The sun sets behind the Green Monster. 
© Kate Vista, 2015

I heart Boston.

This 4th of July weekend, I wanted to reignite my love affair with Boston. Home of the Red Sox, Tom Brady, Harvard University, MIT, the Freedom Trail and Back Bay I was fortunate enough to also call this city home for a short (albeit passionate two years).

New Yorkers will be the first to tell you that Boston is “No New York” and while that may be true, it’s also part of the appeal. It has the nightlife of a big city, yet the bar scene to rival the best of them. A town of intellectuals, multiculturalism, passionate locals and tourists alike, it’s not hard to see why you never quite get over Boston.

 © Kate Vista, 2015


© Kate Vista, 2015

© Kate Vista, 2015

Harvard Square © Kate Vista, 2015

 © Kate Vista, 2015


Beautiful Buildings © Kate Vista, 2015

Solitude and focus on the Charles © Kate Vista, 2015

Solitude and focus on the Charles © Kate Vista, 2015

The foliage actually looks like this in Autumn © Kate Vista, 2015

The foliage actually looks like this in Autumn © Kate Vista, 2015

Apples Galore! © Kate Vista, 2015

Apples Galore! © Kate Vista, 2015

© Kate Vista, 2015

© Kate Vista, 2015

 © Kate Vista, 2015


Autumn is coming! © Kate Vista, 2015

 © Kate Vista, 2015


Orange is the new white… © Kate Vista, 2015

More orange. © Kate Vista, 2015

More orange. © Kate Vista, 2015

Winter is coming... © Kate Vista, 2015

Winter is coming…
© Kate Vista, 2015

Let it snow  © Kate Vista, 2015

Let it snow
© Kate Vista, 2015

Timeless. © Kate Vista, 2015

Timeless.
© Kate Vista, 2015

Harvard V's Yale. A winter tradition. © Kate Vista, 2015

Harvard V’s Yale. A winter tradition. © Kate Vista, 2015

 © Kate Vista, 2015


Couldn’t forget Fenway! © Kate Vista, 2015

© Kate Vista, 2015

Nutritious Snacks © Kate Vista, 2015

The sun sets behind the Green Monster.  © Kate Vista, 2015

The sun sets behind the Green Monster.
© Kate Vista, 2015

Welcome to Whistler
© 2015 Kate Vista

Oh Canada (specifically Whistler, Vancouver)…

If you’re not into powder days and blue bird skies and fires and smores and long walks and charming village atmosphere, look away now. Welcome to Whistler.

Well actually before you get to Whistler, welcome to Vancouver, a short 2.5 hour drive to Whistler Village.

If you fly in early enough you will be treated to skies like this.

Magic Skies © 2015 Kate Vista

Magic Skies © 2015 Kate Vista

If time permits I suggest you spend some time exploring ‘downtown’ Vancouver: Gastown, Robson Street and Stanley Park are all worth exploring.

Vancouver

Vancouver © 2015 Kate Vista

However, if you are keen to hit the slopes you can make your way to the mountains either by coach (direct from Vancouver airport or downtown Vancouver)

http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/reservations/whistler-airport-transfers/mg_129/v_3546/pacific-coach-lines.detail

Or rent your own car (snow tires are a must!!!).  Regardless, the scenery is spectacular so if you are not driving, sit back and enjoy the vista.  Otherwise, eyes on the road!

Spectacular Scenery - © 2015 Kate Vista

Spectacular Scenery – © 2015 Kate Vista

Arriving in Whistler is like being hugged by an old friend. It’s warmth (despite the sub zero temperatures) envelops you and you feel instantly at home.

Thanks for the hug Whistler © 2015 Kate Vista

Thanks for the hug Whistler © 2015 Kate Vista

Nice to be here © 2015 Kate Vista

Nice to be here © 2015 Kate Vista

While those with families can choose from plenty of accommodation options we chose to rent a home in the surrounding suburb of Blueberry Hill.  Close enough that you can walk to the village in 20minutes, drive in 5 or hail a cab for $8.  And, with views like this from your windows?  Why wouldn’t you?

IMG_1743

Beautiful Trees © 2015 Kate Vista

Beautiful Trees © 2015 Kate Vista

We stayed on Osprey Place, a range of homes managed by Resort Quest but also accessible through the Whistler Blackcomb website http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/reservations/v_2858/mg_1/Blueberry-Hill-Home-ResortQuest.detail. Here’s our luxurious log cabin from the outside!

IMG_8665

So what to do when you’re here?  Well, the obvious is to hit the beautiful slopes…

Beautiful bowls in the back country © 2015 Kate Vista

Beautiful bowls in the back country © 2015 Kate Vista

© 2015 Kate Vista

© 2015 Kate Vista

Skiing until last lifts as the sun starts to set © 2015 Kate Vista

Skiing until last lifts as the sun starts to set © 2015 Kate Vista

Followed by après at one of Whistler’s many watering holes (Garibaldi, Dusty’s – creekside, and the Longhorn) just to name a few.

Après here we come!  © 2015 Kate Vista

Après here we come!
© 2015 Kate Vista

You can also peruse the shops or walk the valley trail. A must though is a quick stop into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory where even the most adult of adults fall to child like temptation to the delectable treats for sale.

Hello Snowman!  This is a toffee apple!  © 2015 Kate Vista

Hello Snowman! This is a toffee apple!
© 2015 Kate Vista

So is this!  © 2015 Kate Vista

So is this!
© 2015 Kate Vista

And this!  See!  © 2015 Kate Vista

And this! See!
© 2015 Kate Vista

While there we also headed dog sledding for I’m an absolute sucker for puppies.  This was phenomenal.  We had heard somewhat unsavoury things about the sledding industry following the Winter Olympics in 2010 but the folks at Canadian Wilderness Adventures were only too quick to disperse any rumours that continued to linger.  The dogs loved their job.  NO serious.  LOVED it.  The joy on their faces when they ran, the love they had for their mushers and the reciprocated love from the mushers towards the dogs was tangible.

Dog Sledding!  © 2015 Kate Vista

Dog Sledding!
© 2015 Kate Vista

A round trip is about 2 hours, this also includes time whereby you can lead the sleigh and allows time for the dogs to have a short break.  It’s another beautiful way to see the scenery of British Columbia.

IMG_2706

Cooling down in the snow – © 2015 Kate Vista

I loved, loved, loved Whistler.  When can we go back?

Kxx

© 2014 Kate Vista

A little piece of heaven…

Shhh… come closer. I’m going to tell let you in on a little secret. The South Coast of NSW is my favourite place in the whole wide world. I’ve been going for 30 years and these photos will hopefully show you why.

 

Beaches that look like this…

 © 2014 Kate Vista


© 2014 Kate Vista

And this…

  © 2014 Kate Vista


© 2014 Kate Vista

 

Walks that take you past this

IMG_1918

© 2014 Kate Vista

 

And this

  © 2014 Kate Vista


© 2014 Kate Vista

 

IMG_1999

© 2014 Kate Vista

I love that there are so few people on the beaches

 © 2014 Kate Vista

© 2014 Kate Vista

And at the end of the day, you can come home to this.

 © 2014 Kate Vista


© 2014 Kate Vista

 

May you find your own piece of paradise.

 

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

photo-2

Once Upon A Love Story…

I love a good love story. Tales of how people met, reading through other people’s letters or hearing stories of enduring passion despite time, distance or ill health. It should come as no surprise then that I too have my very own love story; but it saddened me that my own story, like so many others, was confined to sacred words on a page, which now lay hidden in a drawer. Thus began my mission to find the perfect artist to bring my tale to life.

Enter – Meredith Gaston: Artist, illustrator, kindergallery owner and general positive spirit.

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston - Photographer Prue Ruscoe

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston – Photographer Prue Ruscoe

The first thing you will learn about Meredith is the warmth she exudes. The second, if you’re lucky, is that she too is deeply romantic. Much like myself, Meredith met her partner by chance and within weeks had made the move to Germany to be with him. If I was looking for a sign that could be the perfect artist to bring a love story to life, surely this was it.

As Meredith welcomed me into her home (now the Blue Mountains, Australia), the care for her surroundings was evident. The joy with which she spoke about the history of her heritage cottage, the carefully placed watering can perched on a bench, or the wooden logs stacked by her stove (adoringly hand coloured in chalk) for a special touch.

© 2014 Kate Vista

© 2014 Kate Vista

IMG_1685

© 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every little element had come from a place of love.

It is this joy that exudes from her artwork,

© 2014 Kate Vista

Artwork Meredith Gaston. Photograph Kate Vista © 2014

 

 

© 2014 Kate Vista

Artwork Meredith Gaston. Photograph Kate Vista © 2014

 

photo-2

Artwork Meredith Gaston. Photograph Kate Vista © 2014

 

fills her studio,

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston - Photographer Prue Ruscoe

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston – Photographer Prue Ruscoe

 

© 2014 Kate Vista

© 2014 Kate Vista

and inspires the pages of her best selling books (Tucked In and 101 Moments of Joy)

Although it is obvious that Meredith’s artwork comes from a heart that is very real and honest it was interesting to hear that the idea of portraying happiness as an emotion through artwork was something Meredith grappled with initially. The cliché of the brooding or struggling artist is long portrayed but so too the notion that art has to be “somber” in order to be notable.

Thankfully for the world however, Meredith has taken advice on life and art from individuals such as the acclaimed Concita Caranbano and has listened to her own heart. Collectively, this has taken her where she is today; making a very real name for herself, inspiring others with her positive affirmations, warm colours and her signature form.

For Meredith, the girl who appears throughout her artwork has been a constant.  “She’s you and she’s me” reflects Meredith. “Her face has changed but I’ve drawn her since I was 15.” As we looked over early sketches that filled  her old notebooks documenting life and travels from Meredith’s early life I was taken with how much talent was present at such a young age.

IMG_1690

Early Artwork Meredith Gaston Circa 2000. Photograph Kate Vista © 2014

IMG_1689

Early Artwork Meredith Gaston Circa 2000. Photograph Kate Vista © 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Meredith art has always been about expression and about love. It’s not a cliché, it’s very real indeed. “Love is precious, love should be shared and inspire others” she continues. I think I had found my perfect storyteller.

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston - Photographer Prue Ruscoe

Photo courtesy of Meredith Gaston – Photographer Prue Ruscoe

 

To learn more about Meredith and view her works visit http://www.meredithgaston.com

To learn more about kindergallery, run by Meredith and her partner Kevin, visit http://kindergallery.com

 

 

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

Enjoy!© 2014 Kate Vista

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

You know the feeling when you cook your first “grown up” dessert really well? For me, that was Lemon Meringue Pie. I was in tenth grade at school, taking hospitality class and had the assessment task of making a dessert. I was so nervous but thankfully things went my way and I think it was probably then that I began to truly appreciate my love of cooking desserts. This recipe is easy to follow, tastes amazing and let’s face it, leaves an impressive looking product. Enjoy!

Ingredients – Pastry Case

1 ½ cups (225g) of plain flour

3 teaspoons of icing sugar

140grams cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons water (approximately)

 

© 2014 Kate Vista

© 2014 Kate Vista

 

Ingredients – Filling 

½ cup (75g) corn flour

1 cup (220g) caster sugar

½ cup (125mL) lemon juice

1 ¼ cups (310mL) water

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

3 egg yolks

60g butter

 

 

Ingredients – Meringue

3 egg whites

½ cup (110g) caster sugar

 

 

Method

Pastry Shell

  1. Sift flour and icing sugar into a medium bowl and rub in butter. Add yolk and enough water to the ingredients cling together. Press the dough into a ball and knead it gently on a floured surface until it is smooth: cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Dough ball! © 2014 Kate Vista

    Dough ball! © 2014 Kate Vista

  2. Preheat the oven to moderately hot (2000C /1800C fan-forced). Lightly grease a 24cm flat tin or pie dish. Alternatively, you can line a 12 In the example I have included here, I lined a standard 12 cup muffin pan.

    © 2014 Kate Vista

    © 2014 Kate Vista

  3. Roll the dough on a floured surface until it is large enough to line the tin. Lift the pastry into the tin, easing into the sides. Be sure to trip the edges!
  4. Place the tin on the oven try, and line the pastry with baking paper because we are going to be baking blind! For those doing this for the first time, it simply means, adding a little weight to the paper so add some dried beans or uncooked rice onto the baking paper.
  5. Bake for ten minutes and the remove the paper, beans/rice before baking uncovered for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry case is lightly browned.
  6. Remove the pastry case and cool. Reduce the oven temperature to (1800C/1600C fan-forced).

 

 

Filling

  1. Combine the corn flour and sugar into a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the lemon juice and water.

    © 2014 Kate Vista

    © 2014 Kate Vista

  2. Stir over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens (the mixture should be really thick). Don’t worry if it starts to smell a little funky. That’s normal.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring for 30 seconds.
  4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the lemon rind, egg yolks and butter. Stir until smooth, cover and let it cool to room temperature.

    © 2014 Kate Vista

    © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Meringue

  1. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Gradually add sugar (as in a small amount at a time or it essentially stops the meringue from becoming smooth and glossy) and beat it until it dissolves after each addition.

 

Once the filling and meringue is complete, spread the filling into the pastry case and top with meringue. Bake for 5 minutes or until the meringue is browned lightly. Stand aside for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Enjoy!© 2014 Kate Vista

Enjoy!© 2014 Kate Vista

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

So delicious! © 2014 Kate Vista

Lemon, Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Lemon, Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake - © 2014 Kate Vista

Lemon, Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake – © 2014 Kate Vista

Cheesecake is my partner’s favourite dessert. Absolute favourite. Any special occasion, anniversary or request to bring dessert to a dinner party, cheesecake comes as a suggestion from him. I however, despite my love of food, struggle a little with most cheesecakes, as they are so rich. For this reason, I love this recipe for the lemon/citrus flavor when combined with the raspberries really does make this just as delicious but a little lighter than other cheesecake recipes out there.

White Chocolate Chips - © 2014 Kate Vista

White Chocolate Chips – © 2014 Kate Vista

Ingredients 

  • 600g cream cheese
  • 200g Arnotts Nice Biscuits or digestive biscuits
  • 75g of melted butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 150g tub natural yogurt
  • 3 medium eggs
  • finely grated zest 2 lemons, juice of 1
  • 50g plain flour
  • 200g raspberries
  • icing sugar to decorate (if preferable)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 120C/100C fan/gas and line the base of a 20cm round springform tin with greaseproof paper.
  1. Crush the biscuits in a food processor or in my case using a mortar and pestle. Tip into a bowl with the melted butter and mix well.

 

Crush the biscuits in a food processor or in my case using a mortar and pestle... © 2014 Kate Vista

Crush the biscuits in a food processor or in my case using a mortar and pestle… © 2014 Kate Vista

  1. Push the biscuits into an even layer into the base of the cake tin and chill until needed.

 

Chill until needed. © 2014 Kate Vista

Chill until needed. © 2014 Kate Vista

 

  1. In a separate bowl use an electric whisk to beat the soft cheese with the sugar.

 

  1. Beat in the yoghurt then the eggs one at a time.

 

  1. Finally beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice and flour.

 

  1. Fold through two thirds of the raspberries crushing them very slightly so they start to bleed into the mix then tip the mix on top of the biscuit base and smooth over the top.

 

  1. Bake for 45 mins then turn off the oven, leave the cake inside for another hour then cool at room temperature.

 

  1. Chill overnight.
Chill Overnight © 2014 Kate Vista

Chill Overnight © 2014 Kate Vista

To serve, remove from tin, scatter with remaining raspberries and dust with icing sugar

 

So delicious! © 2014 Kate Vista

So delicious! © 2014 Kate Vista

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Sunsets © 2014 Kate Vista

I Love A Sunburnt Country – Dorothea Mackellar

It’s a well-known fact that despite a strong sense of National Pride, Australians will often venture outside of their own country before travelling around the six states and two territories we have on offer. It’s common to have done two or three but I’ve met very few individuals that have “completed the set”. This is not due to a lack of desire to explore one’s own land but rather it is often cheaper to fly to Bali, Fiji or New Zealand than to take a look around our own backyard. Despite this, I’ve been on a somewhat personal quest to complete an “Australian Bingo” if you will and cross off all of all the regions and thus was most excited to head off on my latest adventure to the “Top End” otherwise known as the Northern Territory.

I flew into Darwin for the start of my travels and other than my knowledge of the heavy bombing inflicted upon Darwin during World War II, the infamous Cyclone Tracey that tore through Darwin on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day in 1974 and the fact I should not swim at the beaches or anywhere marked with “Crocodile Warning” signs I knew very little about the city.

Coming in to land, I was immediately taken by the vast difference in the landscape even from the window of the plane.

Looking Down on Darwin © 2014 Kate Vista

Looking Down on Darwin © 2014 Kate Vista

Darwin has two distinct seasons (wet season and dry season) and thus it is important to time your travels for the dry season to avoid the daily monsoon showers over summer. Even from the windows though it was easy to see how flooded the waterways could become during the wet.

The warmth of Darwin was a welcome change from the 14 degrees of home and I checked into my hotel, eager to begin my adventure.  There are only two real areas of Darwin to stay, the city centre (Esplanade) or Cullen Bay.  For this adventure I was staying in Cullen Bay as I liked the idea of being near by the water.  As an aside, if you do ever venture to Cullen Bay, head to The Boat Shed, a local establishment that serves mouthwatering all day breakfasts (including the aptly named “Fatty Boomba” for any hungry boys in your group) and refreshing beverages such as a “Mango Tingle” that will leave you wanting more.

Fatty Boomba © 2014 Kate Vista

Fatty Boomba © 2014 Kate Vista

To be honest, you can probably “do Darwin” in a few days from a tourist perspective but this isn’t to say it isn’t worth the time. While in the city it is definitely worth a visit to the Darwin Military Museum www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/ which is unique in it’s outdoor set up, extensive collection of military vehicles, weaponry and wealth of information outlining Darwin’s involvement in World War II.  Time in Darwin should also include a visit to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory http://artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au/museums and a visit to Crocodylus Park http://www.crocodyluspark.com.au or other Crocodile attraction whereby you can hold baby crocs or full sized pythons, learn about the benefits of Crocodile farming to save species from extension and see Crocodiles being fed.

My favourite part of Darwin though was the remarkable sunsets. Being from the East Coast, it’s very rare (well impossible) you see the sun set into the ocean whereas in Darwin it’s cause for local gatherings (check out the Mindil Beach markets in time for Sunset on a Sunday) whereby tens of thousands of people line the beaches and then applaud in a most jovial manner as the sun sets into the ocean. It really is humbling at is easy to see why.  The colours are spectacular and you can’t help but be in awe.

Beautiful Sunsets © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Sunsets © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Crowds Gather at Mindil Beach © 2014 Kate Vista

Crowds Gather at Mindil Beach © 2014 Kate Vista

Sunsets into the Ocean © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun Sets into the Ocean © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here, locals and tourists alike will enter into the markets for live music performances, street food and to peruse the stands of arts and crafts on offer. Another alternative is of course the Deckchair Cinema open from April – November http://www.deckchaircinema.com.au.

The main reason for tourists to head to Darwin though is for its entry point to some of the most spectacular national parks and outdoor locations in the world.  Litchfield National Park,  Katherine Gorge and Kakadu are all easy driving from Darwin, although I would recommend reading the fine print of your hire car contract carefully as many rental care places won’t just charge you per day but per additional kilometre over 160km … Lesson learned…

The road trip portion of the travels began with the pleasant one and a half hour drive out to Litchfield National Park. I was prepared for beautiful eucalyptus trees, gorgeous rock formations, spectacular Indigenous art and breathtaking swimming holes (checked for crocs by local authorities) but what I was not prepared for was the termite mounds. Seriously.  These structures were enormous, often several meters high and towered over me.  They were fascinating and I had no idea that they could be so large or would be so prominent throughout the landscape.

Termine Mounds! © 2014 Kate Vista

Termine Mounds! © 2014 Kate Vista

One of the other highlights were the spectacular Tomer Falls which cascades over two high escarpments into a distant, deep plunge pool.

Tomer Falls © 2014 Kate Vista

Tomer Falls © 2014 Kate Vista

If you are anything like me though, you will be happy with your map and simply hike for hours, find a beautiful vantage point for lunch and continue hiking into the afternoon. This pattern continued for days but it is possible to venture out simply for a day trip to the park.

Although Litchfield was beautiful, Kakadu was by far my favourite place in the Northern Territory.  A national park that is larger than Switzerland, you could spend weeks there and not cover all the ground you wanted to. For this reason my top two pieces of advice would be pick some trails that will take you to look at the plethora of details Indigenous Art depicted on cave and rock walls and make your way to Ubirr for sunset.

Rock painting was used to illustrate a part of a story. It may have been a creation story, a hunting experience or some other facet of daily life.  Some rock art stories are not for everyone to know, some is sacred and not for everyone to see.

Dancing © 2014 Kate Vista

Dancing © 2014 Kate Vista

Lightening Man © 2014 Kate Vista

Lightening Man © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s inspiring to think that these images have battled the elements, colonization and discrimination for hundreds of years and yet their colours and yet their colours and messages have remained vivid and are finally being recognised with the significance they deserve.

The beauty of Ubirr made me want to cry.  I don’t feel I have the words to sufficiently express how powerful a landscape can be so I will leave you with these images to speak for themselves.

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

No trip to the Northern Territory would be complete without visiting Australia’s beating heart, Uluru a fantastic monolith depicted in images worldwide. It is possible to drive to Alice Springs from Darwin but in this instance I flew.  Much like Darwin, Alice Springs is a cultural center, steeped in history but often used as a base for tourists to get to Uluru, Kings Canyon or Kata Tjuta.

Despite being in the same state, the landscape of Alice Springs was different again. The soil really was a brilliant burned orange and in contrast to Darwin, which sees heavy rains, the dryness of Alice was on a whole new level.

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Brunt Orange Soil © 2014 Kate Vista

Brunt Orange Soil © 2014 Kate Vista

The drive out to Uluru is well worth doing.  For one, the chance to drive at speeds above 110 kilometers an hour is a new experience in itself and it also is a spectacular way to see the sheer vastness and might of the Australian desert. Surprisingly the highway also seemed to be where white goods came to die with no fewer then five abandoned washing machines along the route.

Eventually, after passing though tiny towns such as Stuart’s Well and Mt Ebenezer the impressive formation that is Uluru could be seen in the distance.

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Up close though, it is even more awe inspiring.

 

Uluru Up Close © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Up Close © 2014 Kate Vista

While staying in the heart of the country, do try to take advantage of the sounds of silence fine dining experience.  While I didn’t really want to pay exorbitant prices for accommodation I was willing to indulge a little to experience fine dining under a canopy of stars http://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/sounds-of-silence/ and what an experience it was.

Champagne and canapés on arrival at sunset, as magic silhouettes danced and empahsised Uluru.

Fine Dining In the Desert! © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining In the Desert! © 2014 Kate Vista

Silhouettes Dance © 2014 Kate Vista

Silhouettes Dance © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining @ Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining @ Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Magic Sky © 2014 Kate Vista

Magic Sky © 2014 Kate Vista

Traditional custodians then blessed the land and shared stories before we were served mouthwatering food. The evening progressed with star gazing and music. It was one of those nights you will remember for the rest of your life.

One of the great features of the region is that Kata Tjuta is so close to Uluru and it is truly just as spectacular.

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

 

And with that, my journey came to an end.  Another region is now crossed off my list and my national pride continues to grow. I can see why Dorothea Mackellar loved a sunburnt country so my advice would be to all those interested is to go out and see this land of sweeping plains.

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Mexico

When I finally landed in Mexico City at eleven pm, some nine hours after my scheduled arrival, my stomach was in knots. Mexico City was one of those places I had heard all kids of stories about. Glorified drug lords, horrendous corruption, unsuspecting tourists and kidnappings all too common. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, I had no way of contacting the company arranging the driver to inform them I was horribly delayed. I had a piece of paper with the name of my accommodation on it and all the good intentions in the world.  I just had to hope that someone showed up to meet me.

 

Mexico - © 2014 Kate Vista

Mexico – © 2014 Kate Vista

Sure enough, they did. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see my name written on cardboard.  I wanted to hug the driver when I saw him standing there. However, my joy was short lived because as I followed him obediently through the airport I soon realised I was entering a car park devoid of other vehicles (unusual for a city of nearly nine million people). My heard sank as I saw a single white van with heavily tinted windows.  I seriously considered running. Every conversation I had ever had with my parents abut hopping into vehicles with strangers as a child played through my head but I also realised my plan B (hopping in a taxi, alone as a female tourist, who didn’t speak the language) was seriously cautioned by nearly all travel websites.

I said a prayer (ironic for someone who isn’t particularly religious) and hopped in. At that point, I remember two hands around my mouth and…No, just kidding.  The drive was fine. It was long, and I was scared in parts as we drove through the dark alongside flaming trash cans and some favelas four around 45minutes but I arrives safely at my accommodation before having a stern talking to myself about the dangers of believing stereotypes.

From Mexico City I made my way to Puebla to see the Capilla del Rosario, a beautiful baroque chapel I had heard about from my cousins and was eager to see first hand.  The chapel really is a perfect example of why one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The façade gives no clue as to the opulence within. Ornate sculptures, gold leaf and paintings cover every centimeter.

 

Ornate Ceiling © 2014 Kate Vista

Ornate Ceiling © 2014 Kate Vista

Gold Leaf © 2014 Kate Vista

Gold Leaf © 2014 Kate Vista

 

As beautiful as it was, it wasn’t to be my most memorable experience of worship in Mexico.  Some 8 days later, en route to Playa del Carmen, I stumbled upon the village of San Juan Chamula, in the mountains of Chiapas. It was here that I had a truly memorable day.

San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

San Juan Chamula is one of the only remaining Mayan villages full of traditional customs, rituals and a constant military force. Initially Chamula, appeared to be just like any other mountain village, people selling goods, children playing in the streets and dogs roaming aimlessly. If you did not enter the church, you would leave non- the wiser. It is illegal to take photographs in the church (if caught tourists can go straight to jail) which is why non appear but you will have to take my word for what occurred inside.

Church in San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

Church in San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

Unlike Capilla del Rosario, the church in San Juan Chamula has no pews, there is no alter and there are no ornate statues. Instead, the walls are lined with glass cases, each housing a saint representing Mayan gods. The ground is alight with a thousand flames as rows and rows of candles burn.  Praying with candles doesn’t seem particularly unusual but what is more surprising is that worshippers often bring bottles of pure spirits (often mixed with Coke) and proceed to drink to the point of intoxication. I’m told that people, albeit irresponsible, are often more honest when they are drunk and thus praying when drunk ensures the saints are only privy to honest prayer. As I hold my breath, it is pointed out to me that each of the saints, to whom the individuals pray, has a mirror around their neck. My new friend/village guide informs me that this idea goes hand in hand with being intoxicated. It is said that we can often lie to others but when we are unable to lie to ourselves and thus when individuals see their reflection in the mirrors of the saints must only speak the truth.

I must admit I left the church before any chickens were slaughtered (on many occasions chickens will have their necks broken as an offering to the saints).  They will then later be removed and eaten by the family who made the sacrifice.  Instead, I wandered around the village with a newfound respect and appreciation for those who lived there.

San Juan Chamula Locals - © 2014 Kate Vista

San Juan Chamula Locals – © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Colours in San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Colours in San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My visit to San Juan Chamula only enhanced my time in Merida (Yucatan province) where I was desperate to see the famous Chichen Itza and explore Mayan ruins. So much has been written about Chichen Itza and one can only marvel at the architecture and the impressive engineering of the indigenous civilisation, thousands of years ago.

Chicen Itza - © 2014 Kate Vista

Chicen Itza – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

It really does take your breath away. What is equally impressive though are the Dzibluchatun and Champeche runis.  These impressive pyramids stand amongst thick scrubs and “mountains” which I later learned were actually pyramids that due to “lack of funding” had not yet been explored.  One literally did not know what treasures lay within.

What Lies Beneath? © 2014 Kate Vista

What Lies Beneath? © 2014 Kate Vista

IMG_3721

What Lies Beneath – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being in Yucatan, I felt I really should visit Cenote Ik Kil, natural swimming holes formed thousands of years ago.  To be honest, they were well worth a look and the water is incredibly refreshing but they were a little two crowded for my liking and so I didn’t stick around too long.

Cenote Ik Kil © 2014 Kate Vista

Cenote Ik Kil © 2014 Kate Vista

Having explored the cultural side of Mexico for weeks now, I decided to end my trip with some quality beach time. Again, in an effort to avoid the crowds, I made my way to Playa del Carmen (the lesser occupied cousin to Cancun). I hate myself a little bit for saying this, but I can see why tourists flock to this region.  For one thing, look at the water.

Azure Blue Water! © 2014 Kate Vista

Azure Blue Water! © 2014 Kate Vista

For another, look at the sand.

IMG_3040

Beautiful White Sand © 2014 Kate Vista

 

I don’t think I’ve ever lived up to so many tourist cliché’s in three days but if there was a sail boat, I was on it, if there was a sun bed under an umbrella, I lay on it, if there was a cocktail to be consumed at sunset I ensured I partook in the drinking of it.

Sailboats © 2014 Kate Vista

Sailboats © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun beds © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun beds © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Mexico was coming to a close and I would thoroughly recommend spending time there to anyone who was keen.  I will state that you do need to exercise caution, as my trip was not incident free. I was held up at gun-point (as a means of encouragement to acquire some fresh bananas) and there was more than one incident of paying an individual more than perhaps I needed to in order to travel from A-B.  I would also suggest that speaking Spanish would be a distinct advantage.  In terms of running away though to a place with adventure, relaxation, history, culture and colour Mexico meets all of the requirements.

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

The beautiful Opera House

Vivid

It’s that time of year again!!! When the city of Sydney lights up (quite literally) and children young and old come out to play.

 

The Beautiful Opera House - © Kate Vista

The Beautiful Opera House – © Kate Vista

 

Vivid Sydney is a unique annual festival of light, music, and creativity as Sydney’s prominent landmarks are transformed into canvases for incredible light installations http://www.vividsydney.com.

The beautiful Opera House

Sails of Blue © Kate Vista

I could tell you that this year’s Vivid is bigger and better than ever.

 

I could tell you that this is the first time the lighting sails of the Opera House have been done by an all-Aussie crew (check out the Spinifex Group).

The Sails Alight! © Kate Vista

The Sails Alight! © Kate Vista

 

Or I could tell you that there are 17 large-format projectors used to light the Opera House for Vivid Sydney, with the theme being based around “Play”.

You Imagine What You Desire  © Kate Vista

You Imagine What You Desire © Kate Vista

 

Really though, like all art, Vivid is about expression and enjoyment.  So get down to the foreshore or explore the laneways of The Rocks and enjoy what is on offer.

I Heart Vivid © Kate Vista

I Heart Vivid © Kate Vista

 

 

All Rights Reserved © Kate Vista 2014