Tag Archives: shopping

Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016

The main thing I wanted to see in Osaka was the castle. My husband, daughter and I passed a museum on the walk from the train station where people were lining up and there was some sort of travelling circus with large lizards and eagles.

As we neared the castle, I could spot a green roof looming above trees and I knew we must be close. We crossed the moat that was lined with willow trees and autumn leaves with a few boats floating by.

Stone walls surrounded the castle grounds from which there was a good view of the city. We walked around Osaka Castle, which turned out to have more white washed storeys than I first saw from afar, and lots of impressive gold embellishment.

There were large topiary trees, a huge rock out front and vending machines around the castle. My daughter asked- where are the king and queen of the castle? And I really didn’t know, so I bought her a Lady Borden ice cream on a stick instead.

We returned to Shinsaibashi-suji by day to shop, as this was our last city stop before going home. My daughter stocked up on Hello Kitty paraphernalia and chose Rapunzel as her first princess dress.

My husband bought souvenirs for his family and a sake set for us in Tokyo Hands; and souvenirs for friends at the Kit Kat shop. I found a gorgeous red jacket in Stradivarius, a funky shop that I had never heard of, and had to have it. And of course we hit Uniqlo and H&M.

After half a day focussed on shopping, I got a bit disconcerted by the chorus of thankyou’s, so we stopped for a nice lunch in a traditional style restaurant below street level. Every little dish had a plate of its own making the presentation very appealing.

We returned to our modern apartment with the many confusing light switches and buttons for a rest, before heading back out to a local restaurant that specialised in tempura for dinner.

Related posts: Osaka, 2016Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

10 things to do in Melbourne

As a Sydneysider, I am conditioned to think that Sydney is better than Melbourne. As much as I love Sydney, I still enjoy visiting Melbourne and can appreciate the city for its differences. Be it for a girls weekend, a wedding, a couples retreat, or to visit cousins- I’ve always had a good time in Melbourne-town.

First of all, the shopping in Melbourne is better than Sydney. It has the flagship H & M store, which is bigger than any that I have seen anywhere else and they have the few remaining Mango shops in Australia. Chapel St also has few more different fashion options.

I love shopping in the little laneways like the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade with Suga- a shop where you can see them roll out and make yummy lollies. My favourite jewellery shop, The Rose Garden on the Walk Arcade, is where I bought all my wedding jewellery and accessories.

The next best thing about Melbourne is the shows. The theatre district near Chinatown always has a great blockbuster like Chicago or Avenue Q, sometimes before they make it to Sydney.

The beautiful National Gallery of Victoria is my top sight seeing pick. I was lucky enough to catch the Degas exhibit last time I was there- one of my favourite artists. The water-featured entry way always gets me straight away and the modern layout is spacious and light.

The Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is also fantastic. The wonderful Emperor Penguins make it better than Sydney Aquarium, especially as they still have a shark tunnel.

Another good spot is the huge Fitzroy Gardens complete with Captain Cook’s Cottage. Melbourne loves its English style parks, and this one is my top pick.

Melbourne is known for its great restaurants from world class fine dining, to the Italian precinct on Lygon Street and casual laneway dining experiences like the Meatball and Wine Bar and Touche Hombre. All delicious!

It is also renowned for its serious café culture. And I must admit that these Melbourne-ites know how to elevate a café to the next level. My recent top pick is #hash with its signature hot chocolate science experiment served with fairy floss.

My favourite suburb in Melboure is St Kilda. It has the original Luna Park, the famous Esplande Hotel where they filmed The Secret Life of Us, the Beachcomber Café at St Kilda Baths and the weekend markets. I was lucky enough to live and work here for a couple of months and play the local, catching a tram into the office everyday.

With the newly renovated Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and me working on the conference circuit, there was another year that I went to Melbourne a lot. It was good as to discover the adjoining Southbank area with the Crown Casino and Rockpool Bar and Grill, both of which I rate better than their Sydney counterparts.

And of course the DFO is right near the convention centre for any last minute shopping emergencies, like suddenly finding out that you need to attend networking drinks at the Old Melbourne Goal.

And then there’s the tennis. Even this non-sports-lover has to admit that watching the tennis in Melbourne for the weekend was atmospheric; and I didn’t even get bored.

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, 10 things to do in Sydney, Small town vs Big city

Singapore, 2013: Part 3

On the way back home from Europe, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore for a couple of nights mainly to see friends, and to shop of course.

We went shopping on Orchard Rd and saw the colourful statues on the steps of ION Orchard. The usual suspects were visited- H&M, Uniqlo, New Look, Marks and Spencers, Mango and Zara. And as usual, our bags required much repacking to fit in the purchases. I’m not sure it would be very healthy for my bank balance to live in Singapore.

After our day of shopping, we caught up with Cynthia and Tony plus my husband’s friend Drew for dinner at Din Tai Fung. The matching kids cutlery was very cute and the food was good as always. Cynthia and Tony had left their daughter at home with their helper Rosie so they came back to our hotel on Orchard Rd for an after dinner drink before it was bedtime for my little one.

The next day we went to visit Cynthia and Tony and meet up with their daughter. Our daughters seemed to like playing together and were more curious about each other this time. It was nice to see them everyone here again six months after my solo trip here with my daughter.

We went to the local roti house for lunch, which was ridiculously cheap and packed with school kids. The little ones had to sit next to each other of course and it was amusing to watch them copying each other.

After lunch, we went back to Cynthia and Tony’s place for a nap and a swim in the lovely pool in their apartment complex courtyard. The little ones enjoyed splashing around with a novelty turtle pool toy and it was a great place to rest while we waited for our evening flight back to Sydney.

As always, the visit was not long enough, and there was barely time for a quick after swim shower before heading to the airport. Until next time…

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 2, Singapore, 2013: Part 1, Javea, 2013, Barcelona, 2013, Versailles, 2013, Paris, 2013, Belgium, 2013: The Place, Belgium, 2013: The People, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, Fiji, 2013

Holidays are…

Preparing and researching

Booking and planning

Packing

Excitement

Waiting impatiently

Airports and QANTAS club

Arriving in your new temporary home

Unpacking

New places and new things to see

First experiences

Navigating a new city

Temples and churches

Old towns

Landmarks and lookout points

Road trips

Landscapes

Having fun

Swimming

Walking

Enjoying the sunshine

Not letting the rain stop you

Watching shows

New food to try

Markets

Bars and restaurants

Having the time to enjoy a meal

Not cooking or washing up

Meeting new people

Sitting and people watching

Quality time with the little one

Catching up with friends

Cocktail hour

Uninterrupted conversations

Laughing

Pampering

Having the time to shop

New clothes from your new favorite shop

Souvenirs to take home

Photos and memories to keep

Not worrying

Thinking

Having the time to notice rainbows

Watching old movies

Card games

Finishing a book

Sitting and doing nothing

Napping

Drifting

Not wanting it to end

Booking the next holiday.

Related posts: Happy Holidays, Random Public Holiday Ramblings,  Kid at Heart

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

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 an American Thing

My favorite city in America is San Francisco with its Golden Gate Bridge. I can image myself living in one of the city’s terraces on a steep hill. A New York loft in Soho comes in a close second, just a short subway ride from Central Park.

And then there is Las Vegas, where you can see the whole world in one place, San Diego where you can see all the animals in the whole world in one place and Los Angeles where you can see all the stars in the whole world in one place.

One of my favorite trips in America was a Californian road trip along Route 66 and Big Sur- seeing the natural beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and the Grand Canyon plus the man made mansion Hearst Castle along the way. California just has so much to offer. There are ghost towns in the desert, seals on the coast and redwoods in Yosemite.

My bestie is from the tiny town of Stuart, Nebraska- a four-hour drive through cornfields from Omaha. I was lucky enough to be included in their annual 4th July celebrations and it was really something special to be welcomed as one of the family.

Of course, my love affair with American culture started early on with Snow White and a trip to Disneyland. I always wondered what it would be like to go to a real American high school like in Buffy, or a real American college like in Beverly Hills 90210 or go to a football game with real American cheerleaders like in Hellcats.

Anne Rice and Twilight peaked my interest in visiting the Deep South and Washington State. The Vampire Diaries and The Originals have made me want to visit Georgia and New Orleans. Gilmore Girls makes me want to go to New England and let’s not forget Sex and the City for New York inspiration, cosmopolitan style.

Which brings me to shopping of course. You can get anything you want at ridiculously low prices compared to Australia, which probably explains why most of us shop online these days.

There is the tasty simplicity of the classic American diner, the best Mexican food and margarita’s outside of Mexico and buffalo ribs smoked the right way. If you have room for desert, there is jello pie, smores and Twizzlers.

The country is so varied, that I can see why you may never want to leave. If you want mountains, you can go to Colorado, if you want water parks, you go to Florida, if you want a history lesson, you go to Washington DC.

I would love to visit a plantation in Louisiana, party for a night in Miami and drift up the coast of Oregon. It would be great to stay in a Boston brownstone, a Chicago skyscraper or a Hampton’s mansion.

The people are friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic about their country. Yes, America has a bit of something for everyone, and I guess that’s what makes the country so great in the first place.

Related posts: It’s a Canadian Thing, San Francisco, 2007- Part 1: Falling in love again, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road tip, 2007Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007New York, 2005, Part 2: Sex and the City Style, TV replays and movie marathons, USA, 1990

Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994

In 1994, my parents and I joined the Holsinger Reunion Trip to Sri Lanka. My mum was technically a Berenger, not a Holsinger, but I am sure we are related somewhere down the line. Not that this really matters anyway as anyone Sri Lankan and older than you is considered an aunt or an uncle.

We all wore yellow t-shirts with green writing that said “Hollies Reunion 94”on our trip around the country. I met lots of cousins from England, Australia and Sri Lanka and we had lots of parties. The young cousins and the older aunts all put on dance and acting shows of varying skill levels. Mum joined the “I Will Survive” dancing number and my cousin and her father sang to “Unforgettable.”

Being 16 at the time, I remember being very angry that my mum wore a red dress to the reunion ball when she knew I was wearing that colour too. We all spent Christmas together and New Year’s Eve at a house on a lake where we had dinner at 2am because the Lankans like to get maximum drinking time in before they eat.

In Colombo, we saw the Sri Lankan cricket team practicing on the next field when we played our reunion cricket match.

There were monks, a big white Buddha, dancers and monkeys in Kandy. Dad and I were the only ones brave enough to have a snake on our shoulders at a rest stop where we drank out of coconuts.

We went to the Pinawela elephant orphanage and saw the lion’s paws and rock frescos at Sigariya. We visited the buddas at Polonnaruwa and the temples at Anuradhapura. We went to Dambulla rock temple where we saw many colourful buddas in a cave.

At the beach, I swam in the deepest water I can ever remember swimming in and we stayed at the Tangalle Bay Hotel which was shaped like a ship.

Upcountry, we stayed at Loinorn tea estate which my uncle was managing. (He now has Ebony Springs). My family are Sri Lankan burghers, so they had a driver, a cook and a servant who looked after me when I was sick. The estate had a big house, a rock fresh water swimming pool and lots of tea hills to explore. They also had a golden retriever called Goldie who liked to sit around with her legs out like a seal. We got a personal tour of the Bogowana tea factory and I climbed Adam’s Peak at dawn.

We went to The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya which was run by another uncle and visited family in Negombo.

On the way back to Australia we went to Malaysia with my aunt, uncle and two cousins.

In Kuala Lumpur we saw an orangutan smoking the Asian way in the zoo.

There was great food and good shopping in Malacca. Years later, I still regretted not buying silver sunflower ring that I found there.

We took a day boat trip to Pulau Kapas. We couldn’t afford to eat at the resort on the island so we sat on the beach and listened to their stereo system which played Ace of Base all day instead.

Related posts: England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling