Month: June 2014

Italy Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two

Italy Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two




To say that our pace slowed down is a major understatement…it has virtually come to a sleepy, warm stand still. After the ‘go for it’ past week exploring and walking literally hundreds of kilometres in London and Paris, Italy is the time in the journey, I planned to relax. With the sun shining, sleepy Sorrento is the perfect wind down town. Strolling the town square, shopping in the local stores, and sitting in the trattorias people watching is wonderful. But there is still so much to explore.




You cannot come to the Amalfi coast and not visit Capri. The Island of Capri is one of the most picturesque and visited locations in Campania. Geologically speaking, Capri is underlaid with limestone which has been eroded over the years forming ridge towers and sinkholes in the rock. This process over time separated Capri from the mainland.

There are a few ways to get to Capri. The Hydrofoil, ($50) the ferry, ($38) sail yourself,($300) join a tour (15-20 people) ($80p/p) or hire a boat and captain.($600). We opted for the latter, (a full day ) as it enables you to cruise from the Port of Sorrento to Capri, stopping along the way if you wish. The ferry and hydrofoil are direct routes…and crowded. The group tour boats don’t allow swimming at the grottos. Plus…if you get a loud, chatty group of American tourists..that may do my head in!




We set off with a packed lunch of Caprese paninis, Prosecco and beer… and cruised West along the coastline in water that is the deepest blue. The Amalfi coast on your left is truly stunning sight, as it winds around the cliff face. After about 30 minutes we dropped anchor at the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri. Sunlight, passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, creates a blue reflection that illuminates the cavern. The cave extends some 50 metres into the cliff at the surface, and is about 150 metres deep, with a sandy bottom. We were able to swim here and it was magnificent.


4 T


We ate lunch on the deck of the boat after our swim and then continued around Capri, via the Verde Grotto and other stunning coves, and on into the main port of Capri. Our skipper pulled up at the dock and we asked him to return in 2 hours.




We then wandered through the lower streets of Capri and onto the beach (rocks) for a dip.




What an experience…sitting on rocks…or should I say…balancing on rocks. No wonder our Australian beaches are so popular, with our white sands. Getting in and out of the ocean requires steely determination and great balance. Once you get a few rocks in the right positions, however, it was surprisingly comfortable. I even lay down to catch some rays.




With an hour left you can either sit and eat gelato at the Marina Grande,(2 kids,1 boyfriend) or attack the slopes of Monte Solaro. (1 middle kid and me) The Phoenician Steps are now a major tourist attraction: 921 stone steps from where to admire the island of Capri in all its glory. There is a lift, but we opted to walk it and take in the views. Breathtaking views…literally…no breath left.

Once at the central Piazza you can shop like a star. There’s no way to avoid the shopping in Capri. From the Piazzetta the narrow streets in every direction are filled with the names of Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Fendi and Valentino, plus a range of local artisans. There are sandal-makers, Capri pant-makers, and perfume-makers – plus a whole lot of very glamorous people. Wearing a kaftan and hat, sweating profusely after the steep climb up..we were feeling less than appropriately dressed for the uber chic Euro crowd. So we took a whole lot of pictures, mopped our brow, and headed down. Much quicker and required much less effort. I did a light jog, not my choice…like a goat…due to the decline. Interesting look for those passing us on the way up, I’m sure.

Back to the Marina, back on the boat, back to the front deck to lie and snooze in the sun on the way back to Sorrento. What a lovely way to spend the day.




Footnote: The best day for day trip to Capri is a Friday. The tours usually arrive into Naples or Sorrento on a Friday, and depart on a Friday, so this is usually a quiet day. (I think the word ‘day’ has now officially reached its quota.)







Italy Eat and Drinks Diary | Part One

Italy Eat and Drinks Diary | Part One


N baie-de-Naples[1]



A very early start out of Paris, meant that we were flying into Naples by breakfast time. A quick 2 hour flight and suddenly we were flying over the amazing Amalfi Coast and into the main city Naples. I had pre booked a driver to meet us at the airport and drive us to Sorrento, where we were staying. There are 5 of us, with lots of luggage, so taxis are out of the question for the airport pick up, and the thought of hiring a car, which crossed my mind, seemed a little adventurous when we had not been to this part of Italy before.

I also pre booked a tour to the ancient city of Pompeii on our way to Sorrento. Kind of killing 2 birds with stone. We were always going to visit Pompeii, so it seemed logical to do it first, and assuming the hotel rooms would not be ready until later in the day, this was a good way to address timing and location issues. Our driver, Lorenzo, was a keen guide, and within 30 minutes we were lining up at the gates of Pompeii.




We were there by 10am. Good timing. I strongly suggest, if you plan to visit Pompeii, get there super early, or much later in the day. For one, the heat is dramatic in this area, and by 1130, the city was jammed with tourists and tours. Allow 2 hours, max, for the viewing. It’s enough.




The erupting volcano devastated Pompeii nearly 2000 years ago in 79 AD but the ash and rock helped preserve buildings almost in their original state, as well as forming eery shapes around the curled-up corpses of victims of the disaster. It really is quite a strange sight to see human forms, in protective positions, frozen in time.  Only the hardest of hearts remained unmoved at the sight of these doomed ashen people clinging to each other as catastrophe approached, mothers cradling their children, husbands embracing wives, dogs straining on leads. On a less sombre note, the architecture is quite stunning. Columns and marble, bathing areas and judicial chambers, all at a standstill. Some completely ruined, others, partially. Time has stood still in this ancient Roman town.




By 1pm, after a quick traditional pizza lunch, we jumped back in our car, and Lorenzo was expertly navigating his way around the winding cliff top streets to Sorrento. (Good idea not to hire a car)  Located in Campania, Sorrento is not officially part of the Amalfi Coast, just North, however, it seemed like a pretty perfect place to start. Lorenzo drove us through the town before taking us to the hotel, to point out the best restaurants and bars, the best gelato bar, and the town square. His advice, if the menu offers fish and chips, run. Only eat at traditional Italian bistros. Good advice.


Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 11.06.02 PM


Our hotel, The Grand Hotel Ambasciatori, is pictured above, and is located high upon the cliff, overlooking the ocean. I spent many months, researching and planning this itinery, and I selected this hotel for a number of reasons. The location was key. A five minute walk to the town square, an ocean view was paramount, and a private beach. The lift for beach access was an unexpected bonus.




I wanted to inhale this spectacular coastline, and there are only a handful of hotels that encompassed my wish list. The view is incredible, has to be seen to be believed; and at night the flickering lights of Naples across the bay is stunning. The private beach is in fact, a deck protruding out into the ocean, with sun lounges, a bar and striped blue and white European style umbrellas. The atmosphere is perfect.




Our first night in Sorrento was spent, relaxing on the terrace, enjoying the night lights, eating pizza..again, and sipping Limoncello…It could not get much better….



Paris Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Five | Finale

Paris Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Five | Finale



Our last day in Paris was set aside to complete some must needed shopping. The city’s different quarters each have their own mood and atmosphere, and their shops often reflect their history and the type of people who live there. We decided to head to the The Galeries Lafayette which is an upmarket French department store located on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The Metro is an easy method of transport and we were stepping out into the Opera Square within minutes of leaving Marais.




Once inside this majestic Nouveau Building, your senses are overloaded with high end designer labels; such as Chanel, Prada, Valentino, Alexander McQueen…plus all of the know them..and a plethora of unique European fashion designs. The glass domed ceiling allows the sunlight to dapple in and there is a view from the roof top terrace of Paris. The opulent old school decor, is not what is seen these days in our local department stores..and Galeries Lafayette stays firmly within French tradition. If it all gets too much, stop on the 3rd floor for a glass of Champagne and a macaron, and people watch. The store is always busy, with shoppers from all over the world. Spending lots and lots of money. There are few bargains in this store. But it is still a must do whilst in Paris. My significant other and kids, decided after a couple of hours, that they were heading back to Bastille. I soldiered on alone. Secretly pleased I had the afternoon the meander the streets of Paris solo.



I opted to stroll down a favourite of mine, Rue St Honore. Located in the 8th district of Paris, the street begins at Place des Ternes, at its most western point. At this end, one finds numerous art galleries, antique shops and interior decorators. The Faubourg Saint-Honoré area extends for 2 kilometers up to Place Beauvau, the site of the presidential palace.




The once stuffy rue St-Honoré has become the focus for a more avant-garde fashion set, and one store I was determined to find was Colette. This store has it all. Contemporary fashion, books, art, jewellery and a perfumery.

After more then 10 years in operation, the Parisian concept store Colette is still the mecca for everything fashion, lifestyle related and worth a visit on every Paris trip. You almost feel like you are entering a shop museum, boasting the best in every category. Very cool.


faubourg-saint-honore-rue du_0011


Next stop was a chance to sit and rest my feet…in the gorgeous CosmoParis shoe boutique. I rested my feet and tried on and purchased some beautiful new kicks. Nude sandals with gold studs, very Valentino at a fraction of the price. There are some good shopping haunts on the rue St-Honoré , you just have to persevere. Oh, and I did.


Hotel Costes Patio for Drinks and a Bite


Feeling somewhat grown up and carefree, I decided to skip 2 blocks down the rue St-Honoré  and pop into Uber cool Hotel Costes for a drink. Costes is a mind-blowingly beautiful hotel. Extravagant and luxe and purple and gold, with chandeliers and heavy wood, a full-on central courtyard; and staff so gorgeous and breathlessly chic that it hurts to look at them. The Beckhams go. Kylie goes. So too shall I. What a wonderful way to spend an hour in Paris, sipping Campari, people watching and with the atmosphere heavy with Gauloises, once again pinching myself…I swear I’m getting bruises.




A beautiful last day in Paris, with memories galore. Lastly, I must mention the book above. The Little Black Book Of Paris. My mother gave this to me a few years ago when I was travelling to Paris for the first time. It simply is the best guide, map and information book I can recommend if you are heading to Paris. The maps fold out, in district chapters,so you can literally follow your map from area to area and fold and go…It lists the right venues, the cool shopping, the hotels and quirky bars and bistros. Seek it out and buy it.

Au revoir Paris you have been a glorious host…






Paris Eat and Drinks | Part Four |

Paris Eat and Drinks | Part Four |



Bonjour,I was going to condense the final 2 days in Paris into 1 post…but I have written too Paris finale tomorrow..

This were quite possibly the most enjoyable day so far. Simple pleasures are often the best, and the last 24 hours in Paris were pure magic. A late start, with a quick morning run over the Seine whilst everyone slept, I returned home to the apartment loaded with fresh baguettes, juice, and French jam. We ate breakfast, with the tall windows splayed open, the morning sun streaming in, and the sounds of Paris below. I am pinching myself..again.




We then set off on foot for the 5km walk to The Eiffel Tower. (do not tell anyone if the distance if it is over 2 km and you plan to walk..they will whinge..I mentioned ..’a mere 20 minute walk’ …kids are on a need to know basis – enough info to get out the door peacefully)

We walked down Rue de Rivoli, one of the most famous streets of Paris. A little shopping, a little Starbucks, and then it was onto the magnificent Lourve. A few photo opportunities and then we had to high tail it to meet our guide at the tower. This stroll had taken almost 3 hours, and now we were actually racing through the streets of Paris to make our tour time of 2.30pm. Once again, I had pre booked ‘Skip-the-Line Eiffel Tower Tour’ and this allows you to bypass the notoriously long lines — and the lines at the Eiffel Tower can literally take hours. At around $100 p/p, this is a must do. The guide will take you through a special entrance and straight up the Tower. Group size is limited to 20 people per tour so book early for this very popular tour. Amazing views obviously, and on a clear day you can see white capped French roof tops for miles.




Once back down on terra firm, we went to the closest Vélib’ station. This is a self-service bike system available 24 hours a day, all year round. To access the service, buy a 1-day or a 7-day ticket. For around $12p/p per day, it is a quick and convenient way to get from one side of Paris to another. The rules are..there are no ride on the road in the bus lane, you are treated like a car..and you have to go fast. Just don’t panic when a bus looms up behind you…my only advice. We spent the rest of the day riding along The Seine River. This splits Paris in two, with the Left Bank (‘Rive Gauche’) sitting to the south of the river, and the Right Bank (‘Rive Droite’) to the north.




(Paris tourist must do )…We bought a brass lock, wrote our names on it, and the date and then added ours to the thousands and thousands of lovers locks on the bridge. We threw the keys into the Seine and each made a wish. My hope is that my kids will return to Paris one day, as backpackers, honeymooners or retirees, and find ours…and remember our time together on this day.




We then rode back to the apartment, via there a better way to valet at Chanel than on a bike?..then have your parcel carried out to your and placed ever so carefully into your basket?..I think not!…

We freshened up again..and headed back out for a late dinner. On bikes. Then back to the Eiffel Tower for the 11pm light show. The Paris night sky lights up on the hour very hour for 5 minutes  from 10 pm until 1 am. Stunning. A midnight ride back along the Right Bank, which was still jammed with young romantics, sipping wine and strolling hand in hand…sigh..So much Parisian cliche fare in one day is almost too much to bare..almost..




Bonne Nuit….Sx




Paris eat and Drinks Diary | Part Three

Paris eat and Drinks Diary | Part Three



We wanted a mini break from the city, so I opted for a day in Versailles. Let me clarify… a day riding bikes through the Palace of Versailles. What a wonderful way to explore this magnificent area.

I pre booked with Fat Tire Bike Tours Paris and for approx $170 p/p we had the whole day mapped out for us. We met our guide at the city office in Paris and then boarded a very full, hot and crowded train for the 35 minute journey South to Versailles.




We went to the Versailles Outdoor market to buy our produce for lunch. Baguettes, hams and cheese plus a nice cold bottle of French Rose and then our guide led the way out to the Palace. It was a glorious, sunny day and the feeling of riding with baguettes and wine in the basket, felt extremely French. We made our way into the gardens and then rode around to see the magnificent estate.




The Palace of Versailles, is one of the largest and most opulent castles in the world. A fine example of 18th century French architecture and art, it is one of the most visited attractions – and castles – in France, as well as being a UNESCO’s World Heritage site and must-see French landmark. The highlights are many; 250 acres of landscaped and manicured lawns and fountains,The Hall of Mirrors, The Stunning Chapel of Versailles and a lake that runs through the centre of the estate.


Chateau de Versailles - Galerie des Glaces


The Hall of Mirrors was my most favourite room. Magnificent detail. The ceiling height, the gilded gold, the pantina mirrors, the chandeliers, the sheer volume of this room was spectacular…those Louis guys sure knew how to decorate with elaborate style. The architecture of the palace needs to be seen to be believed.




The Grand Canal is the most original creation of André Le Nôtre who transformed the east-west perspective into a long light-filled sheet of water. The works took eleven years, from 1668 to 1679. The Grand Canal, 1,670 metres long, was the setting for numerous nautical spectacles and many types of craft were sailed on it. In 1669, Louis XIV ordered rowing boats and reduced models of ships. In the summer the King’s fleet sailed along it, while skates and sleighs whizzed over the frozen water of the Grand Canal in winter.

We parked our bikes on the banks of the lake and ate our picnic lunch in the sun. It was the most beautiful day, and ambience created fleeting moments of history that past though our thoughts. One could clearly imagine the people of the 16th century, strolling the grounds, with all the pomp and ceremony that only French Royals can muster. Superb.




I strongly suggest visiting The Palace of Versailles if time permits, the next time you travel to Paris. I added a day to our itinerary to fit this day into the mix. It was such a pleasant change to get out of the hustle of the city and just relax and enjoy the surroundings. A magic day.




Paris Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two

Paris Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two



We needed a sleep in, so at around 10am we left our apartment and headed out. Grabbed a baguette and cafe au lait and walked 50 mtrs to the Le Open Hop on Hop Off Bus Stop in Bastille.  Once again, I had pre booked these tickets and planned it for the first full day in Paris, as a way to get our bearings. The tickets are about $70p/p and you can ride for a full 24hr period. Hopping on and off as you desire.





With 4 lines to choose from, and each line passes through a different arrondissement. (district) There are also headphones for the audio guide which is helpful for the historical references. So, sitting in the sun, taking in the amazing surroundings, buildings and atmosphere, you are reminded of what an infant country Australia is. Our history is new and shiny, and France is old and weathered. Polar opposites.





After cruising through the Bastille district, and sighting the famous Hotel de Ville, we switched lines and headed down to the famous Musee D’ Orsay and past the Eiffel Tower. We then jumped off to stroll the Champs-Elysées.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees, is arguably one of the world’s most famous streets, and is also one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. Several French monuments are also on the street, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology. According to a much used description, the Champs-Élysées is la plus belle avenue du monde (“the most beautiful avenue in the world”)




Once again, a typically sunny, romantic stroll in Paris…until we walked past the Marriott Hotel and there was a large crowd gathering. A lot of people looking upwards to the open balconies above. Somebody famous perhaps? We stopped and asked…Who?….One Direction…And that was the end of our stroll. The kids stopped. Iphones ready to capture Harry, or Noel or Jack..or whatever their names are… The kids waited. We shopped. We waited. We waited. We then decided enough was enough and we left the crowd to wait and wait.  A quick glimpse of  the Arc De Triomphe and then walked over the Seine to catch the bus through St Germain.





The Boulevard Saint Germain is one of Paris’ most famous streets, situated on the left bank of the Seine River. The Boulevard starts from the Pont de Sully and curves into Pont de la Concorde, passing through 5th, 6th and 7th arrondissements. The shops, cafes and bars seem a little more opulent than Le Marais, and I am pretty certain this is the district to stroll wearing white jeans, the classic navy and white striped t-shirt, loafers and a pastel jumper tied around your shoulders. Tres Chic. Tres French. Tres st Germaine. Last time I was in Paris, we stayed on this side of the river, and I think…I prefer it.




Dinner was early for European standards, (8pm) at Bistro St Andre, and then we were ready to call it a day. The Boulevard St Germaine, takes you straight over the Seine and into Bastille, and then it was a quick walk back home to the apartment.  Being a Saturday night, and apparently the longest day of the year, the cafes and bars were jammed and every corner had bands and singers performing. The sun set at around 11pm, but the partying in our district did not stop until the early hours of the morning.

What wonderful sights and sounds from our balcony window. Paris went all out to impress us tonight.


Paris Eat and Drinks | Part One

Paris Eat and Drinks | Part One


Hands down the best way to get fro London to Paris, easily and efficiently is by train. The Eurostar a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France.



Eurostar has become the dominant operator in cross-channel intercity passenger travel on the routes that it operates, carrying more passengers than all airlines combined. I booked our tickets directly online at approx $150 p/p, selected a reasonable time to depart London (1130am) and we were in Paris for a late lunch 2 hours later. Tres Bon.

We then flagged a cab and headed to our apartment in the Le Marais District.

With 5 of us travelling, hotels were scarce that would book 3 people in one room, so I managed to find two apartments that had been remodelled into one. A definite bonus was having 2 bathrooms. It is the smallest things that can make or break your holiday stress levels, and the 2 bathrooms was a save. The apartment is typically French, with blue velvet buttoned sofas, herringbone timber floor and striped silk drapes. Perfect. I was becoming fluent in French, just by checking into this space!




After a quick freshen up, we were keen to explore our neighbourhood. Often referred to as “Old Paris,” Le Marais exudes old-world charm and modern-day functionality in the city’s core. Cobblestone streets wind through Le Marais’ dizzying network of hidden courtyards, provocative galleries, and ivy-covered cafes. Numerous bars, bistros on every corner and a mix of high end and vintage clothing stores scatter the alleys and lanes. It is a fascinating area. We had a late lunch, French Rose to drink, and then feeling very French, jumped on the Metro and headed to Monmartre.




Many months prior, I booked tickets to see Moulin Rouge in the red light district of Pigatelle. Once again, I suggest booking ahead as to not be disappointed. We were set to see the 11pm show, so plenty of time to check out Monmartre and the surrounding area before the show.

One of the most famous districts in Paris is also one of the most recognizable: Montmartre with its Sacré-Cœur Basilica can be seen rising high above the Paris rooftops from across the city. The 130 meters high hill is famous not only for its remarkable church, but also for its bohemian past. The village within a city once was the home to artists such as Salvadar Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. We made our way to the top, took a deep breath and savoured Paris with all of it’s romance and history… and smiled. No matter how many times you see that view, it’s a definite pinch yourself moment.




At 10pm, with the sun about to set, we trekked back down the cobblestone walkways and lanes, down to the Moulin Rouge  Cabaret ready to line up for the show. Since 1889, The Moulin Rouge, world famous for its French Cancan, and immortalised by painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, has always presented sumptuous shows to its ambiance: the concept never changes at the Moulin Rouge: feathers, rhinestones and sequins, fabulous settings, original music. The times are changing and the audience demands grow, so the show that we saw was a mix of Cabaret and Cirque Du Solei. My youngest daughter is 11 and it was completely suitable for her. The tickets were approx $150pp and I opted to pay a little extra for the Champagne bottle and lemonades …You can also book dinner and a show..that starts getting really expensive, and I would imagine you could get better food elsewhere for cheaper. A very late but brilliant evening.

First night in Paris…Bon Nuit




London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part 3

London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part 3



I just have to mention again how brilliant the area of Covent Garden is if you are a visitor to London. The location is just superb. Walking distance to practically everywhere you need to go, with a cool vibe that is truly alive. This enclave is better than I anticipated. The shopping, the cafes, the pubs, the everything. I am happy to ‘bang on about it’ (insert pommy accent) because it truly is a wonderful spot. Ok..I’m jumping down from my soapbox.

After an early morning run across the Jubilee Bridge over the Thames, in the glorious London sunshine, I was ready to tackle another day as the consummate tourist. And what better area to hit than Notting Hill.




Immortalized on-screen in the eponymous 1999 romantic comedy film, Notting Hill is much more than just a backdrop for the famous Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts’ love affair. The West London district, stretching over Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Road and parts of North Kensington is one of the city’s hippest destinations, lined with vintage boutiques, bijou cafés and indie music venues. Notting Hill is also home to the world famous Portobello market, where one of the largest antique markets in the world is held alongside stalls selling everything from vintage and alternative clothing to handmade crafts, jewellery and music.





Thursday is the only day when the market is open until 1pm, so make sure you get to Notting Hill Gate by 10am, so you can get through the stalls and stores without rushing. You can take a tube (Londons Underground train system) and then it is just a short walk to the top of Portobello Road. Aside from the shopping, the terrace house are just divine. Mostly painted pretty soft pastel colours, it is a beautiful sight.




After some great shopping we heading to Westbourne which is a 10 minute walk South, (unless you have no sense of direction and it takes 30….because it is actually North) for lunch. We stopped in at a modern gastro pub called 65 and King on Westbourne Grove. A very cool, newly renovated space that was grey on grey on grey on oak. With a cream subway tile thrown in for good measure. The layering of the palette was subtle and it worked well. Understated and classy.




The food was bold and tasty and we stayed on well after we had finished eating to rest our feet and put the shopping bags down. A pleasant place to map check.




After lunch we were off again, this time to Selfridges on Oxford St, to check out their annual sale. I have never before seen so many people lining up at Prada and Gucci, but with the 40% sale on..crazy not too? Even the Louboutins were 40% off! Crazy sale London. Crazy good.



What happens when the World Cup is on and England is playing? You head straight to the local pub for a large pint and a little feigned interest, in what is sure to be a typical English night out. The Crown and Anchor was just the place. Just down the way from our apartment, it was an easy choice…and it was jam-packed. Faithful supporters and nonplussed tourists mingled and came together as one to cheer on England. Unfortunately it was not Englands’ night and the celebrations were cut short when Ururguay won 2-1. Oh well…here’s hoping for the next round. Of drinks that is….

Day 3..done and done…




London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two

London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Two




So, the plan for today, planned many months ago, was to eat out for breakfast and eat out for afternoon tea, and shop. Pretty simple. Easy… And Achieved.

I booked breakfast at famous French bistro, Balthazar, Covent Garden, months before arriving in London. I learnt my lesson a few years back when visiting New York, and was unable to get a reservation at the NY Balthazar in Soho, within a 5 day period. This was not going to be the case again. We arrived at 9.30am and were seated in the typically French decor inspired bistro and took a big breath in. It is a stunning space, and the french breads and croissants stacked up on huge breadboards, were mouthwatering. Eggs Benedict, Eggs with streaky bacon on thinly cut sour dough, smashed avocado and tomato salsa, were the staple for big day of shopping ahead.




With our bellies full, it was time to walk off the French calories. We headed up to Oxford St and hit the pavement. Shops galore. Zara, Top Shop, H&M, Aldo, Next and numerous other one season only clothing options were spread along Oxford St. To be honest, it was a little disappointing. Many of the same with different labels. Disposable clothing with a lot people. I was underwhelmed. I wanted more British. So turn left and wander down Old Bond St. Classic designer stores lined the narrow street. If you want Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Coach plus more…then this is your street. I want this street, but unfortunately my wallet does not. Exit stage left and head to Jermyn St.




This is the street if your man wants to splurge. Handmade English leather shoes at Crockett and Jones was our first stop. These shoes will outlive you. They are expensive, so they better do just that. My man had a little sweat going as I chose a beautiful tan stitched lace up shoe for him. They are stunning and now I realise how I underrated mens shoes. Big mistake, huge. Shoes really do maketh the man.

Classic English shirts from Thomas Pink and shaving cream from Taylor of Old Bond Street, who, since 1854 have produced some of the finest shaving soaps and shaving creams available, as well as a full line in shaving accessories, aftershaves and colognes, and we were done. We flagged a cab and headed back to the apartment to freshen up.




Next stop was the famous Savoy Hotel on the Strand, for High Tea. Once again, I suggest booking in advance if this is something you want to do. I booked it online a few months back, to ensure we were accommodated on the day we wanted.

Perfectly placed in the heart of the city and on the banks of the River Thames, The Savoy is just steps away from the colour and vibrancy of Covent Garden and a short taxi or boat ride to renowned London landmarks or to the ultimate designer shopping destinations of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Chelsea.




The High Tea is held in The Thames Foyer, and is very much the heart of The Savoy. A stunning glass dome floods this sociable spot with wonderful natural light – and beneath this, a pianist serenades guests from a winter garden gazebo, as you enjoy the world-famous afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea at The Savoy is an enduring custom where guests can choose from a range of teas served with finger sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream & jam and a mouth-watering selection of seasonal cakes and pastries. Plus a choice of 32 tea blends. I tried 3 and they were all divine. The cost for the high tea is high end at around $90 p/h, but lets just say…you may never need to eat again. And the memories last a lifetime.




After letting out the belt buckle for second time in one day, we headed along the Strand towards Aldwych. I read about a roof top bar on the internet and wanted to find it. The Radio Bar on the roof top of the ME Hotel. The name Radio derives from the location – a grand art deco edifice once known as Marconi House, but now the fancy ME London hotel. From here, the first BBC programming was broadcast in 1922. Radio is on the roof, ten floors up, where the transmission aerials once stood.

What you can’t see from up here isn’t worth its place on the London skyline

The bar attached to this view is great too – this is a sleek, glammed-up, ‘Sex and the City’ destination for long-legged model types and ski-holiday-brochure chaps with unseasonal tans. A man with a clipboard decides where you can sit; a DJ keeps it upbeat. We had a quick drink, got some sunburn and left the cool people alone.

Day 2 done and done…






London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part One

London Eat and Drinks Diary | Part One



It is a long couple of flights from Melbourne to London. A super long trip and being organized once you touch down is key.

As I’ve written before when travelling overseas, I think it is important to arrange a driver for the initial airport to hotel / apartment pickup. It is just easier after a long flight to have someone take over and get you to the accommodation quickly and smoothly. Blackberry Cars collected us and for approx $150 for 5 people with 5 large suitcases, it was a better cost than taxis x 2. And easier. Most important.





I decided to book an apartment in Covent Garden, London’s Central District. Best known for it’s plethora of restaurants, bars and a wide range of chic shopping.The Uber London Penthouse is a 2 bedroom, pullout sofa bed, 2 bathroom, modern space, that was a great choice for 5 guests. Cost wise, on par or just over the cost of 2 x hotel rooms. As European accomodation is renound for being squeezy, this apartment is light filled  and breezy, with an outdoor deck. Rare!

Plus the location is brilliant.





We arrived into London at 4.30pm. Driver booked for 5.30pm. Arrival to the apartment 6.30pm. Dinner pre booked for 7.30pm. Seems like militant precision, however, the idea to book dinner prior to leaving home, was to cut out the semi jet lagged ‘what shall we eat, where shall we eat?’ and go straight for food, then home to bed early.

Jamie Olivers Italian Restaurant, Covent Garden, is one of many chain style eateries he has opened over London. It is a simple modern fit out. Simple and authentically Italian. Complete with Italian wait staff, and a modern take on Italian classics. The winner for me was the cured meats served on planks of wood. Spicy Sopressa, thinly shaved Mortadella and salty prosciutto coupled with cheese and olives was simple and delicious. A quick meal, some Pinot and early to bed.




The best way to see a city for the first time is to take a bus tour. My partner and kids had not been to London, so this was a perfect introduction to this bustling town. I had pre booked with Golden Tours, which is an open top, ‘hop on hop off’ bus that has 4 different routes travelling all over London. We caught the blue line at 930am which headed to Buckingham Palace and we jumped off and waited for the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11am. With all the pomp and ceremony expected of the British, the guards marched along the Mall and into the gated Palace. The Guards completed their changeover and then marched out. Quite amazing to think this happens every day. Road closures, mounted police and thousands of tourists. Incredible. Buckingham Palace. Tick.

Back onto the bus and we then continued enroute to Knightsbridge to pop into Harrods, The world famous department store, most famous for its designer range, old school charm and stunning food hall.




The food hall consists of room after room of gourmet foods and gifts, such as teas, chocolates, gelato, pizza, seafood, candy, produce and much, much more. There is even a truffle section (as in truffle oil) and a place to buy Krispy Kreme donuts. Also, a favourite, Laduree, is located inside the food hall, serving delicious desserts and macarons in a beautiful setting. Mind blowing.

After a quick lunch we jumped back on the bus and toured for over an hour through London. Taking in all the landmarks and stunning architecture, as we wound our way through Mayfair, onto St Pauls Cathederal, and over the London Bridge. We jumped off at the Thames river and headed to the London Eye to take in the aerial views. I strongly suggest buying the ‘jump the queue tickets’, which cost a little more, but well worth it as the crowds are huge.


London_Eye. 3


The view over London on a clear day is stunning. You also get a real sense of how huge and sprawling the city is and how regal the different boroughs are. Also, once again the architecture from the sky is amazing. The ride takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and tickets are approx $50 p/p.

We then headed back over the bridge, past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben and then onto the Strand for a quick shop at H & M for the kids. Then Top Shop…for the kids. Then ..Zara..for……….ok..maybe for me….




Dinner. One word…Hakkasan. Second word…Book at least a month out.

Hakkasan was founded in London in 2001 and has since become one of the most distinguished global brands offering a unique approach to the restaurant, lounge and nightlife experiences. Accessible yet sophisticated, Hakkasan has redefined the modern Chinese fine-dining experience. I ate here for the first time 4 years ago and it was mind blowing. All of it. So it was a no brainer to dine here again. Located in Hanway Pace, London, it can be a little tricky to find. Down an alley and an unobtrusive entry door, but once The stunning decadent furnishings and the almost too glamorous to be real wait staff, coupled with the best Chinese food you will ever taste in your lifetime…it is well worth the higher than average dining prices.




Back in Covent Garden, a tangy yoghurt from the yoghurt chain ‘Snog’ to cleanse the palette…and then it was lights out for us. A wonderful day one in London.