Tagging along on my husbands business trip is a great way to travel and catch up with friends around the world... this time I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney.
On these tag-along trips I don't actually see a lot of my husband, he usually has meetings from breakfast at 8am working right through the day often having business dinners too.
If you are not comfortable travelling, eating dinners and sightseeing alone then tagging onto a business trip probably isn't for you....
Luckily, I still have great friends in Singapore so it was nice to be able to see them and spend some quality time with them. I also have some fabulous friends in Melbourne and co-incidentally this trip my travel buddy was also going to be visiting Sydney so it was a very social 2 weeks with lots of eating and drinking.
To the amusement of most of my friends Hubby and I don't actually fly together. He flies direct as time is precious to him. I get the best deal I can and usually do a connecting flight as they are cheaper. Often I fly British Airways as I am a gold card holder and get preferential treatment, extra baggage allowance and can book seats in advance at no charge... Also their premium economy offer is a nice compromise between economy and business.
This trip I actually did a mix of Qatar Air and Qantas. Qatar Air offered a very good price on a business flight to Singapore, returning from Sydney, and the Qantas bits in the middle I managed to use my British Airways avios points for. Both airlines are part of the One World partnership so I also collected more avios points and tier points.
I had been hearing some great things about the skincare brand SK11 and I bought some products on a recent trip to Japan and so I thought I would treat myself to a nice facial at the SK11 salon in Millennia Walk in Singapore. not only did my skin look fabulous afterwards but I floated out of the salon feeling totally relaxed. It was the perfect way to spend a few hours out of the heat and humidity that I hated when we lived in Singapore.
When you go back to visit a place that you have lived in (or maybe just a place you have visited many times before) there isn't really the need to race around sightseeing so on this trip I booked up spa treatments, foot massages, and went for a mani-pedi weekly.
A hi-light of the Singapore trip was getting to taste the new menu at Cé La Vie restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. A good friend works for the company - based in Hong Kong and was in Singapore to meet with the chef and see how their new menu was working out. He invited me to lunch and we got to taste some AMAZING food.... pictures below.
There is not a single thing that I ate that I would not recommend. The flavours and combinations were truly delicious.
The restaurant is on top of the Marina Bay Sands complex with amazing views over Singapore and is a great destination for visitors to the little island. There is a outdoor bar where you can also order food, but the indoor restaurant - with air-conditioning is my suggestion, maybe having pre dinner cocktails or champagne outside to enjoy the view.
After Singapore my husband flew for meetings in Brisbane and I flew to Melbourne where I spent a few days with a girlfriend before he arrived for more meetings. My friend and I used to work together when we both lived in London many moons ago. We aim to see each other at least once a year often in NYC or London if I don't get to Melbourne. We had a very relaxing few days, hanging out at the hotel spa, doing a little shopping the the sales and enjoying some of the fabulous Melbourne restaurants. I have written a few Trip Advisor reviews for some of the places we visited, but Lucy Liu stands out in my memory. The Asian fusion food was excellent, tapas sized plates for sharing, great atmosphere and good staff.
I really enjoy Melbourne, The free trams around the city centre are a great help to tourists. The city centre is quite compact and the restaurant and bar scene is fabulous... much better than Sydney in my opinion, but maybe I am biased as I have lots of friends to go out with when I am there.....
Our time in Sydney was quite short. My husband only had 2 days of meetings and so we were only there for 3 nights. The weather wasn't great so that was just as well.
I did a lot of walking as we were staying centrally, visiting the Opera House for a performance and the National Museum for a photography exhibition. There was one day when it rained a lot and so I was only too happy to take refuge by the roof top pool of the hotel.
A friend who I have taken a few city breaks with was also in Sydney at the same time and so one afternoon we got to meet up and enjoy some fish and oysters at Watsons Bay... luckily the sun came out for that afternoon.
This was one of those parts of the trip where I only saw my husband when he got into bed in the evening and in the morning when he left for breakfast.... but it wasn't too bad as the best bit of the trip was yet to come. I had managed to convince hubby to add on a week of holiday time and we flew out of Sydney for a week in the Cook islands..... we got to spend 6 whole days in paradise, with no business meetings to interrupt us. More on that trip in the next post...
We caught a cab to St Kilda to meet with some friends at Café Di Stasio, as it is one of their favourite places to eat. It is definitely wise to get a reservation here, as you certainly don't want to make the trip and have to turn around if there is no availability..... We were there on a Friday night and it was full and they were turning away people who arrived without reservations...
There was a sign on the door as we entered saying that photography isn't allowed..... I chose to assume that it referred to people taking photographs from the door paparazzi style. Obviously I took photographs of my food, I'd paid for it, I can do what I want with it.... surely ?!
Well, no one stopped me.... so here are some photos of our food....
The quality of everything was excellent. My spaghetti vongole (one of my favourite pasta dishes) was full of flavour, the pasta was home made and cooked perfectly. Everyone else was equally impressed with their dishes.
Service was good and the restaurant had a nice atmosphere, although a little dark... maybe this helps with the no photographs policy??
We had a slight hiccup with my starter as the oysters were served raw when I had requested them to be baked. The baked oyster was their special....... so despite my love or raw oysters I did have to send these back to the kitchen. The waiter wasn't too pleased as he insisted I asked for them raw and didn't look too impressed when the whole table disagreed with him..... anyway, they were replaced and worth the extra wait.
We stayed quite late, I think we were the lat table out, but we still didn't feel rushed. Perhaps due to the huge amount of money we had spend on the food, wine and champagne.....
It was a lovely evening and I would definitely recommend a trip out to St Kilda If you are staying in Melbourne long enough to leave the city centre restaurants. Café Di Stasio has a much more local, friendly feel about it than some of the city places......
Café Di Stasio 31 Fitzroy Street St Kilda Melbourne +61 (3) 9525 3999 website
After an early lunch with some friends in Melbourne I had some free time in the afternoon. so following up on a friends suggestion I decided to go for tea and a cake at Brunetti's on Lygon Street.
It was a nice sunny day and not too hot so the walk helped work off some of the calories from lunch whilst also giving me a slight appetite for the delights to come.
Brunetti's is a family owned 'Roman Pasticceria' with several locations in Melbourne and even in Singapore. The selection of cakes, gelato and savouries is staggering. glass cabinets line one side of the cafe with an amazing display. The choice was amazing and a visual delight. There were rows and rows of celebration cakes, cannoli eclairs, macarons, gelato and biscuits. All tastes, ages and hunger levels were catered for.
There was even a good selection of mini treats for those like me who couldn't decide what they wanted.
I was at the Lygon Street location in the middle of the week, mid afternoon and there was a queue of at least 10 people before me. Service was quick, but these guys are hugely popular so Saturday lunch times may not be the best time for a visit.
My salted caramel eclair and my mini white chocolate and raspberry opera cake were divine and the range of flavours have inspired me to give eclairs a try at home.
Sadly there were not enough days left in my trip to visit again as I would love to try their gelato, but I guess I can wait until my next trip to Melbourne.
If you live in Melbourne I guess you have already heard of Brunetti's. If you are visiting, why not save some room after lunch or dinner and take a walk here for dessert.
Brunetti - 380 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia +61 3 9347 2801 Website
'The Best Pizza in the world'..... well I have no idea how accurate that statement is but Johnny Di Francesco at 400 Gradi won the title in a global competition.
It was surprisingly easy to get a table at 400 Gradi. We were quite surprised. I thought it would be full with a waiting list down the street.... I guess the locals are used to them being here and we weren't in the middle of the tourist season...
We were seated promptly and the menu was explained. Surprise surprise, we all ordered pizza. The two guys I was with ordered starters, but I knew a pizza would be more than enough for me, and I wanted to have a dessert.
To be fair their pizzas are AMAZING but without having them side by side with all the other amazing pizzas though it is quite hard to decide if this is truly The Best Pizza in the World.... The base was very crispy - just like the Italian ones. If you are a fab of the doughy American style pizza's then these are quite different. The tomato sauce was tasty as was the prosciutto.
400 Gradi is definately worth a visit if you are visiting Melbourne, even if you live in Melbourne they are worth a visit across town. If you live in Melbourne and you haven't tried a pizza at the restaurant that holds the title for the Best Pizza in the World - what are you waiting for ??
400 Gradi 99 Lygon Street, East Brunswick, Melbourne. Tel +61 9380 2320 website
The downside of the great price was that I was that all my flights were separate and I was flying,
Zurich - London - Singapore- Sydney - Melbourne - Sydney - Auckland - Sydney - Singapore - London - Zurich....
whereas my husband flew....
Zurich - Singapore - Melbourne - Auckland - Singapore - Zurich.
As most of you know, I am not phased by unknown airports or travelling alone so I loaded up my iBooks, grabbed my bag and off I went.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I got to walk around the airports in-between flights, and after arriving in Sydney I had a nice shower in the lounge and changed clothes before the short hop to Melbourne. That made a huge difference to how I felt when I arrived.
I got my return to Sydney organised with a stopover in Singapore on the way home. It was a great price and the leg out was business class, so I knew I would arrive at least having had a good sleep on the BA flat bed. The ticket was only 300 Swiss Francs more than Prem Ecc so I jumped on that fare.
As things worked out I was also lucky enough to get a nice upgrade to business class on the return, proving that loyalty really does pay.
So again my husband had to travel for his job and if there is something most people know about me its that I'm not the type of person to sit at home alone for 3 weeks, so I jumped quickly on www.BA.com and got myself some flights. My husband flies direct and in Business Class and the cost of his tickets is way more than I am prepared to spend on myself so I've become pretty good at working out the best flight combinations for the price.
I've been to Sydney and Melbourne several times before so this trip was all about catching up with friends. I met up with an old college friend, a friend I used to work with, a friend from expat days in Singapore and also some new friends from Zurich who were there by coincidence. We tried out lots of great restaurants, and of course the Sydney Fish Market. I had such an amazing time.
The weather was perfect for being in the city and I got to take some lovely long walks and indulge in some retail therapy too.
New Zealand was a new adventure for me as I have never been before. We stayed in Auckland and at the weekend hired a car to drive along the coast and visit Hobbiton, where The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were filmed. I also took advantage of my husband's busy work scheduled and took a quick flight to Wellington for an overnight visit to another college friend.
Singapore was a nice 3 night stopover on the return home. For me the hi-light was catching up with friends from when we used to live here, and of course the food. Staying in a great hotel in the CBD with a lovely pool didn't hurt either.
I'm in the process of writing a few blog posts about the cities, restaurants, hotels and various airline lounges I have come across, so if you are interested, watch this space this space.
More of the Melbourne 'no reservations' thing going on here, so we were a little cheeky and arrived at 11.30 and ordered a couple of pots of tea, thus holding the table until they started serving lunch at 12pm.
Cumulus opened in 2008 and is in a trendy past of central Melbourne. It is in a modern building and the restaurant is lovely, spacious and airy. It has made its way into several lists of recommended restaurants in Melbourne. In my opinion, rightly so.
There were three of us eating lunch so we ordered a selection and shared. All the plates were much larger than we expected and so sadly we didn’t get to order a second round. The dishes were modern, but simple. Not too many ingredients in the same dish you don't get a confusion of flavours.
The Pigs Head Croquettes were delicious. The meat was moist and full of flavour. We also had the Wagyu Beef Bresaola and the kitchen charcuterie selection. The dried meats and bread accompaniments were far too much food but we forced ourselves to eat them because they were so good.
Lastly we had the Stracciatella with fig and fennel pollen and Butternut pumpkin, pine nut, sheep’s milk curd and chilli. The Pumpkin took us all by surprise. It was an amazing mix of flavours and textures. simply wonderful.
Once we stopped complaining about the ‘no reservations’ thing, we had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Service was excellent. The restaurant gets VERY busy so I would suggest either arriving early or after the lunch crowd have disappeared. The staff were very fast to turn the tables around.
Several people recommended Cumulus to me, it has a very god reputation among the Melbourne foodies. I would definitely go back again for dinner.
Cumulus - 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000 +61 3 9650 1445
Apparently it's a 'Melbourne thing' to not take reservations.... I came here for dinner with a girlfriend and were greeted by a cute maître d with a good sense of humour... He asked if we minded sharing a table so we explained we hadn't seen each other for a few years and our conversation may not be PG ! He laughed and suggested we wait at the bar. We had a short conversation with him and then we were given a table for two with enough privacy for a long giggly girly chat.
We were given a great table with lots of privacy. Service was excellent. We ordered plates to share - as suggested, and the food was amazing.
Great flavours produced by using excellent products.
We started with a recommended dish Betel Leaf, alongside Caramelised Pork and sour Pineapple, and followed it with Twice Cooked Pork Belly and Beef Penang curry. We also had a side of Chinese broccoli with chilli and oyster sauce.
The Penang Curry and twice cooked Pork...... were both outstanding. The beef was melt in the mouth and the flavour was amazing…. well to be fair all the food was amazing.
We opted for ‘liquid desserts’ and moved to the bar where we also enjoyed friendly banter with the bar server, with our red wine.
If I was in Melbourne again I would definitely return….. or maybe their branch in Sydney.
This is a great restaurant for any type of dinner. Informal business dinners could happily sit alongside romantic dinners. Whatever the reason, if you live in Melbourne and haven't been to Longrain then I have no idea what you are waiting for...
Longrain - 40-44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000 +61 3 9671 3151
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