AVAILABLE IN STORE NOW AT COMMERCIAL BAY, AUCKLAND
One morning I woke to message on Instagram from a young Parisian photographer Adem. He was reaching out to compliment my use of colour and the aesthetic of my feed. He mentioned that if I were ever in Paris, he would love to collaborate and show me around the streets of his home town. Three months later we met outside a local cafe in the 7th district, grabbed a coffee and croissant with my darling Sami Downey, and spent the morning shooting amongst his streets and against backdrops that I had only ever dreamed of.
This is one part of my series Around the World with H&M. This shoot features pieces from the Bonjour Paris collection, a limited edition edition collection that celebrates the French Contemporary style and one that has had a huge influence on my own and I know Sami’s.
This was our morning in the city of love.
In my twenties my budget was limited, and the opportunities to travel would come after months of stringent saving. Each day was precious and I would squish in as much as the day would allow, waking early and walking right through until dawn. But that is how you should travel in your twenties, seeing and experiencing everything, regardless of a lack of sleep or tired legs.
Now Im 33 and although the days are just as precious, Ive seen the sites – especially in LA. I’ve sat under the Hollywood sign, walked the boulevard and experienced the diverse range of cocktail and dive bars. This time I wanted to wake naturally, sip my coffee from my hotel room over looking the city without any plans, and just wander under the palm trees against the balmy breeze.
Although I had a few friends to catch up with, I spent most of my days exploring alone. There is something quite liberating about wandering a somewhat unfamiliar city without anyone to fall back on. I walk my own path without compromise, allowing each new turn guide me to new pockets of a city. But with that freedom comes a sense of insecurity.
As a solo traveller, I value the advice and recommendation of other solo travellers. Not only for their personal experiences exploring, but for their advice on travelling safe. If you are to travel solo, experience the most out of each opportunity, meet the people and explore the hidden streets with confidence by investing in a comprehensive travel insurance plan. For this trip I partnered with Worldcare Travel Insurance who provided me with a complimentary GoComprehensive policy that included the higher limits and extended benefits I needed to feel secure and confident exploring while in safe hands as a single women in my thirties!
My taxi dropped me at the entrance to The Beverly Hills Hotel. Its peachy pink walls and immaculately landscaped grounds are somewhat intimidating. Walking through the entrance I thought of all the celebrities that have walked up the same stairs on their way to The Polo Lounge and all the famous producers that have sipped on their cocktail while signing movie deals. I sat at my table for one, in the 9am sunshine with my muesli and green juice, watching the guests filter in for breakfast. If you enjoy people watching, this is where you want to locate yourself for a few hours. Take a stroll through the grounds and around the bungalows covered by arching banana trees. The place is an Instagram dream.
From there I walked down North Beverly Drive and into the hub of Rodeo Drive. The neighbourhood streets are so wide yet relatively quiet. There is a real mix of housing. From Spanish styled homes to french county inspired properties landscaped to perfection. It was such a dreamy stroll. Rodeo is beautiful. Its peaceful window shopping during the early morning, plus you miss the snap happy tourists. The YSL flagship store is the largest in America and is the home to my dream wardrobe.
From there I took a cab to West Hollywood to Alfred Tea. Nestled into North Alfred Street, Alfred Tea is a picturesque tea room serving up delicious thai tea, matcha and nut milk goodness to addicted locals. I sat outside in the courtyard eavesdropping on a young girl confidently interviewing a string of hopeful retail staff. Others had their laptops out working away in the sun. Thats what I love about LA, everyone is out and about, making the most of what their community has created. Opposite the street is Isabel Marant tucked into a lusciously green courtyard. A beautifully photo op.From here its an easy stroll down Melrose. Home to Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and a string of brightly coloured feature walls, there is no shortage of Instagram spots on this street! But Melrose is like the Brady Bunch of the family of suburbs in LA. It’s a mix of vintage stores, higher end designers, gorgeous furniture stores and boutique eateries like Carrera. The LA heat can get a bit much during the peak of the day, so I popped into the corner cafe for a kale salad, hooked up to their free wifi and watched the young girls pop in for their ‘LA’ sprinkled coffee, posing by the old school pink phone that hung on the wall. Attracting many of the worlds fashion bloggers it has become a must see attraction for millennial tourists!The next day I took a cab out to Venice beach. Although being about 45mins drive, taxis are relatively cheap so I definitely recommend taking the trip out. I would suggest staying away form the hustle of the main strip and explore the back streets and canals and peer into the multi million dollar properties (most of which are holiday homes). Each house has its own character that I assume reflects that of its owner, illustrating the diversity found within the Venice community. From large modern homes like Karens off Californication, to tiny little cottages that have been well loved and passed down through generations. It’s unique side of LA that makes exploring its streets so interesting. My favourite was the little home that lived behind the pink flamingo fence. I popped out both nights for a bite to eat and a cocktail. The first night I met a friend at Mama Shelter, a relaxed rooftop venue in Hollywood that has the most striking view of the sun setting over the hills. Dressed with tropical plants and sprawling loungers this is the perfect spot for a casual evening drink or a relaxed dinner with friends.
The second night I popped out to Catch. An LA hotspot for the rich and famous (apparently). A rooftop sanctuary covered in floral creeping vines and exposed brick walls. With a 2 week wait list it seems this is a spot that can be quite selective with its guests, not surprising knowing that it caters of the likes of Quincey Jones, David Beckham and the Jenner girls. After a course of sharing dishes such as Lobster Rolls and Wagyu Short Rib Tacos and a few Lush Lemonade cocktails, we ventured out to the streets, through the awaiting paparazzi and back home to bed.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to partner with Worldcare Travel Insurance who have supported my trip around the world, across 7 countries, helping me write, capture and share my experiences. See more about my GoComprehensive Plan here*and apply my code for 10% off LIFEINMYTHIRTIES10
See you again soon LA, take care of your angels.
I’ve heard a few rumours about iPhone batteries – for example, when you update iOS it can reduce your battery life, or that Apple design the batteries to have a short life, encouraging iPhone loyalists to keep up with the new versions. But to be honest my short battery life is likely to be due to excessive use of Instagramming and capturing all my little moments.
The fuse in my car charger is broken and I am often maximising every opporuntity to charge up while on the go. Now I throw my iPhone into my handbag and keep it charged on my pink marbled lipstick charger from Richmond and Finch.
The established Swedish fashion brand have recently launched their SS8 collection, painted with peonies, butterflies, floral jungles and paisley flowers, Made for the perfect flay lay, they are as functional as they are fashionable with 360 Drop Protection.
After years of protecting my cases, I am officially working with Richmond and Finch to offer 20% off your purchase using Holly20.
– Yves Saint Laurent
I was asked the other day what my truth was. It was during a sound bowl healing session and I was asked to write it down, scroll it up and keep it on my heart during the ceremony. My truth is my passion. I am passionate in the way I love, both romantically and towards my friends and family. I am passionate about creating and living a life where I am content and fulfilled and I am passionate in my work, what I do and what I can achieve.
To me success comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. Some of my most memorable success stories have been as simple as feedback or recognition shared in a sentence via email. Some are the opportunities to write and collaborate with brands I had once dreamed of working with. YSL Beauty was one of them.
It is important to me to be genuinely passionate about each of the brands I choose to work with. Not only do I need to represent and reflect their brand but their brand needs to reflect mine. Being a gold girl and a lover of a dash of luxury, I had always wanted to dress my make up stand with the golden details and features that wrap each of the YSL Beauty products.
So here I am, a woman wearing both my passion and a line of the most luxurious cosmetics created. Grateful.
This month I am helping YSL Beauty celebrate the launch of their new Colour Correcting Blur Primers and their first make up setting spray. I have only recently started using primers and now they are a staple in my makeup routine. They come in three shades, Orange for tanned/olive skin, Pink for all complexions and Blue for fair skin.
On application they smooth the skin flawlessly, evening and illuminating the skin tone, prepping the skin for your foundation. The formulae is light and weightless which I love as I don’t feel like I am adding layers of unnecessary product. I prefer a natural lightweight look and since wearing this new range I have had numerous comments on my skin.
Although I opt for a natural look, I need a full and lasting coverage as I don’t tend to top up my make up during the day. The All Hours 24 Hour foundation is a SPF 20, oil free and non-pore clogging foundation that does just as it says it does – lasts all day. It is infused with black tea antioxidant complex, protecting the skin from pollution while protecting my skin from dullness and fatigue.
I’m sure you have had a friend or family member share their love for the Touche Eclat Radiant Touch Pen. It has confidently established itself as a makeup ‘must have’ for woman of all cultures. It is a highlighting essential and is easily applied under the eye, across the top of the cheek bone or as I like to use it – under the arch of my eye brow to highlight and define the area. It can also be used to plump up the lip, quickly remove dark circles or to correct the fall out of mascara or eye shadow.
The golden make up fixer – Top Secrets Make Up Setting Spray is the final touch to a flawless look. I have been carrying this in my bag to also give a quick mist mid day. It sets as a protective layer keeping the make up in place with its Moroccan Walnut Leaf Extract and Jojoba Oil, hydrating the skin while keeping it radiant and glowing.
So this is my new YSL Beauty make up family – simple, lightweight and flawless.
Colour Correcting Blur Primers $93
All Hours 24 Hour Foundation $101
Touche Eclat Radiant Touch Pen $69
Top Secrets Make Up Setting Spray $85
It’s as if this collection was made and launched for me as I am about to jet off to experience my dream Urban Getaway! Exploring LA, NYC and skipping across the great cities of Europe, I now have a makeup collection packed and ready that celebrates the Northern Hemisphere Summer and is inspired by the beauty of a city adventure.
I will be creating some colourful summer looks to compliment the many outfits I have packed and I can’t wait to share these with you!
Couture Palette Collector – $126
Rouge Volupte Shine lipstick – $66
Rouge Volupte Tint in Balm – $66
I quite openly have a few guilty pleasures – shoes, fine dining, candles and fresh flowers. But a weekend escape at a luxurious hotel would be the top of the list. I remember when I was travelling through Asia in my early twenties, I saved up enough money to book myself into one of the 5 star hotels. I was by myself and didn’t leave the room for 2 days. I loved spending the time alone, ordering room service and inroom massages. I appreciate the experience that a stay in a beautiful hotel offers and this was something I was willing to sacrifice a few more nights on the island for.
Noting much has changed since then, I will mix in a few 5 start hotels when I travel but that doesn’t mean I am flippant with my money. I just choose to sacrifice other things in order to allow for my hotel experiences. I rarely go out in the months leading up to my trips and can live quite happily on the basics. So I do.
My first Sofitel experience was during a trip down to Queenstown. As I do, I chose to save up so I could experience my weekend away at the French establishment on the lakefront. To this day it was one of my most memorable hotel experiences (and I have had a lot). The french butler knocked on the door a little after we were settled in. He introduced himself as our main point of contact during our stay. He was beautifully mannered and immaculately dressed in a Parisian styled three piece. So when Sofitel Wellington asked me to spend a weekend away with them, I was confident that this experience would live up to the first.
Aki, Claire Andrew and I packed our suitcases with 20 odd kgs of outfits and accessories to see our way through two full days of shooting. As you will know from my Instagram feed, I am drawn to contrasting patterns, bold colours and detail. I like to shoot in settings that draw you in, backgrounds that have you zooming to explore a little further. Sofitel Wellington was about to be the feature of some of my favourite photos to date.
The French influence paints its way through the hotel picking up and celebrating the local Wellington flavour as it flows through each of the beautifully created spaces. Deep forest green velvet loungers are complimented by the golden bronzed glow of the lobby bar. The foyer lined with mint green, high back arm chairs carry you through to Jardin Grill, a restaurant that has confidently established itself as a uniquely exquisite dining experience. It is no surprise that it is also the most expensive restaurant fit out in New Zealand with the custom floral wall paper that sings its way up the walls and across the ceiling.
The rooms define luxury – sleek and golden. The black tiled bathroom pops with golden features while the bedroom lightens with warm tones and fabrics encouraging you to snuggle in and experience the bespoke Sofitel bed – yes they have their own bed line that is made in France and shipped around the world to ensure they can control the quality and consistency of their luxurious sleeping experience! It is no surprise that they stretch the window across the width of the room. At first glance it can easily be mistaken for a painting. The lush green hills are quite literally picture perfect.
The hotel sits on the hill above Lambton Quay. Take one of the small walkways that connects The Terrace to Lambton Quay and you are in the hub of the shopping district in minutes. David Jones is a must. Peruse the Christian Louboutons and Valentinos or spritz yourself in Tom Ford and Jo Malone. Wellington is definitely a city to explore by foot (wrapped in a jacket and scarf on those windy days of course).
The streets are built up around the culture of the city. The designers and high end stores are found in pockets scattered across the CBD with some of the best coffee stops and restaurants found down the alley ways. I blogged about Havana Bar in my last blog here. We enjoyed a lunch of champagne and perfectly cooked pork belly followed by a mini photo shoot capturing the colours and latin influence. After a quick stop at Wellington Chocolate factory tasting their free trade delectable dark chocolates we were soon back in our rooms for the 5th outfit change before enjoying a few of the gin cocktails in the lobby bar.
Dinner was a mix of blogger chat, planning our shoots for the following day and worrying about the food ‘fomo’ we would get if we were to order different dishes. I started with an entree of Paua and Scallops, followed by Wagyu with (believe it or not) the most deliciously moreish brussels sprouts! The plan was to pop out for a night cap but as we sank into our chairs after trying to finish every last crumb on the table, we rolled our way back to bed. I couldn’t be happier as I lay like a star fish and drifted off to sleep in quite possibly the worlds most comfortable bed.
Two days simply wasn’t enough. I’m sitting in the lounge watching the rain bucketing down as I write this, feeling more inclined to book my next trip down. An easy hour flight, it is the perfect way to spend a rainy weekend, a romantic getaway or an escape on your own for one of New Zealand’s most luxurious hotel experiences at Sofitel Wellington.
Always on the hunt for new backdrops, colours and textures to shoot, Tori and I got it in bucket loads in the Victoria on the River precinct of Hamilton. An established local lunch spot for the last 4 years, Banh Mi Caphe has recently experienced a fresh new look in it’s new home right on the river.
Having spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia, I prefer to eat at the local street stalls and food markets. The food is consistently more fresh and flavoursome than what is offered at the restaurants and hotels, because the recipes are refined and perfected through generations. That’s exactly what has the locals hooked on their new inner city eatery, Banh Mi Caphe.
The whole family contribute to the dishes that flow out of their kitchen. The majority of the menu is made up of recipes that Anh (co-owner) learned from her grandmother. The herbs are grown in her mothers own back yard and the baguettes made fresh by her father. The family is truely at the heart of this establishment and it’s success.
Next time you are passing through Hamilton make sure you stop in for lunch or dinner. Open from Tuesday to Saturday Banh Mi Caphe is located at 298 Victoria St, Hamilton.
My favourites were the Lemongrass Tofu and Mushroom Banh Mi, Banh Chuoi Banana Cakes and the Goi Cuon fresh rice paper rolls – but its safe to say the entire menu is ridiculously moorish.
If you are in your thirties are you have not yet introduced Collagen Powder into your daily routine, then I highly recommend you do! Why? Because once we hit 30 our collagen levels drop 1% – 2% every year! Incorporating powdered collagen into your diet will replenish and boost collagen levels in the body, increasing collagen production and reducing those fine lines and wrinkles.
The Japanese woman pride themselves on their skincare regimes that help them maintain their youthful appearance. So it is no surprise that Japanese collagen is known to be the best in the world. Adashiko Collagen is produced in Japan and therefore has established itself at the forefront of the collagen industry in New Zealand.
I’ve been using Adashiko for over a year now and can confidently say it will be a staple in my morning routine for life. I shared a Collagen Boosting Juice Recipe last year which you can read here. I add Adashiko to my morning coffee every morning. I leave my tub right next to my coffee so I never forgot. I also sprinkle over salad or even roast veges, but today I used a few things I had lying around to create some berry breakie collagen balls.
I’m up at my beach house and my mother annoying took the glass part of the blender back to Singapore with her grrrr so I used a pestle and mortar instead and I actually think I like the texture better!
Add each of the following to the mortar one at a time, grind and add to a larger bowl.
Mix in the bowl with 2 tablespoons of Pics Peanut Butter and 8 scoops of Adashiko and roll on a plate of extra coconut.
These are great for that 10am craving (I get these every day … and again at 3pm!) so pack a few in the staff fridge to stop the craving for the brownies from the cafe down the road!
I found the benefits of using Adashiko really interesting, so pop over to their website for more detailed info and reviews.
There are two types of events that highlight my year; weddings and the races. Why? Because over the years I have subconsciously built a wardrobe full of dazzling outfits, alongside a collection of statement accessories that are not exactly your everyday Ponsonby night attire. So, they patiently hang in the darkness of my closet waiting for their season to flourish – the season of weddings and race days! Two occasions where New Zealand women can dress to the nines, celebrate fashion and boast the creative and extravagant side of their personality.
Ellerslie Racecourse is home to some of New Zealand’s most attended racing events; The Melbourne Cup, Karaka Million, Twilight Races and this March the highly anticipated Auckland Cup Week with the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup Day coming up on 10th March.
Over the last few years I have attended a number of these events, eagerly keeping my eyes peeled as I stroll through the clinking of champagne glasses and mingle my way through the hosted areas, taking a mental note and visual inspiration from the diverse range of women and their individual interpretation of race day fashion – all the while feeling relaxed, excited and daring! It’s not just a day for the wealthy and fashion fierce, it’s a day that brings together fun, anticipation, that outdoor feeling and friendship.
It’s not only what you are wearing that makes the races such an attractive outing!
Let’s be honest. There is nothing more sexy than a man or woman waving that winning ticket in the air. There is an immediate happy reaction we all have viewing the smiles of a victory for someone, whether it’s $5 or $500 ! So don’t be too concerned with dollar amounts, celebrate looking victorious with whatever you might win and for the wins of those around you.
Here are a few of my tips:
The Boxed Trifecta Percentage Bet: I would normally choose 6 horses at a 20% bet. This means that if three of your chosen six horses place in first, second and third in any order, you win 20% of what the horses are paying, I generally bet $20.
Place your bet early and be organised: Know your bets and place them as you arrive. This way you can relax, cheer with a few champagnes and find yourself a prime spot amongst the crowd. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out what bets to place, especially after a few champagnes!
Spread your bets out: Rather than betting on the final race, place smaller bets across a number of races. More chances to wave those tickets!
Take Cash: I learnt this the hard way. I waited eagerly before the final and only race I was betting on that day, only to find that they didn’t accept credit card or eftpos. With the race having already started I dashed back to join the rest of my friends hoping to celebrate their wins and …. the bet I was going to make won!
I arrived early to the Karaka Million a few weeks ago, before the crowds of fashionistas and race day fanatics arrived, to shoot a few different race day inspired looks from Trelise Cooper (first two looks) and H&M (second two looks).
If you’d like an excuse to dress up, drink champagne and party in the sunshine, then you can get your tickets here – www.ellerslie.co.nz
Just lately I’ve enjoyed colouring in my calendar weekends with new experiences and opportunities to meet people beyond my own circle. I still enjoy a Saturday night getting ready at 10pm to enjoy a cocktail on Ponsonby Rd but switching to a 10am ‘get ready’ time is taking on a new appeal. Particularly getting ready for fashion, music and sporting events like rugby, cricket or the Karaka Million.
I attended the NZ Open for the first time out in Clevedon last year and until then, my only experience with Polo was watching Vivian Ward turn heads in her wide brimmed hat on Pretty Woman. This month I experienced the Urban Polo, an urban take on the traditional game and an opportunity to open the sport up to a wider audience, bringing it into the inner city. Played on a significantly smaller field, Urban Polo brings its spectators closer to the game, ponies and action.
With its mix of sunshine, social mingling, music and some of Auckland’s finest hospitality, the Heineken Urban Polo has established itself as one of summer’s most talked about events, popping up in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington.
For those of you who are new to this sporting summer highlight like me, the guys at Urban Polo have shared a few tips to help get you through as if you are an event regular:
And of course there is the fashion! But what exactly is the fashion brief for an Urban Polo? Simply put a garden party/urban lens over what you would expect to wear to a day at the races. Fascinators and hats are not an expected element to an outfit, however most welcome. The urban polo is an opportunity to integrate pops of colour, a tailored pant or a flowy dress or skirt. Have fun with accessories, statement jewellery, bright bags and with this dodgy weather I’d add a blazer draped over your shoulders just in case. I don’t think I need to state the obvious, but don’t try your luck with a pair of stiletto heels – wedges, block heels or sandals.
I recently spent a morning out at Ainsley Polo, the breeding and training ground for some of the worlds best polo ponies. Living and working in the city, I rarely get to see the countryside at this time of the day, it was incredibly idyllic. I watched the players during a practice game. It’s such a peaceful sport, so graceful. The sound of the ponies as they galloped by made me re-think my inner city lifestyle! Ainsley Polo also offer Polo lessons, whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned polo player – they will have you covered with the best teachers in the game. I’m excited to try one myself next month. Head over to their site for more info: www.ainsleypolo.com
Photos by Tori Hayley
Kiki is a ten-year-old budding photographer. Having bought her first DSLR from her step mum Cat, her dream is to become a professional fashion and lifestyle photographer and she is taking every opportunity to get herself there. She shoots and edits all her own images and has learnt how to use and adjust the settings on her camera simply by trial and error. When I heard of Kiki’s creative passion I immediately felt a connection to her and a sense of responsibility, to do what I could to help fuel and nurture her adolescent passion.
You can never be too old or too young to have or be a mentor. Yet I feel it is something that we shy away from. Either we feel a sense of pride to achieve our goals in isolation or feel a sense of failure by accepting guidance or potential criticism from others. Or, when there is an opportunity to be someone’s mentor, it is difficult to set aside time for someone else. However, I guarantee that the most successful people in any industry are those who have identified and partnered with a mentor and/or have been someone else’s.
I jumped at the opportunity to work with Kiki and we quickly set up our first shoot together. I selected some fun tees and bright colours from H&M and we met in Albert Park in the 26-degree heat and started shooting. I was intrigued by her soft nature and enjoyed watching her as she skipped between looking through the lens and adjusting her settings and focus. She was aware of her surroundings and space in which she had to work, moving around me to capture long, wide and close up shots. Jumping in and out of the flowers she had an eye for depth of field and captured the shot beautifully.
We are already planning our next session where I will take Kiki into some of the PR showrooms and introduce her to some of the industry professionals. It will be an opportunity for her to style the outfits herself, encouraging her to think about patterns, colour and features that all contribute to the art of photography.
As we strive to develop our various industries it is important to acknowledge the role our youth will play as they will pick up where we leave off, bringing with them a fresh perspective, new talent and lessons learned. So let’s continue to nurture their raw creativity, feed them with confidence to succeed and constantly challenge them to finesse their creative flare.
5 reasons why we need to mentor our youth:
Confidence: simply having someone behind them. Someone there to say “I believe in you” even when they fail, is sometimes all they need to pick themselves back up again. It’s a tough road on your own!
Accountability: As they set their own goals they need someone that will check in with them along the way. When things go slightly off track it’s easy to give up, but checking in with their mentor as they check off their goals will keep them accountable for their own success.
Share lessons: Not everything needs to be learnt the hard way so lets pass on what we have learned, helping them understand what challenges we faced and how we over came them.
Networking: The art of networking not only teaches them to connect and collaborate with others but also the importance of being kind, open and approachable. This will give them confidence to introduce themselves to others and build a strong network of people to support and motivate them.
Inspire: opening their eyes to the wider industry, showing them a glimpse into the field they could be playing in down the track keeps the dream evolving and alive.
These pieces are all new season H&M so keep an eye out in store!
It’s been a big year, professionally, emotionally and physically. I’ve ticked off some significant boxes on my ’30 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 35′ bucket list; I’ve achieved a lot professionally, I’ve travelled, dated, spoke in front of over 200 people and made a few more best friends who I now simply couldn’t do life without. I couldn’t feel more accomplished as I say goodbye to the beast that was 2017, but it certainly has taken it’s toll. I haven’t given my body a minute to rest and it’s something I know I am often guilty of.
We often escape the city in search of a relaxing weekend, but it’s never really a full switch off. We either wander the streets, explore the beach or go for long walks and make the most of every minute. But that’s not a real rest. A few weekends ago Tori and I locked ourselves inside the walls of the luxurious Grand Mercure Hotel, situated right in the heart of the city. We shut off. Sipping our champagne while perched on our north facing windows, we peered down onto the bustling city street. We didn’t feel guilty for being inside on such a beautiful day. Closed off from the distraction of a computer, chores and life admin, we wrapped ourselves up in our plush white robes and lazed about enjoying all the amenities, the crisp white sheets, the deep tub and the deliciously prepared food brought right to our bed. It was just what I needed and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience. From every smile that greeted us in the hallway, to the judgement free look we received when ordering our french fries and Brussels Sprouts (its our thing) the personal touch on our experience was felt during each and every minute.
As you will see, the place is an absolute dream. From the fitness and yoga studio where you can select and follow hundreds of interactive fitness classes to their intimate library and sky high Attic Bar which celebrates the sparkling city and harbour views, the Grand Mercure is a holiday in itself and I cannot wait to go back in a few months and refuel within their walls again!
Follow them on Instagram for more from this blissful inner city escape
Singapore is one the most popular stop over destinations for New Zealanders. Whether we are on our way to Europe or off to the islands of Indonesia, we have all spent our fair share of time window-shopping Changi airport. I often hear that this is as far as many of us go and Singapore isn’t given the chance to be stamped in our passports. It’s just another big city, it’s too much hassle or too expensive to stay a few days or we just want to get the 30 odd hour flight to London over and done with.
Well, Singapore is one of my favourite cities, I go every year and fall more in love each time. So I want to share some of my favourite experiences then that next time you book your flights, you will go beyond the walls of Changi, stamp your passport for the first time, take the $25 – $40 cab into the city and fall in love just as I have.
But where on earth do you start when trying to plan two days in such a bustling, diverse city of must dos? Well, Booking.com are celebrating their latest campaign ‘First Times’ and have asked me to partner with them to share my love and inspiration for those first time travellers to Singapore (and every booking made via this Booking.com link over $80 will receive $40 back!) Yes, you can hop on Google and tick off the token attractions but in my experience it’s not the attractions that pull on my heart strings, it’s the little less frequented spots, unique to Singapore that in most cases only the locals and expats (and now me) know about.
I’ve pulled together the best bits to squeeze into a two-day stop over that I guarantee will have you booking a full ten-day holiday back!
Grab a coffee and an almond croissant while you gather your thoughts in one of Singapore’s oldest heritage sites. I think we can all agree that the biggest struggle for travelling kiwis is trying to find a café that can serve a decent coffee, but nestled amongst the local eateries is Tiong Bahru Bakery. Where east meets west, it’s become a tourist attraction in itself with the smell of their freshly baked pastries and ground espresso drifting down the streets each morning luring in crowds of addicted expats and locals. Sit outside and watch groups of friends chattering away or grab your coffee takeaway and …
Wander through the streets! Dubbed as the Ponsonby of Singapore, Tiong Bahru offers a more relaxed, boutique, local experience than the bustle of Orchard Road or the arctic temperatures of the shopping malls. Keep an eye out for these spots:
Walk to Bakalaki Greek Taverna for an early lunch – 5 mins walk
The quality of the eateries in Singapore is setting a very high standard for international gastronomy. Beautifully decored spaces preparing equally beautiful dishes are what I have come to expect from this city, and Bakalaki is one of my latest additions. Whisked away to the heart of Greece, we sat outside in the balmy breeze enjoying THE BEST Greek salad served with a big slab of decadent feta and a lamb Moussaka. The darling men running the restaurant treat you like family, a genuine welcome as if it were their home. We were treated to fresh Baklava to take home and a shot of their delicious Lemoncello.
Cab to Blair Rd – approx. 5 mins from Tiong Bahru
The Shop Houses of Singapore paint the city with their vibrant colours, striking tiles and cute shutters. You can’t miss them and like me will find yourself hanging out of the cab window trying to snap a picture. But the residents of Blair Road have taken the ‘pretty colourful shop house’ to an entire new level. Their homes are pieces of art with detailed trimmings, delicately painted tiles and mix of bright, bold colours. Unlike some of the other neighbourhoods, Blair Rd is relatively quiet making it the best area to take pictures without cars parked outside and the distraction of the shops and cafes on the street level.
Cab to Chinatown – approx. 10 mins/$10
Now time to experience the hustle and bustle! The jam-packed lanes of Chinatown are filled with little knick knacky shops, but thankfully no knock offs or overpowering vendors hassling you. Wander through the fashion stalls; especially the little Indian ones as the women have an eye for beautiful unique fabrics and I have picked up a few of my favourite pieces here.
Walk down Smith St, across South Bridge Rd and up Ann Siang Hill Rd a bit to Club Street
A popular Friday night drink spot where crowds of expats and locals spill out onto the streets as they hop from wine bar to boutique beer cafes. But during the day Club Street takes on a calmer vibe as it shows off its rows of charming, quaint shop houses dressed in leafy vines and hanging birdcages. Catch some shade and cool off over a beer or lemon iced tea at Jerry’s.
Cab to Haji Lane and Kampong Glam – approx.15mins /$10+
Haji Lane and around, is the heart of the colour of Singapore! I could shoot in these streets all day, in fact we nearly did! From the blue and white tiles that frame the Turkish restaurant to the black and white smiling faces painted on the walls – as if they are photographs! Haji lane has compacted a burst of colourful, culture and ambience into its surrounding neighbourhood. It is also where you can find the up and coming local fashion designers. Reasonably priced yet influenced by the trends coming off the catwalks, I found my mustard high wasted pants here for $20 and my red stilettos for $60. I’m often asked about both of those purchases and I love how I can say that my style is truly influenced from my experiences abroad.
Cab to Atlas, Park View Square – or take the 5min walk from Haji Lane.
Anyone with a taste for art deco decadence will be left speechless walking into this grandiose establishment. Inspired by the glamorous architecture of Europe and New York, Atlas has created an experience like no other. Take a seat at the bar and peruse one of Asia’s finest collections of gin, spirits and champagne or settle into one of their booths for an afternoon tea.
Cab to PS Café Tiong Bahru – approx. 10mins/$10
Enjoy a glass of wine from their vast collection and one of their famous hand made pizzas. The decor and ambience of the eatery contrasts with the takeaway-dining concept, but that’s what I like about it. With walls of wine against the black tile and brass fit out, you would expect a full fine-dining experience. But at PS Café the pizzas come out in takeaway boxes with plastic cutlery, all made to share over a glass of wine or G+T. Feeling like you might be in the streets of New York, each pizza is served with their home made hot sauce, just a little Singaporean twist so you don’t forget where you are!
Yes, Chijmes is featured on all the Trip Advisory sites however it is still one of the most picturesque landmarks I’ve explored in my travels and something anyone new to Singapore must experience. What was once a Catholic convent, providing a school for girls, and an orphanage and housing for nuns, is now home to a range of charming restaurants covered in lush hanging greenery and European inspired verandas. Take a walk through the old archways, white spiral staircases and tiled corridors of this magical slice of serenity.
Cab to The Fullerton Bay Hotel 10mins / $10
Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at Clifford Pier. Another grand establishment Clifford Pier, part of The Fullerton Bay Hotel, is a fresh, white, elegant dining room set under a curved sky-high ceiling. It is positioned looking out over Marina Bay. A grand piano plays to its elegantly dressed guests as they sit to enjoy an afternoon high tea. I find myself fascinated by the tables of wealthy looking people and families, wondering if this is their version of a Sunday roast? Even without the high tea experience, stroll the boardwalk around the pier, which is completely open to the public even though it is part of the hotel. Some of Singapore’s magnificent modern architecture can be seen from the boardwalk surrounding Marina Bay.
From the lobby area, take the lift to…
The Lantern Bar, on the rooftop of Fullerton Bay Hotel. Curving around the infinity pool are lounging whicker chairs and pool cabanas perfect for an afternoon cocktail served with crispy-coated peanuts. The Lantern Bar in my opinion provides the best view across to Marina Bay Sands, elevated above the busy Collyer Quay you can sit back and enjoy the view in a relaxed atmosphere.
Cab to Duxton Hill and Tanjong Paga Road 10mins / $10
Duxton Hill will have you holding your phone out at each step. A series of larger shop houses, Duxton Hill is another popular dining destination for expats. Here you will find one of my favourite shops houses – the canary yellow double shop house complete with its fanned white shutters tucked amongst the trees. Enjoy an afternoon stroll up the hill peeking into the mix of fine dining and casual beer gardens. Plan out a few additions to the next trip like I did!
Take the two min walk back down the hill to enjoy a …
Cocktail at Tipling Club. If you are a cocktail enthusiast like me, then Tipling Club is where you want to spend your final night in Singapore. Located in a shophouse, on the corner of Duxton Hill and Tanjong Pagar Rd, Tipling Club has been featured as one of the worlds best bars, a statement I can now second. The bar is cocooned under a ceiling of hanging spirits. On the corner of the bar you will find little perfume sticks used to capture the scent of each cocktail allowing their guests to “taste test” each cocktail before ordering. Each cocktail is designed to reignite a memory. I had The Grass while mum stayed in her old ways and ordered a classic dry martini (her staple). The whole place has been restored to retain the Singapore ‘of old’
Cab to Merci Marcel in Tiong Bahru 10mins / $10
I spent my last night dining at Merci Marcel, the newest eatery to join the Tiong Bahru family. A French Bistro so pretty a photo simply cannot recreate. With leafy tropical plants and yellow and gold tones, its sumptuous interior was capturing the attention of all passersby. Sit inside at the bar or couches, or the chic (Instagramable) outdoor courtyard. The menu offers a range of shared plates and larger dishes. We had the Duck Rillettes, Chickpea Crème, Roasted Asparagus and Sautéed Mushrooms. Having spoken to a few other neighbouring diners it sounds like you cannot go wrong with this menu!
That’s it! My ‘how to fall in love with Singapore in two days’ made easy! Print this out and you cannot go wrong AND to make your planning even that much easier, every booking made via this Booking.com link over $80 will receive $40 back! Booking.com guarantee the best prices for any type of property from small independents to five star luxury and no booking fees … ever!
Looking for accommodation in Singapore? M Social is centrally located on Roberston Quay. Not only close proximity to the CBD and Marina Bay it also has the most romantic night walk along the river. Perfect date night stroll.
The boutique hotel offers a range of cute, cozy rooms, roof top pool and bright colourful dining spaces, an easy inner city stay for your stop over. Pop over to Booking.com to check out their rooms and rates.