Ok, so I’ve written this post as a short story covering the journey I’ve literally just landed from which saw me travel to Auckland, Sydney, Mudgee and finally the beautiful island of Bali – enjoy!
Age 18, I’d just finished my A-Levels and scored myself a new life in London! I barely batted an eyelid nor felt a pang of regret when the majority of my friends decided to do this whole ‘Gap Yah’ thing and go ‘Travelling’. I say that in inverted commas because I always referred to this as a long holiday.
Now 7 years on and this travelling bug I’ve heard all too much about, this self diagnosed disease which can take grip at any moment in your life that I considered myself immune to has bitten me. I’m writing this on my ‘extended holiday’ shall we say; not short enough to call a getaway yet not long enough to call travelling. We’re visiting 3 countries in the space of 20 days (New Zealand, Australia and Bali) all revolving around Dan and Freya’s wedding in Mudgee, New South Wales on April 1st.
Kia Ora – we begin with New Zealand, my boyfriend Luke’s homeland. After visiting previously almost 3 years ago I’d already selected my fav places, mostly based on the people that lived there. First being Parnell because it’s supposedly upmarket and I do love to mix with the classy and fabulous, perfectly displayed by our friend James’ Mum, who I’ll always remember for her nautical wardrobe, pristine pick nails (which I’m sporting this time round) and excersize bike on the balcony – definitely my kinda gal!
I also adore the beachside towns of Mission Bay (best ice cream at Movenpick, with SPRINKLES!) and St Heliers for its gorgeous properties.
Howick because it’s homely, as were our hosts Dean and Koren, who found it all too funny when at any given moment of tanning time I would rush out to their cushy bean bag chairs soaking up the rays. Even if it was just for 5 minutes! Koren took me for lunch at The Apothecary, one of the top brunch spots in Auckland BTW and I know that because I already put a list together from small time bloggers.
It’s so funny because I know pretty much everyone is a ‘blogger’ nowadays. A phrase I mutter regularly to people who can’t get their head around this creative lifestyle, or just those who consider it a silly pastime. Well, I enjoy writing, I always have from when I was a child writing stories for fun and actually enjoying English exams! I hope I always will enjoy this too. And so I write, not solely for those of you that read my blog (always grateful and THANKYOU!) but ultimately for myself to look back on. You wouldn’t criticize or insult a kid for playing football simply because he enjoyed it right? Anyway, I rely on small, boutique bloggers such as myself for suggestions, reviewing things to see / do in places, where to stay etc, you see I know they write from the heart, for the passion, not from the bank account that asked them to and so I value their honest opinion highly.
Back to Auckland and I must mention Ponsonby. A chic suburb close to the City with a highstreet to match that of Marylebone and a choice of bars and restaurants to match that of the rest of the world. Foodies? Get down there! Shout out to Orphan’s kitchen – small blogger remember so it’s genuinely good!
G’Day Mate! – Time flies waaaay too quickly and we’re off to Australia before we know it. Sydney, my absolute #1 City in the world (sorry London, I feel like I just cheated on you!) But Sydney has what London can’t offer; This hot muma of a City, mixing the pleasure of pilates in the park with the fast paced CBD lifestyle. A City on the sea where your lunch break from Deutsche Bank or such like can see you picnicking in the Botanical Gardens with a back drop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always appreciated the tourist sights of London: The Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben etc but not for love nor money could you get me to voluntarily spend the day in these tourist hubs, so overcrowded you wonder where the next breath of fresh air is coming from. Particularly in light of recent events, central London is far too densely populated for me. Heck I even aborted my lap of the breakfast bar the other morning in our resort because there were too many people hovering around the cereal section like it was an ATM dispensing free money!
Another thing I love about Sydney is it’s anti-pompousness. So we called ahead of our visit to 1960s inspired roof top bar – The Ivy Pool Club. If this hot spot was in London it would cost you an arm and a leg to enter, that’s if you were on the guestlist and made the cut of ‘rich enough’ or ‘hot enough’ to be given access! Yet when I asked the receptionist if we needed a reservation, if there was a door charge and what the dress code was, she literally laughed at me and responded in her chilled out Aussie accent ‘Nah, just come on up!’
Dan and Freya’s wedding was in Mudgee, about 3 hours outside of Sydney, the equivalent of a trip home to Devon from London. It was honestly such a beautiful wedding venue, as beautiful as the weather was that day too. A short ceremony with about 100 guests and the most picturesque view of the grapevines. The ever long rows of grapevines which I know see everything and could tell many stories.
The venue – The Vinegrove – was so hospitable they even offered the bridal party a place to stay for the duration of the weekend, which was the owner’s own home! The Celebrant too was simply fabulous in herself and after conversing with her I found out that her husband was born in none other than my teeny tiny hometown of Torquay! Which I was very surprised no one found as crazily coincidental as I did, not my Mum, not Luke, not even her. Torquay is a very small town people!!!
As we stopped back for a short final night in Sydney we caught up with our old flat mate Tugba. This made me smile and appreciate that we were lucky enough to have gained a friend and not just a flat mate. It also made me grateful that even though we no longer see each other every day in London anymore we can still make the effort on the other side of the world!
Om Swastiastu – And so to Bali. Beautiful Bali, the Indonesian Island that at least 5 of my friends raved about last year and I now feel slightly behind the trend. Mind you, from what I experienced of Bali it’s always going to be on trend!
We started in Ubud, in fact no actually, we started at the airport and it was then a 2 hour drive in the pouring rain to Ubud amid traffic worse than Piccadilly Circus, littered with scooters. It’s not just the Balinese wrapped up in their rain macs who are brave enough to jump aboard these 2 wheel death wagons, I saw not 1 but quite possibly 3 blonde haired Western girls behind the wheel too. Some death wagons were even 4 people deep for what I assumed must be a family outing. I read a pretty popular travel blog that said scooters are definitely the way to get around Bali – well he was either definitely paid to write that or definitely insane!
Ubud is great though: Whether you want to escape the crowds, see some monkeys or just experience true Bali culture, this is the place to go. We stayed at the Alila Ubud which is where I realised my adoration, respect and inspiration for the Balinese. They are of course famous for being friendly. We were literally treated like Kings and not in the sense of wealth but in the sense of human kindness. From a simple ‘Hello, how are you today’ to a ‘Good morning Madam’ to someone carrying an umbrella over you whilst you descend a dozen steps. The Balinese are kind hearted and friendly people, we can learn a lot from them.
Our hotel provided a shuttle to Ubud town which had the most vibrant market place full of nik naks, gifts and great bargains. Definitely a place to stop off and buy 1867374647447474 souvenirs which you probably don’t need but babes they only cost you like a hundred thousand Rupiahs (about £6, crazy right!)
We were only in Ubud for a day, a day of luxury, a day of rainforest ambiance and a day of downpours. When it’s rainy season here, it’s not just a brief shower as so many of you told me, it blimmin’ pisses it down! This nearly 24 hours of none stop rain nearly made me decline into one of my states of what Luke likes to call ‘only child syndrome’ when the world isn’t going my way and I act like a teeny bit of a spoiled brat – It’s something I’m working on I promise! But even through the thick grey cloud and heavy showers Bali’s beauty still shone through and my anger and regret of spending all this money to be drenched by the very weather I was here to escape, soon subsided as we arrived in Nusa Dua, South of the Island. This is the resort part of Bali, so exclusive that the security check to get into this region involved searching the car for stowaways and having a mirror on a stick stuck beneath the undercarriage to check for bombs or goodness knows what else people decide to hide under their cars. In fact, even when we bought some alcohol from the local supermarket I almost considered smuggling it in over the fence rather than battling with MI5 at the gate.
We stayed at the Melia Bali resort in Nusa Dua, now resorts are a very new experience to me, I know plenty of childhood friends who always holidayed at these all inclusive European/ Caribbean/American resort hotels and shared stories of their kids club pottery making activities, pool games and camp songs. I never thought it was for me; too busy, not unique enough, not boutique enough – if it were a song it would be too commercially mainstream pop, like Taylor Swift singing about another ex, nothing new or exciting. But there I am, cocktail in hand, actually enjoying (excuse the hashtag) #resortlife. So much so that we haven’t left the walls of this heavenly compound since the alcohol purchasing trip.
I’m quite settled with my poolside lounger, choice of 5 restaurants and daily activities such as yoga, volleyball and Zumba, I totally get it! I can’t even be bothered to move for the blogs I read on ‘The best Bali restaurants’ and ‘Best Bali Beach Clubs’ as they’re just too far away for my lazy ass right now! We did trek to the East coast briefly to the famous ‘Padang Padang’ beach, it took us all of 15 minutes to climb down, have a quick selfie and hot foot it out of there back to our little corner of bliss. This and finding out that Nikki Beach Club had shut down were about as stressful as my holiday got #blessed. (That and the fact there was no signal for Sky News to keep sending me horrific world updates).
We’ve so far witnessed traditional Balinese dancing, water aerobics, wine tasting at ‘The Laguna’ hotel next door and of course yoga.
Now I’m not a self proclaimed yogi, nor am any good at yoga but I try and I enjoy it! Yoga, I’ve learned, surprisingly originated in India and is Sanskrit for ‘Union’, connecting the mind and body. It’s certainly relaxing and as I began to wash my worries away with every exhale like the waves cleansing the sand, I nearly found inner peace when a mosquito rudely interrupted and brought me back to reality. It was then that I considered the word reality as negative. There’s pessimism but I’m pleased to say I’m definitely not that. There’s an optimist and I’d like to think I’m sometimes 100% that but most of the time the realism creeps back in. Until that mosquito moment I was a negative realist, that reality must be a harsh truth or a life we live when our dreams are unattainable. That’s when I phrased the term (or maybe it already exists) an ‘optimistic realist’ or a ‘realistic optimist’ I guess. Reality is right now, appreciating this very moment in time, enjoying the day you are living and striving for your goals. Not wishing for yesterday or encouraging tomorrow to arrive too soon.
Do you see what Bali has done to me? Waffling on like a preacher but it has helped me step back and enjoy a few days of holiday and shut off from the world, come rain or shine.
I look at this trip as my own version of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Not just because I’m reading it and I think it’s very good but because I feel I’ve learnt something about myself at each place I’ve visited. Think of it, if you will, as a metaphorical love affair (yes I probably have watched too much Sex and the City on the plane!) New Zealand is the guy that makes you realise you’re content and happy with London. Sydney is the relationship that was great fun but you know is never going to work out. Mudgee, the wine fueled escapade that you don’t mind revisiting on the odd weekend for its young, refreshing vibes. And Bali, for realising you don’t actually need to rely on anybody but yourself *
*And Luke. And my Mum and Dad. And my friends. Oh never mind, it was a metaphor anyway! But as the saying goes, well the saying that is of my water aerobics instructor – ‘You’re never alone in Bali.’ Or anywhere for that matter.
Ciao for now! Catch my other blog on what I wore in Bali and beyond coming soon.