Hotel Review – Suva

My next stop after Beachouse was Fiji’s capital, Suva. I caught a shuttle service all the way there which dropped me off right in front of my hotel. I was staying at Novotel Suva Lami Bay. I’ve stayed at a Novotel before and was familiar with the company/brand. The price was reasonable and it looked really nice online. The lobby area was gorgeous and all of the staff was extremely accommodating and nice. The rooms were a little run down, but comfortable enough to sleep and relax. My room also had a private balcony.

There was a small gym onsite and a pool overlooking a lake. The anticipation of COVID-19 was spreading and it wasn’t advised to actually use the pool. When I was there it seemed as if there were only a few other guests and I’m not sure if that was typical or because of COVID (note at that point there hadn’t been any reported cases in the country, but many travelers had begun to head home).

The restaurant at the hotel overlooked the water and the food was surprisingly really good.

I spent most of my time in Suva at the hotel, but did venture out one day. I wasn’t very impressed with Suva and I personally think it should be skipped during your Fiji vacation. If you are planning on traveling onward to an island off the east coast you can usually time your arrival to Suva and going onward the same day. That’s what I would recommend and only stopping in Suva if absolutely necessary. Another note, the country is fairly religious and many stores are closed on Sundays.

Beachouse/Coral Coast – Fiji

Most travelers start and end their Fiji trips in Nadi/Yasawas, but because I had the time I decided to extend my trip and venture out beyond the typical tourist stops. Someone I met whist island hoping had said her next stop was Beachouse in the Coral Coast. She was going because her cousin had gone and loved it when she was in Fiji. Word of mouth recommendations from fellow travelers is my favorite way to travel. I looked up the property and it looked nice so I decided to go there after my lux few night stay in Nadi

It was hard to leave the Radisson, but after one night extension I decided to force myself out. The only way to the Coral Coast is by driving or bus. So from my hotel I took the bus to the main bus terminal for $1 FJ (CRAZY) and then hopped on the big bus, which was $10 FJ. It’s about a two-hour drive to where I was getting off, but the bus continues on to Suva. 

Beachouse is set on a beautiful, lush green property and it was like walking into a private retreat. The main area looks over the ocean, pool, and there are lots of lounging options. Rooms are a little bit of a walk inland and away from the ocean, but it’s no more than two minutes to all the action. I booked three nights here before I would head onward to Suva. 

There were plenty of activities on offer including yoga, kayaking, hike to a waterfall, snorkeling, massages, day trips to nearby islands, and more. Scuba diving was also available here. There were plenty of options or you could just lounge and swim – that was what I mostly did. Something to note the high and low tides here were insane; I’ve never seen the water recede so far back. If your first impression made during low tide you probably wouldn’t be impressed, but the landscape does a full 180 when the tide comes back in.  

A simple breakfast was included (fruit, toast, muesli, and coffee/tea), but you could buy a hot breakfast. Then for lunch and dinner there were separate menus that changed daily. For travel pricing, I found everything reasonable, but it may have been on the higher end for Fiji pricing. There was also an afternoon tea at 3pm included. In addition to the drinks there was also something to nibble on as well (pancakes and warm rolls were on offer two of the days). All the food I had was pretty tasty.

One of the highlights to me was the little shop up the road; it was maybe a minute walk from the rooms. They had all local artisan goods (clothes, jewelry, swim wear, etc.), but it also served as a coffee shop. They also had some sweets and I’ll admit I had cheesecake there more than I should have, but it was soooo good! I liked coming here in the afternoons and reading on the porch or chatting with the workers who were all super sweet. 

It rained every day during my stay, but it was usually at night and didn’t interfere with the day’s activities. It did however bring out a lot of bugs, which were relentless. That was probably the biggest downfall of my stay. I was being bitten up like crazy and no repellent was working. I didn’t have this much of an issue anywhere else in Fiji. Another “con” was that you’re kind of sucked in to this place. You feel like you don’t really need to leave because it’s so chill. Obviously, this isn’t a con for the property, but if you want to see more of Fiji you need to move on from here. I probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for being bitten like crazy. 

Book Review 17: Toys

The bookshelf at Beachouse had moths fly out…literally. When you moved a book you also moved the moths and the book selection was equally sparse. My only option was Toys by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. I never thought I would find myself reading a James Patterson novel, but here I was. Even more surprising though I really enjoyed it. It was an easy, swift read with an interesting story. The novel fast-forwards to the future in 2046. There’s flying cars, clones, and lots of other toys. There’s action in a James Bond type of hero. The book was a page turner in a slightly predictable yet addictive way. 

I would categorize this as a good, but not a must read to run out to pick up. I enjoyed the read , but wouldn’t have bought at a bookstore. If you stumble upon it give it a go. Since I enjoyed this one I would definitely read another James Patterson book if i come across it.

Goodreads’ Review

“Hays Baker and his wife Lizbeth possess super-human strength, extraordinary intelligence, stunning looks, a sex life to die for, and two beautiful children. Of course, they do–they’re Elites, endowed at birth with the very best that the world can offer. The only problem in their perfect world: humans and their toys!

The one with the most toys–dies

The top operative for the Agency of Change, Hays has just won the fiercest battle of his career. He has been praised by the President, and is a national hero. But before he can savor his triumph, he receives an unbelievable shock that overturns everything he thought was true. Suddenly Hays is on the other side of the gun, forced to leave his perfect family and fight for his life.

Now a hunted fugitive, Hays is thrown into a life he never dreamed possible–fighting to save humans everywhere from extinction. He enlists all of his training to uncover the truth that will save millions of lives–maybe even his own.”

Book Review 16: The Brighton Mermaid

I picked The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson up at the Radisson in Fiji along with Big Little Lies, but don’t worry I left two in their place. I was drawn to this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mermaid is in the title so that grabbed my attention immediately. Second, one of the main events occurred my birth year, 1993. Thirdly, it’s based in Brighton and I’ve had a keen interest in reading books taking place in the UK recently. Lastly, the main character was a woman of color and lets be honest most books’ main character is a white woman with blue/green eyes (hair colors range, but there’s always a unique eye color unless we aren’t meant to particularly like them then they have dark eyes) – this is of course just my opinion and I haven’t put much thought into it. 

This book would also be classified as a mystery and bit of a thriller and I really enjoyed it. Did a really good job with the twists and turns and I really didn’t have much pegged once the story was unraveled. I loved that I didn’t have everything figured out so of course I’m not giving any spoilers. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

**WINNER OF THE PRECIOUS LIFESTYLE MUST READ OF THE YEAR AWARD 2018**

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…”

Book Review 14: Talk of the Town

I’ve never been good with moderation. So when I finished my “Fiji book” on the plane ride over from Melbourne that should have been a warning sign. Now less than two weeks into being in Fiji I’ve read four books. I’ve had activity filled days and I have been socializing constantly so I’m not sure where I’m getting the time to read so much. I have come to the conclusion that whenever I do have a house of my own I’ll have a hammock in the backyard under a tree but with plenty of sunshine as that’s become my favorite way to read. 

In the reception of Blue Lagoon resort they had shelves of books. Only a handful were in English and none really drew my attention, which was okay because I was in the middle of Burning Glass. The friend that I was traveling with pulled one out and joked that I would like the book because of the cover. She was right the guy on the cover is my type, but reading the back synopsis it sounded like a Lifetime/Hallmark movie plot, and I rolled my eyes and put it back. 

The next night at dinner making small talk with the table one of the girls was a raving about a book she couldn’t put down. The plot sounded familiar and low and behold it was the same book I had put back on the shelf, Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns. I told her if she liked it so much I would like to read it when she was done. That night the book was on my bed when I came in to go to bed. 

So that was how I got the book in my possession now for the actual review. Truth be told my original suspicions were valid and it was totally a Hallmark/Lifetime love story just based in a small town in Australia rather than America. However, that didn’t make it a bad thing. The story was well written and the characters nicely developed. I’m a pretty good guesser so I had the plot pegged early on, but I enjoyed reading the details unravel. All the main characters were likable and a welcome changed from the last few books I’ve read. 

I would say this is a perfect summer beach or holiday read. It’s the tenth book for Rachel Johns and if I were to stumble upon another I would gladly pick it up. Now I’m trying to moderate my reading, but I’m already itching to pick up the next book already…

Goodreads Synopsis

“Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife. 

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too. 

Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.

But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?”

Mantaray Island – Fiji

The next island stop is Mantaray Island Resort. The resort is located on Nanuya Baklava Island in the Naviti group of the Yasawa Islands, but it’s nicknamed Manatay Island because of the abundance of sea creatures during the appropriate season (May-October). I unfortunately didn’t see any mantarays, but that’s all good because everything about the stay was perfect. 

Every resort has a specific look. At Wayalaili the workers wore traditional, colorful clothes; Blue Lagoon had specific uniforms and they were all blue (naturally); at Mantaray the color of most of the staff shirts were red and black for the activity/dive staff. The red was such a good choice. It’s vibrant and therefore stands out next to the greenery of the island and the blue of the ocean. Right off the bat there’s a high air of professionalism. We are greeted with a singing Fijian welcome when coming ashore and then ushered into a beautiful outdoor bar/lounging area. 

Tree House Bure

We were staying here for two nights and booked the tree house bure. The first night was my birthday and opted for the luxury of not being in a dorm on my birthday. However, the dorms at Mantaray really aren’t that bad. There are a lot of people in the room, but it’s designed that you only see three other beds from where you sleep. The room was also air-conditioned so very cool 24/7. However, for the two nights we didn’t have to deal with sleeping in a dorm. Woo! The room was pretty small with just enough room to walk around between the bed, side tables, and our luggage. It’s not a space you are meant to spend much time in because there’s so much to do on the island. 

The rooms don’t have an ensuite bathroom and have a bathroom area. There’s three showers on the ground area, but to access the toilets they are up a set of stairs. This is because they are compostable toilets a.k.a. not flushing toilets. Pretty unique, but they are constantly cleaned so you barely notice. I actually liked them oddly enough.

Food

Now lets talk about the best part of Mantaray. Again there was a compulsory meal plan of  $ FJ /person per day. Notice this is only a bit more expensive than the others and it was so much better. The breakfast buffet had an array of cold options (cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.) to hot options (like pancakes, beans, fried rice?, and more), and then an eggs station. For lunch you had your choice off of a menu of about 10ish options. Then dinner was the highlight – first course was a soup with bread, choice of starter, choice of main, and dessert. It was a generous amount of food throughout the day. Sure you had to walk up a lot of stairs to get there so you were working for it. 

Entertainment 

The activities staff was fantastic. They seriously created the energy of the resort and genuinely seemed happy to be there. In general people in Fiji are nice and helpful, but they turned it up a notch. I think it speaks volumes to the management at the resort. On my birthday we got so lucky with a traditional Fijian Dance performance after dinner. I can truly say this was possibly one of my favorite nights in Fiji. So many staff members threw themselves fully into the performance and it was fantastic. The second night was raining and the pulled through again with some games to pass the evening. There is quite literally something to do all day at Mantaray – village visits almost daily, snorkeling ($25 FJ for your entire stay whether it’s a stay or a week), jewelry making, crown making with leaves, fishing, etc. 

Then most notably they have incredible diving. The location of the island gives them access to so many dive sites a few minute boat ride away. They are also incredibly professional in the dive shop. I had come to Mantaray knowing I wanted to do one of the dives, but after speaking with them I signed up for three. Not that they sold me hard on it at all – the opposite really – they were just chill, knowledgeable, and passionate. So I signed up for the 3 dives for $350 FJ. 

Spa

I decided to get a massage on my birthday. It was one of those last minute, but why not decisions. So I signed up for a 90-minute massage for $108 FJ. Honestly, the best less than $50 USD I have ever spent (okay maybe being a tad dramatic, but the best in a long long time). I can’t remember a massage that was this good. I also opted for the 90 minute so it was optimal relaxation and it was perfect. One of my new friends from San Francisco had one a day after me and he was also raving. I tried squeezing in another one, but didn’t have enough time between the dives, meal times, and ferry ride.

I truly loved Mantaray. I would come back here easily if given the choice. It’s really close between Mantaray and Blue Lagoon, but I think Mantaray has a slight edge and it’s a bit closer to the mainland. 

Book Review 12: Burning Glass

For my next read I was at the mercy of the book exchange at Wayalailai. There really were only three or so books in English (the others were in German or Hebrew). Burning Glassby Kathryn Purdie was one of the options and I went with it because the cover had seen better days so I thought this meant it was read many times.

The book has a bit of a fantasy feel as it takes place in a made up kingdom and the main character has a special ability. There’s of course some romance and a blossoming love triangle between royal brothers. 

The book was well written, but it just really wasn’t my cup of tea. I think it’s meant to be for the younger crowd. However, I’m not one to not finish a book and so I muddled through trying to wrap up the story. With about 15 pages left I turned to the back and saw that this book has a sequel and is part of a new trilogy…ugh! I’ll finish a book when it’s hand, but I don’t feel the need to finish the trilogy. 

This book is definitely for younger readers so I wouldn’t recommend it to one of my friends or for a book club. 

Goodread’s Synopsis

“Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.”

Blue Lagoon – Fiji

Blue Lagoon is one of the furthest sections of the Yasawas. Blue Lagoon Resort is located on Nacula Island. This is about 4.5 hour via ferry from Nadi. I can honestly say the journey is WORTH it. Staying at Blue Lagoon was comparable to other resorts and quality/value is so much higher. There’s again a compulsory meal plan of $119 FJ per person per day. We stayed in an eight person dorm for $44 FJ per night. 

The dorm was super chilled and felt like a relief going in each time. All of the beds were singles (no bunk beds) and the layout was good. We ended up with all girls in the room and it really felt like summer camp for the two nights. 

The food here was top notch. For breakfast there was a continental buffet and a hot choice from the menu (eggs varieties, pancakes, etc.). For lunch you were able to choose from about eight options with something for everyone. The standard dinner was three-course (choice of starter, choice of main, and choice of dessert). One of our dinners was a BBQ buffet so there were even more options available. The food and the options here were very good and definitely up to a resort standard. 

One of the biggest perks of Blue Lagoon was all the little extras. You could rent standup paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, etc. for free. They also offered yoga twice a day and a guided morning hike. You really didn’t have to spend extra on anything if you didn’t want to. 

Of course there were the additional cost extras available too. You could go to a village visit, guided snorkeling trips (AM and at night), or a cave excursion. 

We did the morning day trip to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. It took about 20ish minutes to get there by boat. The first cave you climb down stairs and jump in. It was pretty open with lots of light. Then you swim under a small section to access the other cave. This one is narrower and a lot darker. The guides found out it was my birthday and I was sang to in a cave…how many times will I be able to say that? The sounds echoed and it was pretty epic if I do say so myself. After the caves you had the option of buying some souvenirs from the local who boated over to the area. I really liked this excursion and would recommend it. 

If you are traveling the Yasawas I think Blue Lagoon needs to be on your list of places to stop. It was such a nice resort and I truly did not want to leave. The long ferry ride can be a little daunting so an alterative is that you can take the seaplane over one way and ferry back (or just take the plane both ways). This is obviously more expensive, but an option. 

Wayalailai Island – Fiji

Fiji has always been one of those dreamy, far off destinations that seemed unattainable, especially coming from the US, for so long. Coming from Australia it’s much easier to get Fiji (and New Zealand is even closer)! So as my birthday was approaching Fiji was looking more and more appealing. I knew I wanted to venture off the mainland and explore the islands, but I didn’t have an exact plan. My first island stop was Wayalailai in the Yasawas. 

Going to Wayalailai was recommended to me by someone I had met in New Zealand. It’s about 2.5 hours by ferry off the mainland making it about the halfway mark to where the Yasawa Island’s top point. From the ferry you take a small boat tender to the island immediately the beauty overtakes you. The water, trees, mountain are all absolutely stunning. You’re greeted by the workers singing and ending with a big BULA welcome. By dinner the first night all the workers knew your name and looked genuinely happy to see you around the resort.

On the island you can either do a homestay or at Wayalailai Resort. The resort is 100% Fijian owned and according to the website “all profits are shared amongst the villagers for school, church and village improvements.” I booked into a dorm, but they actually put me on my own in a room for two. It was nice to have my own room and bathroom. One main quirk of the resort are that there’s no electricity during the day. It comes on around 5pm and will stay on throughout the night into the AM and then back off. Not a huge deal, but that means no fans or charging anything during the day. Online it had said that there was Wifi, but there wasn’t and the service in general was sparse. The room was quaint with fresh hibiscus flowers all around, but it wasn’t luxe by any means. The best way to describe it is local islander comfort.

The rate was $140 FJ per day and that included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. All the meals were started by drums beating and were buffet style. There was always a rice, meat options, and veggies. On the second to last night there was also a traditional Kava ceremony. After lunch local women came for a “craft market.” You could buy goods they were selling or make your own bracelet, anklet, or necklace for $10 FJ. It was suggested that the water wasn’t suitable for drinking and you could buy a 1.5 liter for $5 FJ.

Snorkeling right off the beach was beautiful. There were many hammocks all around to lounge about to read, nap, or just stare out at the ocean. I even woke myself up to watch one of the sunrises on a hammock. They had optional activities like a village visit, sunset or sunrise hikes, snorkeling with reef sharks, or a bull shark feeding dive.

Speaking of diving this is where I got PADI Open Water scuba dive certified. certification takes four dives, quizzes, and a written exam. I completed my dives in two days and the whole process took three days. It was pretty quick, but now I can scuba dive! My third training dive we did the bull shark dive. This was a surprise “bonus” to me. Usually this dive alone is $300 FJ, but as I rocked up for my training they told me we were going to go with the sharks. We ended up seeing a tiger shark (super rare for them), bull, lemon, blacktop, and nurse sharks. I couldn’t really differentiate the sharks apart from the nurse sharks and honestly I was terrified even though they did a really great job making us feel like we were okay.

I really enjoyed my stay at Wayalailai. It was the perfect first stop on this trip. I wouldn’t call the stay glamorous, but it was very special.

Hotel Review – Melbourne 2

I love using HotelTonight to book hotels, but sometimes I’m put off by how many options there are. That was the case looking for a hotel in Melbourne for my mom’s last stop. After some deliberating and putting booking off a while we landed on Zagame’s House

Elevator Art

The pictures looked great (but don’t they always), reviews were positive, location was central, and their Instragam was on point. I’m happy to say we were not disappointed. All the small details that went into Zagame’s was incredible. The lounge/reception area was well decorated and created a great atmosphere for the whole stay. All the staff members were fantastic and it was a pleasure interacting with them. 

The room was small, but well designed and decorated that i would prefer to be in this small room than a massive lackluster room. They really thought of everything and had a full list of extra amenities you could access if you forgot something. The bathroom was right off the room with a sliding door to separate the two, but the toilet had it’s own door and you could still find privacy. I loved the waterfall shower head, but my favorite part of the bathroom was the mirror. It was so cool and I would want one in my future house. They also didn’t have small sized toiletries so it’s a little more eco friendly. 

There’s a bar/cafe downstairs off the lobby, a gym, and a free laundry room for guests. Beyond that the Lord Nelson is a wine bar and restaurant also attached to the building. 

Located about a 15 min walk from the CBD and Fitzroy this was a good location to be in. Carlton is like a little Italy and there’s so many food options in a short walking distance. 

I will definitely be back at Zagame’s House as a guest and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Melbourne looking for a hotel.