Skyline Queenstown, Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, New Zealand

When I first visited Queenstown in New Zealand back in 2011, it was peaceful, not very crowded, and very easy to get around. There was no such thing as traffic, I had a thousand parking spots to choose from, it was practically barren! With sparse crowds in the streets and shopping alleys, it was a very relaxed, simple and leisurely visit that I fully enjoyed.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, NZ circa 2011

Fast forward to 2017 and that visit became a distant memory, though not necessarily in a bad way, although there was actual traffic and there were more people in one restaurant than an entire street compared to my last visit. But New Zealand’s tourism has exploded in the past few years and with the influx of tourists also meant needing to add a variety of new activities. Believe me, Queenstown has done that and more; whether you’re looking for a relaxing activity to the most thrilling, this town will have more than enough options to choose from.

We kept it pretty mellow for our first couple of activities. Our first attraction we went to check out was the Skyline Queenstown, which is pretty much a must-do activity within the city. You take a gondola up 450 meters with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape up to the top of Bob’s Peak. Tickets for just the gondola will run you around $27 USD for adults and $15 for children. There are also packages available that will drive down the overall cost.

Riding the gondola with panoramic views!

Once at the top, you are greeted with spectacular views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and all the way out towards the Remarkables mountain range and the surrounding landscapes. There’s also a surprisingly good variety of activities to do, including bungee jumping, paragliding, riding a luge, mountain biking, Kiwi Haka, and hiking. You just have to check the hours for certain activities on the Queenstown Skyline website and make reservations ahead of time. I will admit, watching people paragliding and getting a bird’s-eye view of Queenstown looked really cool.

However, we did not do any of those activities! So fun, right? Actually, we were coming off our wedding planning and wedding day so we were just wanting to relax a bit. Instead, we chose to have lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, which is a really nice place to dine. The restaurant has nice modern touches and very clean and organized. And wherever you are in the restaurant, with its floor-to-ceiling glass enclosure, there’s a view of the entire landscape.

When making the reservation, we noted that it was our honeymoon in hopes of getting a window seat and did they come through! We got seated in the corner of the restaurant, which gave us a high degree of panoramic views. Even if we weren’t eating here, we could enjoy this spot just for these views of Queenstown.

The Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar is a buffet-style dining experience. It cost us about $50 USD each for lunch, which includes the ride of the gondola, so it’s really only $23. It’s more expensive for the dinner, presumably because there’s a wider selection to choose from and probably for the evening ambiance. There’s still a good selection of food for lunch, including a salad bar, Asian-inspired dishes, sushi and seafood, a plethora of dessert options to choose from, and a complimentary beverage.

The food was not bad but could’ve been better. The Asian-inspired foods were clearly to cater towards Asian tourists but they weren’t anything like the traditional cooking of Asian foods and were fairly disappointing. The other options like the pasta, rotisserie, salad bar were far better options. The dessert bar was clearly the best of all and will easily satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths. For the price and the experience, it is still pretty worth it, especially for the views that you can get that’s unlike many other places.

Regardless of what activity you’re looking for, Skyline Queenstown is a good place to start. You can easily spend a good half-day there with the numerous activities that they offer or enjoy a romantic dinner at the restaurants. At the very least, it’s probably the best place in Queenstown to soak in views of the stunning landscape.

Give us a pin if you liked this post and let us know what restaurants had your favorite views: 



Suva Fish Market to First Class Fijian Dinner, Vinaka Grand Pacific Hotel!

During our short stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, we didn’t get to do visit as much as the city as we’d have liked to but we were treated to a memorable evening with a personalized Fijian-style dinner from the hotel.

Check out our review of the Grand Pacific Hotel here! 

It started with one of the few places we did visit, the Suva Fish Market (also known as the Suva Municipal Market). Only 5 minutes driving distance and 15 minutes walking from the Grand Pacific Hotel, the market is the best place to find fresh, locally caught seafood. Though not as large as other famous fish markets around the world, there is a very diverse selection of seafood to choose from, many species we’ve never seen before and some interesting looking ones. Much of the seafood are caught by locals from villages on various parts of the island instead of large-scale fishing operations, making it a more sustainable market.

After browsing through the market, we purchased a bunch of shrimp wrapped in leaves, several crabs, and a sack of fish roe, a pretty significant amount for just the two of us! What we did not get was any lobster because everyone at the market was selling in bunches of 10…but now we totally regret just not getting any!! Even if we didn’t eat all of the food, we could’ve shared with the staff at the hotel. The cost was pretty cheap; for 7 crabs, a bunch of shrimp and fish roe, we paid around $75, a pretty good bargain for the amount of seafood we had.

We took our purchase back to the hotel, where we were met by the tourism operations manager, Sammy, a super friendly guy who we loved to converse with. Our plan was to ask the hotel if they would’ve been willing to cook for us but Sammy took great care of us and called in Chef Avikash Singh to help prepare our food. We asked how much it would cost but they said they would not charge us. Though it probably took up Chef Singh’s free time, he seemed very enthused and attentive to detail on preparing our meal. He asked how we wanted our food prepared, and we said we wanted to taste traditional Fijian-style cooking, so he told us how he would prepare all of the dishes and what ingredients he would use for each dish. Naturally, we got super excited and couldn’t wait to try out his cooking! Over the next couple hours, we patiently waited as Chef Singh said he would need some time to clean and prepare the seafood so we mostly relaxed in the outdoor restaurant chairs munching on appetizers, enjoying some beverages and watching the sun over the horizon.

After some time, the first course came out and consisted of the shrimp. It was cooked in a red sauce with coconut milk and other herbs and spices. Our first bites were met with a mildly spicy and tangy flavor of the sauce, then mixing with the subtle sweetness and softness of the shrimp. It was sooo freakin’ good! The only thing we probably regretted was not buying more since we only had about 8 or 9 shrimp. Luckily for us, there was more to come!

Our second course was the sack of roe, though we’re not sure of what fish species. Unlike roe you might find on sushi that can be individually eaten, this roe was tightly attached together, forming one big clump of roe. Chef Singh told us it was his first time cooking fish roe so he cooked it as if it were a piece of fish. Essentially, he grilled this large piece of roe with herbs and spices and topped it off with lime, onions, cucumbers and other garnishes. Much to my surprise, the roe did not fall apart at all; instead, you do have to cut it with a fork or knife like normal fish. When we took the first bite, we immediately thought that the roe tasted exactly like fresh fish and the texture was not so different either. Adding the lime (which I think makes anything taste good) also complimented the other flavors and created a very flavorful dish. Even though Singh had never prepared a dish like this, the result was masterful and impressive. 

Finally, last but not least, we got to the main course, the crabs. When Chef Singh brought out two large plates of cooked crab, it looked breathtakingly delicious. It was prepared with a red curry-like base with coconut milk, butter and a variety of herbs and spices. He made the dish spicy to give it a nice kick to the dish and added limes for additional flavor. With his last dish complete, Chef Singh was going on his way, but not before taking a photo with him and giving him a substantial tip for all of his time and effort.

Chef Avikash Singh, Grand Pacific Hotel

The first bite of that crab was heavenly; the meat was soft, tender and sweet, while the sauce provided a spicy richness that was full of flavor yet balanced with the dish as a whole. Adding the lime juices gives even tangier and satisfyingly sour flavor. Since we were digging through every part of the crab for the meat, it took us the next hour to savor all of the crabs that we got and it most certainly was worth the effort.

When it was all said and eaten, Mat and I thought it was one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had. We were so thankful to Sammy, Chef Avikash Singh and the Grand Pacific Hotel staff for making this happen and giving us the ultimate Fiji seafood experience, and we hope to be back in Suva one day to do it all over again, maybe with some lobster!

If you think this Fijian-style meal looks tantalizing and mouth-watering, be sure to ask for Sammy at the Grand Pacific Hotel and give our post a pin below:


Scotch Whisky Distillery Tours – Glenfiddich Tour & Tomatin Distillery

If you read our previous post about the Scotch Whisky Experience, you’d get the gist that whisky is an important part of Scottish life. Just how important is whisky to the country? Here are some astonishing figures about the whisky industry, according to the Scotch Whisky Association:

  • Nearly 1.2 BILLION bottles exported worldwide (that’s a lot of freakin’ whisky!!)
  • Brought in £4.3 billion, representing three-quarters of Scotland’s food and drink exports!
  • Third largest industry in Scotland, overwhelmingly larger than tourism or life sciences
  • Supports 40,000 jobs, many in rural areas with few economic opportunities
  • 20 million caskets are maturing in warehouses in Scotland!
Caskets waiting to be filled with Whisky!

So yeah, scotch whisky is a big deal! Where the heck does all of that whisky come from??

Be sure to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh for a comprehensive introduction of everything whisky!

All of the scotch whisky are produced in 115 distilleries categorized in 5 regions of Scotland: Campbeltown, Lowland, Islay, Highland, and Speyside. The location of the distillery within these regions will lend the taste and characteristics of whisky being made based on the resources available; for example, the Islay whisky is known to be smokey with hints of sea air and seaweed taste, while Speyside whisky tends to be more fruity and nutty. It all sounds pretty complex, which is really the beauty and art of this craft in that there are endless possibilities of what can be created.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

If you’ve already done the Scotch Whisky Experience or you’re a whisky enthusiast, then you should consider doing distillery tours at one or as many distilleries as possible throughout the country. Many distilleries will provide a full tour of their facilities, show what their whisky-making process is, and provide a tasting of several of their whiskies (just be sure to check which ones provide a tour). You can also do tours that will take you to multiple distilleries over a span of a couple days, or you can map your own route to hit as many distilleries as possible. We didn’t get to visit as many distilleries as we wanted since many are closed during the winter time or were out of the way with the time we had, but we did get to visit two very distinguished distilleries that are recognized worldwide: Glenfiddich Distillery and Tomatin Distillery.

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich was built in 1887 by William Grant and his 9 children and is currently run by Grant’s descendants, which makes it one of the few independently owned distilleries in Scotland. Glenfiddich, which is Gaelic for Valley of the Deer (hence, a deer on every bottle), is a Speyside distillery located in Dufftown that produces single malt Scotch whisky. Over the years, the distillery has been featured in several pop culture references and accrued numerous awards for its whiskies.

The distillery offers a free 1-hour complimentary tour and runs pretty frequently, so there’s no need to book in advance. We took the Explorer Tour, which at £10 per person, it is the cheapest of the paid tours, but it includes a full tour through the distillery and warehouse and a tasting of four of their whiskies. This tour does take about an hour and a half to complete and only persons age 18+ are allowed (on any of the tours).

Each whisky distillery has their own particular style and taste but goes through the same general whisky-making process: Malting, Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation, and Maturation. The Glenfiddich tour goes through each facility that covers these processes and explains in detail how it works. The Glenfiddich website shows a bit of their process, but a live tour really allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship of their work. You can tell from the tour guide that everyone is very passionate in what they create. My favorite part of the tour is being able to smell the different pleasant aromas along the way. I also loved going through their Warehouse 8 where stacks of barrels of whisky are being stored during the maturation process (photos not allowed unfortunately!).

At the end of the tour, we got four of their whiskies to try: Glenfiddich 12-year, 15-year, 18-year and Glenfiddich Malt Master Edition. Although in appearance they all look similar, each one had unique aromas, taste and characteristics. I don’t quite remember which one had what flavors, but some were more smokey while others had more fruit aromas and taste; what was common among them was they had varying hints of spice.

You are also given the opportunity to bottle your own Glenfiddich 15-year in the shop at a separate cost. It comes with a box and personal labeling, making it a really cool memento to have, and the shop has plenty of whisky-related items to fulfill any enthusiast. All-in-all, Glenfiddich Distillery provides a wonderful experience of what goes into this proud craft.

Tomatin Distillery

Tomatin is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery that was founded in 1897 by the Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd. and is currently owned by the Takara Shuzo Corporation. The distillery is in the Highland region and is 25 minutes southeast of Inverness and has won numerous awards in international competitions.

Tomatin does not offer free tours but its basic tour starts at £8 for about an hour and fifteen minutes and the “Taste of Tomatin Tour” at £20 gives you a tasting to 6 of their whiskies. It’s recommended to book in advance as spots tend to fill up. You can also get a personalized bottle of Tomatin at the distillery as well. For more about the distillery and their tours, you can check out the Tomatin website.

Unfortunately, we did not know about having to book the tour and there were no open spots when we arrived, so we didn’t get to do any of the tours at Tomatin. However, they did let us watch a short film about the distillery and gave us a free tasting of a couple of their whiskies. The staff was very friendly to us and the shop has plenty of whisky items to enjoy, which my brother took advantage of.

Making whisky is a proud tradition of Scotland, so if you want to embrace the Scottish culture and pride, then check out one or many of the distilleries in Scotland and see what goes into this passionate craft. If this is something you would be interested in, give us a pin and let us know what your favorite whisky or beverage tours that you’ve done!



Neist Point Lighthouse & the Oyster Shed, Isle of Skye

When visiting the Isle of Skye in Scotland, you can find something to see or do in just about any direction. If you head west on Skye, you can visit two amazing spots: the stunning coastal landscape at the Neist Point Lighthouse and the Oyster Shed for some fresh seafood.

Also, check out our previous post in Skye hiking to Old Man of Storr. 

Neist Point is the furthest west part of Skye near the town of Glendale, about an hour from the town of Portree. The directions will take you to the end of a single track road where you’ll find some parking, albeit very limited in the number of spaces. Just from the parking lot, you are treated to spectacular views of the cliffs and bays, as well as see plenty of sheep grazing and possibly being herded.

You cannot see the Neist Point Lighthouse from the parking area (although if you walk towards the right along the cliffs, you can see it in the distance). To get close to the lighthouse, you need to follow the path towards the cliffs that extends furthest towards the sea. The path is not particularly dangerous, but there are several steep parts and some steps along the way. I suggest taking your time since it is a really pleasant walk with the sound of the ocean and the beautiful surroundings.

It takes about 20-25 minutes to reach the lighthouse from the parking lot. Once you get to the peak of the path towards the ocean, you will start to see the lighthouse in the distance.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1909 and is still currently operational. Although it didn’t appear that anyone was working within the lighthouse, it is open to the public to view and walk around. You should definitely spend some time around the lighthouse and the surrounding area to admire the landscape. We were fortunate to also have stunning skies to provide such a beautiful backdrop. It’s also one of the best sites to see whales or dolphins in the ocean.

Although we would’ve loved to explore the area more, we did not have too much time on the short winter days and the short trip duration. So we capped our day by driving an hour southeast from Neist Point to one of the best-hidden gems on the Isle of Skye, which is the Oyster Shed in the small village of Carbost.

This small family-operated establishment is tucked on a small road that can be a little tricky to find. Open from 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM every day, the Oyster Shed is appropriately named: it really is just a shed that sells a lot of oysters. Not like it needs to look aesthetic as it makes up for that with its incredibly fresh and delicious seafood at very reasonable prices.

Aside from oysters, you can get anything from crabs, lobster, salmon, scallops, mussels, langoustine, as well as other food products like meats, cheeses, honey and more. My brother and I pretty much ordered everything that was on the seafood menu so we could taste a bit of everything. (It’s also right next to the Talisker Distillery for whisky tours, but they are not open during winter).

For everything that we ordered, we spent around 50-60 pounds, which included a dozen oysters, crab meat and claws, steamed mussels, grilled salmon, scallops, langoustine, and lobster. As we were going through the seafood, my brother and I agreed that it had to be one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had! The oysters, which are farmed, were phenomenally delicious, and everything else was so fresh since they were harvested or bought right from the village harbor. We also sat in the seating area, where we enjoyed the beautiful views of the countryside and also had the company of a few nearby cows. Although it’s busier in the warmer seasons, during winter business can be slow, as we were the only ones there for at least an hour and a half. It was definitely one of our favorite dining experiences and we hope to be back there someday.

So, if you’re visiting the Isle of Skye in Scotland, be sure to visit the Neist Point Lighthouse and the Oyster Shed! Pin our post if you think you’d want to visit these spots and let us know of any other hidden gems or favorite spots around Scotland.


Oh, For the Love of Whisky! Taste the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

One of the first things I learned upon arriving in Scotland is the people love their whisky. Well, even that might be an understatement. I mean, they really, really looooove their whisky! Think I’m overstating it? Then head over to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh for a comprehensive introduction of Scottish Whisky. You’ll find that crafting the finest whisky is an art form, a proud tradition, and a big part of the country’s identity. (Also, in Scotland, they spell it “whisky” and it’s a big deal to distinguish this from the “whiskey” spelling used elsewhere.)

Whisky not your thing? Be sure to check out where you can catch the best views of Edinburgh instead!

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Scotch Whisky Experience is located towards the end of the “Royal Mile” in Old Town, Edinburgh, just before reaching the Edinburgh Castle. There are several tour packages available, starting from the basic Silver Tour and upwards to Gold, Platinum tours and the Taste of Scotland experience for Scottish Cuisine. My brother and I opted for the Silver Tour at £15.00 per adult, which included an interactive ride about how whisky is made, a presentation of different whisky, a taste test for a single whisky, and a visit to the world’s largest Scottish whisky collection.

The tour starts with starts with the 10-15 minute barrel ride (yes, you are riding in a barrel casket) that shows and explains the basic process of whisky production. At the end of it, you are whisked (not really that quickly, but just wanted to use the word) into a room with other tourists for a presentation of the different elements and types of whisky in the country. At the end of the presentation, you get to taste a whisky of your choosing, while the other tour packages will offer at least 4 single malt Scotch whiskies.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

When the taste test concludes, you are then taken to view the most impressive part of the tour, The World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky, and it is glorious! I’m not a whisky enthusiast but even I could appreciate the splendor of this beautiful display.

This collection was actually started by Claive Vidiz, a whisky connoisseur from Brazil, in the 1970s and took him 35 years to amass his collection before landing in its new home in Edinburgh in 2009. The bottles are now housed and perfectly lined up in a display room with another part of the collection in the bar area. In all, there are 3,384 bottles of whisky. Though I haven’t seen many whisky collections, I will venture to guess that it is the greatest display of whisky in the world. Some bottles are even over 100 years old! I’m sure many grown men and women have shed a tear and basked in its glory.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, ScotlandScotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

The tour ends once you finish going through the collection but you can hang around the bar area to sample more whisky, which is exactly what we decided to do. Behind the bar is a pretty impressive selection of whiskies to try from and we asked the bartender to create us a sampler of his choosing. He was really knowledgeable in explaining each of the brands he poured us what I’d expect to taste and aromas I should detect, which is far more than I learned than any other time drinking whisky.

After enjoying our sampler, we finished up our visit by checking out the store. You’ll find a large selection of just about any whisky to purchase and just ask any of the sales associates for help on the brand recommendations to curb towards your tastes. If anything, you can at least see what incredibly expensive whisky looks like! On display (and for purchase) are several bottles of whisky with VERY high price tags, including a 1966 Dalmore for £18,500 and a 50-year Balvenie being sold for an astounding £27,500!!

WHAAAAT??? 27,500 POUNDS???

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland So if you want to taste a bit of the heart of Scotland, try out a whisky tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience. You can find more information on their website:

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Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland