Sunday, September 30, 2012

87. Le Royal Monceau hotel Paris

Is there one word to sum up Luxury, Elegance, Cool and French? If so, I think I have found it! Actually it's four words but I'm not overly fussy... Le Royal Monceau hotel in Paris.

I discovered Le Royal Monceau whilst searching for inspiration for my bedroom make-over. This is absolutely beautiful! Perhaps I could move in for a while... I wonder if anyone at work would notice if I 'worked from home' for a few weeks?

Photos from Le Royal Monceau and Mr & Mrs Smith

Thursday, September 27, 2012

86. Planning a villa wedding in Bali

In June we held our wedding in Bali. These are our planning tips.

1. Negotiate every price. Bargaining is part of the Bali culture...

2. Enlist the help of a wedding planner. It's far easier to leverage a local who knows everything. Starting at US$500, they will organise everything from entertainment, menu tastings, decorations, and the little touches you often forget about. Some villas only work with approved wedding planners, so check this first. We used Yola from Fabulous Bali weddings, she was nothing short of exceptional!

Be very specific with what you want. Put a mood board together to set the theme.

3. Consider the type of drinks your guests will consume in a tropical climate. I find it's more refreshing to drink cocktails as wine gets warm quickly. We discovered the three best  ways to buy Alcohol for a villa wedding...

I. Purchase a drink package through your caterer. These are typically 5-8 hour packages (from US$50 per-head) and include unlimited beer, wine and soft drink. For our wedding, we swapped wine for cocktails and spirits. All wine is imported, so a good drop will always be more expensive; plus wine gets warm quickly and is not refreshing in a humid climate. We kept champagne on the menu.

II. Buy in bulk from a wholesaler (or Carrefour) and hire a barman to serve it. This is slightly cheaper than option (I) and a better option if the whole party won't drink as much.

III. Pay for drinks on consumption through the caterer. Good option if you have more non-drinkers.

Non-alcohol packages typically start from $20-$30 per-head. The cost p/head includes everything, i.e. bar equipment (caterers set-up their own bar in the villa), service staff, glasses, etc.

4. Food: For our wedding we chose canap├ęs followed by a banquet-style option. This is most popular because it provides guests with choice (particularly if guests are not used to Asian or Indonesian cuisines). Prices start ~US$50 per-head from Kori.

We had a food tasting session where Kori cooked everything on the menu and we picked each dish - it was amazing (thank you Max)!!!! Other options include a sit-down set menu. The cost p/head includes tables, chairs, cutlery, plates, service staff, cleaning etc.

Bali Catering company is also very good, we chose Kori because of its traditional Balinese dishes and Kori's punch. We enjoy good food and good wine... you can't go wrong with either of these choices.

5. If you can, visit Bali six months before the wedding to see the villa, planner, photographer, taste food, etc.

6. Use a wedding website to give your guests as much information as possible. We used - nothing else looks or feels as personal and professional. I was contemplating building a site myself (self-confessed IT geek) before finding this. Here you can track RSVP's, publish updates and let guests interact. Price starts at US$39 (cheap!)

I still sent out paper Save-The-Date cards, Invitations, personalised Itineraries and Bali guides to our guests, then designed our wedsite to match our theme.

7. Other costs: Before booking your villa ask about the 'Function fee' and 'Banjar Fee'. Some villas charge their function fees based on the number of guests, others have a set rate (starting at US$1000 up to US$5000) - again, negotiate. This fee goes to villa management to cover wear and tear. The Banjar fee goes to the local community and is typically US$400.

8. Under Australian law you must submit an Intent to Marry form at least one month and a day before the ceremony for it to be legal - it must be signed by your celebrant - so leave time for this. We chose a civil ceremony (non-legal as we officially married in Oz first) followed by a traditional Balinese ceremony which went for 30mins in total, cost ~$900.

9. Organise a mini bus or cars to transfer guests to your villa. We also organised airport pick-up, which is especially good for guests who have not travelled to Bali before.

10. Organise a nanny for guests bringing children. Cost is approx. US$5-$10 per nanny and all villas have recommendations.

11. Book music early and see your band/musicians live first. There are a few good bands who get booked up quickly. We had three types of music - an acoustic guitarist (Riwin) for the ceremony, a traditional Bali set with dancers, and a fabulous cover band called Solid Dev - who were ~US$1200.

Note: We learnt that if you have your wedding at a resort you must use musicians off their list.

12. You need to consider hair and make-up for a tropical climate. Have a hair trial as many Balinese hairdressers aren't used to Western hair... ensure the hairdresser understands your hair type. I can highly recommend Rob Peetom in Seminyak, who can come to your villa - I found this salon after my wedding and wished I used them.

13. From November-March you will get rain, so have a wet weather back up. May-August is the perfect time for a Bali wedding. Humidity rises from September. Keep that in mind when planning make-up, hair, and a tan (especially with a white dress).

14. Spend at least 5 days at the villa. Lighting and set-up starts the day before the wedding. You also want a couple of days after the wedding day to relax before packing up for your next destination.

Photos by Ferry Tjoe Photography - a fabulous recommendation!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

85. September inspiration

So many beautiful things...thank you Internet. Some days I feel like I spend more time 'fashionising' (as my husband calls it) than doing my real job. My reply: "There's a great fashion website called, you should subscribe too"

...I think he's right! These are the things I've been keeping my eye on in September.

Images c/o- French sole ballets|Drop dead gorgeous daily, Olivia Palermo|Tibi street style, Rachael Ruddick bag, Alexander Wang sandals & Jacket|Green with Envy, Lanvin happy GM shoulder bag, Anthropologie shorts, Miranda Kerr style, Cupcakes & Cashmere book, 3.1 Phillip Lim leather skirt, Gucci jewel sandals, photo|Harper & Harley, Bracelet|Vita Fede Titan

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

84. What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

We recently visited Hanoi on a five day trip.
Hanoi is described as the cultural capital of Vietnam. A beautiful place where East meets West, with busy market streets, tube houses, temples and pagodas mixed with French-style architecture like the Opera House which has been carefully maintained in the Old Quarter of the city. 

Right next door to the Old Quarter is the French Quarter, an affluent district full of luxury boutiques, small parks and home to the Sofitel Metropole, an immaculate colonial style hotel which reminds me of the Raffles in Singapore. We stayed in the Metropole Wing where luxurious old world grandeur has been preserved. The Opera Wing was added in 1996 in a beautiful neo-classical style. Rooms in both sides are lovely, but I'd take the historical side again. Try the afternoon tea, it's delicious and a great way to relax after a morning of shopping (I mean walking)!

Hanoi is a logical city, which I like... The streets in the Old Quarter which were once known as workshop areas, are named according to the crafts sold, for example 'Hang Dau' is the street for shoes, 'Hang Bac' is the street for jewellery (one of the oldest streets in Hanoi), and 'Hang Gai' for silks and tailoring. Simple!  

1. Hire a bike and ride around Hoan Kiem lake at sunrise (OK we did it at 8:00am). This is a great way to see the city... go early for a few hours when the sun is still low.

2. Eat Pho noodles... my absolute favourite, I ate them everyday!

3. Enjoy traditional Vietnamese at Koto restaurant - a non-profit restaurant with a training program for street/disadvantaged youths, teaching english and developing a hospitality career. Koto means 'Know one, Teach one'. The food is delicious and the average meal is $5.00!

4. Visit the Markets. Cho Dong Xuan market is good for souvenirs, fabrics, spices, fabrics, handicrafts and the atmosphere. Cho Hang Da is good for ceramics.

5. Wonder around the late night outdoor market, full of food stalls selling traditional street food. My advice is to only eat food that is cooked fresh right in front of you!

6. I did a guided Photography walk. It was a great way to see things from a local perspective.

7. The best places on Hang Gai to buy Scarves are Hadong Silk for fine silk shawls, scarves and pashminas (I bought 6 for friends and family at ~$25-$30 each). Khai Silk for high quality European styles (my top pick but more expensive), and Hoa Silk.

8. Go to Van Mieu the Temple of Literature, it is one of the oldest universities in the world founded to study Confucian thought. Initially it only admitted princes, but soon expanded to bright students. We were lucky enough to have a private dinner here, which was beautiful!

9. Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda - built in the 6th century, it is considered the oldest in Vietnam. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered!

10. Try Vietnamese coffee... I'm not a coffee drinker, but I was told it's a must. The coffee is strong because of the French influence, and they serve it with condensed milk - ask for extra and stir frequently as it's quite bitter! The premium coffee is called Weasel coffee.

Finally, it was recommended we visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, but we ran out of time! 

 Hanoi is a walking city... spend the morning walking and the afternoon by the pool with a book. Leave time to explore the art galleries, whist there are plenty of cheap art stalls in the streets, Vietnam hosts some amazing artists. 

If you only have a few days in North Vietnam, stay in Hanoi for 2-3 nights then visit world-heritage listed Halong Bay overnight (it's a 4-hour drive from Hanoi).

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