Post-Holiday Wrap-Up of Books, TV, Movies, Podcasts and Other Very Good Things

It’s February so there’s no denying the holidays are well and truly over. If you need a little distraction in your day, here are the best books, TV, movies, podcasts and other stuff I got stuck into over summer:

Normal People by Sally Rooney has been dubbed ‘a future classic’
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about love, loss and loneliness
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love
Putney by Sofka Zinovieff is confronting, timely and beautifully written
Yuval Noah Harari has a knack for making sense of complex issues in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is not new but swept me away. Now an HBO show

The Cry on ABC iView has tension to the max
Sex Education on Netflix will have you in stitches
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime is sweet and easy watching
Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix is wild an almost unbelievable

The Wife on iTunes really should get Glenn Close her first Oscar
Private Life on Netflix is a raw and honest look at infertility struggles
First Man is the best kind of blockbuster
What We Did on Our Holiday on Netflix is seriously funny and the kids steal the show

Believed covers how Larry Nassar got away with so much for so long. Beyond shocking.
The Daily is a news podcast powered by New York Times journalism. Stand out episodes are 16, 19 November and 4, 5, 10, 11 December

I can’t shut up about how spectacular Lord Howe Island is
Peanut Butter Oat bars are simple, healthy and make the best snack
I loved reading this recent travel article on my hometown of Newcastle – get there now

Cherry Cottage in Leura, Blue Mountains

Cherry Cottage is a holiday rental in Leura, one of the prettiest towns in the Blue Mountains. Cosy, tranquil and well equipped, the cottage is situated in a picturesque part of the town, with Leura’s galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants a brisk 10-minute walk away.

There are three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, as well as a fireplace, central heating, modern kitchen, entertainment system and free WiFi. The hosts are friendly, efficient and provide great local area tips.

The biggest perk, however, is the daybed on the large decked balcony, which overlooks the stunning gardens – a perfect position for a read, wine or nap (or all of the above in one sitting).

Cherry Cottage is around 90 minutes drive from Sydney and you can stay from $295 per night – excellent value given the quality and location of the cottage.

Book through Stayz (where it has near perfect reviews) or Airbnb.

Billabong Retreat – Yoga, Meditation, Nourishing Food, Only One Hour from Sydney

The vision at Billabong Retreat (located around one hour from Sydney CBD) is to create a healing space to reconnect with nature, ourselves and others, with the idea being that you will find peace of mind, contentment and discover wellness.

I know… it sounds trite (read about the wellness epidemic) but I did return home feeling more chilled and I credit that to:
(1) Getting out of town with a couple of girlfriends who rarely get the chance to drink tea and talk, uninterrupted
(2) Not having to get out of my activewear the entire weekend
(3) The beautiful organic vegetarian food
(4) Our enlightened, calm and wise yoga/meditation teacher who managed to convince us to carry on with meditation and gave excellent tips for how to incorporate it in our day. I’d go back just to be in her presence
(5) No wi-fi, patchy mobile coverage and alcohol being “strongly discouraged.”

There are plenty of accommodation options. The day spa offers a wide range of treatments if you want to amp up the experience. Check out the upcoming programs and book your stay.

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria – Fine Food, Wine, Beaches and More

An easy one hour drive from Melbourne CBD (15 minutes longer if coming from the airport), Mornington Peninsula is a compact area with a diverse array of activities, ticking lots of boxes for a perfect holiday destination – beautiful beaches, renowned restaurants and vineyards, a thriving art scene, thermal springs, pristine national parks and sporting and adventure activities for those that can muster the energy. My first home swap experience exceeded expectations and landed us in Arthurs Seat, perched on a hilltop with stunning views of Port Phillip Bay. A well-positioned base for exploring the area, we cracked through a lot of the recommendations kindly and expertly put together by our host. View my best food, wine and other picks from the area. Visit Mornington Peninsula.

Waiheke Island – Food, Wine, Scenic Paradise 35 Minutes from Auckland

Waiheke Island is a paradise only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, New Zealand, with world class restaurants, vineyards, stunning beaches, great coffee and gelato, art galleries and jaw-dropping landscapes.

Big shout out to my sister who has been relentless and persuasive in recommending Waiheke as the perfect holiday destination. I completely understand why this island holds such a special place in her heart.

Tried so far and loved:

There are many more places on my list that we will be visiting during our stay but the one I’m most hyped about (everyone we’ve spoken to here raves about it) is the Sunday Italian long lunch at Poderi Crisci vineyard where they have a saying “There is always plenty more thyme in the garden, and there is always another ferry.” Arrive, sit, eat, drink, take in the beauty of the place and you’ll devour a feast of the chef’s choice which changes weekly.

The island has accommodation to suit all budgets. Put this magical place (recently voted as one of the world’s best islands) on your travel list now.

Love Home Swap – Save on Travel

A friend told me about the Love Home Swap website (also an app) a while ago and I am kicking myself that I didn’t get onto it sooner.

Love Home Swap is a site where you put your home up to swap with others around the world, which means you can save a lot of money when you travel.

It’s not limited to swapping houses at the same time though. You can also earn points by having someone stay in your home while you’re away and use those points for future holidays. There is also the option to rent someone’s home.

The properties range from studio apartments to grand mansions so there is something for everyone. It’s also reassuring having a stranger stay in your home if you’re staying in theirs.

There is a membership fee but they often and are currently running a 2 week trial period if you join in October. See how it works.

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