Saturday, April 30, 2011

A wedding fit for a princess

Wow, wow and wow! A prince, a stunning dress, glamourous guests, pomp and ceremony, cheering crowds and most importantly, a couple in love. Whatever you may think about the pomp and ceremony, it's impossible to deny the true love and friendship that exists between William and Kate, now referred to as Catherine. Hopefully their wedding is just the beginning of plenty of love and happiness.

I was one of the billions worldwide counting down to the royal wedding. I started watching the coverage from 4pm and loved every minute of it. As the minutes ticked over and the time neared for Catherine to leave the Goring Hotel I was nervous and didn't want to miss a minute. From 7.42pm (Australian time) through to 7.51pm I went to the bathroom three times. Luckily I wasn't marrying the prince.
Firstly, the dress. Isn't that what we were all waiting to see? Catherine's dress was just breathtaking. So classic, elegant and just perfect for the occasion. No doubt Catherine like most brides to be had thought about what her wedding dress might look like one day, keeping clippings for inspiration and considering the styles and fabrics that best suit her. Like most women she would have been inspired by the dresses of princesses, throughout history and more recently. I know I was when I was choosing a design for my wedding dress.

Some people have criticised her for being too traditional and reserved and not making a bold fashion statement and for copying Princess Grace. Seriously? Catherine wore a breathtaking wedding dress and she looked just perfect - an elegant modern princess. She got it just right.

The kiss. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I would have liked a longer kiss and embrace. But the kiss we got was pretty good and don't forget there were two kisses. Those minutes spent away from the cameras signing the wedding register would have been an opportunity for them to share a much more intimate kiss away from the billions watching. I know I would feel more than a little nervous sharing a kiss with my husband in front of billions.

Diana, it's impossible to talk about this wedding without thinking of her. I'm not old enough to have memories of Charles and Diana's wedding, to be honest, I wasn't even born. However, growing up I was in awe of Diana and I clearly remember where I was when she died. It was impossible not to think of Diana while watching the wedding. How proud she would have been to watch both of her precious boys in their uniforms and to watch William marry a woman he clearly loves and adores. I couldn't help but wonder what outfit Diana might have chosen for such a special day.

Best and worst dressed - there are quite a few for both lists but I want to make mention of a couple. Carol Middleton was just perfect. A beautiful outfit, a few nerves and obvious pride, she nailed it as mother of the bride. Pippa Middleton - what is there left to say? Everything's already been said. She was gorgeous and almost as stunning as the bride, almost. And finally, I'm going to disagree with the majority and say I liked Princess Beatrice's outfit. The hat was definitely unusual but I liked it. Good on her for being bold and taking a risk!

Well, there it is. The royal wedding has gone off without a hitch. It's definitely one for the history books and an event billions will never forget. Congratulations to the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, may your marriage be filled with love and happiness. And thank you for sharing your beautiful day with us.We loved every moment.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A special afternoon at The Plaza, New York

I’m a high tea kind of girl. I love all things delicate and lady like and an experience from another era. I’ve enjoyed high tea at the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney a number of times and have hosted my own high tea. I enjoy baking and eating scones, little sandwiches and delicate pastries.
For me, high tea is all about a more elegant time when ladies could dress up to enjoy a few pastries, a lovely cup of tea and do it all with delicate china. It’s about the history and enjoying a period in time I can hope to recreate but never truly experience.

We’ve all heard about or seen New York’s The Plaza in movies or tv shows. You know the New York landmark where Monica and Chandler got married, or the hotel from Home Alone 2 spectacularly overlooking Central Park. Well when I found out they offered a particularly lovely high tea and I could go in and actually eat there while we were on holiday, well a booking was made immediately.

The original plan was to go with a girlfriend who was living in New York, but plans changed and she moved back to Oz. My gorgeous hubby courageously stepped into the void. I suspect he may have been a little frightened by the fanciness, the delicate crockery and the price tag. So my catchcry became, but it’s The Plaza. If you haven’t yet worked out from reading my blog and this post, I like a little fancy in my life.

On our first foray into Central Park on day four in New York City, I spied The Plaza. Hopping excitedly from side to side and pointing I said, ‘Look hon, it’s The Plaza, you know, where we’re going for high tea later in the week’. Hubby’s reply, ‘hmm’. My thoughts were: rightio, he’s not quite as excited as me, but he still has three days to get excited.

The day of high tea at The Plaza arrived. After some further exploration around Central Park and a visit to Bloomingdales we were ready for our 3pm booking. Hubby was still not quite as excited as me, but he would be once he was inside. We stopped to take a few photos from the outside and then we were walking up the magnificent carpeted steps. We were in! Hopefully we could pass for fabulous New Yorkers.

Ok, we were early which meant we had time to take a stroll around. And it is everything it looks like in the movies and more. Beautiful chandeliers, piano music floating through the air, exclusive shops and The Plaza teddy bear. Who could resist a photo?

At 3pm we made our way to The Palm Court where we were seated and offered the menu. As I said before I’ve had a few high teas and knew what to expect. For my hubby, this was a first. He leaned across and whispered to me, ‘the last time I had afternoon tea I was sitting on an esky with a couple of guys from work’. My response, ‘well honey, this will be a little different’.

We ordered a high tea each: for me, the Chocolate Tea and my hubby, the New Yorker. Here’s what we had.

The Chocolate Tea

Chocolate Fondue
Strawberries, pound cake, pretzels, house-made marshmallows, golden pineapple

Freshly-baked, warm seasonal scones, nutella, double Devonshire cream, lemon curd and preserves

Chocolate profiteroles, mini pot de crème, chocolate cupcake, chocolate macaroon, sacher torte, chocolate truffles

The New Yorker

Sandwiches and savouries
Cucumber, radish, green herbs
Smoked salmon, endive
Roquefort, shaved red grapes, watercress
Prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto
Roast beef, horseradish

Freshly-baked, warm seasonal scones, double Devonshire cream, lemon curd and preserves

Pastries and sweets
Black and white cookies, mini canoli, chocolate cupcake, New York cheesecake, lemon tea cake, profiteroles.

Served with our choice of tea

We made our way through the three tiers of chocolate, savouries, scones and pastries accompanied by quite a few cups of tea sweetened with a few lumps of sugar (one of the things I love about high tea – lumps of sugar – so very English).

One of my gorgeous girlfriends who had been to The Plaza previously warned me about the amount of food and to definitely have any leftovers boxed up to go. So we did, together with a bag bearing The Plaza crest. And yes, that bag made its way into my luggage and safely back home with me. It’s a keeper.

Our final take on high tea at The Plaza is that it’s a must do for anyone who loves elegance, old world glamour, romance and the experience of eating in the Palm Court. Food wise, it was really lovely, but the QVB in Sydney was definitely on par. One thing I do love about the QVB is the beautiful floral Royal Doulton crockery – it feels like you have a piece of history in your hands each time you take a sip of tea. The Plaza offers plain white which while very classy, is just a little plain for my liking.

If you’re ever in New York, take a few hours to enjoy high tea at The Plaza, you won’t regret it. And for my hubby, it was definitely a step up from afternoon tea on an esky with a bunch of workmates.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I didn't plan 12 hours of sightseeing in Washington but it turned out better than planned

I’m a planner and an organiser. I like to know what I’m doing, when I’m going to do it and how. I like lists and schedules and order. For some, it’s totally different to how they like to live, others will be nodding their heads with a total understanding of what I’m saying. So that’s how I went about planning our recent holiday. We planned to be in each city for a limited time and with so much to fit in, we didn’t intent to waste precious hours each day planning the next day’s activities. So we departed Australia with a diary of what we planned to see and do.
Of course, plans change, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar city. I like to think I’m flexible enough to go with the flow. And we did. With just two days of sightseeing in the American capital, I learnt how quickly plans can change and how fantastic it is when you not only experience what was planned but lots more again. Let me explain.

On arriving in Washington the weather forecasts for the following day were not looking so good for our planned visit to Arlington National Cemetery. There was rain forecast and lots of it. So we opted for the indoor options – the White House Visitor Centre, the National Museum of American History, a trolley tour around DC and the Newseum. At the end of day one we still had so much we wanted to see and just one day to do it in. As a result, day two went something like this.

Cab to Arlington National Cemetery. Gates opened at 8am. John F Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

9.15am – 10.30am
Walk to Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the obligatory photo outside the White House

Hop in the lift to the top of the Washington Monument to take in the views of Washington

Visit the National Sculpture Garden and US Botanic Garden. Stopping to take dozens of photos of the stunning US Capitol building and National Mall along the way

Visit the US Capitol. Sit in the gallery to watch debate in the US House of Representatives

Grab a quick hotdog for lunch and head for the Jefferson Memorial.

Hop on the trolley for a tour of Georgetown and embassies

Head to Union Station for a little bit of shopping and dinner

Dinner at Union Station

Walk from Union Station via the US Capitol building to our hotel to rest our weary legs.

By the end of the day we were exhausted, but thrilled with all that we had seen. Take a look at our route on Google Maps and some photos we took along the way.


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