The green green grass

brittany-countryside-1The beauty of the Breton countryside completely took my breath away during our drive from Pointe Saint-Mathieu to Paimpol. The allure of the lush greenery and meandering hills were such a vast contrast to the sunbaked ochre desert plains my eyes are currently accustomed to. Once we’d stopped freaking out about driving on the “wrong side of the road” we really began to enjoy the peaceful scenery. Occasional golden canola fields punctuated the endless green with their surprising pops of happy yellow, and tiny towns whizzed by on the way to our destination.

I have to mention that our experience with our GPS was very hit-and-miss. We were on more than one occasion led down a lane that was clearly through someone’s private albeit very pretty farm and also had to very scarily reverse out an unbelievably narrow street when we directed straight into a dead end. Good one GPS. I wasn’t aware there was a “scenic route” option!

That aside, I would highly recommend staying at Pondervann, a lovely family-owned bread-&-breakfast in Paimpol. The hotel is situated on a large plot of land with its own stream, vegie patch, and friendly dog! Make sure you have a good set of muscles if you’re staying on the top floor as, like many French hotels, there is no elevator! (Thanks Jinn, my muscle man!) Interestingly we found a tiny piece of home in the B&B’s garden – a gum tree! See if you can spot it in the pictures…

Photos by Jinn
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What a beautiful day

dan-yann-wed-3Yes, yes it was. Such a beautiful day. One of my dearest and best friends recently got married and the happiness, love and spontaneity that flowed throughout the day was just unbelievable – it felt like everyone was simply swept up in it and then ran with it! The ceremony was held in the amazing Notre-Dame de Bonne-Nouvelle cathedral in Paimpol. I had the absolute honour and pleasure of singing for the service, and to be honest I just didn’t want to stop! The acoustics were incredible and made my voice resonate and soar high above the people, almost weightless.

Don’t you love how there seems to be a castle or manor just about on every corner in France? Well, the beautiful ceremony was followed up by a righteous shindig at the Manoir de la Noe Verte, where we partied on down til the early hours of the morning. The reception was a great mix of Chinese and French cultures. Once the champagne was flowing and the dance floor warmed up, there took place a number of quaint French folk dances amidst a lot of raucous yuuuuuum-SENGing! For those of you who are not familiar with it, “Yum seng!” essentially means “Cheers!”, and the aim of the game is for your table to yell it for longer and louder than any of the other tables. It has something to do with more prosperity, longevity and fertility for the bride and groom, and of course the pride and glory of being the all-conquering winner. Asians love anything to do with competition.

Other highlights? The real-life croquembouche wedding cake that arrived via paddle boat (I kid you not), Danielle and Yann’s steamy salsa wedding dance, and the impromptu crazy karaoke which deteriorated so much that a certain wedding guest may or may not have lost all his clothing by the end of it!

It was the wedding of the century! A beautiful bride and groom, great food, great company, dancing galore, all in the presence of beloved family and friends.

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Pointe Saint-Mathieu

pointe-st-mathieu-15Wearing – Karen Walker t-shirt (on sale at Anthropologie!), ASOS overalls, Madewell sunglasses, Fossil bangle (similar), Donelli shoes (similar)

What he’s wearing – Urban Outfitters jumper and jeans

Our first destination in France was the incredibly picturesque and tiny little village, Pointe Saint-Mathieu, perched right atop part of the spectacular coastline of Brittany. It gets its name from an old abbey in the centre of the village (sixth century according to legend) which was said to have housed the skull of the apostle Matthew until it was lost in the ocean off the point. After the icy cold of Glasgow it was nice to get out into some sunshine. Look! No coat!pointe-st-mathieu-23pointe-st-mathieu-24pointe-st-mathieu-21pointe-st-mathieu-22pointe-st-mathieu-1pointe-st-mathieu-4pointe-st-mathieu-14pointe-st-mathieu-5pointe-st-mathieu-9pointe-st-mathieu-8pointe-st-mathieu-13pointe-st-mathieu-18pointe-st-mathieu-25pointe-st-mathieu-27

Rest and be thankful

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During our time in Glasgow, Steve kindly took a day off work and whisked us off for a wonderful drive through the Scottish countryside. Apparently it’s springtime in the northern hemisphere but it’s not exactly “springtime” as we would know it in Australia. It was bitingly cold! Hence the lack of people in the photos – it wasn’t really “posing weather”!

The landscape and scenery are simply spectacular however, and just barely out of Glasgow too. We drove past the famous Loch Lomond and stopped off at the perfectly named Rest and Be Thankful as well as Gare Loch and Loch Long. The ride was accompanied by this great driving playlist that Steve put together for us. It was one of those amazing days on holiday that we will always remember.

– Jinn

Old friends & lochs

scotland-33Eight years ago, two strapping young Glaswegian medical students named Steve and Hamish decided to travel the world and Perth was one of their destinations. In fact, they’d chosen to do their medical electives in Royal Perth Hospital and that’s how our paths crossed! It was a meeting that was meant to be, since we’d already planned to do our electives in Edinburgh later that year. And so the friendship continued…But after 2006, we had to rely on good ol’ Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch – until now!

We stayed with the exceedingly hospitable Stevo who turned out to be quite the celebrity in his hometown, Glasgow. Not only is he now a fully fledged General Practitioner but he has also achieved what seems to be so utterly unattainable to me – the perfect work-life balance (Yeah, could be something to do with how much Candy Crush I play…Damn, that game is addictive, makes it more like work-Candy Crush balance for me). He’s a musician and a DJ, and seriously nearly every corner we turned people were saying “Hey Steve!”. And these weren’t just any people, these were people from the art, music and/or fashion scenes. Just a teensy bit jealous, Steve.

One of the huge highlights was our mini road trip to the countryside. The rolling hills, the serene lochs, the search for heilan coos…(Translation: highland cows) The scenes and the wintery cold brought back so many memories of our time here when we were still students, exploring the highlands, traipsing cobble stoned streets, eating many a haggis (it’s really good, you need to try it!), and trying out the old Scottish form of clubbing, cèilidh.

Now there’s absolutely no need to wonder why Stevo is so popular around town – he is absolutely one of the loveliest, kindest and coolest guys we’ve ever met, and it was so great to finally be able to catch up in person after so long! Thanks Steve!
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Heston revisited

heston-v2-2We went back for the full experience at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (click here for our first encounter) and we once again left in a very satisfied, almost hallucinogenic food dream. The menu at this fine restaurant is filled with dishes inspired by British history and feature interesting ingredients such as frogs’ legs (Jinn had these!) veal sweetbreads (hmm…), and who can resist lardo? Sounds so healthy…

Highlights of the night? My roast marrowbone (above) with snails and the nitro ice cream, where your waitperson adds liquid nitrogen to a delicious concoction of custard and vanilla bean to create your dessert right in front of you! I chose the apple pop rocks and dehydrated strawberry as my toppings. The crackle-in-your-mouth sensation of the pop rocks brought back some fond childhood memories!

For a meal that isn’t quite as crazily priced as The Fat Duck but still brings you the dishes that foodmeister Blumenthal is so renowned for, this is the place to go! Friendly and attentive waitstaff, and an atmosphere that remains upmarket yet refreshingly relaxed (not like those places where you daren’t laugh too loud and you can practically hear yourself chew!) add to the overall marvellous experience(s) we had here at Dinner.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal / Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London / Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinnerheston-v2-1 heston-v2-3 heston-v2-4 heston-v2-5 heston-v2-6 heston-v2-7 heston-v2-8 heston-v2-9

Hummingbird heaven

hummingbird-8So whilst Jinn was diligently waiting in a very very long line on a very very cold Saturday morning in London to buy some much coveted limited edition vinyls on Record Store Day, I went for a wee wander around Soho! And I was well rewarded by the discovery of the Hummingbird Bakery. It took all I had not to cry, “I’ll have one of everything!”. Seriously, choosing a cupcake was like choosing a favourite child! Finally, one cupcake stood out from all the rest – it turned out to be their available-Saturdays-only Eton Mess cupcake, and it was gooooood. Fluffy light vanilla sponge injected with fresh cream and strawberries, then topped with an Italian meringue icing, crispy regular meringue bits, then more cream and fruit! What a blissful little mouthful that was…

This bakery actually does an insanely good recipe book. I only dare use this book and the Primrose Bakery cupcake compendium as their recipes are mouthwateringly well presented, as well as pretty foolproof, as I am in no way a particularly adventurous baker. None of this “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”, I’d end up with a bunch of chocolate rocks if I tried that!

To well and truly satisfy that sweet tooth of yours, pay a visit to one of their stores! Check out their website here for locations.
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