Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My memorable moment in my hometown: Radelaide

Having called Adelaide home for the last 22 years, I often take any opportunity I get to showcase what an amazing city it is to anyone who will listen.  Sure, in my younger days I'd bemoan that it was not as exciting as say, Sydney or Melbourne, but my, how this city has changed in the last decade or so!  It is a vibrant city with a lot to offer besides the well known surrounding wine regions and beaches (all of which I love), including an energetic arts scene — with festivals like the Adelaide Festival, WOMADelaide, SALA and the biennial Adelaide Film Festival, as well as a robust dining scene, with exciting cool bars and cafes popping up at a rate I just can't keep up with these days.  It is little wonder that The New York Times named Adelaide as one the 52 places to go to in 2015 (the only Australian city to make the list, might I add - and they also wrote another piece on what to do in 36 hours in Adelaide later that year).

Despite all the new exciting developments Adelaide has received, the classic establishments and regions are still what I love most about Adelaide, and I was lucky to recently have had a chance to experience a lovely 'staycation' in lovely company in this city of mine.


Starting with the historic Mount Lofty House, which overlooks the Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, yet is just a short 15 minute drive from the Adelaide CBD.  Situated amongst five acres of gardens with stunning views across the Piccadilly valley and Adelaide Hills wine region, this historic boutique hotel features 33 beautiful rooms that exude old charm and a first class restaurant; and is the premier destination for luxury and romantic escapes (my sister recently spent a relaxing weekend there, and insisted I do the same), overnight accommodation, fine dining, boutique day spa experiences, conference retreats and weddings.  Like Hotel St Moritz (which I recently blogged about), Mount Lofty House is part of Accor Hotel's M Gallery by Sofitel group, and has its own 'Memorable Moment'.  I mentioned in my previous post that Memorable Moments at MGallery by Sofitel reflect each hotel's character, local landscape and culture, and take many forms, from whiskey and chocolate tasting at Brisbane’s New Inchcolm Hotel and Suites; candlelit rooftop dinners with a string quartet at the Harbour Rocks Hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour; or helicopter ride to “The Ledge” of Cecil Peak with a magical picnic on an incredible Alpine Plateau in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Shortly after arriving at Mount Lofty House, we (Melanie Liu, Shellie Froidevaux, Yan Dong, Emma Kate and Angela Liu) were quickly whisked away to The Lane to fly over the magnificent Adelaide Hills in a helicopter (my first ever!) and explore the produce and wine of the region:

A short video of my amazing stay at Mount Lofty House

Woo hoo! First ever helicopter ride!

 Incredible view of the Adelaide Hills region

 May I say, the 'soundtrack' to our helicopter ride was pretty brilliant!
Wine Tasting at The Lane

Followed by a delicious lunch
   The Pork Belly (pictured right) was all kinds of amazing!

  The Lane is one of my favourite spots for lunch in the Adelaide Hills, and I often bring friends and family here, as the food is always delicious!

Following our delicious lunch at The Lane, we were chaffeur driven in a Vintage limousine to some of the regions iconic wineries to enjoy private tastings, including a favourite of mine, Shaw and Smith:

Photo at Shaw and Smith (taken by Shellie Froidevaux)

 One of my favourite things about wine tasting at Shaw + Smith is the delicious cheese platter accompanying their beautiful wines (the M3 Chardonnay and Shiraz are my faves!)
After Shaw and Smith, we left for another favourite winery: Hahndorf Hill Winery
Chocolate tasting! We were treated to not only a wine tasting, but a matched chocolate tasting with a beautiful view of Hahndorf Hill's vineyards.
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

We returned to Mount Lofty House for a little rest before meeting for dinner at Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, Mount Lofty House’s new premier restaurant with beautiful views of the Piccadilly Valley, for an elegant and intimate five course degustation dinner with paired wines, the perfect setting and location to view the Supermoon from, and in fine company too!  Executive Chef Girard Ramsay, and hatted head chef Wayne Brow personally selects local produce to create a culinary experience like no other, capturing the true essence of good food usinglocally sourced produce, and the finest internationally sourced ingredients (and state-of-the art kitchen equipment, which we later had a sticky beak at, when touring the kitchen after dinner.
Milk fed veal tartare
Beautiful food with beautiful views

 The next morning we enjoyed an amazing breakfast again, with beautiful views of Mount Lofty Hotel's gardens, and the Picadilly Valley...
You can select from the bountiful buffet or order a la always, we did a bit of both...How I love my breakfasts! Those pancakes were delicious, by the way...
Breakfast with a view
One can also enjoy breakfast in bed by ordering room-service...

I also enjoyed some lovely time outside on the verandah outside my beautiful room
At lunch time we enjoyed a beautiful picnic spread on the hotel grounds amongst their beautiful gardens...

 Enjoying the local produce


After our lovely picnic we headed to the heart of Adelaide, to the Playford Hotel, our second 'staycation' destination. Centrally located on North Terrace, opposite Adelaide's Convention Centre and close to the super exciting 'West Side' (where some of my favourite restaurants and bars are found), this boutique hotel offers the perfect blend of classical style and contemporary luxury.  Each room is unique and beautifully appointed in an Art Noveau style that is brimming with charm.

Checkout this video of the girls and I enjoying our memorable moment at The Playford.

The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated, full of character and luxurious touches
 After some down time in my room, we were whisked away to South Australia’s Restaurant of the Year (and a restaurant I have been countless times), Windy Point restaurant, to enjoy a seven course degustation dinner overlooking the spectacular panoramic views of Spencer Gulf through to the Adelaide Hillssweeping from St Vincent’s Gulf to the Adelaide Hills enjoyed through full length 180° windows. 

The cuisine is Modern Australian combined with old-school silver service and generous locally sourced dishes, making this a memorable dining experience, which is fitting, as this is The Playford's 'Memorable Moment'
 Huon Ocean Trout Carpaccio with squid ink aioli, citrus crisps and sweet paprika oil, one of my favourite dishes of the evening
 This cute amuse-bouche was also so delicious (and too cute not to photograph)
 The view made even more spectacular with this magnificent sunset

 Cheers-ing with fellow Adelaidean (now Melbourne-based) Emma Kate
Photo by Angela Liu
Breakfast outdoors at The Playford restaurant

 If one can enjoy breakfast in bed, surely dessert in bed is also acceptable?
This dessert is actually a breakfast dish at The Playford's restaurant, an incredible house made ricotta that is an absolute delight to all the senses!

 The food on offer at The Playford (buffet included) is definitely one of the best I've ever experienced, it even had coconut water!  Some of you may know of my obsession with coconut water...

I may have to come back just so I can have breakfast here again, luckily I only live a 15 minute drive away!

Thank you Accor Hotels and Maddy G for this lovely 'staycation', and for the other memorable moments this year!

Mount Lofty House, MGallery by Sofitel
74 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers, South Australia 5152
Telephone: (08) 8339 6777

The Playford, MGallery by Sofitel
120 North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia 5000
Telephone: (08) 8213 8888

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Memorable Moment in Queenstown, New Zealand

 Despite living in Australia for 22 years now, I have never been to our neighboring country New Zealand.  I have always wanted to, having been told countless times about its amazing beauty and culture, but never got to do so, that is, until now.  I was very excited to travel to Queenstown, which sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps.  These snow covered mountains are a sight to behold, especially when flying over them, peering over the airplane window.  Sadly I sat on the furthest seat away from the window, so was not able to capture the view in a photo to share with you all, but they are forever etched in my mind.  You may have seen this beautiful place, as the Queenstown region is home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery with its towering mountains, ancient beech forests and glacial fed rivers, which have provided inspirational backdrops for many movies. Movies such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which highlighted the most awe-inspiring landscapes, fueling my desire further to visit this place)...

 Queenstown is also renowned for adventure sports, and is a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns. There's bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge (the first ever bungee jumping site) and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers.  In winter, there's skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.  All this aside, what most impressed me about Queenstown was how full of charm and character it is.  This culture, beauty and history was reflected in the beautiful Hotel St Moritz, which is where I had the pleasure of staying. The Hotel St Moritz boasts beautiful views overlooking Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains, a short stroll from the centre of town and only 17 km from the Coronet Peak Ski area.  Each room is beautifully, tastefully and thoughtfully furnished and decorated to give you the coziest yet luxurious and welcoming stay.  My favourite thing to do in the hotel was stand at my window and take in the breathtaking view of Lake Wakatipu, in awe of my surroundings.

Hotel St Moritz is part of the AccorHotels MGallery by Sofitel collection, a curated collection of boutique hotels dedicated to travelers who share a love of life, literature and culture, combining high-end luxury with its unique culture, local character and history. There are 85 M Gallery hotels around the world in 23 countries, and each hotel has its own personality and story, experienced by guests through architecture, interior design and services.  In addition to their impeccable service and bountiful charm, each hotel offers an exclusive experience curated by the staff themselves with their signature ‘Memorable Moment’. 

Memorable Moments at MGallery by Sofitel reflect each hotel's character, local landscape and culture,, and take many forms, from whiskey and chocolate tasting at Brisbane’s New Inchcolm Hotel and Suites ; candlelit rooftop dinners with a string quartet at the Harbour Rocks Hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour; or morning yoga sessions at Elements of Byron, located on the eastern-most point of Australia and the first place to see sunrise in the country, you can bet it will be a memorable moment indeed.   For Hotel St Moritz, their Memorable Moment is a private charter helicopter ride to “The Ledge” of Cecil Peak on The Helicopter Line (New Zealand's leading helicopter company), with magical picnic on an incredible Alpine Plateau.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the weather was not in our favour on the scheduled date of our helicopter ride, but resourceful and quick on their feet, the lovely hotel staff at Hotel St Moritz managed to whip up another incredible Memorable Moment for us instead, a beautiful ride on the Pacific Jemm, a beautifully luxurious yacht (and the only private-charter boat in Queenstown) on  dreamy and serene Lake Wakatipu, with the majestic snow-covered mountains as our backdrop.  It was the perfect setting for an on-board picnic with the dreamiest salmon that has ever graced my taste buds (and that I will forever dream about) followed by some bubblies (always my drink of choice).  Truly a moment I will treasure and remember fondly...

If you are thinking of going to Hotel St Moritz and would like to see what their Memorable Moment is meant to look like, the weather cleared up beautifully the day after I left, so that my lovely travel companions Lichi Pan and Melanie Liu (aka The Tia Fox) were able to hop on the magical helicopter ride, which you can see on their respective blogs.

I was lucky enough though to experience yet another memorable moment in Queenstown, with a cruisy day on the bike trails and amongst the vines with Around the Basin Bike Tours. Around The Basin are the local experts specialising in mountain biking adventures on the Queenstown, Arrowtown and Gibbston River Trails. Having been pretty much sedentary for the last 7 years (plus), I was worried about the 15km ride, but honestly, the view was so incredibly breathtaking that I could have kept on riding, snow-capped mountains, aquamarine blue rivers, quaint little houses and lots of sheep...This was another favourite moment of my trip in Queenstown.  We also rode across five bridge crossings, which was so thrilling and spectacular, including the 80m Edgar suspension bridge, and lastly visited the historic Kawarau Bridge, which is also home to AJ Hackett's Bungy site, the world's first bungy operation.  Even though I did not brave the bungy jump, I did get to go on a fun zipline ride with Mr Brigs...You know what they say, couples who zipline together, stay together!

Mr Brigs and I fell in love with Queenstown and seriously cannot wait to come back and bring our little ones with us this time...

 I didn't realize how close New Zealand is to Australia, only a 3 hour flight from Sydney!
 View from my room at Hotel St Moritz overlooking Lake Wakatipu and snow covered mountains...breathtaking
Lombardi restaurant, serving amazing food breakfast, lunch and dinner with this amazing view... 

But first, coffee...It is not 100% definite whether it is the New Zealanders or the Australians that first invented the flat white, but thought I should have my favourite caffeinated beverage in its possible country of origin at Hotel St Moritz
Chilling by the bar and look! Mirror #selfie
 Beautiful food constantly coming out from the kitchen at Hotel St Moritz's Lombardi restaurant...
 I was welcomed with a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir (my favourite!) in my room, so had to enjoy a glass in my favourite spot (for the trip), taking in this view...
 For dinner, we took away some infamous burgers from Fergburger, which we enjoyed as a picnic by the lake.  When I first heard we were having burgers for dinner, I thought: seriously, burgers? Seriously! BURGERS! I now see these are no ordinary burgers, as Fergburger has become a cult burger joint that has made international headlines.   I'm not usually the biggest burger afficionado, but after having my first Fergburger, I had to go back on my last day and had another (the calamari is so good too!). 
After dinner, we were lucky enough to be in town for the Queenstown Jazz Festival and were treated to an amazing show headlining Nathan Haines, this was totally my kind of music, and the perfect way to end an amazing first day in Queenstown. PS. This is Mel here uber happy with her Fergburger, how cute is she?
Next morning we started with a gorgeous breakfast spread at Lombardi restaurant, I know I keep saying this, but seriously, this view never got old and always took my breath away.
Guess who ordered the poached eggs with smoked salmon? Love me some oozy poached eggs!!! These were cooked to perfection!

 After feasting on breakfast we donned our alpine active wear for our bike tours with Around the Basin
 I didn't get to stop often to take pictures of the incredible views during my bike ride, but I will never forget them nevertheless. One of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) bike rides I have ever been on.

First pitt stop for coffee and sticky bun at the restored Boatshed café 'Provisions', and a visit to historic Arrowtown

 When I was told 'sticky buns' I must admit I didn't think much of it, that was until I had my first bite, and I was in heaven...especially since it was that one oozing with lemon curd...A M A Z I N G ! ! !  The perfect start to our bike ride, fueling us onward and upward
 View from the 80m Edgar suspension bridge

 Mr Brigs enjoying the view during our bike ride with Around the Basin
 Ok, so I was too chicken, and Mr Brigs had a busted knee, so we didn't get to bungy jump.  But my lovely and courageous friend Shellie (The Iron Chef Shellie) showed us how it's done - flatlay Shellie!

 That bike ride worked up quite an appetite in all of us, and we were rewarded with a beautiful spread at Lunch at the award-winning Gibbston Valley Winery
 Thankfully we didn't have to ride back to the hotel with our bellies full of food, so Around the Basin shuttled us home and later on we patted ourselves on the back by celebrating with some Frosés - frozen rose cocktails concocted by the lovely bar staff at Hotel St Moritz...Frosés with a view, could this day get any better?
 It could with an amazing degustation dinner at Hotel St Moritz's  Lombardi Restaurant’s Private Dining Room – The Library.  Beautiful local produce showcased with expertise 
 One day I will write an Ode to I love thee!
We experienced Pinot Pinot Pinot – a wine matched dinner showcasing some of the region’s famous pinot vintages.
New Zealand's famous lamb cooked beautifully and to perfection.
 The next morning, we were up bright and early for lake-edge yoga with Soul Journeys, talk about yoga with a view!  We then rewarded our efforts with a hearty breakfast back at Hotel St Moritz.

Spot Lichi's Gucci Dionysus? I'm eyeing one in Python or Blooms Print or...*drool*

 Spot the cute hotel robe fashioned from beautifully soft cotton...oh so cozy!
Love the personal touches and extra care Hotel St Moritz take in everything they is the little things that count.

On the Pacific Jemm with sweet Lichi absorbing the beautiful view on Lake Wakatipu

On me: Dress and scarf: I love Mr Mittens, Shearling-lined Boots: Isabel Marant (available at Fwd by Elyse Walker, Luisaviaroma, Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges)

 The most incredible spread prepared by Hotel St Moritz, honourable mentions go to the amazing orange duck rillette and that salmon....*drool*

Awe-inspiring view on the Pacific Jemm, such a memorable moment
When strolling around the town's centre I chanced upon this chocolaterie, with 'make your own' ice creams on a stick, and couldn't resist making one for myself...
Raspberries and cream ice cream covered in dark chocolate with toasted almonds and coconuts...messy to eat, but so good!

I could not finish writing this post without mentioning that what truly made our stay so spectacular was the amazing service provided by Hotel St Moritz, in particular their general manager Jo Finnigan's passion and dedication to providing guests the most welcoming, homely and cozy yet luxurious experience that she can.  That dedication and passion is evident in the tiniest details, from the decor, to the service, the food, the wine, so that the entire experience is one that will always be a memorable moment.

Hotel St Moritz, MGallery by Sofitel
Address: 10/18 Brunswick St, Queenstown, 9300, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 442 4990
Instagram: @hotelstmoritz

Thank you Hotel St Moritz and Accor Hotels for an amazing (and memorable) experience!

All images taken by me.

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