Friday, June 10, 2016

Sweet Escape in Bali



 I am embarrassed to say that up until last year I never really had the desire to visit Bali.  I blame it on shows and footage like "What really happens in Bali", depicting Bali as a place tourists (and a lot of Australians) go to just to get drunk at bars, a little similar to my experience in Phuket when I went with a large group of co-workers on a work trip many years ago...It wasn't really my scene, and is even further now that I have two little ones.

Then came last year's visit to Nihiwatu, which was my first time ever in Indonesia, and consequently first time in Bali, which was such an amazing experience!  Except I don't really count that as a visit to Bali as it was merely a stopover to go to Sumba Island.  However, the little that I saw, and the time spent at The Legian gave me a little taste of Bali, and I wanted more.

When it starts getting very cold in Australia, my hubby and I like to travel somewhere warm, and when I suggested going to Byron Bay, Mr Brigs countered with: why not Bali?  Me: Sure, why not?  We were told Nusa Dua was the more 'family friendly' part of Bali (as opposed to Seminyak, which is where we stayed last time, a busier part with cute boutiques, bars, clubs, restaurants and lounges), so I started planning our family holiday from there...

Ok, so trying to take pictures on one's phone + camera + snapchat with two little ones in tow (and most importantly, enjoying the moment) is not as easy as it sounds, so I don't have pictures for all we did, so here's my quick rundown of what we did (or wanted to do but didn't get to as well) in Bali:

WHERE WE STAYED

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua - After my lovely experience during my trip with Accor Hotels to Queensland, I thought I'd see which hotel I could find in Nusa Dua under the Accor Hotels umbrella, and came across Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua in my search.  The hotel is Nusa Dua’s only French heritage instilled luxury 5-star beachfront resort with 8 hectares of tropical gardens and modern architecture with a sophisticated touch, boasting 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a beach club, gym, luxurious spa , an aesthetic centre, a kids club, 12 function rooms and two ballrooms!  The reviews I read on the hotel were great, and it is only 3 years old.  Reading about their kids pool (with slide) and kids club cinched the deal.  We opted to stay at their Presidential Suite, because that allowed us to pull the screen door that partitioned the room so that the kids could go to sleep, and I didn't have to tiptoe in the dark (as well as giving each other space which was great!)...The Suite itself is absolutely beautiful, and we had our own outdoor courtyard and private plunge pool! The kids thoroughly enjoyed the Japanese-style toilet, haha, and I, for one, loved the Hérmes amenities!

The staff was absolutely amazing, and because we stayed at a Suite, we had our own butler(s), who were so friendly and helpful!  The butlers gave us tips on where to go and what to do (offering to organize and book anything we liked), including offering us the very welcome tip that from 1 to 4 pm, massages are half price in the hotels beautiful SoSpa! Hubby and I treated ourselves to a couples massage while the kids had a blast at the hotel's kids club (can you believe they kept asking to go there instead of the beach?!?).  Staying at the suite also afforded us access to the hotel's Club Millésime, where we spent a lot of time in, such a beautiful space with fabulous food and staff (and a little room for the kids to spend time in as well, which was great for when they had finished eating but I still wanted to pig out some more, haha).

WHERE WE ATE:

At the hotel and hotel area:


Kweezeen - at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua, lovely Indonesian fare.

Cut Catch Cucina - also at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua - for their famous Sunday brunch - A M A Z I N G ! ! ! (think chocolate fountains, incredible desserts, seafood bbq'd on order, roasted meats, loads and loads of food, as well as beautifully plated up a la carte dishes.  This restaurant is rated second best in Nusa Dua, so even if not staying at Sofitel Nusa Dua, it is definitely a place worth considering for not only Sunday brunch, but lunch or dinner.

Nikki Beach Club - located in the Sofitel Nusa Dua hotel, it is actually a separate restaurant/club, with delicious food and own pool! Coconuts were a bit cheaper than in our actual hotel, too (important when you love coconuts as much as I do).

Beach bar and grill (Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua) - all you can eat bbq seafood by the beach - the bbq'd calamari, cockles and fish were our favourites, with lashings of sambal matah (which I absolutely love, since first discovering it in my last Indonesian trip).

Tamarind at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel - we walked next door for a dinner on the beach, and the setting was just beautiful, colouring for the kids kept them occupied while we waited, which was great. The hugest coconuts I've ever had and cheapest in Bali too! I will seriously forever dream about their coconuts...

Outside the hotel and hotel area:

Bumbu Bali: this restaurant was suggested to us by our butler Suarcana (such a gentle and sweet guy!), for authentic Indonesian fare in a more relaxed family-friendly vibe.  The restaurant even offered a pick-up service to/from hotel, as it is only a short drive away.  The chicken satay sticks were a hit with the kids, and service was great.

Seminyak:

Merah Putih Bali:  offering authentic Indonesian food as well as fusion, this restaurant accepts booking online.  Mr Brigs and I dined her sans kid (in fact, kids are not allowed past 6:30!), and thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, from entree to dessert.

Bambu: I absolutely loved this place! Wish they had an online booking system, as the hotel staff had trouble contacting them to make a booking over the phone, but we just turned up, waited a little by the bar, then were shown to a table after a short wait.  Loved the interior and ambiance of the place, wanted the waiter's uniforms (male and female), and above all, the food! SO good! Modern but delicious Indonesian food...

Restaurants I didn't get to but are on the list for next time: Sarong, Mamasan and La Lucciola.  I have heard and read great things about these places and hope to check them out next time.

WHERE WE WENT:

So the point of this trip wasn't really to go sightseeing, but more to relax, so we didn't actually explore Bali much (save that for next time). We did however go to:

Finns Beach Club

Unfortunately we came here 1-2 days after a full moon, so the tide was incredibly high, and the waves way too crazy for us to swim or do any of the cool water sports that are on offer at this beach club, which is accessible by cable car and costs roughly $30pp to get in.  There is a lovely restaurant and bar you can eat at (amazing food I absolutely loved), and weather conditions permitting you can stand-up paddle board, kayak and such.  They also have lounge beds or bean bags with umbrellas they can set up on the beach.  Because it is by the cliff (with slightly restricted access), the sand is pristine, and water beautifully blue.  Thoroughly enjoyed my lunch here!

Where I wanted to go (but didn't get to): Tagalalang Terrace in Ubud for the amazing rice fields, Tanah Lot - an amazing temple sitting atop a rock formation.

PHOTOGRAPHY:

Ok, for someone who spends a lot of time behind a camera lens, I am not actually in front of one a lot, especially in family shots.  In fact, I have never had a family photographic shoot, until Bali.  After booking my flights I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to finally have some candid shots of my family.  Cue Sweet Escape, whom I fortuitously discovered whilst browsing Melanie Liu's Instagram feed (the lovely @thetiafox).  They specialize in holiday photography and are located in 220 cities worldwide! I will certainly be looking them up wherever I go next! Because the kids were sleeping (catching up on much needed sleep as they were a little unwell this trip), for half of my session Dodo (Reynaldo Tjandra) happily obliged my request to take some photos of myself around the hotel, so all photos of myself below were taken by him.  So also great for bloggers out there who need a photographer, group of friends, special occasion (milestone birthday?), family photography or perhaps pre-wedding or engagement shoots? Or maybe even wedding shoots!  I ended up with some beautiful shots of the family that I will treasure forever...

So enough talking, here are some pictures I took of my time in Bali (with some photos by Sweet Escape thrown in for good measure - those of myself and of my family):

Bali sunset
Our private courtyard and swimming pool at our suite at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua...it was absolutely blissful having this little corner to ourselves, despite the beautiful pools available to everyone staying at the hotel.  Giving us a chance to relax completely, and even enjoy some meals outdoors (some room service and some takeaway)
The buffet breakfast at the hotel is amazing! There is a sushi station, juice station, amazing patisserie (their almond croissants especially, I would at times have two in one go), egg station, dim sum station, you name it...SO GOOD! We also alternated having breakfast at Club Milessime (pictured above), which was a quieter affair but still had plenty to offer including some a la carte options, and the most divine smoked salmon I've ever had, which I found out is smoked on jackfruit wood in-house!
 The main pool which had many 'sections to it', including an in-pool bar with stools, a 'kids pool' (there is also a separate kids pool with slide and fountain that my little ones absolutely loved), and one area with cozy sections with jets!
When your outfit matches the hotel walls...
Top and trousers: Chloe (from a few seasons ago)
Hat: San Francisco Hat Company
Sunglasses: Le Specs x Self Portrait (available at Shopbop, Intermix, and mirrored version at My Theresa)
If staying at Nusa Dua I highly recommend taking away Babi Guling (suckling pig) from Pak Dobiel, ask any taxi driver and they will know what you are talking about, they open in the morning and close by around 2-3pm, and there are line-ups at lunch time (you can eat there apparently, but it is hard to find a table at times).  We enjoyed this dish with some Indonesian sweets hubby also took away in our private courtyard, yum!
Hello world!
Snake fruit!
You can hire bicycles from Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua for 2 hours, and discover your surroundings on two wheels, which is what hubby and I did, cycling up to a nearby water blow (which was an amazing experience), thoroughly enjoyed those two hours!
 I will literally dream of this salmon for a long time to come...
Behold our humongous bathtub that comfortably fit this family of four (ok, it was just for a photo op, but I'm sure we could have if we wanted to).
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua's suites and villas are all stocked with Hermés amenities, a very lovely touch indeed, love the orange blossom scent!

 Beautifully cut up star fruit by the staff at Sofitel Nusa Dua
I could spend all day here...
Lunch after soaking some sun on the beach, at Nikki Beach Club adjacent to the hotel.  Tuna tataki was delish!
 Love high tea, and everyday between 3:30 and 5 there is High Tea at Sofitel's Club Milessime (which is followed by tapas from 5:30 to 7).
Or here!

 And I could live on these! We spent a lot of time lounging by the beach on the hotel's reclining beds...such bliss!

L O V E
Look what I found!!! At first I thought it was sock, then was amazed when I inspected it more closely!
Exploring...
One more photo of this bathtub, as I would literally sigh and stare at it every time I was in our suite...
All photos taken by me some iPhone some camera (photo of me on the bike taken by Mr Brigs on his iPhone) , except for those of myself in them, and this last shot of my family - which were taken by Sweet Escape - thank you for capturing our amazing holiday Sweet Escape and Dodo, we will treasure these photos and memories always!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Design and win 52 pairs of shoes with Shoes of Prey!


When Shoes of Prey offered me the chance to design my own pair of shoes, I couldn't resist saying 'yes'. 1001 ideas flooded, and I was excited with all the different shoe styles and material options on offer.  Shoes of Prey have so many different styles, and on top of that there are extras you can add, like straps, lace overlay, bows, or piping trims, to name a few.  First I thought of designing my long-sought-after pair of patent black oxford shoes, then thought perhaps instead a nice bootie...but then I had a light bulb moment. 

For months I have been on the lookout for the perfect bridesmaid shoe for my sister's wedding later this year.  Our bridesmaid dress itself is quite a statement, so even though I had fanciful ideas, I ended up keeping it simple, although I couldn't resist adding a cheeky bow in red leather at the back; both my sister and I have a thing for bows, so it was impossible not to add one!  My sister (fellow bridesmaid, not the bride), had the opportunity to go into the Sydney store with the bridesmaid in tow, so we were select the best colour to match the dress.  With 5 stores in the USA and one in Sydney, Shoes of Prey also have ready made shoes available for immediate purchase (as well as several styles online, if you prefer leaving the designing of the shoe to them).

To top it all off, Shoes Of Prey gives you the option to add your own inscription on the insole of the shoe! So it could be your name, nickname, or even a quote...After discussing it with my fellow bridesmaids, we decided on a Dr Seuss quote: "Oh, the places you'll go".

It was a very easy process choosing the style and materials for each section of the shoe, the only hard part is being spoilt for choice.  Now that my shoes have arrived I can't wait to design another pair.

So, whether you would like to design a pair of shoes for a special occasion, or just one for everyday wear, Shoes Of Prey are currently running a competition to win 52 pairs of shoes of your own design!  That's one pair for each of week of the year (yes please!).  You can enter their competition here.  Wishing you all the best of luck!

What would be your ultimate shoe?


Mixing it up just for fun
I love this patterned leather, and love me a nice pair of D'Orsay pumps
Lace oxfords?!? Whatcha think
Shoes of Prey also collaborated with Australian Designer Carla Zampatti, and I toyed with the idea of designing this shoe...but practicality dictated I choose a lower heel option.  The brilliant idea behind designing the bridesmaid shoes myself means that I can select three different heel heights for us bridesmaids (the other two bridesmaids have already requested lower heels, especially since one will be heavily pregnant by then). How brilliant is that?
Oh, the places you'll go...
I love red bows and I cannot  lie...
All images by me

(the four first beingcomputer screenshots of me playing around with designing some shoes)

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Travel Diary: My Queensland Roadtrip Part 3: Byron Bay


BYRON BAY

After breakfast at the Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach we were back in our UberSelect vehicles, and off we went to BYRON BAY!!!

You all know my love for Byron Bay, where I spent my short (but lovely) honeymoon, then returned 4 years in a row thereafter, and more recently, came back with my two little ones...So this was for me, the highlight of my QLD trip...

Having only opened recently (earlier this year), Elements of Byron, of MGallery by Sofitel, is Byron Bay's first world-class beachfront resort, impressively situated on 50 acres, which encompasses almost 2km of beach frontage on Belongi Beach (the beach I usually stay at when I visit Byron Bay!).  There are currently 94 Villas (with a further 96 being built), with their design driven by reverence to the four landscape ecologies present on the site: rainforest, dunal, eucalypt and wetland. And although they may look humble from the outside, inside they were all about quiet luxury.

The mosaic tiling on this bar was so beautiful!
 Yessssss!
'Grazing'  at Elements of Byron - the crab-filled hole doughnuts, burratta, and parfait were my favourite! Ok, oysters too, and stuffed squid...ok, everything!
The only way to while away the afternoon after an amazing lunch is swinging on a daybed over a pool...
 Bikini: Lisa Marie Fernandez 'Mira' in denim (available at MyTheresa, Farfetch, Browns Fashion and Matches Fashion - which is where I got mine from; also love it in black, and might purchase it in white when it comes out).

Hat: bought at Nihiwatu

Photo obligingly taken by Shellie Froidevaux, who is in fact a Food Photographer (and I saw on her website, explicitly says "does not do portraits" :D), thank you for making an exception Shellie!
And sipping a cocktail!
No fighting required, there are 3 daybeds to share...wave hi to Natalie everyone!
Then treated to an amazing massage and facial at the hotel's Osprey Spa, such beautiful zen vibes inside!

Beautiful hotel grounds...en route to morning yoga overlooking the sunrise by the beach...
 We were treated to an incredible degustation by chef Justin Dingle-Garciyya at the hotel's restaurante Graze at Elements, repeating some favourites we had lunch plus loads more amazing dishes! This was one of my favourites (in addition to the favourites from lunchtime): octopus with compressed watermelon, watercress and wasabi...sooooo goood!
Next morning: Amazing amazing amazing buffet breakfast at Graze at Elements overlooking the hotel pool! The coconut chia pudding was SO good!

 And the A la Carte breakfast menu had me with hearts for eyes...
Greedy? Who, me?!? Here's the sambuca-cured salmon with dill hollaindaise with a side of avocado, and the 'waffles special' which was served with poached pear and berries. Uhuh, YUM!

And after breakfast thus concluded this fabulous fabulous road trip! Such a spectacular time spent with lovely people over incredible food!  Thank you Accor Hotels and UberSelect for the amazing ride!


All photos taken by me (bar the picture of me over the pool, which was taken by Shellie Froidevaux)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Travel Diary: My Queensland Roadtrip Part 2: Gold Coast


GOLD COAST

So, where we? Oh yes, when we last left off I was leaving Sunny Brisbane in Part 1 of my QLD roadtrip.  We were picked up in style by our fabulous Uber Select driver (who kindly saved this Mr-Burns-in-distress, by opening a bottle of spring water for me, all part of the service, although I was mortified I couldn't open it on my own!), who drove Shellie, Natalie and I (Chloe went in a separate UberSelect vehicle) on to our next destination: the Gold Coast!

On arrival at Sofitel Gold Coast we were greeted with some very refreshing passionfruit mocktails, then whisked upstairs to cook alongside two-hatted Chef Sam Moore (of Room81 restaurant) by the pool.  You know, just my ordinary Thursday afternoon...

Native bush apples and finger limes as our gorgeous centrepiece at lunch.
 Two-hatted Chef Sam Moore of Room81 plating up an amazing dish of raw tuna with watermelon.
 The espuma with Jamon crumble served with the chargrilled marron with finger lime was simply divine!
We also got to help plate up...no pressure!
Gently seared foie gras with an orange jelly...sublime!
Chargrilled marron with native finger lime
Spoilt rotten by the Sofitel Gold Coast - thank you so much guys! Came to room after lunch for a little R&R and this!
 
AND THIS!!! This was between the incredible poolside lunch and the degustation dinner that would follow! Of course, this tiny slice of delicious chocolate ganache covered Opera cake was just the first of many...eek! Polished that fruit platter too, so amazing! There were some native bush apples in there too (I ate quite a few of them at lunch - they were the centrepiece! Haha!)
After an afternoon stroll and a spot of shopping at the nearby Shopping Centre, we enjoyed drinks outdoors at Sofitel Gold Coast's Room 81 restaurant, and were then treated to a sumptuous degustation, including this 'Grandma's Onion Soup' - Chef Sam Moore's deconstructed interpretation of this classic dish, the textures and flavours were incredible!
That gold-dusted beetroot jelly was an absolute delight! As were the (blurry, sorry) earl grey macarons filled with foie gras mousse: a m a z i n g  !
Smokin' cocktail!
The first of two desserts, this was so light and refreshing!

  Dessert #2 being assembled.
These chocolate spheres were actually made of very thin chocolate, beautifully tempered, with a hole cut out from the top, through which liquid nitrogen was poured into, for a spectacular finale...
which you smashed open with the back of your spoon to reveal a treasure of delights inside, much like a piñata - of the dessert variety, that is.  From start to finish, our degustation at Room81 was an absolute delight for the sense, an incredible, delicious and memorable experience!
  And in the morning, it was time to eat again! SUCH an amazing range of food on offer at the buffet breakfast, with a seriously deliciously perfect and warm croissant...baked fresh of course!

You may recognize the last picture as the full-version from a previous post, taken by 'Iron Chef Shellie' (aka Shellie Froidevaux) :) - Thanks again Shellie for the gorgeous shot!

All other pictures taken by me

Next stop...BYRON BAY!