Ubud Rice Paddies Bali

After packing up our life in London, we were both in need of some relaxation and downtime en route to New Zealand. For months, my Instagram feed had been full of enticing blue hues and images of tropical swimming pools, so I knew the just the place to unwind.


I had visions relaxing by infinity pools reading, stretching out in yoga classes, eating delicious local cuisine and of course some exploring. Bali didn’t disappoint and that’s exactly how we filled our days on holiday. It’s a place where you can do as much, or as little as your heart desires.

We decided to stay in Ubud for the first few days – the ultimate zen paradise filled with yoga and amazing food, all while being surrounded by rainforest and terraced rice paddies.

The beautiful tropical climate hit us the moment we stepped off the plane. The sticky, humid air was a welcome hug after leaving London’s cooler Autumn weather. Tired from our flight with sunshine streaming in the car windows, we were both nodding off in the back seat during the 90-minute drive from the airport to Ubud. Jolting awake as we bounced our way along the roads catching glimpses of local stalls and temples.

Desa Sanctuary The Village_Ubud Bali

Nestled amongst a tropical garden, we arrived at our accommodation and checked into our rustic hideaway just out of Ubud, Desa Sanctuary. Aside from our first night where we had a very unwelcome guest – a large Huntsman spider on the wall (I hid in the bathroom while Mike dealt with it – spiders are NOT my thing), the rest of our stay was comfortable and the staff friendly.

After a quick freshen up and outfit change, we were eager to venture into the main centre of Ubud to take a look around. Being 2km out of town, we opted to hire a scooter as our mode of transport and set off in our new surroundings.

First stop was The Yoga Barn for a snoop and to check out their class timetable. It didn’t look like much from reception, but follow the garden path and you discover their studio, retreat and café set in an expansive and tranquil rustic setting with pathways leading you to all sorts of romantic garden nooks.

Finding a spot at the outdoor cafe, it was time to re-hydrate and get into the swing of holiday mode.

The Yoga Barn Garden Kafe

A carrot & turmeric shot for me and wheatgrass with lime for the boy.

The Yoga Barn Turmeric and Wheatgrass Shots

And of course, a compulsory fresh coconut.

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut

You know your coconut is served with a whole lotta love when it comes out with a love heart cut into it (I may have been a little more excited about this fact than Mike was).

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut Love Heart

If you want to detox, this place looked like a great option. Their Garden Kafe menu is full of delicious food, including a great range of vegan, Ayurvedic and Macrobiotic choices. If you are looking for healthy food in Ubud, this is a good place to start.

While sipping away, we ran our eyes over a local map to get a feel for the area and see what Ubud had to offer.

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut and Map Reading

Thirsts quenched and stomachs grumbling, we decided to move on to try somewhere different for dinner. A couple of days later we did go back to The Yoga Barn for dinner and their food is delicious. I tried the Balinese pumpkin & tempe curry with red rice (new rice obsession) and a date almond shake.

Back on the bike, we weaved our way around the streets until somewhere grabbed our attention and luckily came across another Ubud gem – Atman Kafe. I’ll show you more in the next post, but for now I’ll give a sneak peek at some of the incredibly flavoursome food and you’ll see why it became one of our most frequented spots to eat.

We started with coconut crusted mahi-mahi (one of the main reasons we kept going back). It had us hook, line and sinker – fishing pun intended. The delicate fish pieces were cooked perfectly and the coconut coating was fried crispy golden with just the right textured crunch. The food was fresh and the flavours combined with the lime juice, coriander and tomato sambal were unbelievable.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Coconut Crusted Fish

My main was one of Atman Kafe’s top sellers – their Balinese curry. A bowl full of fresh herbs, tofu, capsicum, chill, spinach, beans, garlic, onion and lemongrass in a coconut milk and turmeric soup. All. The. Goodness. It also comes with a side of white and red rice and extra chilli if you need more of a kick.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Balinese Curry

And Mike’s choice – Mie Goreng. Fried noodles with vegetables and topped with a fried egg served with the same delicious tomato sambal as the coconut crusted fish. And, just to make sure he didn’t go hungry, two chicken satay sticks with a generous dollop of a crunchy peanut sauce on the side.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Mie Goreng

Bellies full and eyes struggling to stay open, we retreated back to our rustic hideaway to call it a night. After extra thorough spider checks and the mosquito net firmly tucked around our mattress (just to be sure), we drifted off, ready for what the following day would bring.

First Image © Siim Teller via Flickr.

Tropical dreams,

Leaving London Postcards

Arriving at Heathrow this time on the Piccadilly line from our West London home was different. It was the last time I would make that journey. There was no return plane ticket. Only memories and an expiring visa in my passport marking the end of my welcome. The day had come.

It was time to go home.

Standing under the departure boards with my packed bags, the past three and a half years felt like they had gone by in the blink of an eye. How could my initial “one to two years” response to family and friends who asked how long I would be gone for have doubled so quickly?

Quite simply, London does that.

Time is distorted with its fast pace and endless offerings. A month often feels like a week, six months, two. It gets under your skin. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but mostly for all the pockets of magic it does offer.

It was an instant love affair that started two weeks before the 2012 Olympics and after three months of countless laughs and adventures through South East Asia. A flat was quickly secured and not long after a job with my dream company; right in the heart of all the action. Oxford Circus.

Bank holidays and Christmas closure became opportunities for travel and maximising annual leave. There was always somewhere new to see. I ventured to destinations like Egypt, Croatia, Montenegro, Prague, Portugal, Greece, and one of my favourite trips, a cruise from Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 to spend Christmas in New York. If there was a chance to explore, I took it. It became a joke with colleagues about how much travel I seemed to do and how I must surely have twice the company holiday allowance.

In such a transient city – and for most antipodeans a ‘not forever’ city – most of the contacts I knew on arrival moved on within a few months, so new friendships were constantly established as people came and went.

Family and friends visiting was always a cherished time to look forward to, as well as being the perfect excuse to tick off the popular (usually avoided) tourist spots. Actually, who am I kidding? All of London is busy and what is a tourist attraction for some is part of someone else’s daily commute. It’s unavoidable. I think the beautiful and extraordinary surroundings are often taken for granted by locals rushing about their day. Even after three years, I still had to pinch myself walking to Piccadilly Circus after work. Closing my eyes now, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and awe as I took everything in.

In between all the travel (and work), spare time was filled with brunch dates, weekend markets, theatre, music gigs, strolling along South Bank, picnics in Hampstead Heath, pop-ups, shopping, deer spotting in Richmond Park, blogging events, afternoon teas in hotels older than New Zealand, walks along the Thames and tube missions to Camden, Greenwich, Shoreditch and Brixton.

Weekdays quickly became weekends – with so much to see and do, there was no reason to leave all the exploring and catch ups to only Saturday and Sunday. Every night of the week there is anything and everything to do. All part of what I miss.

Fast forward to two days before leaving, I was sitting on my bedroom floor – tired, frazzled and absent minded from everything to remember. Surrounded by belongings strewn everywhere, the previous few weeks caught up and I sobbed while feeling ALL the emotions as they came pouring out.

Moving countries takes its toll. Packing up your worldly possessions takes twice as long as you think, it’s stressful and a roller coaster of highs and lows finishing work and saying goodbye to cherished colleagues and friends. Those same people, who when you are living on the opposite side of the world also become your family.

There really is no other place quite like London. Others who have experienced the vibrant, chaotic, busy, beautiful and intoxicating city will know the all too familiar feelings. Moments of dizzying love, excitement, overwhelm and stress – sometimes all at once.

Every day I felt inspired by my surroundings. I explored and it was a time I learnt more about myself. With the anonymity that living in any large city gives, comes also a sense of freedom of being able to be yourself away from preconception and expectation.

Now I sit here, that other world feeling a distant memory away with an ache, a desire and a heartfelt longing to be part of that rush again. There are feelings of sadness for the past I know can no longer be re-created and mixed feelings of being far from where I was, but knowing I’m perhaps right where I need to be.

Who knew the hardest thing about London would be leaving it.

Home of course continued – friends got married, careers progressed, families were started and expanded and I find myself now trying to figure out where I fit in the dynamics of this familiar, yet very different environment.

New chapters are always an exciting time to start fresh. To re-set, re-evaluate and focus with the new knowledge learnt along the way. So, right now, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Looking forward.

But, London, I just wanted you to know you will always have a special place in my heart.

Loving & leaving London,

Santorini Sunset

The last few weeks have all gone by in a bit of a blur. There has been summer trips to Italy and Greece, Glastonbury, family and friends visiting from New Zealand, sightseeing, rugby world cup games, time on the yoga mat, a recent wedding in Denmark and the ultimate, GQ Men of the Year awards. There’s no questioning why I love living in London, but here am I am asking myself “To stay, or not to stay?”

In the back of my mind though, there has been a constant debate about whether to stay in this city that has stolen my heart, or return back to New Zealand. If it were only my decision, the choice would have been easier.

Unfortunately it’s not always so simple and there were a lot of other factors to consider – the main one being that Mike was ready to return home. The initial one to two year plan of moving to London has already turned into 3.5 years. London seems to have a way of doing that. The months and years whizz by. There is always something new to do, to see, to learn and experience.

It has a magical hold with its bustling streets, history, international cultures, pop-ups, food markets, theatre, gigs, entertainment, shopping and travel. If you can think of it, you can probably find it in London.

Reaching this fork in the road of one of us wanting to stay and the other wanting to leave meant there has been a lot of umming and aahing this year when it came to making a decision. The fast approaching deadline of our visas expiring only adding to the pressure.

To be honest, I’ve been in complete denial. Pulling back from my blog, from social media and putting my head in the sand, hoping that time would stand still and I wouldn’t have to make a decision, or leave the city I love.

FYI – this is not the recommended way to deal with things. Time will never stop and by not making any decision, I put life on hold inevitably not making progress either way. Sometimes fear holds us exactly where we are, in turn creating what we are most afraid of.

Time was running out and it was time to make a choice.

A lot of people gave their advice (a lot of it biased on both sides – love you all), but comments from two people really stuck with me and I think can apply to others in many situations.

The first from an unexpected source who told me, “It’s time to move forward. If you make no decision, it will keep you stuck and static. Don’t wait until a decision feels right. Just move. Only once we’ve moved forward will we know if it’s a mistake and if it is, we can change it.”

The other from a close friend, “Just make a decision and see how it feels. There’s no wrong decision. There’s just a decision and if you don’t like what you decide, you can make a new decision. That’s how we learn and grow. That’s life. A beautiful mess. Either way, make the decision from a place of power and love, not a place of powerlessness and fear.”

Both pieces of advice really helped me move forward, so, recently I handed in my resignation at work.

And then cried.

While there are plenty of positives of moving back to New Zealand, I’m still sad to be leaving a company I love, a city that fills me with excitement and to say goodbye to beautiful friends I’ll be leaving behind.

But, as the sun sets on one day, a new day begins and I am excited about what is next. While London and all the wonderful memories, experiences and friends I have made here will always have a special place in my heart, there are new adventures to be had.

So, London friends – it’s time to schedule catch ups and after a holiday in Bali, New Zealand friends and family – we will see you in a few weeks.

Love & London,

As the sun lowered on our day in Paris, our group were joined by 30 other VIP guests for a rooftop dinner and champagne reception at Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe. Unlike London, Paris doesn’t have many outdoor roof bars, or restaurants, so it was exciting to have an event on the hotel’s outdoor terrace.

On arrival we were greeted with a glass of champagne before stepping out to meet the other guests.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Roof Party

DJ’s pleased the crowd with their sounds and bartenders showed off their bar flaring skills while everyone chatted and mingled in the warm Parisian evening.

Ah, Summer. You are my favourite season of the year.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Top Chef Kevin D'Andrea

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Top Chef Kevin D'Andrea Cooking

Our taste buds were in for the biggest treat with French Top Chef finalist, Kevin D’Andrea in the kitchen putting his culinary skills to use at what he does best…

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Top Chef Kevin D'Andrea Kitchen

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Top Chef Kevin D'Andrea Food

Creating winning combinations of mouth-watering, delicious food!

We were served cooked salmon wrapped in nori, foie gras, prawns, an egg combination topped with crunchy bacon and truffle and my favourite, a creamy rich polenta topped with tenderly cooked duck. The flavours were so incredible in this dish, I went back for seconds (it tasted THAT good I didn’t even take any photos – all other focus went out the window).

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe ByWhoTattoo Tattoos

In between the incredible food and glasses of champagne, the girls from ByWhoTattoo were blinging everyone out for the evening with temporary jewellery tattoos. Even the guys were getting in on the action.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe ByWhoTattoo

There were different options from necklace designs to bracelets and decorative arm and face tattoos. I went for a silver bracelet, which impressively lasted a week without any special care.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Macaron

The desserts were equally impressive and beautifully delicate. I opted for the one above and am so happy to report that it was the best macaron I’ve ever tried. Seems a perfectly fitting experience in Paris. Guiltily, I’ve never really understood their hype and craze the past few years.

Until now.

It was melt in your mouth, just the right amount of sweetness with a soft squishy centre kind of incredible. Finished off with the cream, it was a winning flavour combo. Kevin, if you’re reading – you’re welcome to come and cook for me anytime.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Limo

Led out to the front of the hotel, the best was still yet to come with several stretch limos waiting to take us on a night tour of Paris. Of course the Renaissance Navigators still had a few tricks up their sleeves and surprises lined up for the evening.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Limo Inside

Climbing in, more champagne corks were popped and the music pumped as we ventured out in our convoy.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Vendome Guests

Our first stop on the evening tour of Paris was Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel, where The Groovy Project performed in the lobby. Everyone stood mesmerised by their incredible voices and guitar playing.

Back out to the limos, we found our assigned drivers and ventured on our way in anticipation for our next surprise.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Limo Night Tour Seine Eiffel Tower

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Limo Night Tour Seine Love Locks

Next we stopped at a footbridge, passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor where we crossed the Seine and admired the sparkling lights along the river. The top of the Eiffel Tower could be seen shimmering in the distance sending out beams of light into the night sky.

Lining the bridge, lovers were still allowed to leave symbols of their love with a lock – a popular practice on many bridges around the world. With their recent removal from Pont des Arts bridge, it may be something that doesn’t last too much longer though in Paris.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Move and Art dancers

Under the bridge, hip-hop dance troupe Move and Art were waiting to put on an energetic performance. Twisting, grooving and break-dancing, they got the crowd into the mood, before getting everyone involved to Mark Ronson’s, Uptown Funk.

There were a lot of laughs as we joined in and moved along (semi in sync) to their choreography.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Seine River Bar Faust Pont Alexandre III Bridge

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Seine River Bar Faust Pont Alexandre III

Carrying on and still buzzing after our dance efforts, we joined a crowd of outdoor party goers on the bank of the Seine at Faust. At the foot of the gilded Pont Alexandre III bridge it was a great spot for some people watching and to enjoy the balmy evening.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Limo Night Tour L'arc

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Larc Nightclub

Our final stop for the evening was the exclusive L’arc, one of Paris’ top hip-hop clubs near the Arc de Triomphe. Owned by Lenny Kravitz, celebrities from Beyonce, Jay-Z and Katy Perry to Mick Jagger have grooved to the beats of the in-house DJ’s at this uber cool spot.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Larc Kool & The Gang

We didn’t have to wait long for some celeb spotting when Kool & The Gang joined us in a VIP area next to ours. To top the night off, they did an impromptu performance with all the usual crowd favourites.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Arc de Triomphe with Silverspoon London

Paris, you continue to impress. Last night's view walking home with @angiesilverspoon 🇫🇷

A photo posted by Nicole: A Life Less Beige (@alifelessbeige) on


To the sound of ‘Celebrations’ it was time to sadly call it a night. On a massive adrenaline high from all the evening’s events and our incredible Day of Discovery in Paris, Angie and I made our way back to the Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe.

With one last photo stop along the way past the Arc de Triomphe, we said goodnight in the early hours ready for a good night’s sleep.

A huge thank you to Renaissance Hotels and their team of Navigators for so many incredible experiences during Global Day of Discovery. Each activity was so much fun and certainly showcased a unique side of London and Paris. So many fond memories that will last forever – exactly what travelling and exploring new destinations is all about.

J’adore Paris,

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Paris Grand Palais

When I left you yesterday, it was only early afternoon with a full line up of activities still ahead of us. Phew!

Next on our Day of Discovery itinerary was a visit to the Grand Palais (Great Palace) for an exhibition showcasing the designs of John Paul Gaultier. I had missed the exhibition when it was in London last year, so I was happy for the opportunity to see it in the home of fashion.

With section names like Punk Cancan, Skin Deep – X Rated and Urban Jungle, you know you’re going to be in for a treat of the weird and wonderful.

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition The Odyssey

The second section, The Odyssey was completely blue with a mixture of sailors, mermaids and nymph-type mannequins that looked like they had been crossed with characters from Romeo & Juliet (the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes).

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Mermaid

I knew there was something not quite right, then we realised the faces around the room were moving. Laster projections of real people’s faces reflected on the mannequins making them look eerily realistic. Gaultier’s own face was even projected onto one of the figures.

Eyeing visitors and smiling, I did a few double takes to check they weren’t actually real!

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Catwalk

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Catwalk model

The next room was one of my favourites.

Set up like a fashion show, dressed figures in an array of designs glided along the catwalk while well known fashion icons sat front row admiring the outfits.

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Catwalk Front Row

I loved that just from the hairstyles, you could tell who the loyal Jean Paul Gaultier fashionistas were.

Grace Coddington, the Creative Director of American VOGUE with the distinguishable red hair and Suzy Menkes, International VOGUE Editor with her signature quiff.

Amy Winehouse, Conchita Wurst and Dita Von Teese also enjoyed the show.

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Punk Models

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Union Jack

Punk made an appearance in all it’s glory – studded denim, metal, bright tartans and matching mohawks stood against a graffiti wall.

Spread over 8 sections with over 140 outfits on display, the exhibition is a mixture of theatrical movement, sound, bright colour and humour.

Not surprising, as this is after all the man who created THE conical-bra that Madonna is famously associated with.

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Madonna

I didn’t have to wait long to come across the “Queen of Pop” herself. Madonna had her own display in the Muses section, complete with a photograph of the original conical-bra corset itself.

Sketches of other outfits designed for Madonna hung framed on the wall showing a glimpse behind the scenes of the concept stages for his designs.

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Staircase

John Paul Gaultier Exhibition Perfume Trunk

Alongside the outfits and sketches on display throughout the exhibition were video footage, photography and the well-known shaped fragrance bottles. It was interesting to get an up-close look and a peek behind the scenes of the world that is Jean Paul Gaultier.

The show is on in Paris until 3 August 2015. For more information, see the Grand Palais website.

Back out into the hot Paris heat and busy traffic, it was time to check in to our hotel for the evening, the five-star Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe.

We were greeted with a warm welcome and taken into the foyer where we were allocated our room cards. The hotel is slick and contemporary with elegant furnishings and modern decor. I instantly liked the bright reception area with it’s large mirrors and tall floral display.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Bedroom

The location is great for a bit of local wandering and sightseeing by foot being just down the road from the world-famous Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées Avenue.

My Architectural room was tastefully decorated in neutral tones of crisp whites and granite greys with a hint of red for a pop of colour. The furnishings were all clean, in great condition and felt new. I would quite happily move in – it’s much tidier than my bedroom at home!

For the coffee lovers/addicts – there is also an in-room Nespresso machine for a daily caffeine fix.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Bathroom

The bathroom was also clean and stylish with a mixture of marble and glass fixtures. It had everything guests needed to feel comfortable during their stay, including nice squishy robes and soft white towels.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Tokyomilk

The toiletries were a delicious smelling range by Tokyo Milk that smelt good enough to eat!

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Room

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Arrival Cocktail

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Cocktail

It’s the first time I’ve ever had an in-room mocktail awaiting my arrival, which was a nice welcome touch. Instructions with a shaker, glass of ice, tongs and skewered strawberries sat on the table ready to refresh.

The hotel also gave us a beautiful coffee table book filled with stunning black and white photographs of Paris and a handwritten note. Luckily I had brought one of my reusable Envirosax shopping bags with me on the trip as I had already overpacked my suitcase! Standard.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Bed

The bed looked super comfortable and I could tell it was going to be another good night’s sleep *stretch*…

Of course, one has to test these things out though, so I closed my blinds and snuggled in for a quick nap before the evening’s experiences.

I was a guest of Renaissance Hotels, experiencing Paris for their annual Global Day of Discovery. All excursions were planned by the hotels’ Navigators who are experts in suggesting different local activities and booking exclusive events for guests.

Catching zzz’s,