Secret Parisian Bars & Divine Delights

We’re in Paris for my upcoming fortieth birthday!

I found the restaurant on Instagram and just had to go…

No bookings mean we have to wait for a table, but how joyous to do so! We have a drink downstairs in the speakeasy. You are given no directions, and clandestinely enter through a “no entry” meatlocker to find a dim, red velvet walled bar. The menu suggests a flight for the tastebuds; sweet, sour, acidic, dry…a cocktail to match. Relax & chat while you wait listening to some hip hop chill.

We get a text message that our table is ready! Dinner is fun; the servers are friendly and happy to help with recommendations. They don’t even mind our lame attempt at ordering in French.

We have prosciutto & melon to start which is light and sweet and delicious. For mains he has the steak with roast potatoes and cheesy polenta which he exclaims is heaven on earth. I have the Instagram pizza which is large and delicious; bubbly, fluffy woodfired dough and wafer thin slices of ham and mushrooms. We have a side salad that is so big it could feed a herd of rabbits! We ambitiously order a bottle of red wine, but have some green tea to help digest while we share a heavenly dessert; a slice of some godly creation where tiramisu meets banoffi pie. Divine.

Seriously, there is nothing bad to say about Pink Mumma. Go, eat, drink and save room for dessert.

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:: adventure :: New Zealand part 3 :: fiordland

“So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe 

The Doubtful Sound awes you with its scale and beauty.
Vertiginous mountains rise straight out of the water, clouds hovering their tops, smothered in thick rainforest of fern and podocarp trees. Sheer cliffs at sharp angles stoically impose their presence, often with waterfalls starting so high that the water becomes mist on before it reaches the ground.

It’s magical here. Mystical even. A place that has essentially remained unchanged since it was discovered by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. After months of exploration up and down the entangled waters that snake their way into the mountains and sub-aquatic valleys of the South Island’s fiords, Cook was doubtful he’d be able to find his way back to the ocean from this maze of epic but rugged waterlogged beauty. He named it Doubtful Harbour.

It’s so calm and peaceful. On average it’s 400m deep (1300ft), and with protection from off & on shore winds, it’s surface is often glassy and mirror-flat. Because it’s logistically difficult to get to, tourist numbers are minimal with only a few boats sailing it’s expanse at any one time. We didn’t see another boat the 4 hours we sailed The Sound’s pristine waters.

It’s status as marine & nature reserve ensure the only inhabitants are dolphins, fur seals, native birds like the kiwi, weta and morepork and the world’s rarest little penguin the Fiordland Crested Penguin. We stopped for a while and saw this beautiful little couple…

We cruise aboard Real Journey’s Patea Explorer. It’s freezing outside, the mix of wind from sailing across the water and the light rain whipping around us boring through the layers of clothing and chilling us to the bone. But it makes for a more authentic experience; us in the elements, engulfed by the wildness and remoteness of The Sound.  

The captain announces that we’re anchoring at a sound reserve for a few minutes to experience the true nature of Doubtful Sound’s moniker ‘Sounds of Silence’. I can’t quite explain the experience of pure silence from static noise. Bobbing aboard a boat in the middle of a mirror lake, surrounded by 4,000ft of forested mountain walls, with only the occasional call of a bird and the distant rush of a waterfall is incredible. Your ears ring in the silence, your throat catches and your chest aches with pure wonder. It’s soulful.

If you get a chance, you need to experience this place for yourself.

***

We stay in the closest town, a 2 hour journey by boat & bus, nestled on the shore of NZ’s second largest lake, in the peaceful little town of Te Anau.

We stay at a little motel; Lakeside Motel and Apartments, our room is on the ground floor that looks out to the most amazing view, below.


 The motel owners really love their garden and all their care is evident, the trees are neatly pruned, the grass is short and intensely green and the tulips are an explosion of colour; a welcome contrast against they endless grey-blue of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The first night we eat at a little pizza place where the owner’s 12 year old son pours our beers from the bar tap, and the food is simple but homey and welcoming. The next night we have take-away fish’n’chips sitting on the dock overlooking the waves and watching the day’s last rays of sun shimmer on their rippling peaks. It’s a quiet town, simple in its beauty and lovely how it doesn’t try to be anything flashy.


 It’s the gateway to one of the most transcendent places on earth, so it doesn’t need to be.

***

Read [Part 1] or [Part 2]

//all photos my own//

:: adventure :: New Zealand part 3 :: fiordland

“So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe 

The Doubtful Sound awes you with its scale and beauty.
Vertiginous mountains rise straight out of the water, clouds hovering their tops, smothered in thick rainforest of fern and podocarp trees. Sheer cliffs at sharp angles stoically impose their presence, often with waterfalls starting so high that the water becomes mist on before it reaches the ground.

It’s magical here. Mystical even. A place that has essentially remained unchanged since it was discovered by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. After months of exploration up and down the entangled waters that snake their way into the mountains and sub-aquatic valleys of the South Island’s fiords, Cook was doubtful he’d be able to find his way back to the ocean from this maze of epic but rugged waterlogged beauty. He named it Doubtful Harbour.

It’s so calm and peaceful. On average it’s 400m deep (1300ft), and with protection from off & on shore winds, it’s surface is often glassy and mirror-flat. Because it’s logistically difficult to get to, tourist numbers are minimal with only a few boats sailing it’s expanse at any one time. We didn’t see another boat the 4 hours we sailed The Sound’s pristine waters.

It’s status as marine & nature reserve ensure the only inhabitants are dolphins, fur seals, native birds like the kiwi, weta and morepork and the world’s rarest little penguin the Fiordland Crested Penguin. We stopped for a while and saw this beautiful little couple…

We cruise aboard Real Journey’s Patea Explorer. It’s freezing outside, the mix of wind from sailing across the water and the light rain whipping around us boring through the layers of clothing and chilling us to the bone. But it makes for a more authentic experience; us in the elements, engulfed by the wildness and remoteness of The Sound.  

The captain announces that we’re anchoring at a sound reserve for a few minutes to experience the true nature of Doubtful Sound’s moniker ‘Sounds of Silence’. I can’t quite explain the experience of pure silence from static noise. Bobbing aboard a boat in the middle of a mirror lake, surrounded by 4,000ft of forested mountain walls, with only the occasional call of a bird and the distant rush of a waterfall is incredible. Your ears ring in the silence, your throat catches and your chest aches with pure wonder. It’s soulful.

If you get a chance, you need to experience this place for yourself.

***

We stay in the closest town, a 2 hour journey by boat & bus, nestled on the shore of NZ’s second largest lake, in the peaceful little town of Te Anau.

We stay at a little motel; Lakeside Motel and Apartments, our room is on the ground floor that looks out to the most amazing view, below.

 The motel owners really love their garden and all their care is evident, the trees are neatly pruned, the grass is short and intensely green and the tulips are an explosion of colour; a welcome contrast against they endless grey-blue of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The first night we eat at a little pizza place where the owner’s 12 year old son pours our beers from the bar tap, and the food is simple but homey and welcoming. The next night we have take-away fish’n’chips sitting on the dock overlooking the waves and watching the day’s last rays of sun shimmer on their rippling peaks. It’s a quiet town, simple in its beauty and lovely how it doesn’t try to be anything flashy.


 It’s the gateway to one of the most transcendent places on earth, so it doesn’t need to be.

***

Read [Part 1] or [Part 2]

//all photos my own//

:: adventure :: New Zealand part 2 :: Queenstown

As I’m inching towards the edge of the 154ft precipice, my ankles tightly bound, my mind is blank with fear & excitement. I no longer remember my mantra “It’s better to look back on life and say: “I can’t believe I did that”, than to look back and say: “I wish I did that.”  I focus on the quick hammering of the heart in my chest, the wind whipping around my face and the stranger’s hand gripping my arm.

I am bungy jumping.

I stick to the pact my husband & I make; “three, two, one” then jump! I see him standing far below, already having taken the soaring plunge himself and waiting for me to join him. I don’t realise it but I scream during the three second free-fall before my scream turns to joyous whoops. The multiple bounce-backs are an amazing, indescribable feeling. I am chained to a life-saving rope, yet I’m free. Then it’s over and I am pulled into the landing boat and taken ashore to climb the 150+ stairs, my legs like jelly from the adrenaline.


 I’m bungy jumping!!! @ AJ Hackett, Queenstown

  Me from the viewing monitors   The view from the Observation Deck; Jay jumping

                                                          Jay jumping!

*****

Queenstown is a place of staggering beauty. Officially the adventure capital of the South Island it has so much to offer.

For 5 days and 4 nights we explore the delights of Queenstown. Apart from bungy jumping we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with a ride up the Skyline mountain gondola, a wander & wine tasting at Gibbston Valley Winery and soak in the most luxurious bathing experience at Onsen Hot Pools.

We eat at some amazing restaurants. We revisit Fergburger twice to ensure our fill of NZ’s best burger (it’s pretty damn good!). We eat tender and gamey venison, fresh crayfish, oversized oysters and creamy local cheese.



Fergburger (#drool)

We laugh and scream our lungs raw on the Shotover Jet and walk around the immense Queenstown foreshore.

 Freezing our butts off on the Shotover Jet

********

Our hotel is bliss; part of the Accor Group of hotels, Hotel St Moritiz M Gallery is 5 star luxury.

    

Our room is gorgeous with an incredible view out over Lake Wakatipu. I wrote a review on TripAdvisor which you can find here.

*******


 Onsen Hot Pools   Lunch & tastings at Gibbston Valley Winery

 Steak & seafood at Captain’s Restaurant
 Dinner in The Library at our Hotel St Moritiz 

  More pics from Hotel St Moritiz
 Birdseye view over Queenstown from The Skyline.

*****

A rainy day leads us 2 hours south of the township to the very end of Lake Wakatipu, through Arrowtown, to the remote picturesque shores of Glenorchy and Kinloch.

  Roads like this are meant to be travelled.

 Cabin lakeside

The wildness of this region is consuming; we barely see another soul the further we travel out of Queenstown. The beauty of the mountains and the vastness of the lake merge into one beautiful foggy landscape as the rain settles in and the clouds loom low so even the tops of the mountains can’t be seen.

The townships of Glenorchy and Kinloch are merely a suggestion to gather people close by. Farms are sprawling and teaming with flocks of woolly sheep, lambs fresh from the newness of Spring, herds of blackJersey  cows and studs of horses wander the lush countryside and rocky shoreline.

   
 I manoeuvred myself around a large cow to take this picture! I also managed not to step in any cow paddies!

*****

The sheer beauty and heart pounding adrenaline inspired by Queenstown stays with you long after you leave her stunning shores.

[Read Part 1]

(Note I’ve tagged most of my photos with my Instagram handle @thisismelly…all photos my own)

:: adventure :: New Zealand part 1 :: Wanaka

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “It’s a funny thing, coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realise what’s changed is you.”

Being that New Zealand is only a 3 hour flight from Sydney, I didn’t expect to be so profoundly effected by my recent trip. My soul is renewed. I feel more centred and at the same time, closer to my husband. A fog has been lifted from myself.

I’ve been to NZ four times before; once when I was 15 to the South Island (and a few of the locations I visited again this trip) and 3 times to the North Island, but this time was different. My husband and I decided to travel around the South Island for 2 weeks to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. The below yellow stars are the planned points of our journey:

We flew into Christchurch late afternoon, collected our hire car and headed out of the city towards our first destination…

WANAKA and surrounds

Under the cover of the Super Moon, we made the drive through some of the most beautifully treacherous countryside on our journey from Christchurch to Wanaka past Tekapo, Twizel and the mountains inbetween, under the glow of the largest moon we’d ever seen.

A signpost told us we were passing through the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. We opened the car windows, the cool night air streaming over us, and marvelled at a landscape; beautifully and eerily illuminated by the Super Moon and a billion bright stars with the blackest backdrop to contrast their brilliance. It is the largest light reserve in the world and is almost totally free of any light pollution. It rivals the night skies I’ve seen in the Australian Red Centre.

Despite our 11pm arrival at the Manuka Crescent Motel, which we booked just for the night, the motel staff were lovely and accommodating. It’s a cheap & cheerful stay (also the title of my review on TripAdvisor found here).


[clockwise from top left: end of Wanaka’s Main Street overlooking Lake Wanaka, mountains surround Lake Wanaka and the deer grazing lakeside, farmland, panoramic of Lake Wanaka & surrounds, Lake Wanaka from the town beachfront]

We awoke refreshed, checked out the cute town centre of Wanaka for breakfast (my TripAdvisor cafe review on Relishes) and then buzzed with sufficient caffeine (Kiwis make all regular/small coffees with a double shot of espresso we later found out!) we head off to trek to the Blue Pools located in the Mt Aspiring National Park.


[clockwise top left: me on the swing bridge on the track leading to Blue Pools, part of the track through the forest, my husband on the swing bridge, part of the glacial river feeding Blue Pools]

The scenery is so consistently awe inspiring that we are constantly uttering “OMG this is amazing!” or exclaiming “look over there! look over there!” or reverently sighing “oooh my god” as we drive just over an hour out of Wanaka into the Mount Aspiring National Park to reach the walking track to Blue Pools.

It’s an easy 20 minute gently-downhill-sloping walk through native Kiwi forest of beech trees, ferns and mosses, before getting to a long swing bridge which passes 40ft above a beautiful flowing glacial river. We re-enact Indiana Jones as we cross and feel all the more adventurous for it!

The smell of the rainforest surrounds you; clean, earthy, peaty. At first the rush of water can be heard in the distance, and increasingly gets louder until suddenly the forest splits open to reveal the rushing river.




The water is so crystal clear with a turquoise hue. It’s fed from a pure glacier up river. Part of me wants to dive straight in for a swim, but it would be unbearably freezing!!!

The Blue Pools takes your breath away; its the colour of the most intense azure. It’s mesmerising to stare into and incredibly deceiving in depth because of the clarity. It is truly stunning.

Here is a short video my hubby uploaded:


The Landing Bar & Restaurant 

That evening we ate at a lovely restaurant in Wanaka with a view over the little town and lake.

I ate the most delicious lamb dish (quinoa & pea purée with blue cheese crisp) followed by an affogato for dessert.


We stayed the remaining two nights in Wanaka at the Mercure Oakridge Resort. You can read my review on TripAdvisor here.

Hiking to Rob Roy Glacier

We planned for a few small hikes (couple of hours) and one or two longer ones (full day) during our time in NZ, with Rob Roy Glacier being the first of the decent walks.

We drove south-west out of Wanaka, past the ski locations like Treble Cone and the calm waters of Mirror Lake. To get to RRG, which is also in the Mt Aspiring National Park, you drive through several private farms and get to see an abundance of sheep, cattle and deer all with their spring babies!



The Kiwis rate this hike (aka tramp) as ‘average’ difficulty but I have to admit I found it hard. It’s a 16km return walk, with a steady incline the whole way on the ascent (you are climbing a mountain after all!) and in some areas you are almost rock climbing up vertical faces to proceed. There were a few recent avalanches in spots that made passing a little treacherous but we persevered.


  
  
  
  

It took us 3 hours ascent, 30 mins rest at the summit and 2 hours descent. I almost vomited once but I didn’t fall over! There were so many times I wanted to turn around but I am so glad I had my ‘squad leader’ husband who wouldn’t let me give up and even tolerated my singing ’99 bottles of beer on the wall’ (except that I started from 200) and poorly reenacted Pulp Fiction along the way out of exhausted silliness!

The reward was incredible; stunning scenery that changed several times as we passed through different micro-climates, and an honour to see a hanging mountain glacier with my own eyes. While we were sitting in awe (& building lactic acid) at the summit we witnessed several serac falls, where large chunks of ice break off and start mini slips and avalanches. It sounds like thunder rolling right over you. Sitting in the tussock grass at 4900ft, at the base of a glacier, you realise how insignificant you are, how small your body is within nature. It was truly breathtaking.

My short video of the walk is up on YouTube here:

:: end part 1 ::

note: I’ve tagged my photos with my Instagram handle @thisismelly

green acres, kangaroo valley

last winter, we had the pleasure of staying at Green Acres homestead in Kangaroo Valley in the NSW Southern Highlands.

our little getaway group consisted of our friends King & Pete, who researched and discovered this little holiday gem, Misch our lovely, rambunctious Georgian, Skelly our passionate little pocket rocket, my bearded hubby Jay, our furry loud cavoodle Harley and I.

the drive from Sydney to Kangaroo Valley is simply stunning. as soon as you make it down the winding valley, the lush green valley floor opens up into kilometres of green fields spotted with grazing cows. there are crystal rivers to cross and an abundance of wildlife to spot amongst the trees (this is the place where you will see koalas in the trees!).

Green Acres can be booked through Stayz.com.au or directly from their website. The amount you pay depends on how many people are staying; the place sleeps 8. We used all four rooms for the 6 of us. It has a fully equipped kitchen (coffee machine, toaster, baking pans, wine glasses, etc), a spa bath, a BBQ, swimming pool, stereo with speakers throughout the house & outside, indoor fireplace, lots of couch seating, heaters in the bedrooms & all linen.

While you should probably bring all your groceries from the city (variety is bigger & price is cheaper), the property is about 10 minutes out of the village of Kangaroo Valley, so it’s close to amenities should you forget anything.

  Kitchen

 Lounge/dining   Lounge/dining

 Dining table   Bathroom with spa overlooking the backyard

 Fireplace, TV, stereo  One of the bedrooms

*****

there is an abundance of art on the walls, all eclectic pieces that are unmatching and each tell a seperate but beautiful story. I always think that artwork tells you about its owner. This art is a little left of field, quirky and tends to insight the imagination to sexy stories of Africa. They seem well traveled. (There is a mural of a hot naked man in the bathroom which is a nice touch!)

  Artwork

 Greenacres at night

  Woodpile in the backyard

 Our dog Harley exploring

 Friendly horse on the property

*****

We arrived Friday afternoon and left on Sunday, spending the time cooking, drinking vino, talking, dancing, laughing and stargazing.

There were some beautiful little touches left for us; fresh eggs from the nearby neighbours, a bottle of local wine & detailed instructions on how everything worked.

We loved how secluded this place was, we didn’t feel like we needed to keep the noise down, and being pet-friendly meant we could include our little furry guy Harley.

I love this place and I can’t wait to go back!!!

//melly files//

CITY LIMITS I moved to Sydney when I was 20. I dropped out of university to followed my heart. My parents were upset, but I had always been an independent kid. It paid off though, I worked my way up the corporate ladder and I married that guy; my high-school sweetheart.

Sydney
Sydney

MY VALENTINE I’m not really into Valentine’s Day. It’s too commercial to have meaning. Usually my husband will send me roses the day before just to let me know he loves me but he refuses to buy-in on being told to demonstrate his love. We started a tradition a few years ago of seeing a scary movie on V-Day; the bloodier the better. I still remember the year we saw My Bloody Valentine in 3D. It was a total trip! This year we’re going on a double date with close friends The Williamsons to see 50 Shades. It’s not scary but it’ll still be fun! COCKTAIL OF CHOICE I switch back & forth between a good stiff Vodka Martini (shaken not stirred, Grey Goose or Belvedere) the dirtier the better, or a traditional Old Fashioned made with rye whiskey. I’m not a huge fan of fruity or sweet cocktails. When I’m not drinking cocktails I’m drinking champagne. Bubbles baby, bubbles.

Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned

BELOVED ACCESSORIES Everyone knows I’m into handbags (especially Louis Vuitton) and I’m currently obsessed with my Comme des Garcons black clutch and black Alexander Wang Rockie.

Alexander Wang Rockie
Alexander Wang Rockie

DATE-NIGHT STYLE I like to wear a sexy LBD; form-fitting and cleavage with a little edge usually a leather jacket or bronze hardware. LABEL LOVE Im a fan of high-end street with a designer detail; Witchery & Country Road with an Equipment (French label) shirt, mostly monochromatic with black, white & grey, and the odd Leona Edmiston for a feminine hit.  THE OBSESSION candles & fresh flowers are my true obsession. I buy a fresh bunch each week and there is always a good quality scented candle burning. Instagram heaven!

fresh blooms
fresh blooms

ON JEWELLERY I love the edgy geometric bohemian look; lots of bronze and layered. Think multiple thin knuckle rings, dangly earrings with hardlines and shapes and layer bangles. I also have a silver Tiffany’s charm bracelet which I’ve been adding to for year; it’s a timeless classic. BEAUTY PREP I’ve used SKII skincare for 10 years; it keeps my skin hydrated and feeling fresh and translucent. I use Napoleon Perdis primer, Revlon foundation, an assortment of eyecolour & mascara, Benefit bronzer and NARS lip colour in Roman Holiday. Every now and then I’ll rock a red lip for dramatic effect. SIGNATURE SCENT I adore fragrances; I have many which are in rotation depending my mood, but my signature fallback is always CK Escape (which I’ve worn since I was 15) and Coco Mademoiselle.

signature scents
signature scents

GETTING PHYSICAL I go through phases of intense exercise then barely nothing, but this year I’ve sworn to try a balanced approach of daily exercise focusing on fun; long walks with my dog, kettlebell sessions with my husband & trying new classes with friends. ENERGY BOOST I swear by green smoothies. They really are simple to whip up (thanks to my power Vitamix) and I go for the all green approach; kale, spinach, cucumber, apple, celery, mint & coconut water.

morning green smoothies with Jay & Gracie
morning green smoothies with Jay & Gracie

WEEKEND WANDERLUST I love day trips out of Sydney to secluded beaches or remote bushland. There’s nothing I love more than waking early, packing the car with a picnic, playlists and heading out with my husband and hound.

The Williams
The Williams
hiking adventures with the hound
hiking adventures with the hound

#rightnow

Melly & Harley
Melly & Harley

#rightnow
raspberries
presents in the mail
aviator sunglasses
80’s music
short stories
sparkling water
concert t-shirts
daydreaming
freshly vacuumed carpet
happy memories
fresh cut flowers
new adventures
possibility
double espresso
smell of bbq
sunshine
driving with the windows down
gold aztec jewellery
driving nowhere
kanye west playing loud
the circus
breakfast as lunch
doggy cuddles

adventure day

I’m on holidays this week because there comes a point when you just need some downtime off work for no reason other than your own sanity’s sake.

Today Harley & I drove out of the city on an adventure for some ‘earth time’ and here’s what we got up to

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 The Stanwell Tops Lookout wasn’t busy considering it is a week day. A local hang-glider was waiting for some wind so we chatted while his dog Pup the cavoodle and Harley (the cavoodle) had an impromptu play date! I ate my little picnic overlooking the bluest ocean and lay on the grass breathing in the warm salty air.

We continued on into the National Park where the sun was shining, the spring air was warm and scented by wattle trees. We discovered a little river and spotted two water dragons sunning themselves.

Content with a day out of the hustle & bustle of city life, we started the hour and a half long drive back, Harley with his furry little head eternally hanging out the window and me singing my heart out to Coldplay on the stereo.

{bliss}