Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesdays: Emergency Exit Seats

Time for another Tuesday Travel Tip! This one perhaps is something a lot of people know about, but there are some tricks I've learnt along the way.

I know a lot of people like to request the Emergency Exit Rows on flights well in advance (for example, when they pay/book their flights). Well something I've found out along my travels is that in most cases, many airlines will in fact keep their Emergency Exit Rows completely unbooked. It's why you often find on a short haul flight they are indeed empty. It happens less on long haul flights because these seats are usually also kept for their frequent flyers needing upgrades or last minute flight changes.

For example when they get a frequent flyer/Gold membership customer who misses their flight or purchases a flexible ticket and invariably needs to be found a seat on your flight, the Emergency exits are allocated to them not because they are good seats, but because they may be the only free seats left! You'll also often get to the airport and see long 'waitlists' shown on the screens - these are both waitlists for those who are standby on a flight or who are waiting for an upgrade and yep, you guessed correctly, those emergency exit seats are good 'extra seat' buffers that they will fill on the day!

I came to this realisation when on several occasions travelling on two different continents and with several different airlines, I found myself being able to sweet talk the check in staff to find me a 'nice' seat. Each time they were able to give me an emergency exit seat and this was at airport check in several hours before boarding my flight.

My theory was proven correct recently when a kind counter staff offerred to find me some nice seats for my 3 flight homeward journey. On one of the flights - a short haul from London to Frankfurt - I found myself in the emergency exit alongside a couple who had indeed missed their earlier flight and this was their replacement.

It was actually the largest emergency exit row I've ever sat in...

So in essence - always ask to see if they can find you a nice seat while at airport check in, even if you have already checked in online! In a lot of cases they can't, but there's no harm trying! I understand this isn't the practice on all flights (some flights will now allow you to pay extra to book those seats so if enough people do this up front there will of course not be any of these seats available).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

#16: Smythson + Louboutin

Though my year of the Ultimate Shoe Subscription ended earlier this year (*sob* so sad it's over!), I had returned quite a few things along the way that turned out to be completely not my style and so I've had some extra credit left over I've been trying to use.

I've tried to be really careful in the last few items I buy because I'm at the point where I have my 'must buy' items and now the items must be amazing for me to order them. Anyway, I made this order recently and am quite in love! <3

I've always loved Smythson, as you might remember me posting about them before, and so when I saw this beautiful card case on sale during their half-yearly sale I just had to order it. It's my one pop colour piece of Smythson :)

Aaaand you know I love Christian Louboutin and when I saw these Chiarana 100s they were a must buy also! These are just like the classic Helmuts (but a new reincarnation of it) and they're not even in store in Australia yet :)

You can only just see it but at the back of the heel there is a 'heel grip' elastic in built. This is definitely a new thing for Louboutin and is absolutely GENIUS! I love it! It's perfect for me because I often find shoes slip from the back of my foot as I have quite narrow skinny ankles so this keeps my foot firmly in place and means when they stretch I can still wear them!

Now I've actually returned these for a half size smaller - I also have skinny feet in general so while these fit me and are comfortable, I think I need the half size down to be a more snug fit seeing as it's got the open cut side.

I know my collection is growing a little too fast and I should branch out but I just love the classic sexy styles Louboutin churns out season after season and his designs fit my aesthetic and style perfectly. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life in Photos: July 2012

I like to hibernate during Winter which is actually lots of fun - think staying in and reading books, blogs, doing early 'spring cleaning' and catching up on trashy TV! So not much exciting happenings to photograph...but don't think that stops me at all! My iPhone camera roll is actually fast running out of iCloud backup space eek!

Lunch stop at Charlie & Co to enjoy their wonderful wagyu burgers and truffle fries. I'm a huge fan of the North group and am really saddened by the closure of so many of their amazing restaurants (which incidentally were also some of my Sydney faves). I'm going to have find some new Sydney favourites!

I was excited to see this come through the mail - my Premier Silver membership with United! People like to knock them, but I actually had pretty decent service from them and their Premium Economy is really not so bad.

Surprise cupcakes from Cupcakes on Pitt from a friend! They look so delectable, right?

Have you had a chance to try Cadbury's answer to M&Ms and Smarties? They're actually not too bad...though maybe its because I got all these sample packs for free when I was in Melbourne?

Nails of the day a few weeks ago - OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark. I went overboard with my layers (I hate streakiness so went for 3 coats) and it ended up looking more black than plum. But I like how it matches with my hot pink bracelet from Santorini which I posted about a few posts back from memory.

And for something a little random - my friend knew I like buying these fancy random costume items and so helped me order one of these beautiful lace masks. It's very boudoir evening seductress but when it retails for $100s here, the under 20 euros it cost is practically bargain! And it's quite dainty and beautiful when worn.

Now that July is almost over, who else is practically dying for the warmer weather to come round? I know I am! I haven't had a proper Summer in 1.5 years!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Melbourne: Vue de Monde

When I was in Melbourne I managed to get a reservation at one of the city's best restaurants - Vue De Monde - which has breathtaking views of the city since its located on level 55 of the famous Rialto Tower.

Vue de Monde is one of only a handful of restaurants with a coveted three hats in the Good Food Guide, however despite this I was still rather dubious as to whether it was really as good as people say. We are blessed in Australia to have a pretty vibrant food scene, however in some respects it pales in comparison to the amazing food experiences of Europe which I think is primarily due to our small population and geographic isolation. Anyway, I could go on about that another time, but I'll stop because it takes away from the point I want to make, which is that Vue de Monde definitely didn't disappoint.

Apologies for the photo heavy post ahead! But you know how I love my photos :)

The elevator ride to the 55th floor is a little experience in itself!

The tables are large and spacious with beautiful homely table settings scattered haphazardly around - and the food starts arriving very soon after being seated!

We chose the 4 course menu for $150 - we're not big eaters and so this did seem the most appropriate given we needed to catch our flight home straight after!

A better shot of the table settings and our appetizers! Appetizers were truly a highlight - there were various different kinds and all were presented at once in a tapas style.

First up - smoked eel with caviar. This was smooth with just enough smokiness for me (and I'm picky with smoked foods!)

Petite bite sized truffled marshmallows!

Chinese artichoke with a zingy little dip - crunchy, not overly flavoursome, but almost like a nice chip + dip combo.

I really liked this - kangaroo with a herb filling. This one was rolled at our table by a skilful waiter with chopsticks in hand, making me think the filling was wasabi like. How wrong I was!

Then some celeriac parcels - you would think these would be bland but the wrapping was not at all gluey which was a perfect accompaniment to a fresh celeriac bite.

An obligatory photo of our bread basket - the butter was quinelled for us at our table by yet another skilful waiter.

Now onto the main events - our actual food courses! Our dining group was a party of 3 which meant we could try all but one of the menu selections in each course. It worked out well because the fourth was generally the vegetarian option or something that didn't really excite us anyway!

Lamb sweet breads, moreton bay bug and raisins - I didn't love this one (just wasn't my thing) but it was beautifully presented and the moreton bay bug was crunchy and delicate.

Kangaroo, artichoke, brussel sprouds, pear and smoked bone marrow - this had a well balanced mix of flavours with the colourful selection of crunchy vegetables and a light 'dressing' if you can call it that. I love brussel sprouts when they're cooked to perfection like this as they don't have that strong sour taste that is commonly associated with them. Usually you would expect the kangaroo meat to be really gamey but it wasn't overly so which was great.

Trout belly, smoked eel, nasturtiums and wasabi - now this asian influenced dish was exactly how seafood should be cooked - fresh and zingy flavours with a lightness which made the dish well balanced.

In between entrees and mains, our table settings were changed and we were each given a wooden pestle - a bit odd, right? Well never fear... all was soon revealed.

With a spectacular flourish of liquid nitrogen (I never tire of it being used as performance food art at restaurants), this dish was presented to us as a palate cleanser.

Don't be fooled by its simplicity. It seriously could contend for my favourite dish of the day. The aromats were served to us in the bowl, over which the liquid nitrogen was poured. We then were instructed to use our pestle to grind them and then the cucumber sorbet quinelle was placed on top.

In all seriousness, THIS WAS AMAZING! The sensation of the cleansing and fresh cucumber sorbet with the mouthfuls of the ground specks just popped in the both and I was left wanting more.

Onto the Mains: Mark's catch, tarragon, swede and mustart. The hero of the dish - the fish - was of course cooked well, as was the quails egg but I think by this stage I was getting quite full (I'm not a huge eater) so it all started to feel a bit heavy. The addition of the perfectly crunchy pomme (potato) parcels was a nice textural addition to the dish.

Now by far this was the favourite Main of the day. In fact, this dish was really quite incredible in terms of being so simple but tasty with a clever matching of ingredients. This dish of Duck, Kale and Yabbie are perhaps not things you would consider combining in a dish (or at least I've never seen such a combo) but the kale was perfectly crisp and the yabbie perfectly fresh in contrast to the heavier gamey duck. There was also some crackling as decorative garnish which was amazing! Love love love.

So this was definitely our least favourite of the Mains but would be a favourite amongst boys. This was a hearty, meaty dish of wagyu beef, onion and mustard. The serving size was generous but as I said, with none of us being big eaters this did feel very heavy and we couldn't finish it even amongst the three of us sharing. Of course the wagyu was melt in your mouth soft - all credit to the chefs for that.

And if we weren't already full by then, we had the cheese course to contend with before desserts. I love cheeses, but there is a reason why I don't usually order the often optional fromage course at restaurants - the heavy creaminess of cheeses means I don't have any space left for desserts! However I'm really glad the menu included cheeses in this case. As you can see, the cheese trolley had a huge selection and as we like an element of surprise, we allowed the waiter to choose a selection of cheeses for each of us.

With each of us getting three choices, we were able to try a wide selection which was served alongside some beautiful jams and fruit pastes.

.... and sweetbreads of course! These were delicious and beautifully presented.

Aaand another palate cleanser - the famous 'beer and nuts' combo. Again, I think the palate cleansers and 'extras' were my favourite of the day and definitely a highlight to the experience. This played perfectly to my favourite flavours - passionfruit 'beer'. Unfortunately I have a bad memory and can't for the life of me remember what were the accompaniment was (I want to say meringue).

And finally, onto my favourite part of a meal - Desserts! I just had to pick this when I saw it on the menu: Pavlova! Of course you can't expect a stock standard pavlova from a restaurant like Vue de Monde so this elegant deconstructed pavlova was presented. I've really come to love fruity desserts as the perfect end to a meal - if you'd asked me 3 years ago I would have always picked a chocolate dessert but this was a perfect end. The fruit was presented fresh and untainted to accompany the swiss meringue (not what I expected!) and fruity gels - passionfruit, raspberry and mango.

Now another amazing dessert - a perfectly cooked chocolate souffle. Fluffy, as light as air and just decadent. It was marshmallowy and oozy inside which was just lovely given the cold weather outside.

And finally - mandarin, violet and vanilla dessert. This was also exquisite - the violet meringues were strong and exactly how meringues should be (you know how fussy I am with them!). I'm not a huge fan of mandarins but the balance of citrus, crunchy textures and the granita were balanced and light.

And if that wasn't enough, there were still the obligatory petit fours to consume. By this stage they were needing our table so we were moved to the Bar which was beautiful and decadent. I wish I could decorate my home like that. And being so high up it felt like we were just in this serene heavenly world in the skies above the hustle and bustle of life down below us in central Melbourne.

When we were seated our petit fours were already waiting on a beautiful Australiana themed display. Practically everything on the plate was edible and I loved foraging around for things to eat.

The lamington looking delicacies at the front were chocolate mousse which was a nice surprise, and I loved the 'two up' jellies, the eucalyptus infused candy and chocolate shards. I think there was a sorbet something or other too but I can't remember!

And what a view to enjoy while there! We actually had to stop getting distracted from the outside view because our petit fours were sitting there waiting to be eaten :)

So all in all it was a lovely lovely experience, with top quality service that wasn't pretentious or snooty but just the perfect balance of attentive and casual.

It isn't a cheap dining experience and when I think of the amazing, unique, Michelin starred experiences  I had overseas for half the price it does feel very pricey however it's totally worth it for a splurge once in a while!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WIW: Saturday night out!

A quick post under my long neglected 'WIW' label - I'm really bad with taking photos of my outfits but I just had to take a photo of me wearing my Zara star tights which I posted about a while ago.
Bag: Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier
Skirt: Alice McCall
Tights: Zara
Shoes: Calvin Klein wedges

I was just going out for dinner with friends and then a farewell which somehow ended as a night out dancing with the girls! Fun way to spend a beautiful Saturday anyway :)

And so here's an obligatory photo of my tramp stamp + my hot pink bracelet from Santorini. I love it for a bit of colour to my outfits! And I wear a lot of pink so it matches perfectly

Friday, July 13, 2012

Customer Service

I've been reading on more and more frequently on forums and blog posts that people are always experiencing bad customer service. So you can imagine the pleasant surprise I had when I saw this email in my inbox from the awesome guys at net-a-porter after my recent purchase:

I didn't even contact them and the box hasn't even been delivered yet so I will wait and see what condition it is in. I did make a complaint a while back that I wasn't happy with how the boxes were being packed (things could have fallen out had my boxes been shoved around a bit) and got a friendly response which didn't really do anything seeing as every box since has been packed the same way. Perhaps this is a continuation of that, but in any case I think its nice of them to tell me beforehand and offer me a little surprise gift.

I have to admit, I'm a pretty picky customer so if the box is in terrible condition I probably would have complained (I like to keep my boxes in pristine condition) but its nice to have that pre-empted for once!

I will post again with photos etc of my goodies as soon as they arrive!

P.S I have an admission: I have made a few orders since but been a bit slack with posting oops! I will post soon though I promise, when things in my life calm down a bit :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

H&M + Australia = Yay!

A quick post to say how excited I am that H&M have finally confirmed they will be opening in Australia!

Three words for you - about bloody time! As I've posted before, Australia's been long playing catch up on the international market, yet proof in sales figures show the Australian market is longing for these kinds of stores (Australia often ranks in the top 5 countries for sales on websites like ASOS).

Anyway, it has been confirmed today that they are opening in Melbourne, which has been on the ragtrade gossip columns for literally months now (maybe even years?). Now I won't go into the whole Melbourne v Sydney thing for launching brands - I could go on for days and have lots of theories and thoughts about it - but I will say one thing...as excited as I am I'm also a bit wary.

You see, H&M has always been the one shop I try and visit everywhere I go overseas. The prices are always fairly consistent and the product offerrings always differ from country to country, shop to shop making it all the more exciting. Their sales strategy is clever but also rewards those who frequently visit their stores which just makes me love it even more! So why am I wary? Yet with everything, I'm wary of the prices and range we'll get here. They love to jack up the prices as soon as they land on Australian stores. OK so fine, freight is expensive and we don't have the population, but the price differentials are often astronomical compared to overseas! Not to mention the dodgy leftover stock they usually lump us with.

I'm glad I really only buy basics from H&M because it will be a little sad to see every second person on the street wearing H&M once it hits our shores! But I suppose we will just have to wait and see what happens but I'm happy to say, Australia is moving in the right direction on the shopping front :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesdays!

I am hardly a travel guru by any stretch of the imagination but I like to think I'm a smart traveller which has come from being observant, doing some research and accumulating tips and tricks from personal anecdotes and suggestions along the way.

I often get asked by friends about my random travel tips which they say are really useful, so I thought I might as well blog about some of them in case others want to hear them too. Once in a while will be Travel Tip Tuesday, especially when I think of a new tip or trick ;) A lot of them I used to assume was common knowledge but apparently not so even if one person reads this and finds it useful I'll be happy :) Apologies if it seems boringly obvious to you though!

So anyway, the first one is a bit random - water bottles at the airport.

<Random pic, I know, but aren't these water bottles awesomely cool and stylish?>
I hate being dehydrated and worst still is when you're on the plane and they offer you those tiny gulps of water in plastic cups. Not enough for me! So a must bring for me is a bottle of water.

I know this might be getting lifted soon, but with the ban on any liquids over 100ml most people think you can't bring water bottles through and foolishly buy new bottles after bag check which of course is always at superinflated prices.

All you need to do is ensure your water bottle is empty prior to going through bag check/scan (regardless of its size). You can even empty the liquid contents of your bottle into those plastic bag lined bins which are always at the entry point. I usually like to bring recyclable plastic bottles for this purpose (in case they really get picky and confiscate it from you) but I've seen others bring those metal flask like containers and specialty plastic bottles.

Once past the check point, there are usually water fountains readily available for you to fill up your bottle with fresh (often cold!) aqua for your drinking pleasure!

I can tell you that I've had 100% success rate with no confiscated bottles across the many continents, countries, airports and flights I've been on so I hope you have the same experience. I have to admit, airports are becoming a lot less picky, so this might not be such a big deal anymore but as with all things travel related its better to be safe than sorry right? Actually when I was travelling through Frankfurt airport I completely forgot to empty my bottle and the security personnel wouldn't let me throw out the contents since I was already on the other side of the conveyer belts. Instead he was nice enough to say he would let me take the bottle if I consumed the contents of the bottle so he just watched me do that and he was satisfied. Easy!

Did you already know this tip and if so, have you had problems with it previously?