Sunday, August 16, 2009

30th Birthday - With Family (Aug 16)

Last of the birthday celebrations!

Tim and Michele were in town, so I had my whole family for my birthday, for the first time since I was a kid.

We went to lunch at one of my favourite places, Chinta Ria, for some delicious noodles and (for me!) vege dishes.

With my mum and the giant Buddha.

My brother, Tim, and his wife, Michele.

Whole family together in Sydney! My dad and brother make us look like midgets. To put the heights in perspective, I'm about 5'8".

30th Birthday - Zumbos (August 15)

Alec sweetly organised a small gathering of friends at my favourite cafe, the Adriano Zumbo Chocolat Cafe in Balmain, to celebrate my 30th in Sydney.

The cafe closed early to accommodate us, and we had the entire (tiny!) place to ourselves for the early evening.

A selection of Zumbo's cakes and macaroons. Soon to be demolished.

With my excellent party planner.

Beck! We've been friends since we were toddlers.

With Mel and Keeva. Mel and I went to uni together, 10 years ago now!

Katia and Emily - Googler and ex-Googler.

The rest of my work gal pals, Fadhila, Leanne, Jenn and Vic.

My old school friends, Karyn, Julia, Ro and Rodney. Loving Ro's ever-growing baby bump.


After the sugar high, Alec and I checked into the Observatory Hotel for the evening, and took a visit to the Sydney Observatory for their night tour. The highlight was looking through the telescope and seeing Jupiter.

We then went back to the room for a relaxing, luxurious night. Thank you Alec for making this the most special birthday ever. Love you :)

Singapore - Turning 30 (Aug 9th)

Turning 30 - the moment I had been dreading! It was actually lucky it occurred as it did, in Singapore and following one of my best friend's weddings, as it put the day in perspective, as something to be enjoyed, but something small in the larger scheme of things.

My 30th began right after the wedding - midnight, which was when we arrived at a club to dance with friends after the reception.

With the love of my life and best friend.

With two of my closest girl friends, Beverly and Lisa - no better way to see in my 30th year!


On the dance floor together for the first time!

After a late night dancing, we had a great sleep in the next morning, and a late breakfast. Perfect way to spend the last day of our trip.

A birthday isn't a birthday without gifts! Thanks Alec for this gorgeous bracelet.

Beverly, as well as organising her wedding, also managed to organise a day out for my birthday! Thanks so much Bev, I really appreciate it, and had the best birthday ever thanks to you, Lise, Chris and Alec.

About to board the Singapore Flyer and watch the Singapore Day celebrations from the air.

Hello Singapore, thanks for celebrating with me!

After the Flyer we enjoyed an amazing foot reflexology session followed by massage (total bliss), while Lise and Chris tried the fish spa ...

Next we head off on an epic adventure through the Singapore Day celebrations to find a restaurant I have been wanting to try - a vegetarian Mediterranean restaurant called Original Sin. We arrived quite late but thankfully they were still open. The food, as in the reviews I've read, was delicious, the wine lovely, and we had a really delightful evening.

Dinner party comes to an end!


My first birthday cake!

Back at the hotel, the girls had organised another birthday cake for me! A delish chocolate concoction. Best way to end a birthday - eating cake at midnight. Thank you Bev and Lise!

Happy birthday to me!

Singapore - Highlights (August 6 - 10)

The final destination - Singapore, for our dear friends Beverly and Chris' wedding.

Arriving in Singapore was quite a shock to the system. It was so hot and humid, it was like swimming through the air to try and get anywhere. In light of the weather, I could see why the national past times are eating and shopping.

We arrived in the evening, had a relaxing night, then spent the next day with the bridal couple for their hens and bucks days.

At the joint brunch in the morning.

Brunch was followed by manicure and pedicures, and then high tea! What a gorgeous day.

The girls - all primped and polished.

The next day, Saturday the 8th, was the big wedding day. I was honored to be asked to be one of Beverly's "sisters" for the day, which meant we arrived at Bev's aunt's house early in the morning to participate in the claiming of the bride ritual, as well as getting to observe the tea ceremony.

The "sisters" plus bride and bridesmaid.

The next part of the day was the church ceremony - Bev looked stunning in her white gown.

Finally married! Massive congrats guys!

The reception was fabulous fun and a great way to end the day. The evening was punctuated with touching slideshows, particularly one from Bev's parents, which made several of us shed a few tears.

Dressed in our finery.

Bev's last dress change - stunning in red.

With the gorgeous couple. Love you both - thank you for including us in your beautiful day.

South of France - Highlights (July 29 - Aug 5)

After an amazing week in Paris, we flew south to Montpellier, picked up another hire car, and drove to Arles for a two-day stay.

Arles is famous for two things - most recently, Van Gogh lived and painted here, but a long time before that, Arles was conquered by the Romans. The remains of the Roman civilisation are still visible in Arles, including the theatre, baths and arena. We were lucky enough to see a gladiator match being put on in the arena when we visited.

Arles is a funny place - from the outside looks quite run down and old, but the narrow streets remind me a lot of Venice - a rabbit warren of streets, revealing treasures tucked into corners. The insides of the derelict buildings have all been renovated, so it's quite the town of surprises.

The Roman arena.

From Arles we drove to Carcassonne, where we rented an apartment for four nights. Carcassonne is quite amazing to see when you approach the city. The old city is perched on a hill top and is quite majestic!

We spent a lovely day exploring the old city.

The area is rife with castles and is rich in history, particularly from the Cathar period. Many of the castles are actually more like fortresses, designed to protect the people, and the Cathars, from the religious crusades.

The castles are just amazing. Perched on the top of mountains in terrain that is so inhospitable it's just extraordinary imagining people climbing up and down, or laying siege to, in every-day life.

One of the castles, Montsegur.

Sunflowers - everywhere!


Lastours castles.

Matchy-match at Lastours.

Final view of Carcassonne.


We ended our France leg by driving to Toulouse, spending the night, then catching a flight to London early the next morning.

Paris, France - Getting Engaged! (July 28)

The absolute highlight of both Paris and the trip was getting engaged.

Alec went to a lot of effort to create the perfect day for me, and it truly was!

First, Alec booked an amazing hotel for us to stay in for two nights, called Jays Paris. They also upgraded our room for free, which was unexpected! The hotel was made up of only six suites, all of which were individually themed, and extremely luxurious. The service is also what sets Jas apart. We found chocolates on our pillows, fresh fruit left for us in the evening, and the weather report was put under our door each morning! Our suite looked over a private garden, so we could enjoy looking at beautiful flowers every morning.


Since I had fallen sick when we drove through Giverny, we decided to take a day trip back. It was so beautiful - the most amazing day trip. The gardens are just so exquisite I can see how Monet was inspired to create his masterpieces here. Alec told me later he was planning on proposing at the gardens, but the ring was stuck in the bottom of his bag and he couldn't get it out!


Next on my perfect day was chocolate shopping and dessert sampling at Fauchon, a Paris institution that was recommended to me by my dear friend Masa. We spend a few happy hours here buying delightful chocolate and trying more avante guard desserts, like the one below (it looks like any other tart, but believe me when I say I think I found the source of Zumbo's inspiration!)

We decided to go out to dinner somewhere special for our last night in Paris, and went back to the hotel to get changed. I was ready to go and waiting for the taxi in our suite when Alec came around to where I was sitting, dropped to one knee, and presented me with a Tiffany & Co box.

Even though we'd been talking about marriage for a while, nothing prepares you for the moment! I had tears in my eyes as he opened the box, took out the ring and asked me if I would marry him.

Dinner to celebrate was at L'Arpege, a three-Michelin star restaurant that focuses on vegetables. It was the perfect place to celebrate being newly engaged! The food and service was just divine, with friendly people happy to explain every detail about the food, help us chose wine, and accommodate our every eating desire. The food was just exquisite - the best meal of both our lives, with amazing wine to match, chosen by the sommelier. Four hours passed in a flash, and we have never been to a restaurant so lovely before - and doubt we might for a long time again.

This was taken at the end of dinner by our very friendly waiter.

And so it was back to the hotel! The most amazing day every was coming to an end, but the most exciting things are still to follow - planning our wedding with our family and friends, and beginning our life together as a married couple. I can't wait!

At the hotel after dinner - totally blissed out.

My new bling, close up.

Proudly displaying my bling - loving being a newly engaged girl!

France - Paris - Highlights (July 22 - 29)

An amazing week in Paris. Too much to go into detail about, so here is a touch of my favourite city.

Saint Chapelle is my favourite church, possibly of any I've ever seen. It's just so beautiful with all of the stained glass.

Arc de Triomphe - I drove around this in peak hour traffic. Scariest driving experience of my life.

Delicious tart from Laduree - snobby evil staff, tasty pastry.

Gargoyle at Notre Dame.

The Louvre - home of fabulous art. Love the sculptures in particular.

Notre Dame in the sun - beautiful church.

Our hotel was only a five minute walk from Notre Dame. Amazing location. Amazing city!

Dinner with friends - Shelley and Eric met us for the weekend. Paris with friends is even better!

Versailles bike ride - one of the best things we did in Paris.

Eiffel Tour at night - love it when it's all lit up.

Tour de France - what an amazing vibe and day.

Napoleon's tomb in Hotel les Invalide. Very impressive!

Sewers tour! Made Alec happy :)

Sacre Coeur - prettiest situated church ever, with a great view of Paris.