fluffy towes
Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in travel memoirs, destination pieces, hotel reviews, guidebook contributor, travel advice, restaurant reviews, family travel, and copywriting.

world

where in the
world is carmen?

Perth, Australia

latest post

Careening around Colombo

filed01 Jun 2016 from

 

tuk-tuk pin-up

The swanky homes of Cinnamon Gardens and the Town Hall resembling the White House in Washington are hard to miss when careening around Colombo in a tuk-tuk. But many of the city’s secrets and surprises are hidden behind walled courtyards and held by the locals themselves. Breaking the ice is easy at the mere mention of the favourite national past-time of cricket.

Cricket Crazy. Even if you secretly don’t know Don Bradman from Ricky Ponting, you can fake it at the Cricket Club Café.  Owned by Australians it’s a first of its kind in Sri Lanka where the walls are lined with memorabilia and expats. True enthusiasts will have already logged onto Sri Lanka Cricket (www.srilankacricket.lk) and booked their tickets in advance for the recently renovated R. Premadasa Stadium.

gangaramaya elephant

Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple even has its own elephant

Temple time: The Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple complex has a library, museum, a plethora of jaw dropping decorations and even its own elephant. Buddhist temple Seema Malaka, designed in the 1970’s by architect Geoffrey Bawa and sunk into Beira Lake, is a serene retreat from the chaotic metropolis. Head to Sea St for Hindu temples New and Old Kathiresan Kovil dedicated to the war god and the starting point for the annual Hindu Vel festival held in July/August. While in the Pettah district visit the candy-striped red and white brickwork of the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque built in 1909 and the restored Wolvendal Church which is paved with the tombstones of those buried beneath.

Wedding at Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face Hotel turns anyone into a wedding photographer

Sunset serenades. As the sun slips into the Indian Ocean, sip gin and tonics at the Galle Face Hotel’s Verandah Bar. Few resist the urge at becoming temporary wedding photographers for posing wedding parties in the elegant grounds on any day of the week. Then head next door to the Galle Face Green which was originally laid out in 1859 for horse racing and now it heaves at sunset with picnics, gossip, kite flying, canoodling lovers and kids running amok.

Kottu Roti

Kottu Roti

Tantalising tastes. Sri Lankan curries use a greater spice base and a quicker cooking time than their Indian neighbours. The results are fresh, zingy and flavoursome especially the Black Pork Curry at the Paradise Road Galleries and Gallery Café. Sample street food on the Galle Face Green and or try the street food specialty Kottu Roti (chopped up roti with vegetables, meat and sauce) at any time of the day or night at the Hotel De Pilawoose (422/3 Galle Rd btw 6th Lane & Alfred Pl, Western Province). The national dish of rice and curry tempts from every corner but don’t miss out on hoppers at The Green Cabin who serve authentic and inexpensive local cuisine or try The Curry Leaf at the Hilton Colombo for upscale Sri Lankan fare.

Inside Pettah's colourful bazaar in Colombo

Pettah Bazaar

Shopping spree. Glamazon’s will plunge into ODEL’s department store or partake in a rummage and a bargain at the House of Fashions. Dating back to the Dutch colonial era, the converted Dutch Hospital is a relaxing shopping and eating precinct.  Barefoot has a maze of handcrafted homewares, a bohemian café and a bookshop crammed with international and local titles like author Ashok Ferrey’s exquisite Serendipity. Paradise Road Stores are emporiums to all things chic for your home. Art and antique lovers will wish they had a house in Sri Lanka to adorn with the handpicked items from around the world found at Gandhara Crafts and Artifacts. Famous for precious and semi-precious gems, especially blue sapphires, red rubies and amethysts from the National Gem and Jewellery Authority and Careems who have been bejewelling customers since 1890. Market goers may never return from the labyrinth of the Pettah Bazaar where each thoroughfare has its own speciality whether it be jewellery, Ayurvedic medicines, antiques or anything fantastical.

Nature calls. Viharamahadevi Park sits next to the National Museum and is known for its flowering trees, water channels, fountains and the odd working elephant feasting on palm branches. The Bellanwila Attidiya Bird Sanctuary is an extensive marshland abundant with bird life like whistling ducks, green herons and raptors like the brahminy kite. Further afield about an hour south and sure to enchant is Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project.

wedding dancers

Kandyan wedding dancers

Culture Vultures. Colombo’s National Museum is the custodian of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and holds 4000 archaic palm leaf manuscripts, weaponry of Sri Lankan kings, demon masks and regalia of Kandyan Kings dating back to the 17th century. Just a few kilometres from the city discover the lost art of mask making at the Puppet Art Museum where puppetry was once used to pass on folklore from generation to generation to drive away illnesses and scare off demons. Shows are still on put once a month at the museum by villagers.  The Sapumal Foundation laid the groundwork for modern art in Sri Lanka and houses over 1000 items from the 1920’s to the present. Theatre and art buffs flock to the Lionel Wendt Art Centre for art and photography exhibits, and live performances.

Mt Lavinia Hotel

Mt Lavinia Hotel

Mt Lavinia. Just 12 kilometres south of Colombo is all the romance of a bygone era at Mt Lavinia Hotel. Built in 1805 and once the Governor’s Residence, the pool perched on jagged cliffs is the ideal spot to be bathed in a golden glow at sunset. Fancy dining with sand between your toes by candle light? The Seafood Cove delivers with gems plucked from the ocean to your plate and it’s no wonder it’s THE place to pop the question. If you really want to mark the occasion ask the friendly staff to arrange an elephant ride along the beach or a boat trip on the Bolgoda Lake.

Arriving: Bandarankaike International Airport is 30km north of Colombo www.airport.lk with flights via India, Malaysia, Bangkok, Singapore, Qatar and Europe.

When: It’s humid year round but more so during the monsoon seasons May to August in the southern half and October to January in the north. The weather is more pleasant outside of the monsoon season.

Stay:

Hilton Colombo HotelTintagelGalle Face HotelMount Lavinia Hotel

Tinagel Hotel

Tinagel Hotel

 

 

Truffle hunting in Manjimup

filed12 Apr 2016 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Thirteen years on, the Truffle & Wine Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt three years ago and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated …

Gently Bentley

filed30 Mar 2016 from

driving

Pulling out of the Bentley showroom in Claremont onto Stirling Highway, I’m very much aware many houses cost less than the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S we’re test driving. However, given the craftsmanship on this elegant beast, it almost seems gauche to mention to money.

Our automatic seat belt presenter embraces us as we head up into the Perth Hills for a night of indulgence. It doesn’t take long to relax into the ventilated massaging leather seats with contrast cross …

The Colombian Cloud Atlas

filed07 Mar 2016 from

El Sauce 5

In one of the most dangerous countries in the world I stand on the side of the road with my thumb out. There is another woman striking a similar pose except she’s poured into the Colombian uniform of jeans tight enough to make out the lace on her g-string and, of course, the obligatory stilettos. This attire applies to women of any age, size or shape and I admire their fierce quest for sexiness as dust settles on my sneakers.…

Why you should visit Launceston

filed12 Jul 2015 from

Hollybanks Reserve

As Big Ben chimes in the background and the autumn colours adorn Launceston, you can almost pretend you’re in the UK. Teeming with art and architecture, some of the freshest produce I ever tasted and the kind of scenery which will turn even the most cynical of travellers snap happy, I can write with complete sincerity that Launceston should be added to many a travel list. And I haven’t even mentioned the locals. Everywhere I went I was given advice …

ANZAC centenary Western Australia’s Great Southern Drive

filed22 Apr 2015 from

Greens Pool...too beautiful to be real

Greens Pool…too beautiful to be real

The approach into Western Australia’s Great Southern region is a mix of weathered scrub bordered by the rugged peaks of the Stirling Ranges hovering in the distance. This idyllic scene has been a fixture on the landscape for over one million years, but is a world away from how our ANZAC troops left the region to fight for Australia’s future.

The 25th April 2015 marks the ANZAC centenary and the 1st November 2014 …

Smokin’ in the City

filed24 Mar 2015 from

About 20,000 carnivores followed the waft of barbequed meat to Forest Place last April. The smell was strangely familiar but exactly what was that extra smoky aroma that brought them in droves to the inaugural Smokin’ in the City BBQ Challenge?

Forrest Chase

Hang on to your tongs, it wasn’t a simple backyard grilling affair. Grilling? What about that great Aussie tradition? However lovingly you marinate and tenderly place your high-grade meat onto a direct source of fire until its cooked; it’s …

Mango madness

filed09 Mar 2015 from

mango boxWe generally associate mangoes with the tropics but about an east of Perth in Gingin, there are about 20 commercial growers handpicking their juicy fruit as I write this. The Mediterranean climate in the part of the world allows the fruit spend 120 days on the tree, which is one month more than in the tropics. The extra time before harvesting allows the sugars to become more developed, making them sweeter to eat, and the warm temperature also means minimal …

Hola Colombian coffee

filed05 Feb 2015 from

Coffee cupping with La Jacoba

Coffee cupping with La Jacoba

Oh, the lengths I’ll go to for a decent cup of coffee. Like to the other side of world. I’ll soon be in the city of Pasto, in the department of Narino in south western Colombia, and bordering Equador.

It’s well and truly off the beaten tourist trail and yes, I promise to be careful of machete wielding drug lords cruising around the streets in search of random travel writers. This is generally the kind …

Singapore’s Chicken Rice War

filed07 Jan 2015 from

Beloved chicken rice

Beloved chicken rice

When Chinese immigrants arrived to the island of Singapore in the 1960’s, they brought both a strong labour force, and their beloved chicken rice. Since 77% of Singapore’s five million residents are Chinese, their favourite meal was soon adopted as the national dish. Eating is a serious business here: even the local the local greeting “sudah makan” means “Have you eaten?” Read the full article published with Ensemble Vacations Summer 2014 to see how seriously Singaporeans take …

Meandering Melbourne

filed17 Oct 2014 from

I was a little late to discover Melbourne's secret laneways

I was a little late to discover Melbourne’s secret laneways

Melbourne’s adorned laneways aren’t exactly a secret. Neither is the city’s vibrant food or shopping scene. It would be so easy to pay homage to its Victorian roots or compare it to the megatropolis of New York City. I’m not a local (although I’d jump at the chance to be one) and nor would I want to insult Melbournian’s with an outsider’s lowdown on their beloved treasure. But I am …

Bali: Eat, lay, bend and write

filed18 Sep 2014 from

statue2On a recent journey to Bali’s tranquil Ubud I didn’t find myself and despite hunting high and low not even Javier Bardem frolicking in the rice paddies either, sorry girls.  I did however discover many enticing ways to eat, lay, bend and write, with a few naughty detours along the way.

Nestled into the hillside and offering flourishing views every which way, ONEWorld Retreats (www.oneworldretreats.com) offer unique experiences at Ubud’s boutique hotel Kumara Sakti.  There’s no questioning the …

24 hours in Brisbane

filed08 Sep 2014 from

do not disturb

The Brisbane River weaves around the city’s peninsulas as freely as the friendly vibes float along the undulating streets. Brisbane is one of those cities which embraces its visitors immediately on arrival. Ask any local for recommendations and they’ll probably be able to list enough activities to keep you entertained for much longer than your intended stay; which in my case is just 24 hours.

I flew out of Perth early with Virgin Australia ensuring I have the maximum amount …

Win a night at an ibis hotel near you

filed08 Aug 2014 from

You can now experience how great it is to stay at an ibis hotel and explore the city! ibis hotels Australia is giving away one night’s accommodation at an ibis hotel in/nearest to your home city in Australia. Head to the ibis Facebook page here and tell us in 25 words or less, what is the best activity to do near the Ibis hotel in/nearest to your home city. Comment on the status of this blog post and the best

Carluccio’s Recipe for Life

filed13 Jul 2014 from

As two anaconda pasta sheets snake along the walls of Perth’s Government House, Antonio Carluccio claps his hands in delight. The pasta-making competition is held in his honour for his first ever visit to Perth and the room is abuzz. The 75 year-old has taken the time out of his gruelling Australian tour to support the charity Mondo Community Warriors (MCW) founded by his close friend and butcher Vince Garreffa, aka the Prince of Flesh. Before entering the function he …

Singapore’s Chicken Rice Recipe

filed24 Apr 2014 from

Singapore’s chicken rice is the Asian equivalent of what chicken soup is to the soul and is eaten any time of the day or night and served everywhere from school canteens to high-end restaurants. Originally from Hainan Island, south of China, the dish is also often called Hainanese Chicken Rice, and is a meal of steamed or blanched chicken, fragrant rice and chicken broth eaten with soy sauce, spring onions, slices of cucumber and a ground chili and ginger sauce. …

Smokin’ in the city BBQ challenge

filed01 Apr 2014 from

BBQ challenge

 

Come down to Forrest Chase on 13th April for the ONLY authentic US-style BBQ challenge! Sample the spoils, put together a team or provide sponsorship. There’s cash prizes and all proceeds go to Mondo Community Warriors charity inconjunction with Lifeline, Eat Drink Perth and the Butcher’s Picnic. For more details go to www.smokininthecity.com.au or contact Stephan Jenner on stephan.jenner@mcw.org.au

And here’s a little something about authentic US Style BBQ-ing to whet your appetite Where there’s smoke there’s flavour

meat on BBQ

Manila Madness

filed24 Nov 2013 from

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking photos in the wake of Haiyan. And while many of us probably won’t be rushing out to book our next holiday to the Philippines, it’s a shame, because not only do they need tourists more than ever, it’s a fascinating country.

The sprawling metropolis of Manila has many mini cities within its labyrinth and several years ago I took a walking food tour through Chinatown, actually it was more like an eating tour as I …

Feeling porky

filed29 Aug 2013 from

Some of you Perth-ites might have attended the Butcher’s picnic back in March. My husband competed in the Home Cook Competition and although he didn’t win, his pork chops were a hit with the crowd and so popular the West Australian published his Crumbed Pork with Corn and Sage Pancakes recipe.

Crumbed Pork Chops with Corn and Sage Pancakes

Crumbed Pork Chops with Corn and Sage Pancakes

Truffle Time

filed29 Jul 2013 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Ten years on, the Wine and Truffle Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt last week and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated the …

10 Reasons to Desert Yourself on Gaya Island

filed14 Jul 2013 from

yoga

 

As the speedboat zoomed towards Gaya Island Resort, I was already devising ways to never return to reality.

A few minutes off the coast of Kota Kinabalu on the Malaysian state of Sabah lies a refuge away from life as most of us know it. Located on the island of Pulau Gaya within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Malohom Bay sweeps majestically at the Gaya Island Resort’s feet.

Gaya Island villas

1. Lay down and weep

On the approach in it’s …

BBQ-ing US style

filed07 Jun 2013 from

The Australian Tongmaster Team, MLA, BBQ aficionados and Kevin

The Australian Tongmaster Team, MLA, BBQ aficionados and Kevin

After the sun had long disappeared I pondered on how I ended up in a field in Lexington’s North Carolina passively smoking a beef brisket and drinking the local moonshine. RV’s with palatial proportions steamed into town for the BBQ-ing version of Woodstock at the Annual Capital BBQ Cook-off 28th-29th April 2012.  Heaving with 50 competing teams vying for the $15,900 prize money, many of the competitors were …

Antonio Carluccio: Interview

filed07 Jun 2013 from

smiling

In 2012 I was lucky enough to not only meet Antonio Carluccio in Perth but to also spend about 24 hours with the delightful chef and author. An absolute pleasure so stay tuned for a more in-depth story coming up soon.

Read my interview for Scoop here

SHARING SHANGHAI: The secrets of Shanghai dumplings

filed06 Mar 2012 from

dumpling perfection

Captured in the dank staircase of the crumbling Art Deco building, we suddenly alight to an industrial kitchen flooded in a dusky glow. Two little old Chinese ladies are pottering around, oblivious to the chaos of Shanghai several floors below. Me, my husband, and our seven-year-old daughter are instructed with gentle gestures and broken English that we’ll be learning how to make pork buns and pearl dumplings today.

Flour is thrown with abandon for the dough which is torn and …

Craft Beer Festival 2012

filed24 Feb 2012 from

Thirst quenching honey-hued bitterness satiates WA’s south west.

I must confess I’m not a beer lover. There I said it. I may be a failure at the Australian tradition of a downing a coldie, but after a tasting at Eagle Bay Brewery, I didn’t mind it. In fact, I even finished my sample of the German style Kolsch. Drank as a lager and likened to the crowd pleasing Little Creatures Pilsner, my Kolsch (note how I’ve already become a …

East of France

filed10 Feb 2011 from

Vietnamese girls glide by on bicycles much as willowy frames saunter along the streets of Paris. French colonial architecture stands resplendent in Siem Reap and the sultry streets of Saigon are dotted with patisseries. The tree lined boulevards of Hanoi are centred around Hoan Kiem Lake while the River Seine snakes through the City of Light.

Hue Part 1 506

 

Hanoi Metropole

The word Indochina came about with the French colonisation of Vietnam which soon expanded into surrounding regions, and most predominantly into Cambodia and …

Liquid gastronomy: Tea inspired cuisine

filed22 Dec 2010 from

While visiting Sri Lanka I had a spot of Tea Gastronomy and learnt all about tea-inspired recipes – and I shared a little more than inspiration with few chefs in Dilmah’s headquarters.

tea picker 2

Far from the maddening pace of Colombo and about three hours north of Sri Lanka’s idyllic beaches in the south, you’ll hit mountain ranges awe-inspiring enough to give any trekker palpitations even before their ascent. The chequered green ranges are dotted with women picking tea, many of whom …

Great Gourmet Weekends In Australia

filed25 Nov 2010 from

Okay, here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion. Great Gourmet Weekends in Australia has just been released by Explore Australia and its jammed packed with delicious options around the country. I was lucky enough to “research” and write the Western Australian content. Each state has in-depth coverage and is available in stores across the country and there’s giveaways too. Available to purchase online at Great Gourmet Weekends in Australia

Andy & Michelle 4

Here’s a little tease for your tastebuds,

Meet the Osbornes of Darlington

Paris at the Hilton

filed08 Nov 2010 from

 

The harpist serenades us as lady-boys shoo away flies with white cloths, or are they merely surrendering to the scorching heat?  Celebrating our daughter’s sixth birthday, we’re having lunch at No Problem Restaurant in a wooden structure suspended on stilts over a mangrove on Mactan Island, one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

We’re sampling the traditional dish of Sutukil, a term derived from three words Sugba (SU), Tuwa (TU), Kilaw (KIL) meaning to broil, …

The art of aphrodisiacs

filed03 Nov 2010 from

Aphrodite’s Feast

A bottle of red, a torn baguette, a slab of cheese, crumbled sheets, and laughter. The act of seduction is complete. The scene is simple and the ingredients are bare. Step it up a notch with baked fish and herbs, threads of saffron, a squirt of wine and the juice of a lemon. Handmade linguine slurped in unison or a lobster torn apart and then devoured. Simpler still, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a voluptuous avocado. Pick …

Holy Cow! Five Reasons to Not Bustle Past Cowaramup

filed28 Oct 2010 from

Holy Cow!

If you’re moo-ving around the Margaret River region three hours south of Perth, you may notice some life-size cow sculptures left-over from the CowParade Margaret River, an international event held in over 50 cities. The competition saw local artists hussling up the bovine creatures in all kinds of attire and positions. It seems only appropriate to start your cow hunt in the charming dairy town of Cowaramup, situated on the Bussell Highway and just 10 minutes north of …

Ceylonese Cravings

filed12 Oct 2010 from

 

Peace man!

 

Many a tear and blood has been shed over the tumultuous past of Sri Lanka. It’s of no wonder then that the isle of serendipity is in the shape of a tear. But this tale isn’t about the 25 year war or the tsunami. It’s about a quest for a decent cup of coffee in a land of tea bushes.

Despite holding countless culinary charms, Sri Lanka isn’t exactly prized for its cafes. I stopped asking …

From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival

filed01 Sep 2010 from

Throngs flock to the Galle Face Green in Colombo at sunset to gossip, eat, fly kites, and enjoy the passing parade

The palm-tree pattered isle formely known as Ceylon is recovering from its 25-year civil war and the devastating 2004 tsunami. Plenty of blood has been shed and oceans have been cried over the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka. But now it is experiencing a resurgance, and nowhere is this more visible than in its Capital Colombo and on the …

Smiles from the Teardrop Isle: Family Travel in Sri Lanka

filed31 Aug 2010 from

Art imitating colourful life in Sri Lanka

Like a jewel dropped into the ocean, Sri Lanka sparkles bright. Tamer than its Indian neighbour, the spicy isle is heaving with culture, wildlife, gems, adventure, welcoming locals, and exotic beauty every which way.

Unlike other Asian hotspots Sri Lanka is virtually untouched by tourism compliments of the 25 year war. The country breathes a collective sigh of relief as the war is finally over. The figurative doors have flung open and tourists …

Philippines Aflame

filed24 Aug 2010 from

Duck embryo anyone? Bottoms up!

Buns of steam

I have a confession. My attention isn’t entirely focused on the food whilst on the Big Binodo Food Wok Tour in Manila’s Chinatown. For starters, I’m a little bit star-struck as not only is our delightful tour leader Ivan Man Dy, a local celebrity in his own right, but I’m retracing the steps of Anthony Bourdain. And so my fascination with the rock-star of the culinary world continues – and in particular …

Top 50 Restaurant Guide Western Australia

filed24 Aug 2010 from

The Top 50 Restaurant Guide Western Australia 2011 is due for release in November 2010. This guide is STILL the first and best independent restaurant guide for WA, and I’m proud to say I was a key contributor and restaurant reviewer to the guide.  To thank our valued supporters, the 2010 edition is available for free download at the Gourmet Godfather

 …

An Ode to The Truffle

filed11 Aug 2009 from

Earthly Pleasure

Earthly Pleasure

A black diamond in the rough. Jagged edges craving to be sliced over innocence. An egg, a potato, handmade pasta, a slab of steak, shimmering risotto, a supple scallop or a sliver of asparagus. Your earthly pleasures are to be inhaled, caressed, consumed, and devoured. You are without gender, curvaceous like a woman and yet renowned as the seed of the earth. A fungus, so intense in scent and flavour defying even a flame, which merely reduces to …

Eating out in Siem Reap

filed06 May 2009 from

 

The market place

The market place

Advertisement for Cambodia BBQ on the side of a tuk-tuk...so many Australian animals on the menu!

Advertisement for Cambodia BBQ on the side of a tuk-tuk…so many Australian animals on the menu!

Although many travellers come to Siem Reap to explore the marvels of Angkor Wat and the neighbouring temples, it’s the cuisine that leaves many staggered for words.  With an array of international tastes well catered for like Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and French, The Old Market area is a popular spot to sample traditional Cambodian cuisine, or also known as Khmer …