Beloved

manal-saber-wedding-5Attending a wedding of someone precious to you is always an absolute delight. I particularly love to study the faces of family members, almost living vicariously and feeling lifted by the emotions so clearly written in their expressions.

Noted here. A mother’s tender but intensely proud and protective stance, beaming with happiness over her daughter, the bride. The bride, a grown woman but forever a daughter, bowed in love and ultimate respect.

The hands and richly embroidered garments of three women. Mother-in-law, bride and her mother. White, universally symbolic of pureness of heart and devotion. Hands dipped and decorated to reflect the deep religious and cultural traditions that ceremonialise this marriage. They are dyed with the runes of blessings.

A groom, finally allowed to see his beloved on this special day. He bends down to kiss her gently on the forehead, face cupped exquisitely in his hands.

Excitement barely contained behind her veil.

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Henna

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The intricate markings adorning the hands and feet of the beaming bride-to-be trace back to a tradition centuries old in its origin.

Other ladies belonging to the bride’s family are also decorated as such, but none as complex or beautiful as those that grace the bride.

She is the most blessed, the most joyous, the beloved.

Singapore Travel Diary {Happy Chinese New Year!}

cny-singapore-7cny-singapore-8cny-singapore-9cny-singapore-3cny-singapore-10cny-singapore-2cny-singapore-6cny-singapore-11cny-singapore-29cny-singapore-13cny-singapore-5cny-singapore-16cny-singapore-17cny-singapore-14cny-singapore-15Chinese New Year 2014 was an entirely new experience for me! Being born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, Chinese New Year never quite features on the list of publicly celebrated holidays! Oh, we do celebrate it with much eating of steamboat and handing out of ang pao (red money packets) but it’s all very much a family affair.

Walking around Singapore during the week before Chinese New Year, there is no denying the excitement and festive feeling in the air – literally! Everywhere you go your senses are bombarded. Rows upon rows of bright red decorations promise prosperity and good luck for the year to come. Shopping centre stereos blare “Dong dong dong chiang! Gong xi ni! Gong xi fa cai!” (Congratulations, happy new year!). People rush around making sure that their houses are filled to overflowing with food and special symbolic items such as oranges and mandarins for abundance and good fortune, and gourds for good health and prosperity. Preparations must all be made ready in time for the first day of New Year as it is believed that the state of your household at the start of the year reflects your fortunes to be in the upcoming year. And Chinese people wholeheartedly believe that more is more!

Singapore goes into a heady and happy furore in the lead up to Chinese New Year Eve and celebrates the big night with a citywide party! Then, the city that never slows down becomes peculiarly quiet as people spend the following days visiting their family and neighbours, a time where there is no greater priority than connecting with each other. If only there were more days like these.

East Kimberley wandering

el-questro-road-1Venturing far east of Broome into the other side of the Kimberley region that borders the Northern Territory you find yourself in a completely different landscape characterised by majestic gorges, creeks, natural springs and sprawling plains, dotted with rows upon rows of wizened eucalypts. It is truly a breathtaking place. With Sarah up in Kununurra this week I was keen to take the opportunity to visit her and experience this stunning part of Western Australia for myself. We spent four magical days touring around, weaving through the ranges in our four wheel drive, flying in a helicopter, swimming in waterholes, walking trails, and enjoying the simple life, waking and sleeping with the birds. My head is still abuzz just remembering the amazing time we had!

Text by Jinn

Photos by Jinn & Sa

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Cape Leveque

cape-leveque-day1-2Is this the Broome edition or what?! I suppose I’ve been up here for about three months now, but to be honest it’s been more about work and settling in, but now that’s well and truly done let me show you what we’ve been up to.

The Kimberley is absolutely nothing like the southern half of Western Australia, coming up here you really feel like you’re in a completely different country. It’s so much better than I expected it to be, and for a professed city-girl I have found myself totally falling for the sheer wildness of the land and just how alive it feels. The rich soil, the roiling waves, the calls of the wildlife, the trees reaching for the skies, the scintillating sunsets that show you colours you never knew existed.

One place that must be seen to be believed is Cape Leveque, 220km north of Broome, right on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula. Jinn, Jeff, Rach and I hopped into the four-wheel drive and at first I was like, “You call this a road?” but very quickly threw fear and trepidation out the window and embraced the joy and freedom of driving over those crazy bumpy trails, feeling almost indestructible. I must have had a a wild look in my eyes and a wickedly wide grin on my face for much of the drive which possibly got even wider on our arrival when I realised we’d reached a coastal paradise.

Leave Broome behind, hire a four-wheel drive (or find yourself a friend with one), and get up that bumpy-as-hell dirt road to Cape Leveque, also known as Kooljaman in the local Bardi language. Bring a fishing rod, your bathers, some Matso’s mango beer, plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent, and most of all throw your worries and preoccupations into that blue water and breathe in your fill of the freshest air on the planet.

Photos by Jinn
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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

The Borough Market

borough-markets-1I’d been researching the whereabouts of good flea markets in London and the name “Borough Market” kept popping up here and there as a really popular place to go, but I kept dismissing it as it was a food market rather than a place to rummage for antique gems or vintage duds, which is what I was originally after. After our visit to The Shard we were making our way back to the tube station, down a little lane being buffeted by the bitingly cold wind, when I saw a sign for the Borough Market! (Haaaallelujah!) It’s essentially almost right at the base of the monumental building, and was just what we were after since we were both starving and it had turned out to be a bit of a grey, miserable day. And what better to pick up your spirits than a piping hot brownie fresh from the oven?

The down side to this place? No matter how hungry you are, you will not be able to try every single delicious morsel there is in this market! There are places selling burgers, traditional Cornish pasties, amazing cakes and pastries, cheeses and sausages made and brought fresh from local farms, and also a healthy helping of stalls piled high with delicacies from other lands, such as Turkish delight, kibeh (they were the best), and baklava. Meandering through the aisles of fresh fruit and vegetables was also fascinating. Strangely shaped tomatoes, a thousand different varieties of mushrooms, and just the sheer vibrant freshness of all this produce made me wish I could live here just so I could cook with such amazing ingredients – and of course taste them!

We spent a good two hours here at least, gorging ourselves on the sights and the food. Recommendations? The hot brownies, millefeuille and raspberry tart (pretty much everything) from the bakery that presents itself as soon as you walk through the market’s main entrance off Borough High St (Comptoir Gourmand), the lamb kibeh from the Lebanese stall (we had one, then went back for four), and the chorizo stall. And of course, a cup of mulled wine to wash it all down and warm your chilly bones. The Borough Market is not to be missed!

Check out their website and how to get there here.
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