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Today is a milestone for me……..my 100th blog post!


I must admit that when I started my blog, I was not looking ahead and had not even considered reaching this day.

In my previous life as a travel agent, I was often asked where I had been, what were the main sights to see, and more importantly, where did I have a fabulous meal. I thought a blog would be a perfect way of sharing this information.

Little did I know, I would meet you, and other fabulous people who, through commenting on the blogs or emailing me, I would get to know and share stories and lives with.

You have kept me going! Thankyou

As a little treat to myself, I am moving house!

A Taste of Travel now has it’s own web address.

I do have one big favour to ask of you. Those of you who are reading my blog either by email or RSS feed, could you please hit the subscibe button again on the new site.

Thankyou for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you at the new address.



On one of the last undeveloped beachside blocks on Lembongan, is this old Bali Lumbung.
Based on the design of old rice barns, the llang a llang roof is made of thatching from special grasses. Unfortunately they are slowly disappearing from the island.

Chocolate Heaven

Since opening their retail venture in April, Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio in Melbourne have been tempting customers with their fabulous cakes and chocolates. Their little pink and white shop in South Yarra is chocolate heaven. After entering, we are immediately offered a taste of their yummy fudge. This could take a while!

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

The interior is simply laid out with a display cabinet on one side showcasing the beautiful cakes and their packaged products lining the shelves on the other side.

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Inside the shop

At the back of the shop, Darren Purchese is busy in the kitchen. Before arriving in Australia, Darren was heady pastry chef in some of London’s most prestigious kitchens. In 2005 he made the move to Melbourne, joining Shannon Bennett at Vue du Monde where he helped the restaurant achieve their 3 star status. Together with partner Ian Burch, they now concentrate on their Sweet Studio.

Darren Purchese of Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Darren Purchese

The display of cakes, both large and small, is mouthwatering. Combinations such as raspberry, white chocolate, honey and lychee cake together with smoked white chocolate, coffee, aniseed and lemon and a new wild strawberry, peach and white chocolate cake grace the cabinet

Cakes at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Cakes on display

Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate cake on the left with a passion fruit, ginger, mint and coconut cake in the centre and the smoked white chocolate, coffee, aniseed and lemon cake on the right.

Cakes at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Mango, Chocolate and Ginger Cake at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

A favourite!

Chocolate Cakes at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Cherry chocolate and cocoa nib cakes on the left with Chocolate, mandarin and salted caramel cakes

Merinues  at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Passion fruit and raspberry meringues

Burch & Purchese chocolate bars have names such as Persian Delight, A Taste of Paradise, Mandarin Dark Chocolate, Spiced Toasted Almond Milk and Mint White Chocolate. How can you say no!

Inspired to use their products, I choose a jar of salted caramel and another that is a combination of layered chocolate hazelnut spread and half salted caramel. Jams also receive the Burch & Purchese touch. Raspberry and hibiscus jam, strawberry and rose petal jam are only two but it is the chocolate, strawberry and balsamic vinegar jam that I want to try.

There’s also some great crumbles to choose from that can be sprinkled over cakes or whipped in with meringues but I succumb to the raspberry and white chocolate edible clay mixture which I’m told raises a simple icecream to another level. By the way- they also make delicious fruit icecream and the best looking ice creams on a stick that I have seen!

Packaged goodies Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Packaged goodies

Chocolates at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Chocolate Bars and Chocolate, Caramel and Hazelnut Spread

In the centre of the store, birthday cake suggestions are on display in front of the ‘inspiration wall’ which is full of jars of different ingredients. ‘Pig out on your Birthday’ is perfectly named!

Birthday cakes at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Birthday cakes

Chocolate flower garden at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Chocolate flower garden

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Perfect for the top of a little girls birthday cake

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Sold by the box!

A decision is required for tonight’s sweet treat!
The winner’s are:

Smoked white chocolate, coffee, aniseed and lemon cake at Burch & Purchese

Delicious smoked white chocolate, coffee, aniseed and lemon cake

The richly titled ‘Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate cake’ is amazing. Layers of caramelised white chocolate cream, crunchy chocolate meringue, chocolate butter cream, drunken chocolate sponge and milk chocolate cream make up this slice of chocolate heaven.

Triple Chocolate cake at Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, Melbourne

Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate cake!

It’s hard to leave but I’ll be back for their Xmas treats!

Which cake would you like to try?

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio
647 Chapel St
South Yarra
Tel: 03 9827 7060
Open: Tues – Sat, 10am- 6.30pm
Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio

As a child, I remember our family’s Sunday drives. Often we would head to the hills for a picnic, stopping in a national park or another well known picnic spot or to a friend’s farm not far from the city. Even though we would only be an hour’s drive from the city, the trip always felt as though it was taking forever and I’m sure my parents quickly tired of that iconic child’s question “Are we there yet?”

I was remembering these trips last Sunday, when again I decided to head for the hills to see Paul Bangay’s garden in the Macedon Ranges. The drive took me through some beautiful Australian countryside which I thought you may like to see.

As I left Paul Bangay’s property, Stonefields, I passed this typical Aussie open shed sheltering under the trees.

The Aussie Countryside

Further on, at the intersection of the main road, stood a row of letterboxes made out of whatever could be found. This is a sight that is repeated through out the countryside to save the postie visiting every farm.

Postboxes line the road in the Aussie Countryside

A bit further on I drove through a heavily wooded area of bush. Stopping on the side of the road to take these photos, I noticed that the gum trees on one side the road were recovering after a recent bush fire whilst those on the other side were left unscathed. More than likely it was the result of a controlled burn in the area.

Gum trees in the Aussie Countryside

Gum trees in the Aussie Countryside

This road sign says it all – watchout for koalas. Wouldn’t it be great to see one!


The small, one laned Manning Bridge, seemed to be hiding an overgrown creek, so I decided to investigate.

The creek at Manning Bridge

Overgrown bush in the Aussie Countryside

Closer to the city, the view changed and I found myself looking out over gently undulating hills.



In no time, I was back in the city, planning my next escape to the countryside!

Where do you like to go to escape the city?


Last year we fell in love with Tanzania. From Chada Katavi in the south to the plains of the Grumeti Reserve in the north, Tanzania holds so many special memories.
In the Ngorongoro Crater we were surprised by the way the wildebeest followed each other in single file across the crater floor.

It’s not often that leading Australian garden designer Paul Bangay opens his property ‘Stonefields’ to the public so when I read that it would be open last weekend, the date was immediately marked in the diary. This year’s event was to support the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, an exciting project that Stephanie initiated in schools to encourage children to learn to grow, harvest, prepare and share seasonal produce.

Stonefields is in the Macedon Ranges about a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne and not far from Daylesford. It’s a beautiful drive through open country, forests and small towns.

Walking to the entrance, the horses that I pass remind me that this is rural property.

Horses at Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

From the entrance gate, you are encouraged to follow the path to the front of the house so you can enjoy the symmetry of design that Bangay is famous for.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Straight away your eyes are taken to a circle in the hedge that frames the top story of the house. In the corner stands a collection of Bangay’s signature stone orbs and box balls.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Walking around this hedge, the next area features a water channel running down the the centre which is punctuated every so often with coiled snakes that form the water features.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Garden rooms branch off this central pathway. To the right is the walled garden, featuring a headless statue in the centre with blue obelisks standing tall in each quarter. Espaliered trees run along the wall, whilst Red Pierre roses clamber up the obelisks and beautiful pink and purple flowers intermingle with white Queen Anne’s lace. The last of the plum ‘Queen of the Night’ iris stand tall.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

To the other side is the white garden, a beautiful tranquil area with a central lily pond.
Espaliered Hornbeam covers the walls – an experiment, I am told by Tim Fawcett, the head gardener, as it is a very slow growing plant.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields


Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

The gate from here takes you to the designer bee hives that I spotted on the way in.

Beehives at Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

I don’t want to miss a corner, so I head back to the path to see what the next surprises is.
Standing at the top of the stairs, the view over the parterre garden is stunning. It takes a few minutes to absorb this work of art.

The garden is on two levels. A few steps down, there is a path meandering across the top of this area. At both ends, thatched rotundas stand, drawing your eye along the stone path that winds through different sized balled box hedges. All are perfectly clipped – there is not a leaf out of place!

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

In front of this is a large, beautifully manicured parterre garden of square and round hedges dotted with cyprus trees

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

I continue walking around the side of the house and find myself in the woodlands, a grassed area enclosed by garden and overlooked by magestic gum trees. A perfect setting for a cocktail party!

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

From here, another snaking path leads us through trees and hedges and finally reveals the stunning view at the front of the house.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

On the other side, a table has been perfectly placed to enjoy the views. Cleverly, two plane trees have been planted in the middle of the table which will one day form an umbrella for this stunning outside eating area.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Looking back to the house, you can imagine sitting inside the house enjoying the view. The pool runs the length of the grassed area with gardens on either side. One of the gardens has used fabulous grasses and bronzed fennel. Horizontal catoneaster spills over the ledges.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

The kitchen is at the far end of the house and popping around the corner I spot the potager or kitchen garden, though I am surprised by the bell tower in the centre. It is fabulous and creates it’s own story.

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

All that is left to see is the vegetable garden and this too has been given the designer treatment. Beautiful woven wood fences surround the vegetables with a slatted arch marking the entrance. The cabbages were the biggest I had ever seen and the raspberries had lots of fruit on them – it was obviously going to be a bumper crop. Stephanie Alexander would be proud!

Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

Vegetable Garden at Paul Bangay's Garden, Stonefields

It was hard leaving such an amazing property. In fact many people had made themselves very comfortable sitting in different areas and enjoying the views each garden held.

It’s easy to see why Paul Bangay’s reputation reaches to all corners of the world.
The beauty, the balance, the simplicity and the classic all work in harmony with the Australian landscape. You may have to wait another two years for the garden to be open again but it will be worth the wait.