugar completely, but maybe such restrictive approaches to food aren’t setting up a good or realistic mindset for what “being healthy” actually means. It certainly feels like a first-world luxury to choose to ditch so many universal staples, and instead reach for an acai bowl, cold-pressed juice, or on-tap kombucha.

Yes, there is kombucha on tap

Perhaps health extends further than the degree of genetic modification that’s on our plates. Perhaps it needs to be considered more how we feel. Inside and out. Holistically. Maybe we should be making equal fuss about the quality of our sleep, social support system, and, maybe more importantly, the way we value ourselves.

I’m not hipster enough for Melbourne

A journey to find the perfect milkshake in Melbourne.

So I recently went to Melbourne.

It is widely known in Sydney that Melbourne has the elusive upper hand in coffee-making or “coffee-roasting”. As a non-coffee-drinking Sydneysider, I’ve been harassed for years about the cultural superiority of Melbourne, and more recently, the overwhelming abundance of hipster cafes, man-buns, and beards that us Sydney folk are rather behind on.

“You’re only going for the man-buns aren’t you?” What began as a joke about my motives for my Melbourne trip, quickly turned into a quest to find the ultimate hipster cafe.

Weaving in and out of the countless intimate alleys and naturally appreciating every display of graffiti that had suddenly become exhibitions of creative geniuses, I made my way around the drizzly, orthogonal city.

As I became more familiar with the cafe etiquette, I began to realise just how many people were available to soak up the coffee culture on a weekday. Do Melbournians not have jobs? Or does the idea of a deconstructed coffee take clear priority over other potential activities?

Following my phone to a pre-selected trendy spot, I came across many a hidden-away hole in the wall which opened out into cosy rooms of coffee appreciation. As tempting as it was to test the handiwork of all these bearded baristas, I followed the GPS until I found a wooden door in a surprisingly deserted alleyway. I could sense the indie vibes by the fact I had to walk up a flight of creaky wooden stairs to get to the actual cafe room.

As my ironic adventure was all somewhat in jest, I was definitely surprised when I swung open the door to the cafe and questioned my GPS skills and general life choices. Was this the cafe? It was quiet, dimly lit, and very industrial. When I had been doing my research to find the most hipster cafe, I had based degree of hipster on level of industrial influence.

This was industrial.

It was so industrial that I was unsure whether the practicality of the cafe actually outweighed the trendiness. Industrial cafes just LOOK industrial, right? If they’re actually an operating barber and gentlemen’s outfitters as well, does that authenticity make it lose its prestigious industrial Melbourne hipster cafe value? I was so unsure and felt more out of place than I had anticipated. Could they tell I was a Sydney girl coming to take advantage of the Instagram-worthy decor and draw attention to the unrealistic nature of the cafe? No. I had my beanie. I was safe and they couldn’t know.

“Hi do you have a menu?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible to the lovely social justice warrior-esque lady behind the counter. She looked at me. She knew. She pointed towards a big framed board to my right and there sat a list of hand-written lunches.

“Ah thanks, but you have a drinks menu? Teas, coffees, that sort of thing?” I wasn’t after a meal, but a perfectly crafted Melbourne drink.


I looked at her. She looked at me. What was going on…? No drinks menu? Is that even legal? How do I dwell on all the options if they’re not presented logically?

“You just tell me what you want and I’ll make it.”

This was new. What does that even mean? How is that efficient at all? Do I go through every crazy Melbourne treat I’m hoping to find on the menu? As a non-coffee drinker (I know – why am I even in Melbourne in a hipster cafe then?), I had been craving an artistically crafted milkshake that was suitable for a 21 year old.

“Can I please have a milkshake?” She was not impressed. Was she going to kick me out of her cafe? I promise I’m cultured! I fit in! Did you note the beanie?

“We don’t make them.”

Yup, she hated me. I panicked for a moment thinking of my next question.

“I can make you an iced chocolate.” She was definitely concerned by my lack of coffee.

I nodded and pulled out my wallet.


What!? No paying?

“You pay later.”

It was bizarre. Nevertheless, I sat in the middle of the room, in prime photo-taking, gawking position to wait for my much-hyped Melbourne iced chocolate. There was a glass annexe where a man was getting his beard trimmed. Jackpot. Vintage shoes lined the walls, and the tables were platforms for sewing machines. Jackpot.

The culturally elite, indifferent to the trendy ambience at Captains of Industry


Eventually my iced chocolate arrived. After quickly taking some snapchats to express my cultural value, I put the straw between my lips and consumed the trend-infused drink I’d put so much pressure on.


Sewing machine table ft. modest cup of sugar


It was terrible.

It was actually the worst drink I’ve had ever, which is challenging because it’s chocolate-based. It was a hot chocolate with ice cubes at the top – so much so that the bottom 2/3 were lukewarm. I instantly realised this was just a novelty to be endured for the sake of a cafe experience. I messaged my mum to tell her of the tragedy and she told me to tell the barista. Bless her. So pragmatic. So clueless to the social and cultural protocols I had just been subject to.

“I can’t mum. I’ll be deported from Melbourne. My beanie is literally my only redeeming feature right now.”

No bearded barista, no man-buns, no exquisite milkshake. After sticking it out, taking some photos, and watching the poor waitress have to carry the entire framed board to some seated customers for lack of printed menus, I paid my $4.50 for my watery, warm milk and left. It was an experience.

Later, after spending several hours in the Museum of Moving Image, I decided to give Melbourne a second chance to showcase their milkshake abilities. After all, this cafe was part of the museum. How hipster could it be?

“Hi there, do you have a menu?”

The man behind the counter was much friendlier than my previous barista encounter. He pointed towards a laminated lunch menu.

“Ah yes, do you have a drinks menu? With tea and coffee you know?”

“No, you just tell me whatever you want.”

I was beginning to sense a pattern here.

“Can I please have a milkshake?”

“No, sorry we don’t do those. I can make you an iced chocolate?”

What the hell Melbourne? Up your game! Should I make the same mistake? How much worse could it be though? Reluctantly I agreed, and paid a further $5.50.

When it arrived, it was mediocre. It thankfully had icecream, but otherwise it was another bland disappointment.


Determined that Melbourne could do better than this, I spent the rest of the evening looking up the best freakshakes and diner-style milkshakes Melbourne had to offer.

The next day marked the start of another quest to Richmond’s Rowena Parade Corner Store to find the most decadent milkshake and restore my faith in Melbourne.











This was the place. It was cute and cosy and colourful and youthful. Their menu was extensive and was ONLY compsosed of milkshakes, and the store didn’t have the ‘we secretly spent a fortune on the floors and walls to make it look like we didn’t spend any money on the floors and walls’ vibe going on.

Satisfaction was finally found after choosing the creative vegemite and salted caramel flavour. It was bliss. Very patriotic. Australian pride restored.

Vegemite and salted caramel milkshake