Tag Archives: Sydney

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

10 things to do in Sydney

Here are my favourite places to go in Sydney- a top ten list, if you will. Some of them may seem cliché, but there is a reason that certain places are deemed tourism worthy.

My number one place in Sydney is Taronga Zoo. I love animals and will go to any zoo at any given opportunity. Taronga Zoo is special because you can take a ferry to get there and it has the best views of the city from its grounds. You can even take a gondola from the ferry terminal to the zoo entrance and back again. I also like Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour for an animal fix. It has great shark tank viewing tunnels and they have beluga whales too!

The Botanic Gardens is the place to go for its iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I am lucky because I used to work close enough to the gardens to go for lunch time walks there. I always enjoyed seeing the tourists stopping to take pictures along the way as it reminds me what a lovely city I live in. In summer they have open air theatre shows for kids and they always seem to be setting up for a festival or opera on the harbour side.

The Opera House is the best place to catch a show- pretty much just because you are in the Opera House. My favourite bar, Opera Bar, is also here. It’s often crowded and hard to get a drink, but you can’t beat being under the Opera House looking at the Harbour Bridge while you sip your pre- show cocktail. For a more old skool pub, I also like The London in Balmain. Rustic and sturdy, they have a large selection of beer on tap and decent food. Plus, how can you not love a pub that welcomes dogs?!

One of my favourite restaurants is at The Deck at Luna Park. It has great Spanish style seafood share platters and is not too expensive. It’s also located in my favourite suburb- Kirribilli. I was fortunate enough to live here for a while and there is no place quite like it in Sydney. Lavender Bay is beautiful, the Harbour Bridge is above you and the city is just across the water. You also can’t beat walking to work over the Harbour Bridge.

The European clothing brands have finally landed in Australia! So my new favourite place to shop is the brand new H & M‘s that keep popping up all over Sydney. I must admit that I am a little addicted.

But the best way to see Sydney is to be on the harbour in a boat– preferable at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. The harbour is what makes Sydney special, and it is beautiful, so if you ever come here make sure you get out on the water.

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Sydney vs Melbourne

It’s not as simple as the Harbour vs the River, because you can’t beat Sydney Harbour with its Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s not as easy as AFL vs Rugby League, because there’s a reason it’s called the Australian Football League.

Melbourne has the original Luna Park and a prettier central train station. Sydney has the better airport and a more predictable climate.

Both have world class fine dining and scrumptious popular Italian restaurants.

Sydney has the giraffes at Tarongo Zoo and Melbourne has the penguins at the Aquarium. Melbourne has the beachfront of St Kilda and Sydney has Balmoral.

Melbourne had the better casino until Star City renovated in Sydney, perhaps the same will also be said of the convention centres once Sydney finally completes theirs.

Sydney has the iconic Botanic Gardens and Melbourne has the historic Fitzroy Gardens. Melbourne has better shops, but Sydney has better markets.

In Melbourne, the people are nicer, the coffee shops are varied and the laneway bars are intriguing.

In Sydney, the water is more sparkly, yum cha is offered at all times of the day or night and the underground speak easies are atmospheric.

I had the pleasure of living in St Kilda for a week and near the convention centre many times for work and found Melbourne to be a very livable city. It has been known to have the lower property prices and I have often thought about moving there for a better deal in a city that has just as much to offer as Sydney.

However, with the way costs are rising at the moment, we may all be better off moving to Brisbane.

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Return to sender

Once when I caught the train from Sydney back to Berry, I left my wallet on the train. Distraught, I sought out the station master, who located my wallet and had it sent back on the next train.

Another time, distracted by disposing the rest of my lunch one day, I left my phone on a table in the middle of the food court and raced back to the office.

Fortunately, by the time I had reached my desk, a kind soul had already found my phone and called my dad who had left a message on my work landline. I headed back to retrieve my phone and thank them. They wanted nothing in return.

Finally, there was the time that I was so busy getting off a broken down bus to get on the next one that I left my new red leather wallet on the first bus.

The kindly bus driver gave me a free ride back to the bus depot to collect my wallet which had been returned with the money still intact.

And so it happens, that just when you think there were are no nice people left in Sydney, something like this happens.

A man will get up for a pregnant woman on a bus.

A lady will slip over in the middle of the street and more than one person will rush to her aid.

A tourist will look lost and a passer-by will offer directions.

At the end of the day, I think we are all human and most of us are good.

Sure, there are some selfish horrible serial killer types out there, but these are not the norm even in a big city.

Good karma to all the kind souls that have always returned money, wallets, phones, bags and children that have been lost.  You’re the best!

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You spin me right round

The only remotely risqué thing I have done (that I am willing to share on the blog anyway!) is take pole dancing lessons.

I was bored after two seasons of taking salsa lessons and not really learning anything as the men have to lead; so I convinced a friend and took us to Bobbi’s Pole Studio in the middle of Sydney’s CBD.

I had already had a taste of what the studio had to offer after attending a hen’s night (bachelorette party or stagette do for those from other countries) where we dressed up in cute outfits and I was complimented on my spinney pole skills.

It was with trepidation and a bit of dutch courage from the pub next door that my friend and I walked into our first lesson. The class was girls only, which immediately put me at ease and the teacher was blonde, friendly and bubbly- kind of like a cheerleader.

The beginner’s course was good and they eased us into the moves slowly. The idea was to teach us some basics and then put together a simple routine to boppy music.

We were advised to purchase shorts that were short enough to keep our thighs bare to grip onto the pole and stiletto heels to make the moves easier to perform. Stiletto heels?! I couldn’t even walk in normal heels, let alone heels that are thin enough to break.

Pole dancing was surprising more athletic and less stripper-like than I thought. Don’t get me wrong- they still made us wear what is basically underwear and perform a Kate Moss- but I actually had to quit after the taking the beginners course twice over as I was not athletic enough to continue.

Sure- I can spin around a pole just a good as the next person; however I lacked the core strength and abs that are needed to hoist your body up a pole whilst upside down only holding on with your ankles. I was also completely scared of landing on my head onto the wooden floorboards.

My friend, on the other hand, was addicted and went on to progress much further than I did. She may have even suggested that she was going to have a pole dancing themed thirtieth birthday party and rope me into performing on the night (thank god that never happened!).

We did put on a show at the studio at the end of term for family and friends only. Our boyfriends were suitably impressed with our newly purchased outfits and the result of our efforts, even though I had to do a couple of extra spins while everyone else performed upside down acrobatics.

Credit to all the pole dancing teachers out there- it is a sport and these ladies are truly athletes. It was fun for a while, but I think I will stick to the sports I can actually do, like taking a nice walk in the park. But at least I can now do this in five inch heels!

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The Fashion Files

As I have previously stated, I am not much of a consumer. I don’t keep up with fashion and prefer to wear the styles and colours that suit me. I detest the societal pressure to look model thin and the requisite downsizing of sizes that goes with it.

That being said, I am so excited about the new H&M store that is opening in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre this Thursday. I haven’t been this excited since…well, since the first Australian store opened in Melbourne and I went to that one- currently the biggest H&M in the world as the young helpful sales assistant informed me. My favourite section is the comfy casual Logg clothing that I recently found in the Orchard Rd store in Singapore.

I first discovered H&M when I travelled to England to visit my grandparents. I just found that the pants fitted me better in European clothing brand shops. I was also taken to Zara on Oxford St, purchased a black ruffled skirt and a love affair with Spanish clothing brands commenced. Every overseas trip since then has included a trip to Zara and H&M in Europe, Asia and the Americas wherever possible.

After purchasing a t-shirt with an underwater fish scene in Las Vegas, I found the sub-brand Trafaluc and it is now my favourite section in a Zara store. When Zara opened in Sydney I was ecstatic, but this enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I realised that in the tradition of many fashion outlets in Australia, we were at least one year behind all the European fashion.

The same could be said of the Sydney Mango shop, which went one step further and held leftover stock from Europe as far as I could tell as I found the exact same pair of black high heels that I had bought the previous year in Belgium. They used to have a great shop on the Gold Coast, but have now closed this along with all their other shops except for the flagship store in Melbourne and now distribute through David Jones.

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw the Desigual label. Very pretty and colourful, but a little too young and hip for me!

Now if I could just take a mental picture of my wardrobe so that I don’t end up buying the EXACT same top twice that would be great.

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What’s Inspiring about your Event?

Inspire EX is an exhibition and showcase for events professionals held in Sydney. I went to the event two years ago to attend some educational seminars and found out that “What’s hot right now” in events was Mexican. Mexican, I thought, what are they on about? Nobody does Mexican.

And then the whole world exploded with a love of Mexico. You couldn’t open an airline magazine without seeing another article on Tulum and Sydney became inundated with Mexican restaurants selling authentic fish tacos.

So, I came to InspireEX 2014 to be updated on what was hot, attend the keynote presentation by John Daly and find out the best use of Social Media for Events from Yvonne Adele.

John Daly’s keynote presentation, “What’s so great about face to face,” was inspiring and made me wish I could go and work with him in Santa Barbara on all his fun and exciting events. His concepts of teamwork, site inspections and working with timelines were illustrated by lovely examples of events he had worked on like the restoration of a garden at a French chateau, transforming a generic hotel foyer with a Japanese theme and being serenaded by the Vienna boys’ choir while fixing flowers to an altar for the Pope.

The new trend of hybrid events was also discussed- that is the use of social media for low budget events. The example given was of a surfer who tweeted 25 of his friends which translated in 1 million followers of 100 mini coopers shining headlights on the ocean at midnight while the surfers rode their waves.

And one final tip- never marry a divorce attorney.

Yvonne’s presentation on the best use of social media for events was very practical and useful with lots of ideas on things that a business can implement in social media to increase their event reach. The key is planning activities for before, during and after the event itself and finding the remarkable that can be re-marketed. Yvonne’s top two pieces of advice were to create content which is compelling to share and use the next level of social media platform tools. Smart stuff.

So, what’s hot right now? Tell me already, you say!

Well, according to a panel of top event professionals- Mexican is OUT and Simple and Rustic is IN.

And it’s also called on trend now.

People are looking for:

  • Extraordinary events
  • Unique venues
  • Visual memories
  • Colour
  • Statement pieces
  • Stand up dining
  • Interactive meals
  • East meets East cuisine e.g. Korean and US
  • Green screen entertainment e.g. hologram of performer who is not actually present at the event
  • The latest technology
  • Engagement in events
  • Volume

Watch the world around you for simple and rustic stand up restaurants with East meets East cuisine popping up everywhere and articles about rustic and simple extraordinary colourful events appearing in your airline magazines. And remember you heard it from me first!

Well, after all the other InspireEX event reporters and twitterers anyway.

If you like what you just read- please vote for me on the Big Blog Exchange Competition 2014!

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Degustation Delights

In 2011, my husband and I went through a spell of being addicted to degustation menu’s at Sydney’s top restaurants, always with matched wines of course. It became a bit of a problem when after a year of visiting a different restaurant each month, we became blasé, non-appreciative and had to cut ourselves off. Now we try to only go for special occasions.

My favourite restaurant that sticks in my memory is Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. We went on the recommendation of a friend and were not disappointed. The menu is seasonal, so I can’t recount any of the dishes here, but the place was what made the degustation. The restaurant was small with only a few tables available which lent to the neighbourhood feel. I even remember the couple who arrived late as the babysitter was late, the lesbian couple and the younger couple who left after a couple of courses- I don’t think they quite knew what they were getting into!

My husband’s favourite is Est in the city which we have now been to a few times. The comfortable surroundings and little touches, such as the champagne cart coming around upon arrival, make you feel special. The menu features Australian food with French precision such as the cocoa crusted venison saddle with beetroot, caramelised witlof, pickled blueberries and red leaves.

At the time, Marquee in Surry Hills was the top degustation restaurant. So we went to try the French food with an Australian twist. They serve Kangaroo and Redgate Farm Quail with matched wines from Australia to Spain. I always enjoy tasting the matched wines from different countries and imagining the countryside that the wine came from, or having an Australian wine from a winery that we have been to and remembering it.

Our very first degustation was at Coast in Darling Harbour, so of course we were blown away and returned on numerous occasions for special occasions with friends. It featured lovely décor, a mostly seafood menu including spaghetti with vongole, white wine, chilli and pangrattato, and is now closed.

We went to a French restaurant called Apres a couple of times, which we enjoyed for similar reasons to Oscillate Wildly. It was a neighbourhood restaurant in Potts Point with a nice atmosphere and friendly staff which my husband liked to impress with his French. It had great croquettes, lovely duck and then it closed.

Assiette, another French restaurant in the area that we went to featured dishes such as the white asparagus barigoule with spanner crab, golden beetroot and saffron matched with a 2007 Catrala Savignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. It is now closed.

Becasse in the city, featured delights such as shaved organic Wagyu beef with white asparagus, mushroom and chilled consommé matched with 2009 Spinifex “Luxe”, Barossa Valley, before it closed.

When we went to Bilson’s, the French restaurant that was at the Raddison Blu in the city, my husband found a stone in mushroom starter. Perhaps that’s why it is now also closed.

Maybe the fact that most of the restaurants that we went to degustation’s at in 2011 are now closed is reflective of the fact that fine dining restaurants are struggling to survive in Sydney? Perhaps people are just sick of French food? Or maybe the younger generation don’t want long degustation’s and tasting menu’s are the way forward?

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Cocktail Hour in Sydneytown

After 17 years of living in Sydney, I would consider myself somewhat qualified to find a good cocktail bar in the city. I may not be at my youngest and hippest anymore, but fortunately I work with a couple of twenty something’s who are, so am still able to find a good cocktail when I need one.

My most recent favourite cocktail bar is Lobo Plantation in the city. Decked out in some sort of Cuban Caribbean colonial theme by an ex-Ivy bartender, it exceeded expectations and was indeed discovered to be cool when the hipsters showed up to disturb our pre-dinner cocktails. I recommend the Awkward Pearing- a coffee and expresso cocktail that was surprisingly good.

Another of the recent cocktail-bar-in-a-basement variety is Eau De Vie in Darlinghurst. I was not impressed and will not be back. Fortunately, we discovered the nearby Hinky Dinks which was a pleasant surprise. I loved the American diner set up and the Popcorn Paloma- popcorn infused tequila with grapefruit soda. Yum!

Baxters– the late night whisky bar down an alley way that everyone down the Circular Quay end of town is talking about is a favourite of my husband. If you are not a whisky drinker go to the nearby Palmer and Co instead. This 1920’s themed speakeasy below The Establishment is noisy, but nice, and they have lovely staff.

For a summer cocktail, Opera Bar is my go to place. You can’t beat a bar at the Opera House with a view of the Harbour Bridge on a sunny day in Sydney. I have often been known to remark that “it isn’t summer in Sydney without a cocktail at Opera Bar.”

The nearby ECQ Bar is also a great alternative for a less crowded destination. Nice high bar stools and good classic cocktails like Cosmopolitans and Margarita’s. I also like Cruise Bar on the other side of Circular Quay- comfy outdoor lounges and lovely Mojito concoctions.

In my 20’s, I was taken to Jimmy Lik’s in Potts Point by a much cooler person than I. We also went to a place where you had to knock on the door and they looked at you through a peephole. Sorry- I have no idea where it was, how to find it, or how to get in again.

Other cooler than I friends have introduced me to The Cuban Place in the city centre which is a bit noisy, but has a cheap cocktail hour. I have also been taken to a bar in Paddington that was a place to be at the time, but I just didn’t like drinking my cocktail out of a jar while sitting on a crate that much.

Sometimes these new funky cocktail bars make me nostalgic for the days when Cargo Bar, Bungalow 8 and Pontoon in Darling Harbour were the places to go. Nice traditional bars on the water with a packed dance floor and a line up at the door.

Last time I checked Ivy and The Argyle were the places to go for cocktail and night out on the town, but I am sure that’s all changing again even as I write this.

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Get your groove on!

I always loved dancing and despite being uncoordinated, I have some natural rhythm. Or perhaps it’s a love of dancing coupled with a lack of self-consciousness.

My cousins and I used to put together dance routines to entertain the adults at family functions. One year we dressed up in crepe paper buttercups and sang and danced to the song from the Three Amigo’s movie.

When I was in high school I took part in the Rock Eisteddfod for three years. I was a piece of lava for the Pompeii themed year, a harem girl for the Arabian night’s themed year and a card- the queen of spades- for the casino themed year. The best thing about it was when we got into the finals, we got to perform at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and mix with all the Sydney schools. My mum still have videos of all the performances.

At the age of 18, it was off to the local ex-servos club in Nowra to hit the dance floor with friends and students from other local schools to hip new music by Salt- N- Pepa and such like. I also managed a few nights clubbing in Wollongong with my cousin who lived there.

And then I graduated to the big time- clubbing in Sydney. I became a regular at Home while it was still one of the most popular clubs in the city. Now I always feel a little old and out of place at nightclubs. I’m out of touch with the hip music and the cool places to go- which brings me to the subject of parties.

I used to go to lots of parties in my twenties when I had a lot of acquaintances- dress up parties, birthday parties, New Year’s parties, house warming parties, just because it’s the weekend parties- you never knew who you were going to meet!

Now that we are older and everyone owns property, it’s no longer fashionable to invite everyone you have ever met over to your place to turn up at 11pm and trash the floorboards. Parties involve small gatherings in the garden or picnics in the park at 11am. But you still can BYO alcohol.

I never liked to have parties for myself- I find it a bit strange having a celebration for something I haven’t achieved.

My first and only childhood birthday party was when I was five at my house in Berry. We had semi- legal fireworks from Canberra and played pin the tail on the donkey. My friends threw me a surprise 21st party at my flat in Sydney and I had a great 25th with 70 of my closest acquaintances at The Slipp Inn- where Mary met her prince of Denmark. I was not as lucky as her that night!

I had a surprise 29th courtesy of my boyfriend and organised my own 30th party in the backyard of my parents house in Berry. It was vampire themed and I was the only Buffy. Scary to say I already had the whole wardrobe, including the leather pants, and only had to buy a blonde wig.

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