Tuesday, January 30, 2007

First things first..

The first thing I did upon arriving back home in sunny Oz this morning (after visiting my Nan and kissing my dog)

(was closely followed by a peach, some grapes and I'm eyeing off a mango..) More comprehensive post to come when i'm not jetlagged as hell.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Halfway to Australia

I did mention that I'm going home for a month didn't I? With all the excitement of the past month I may have neglected to mention it (only a small thing really isn't it!). So yeh, I decided to take the plunge and do the infamous 'first visit' home, although mine has taken a little bit longer than others - it's been over one and a half years since I last graced Sydney shores. So stay tuned for updates over the next month. I'm actually sitting in Seoul airport at the moment, halfway there, feeling quite nervous (and extrememly hungry - god i hate airplane food, and they never EVER give you enough to eat!). Plus one of my friends just emailed to say she went swimming at Bondi the other day and the water was freezing - these are not things I need to be hearing! Bring on the sunshine!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Backtrack to my Birthday

So you all know how much I love my restaurants - and bitching about the service, the food, the way they pour the wine (or not), the way they include the tip on the bill over here, the way service is so much better at home etc etc ... (ok so perhaps I can be a nightmare when we eat out, but that's what four years in the hospitality industry will do to you). ANYWAY, after much drubbing from my friends who are sick of hearing me go on, and after living over here for a year and a half and getting used to 'way things are done in the UK', every now and again I come across a fab new restaurant, and in London there are definitely plenty to choose from (unfortunately there are also plenty of bad ones).

Anyway, I found a gem. Well, Ben found it. And we went there last Thursday night for my birthday dinner. It's a great French restaurant in Soho called Pierre Victoire. The food is amazing, the service (and the French waiters) stunning and there is even a piano player upstairs to add a touch of charm (even though I was already very impressed!). And handily situated near some trendy cocktail bars and pubs. Another fab night out in London!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A life of contrasts

I'm not kidding - these are pictures of our backyard and our street this morning. We woke up and everything was covered in snow! Everyone complains that London is so cold, ugly and grey in January and, well ok mostly it is, but this morning it all just looked gorgeous and we could all imagine we were in Switzerland for a little bit longer. Nice change from the wind storms the UK had last week. We missed the worst of it and I onloy noticed something was amiss when I went out to explore the snow this morning (wearing a fetching outfit of trackie daks and slippers) to find that our side fence has completely blown away. Oops. Have reported it to our completely hopeless property manager people but judging from their past efforts I'd say we're going to be fenceless for a few good months yet.

Our BBQ we bought at the beginning of winter which has now seen snow before actually getting any sun - it's probably a laughing stock amongst it's BBQ friends:

Our snow-covered street!

In contrast, Simone and Shannon are off in Africa on theie 10 day safari at the moment - probably sweltering in their skins. And I will be too as of next week when I'm off home to Australia on Sunday for one month! Sunny skies here I come.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The life of a Swiss Ski Bunny

Wow - what an awesome week. I didn't expect our week of skiing and staying in a private chalet in Verbier, Switzerland, to be anything less than fantastic and I certainly was not disappointed. Not only was the skiing outstanding and the mountains huge(I will never be able to go to Thredbo in Oz again without laughing)but our chalet was beautiful (complete with host and cook, sauna and table-tennis), the apres ski (after-ski in pubs) was wild and we only had one broken bone (Ian the unfortunate stacked it on his snowboard on the first run of the first day, fracturing his right arm - poor thing!). Nevertheless, much fun was still had and all in all, it was completely unforgettable.

It all sounds a bit indulgent, staying in one of the most expensive resorts in Europe and getting breakfast, afternoon tea, three course dinners and canapes served by your chalet host every night, but all in all, I only paid a few hundred (Aussie dollars) more than I paid for a week in Thredbo (Aussie ski resort) a few years ago. Of course there is always the extra money you don't plan on spending on drinks (even though we had wine provided with dinner every night) and we had to stock up on cheese and Swiss Saucisse before we left! (Paul and I got one called Chevre du Valais - goats of the valley - oh..my....god...delish). There were the best bars and restaurants on the slopes and eating chips smothered in mayo every day was almost on par for me with the feeling of screaming on skis down the hill pumped up with that breathtaking mix of exhilaration and fear (aka the thought: "if i accidentally skied off that cliff right now, i would probably be dead - i'm absolutely terrified but this is kinda fun!")

Anyways - this is Paul and me on the slopes (I decided not to go for a head to toe black spray on Chanel ski suit aka Posh Spice) and you will find some more pics down the right hand side.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Three hour delay at Gatwick

Something always has to go wrong doesn't it? We all got here with plenty of time to spare for our flight to Switzerland - only to have minor heart palpitations when they wouldn't let one of our group, Ian, check in since the idiots we booked our chalet with had not provided us with a reference number and they didn't believe he was part of our group. Cue everyone running through the airport trying to sort out the mess, and making it to the gate just in time. Then cue announcement: 'Sorry, due to a 'generator fault' [whatever that is] your flight has been delayed three hours'.... Now we have all been sitting in the bar and I have managed to rack up quite a bill duty free shopping. When you have three hours to kill, it somehow becomes entirely justifiable to buy a) a great pair of reduced Roxy jeans, b) a funky top from Mango and c) a gorgeous clutch from my new favourite shoe shop. It is irrelevant that I am going skiing and will have absolutely no use for any of these items when I get there. I have justified it further to myself because I am going home for a month in February, seeing people I haven't seen for a year and a half, so of course have to look fabulous. Anyways, it's probably time for another drink and i'm running out of time on this hideously expensive computer. On to Geneva (eventually, hopefully!!)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More about Brighton, and someone's birthday!

OK, so it took me a few days but here are a couple of pics and tidbits about Brighton. There is so much to see and do there, I really would recommend it as a day trip or nice weekend out of London. The Brighton Royal Pavilion was fantastic. I was expecting some kind of beachside monument aka the Bondi Pavilion in Sydney but what it was instead is a giant colourful castle (built with what appears to be a mix of Moroccan/Middle Eastern and Indian architecture - with turqoise blue and pinkish tiles, spires and domed rooves - the whole bit. Although we didn't get to see the inside, apparently it is decorated with lavish Chinese-style interior. The best bit is that it was built by King George IV in the 1700s to give him a place to piss up and party with his mistresses :) The photo doesn't do it justice as it was a pretty cloudy day but here:

Sticking with the Moorish theme, on our Saturday night we headed towards a Moroccan-style club just near the water - the PoNaNa souk club. Although some of the other revellers left a little to be desired (heading towards 2am, the three of us spent about 20 minutes laughing at this sweaty guy who was enthusiastically dancing to himself in front of a wall to ceiling mirror...hmmmm). There are heaps of other clubs to be tried in Brighton though - and heaps of gay clubs and bars as well - which fits in with the city's reputation for being a DJ gay haven! We also tried a fabulous Thai restaurant on the Saturday night called The King and I. The staff dress in traditional costume, are incredibly friendly and the food is reasonable and delish - what more could you ask for?

Oh and how could I forget to mention the Pier! If you reminisce of childhood days past when you visited the Easter Show (or fairground), were dazzled by all the bright flashing lights, screamed on the Mouse, tucked into fairy floss and popcorn, and tried to win one of those ugly huge prizes by chucking balls in a clown's mouth at a sideshow, then you will love the Pier. Although it was so windy we almost got blown off, it's lovely to walk along and look out over the pebbled beach and get in touch with the English seaside, sucking on some of the famous Brighton rock candy(you know that stuff they make at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour?) and trying to pick which ride won't make you sick. Ahhhh. Here is Sim and I by the pier - you can tell it is a little chilly!

So there you have it - if you're venturing down to Brighton anytime soon, you have no excuse for not knowing where to go! Now, did someone mention something about a birthday?! Woohoo it's my birthday today people! Although I am working today, it has so far been a lovely morning kicked off with presents and a cup of tea in bed (the perfect way to start any birthday!). Tonight there is about 12 of us going to a French restaurant in Soho which Ben has recommended, so I'm sure I'll be giving a verdict on that one later. Happy Birthday to me!

Have I mentioned I'm going skiing in Switzerland for a week on Saturday?! :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Wicked Weekend and Brighton

I kicked off my first 2007 weekend with some touristy activities which both turned out to be fantastic - and absolute must-dos for anyone visiting the UK. They both probably deserve their own entry, but since it is Monday and the words aren't flowing too well, I'll squash them both into one.

First, on Friday night we went to see Wicked, the musical. Alex and Rhiannon were visiting so there was a group of about 9 of us who had picked up £15 cheap and cheerful tickets from Last Minute. I'm always a bit suspicious of 'new' musicals and I thought this one would be a bit lame - but it really was brilliant! It's the story of the two witches from the Wizard of Oz, and how they came to be who they are in the old book/film. It really was entertaining - good music, great singers, clever story..I am a bit of a sucker for musicals so it might not be for everyone, but of the whole group of us (of girls and guys), everyone loved it. So there you are, my hot musical tip for 2007.

Next stop for the weekend was Brighton - my new favourite English destination. Sim, Shannon and I headed down for just one night so Sim could see the pebbled shores before she heads back to Australia next month. Brighton has everything - trendy bars, clubs, great restaurants, of course the famous beach and pier, and the shopping...oh..my..god...the shopping! Not the best place to go when I'm a little hard up for cash, cause the sales are on and the shops there are just stunning. There is an area called the Brighton Lanes which has winding cobblestone alleys of boutique, antique, design, jewellery shops and unique brands - a nice change from the high street monotony you mostly get in London. And mixed in between are gorgeous cafes where you can stop for an organic lunch if you wish! We tried The Mint Leaf Cafe for lunch - a charming Moroccan/Mediterannean cafe where I had possibly the world's most delicious Carrot and Coriander soup.

More about Brighton (including more sights, pics, clubs and fun on the pier) tomorrow...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Backtrack: Our UK family Christmas

This is what happens when you get a bunch of orphan Aussies and a token Pom, and chuck them in the same small room at Christmas (check out our beautiful tree!)

Dig in everyone!

Sim lets the Xmas spirit get to her head:

Champagne and salmon - the order of the day

Celebrity heads kicks off

I'm off to see Wicked the musical tomorrow night, and then to Brighton for Saturday night for a weekend with the blonde trio. Can't wait!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And then it was 2007...

Wow - another year has flown by just like that (*imagine I just clicked my fingers*). After the crazy London New Year we had last year (ah, we still have fond memories of Elvis costumes and the death punch), this year we decided to take a softer, more laid back approach, and we headed to a remote country old-style farmhouse in the Brittany region of France (along with a lot of wine, cheese and good company of course) to ring in 2007. And although there wasn't the excitement of fireworks or crowds, we had an unforgettable time surrounded by nothing but whistling trees in the gorgeous Brittany countryside, our pet goats and sinister farm cat, a LOT of booze, but most importantly, good friends and people who we have grown to call our family over here. There were all the makings of a winter country ho;iday - boule competitions, dinners by the fire, poker showdowns, trips to the (windy) seaside - and although it's all starting to sound a bit like we are all in our 80s, it was such a cool and different way to spend New Years.

Meanwhile, an awesome party was held back in London I'm told (see pic above and a fantastic slideshow to be found here - i'm almost very jealous). I have also found this brilliant site where you can watch panorama/360 degrees photos and footage of the NYE countdowns in major cities across the world - check it out here. Of course I headed straight to the Sydney NYE celebrations and am now feeling more than a little homesick - although these days any image of people sitting anywhere remotely near an Australian sun in a hat and T-Shirt is making me pine. I've decided to go home for a month in February though - so not long until I will be soaking up the UV Rays myself again!

I always get a little bit sad at the beginning on a New Year - not because it's a sad event, but just because I get nostalgic about the year that has just been, and all the '2006' things that will never be again. It has been such an amazing year for me - my first full calender year of living in London! - and although it sounds cliched, so many things in 2006 really were dreams coming true for me. I've made a great dent in my life-long travel plans and shared unforgettable times along the way. shared my new life with friends and family who came to visit, moved into a fab new house, had a massive blow to the professional ego and bounced back, entered into the 'visa gauntlet' (2007 will spell my fate!), made new friends and met stunning people from all over the world and have loved mostly every minute of it.

So to all the people i love back home, to all the people I love here (and to all the people I'm yet to meet in the world) here's to bigger and better things in 2007! I don't have any hard and fast NY resolutions - I prefer to scrunch my eyes together, blindly stumble forward and hope everything works out for the best :) It seems to have worked out pretty well so far so here we go!