Sunday Brunch: Proud Mary

2 Aug

Having a good brunch is one of Melbournian’s favourite weekend activity. The coffee culture and the food scene in Melbourne is one of the best I’ve seen. You don’t just have an ordinary “big breakfast” here. You have very fancy menu and the platings usually make every food photographer and food blogger very happy.

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Today I’ve decided to venture out of CBD into Collingwood, a suburb not too far off CBD. You can either take tram 12 or 86 to get you there. We took tram 12 as it’s just across our apartment, got off on Smith’s street and walked a little into the quiet Oxford Street. Most of the top Melbournian cafes and restaurants are very well hidden. It never ceased to amaze me how people discovered them in the first place. If this was to be in Malaysia, the cafe/restaurant probably won’t survive for a long time. Malaysians or probably Asians in general don’t really venture into the less travelled paths.

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I’ve heard of Proud Mary for a long time. After all, it’s one of the famous coffee roasters we have here in Melbourne and many other cafes in Melbourne uses their coffee beans. You can even purchase their beans in their cafe if you have your own coffee machine to play with. The only reason for me not to have already been here is because I’m usually quite lazy when it comes to travelling and anything beyond CBD for me is “far”. Lols… BUT, I’ve decided that it’s about time I explore what the suburbs have got to offer.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

It was already almost 1PM when we got there. It was a really lazy weekend and we woke up pretty late. I don’t know if this is a better choice or not. The cons is obviously it’s a lil late for “brunch” and you might be too hungry. However, the Pros is that you don’t have to wait 30mins-1hour for a table which is usually the case during peak hours (10-11AM). In fact, I think we only waited for 10 mins for our table. Having said that, it was still quite busy and it took a while for us to get the waitress’s attention to have our names on the waiting list.

Chai Latte

Chai Latte

Once seated, our drinks were quickly ordered and it didn’t take us very long to decide what to eat. The food came pretty quick and I love the decorations. YS ordered a cup of cappuccino with peas and feta fritters (vegetarian) while I opted for a cup of chai latte and the smoked ocean trout. You can view their full menu on their website

Smoked Ocean Trout

Smoked Ocean Trout

My smoked ocean trout was nicely cooked and nicely seasoned. The celeriac puree really complemented the fish and the vegetables which consisted of beetroots and fresh fennels. The beetroots were really juicy and I really enjoyed it. I also had a bite of YS’s peas and feta fritters and it was also pretty delicious. His dish had more indian spices which is quite pungent but in a good way. However, I preferred mine over his, probably because I love meat. Haha.

Peas and Feta Fritters

Peas and Feta Fritters

I would definitely come back again and either try other dishes on the menu or have my smoked trout fixed. They are opened every day of the week

Rome – Day 4 (Final full day)

21 Jul

It’s taken me a while to blog on our final day in Rome. The main reason was because that particular day was very very very vague in my memory. It was our final full day in Rome. We’ve done most of the tourist attractions by now and generally speaking, we weren’t very sure where to go or what else to do. R, who is an architect wanted to see the MAXXI building because it was designed by Zaha Hadid and she won an award on it. Since we’ve got nothing to do, we thought we’ll just join him and wherever he wants to go. We woke up pretty late that day. We slept in, had a very lazy morning in the apartment. Took our time to think about what to do that day. After a while, R suggested that we should revisit the Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II as it was closed by the time we did it the first time round. This time we had a good look of the building from the inside and discovered that there is a church right next to it. The church was quite extravagant with rows of chandelier hanging on both sides. I can only imagine how it would have looked like back in its old glory days.

Inside Altare della patria

Inside Altare della patria

Taken from the sides of Altare della Patria

Taken from the sides of Altare della Patria

Inside the church next to Altare della Patria. Notice the rows of chandelier?

Inside the church next to Altare della Patria. Notice the rows of chandelier?

In the church

In the church

Chandelier in the church

Chandelier in the church

Candles in the church

Candles in the church

Altare della patria

Altare della patria

Haha...

Haha…

After that, we took a bus and a tram to MAXXI (National Museum of the 21st Century Arts). I know nothing about architecture but according to R, the design was one of the winners in an international architectural competition. According to wikipedia, “the building is a composition of bending oblong tubes, overlapping, intersecting and piling over each other, resembling a piece of massive transport infrastructure”. While I couldn’t really understand the design, the lines and curves did kind of intrigue the inner arts in me. You can say that I have now started to appreciate architecture and designs a little bit more now.

Some kids playing with a dog by the roadside on our way to MAXXI. We stopped by to say hi.

Some kids playing with a dog by the roadside on our way to MAXXI. We stopped by to say hi.

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

MAXXI

After having a cup of tea and some nibbles in a cafe at MAXXI, we took the tram back to the main city and passed by a park. I can’t remember which park it was now, but donkey rides and a 4-ppl-paddle vehicle thingy were available for rent. It also has a statue of a headless woman. Hmm..

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Right after walking through the park, the sky suddenly turned really gloomy and thick clouds were looming above us. Not long after, huge droplets of rain poured heavily and we took shelter at one of the random hotel’s side entrance. Luckily for us, it rained only for a while, very much like the tropical rain we get back in Malaysia.

Shelter from the heavy rain

Shelter from the heavy rain

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By the time we got back to the city, it was almost time for dinner. As it was our last day in Rome, we decided to eat out. We’ve passed by this restaurant many many times while walking from our apartment to the trevi fountain. It looked pretty decent and we’ve decided to give it a go. As with many restaurants in Rome, most of the patrons were tourists and the waiters all speak very fluent english. That night, we splurged on our food. We ordered a plate of vegetarian anti pasti and some cured meat as starters. I wasn’t a big fan of cured meats especially when I don’t really know what the source of meat was from. We had two different cured meats that night and while one of it was absolutely brilliant with a hint of rose, the other one was horrible. It felt so raw I swear it was probably horse meat. Not that I’ve tasted any real horse meat before to compare but it just doesn’t taste right. For mains, I ordered a seafood spaghetti and I enjoyed it. I think everyone enjoyed their mains that night. To finish of, we also ordered two plates of desserts to share.

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On our way home, we dropped by Fontana di Trevi hoping that we will have some luck with photos on our last day in Rome. Nope, the fountain is always packed with ppl. I think to get a decent photo without the crowd is probably going to be a difficult feat unless you wake up really really really early for it. But since it’s our last day in Rome, we braved ourselves and squeeze through the crowd anyways. We managed to get a pretty decent photo of us in front of the fountain, so YAY! 🙂 We also walked back to Colosseum for some night shots. They weren’t great but it was a milestone for me back then. 🙂

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Next: we head north with a rented car, stopping by Sienna on our way to Venice! Stay tuned!

Strawberries Chocolate-nut spread rolled up french toasts.

20 Jul

This is by far one of the easiest brunch recipe ever. I’ve seen dozens of similar pins on pinterest and I’ve always wanted to try making some. A few weeks ago, blessed with the fact that I can finally sleep in on a Sunday morning and not head to the lab, I’ve decided to make this. I was lucky that I have bought a punnet of strawberries just a day before. Otherwise, I think bananas would work very nice with this as well.

Strawberries... yummo!

Strawberries… yummo!

What you will need:

2 eggs,
3 tablespoons of milk
Chocolate-Nut spread (think Nutella or similar)
Fruits of your choice, chopped
Sandwich bread slices
Granulated Sugar
Ground Cinnamon
Butter to grease the pan

Rolled bread, ready to be coated with egg mixture

Rolled bread, ready to be coated with egg mixture

Step 1: In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk, put aside

Step 2: Chop your fruits of choice, place it in a bowl and set aside.

Step 3: In a small bowl, mix 1 spoon of granulated sugar with 1 spoon of ground cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 4: Cut away the crusts and roll sandwich slices flat with a rolling pin. This will allow the surface area to be slightly bigger and easier to roll.

Step 5: Working on one slice at a time, spread the chocolate-nut spread about 1/4 of sandwich slice. Place some chopped fruits on the spread and roll inwards towards the non spread end. If you bread is fresh and soft and slightly moist, it should roll nicely and not break. Put aside and repeat for all bread slices.

Step 6: Heat non stick pan and grease pan with butter under medium heat.

Step 7: Dip bread rolls into egg mixture. Make sure to coat all sides and place them in the pan. Turn them every now and then and cook until all sides are just browned.

Step 8: Remove from pan and place on a plate. Using a sieve, dust the sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of the bread rolls. Serve warm.

Rolled up french toast dusted with cinnamon sugar.

Rolled up french toast dusted with cinnamon sugar.

If you would like this to be a more filling and elaborated meal, just add a little more fruits!

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Easy peasy! Happy cooking!

Vatican City (Rome day 3)

11 Jun

Day 3 in Rome and we ventured to the famous Vatican City, a city within another city. It’s quite bazaar, really. If I got my facts right, I think it is an independent country (therefore it’s not part of Italy?) but it’s located within Rome. To get into Vatican City, you can either go through the check points (kinda like an immigration check point) at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica or from the Vatican Museum. Many ppl would have recognised this city from the the da vinci code. All I can say is, seeing all these buildings, architectures and elaborated masterpieces left me spellbound and the ceilings… oh the ceilings! Every building we went to (or even every section of the Vatican Museum we went to) have really awesome ceilings!

We got up fairly early, had a simple breakfast “at home” and walked to the nearby bus stop where we took the local bus to the border of the Vatican City. Bus tickets were purchased from a nearby newspaper kiosk and it was pretty cheap. The number of commuters were pretty heavy and at one point we were so afraid that we might be separated when some of us couldn’t get on the same bus… but we did lol. You just have to be determined to get on the bus even if it’s sardine packed. That being said, it was still a pleasant ride and we did get a spot after a stop or two when the amount of passengers got lesser along the way.

Bus timetable.

Bus timetable.

Some shots taken from the bus.

Some shots taken from the bus. Love the arch bridge.

We got down at our destination. Don’t really know where to go really but luckily there were a few nuns on the same bus as us so we just kinda followed them thinking they must be heading to the Vatican City. We were right. 🙂 When I saw the columns of Piazza San Pietro, I was soo so sooooooo excited! I kept telling myself, oh my gosh, I’m really here!! The Piazza is amazing! Scenes from the da vinci code and twilight zoomed past my head. After going through the columns, you can clearly see St. Peter’s Basilica on the left. There’s an obelisk in the middle of the piazza and there’s also a couple of fountains. There are quite a number of scarf sellers at the Piazza, mostly selling very touristy, eye catching “ROMA” phrases and I thought to myself “geez, do ppl buy these? Aren’t they a lil too cheesy?”. Little did I know that I was one of the buyers a few minutes later. You’ll find out why very very shortly. Lol….

The columns at Piazza San Pietro

The columns at Piazza San Pietro

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

Fountains at the Piazza

Fountains at the Piazza.

The obelisk

The obelisk

There were loads and loads of people lining up to get into the Basilica. Seeing the amount of ppl kinda stressed me out a little because I thought we’ll be queuing up forever just to get in. BUT, it actually wasn’t so bad because there were a few check point stations and the lines moved pretty quickly. By the time it was almost our turn, we finally knew why there were so many scarf sellers outside. There’s a dress code to get into the basilica. You’d need to wear something that’s long enough to cover your knees and arms and I remembered asking myself that very morning if I should wear something longer. After all, I’m going into this holy place. But being there in hot August summer, I didn’t think too much about it and just went with my shorts and sleeveless top. Sigh. I tried my luck anyway but nope, was denied entry straightaway at the “immigration” check points. I had to go back out to the Piazza, quickly grabbed two scarfs, one to cover my arms and one to cover my thighs and join the que again. The check points kinda surprises me to be honest. I wasn’t expecting xray machines for your belongings to be there. Heck, I wasn’t even expecting any check points because it’s inside Rome and we’ve been crossing many European borders without anyone checking our baggages. i supposed it’s for security purposes. Still, i was intrigued.

The amount of ppl queuing up to get in.

The amount of ppl queuing up to get in.

A signboard on the left telling ppl the dress code.

A signboard on the left telling ppl the dress code.

The border check points

The border check points

Me with my cover ups, in blue... The colour coordinations were purely coincidental, I swear.

Me with my cover ups, in blue… The colour coordinations were purely coincidental, I swear.

Finally got into the basilica and my previous angst on the re-queing were quickly forgotten. The Basilica is seriously a masterpiece. The ceilings, WOW! The sculptures within the church, WOW! The way it’s designed to have natural light in, WOW! The marbles, the gold.. WOW! I don’t know how else to describe it. Let’s just say I’m not a very arts person and yet I can really appreciate this. Some parts of the church was designed by Michelangelo himself, after all. His most prominent presence was the sculpture of Pieta (I took a picture of it but due to the dim light, it wasn’t very great). However, there was this sculpture on one side of the walls where the sculpture had his arms reached out pointing his fingers at something. This reminded me so much of another artwork of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and I couldn’t help but “ET-ed” my finger with him.

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: Yes, we had our heads in that position most of the time.

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: Yes, we had our heads in that position most of the time.

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: Gorgeous ceilings!

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: Gorgeous ceilings!

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: Another ceiling

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: Another ceiling

Inside St.Peter's Basilica. Lovely natural sun rays through the windows.

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica. Lovely natural sun rays through the windows.

Inside St.Peter's Basilica

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: That sculpture with his arms reaching out and finger pointed. Anyone know who designed this?

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: That sculpture with his arms reaching out and finger pointed. Anyone know who designed this?

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: That sculpture with his arms reaching out and finger pointed. Anyone know who designed this?

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: That sculpture with his arms reaching out and finger pointed. Anyone know who designed this?

Inside St.Peter's Basilica: Me

Inside St.Peter’s Basilica: Me “ET-ing” the sculpture. Haha… Couldn’t help it.

There’s an underground vault where pictures weren’t allowed so I couldn’t show any. On our way out we saw some fancy Swiss guards. As it was lunch time by then, we walked out to Rome to have some lunch. We passed by a Pizza place and decided to have that as there was a long que. The pizzas here were priced by its weight. You basically order whatever you want and they will weigh them and charge you accordingly. I think it worked out to be reasonably cheap. We ate it at the side of the road next to the pizza place like everyone else.

Swiss guards

Swiss guards

That Pizza place

That Pizza place

The Menu and its price

The Menu and its price per 100g.

Pizza selection

Pizza selection

MMMMMMmmmm....pizzzzaaaaa....

MMMMMMmmmm….pizzzzaaaaa….

Our selection

Our selection

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Us sitting by the road side having our lunch

Us sitting by the road side having our lunch

After lunch, we head back to the Vatican City through the Vatican Museum. Again, there’s a check point at the entrance and que here is close to none. There’s a fee to get into the museum itself. The main reason for us to be here though, is not to look at all the ancient monuments and treasures. Rather, Vatican Museum is the only gateway to the Sistine Chapel. You have to go through almost the whole of the museum before reaching the Sistine Chapel. Photographs aren’t allowed in the Sistine Chapel unfortunately, so I didn’t get to take any of the crazy artwork Michelangelo did on the walls and ceilings of the Sistine Chapel. While in Sistine Chapel, we had out iPads out on wikipedia, reading about the Sistine Chapel and the meaning of the artwork while looking at the real thing. It was pretty cool. However, since there weren’t anything of the Sistine Chapel to show you on this blog, I will show you many many pictures of the Vatican Museum instead. Monuments, statues, artworks and treasures aside, Vatican Museum itself is a piece of art. The museum itself is divided into many different sections and for each section, the ceilings have a different design. After spending a couple of hours to walk through the museum, we finally reach its end, a spiral staircase.

Entrance to the Vatican Museum

Entrance to the Vatican Museum

Check points

Check points at the Vatican Museum

Spiral stairs at the entrance

Spiral stairs at the entrance

Raining heavily outside

Not sure what the lobe in the middle is. This was taking from the museum looking out.

Not sure what the lobe in the middle is. This was taking from the museum looking out.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum:  this reminded me of the Pantheon.

Vatican Museum: this reminded me of the Pantheon.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum: This art piece on the ceiling was SO 3D like.

Vatican Museum: This art piece on the ceiling was SO 3D like.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum: Love the arch at this part of the museum.

Vatican Museum: Love the arch at this part of the museum.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum: Stair wells right after we got our from the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museum: Stair wells right after we got our from the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum: Another spiral stairs at the end of the museum.

Vatican Museum: Another spiral stairs at the end of the museum.

After leaving the Vatican Museum, we made out way to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Not so sure what’s so romantic about this place. It’s filled with tourists sitting on the steps. Along the way, we stopped by a cafe to have some coffee and pastries. We also had some more gelato! Can’t resist. When you’re in Italy, eat gelati! :p This particular one was good, but not as good as the one we had the previous day. We walked all the way back to our rented apartment and called it a day.

Some pastries for evening tea.

Some pastries for evening tea.

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Horses at spanish steps

Horses at spanish steps

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Spanish steps

Spanish steps

Spanish steps

Spanish steps

More gelato!!

More gelato!!

Yums!

Yums!

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– END OF DAY 3 –

Rome Day 2 – Colosseum and Foro Romano

5 Jun

A visit to Rome will not be complete without seeing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum! In fact, I was so excited about this trip that I’ve booked the entrance tickets for Colosseum, Foro Romano and Palatine Hill online a couple of months in advance. From most reviews I’ve read, booking an online ticket will allow you to que on the express que and you wouldn’t have to que twice for the ticket, and for the entry. As it was really hot in August, we’ve decided to walk around elsewhere in the shade first, and then visit the Palatine Hill, Foro Romano and Colosseum later in the evening when the sun is not burning hot. As much as I’ve read about these places however, I didn’t realise that the last admission was at 6PM. We had decided to go there at about 4.30PM and so we’ve only got to see the Colosseum, but hadn’t gotten the chance to enter the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. It’s a shame. But, we did get to see glimpse of the Roman Forum from the other side and I was still very excited when I saw it! Seeing all these familiar scenes come to life is so surreal. I apologise as this has been close to two years ago now and my memory for this day is currently quite vague. So, please allow me to walk you through the day with the following pictures instead 🙂

We started the day later then the others if I’m not mistaken. As usual we had breakfast at “home” with the usual bread, fried eggs and sausages. We began our day by walking through many small alleys, and passing by many magnificent churches. Churches in Rome are sooooooo over the top! One of the many that caught my eye is the Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola. The paintings on its ceilings were drawn and so 3D like!

He was stopping me from taking a photograph, 1 second too late cuts I've snapped the picture before noticing it.

He was stopping me from taking a photograph, 1 second too late cuts I’ve snapped the picture before noticing it.

Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola

Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola

Ceilings of Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola! Don't you think they looked 3D?

Ceilings of Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola! Don’t you think they looked 3D?

Moe ceilings of Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola

More ceilings of Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola

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We then walked to the Pantheon and see all it’s glory with the sun rays.

Inside the Pantheon by day

Inside the Pantheon by day.

From Pantheon, we walk pass another church.

Another over the top church!

Another over the top church!

The church is a short distance away from Piazza Navona.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi at Piazza Navona

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi at Piazza Navona

At the corner of Piazza Navona, you will find Ai Tre Tartufi, the best Gelato I’ve eaten in Rome, or, Italy as a whole. It’s flavourful, it’s cheap!

Best Gelato in my opinion.

Best Gelato in my opinion.

Gelati selection.

Gelati selection.

My cup of gelati! Yummy!

My cup of gelati! Yummy!

A short walk from here, we saw a cafe and stopped by for some juice and bites. R had his usual Aperitivo, an Italian spirit.

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We walk past a local market and I bought some truffle infused olive oil.

Just us being goofy. Carbonara..mmmm yum... haha get it?

Just us being goofy. Carbonara..mmmm yum… haha get it?

We saw some grape trees! Having lived in a tropical country seeing this on someone else's house seems like a novelty.

We saw some grape trees! Having lived in a tropical country seeing this on someone else’s house seems like a novelty.

Not long after, we’ve reached the Jewish quarter in Rome. We had our lunch at Ba’Ghetto. Really good pasta here. We had no idea this was a favourite amongst other visitors.

La Ba'Ghetto at the Jewish Quarter.

Ba’Ghetto at the Jewish Quarter.

My plate of pasta. I don't know what's it called. The waiter did told me that the pasta itself is made of potato. This was cooked with fish chunks and tomato. Simple yet flavourful.

My plate of pasta. I don’t know what’s it called. The waiter did told me that the pasta itself is made of potato. This was cooked with fish chunks and tomato. Simple yet flavourful.

After our late lunch, it was almost time to head to the Colosseum. On our way there, we saw a “mini” Colosseum. Ancient ruins seems to be everywhere in Rome.

Ancient ruins

Ancient ruins. Such a thick slab of rock!

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Mini Colosseum.

Mini Colosseum.

"Mini" Colosseum.

“Mini” Colosseum.

Not very far away from my first sight of the Roman Forum now!

Not very far away from my first sight of the Roman Forum now!

YS looking suave... haha

YS looking suave… haha

The Roman Forum.

The Roman Forum.

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My first sight of the Colosseum!

My first sight of the Colosseum!

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By the time we reached the entrance of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, it was already close to 7PM. Since we’ve missed the last entry, we decided to head home.

Walking home...

Walking home…

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Saw this building covered in green on our way home. How beautiful…

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We had a simple dinner at our rented house. R cooked us fried rice and some stir fried lettuce. Yummy! In every vacation, you need to learn how to relax too. I’m glad we did just that. After a whole day of walking, we got back to our rented house early, had dinner and shower and just chill.

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And that ends my second day in Rome. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Wedding series: The wedding dress

5 Jun

In my culture, there’s no such thing as “the” wedding dress. In fact, most ppl rent their wedding dresses and most rentals comes in packages where you can choose a few different dresses for pre wedding shoots and for the actual day. Packages are usually pretty good and comes with a prewedding photoshoot, bouquet, wedding car decos and usually 3-5 pairs of dresses and suits.

I’m not sure who started the trend or why. The idea I supposed is that for different settings you can wear different dresses to compliment the overall feel of the pictures. Pre-wedding photoshoots are also another asian thing I supposed. Westerners are starting to have engagement photoshoots which is similar, except that pre wedding shoots are alot bigger scaled and elaborated. We wear actual wedding dresses for the photoshoots and it’s not just a one hour photo shoot. Depending on your packages, most are done for a whole day. I remember scouting for a possible photographers for our pre wedding photoshoot here in Melbourne and perhaps he’s not familiar with how grand pre wedding pictures are that he just simply brushed me off saying he don’t do small stuffs like pre weddings and only do actual wedding day shoots that are 8 hours long. Lol.. he had no idea…..

Anyways, back to the dresses. You can probably guess by now that our culture have no such thing as “you can’t let the groom see your dress until the actual wedding day”. In fact, it seems to be an obligation for the grooms to be there for dress fittings. In a way, you’d want him to like what you’re wearing in the first place, right? And to be honest, without all the make up and veil and hairdos, seeing the dress during dress fittings and seeing the actual bride on wedding day is very different anyway. You’d still impress him. (:p)

So, with the fact that I needed a few dresses for my prewedding shoots on top of my actual wedding day and the fact that I’m not back in my home country where wedding dress rentals are aplenty, I was quickly presented with a few problems. Firstly, to purchase a wedding gown in Melbourne is going to cost me a lot. Not to mention, a few dresses. I went to scout for a few dresses with one of my bridesmaids and either I’m being brushed off when I said my budget (and I said 1500AUD, mind you), or, whatever that’s in that 1500-2000AUD range just doesn’t look very good. A lot of women might disagree with me on this, but I personally don’t see the point of spending so much money on ONE dress that you’d wear only for ONE day. Yes, it’s a wedding and yes, it’s a once in a lifetime thing, but I don’t see the point of wearing a “branded” wedding dress. Of course, if you have the money to spend for a Vera Wang or Zuhair Murad, by all means, go for it! They are freaking gorgeous!! But for normal income ppl like me, I really can’t do it. I would rather spend the money for a holiday or food or potography gadgets, or,.. and the list goes on…. lol. The point is, purchasing a wedding dress in Melbourne seems to be a difficult fit. I tried looking for rentals and there aren’t that many in this part of the world. I did found a handful, all of which looks very dodgy. (A friend of mine has just opened her own bridal dress company here in Melbourne. Not only you can purchase, you can also rent them! They also offer make up and photography should you need them! They are called Serendipity and they are located at Carlton! Hit me back if you would like more info!!! I only wished she had opened this shop 1.5 years earlier haha) So what did I do? I bought my dresses online, from a China website called “Taobao”. (You what?!.. lol I know, and it’s not as bad as it seems. read on)

I was very sceptical about this site at first. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s kind of like a chinese equivalent to ebay except there’s a lot more stuff! My friends thought I was crazy at first… I mean, I don’t even read chinese! And, the last thing you want is to buy some badly made knock offs. I was very particular with that so it took me a while to find this particular shop on taobao. What I looked for while shopping on taobao for wedding dresses are: 1. Make sure they have consistent models. If you feel like the pictures are not theirs, don’t buy from them. 2. Make sure they have close up shots of their dresses. Point 1 and 2 kinda go hand in hand. One thing I need to warn you is that there are alot of chinese tailors that take designs or pictures from other wedding dresses companies and claim that they make similar ones. Don’t buy from them. 3. Make sure their shop ratings and reviews are high. I don’t read chinese but you can kind of get the gist from the stars they receive or the many happy emoticons they give.

The shop they I bought all my wedding dresses is called Isabufei. What made me confident in using them is that they have their own bridal shop in China, they use their own models therefore, all dresses that are shown on their website are genuinely theirs. They even have a video footage of the “behind the scenes” for their photoshoot which boosted up my confidence in their dress. What I’m very particular about is “what’s shown on their website is what I will be getting”.  Aside from the white gowns selections, they also sell traditional chinese Qipaos and Quas which was something that I was considering as well. Their dresses are priced reasonably and I was confortable purchasing a few dresses from them.

Now that I’ve found the shop, all I have to do is select the ones I like! This is actually a lot more difficult than you think, especially when there are alot of choices. I don’t know which sorts of dress cut will suit my body shape. One thing I know is, I’ll get away from mermaid cuts because I know I don’t have the hourglass body to wear it. I do know that I like vintage wedding dresses and the great thing about the dresses from Isabufei is that, they are not zipped. So you don’t really need to resize them. Most of their white gowns comes with a long ribbon which you tie zig-zag across your back so that actually helps you tightened your dresses. I only had to resize my red qipao as that was the only dress that came with a zip and it was slightly loose around my waist area.

In conclusion, I was very very happy with all my dresses. Everyone was complimenting my dress and was surprised when I said I bought it from Taobao. One thing about buying off taobao is that you’ll need an agent if you don’t have a chinese address. There’s plenty of agents around that speaks chinese and I was lucky to find one that’s in english. The agent is called Bhiner and they are very very responsive. Their job is to purchase whatever you want from Taobao and it’ll send it to them. They will make the checks and make sure u’re happy with the product before sending it to you. Of course, with any agents, there’s a fee. In my case, I thought the fee was alright seeing that I’ve saved heaps compared to buying my dresses from a bridal shop here.

Dress #1: Vintage lace (Prewedding in Melbourne)

Dress #1: Vintage lace (Prewedding in Melbourne)

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What do you think of my dresses? 🙂 Photographs are from both my prewedding photoshoot (RobinNg) and actual wedding day (JoshuaTeoh)… google them! And yes, I flew Robin over to Melbourne from Malaysia. Both photographers were brilliant and these shots were less than 1% of the total amount of photos I have from them!

Rome – day 1

19 Apr

August 18, 2013

We left our rented apartment in Paris early in the morning. Took the bus to Paris (Orly) Airport. On our way, we passed by the catacombs which we wanted to go but didn’t have the time to. Next time, perhaps. I shall come back Paris one day…. No, I WILL come back Paris one day. There’s a lot more of Paris and France which I didn’t get to explore. We were hungry for Europe and wanted to see everything. I don’t regret it though. I enjoyed my time and I thought for the most of the trip, it wasn’t rushed. It was rather relaxed. And I’ve ticked a lot of things off my bucket list in this visit. Next time, I will explore more of the non touristy places.

Anyways, back to my story. We took Easyjet again and it was a 2 hour flight to Rome. Sad to leave Paris but yet very very excited to see the ancient Rome that I’ve read so much about in history classes. Whenever I think of Rome, there is always a mental image of a scene from one of the disney’s movies (i can’t remember which) of the Foro Romano and the thought of seeing it for real still sends goosebumps all over my body. Our flight to Rome was a smooth one. Worried that I will be sick again, I took 2 travel pills before boarding. The wait for our luggage in Rome was slow and we were very hungry by then. R hired a driver (or was it a taxi driver?) to pick us up from the airport and we were on our way to our rented apartment soon after. Sitting in the car, Rome looked so much different from the other european countries that we have visited just before. It’s hot and humid, most of the land are not developed an you don’t see much or any high rise. The trees are very distinctly different and it almost reminded me of the trees I’ve seen in Africa on TV. Tall and skinny trunks but long branches on top and very leafy. It’s nothing like a tropical tree. I later found on the ever useful google that it’s called a Stone pine tree. And, I was right. They have it in Africa too! Haha… Right before we reach our apartment, we passed by one of the grandest building I’ve seen. Totally in white and nothing of what I’ve read about in history books. We had no idea what building it was but I was in awe. Made a mental note to come back to this building after putting down our luggages.

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Our rented apartment

Our rented apartment (from romeloft) was situated very strategically on 11, Via Parma, which is just a short distance walk to most of main attractions in Rome. Our apartment is huge. It has two good size bedrooms, a living room with another double bed, and a huge dining area and a kitchen. I took one of the bedrooms and I don’t know why but I didn’t take any pictures of the rooms. The way the owner decorated the place is very very random in my opinion. It’s like a mixture of everything. The double bed in the living room feels very balinese but there’s also a big cactus in the living room. The apartment comes with wifi connection, air conditioning in all rooms, it also has a washing machine and the kitchen comes with pots and pans which are all very very handy. The apartment costed us 495euro for 4 nights which is pretty cheap considering there’s 5 of us.

Living area with the balinese style double bed

Living area with the balinese style double bed

Hallway to two bedrooms

Hallway to two bedrooms

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Dining area

Kitchen

Kitchen

After putting down our luggages, we quickly went to source for food. As it’s about 4pm-ish, we call this a lunner (lunch + dinner). We spotted a restaurant nearby and took a seat. Due to the odd timing, there weren’t many ppl in the restaurant. However, as most of Italy (as I’ve discovered later), they are super duper friendly with tourists and are very welcoming. I think tourists makes up the main economy in Italy. You can feel it right away. It’s very in your face. There’s souvenirs at every corner, every business seems to be targeted to the tourists. However, that being said, the food is a lot cheaper than Paris. We ordered two pizzas and a spagghetti aglio olio. As you can see from the pictures, the roman style of cooking uses very simple ingredient. The pizzas are not elaborated with toppings. It has a few main ingredients, but it tasted so good. The pizza is crispy and light, it has air in between the pizza skin, and you can see that it’s baked in a wood fire. I miss the food in Italy tremendously.

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Pizza with the simplest ingredients

Pizza with the simplest ingredients

Thin and crispy pizza bases!

Thin and crispy pizza bases!

Now that we’ve fed our tummy, it’s time to explore. Honestly, we didn’t really make any plans. R might have a few ideas of what to see and where to go. For me, as long as I see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and Fontana di Trevi, I’m satisfied. We have 4 nights here… there’s plenty of time to explore. We took our time strolling back to that mysterious white building that we saw earlier in the car along Via Nazionale. On the way there we passed by Mercati di Traiano.

Mercati di Traiano

Mercati di Traiano

We also saw some very amusing souvenirs of David’s ahem…

Interesting magnetic souvenirs

Interesting magnetic souvenirs

We also saw some ancient ruins right before reaching the Altare della Patria, which is the actual name for that grand white building. The craftsmanship of the ruins are so detail. It’s incredible.

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Through wikipedia, we found out that the Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II was designed and built in the late 1800 and early 1900 respectively. That explains the architectural difference compared to most of the more well known ruins. The building of this monument sparked controversies as it will meant that some of the ancient and medieval remnants of the site will be destroyed.

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Altare della Patria

It is still a very remarkable building. Unfortunately, due to the timing, it was already closed for the day and we could only admire the building from the outside of the gates. There are many statues and sculptures on the building itself and also surrounding the building. This photo is one of my favourites I took that evening, with the sky still blue and the sun starting to set and the moon starting to show its light.

I just love this picture.

I just love this picture.

We then made our way to Fontana di Trevi, passing by many alleyways of hidden restaurants.

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Fontana di Trevi is not as big as I thought it is. Though, it is still a sight to see. However, taking a good picture of it seems to be a very challenging fit.There were tons of tourists right smack in front of the fountain. You can’t really make your way in there unless you really try. There’s no way we could take a good photo of us with the background without having ppl blocking your background. It was crazy. I tried to at least take an okay-isn picture of the fountain by itself. Feeling defeated and depressed after a while because I couldn’t take a photo of ourselves with the fountain. I’ve read from travel blogs beforehand that if you want to take really good pictures of the fountain, you’d have to come really really really early in the morning. I thought perhaps if we could come back again later at night to try it, perhaps it’ll be lesser ppl since it was kind of peak hour at that time.

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We then continue to walk pass many different alleyways and saw many odd miscellaneous things ppl put on their doors.

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We also saw many more of David’s ahem themed souvenirs…

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We passed by Gallery Alberto Sordi and I remembered that Zara was nearby . Hehs the shopaholic in me senses it but no I didn’t buy anything.

Galleria Alberto Sordi

Galleria Alberto Sordi

We also passed by Il Tempo di Adriano and stopped by at a cafe nearby to have some juice.

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We finally reached the Pantheon! And I got excited trying out some night slow shutter shots. Quite happy with the shots considering I was still very much a beginner than (not that I’m any better now) but I literally got my D7000 just for this trip and I haven’t had much practice before the trip. So yes, I’m very happy with this picture! 😀

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As it’s starting to get late and we were pretty tired from all the travelling, we made our way back to the apartment, passing by Fontana di Trevi once more in hope that the number of tourists have died down, but, nope! There’s an even bigger crowd. Sigh… So sleep it is!

To be continued…..

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