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Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Introducing our guest blogger, and budding restaurant reviewer, five year old Nico. For Fathers’ Day, he offered to take me to one of my (and his!) favourite Cairns restaurants, Bushfire Flame Grill at the Pacific Hotel on the beautiful Cairns Esplanade.

Bushfire is an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Brazilian ‘Churrasco’ inspired barbecue restaurant, and is a veritable paradise for carnivores…

Here are his thoughts:

Its name really sounded nice, and even it had some fires, and the people were really nice and really kind and they didn’t talk hard to you.

It’s like people go around with big sticks and they put meat on it; lamb, beef, not chicken - it comes in a bowl - pineapple with addings. Everything there was really good because when something we wanted wasn’t there, something else we wanted was…

I liked the chicken best, because there wasn’t a lot of fat and it was nicely cooked and they put a lot of work into it.

The dessert for me; the things that looked like glass, one looked like a plastic and we could eat it. I thought we couldn’t eat it but then when I ate it, it was nice. But my own dessert, a little bowl of ice-cream, was really nice and I didn’t even have to ask for it; it just came.

Sunday lunch at Marina Paradiso

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Sunday was the last day of winter, and it was a perfect day to farewell the chilly season… thirty degrees, wide blue skies and just a breath of balmy tropical breeze. As good excuse as any to head down to the waterfront for a long boozy lunch.

The city of Cairns, being built on a coastal inlet, boasts many…. many… terrific spots to enjoy a glass or a meal overlooking the water, but none would be better than the open plan corner position under the Harbour Lights Hotel, enjoyed by Marina Paradiso.

Also, my staff had been becoming restless about missing out on a Christmas party last year (I had absconded to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia over the holiday period!) so we figured we’d better bring them along and stop their grumbling ;)

We started with a couple of bottles of bubbly and some breads. Then  a grand plate of carpaccio which was absolutely.mouth.watering and a generous serve of calamari. I am not a big fan of calamari, but those who ate it (everyone but me) said it was up there with the best they’d had.

For mains, I felt like choosing something light until I saw ‘lamb shanks’ on the menu. So that was my decision made for me, and one that I didn’t regret. Maria opted for a Caesar salad, which was clearly fresh and crisp. Nico *surprise surprise* went straight for a ham and pineapple pizza, which he assures us was delicious. Becky chose the linguine which was loaded… loaded… with seafood. Her hubby and her Mum both had the gnocchi, and a hearty serve that was. And Emma - the only one of us with the presence of mind to photograph her food - had this delightful dish:

Giant homemade tortellini *drool*

I don’t think any of us could consider anything else to eat after mains, but as time went on and the bubbly flowed, dessert did start to seem like a good idea…

Pear and ricotta cake, tiramisu, alcoholic strawberries… when are we going back to Marina Paradiso???

Weekend escape to the end of the world…

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

… or at least to the end of the sealed road :)

Since we listed our Cairns underwater camera rental business for sale last month, it has never been busier. In fact we have rented as many cameras in the first two weeks of this month as we often do in a whole month. Now I don’t know whether I want to sell it after all :(

Irony: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.”

So I have been burning the candle at both ends, up until 11:00pm cleaning and preparing cameras, and up again at 5:00am or 6:00am for early morning deliveries. Good help is hard to find, as all small businesspeople know, but I’ve been lucky. Emma, who helps out with deliveries a few nights a week, and Becky, which has helped out now and then since about 2008, kindly agreed to take care of the business while I took Nico away for a boys’ weekend to a place where mobile phones don’t work!

Two and a half hours’ drive north of Cairns lies Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where two World Heritage listed areas lie side by side. The Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet here at’ Cape Trib’, with just a long thin crescent of sandy beach between them.

The whole trip was a surprise for Nico, so while he and Maria were out shopping, I picked up our bright green campervan from Cairns and stocked it with all the essentials for a weekend in the rainforest: sausages, potatoes, bacon, eggs, chocolate frogs, custard, iced tea… you know, the essentials. You should have seen the look on Nico’s face when he discovered that the large green campervan on our front lawn was OURS for a couple of days, and that we were about to embark!Despite a holdup due to a traffic accident on the Captain Cook Highway just north of the Cairns Beaches , we made good time to Cape Trib, and selected a site in the campground at our Cape Tribulation accommodation, Jungle Lodge.

The next day was a serious chillout. Apart from one short walk to the beach, Nico and I spent the day just reading books in the van and lolling in the pool at Jungle Lodge.

But the relaxation was not to last forever. At 3:30pm, we made our way to reception to await pickup by Peter, who runs Cape Trib Paddletrek,offering sea kayaking tours of the area. Guests can choose from a 3.5 hours sunrise trip (too long for a five year old, I felt) or a full day trip (too long for an out-of-shape 46 year old) or a 2.5 hour sunset paddle… which sounded juuuust right!

Now I have done the occasional spot of kayakking before; in New Zealand, in Florida, through a swamp in Louisiana, and most recently in Laos. But I quickly realized that kayakking in the open ocean adds another dimension to what I had previously thought of as a very tranquil activity. I am not too proud to admit that the kayak did throw me into the water one time… although Nico somehow stayed high and dry. hmmmm…

We were both ready for dinner that night, and one of us was ready for a couple of cold beers in the rainforest bar. But the story ain’t over yet… far from it.  After another comfy night in our Cairns campervan, we rustled ourselves a quick breakfast and headed down to reception again, this time to board our snorkelling trip aboard Ocean Safari!

This is one seriously fun boat. Powered by twin 350HP V8 outboards, we were at our first snorkelling site within 25 minutes! Nico had his first proper snorkelling experience, and even got to handle a starfish. I saw rays, clownfish, and a greater range of corals than I think I have ever seen in Cairns. We visited two sites and were back to Cape Trib by lunchtime. Both sad to be leaving, but we vowed to come back again soon :)