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Friday, 31 August 2012

Travel. Alone.

Ready to fly
If you read my blog a bit you might know that I like to travel. Oh yes. And my new role is going to facilitate my love of travel. The business is quite spread out around Australia, there is a lot of change management work to be done, my role also covers asia-pacific so I'll be seeing a little of Asia, and the company head office is in the US. Apart from missing all the boys in the house, it's all good. And Arran loves having Aiden and Charlie to himself.

All the boys
This week I spent two days in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. I really would like to spend more time in Melbourne. It's a real contradiction. It's gentrified and gritty. It's traditional and edgy. It's polished and friendly. It has a different vibe to Sydney, which I think is big, brash and egotistic. And breathtakingly gob-smackingly beautiful. I think Melbourne lacks Sydney's beauty but I really like the city. And don't know it that well so I'm intrigued and curious.

After spending all day in an office on Monday I was busting to go for a walk on Melbourne's streets. Staying in the centre of the city, I checked into my hotel and headed to see what I could see, and decide where to have dinner. The streets were bustling with tourists, people heading home from work, and friends meeting up for an early dinner. 
One of Melbourne's many laneways
I walked around for half an hour before stumbling across my favourite lane-way. I never know it's name or exactly how to find it, but I somehow always end there when I'm on footIt was full of people catching up, having a bite to eat or a glass of wine. I walked a little longer but returned there to one of my favourite places for dinner. 

I settled myself into a bench seat with my back against the wall (a great people watching position), ordered a small plate of pasta and a small greek salad, a glass of red and settled in with a glossy magazine. Perfection when a usual working week meal is provided by "lite and easy", and eaten at toddler o'clock.

I wandered back to my hotel for a little social media indulgence and then off to sleep at 9.30pm with no interruption till morning from Charlie screaming for no apparent reason.  Bliss.

Melbourne skyline
Tuesday night I was in Brisbane and stayed with Mum and Dad. Mum wanted to know what I did the previous night. She was horrified that I was walking around the city alone and had dinner alone. In a restaurant.

When I first started travelling for work I found travelling alone a little tougher. I guess I was younger and less sure of myself, a little less confident. My very first business trip was to London, business class. My manager kindly let me fly in on Saturday morning so I had the weekend to see the city and shop. It was tough to leave that hotel room and get about that city by myself. There was a lot of self-talk going on about what a great opportunity I was given and that I needed to stop being stupid and just get out there!

The more I have travelled by myself, the less I have had to encourage myself to explore. Now if I'm travelling for work and a kind work colleague wants to look after me, or organise my personal time, I feel a little resentful that I'm not left to explore alone for at least some of the time!

I knew that I had become very comfortable travelling alone when Charlie and I did a trip to Guangzhou, China when he was 4 months old. I was having dinner with 7 Chinese people, of which only one could speak a little (basically no) English and I knew no Mandarin. My translator was not joining me until the next day. And it was ok. We were all having a lovely night with lovely food.  I felt safe and confident. 

Compare this to my first business trip to London, when I spent a weekend in Antwerp, Belgium. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to communicate with anyone there, which was a completely ridiculous worry. Belgians speak very good English along with 2 or 3 other languages. I was fine. I even discovered I can mostly read French in restaurants and work out what I would like to eat. It was a good lesson.

So a 45 minute walk on Melbourne's bustling streets and a lovely meal alone was fine. Nice. Perfect.

I think travelling and eating alone in a strange city and/or country is an acquired skill. What do you think? Have you ever travelled alone and found it hard to "get out there"?


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Day 7: Time to go home..

Holidays are great. They are great when you are thinking about going on holidays, planning the holiday, booking the holiday and going on the holiday. They are even good when it's time to go home. Yep. You heard right. We had a great holiday in Fiji. I'm sure you are all sick of hearing about it. But it's always nice to go home. 

After a hellish flight where every baby and toddler on board screamed and cried at some point, it was nice to land in Sydney and arrive home to "the yellow house", as Aiden calls it. To sleep in our own bed. To have a proper place for our things. To be able to visit our favourite coffee shop and grab a coffee.  Small pleasures of our own home and our own city.

My favourite kind of holiday is by the beach but it's nice to be back in the bustling urban inner west of Glebe where you say hello rather than "Bula" and where the pace is a little faster and energetic. It's nice to eat a 'normal' amount of food and not have to fight the hungry hoards at the breakfast buffet. It's nice to have shops close by, so convenient, so easy. 

I like being back in our Terrace house which has a history and a place in time and I like getting dressed each day in my new clothes to go off to my new job. I like driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge each day, over the most beautiful harbour in the world. 

And as the holiday fades I will turn to looking forward to the next break, my good friend Jacqui's wedding in Palm Cove in October, where I will also get to see lovely school friend Ann and her new baby Jasper.

Until then, here are a last few pics to remind me of fun in the sun!
Aiden and Arran ready for a boat ride
Water baby Charlie
Aiden lounging....

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Day 6: I have a theory

Yep. I have a theory and I need your help. My theory is that we all have a holiday wardrobe. Do you have one? Some items that hide in the back of the cupboard or in the bottom drawer just waiting for a summer holiday by the sea? They are items of clothing you wouldn't dare wear to many other places or events...well maybe a fancy dress party. I have been observing these clothes on the other guests at the resort we are staying in, as I wear my own version.

There is a little bit of excitement in an upcoming holiday when I get to pull these pieces out of my cupboard and pack them in the suitcase. They are usually the first things to go in, because I certainly don't wear them on a regular basis. Do you know the kind of clothes I mean? Things like brightly coloured floral dresses, shirts, shorts and sarongs - kinda Hawaiian style. They are items like long board shorts and fluro rashies and swimsuits. Big island style hats and sandals and thongs that get worn once a year, because they are so daggy, but oh so practical for the sand and water.

Here is my go-to summer holiday top. I don't know what possessed me to buy it. It has parrots on it, with sequins. Hideous. Except when you are on a summer holiday by the beach. Then it's just right. Well it's OK. Isn't it?

 Here is another summer holiday favourite. I bought it on a road trip between Sydney and Brisbane at Byron Bay, when I was pregnant with Aiden. It's Lisa Ho. It wasn't cheap. It's kinda island-y, not particularly flattering (style or colour), but great to wear on a hot day and can be dressed up to wear for dinner.
Here's a couple of the resort guests I took photos of, "paparazzi" style.  I'm not much of a "pap" photographer as my camera was back in my room or in my bag when I saw the BEST examples of holiday wardrobe wear.

First up, a very good example of holiday board shorts. Check out these floral babies at the pool, nicely coordinated with a red hat.

A Hawaiian shirt with a twist. Guitars and tiki/islander designs teamed with a 3 day growth. Good choice for lunch.

 And a classic Hawaiian holiday shirt as a swimsuit cover up. I know this because this girl arrived with 3 or 4 other bikini clad friends for lunch and was told to cover up before they were let in.

Do you have a holiday wardrobe? What's your favourite piece?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Day 4 and 5: The island life

We have settled into a nice routine and got the hang of life on an island. Palm tree lined sand, turquoise blue ocean and "Bulu!" wherever we go. 
One of the blogs I like to follow,  Little Cottage, Big Life written by the lovely Claudia, who I met at a recent blogger conference, does something called "Wordless Wednesday". Every Wednesday she only posts photos on her blog. I like it. I like it a lot. So in that spirit (I'm stealing her idea with pride) this blog is mainly photos of our holiday so far. Enjoy!

The Jetty
End of a perfect day
Arran and "Mini-me" Charlie
Ah...palm trees
Charlie practicing his modelling pose
"I can wear your sunnies Daddy!"
The beach....
Cheeky Charlie
I love tunnels
Cool dude!


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Day 3: Take a break

Holiday toes
I'm writing over at my other blog today. You can check out the post here

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 2: Escaping the routine. With routine.

So the thing about holidays, is escaping the day-to-day go to work routine. What I like best is not being woken up by an alarm. I'm not a morning person and I think the normal work day is better suited to those who spring out of bed before the sun is even up. My perfect work day would be getting up around 8am, eating breakfast slowly while reviewing the coming days events and then getting to work around 10. Lunch would be around 2 and I would work through till around 7.30-8pm, have dinner around 9 and then potter about till 12 or 1am before hopping into bed with a good book.

My reality is somewhat different. Charlie wakes us up anywhere from 3am to 5am. I feed him and then hone my settling skills in the hope he will go back to sleep without screaming the house down for an hour. My alarm wakes me at 6.30am and after a couple of "snoozes" I stagger bleary-eyed from bed desparately wishing I didn't have to get up yet. Wishing does not help anyone. I then run around like a completely mad woman getting everyone dressed, fed and out the door by 7.45am. After that its relaxing to go to work.

So holidays are not about doing any of that, although a pattern is starting to emerge. Breakfast is in the buffet type restaurant, and as we learned this morning, it's best to get there before 8.30 when every other person and their screaming darling children staying at the resort, descend on the Restaurant. That's around 500 people. Give or take. Did I mention I'm not a morning person? I don't want to fight other people to get my breakfast. 

After breakfast its off to the pool, and then back to the room so Charlie can have a sleep and Aiden can commence his "Can we go to the pool? Can we go to the pool?" mantra. Then lunch, then pool, then sleeps for Charlie and Aiden. Then pool, then dinner, then baths, then bed. Lucky there is a nice view here. 
View from dinner

Obligatory cocktail shot!

Dark and stormy

Tomorrow we might break with routine and go to the beach or the playground. Mixing it up.

Do you like routine? Or would you prefer each day to be different and take it as it comes?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Day 1: It's not that far to Fiji.....

So a 3.5 hour plane trip isn't too long. This was one of the deciding factors in choosing a holiday destination. The no 1 criteria was that it had to be warm. Last year we were well and truly sick of Sydney's winter and ended up just going away for the weekend. You can read about it here. Not good. This year we were going to go on a real winter break. To somewhere warm where there would be swimming and cocktails. After much thinking, reviewing, googling and indecision, we arrived at Fiji as the chosen destination, which is only 3.5 hours on a plane. Sweet.

After about 10 hours door-to-door we arrived at the Shangri-la resort. Hmmmm...

Two very tired and hot boys. Two very tired and hot parents. 

We started our day at 5am in Sydney, where it was dark and cold. A short ride in a "family friendly" taxi and we arrived at the international airport where island time had already started in the Virgin check-in line and Aiden was really just getting warmed up with his rant about wanting to go on the moving walkways and escalators. Once through customs we all had our own agenda. Me to secure as many current fashion and interior design mags as possible. Arran to secure a new pair of sunglasses (because he is obsessed with sunglasses. I don't know why) and Aiden to maximise the number of moving walkways and escalators he could drag us on before boarding the plane. At 8am we boarded the plane along with two main groups of people - happy islander type people and Aussies with small children, a slightly less happy group.

The flight over was a little manic. Small plane. Small children. Big Islanders. I'll let you think about that. Luckily the Virgin staff were unwaveringly happy, helpful and patient. Landing at Nadi airport in Fiji we disembarked to hot and humid weather and lots of "Bula!" Yes! A bit of waiting around in the airport and then an hour's trip to the hotel. Some fresh Mango juice and some more waiting around and we make it to our room. Even though the pool was officially closed (it was after 6pm Fiji time) we all got into our swimmers and had a dip. Nice. 

Back to our room to get changed for dinner. The day fell apart from here. Aiden wanted to go to bed, Charlie didn't know which was was up and the dinner venue was not great. It was a buffet. I'm not that fond of buffet's. It was VERY crowded with Australian's on holiday who had obviously never eaten before. It was VERY noisy, not just with general people noise but with lots of clanging and dropping of things. And it took a little too long to get medication wine. It was fair to say our little family was over traveling and just needed to be in bed. Which we did very quickly once dinner was finished. 

The sun came up and this is our view.....

What's your favourite holiday destination? Do you like to be by the beach? Do you like a winter's break in the snow?

Friday, 10 August 2012

I get a Stylist. Part 2

Continued from I get a Stylist. Part 1

I don't cry. I hold it together. We go to another store. One of Australia’s well know chain type fashion stores. Ok, Country Road. Where they won’t let us have more than 5 things in the change room at once and then keep putting garments we have put aside to try on next, back on the racks.  Is it any wonder bricks and mortar retail stores are struggling? They also have the added bonus that any garment with a retail value of more than $150 has a security wire and alarm on it. How classy is that? I ended up spending a lot in this store but even if I just wanted to try on one item, the security wire might turn me off going to the effort of getting undressed and trying it on. One of the dresses I tried on, I had to leave the change room and wander across the store and behind the counter so they could take the security wire and alarm off. Classy. Another customer was trying on her garment with the same security device and her alarm went off before she even tried it on, annoying all the customers in the change room. They need to revise their security and customer service strategy.

But things finally came together in this store. My stylist finally understood my body and what would look good on it, and the store had lots of variety of things to try on. Of course if I was one size in one garment I was a different size in another.  This is complete INSANTITY!

I bought the bulk of my new work wardrobe from Country Road. Here is the tally (and to illustrate the insane sizing issues):
  • 1 jacket - size 12
  • 3 skirts – 2 size “small”, 1 size 14.
  • 5 dresses –2 size "large", 2 size 14 and 1 size 16
  • 2 tops – 1 "extra large" and 1 "medium"
  • 1 pair of pants - size 10
  • 1 pair of jeans (didn’t need any but they really were good. Bloody stylist) – they are size 8. Apparently this is a vanity size. The last time I wore a size 8 pear of jeans was in grade 11 when I weighed 55 kgs. Women who are actually a size 8 are not buying their jeans in this store. 

2 dresses I would never have tried on, plus some cool coordinates

Bright and funky dresses

Colourful top

So what’s the wrap?
The good...
  • I ended up with lots of clothes. Probably too many. I’m wondering if I should take some back. 5 dresses seems like overkill. Nah, I'm not taking them back. I like 'em!
  • The experience was like shopping with a really good friend or your Mum. You know? Someone who tells it like it is and makes you try on things you wouldn’t normally try. One of the dresses she got me to try on I would have NEVER tried on myself. It was really nice but with a high neck I didn’t think it would be great on me. It did look great. I got 2; one in black and one in blue. I wore the blue one on a recent work trip to Melbourne and it was perfect. It didn't crush, was super comfy and I felt great in it.
  • I got clothes in lots of colours. I pretty much always end up buying black, and this trip I only got 3 black items and LOTS of colour! I also usually end up with lots of pants (in black) and no tops. The dresses seemed a good compromise on tops, and they make getting dressed in the morning easy.
  • Despite all my complaining the Stylist came good.  She was focused on getting clothes that were good value. She moved with 'pace' and knew the shopping centre well.
  • I'm pretty happy that my new wardrobe is easy-care, needs no ironing, is funky, cool, stylish, travels well (either on my body or in my suitcase), fits my body perfectly and makes me look AMAZING, whenever I put it on. Of course my dry-cleaner will be seeing a little more of me than she has in the past!
  • I have been inspired to buy some extra pieces to go with what I already have. I've been back to Country Road and bought some pants and a belt. I got a cute graphic jacket from Dotti and spent a lot of money invested in some basic black ballet flats from Net-a-Porter. I think I will buy some additional pairs of jeans from Country Road in different colours because finding flattering jeans is nearly as hard as finding flattering swimwear.
Beautiful packaging
Beautifully made...

The bad....
  • I really expected that someone who works with clothes and different bodies all the time might be better and quicker at choosing clothes. Maybe that's unrealistic. Maybe I have watched too many TV makeover shows. Maybe if you are getting paid $150 an hour you need to step it up. Just saying.
  • The whole sizing situation is ridiculous. While I think most of us expect to be different sizes from store to store, it would be nice to at least be close to the same size, in the one store. I get that the shape and style of clothes make a difference to how a garment will fit your body but to have bought clothes ranging from size 8 to size 16, and size small to extra large seems a little nuts.

What do you think? Does the sizing of clothes drive you crazy?