Tag Archives: food

Paris, 2013

After a tearful farewell with our friends in the new Brussels train station, my husband, daughter and I caught the TGV to Paris. The train was indeed fast.

At Gare Du Nord we were fast tracked to the front of the taxi queue due to travelling with a baby. Very nice of them, especially considering that it was nearing dinnertime. We were stying in a hotel next to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th Arrondissement.

On our first day we bypassed the subway with its many stairs and caught the bus into the middle of the city. We passed so many historic buildings on the way that I wondered why I hadn’t thought to catch the bus last time I was here.

First stop was the Eiffel Tower. No long lines for us with a little one, so we settled for the view from below instead and embarked on a walking tour of the city. Paris is a museum in itself after all.

We followed the River Seine, down Av de New York, past the tunnel where Diana died, recognisable by the Liberty Flame, to the gold-topped Ponte Alexandre III and Invalides.

Everything was strangely familiar, but also different and still impressive. Even though I had been here before, it was a different experience being here married with a daughter rather than with a friend and there were still new things I hadn’t seen.

There was the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and a we took a stroll along the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Place de la Concorde was larger than I remembered it to be and the Jardin des Tuileries were prettier.

We found the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Louvre and Pont Neuf, then called it a day as it was bitterly cold and we later discovered that we also had a teething baby.

That night was not an easy one with an unhappy baby which slightly took the edge off the romance of Paris, but cest la vie.

Oh, but the food! The awesome patisseries on every corner for breakfast, the fabulous restaurants for lunch and the local bar with traditional tarts for dinner. This was something we could all enjoy as a family.

Related posts: France 1997, Part 1: Paris,It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2003 

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1

Before it was time for me to return to work, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Europe with our one-year-old daughter.

Qantas Club in departures was great with a little one. Comfortable seats, fancier toilets and all the food and drink you could want. I was glad that my husband had to travel so much for work so that we were able to make use of the benefit of that.

We stopped at Hong Kong on the way and stayed in a cute little apartment in Wan Chai in the city. It was too small for a bath, but fortunately our daughter fitted in the kitchen sink.

The old surrounding buildings were multi coloured and we could see the modern HSBC building in the distance.

Our first stop was the famous red Peak Tram which we rode to the top for a view of Hong Kong. We went early enough to avoid the smog clouding the view. The lookout building was a modern Chinese style structure and there was Halloween themed paraphernalia on the roof.

A nicer view was seen from the grounds of a nearby temple structure with stone Chinese dragons on the balconies.

After we caught the tram back down the hill, we went to the beautiful oasis of Hong Kong Park. There were waterfalls, lakes and an aviary. I loved Fountain Plaza with its various water features and a fountain that you could even stand inside.

More importantly, our daughter loved to kids playground. She was a bit of a novelty with the young nannies on duty in the park as the only blonde blue-eyed child. A theme which was to continue during our stay in Hong Kong.

We went to a new dumpling restaurant in one of the many large shopping centres for lunch and a break from the humid environment. Booster seats were no problem and our daughter loved the variety of food.

Take away dinners were easy to find near our hotel and not expensive. Breakfasts were even easier with the many available local eateries offering the works for cheap.

Related posts: It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 1

When my daughter was 8 months old, I took her on our first trip without my husband to Singapore. My friend Cynthia had just moved there and she had a daughter the same age, plus a live in helper called Rosie, so I figured all I had to do alone was make it through the 9 hour flight.

The flight turned out to be fine and when we arrived my daughter made herself at home right away playing with Cynthia’s daughter, all her toys and one of the cats that dared to come close enough.

I borrowed a pram and we set off to see the city starting with Chinatown and the peaceful Temple of the Tooth. I loved the garden with so many little Buddha’s in the red walls and the cheap vegan restaurant downstairs was a favourite of Cynthia’s.

In the afternoon we cooled off with a swim in the pool of the apartment block that Cynthia lived in with her partner, Tony. Looking after two little girls of the same age turned out to be not so hard as sleep times, meal times and bath times could all be done together.

One night we all got dressed up for dinner and went to East Coast Park for chilli crab. It was delicious. For lunch the next day we headed into town to catch up with mutual friends Karen and Mitch for Ramen. Tony worked at Google and had us over to the all you can eat cafeteria at his office for lunch on another day where you could get anything you wanted from seafood to ice cream. There are so many good places to eat in Singapore that the possibilities were endless.

My daughter did us a favour by sleeping through a shopping trip where I stocked up on all my H&M goodies. When she did finally wake, she found her first changing room experience interesting- mirrors always seem to be a hit.

I was keen to visit Haw Par Villa as I had been there as a child when it was called the Tiger Balm Gardens. Although parts of it were falling into disrepair, it was still colourful and interesting. My favourite part was the dragon mural wall and the white lady on the lake fountain.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998, It’s an Asia Thing

Malaysia, 2012

A runway had been built on the island since last time I had been to Tioman Island, so instead of catching a boat, my husband and I took the plane.

We landed at Tekek village where the resort bus picked us up. No hut on the beach for us this time- we were staying at the Berjaya Tioman Resort.

We were shown to our room on the ground floor of a double story free standing apartment which had a wide verandah just metres from the beach. It was perfect.

The resort also had a beach bar, a pool bar, spa, waterslides, a pool and a real river running through the grounds. Everything you could need for a relaxing holiday. I started with a manicure at the spa.

A little way up the beach was a pier where scuba diving boats went out to Renggis Island and beyond. My husband wanted to dive, so I went on the boat trip with him and a few other keen divers.

The view of Tioman and the resort from the boat was lovely. We spotted another more reclusive resort in he hills which looked interesting.

We went past many other smaller and uninhabited islands during the day. I snorkeled at Pulau Chebeh and Pulau Sepoi that had large rocks jutting out. We could hear whales in the water which was beautiful.

Docking at Tekek village pier, we had a look around and ate at one of the local seafood restaurants for a change from the resort food.

That night we met a French couple and their two daughters who were also staying at the resort. My husband enjoyed speaking French and drinking beers, while I enjoyed watching a mother with her children and wondering what was to come.

Our last night in Tioman was marked by a sunset on the beach with a boat bobbing in front of Renggis Island. It was a familiar scene to me and I took an almost identical photo to the last time I had been here.

My husband was staying at the Orchard Hotel for work back in Singapore, which was a little bit swankier than our hotel at the beginning of the trip.

I stayed for an extra day and we discovered the shopping side of Singapore at the ION Orchard. I bought so much at Zara and H&M that we had trouble fitting it all into our bags.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988It’s an Asia Thing

It’s a South Pacific Thing

The South Pacific has been largely romanticised by the musical of the same name. As an Aussie, I feel like the South Pacific is not so much of a novelty as it close by and therefore accessible.

It is also cheap and an easy beach holiday destination with built in babysitting services for families. Of course, some may be more expensive than others. Any island carries higher prices on food due to transport, which is why you may choose to stay on the mainland when visiting Fiji.

The South Pacific has also become one of the places to go for a destination wedding with 5 star resorts catering to every need.

Personally, I like the friendly people, having a cocktail in the pool bar and the beautiful sunsets.

But what do you do when the weather is bad?

This happened to us on a trip to New Caledonia- it rained all week. So we focused on the food and indoor activities such as shopping and museums.

And of course there are other cultural experiences you can partake in like visiting a cultural village, drinking cava and experiencing the local market.

In more developed islands such as Oahu and Hawaii, there are so many activities to choose from that it’s hard to pick no matter what the weather is like.

The South Pacific is about palm trees, drinking out of fresh coconuts and listening to the ukulele. It’s scuba diving, poolside time and smelling the Frangipani’s.

Sliding down a waterslide, visiting a waterfall and watching as the night time torches get lit. It’s bright tropical colours, shell necklaces and endless lazy days.

Crazy cool resorts like the famous ones in Bora Bora and Vanuatu plus lots of little islands I’ve never even heard of.

And of course, you could always fall in love and have a real South Pacific story of your own.

Related posts: Fiji, 2011, Fiji, 2008

Weymouth, 2011

When I arrived in Weymouth, the Canadian side of the family had already been there for a few days. We all ate at a local pub for dinner and it was good to see my aunt, uncle and cousins Kate and  Glen, even though the circumstances weren’t the best.

Our grandmother’s funeral was scheduled for later that week and in the meantime we were to sort through what remained of her belongings. She had given away most of her valuables while she was alive, but there was still a lot of household items to go through.

We all took something that held special memories for us, be it furniture to be relocated to Kate’s new house, the swallows over the top of the fireplace for my dad or grandma’s fountain pen for me. It was the one she used to write all our letters and birthday cards to send across the seas and I hoped to continue the tradition with it.

Going through her writing desk, we discovered that she had kept every photo, card or letter that we had given her- even a record of my travellers cheques, long since cashed- that I had handwritten for her before my trip to Europe. It was nice to keep a few photos of us as kids home and a I also claimed a tiny book of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

When we needed a break from our sorting and trips to Vinnies in Dorchester, we went on country rambles together to Hardy’s monument, the wishing well and Upwey manor. Past the thatched rooved cottages, the church where our grandfather was buried, through green fields filled with thistles; picking blackberries along the way. We found a random bakery in the middle of the countryside which had the best pasties.

It was nice to spend this time together and gather memories in the area for the last time. Grandma’s house was to be sold, so it was sad to think that someone else would be living in the stone bungalow in which we’d all had so many good times and that we wouldn’t have the same pull to return to Weymouth.

We went into town for a walk along the seafront to the harbour. The blue and white striped deck chairs were already set out for summer, though the weather was cold, and the sand sculpture competition was in full swing. The town was the same as I remembered it, but seemed smaller and not as busy.

In the evenings we reminisced and cooked all our favourite foods that grandma used to make, like treacle tarts, fish and chips and rice pudding.

The day of the funeral was a strange feeling. We were all picked up in two black cars and driven to the funeral parlour where we greeted many family members and old friends.

The wake was held back at grandma’s house where I had the job of cooking all the pastries in the oven. It was a good distraction. The Swindon and Cirencester branches of the family were a positive influence and it was lovely to see Alan and Viv again.

As the week drew to a close, it was time to take our last snap shots in our heads and on our iPhones, then bid each other farewell in the hopes of keeping grandma’s memory alive by seeing each other again soon to reminisce some more.

Related posts: London, 2011, Small town vs Big city, It’s an English Thing, England, 2006, England, 2002, England, 1997

Nebraska, 2011

The morning after  4th July, I awoke in the cabin at Sandhills to see stuffed animals on the walls and a small jetty leading to a lake outside. My bestie took me to meet the hunting dogs, Tank and Boots, and I was taken on a tour of the property by 4WD.

Rolled bales of hay lay scattered on wide plains, filled with buffalo. We saw the windmill, the tepee and flushed a few pheasants out of the trees. My besties dad is a bit of an expert in wildflowers and found a few for us along the way to enjoy. My bestie’s brother Chris kept horses on the neighbouring property and was working on re- building a traditional red barn.

Sandhills was undoubtedly a beautiful place and I could understand why much of the family didn’t leave. My bestie’s dad’s brother Jim lived next door and old Grandpa Hamilton still lived not far in the other direction.

The beauty of the land, was matched only by the great hospitality of the people living on it. My bestie’s dad was skilled in cooking buffalo ribs on a real smoker BBQ and his wife was a master in the kitchen making everything from homemade ice tea to jello pie, which I had never had before.

The next day we went tubing down the river with Jim’s grandchildren and their father Nick. I had never heard of the activity before and was terrible at it, but it was all in good fun.

There was complaining that the water was as cold as the Bering Sea and Chris told me stories about the possibility of getting shot if I didn’t stay on the river. Kind of like the ones Aussies tell about drop bears I think. The water was cold so that night we warmed up with a bonfire near the cabin and I had smores for the first time. Yummo!

On another day, we headed back into Stuart to help set up the town hall for cousin Laura’s wedding. The whole town pulls together for these special occasions and countless hours are spent decorating, creating and making everything just right. Now I understood why my bestie is so good at interior decorating!

Too soon it was time to leave and drive back to Omaha, this time with my bestie and during the daytime so I could see the countryside. Cornfields stretched as far as the eye could see and we saw real reindeers.

We also managed to fit in some shopping along the way of course. I bought a Huskers t-shirt and two semi formal dresses at JC Penny for about a tenth of the price they would be at home. We stayed with Chris for the night and went to a bar with real hot wings for dinner.

I feel incredibly lucky, not only to have met my bestie and be able to see where she came from; but to also have the opportunity to experience such unique part of the world with the lovely people who know it best. Looking forward to visiting you all again one day, hopefully soon.

Related posts: Independence Day, 2011, It’s an American Thing, USA Road Trip, 2007: Part 2

It’s a South of America Thing

I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about South America. Having only been to Argentina, I know I have only scratched the surface. Although I only experienced Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls, it left me with a strong idea of the place and a desire to go back and explore more of the country.

I remember dog walkers, steak and potatoes and the Obelisk on Avenida 9 Julio in Buenos Aires. Drinks that were too strong, underwear that was too skimpy and streets that were too long. Real cowboys, dancing the tango, the colour of La Boca and visiting Evita’s grave.

Iguazu Falls were the widest, reddest and most naturally beautiful waterfalls I had ever seen. You can’t help but be impressed.

There are many more places I must return to see in South America. The the wildlife of Patagonia, the beaches of Brazil and the national parks of Chile. Manchu Picchu of course, the legendary Amazon and Angel Falls in Venuzuela. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Galápagos Islands in Equador and the Cartagena coast in Columbia.

Now, Mexico, I feel I know a bit more about. I have explored ruins in the jungle, on the desert plain and by the beach. I’ve swum in a cenote, eaten a cactus salad and swung on a swing in a bar.

I’ve seen lots of main plaza’s with cathedral, government palace and town hall. I’ve experienced the heat of the day, the cold of the buses and the feel of a freshly made tortilla. I’ve seen protestors, markets and a Luche Libre wresting show in one of the biggest cities in the world.

I’ve climbed forts, snorkelled next to 500 sunken statues and been amazed by how blue water can be. I’ve sampled the local mescal as well as traditional arts and crafts. I’ve learned what real guacamole and fish tacos taste like.

I want to go back to see the beaches of Jalisco, the waterfalls in Chiapas and the rock formations of the Marieta Islands. I would love to return to Oaxaca, the island of women and the ruins of Teotihuacán. I know I saw a lot, but there is always more to see.

And we never did make it to Guatemala, Belize or Costa Rica….

Related posts: Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011, Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005

It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

It’s the people, it’s the place.

Welcoming faces.

Tasty tropical mangosteens.

Unrivaled hospitality.

Old colonial leftover hotels with kamikaze cocktails.

The locals love for children.

The lethargic heat.

Respect for the ferocity of the sea.

Whitewashed walls and stupa’s.

Joy and jubilation mixed with enthusiasm.

Busy bustling markets.

An easy going attitude.

Short eats and orange Kandos chocolate.

The way that everyone wants to do something for you.

The cool breeze and beautiful clear blue water of the Indian ocean.

The acceptance of the foreigner.

A peaceful temple oasis in the busy city.

Where the locals go.

Their willingness to go above and beyond.

Members only clubs.

The genuine wish to make your trip better.

Homemade margarita’s and little girls dresses.

Their sense of humour and camaraderie after years gone by.

A fortress by the sea.

Polite service staff.

Fancy restaurants in renovated dutch hospitals.

Their persistence and patience.

Orderly school children walking in a line.

Dining on the beach with the added danger of the strong swirling currents of high tide rising.

A Rastafarian brothers greeting.

Listening to the crashing waves as you drift off to sleep.

Early morning exercisers and sunset surfers.

Palm trees aplenty.

The familiar tune of green sleeves as the bread seller passes by.

Friendly tuk tuk drivers.

The largest roti in the world made while you wait.

The elephant on the side of the road and the monkey on your balcony.

Crashing waterfalls.

Dogs with a death wish daring elaborately decorated trucks.

Windy climbing roads.

Their craziness about cricket.

Hillsides of tea above rocky rivers.

Tranquility, peace and quiet.

Flower sellers following you up and down mountains for a sale.

Showing me what is not in the guide book.

Speciality hand rolled white tea.

Cooling afternoon rains

Egg hoppers and fresh coconut sambol.

A private tea taste testing.

That Singaporean couple we bumped into 3 times before we finally exchanged details.

Stone crafted to look like wood.

Drinking out of coconuts.

Dizzy display of Kandian dancing.

150 Buddha’s in a cave.

Feeding an elephant and then watching the herd bathe.

Seafood platters and long island ice teas.

It’s all this and more.

Thanks to all my family in Sri Lanka for making my family trip a delight. Hope to see you all again sooner rather than later.

Related posts: Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994 , What’s your obsession

It’s a French thing

This month is the French Film Festival in Sydney.

I endeavor to attend at least one film at this festival each year. I like the way that French films weave a story beneath a story between many characters that are connected in surprising ways; and the fact that they don’t sugar coat an ending.

I am a fan of the beautiful Audrey Tautou, particularly in the comedy Priceless and The Spanish Apartment and the talented Alice Taglioni as seen in Cash and Paris- Manhattan. I also like the setting in France of places I may or may not have been.

This year I am looking forward to watching Barbeque, The Last Diamond and Sex, Love and Therapy.

Paris is also one of my favourite cities in the world and I have been known to become obsessed with all things French.

I went to a French restaurant last month, own a cliché miniature Eiffel Tower (hey- it was the only souvenir I could afford and fit in my back pack, and I love it- ok?) and dream- perhaps naively- of living in a French Château for a month or more.

I drink my tea out of my French mug set, enjoy a long French style lunch with French wine and one of my best friends is French (of course, that’s not the only reason we are friends Frenchie!).

I like the sound of the French language, polite French people (yes you can find some of these in Paris despite popular opinion) and am currently toting a Paris handbag purchased in the city itself.

I watch French cooking shows, enjoy French supermarkets and would love to go to the Cannes Film Festival one May.

I have the entire OPI French collection- La Collection De France, enjoy eating crème brulee and my current blog profile picture is of me in Paris.

I have Eiffel Tower earrings, like reading books set in France and have a box of a lady at the Paris opera house which was the inspiration for my wedding dress.

If I knew anything about home decorating, I’m sure my place would be fitted out and filled with all things French country.

I have seen the view from the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysee and lunched in Place des Voges.

I have seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles, walked along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tasted wine in Bordeaux.

But still I hunger for more.

I want to see the canals of Colmar or Annecy, stroll around a castle at Mont Saint- Michel or in the Loire Valley and sip Champagne in Champagne.

I want to see the French quarter in New Orleans, walk around Montreal in French Canada and drink from coconuts in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

Who’s with me?

Related posts: Europe, 2003, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, O-P-I don’t mind if I do, TV replays and Movie Marathons