Chamorro Chica Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:14:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lords of the Manor, The Cotswolds Fri, 13 Dec 2013 05:27:20 +0000 If you’re looking for a serene escape from bustling London during your time in England the beautiful Cotswolds is the ideal destination and the lovely Lords of the Manor is a great choice for a luxury country house hotel. My previous post The Magical Cotswolds provides a glimpse into this very special corner of the world.  The Lords of the Manor is one of the finest manor house hotels in the Cotswolds perfect for the traveler looking for total relaxation or the more adventurous one who wants to explore the surrounding area.

lord front

Located in the village of Upper Slaughter, Lords of the Manor is a former rectory set on eight beautifully landscaped acres. When we arrived I couldn’t get over the lush, green surroundings and perfectly manicured grounds. I felt like we had just arrived at our own personal country estate. It was a welcome change from the pace of city life in London. Just a two-hour drive from the city makes the Cotswolds the perfect place for a weekend escape. You feel relaxed the moment you arrive and the staff work to preserve the peaceful environment during your stay. You really do feel like your staying at someone’s country manor house.

Lords relaxing on grass

The manor house itself is impressive with five different types of rooms to offer guests with traditional English décor throughout the property. A couple on a romantic weekend may prefer The Tracy Room, the original Master’s bedroom, while those traveling with a family or looking for more space may opt for one of the Lords Bedrooms. If you really want to take your relaxation to another level you can arrange for in-room spa treatments including massages, facials and foot reflexology.


drawing room

We had the pleasure of enjoying dinner one evening at the Michelin Star restaurant at Lords of the Manor during our stay. Chef Les Rennie and his team create some unique dishes that are a combination of contemporary British cuisine with influences from around the world. You start your evening enjoying an aperitif in the drawing room while you peruse the dinner menu and make a selection. You’re then taken to the dining room where you’re seated in a quiet, intimate setting. They offer both an a la carte and tasting menu paired with delicious wines. It’s very much a leisurely dining experience so be prepared to settle in for the evening. In addition to their elegant restaurant you can enjoy Sunday lunch or afternoon tea complete with those scrumptious English scones sitting out amongst the picturesque grounds.



lords back view

Since this was our first time visiting the Cotswolds we decided to spend a couple of days exploring the different villages in the area and even took a day trip to beautiful Bath. I highly recommend a visit to Bath. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Whatever is on your agenda the staff is happy to help with their own personal recommendations including day trips, restaurants and more.

When we were planning our England trip we had a hard time deciding which areas we would visit outside of London itself. I threw the question out to the social media world and the overwhelming response was to not miss the Cotswolds to get a taste of the English countryside. This is probably some of the best travel advice I’ve ever received so I’m passing it on to you. If you’re planning a trip to England definitely add the Cotswolds to your list and if you want a luxury country house experience I recommend the elegant yet comfortable Lords of the Manor hotel.

The Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire, GL542JD +44 1451 820 243

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The Soho Hotel, London Thu, 05 Dec 2013 02:52:43 +0000 The hip and trendy Soho Hotel in London oozes style and sophistication making it one of THE places to stay in the city. This  luxury property is part of the Firmdale Hotel group, which I had only heard wonderful things about and keeping in stride, The Soho did not disappoint. Ozdane and I spent our last night in London at The Soho and if we weren’t so utterly exhausted from our six-week tour of England we probably would have been tempted to extend. Our room was one of the largest we’ve stayed in by far and the service was wonderful. To top it off our dining and cocktail experience at the hotel was delightful. Admittedly we didn’t leave the property but honestly we didn’t feel the need to during our one-night stay because The Soho had everything. It was the perfect place to end an amazing trip.

soho lobby

The hotel is located on a quiet street in none other than the Soho area of London known for its entertainment along with some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and cafes. Simply put, there is no chance of boredom. Even the décor throughout the hotel is lively and colorful just like its surrounding neighborhood. Just past the lobby are a spacious drawing room and library as well as Refuel, the restaurant and bar. The Crimson bar is a great option for a quieter place to retreat after dinner for hotel guests. In addition there is a gym, two state-of-the-art screening rooms and four private event spaces. You can’t help but feel a burst of energy when you walk into the lobby with the buzz of activity but also experience a sense of relaxation when you settle into your room.

crimson bar

Speaking of rooms, wow, the rooms! The Soho has 91 individually designed rooms, suites and apartments all done in a contemporary London style by Kit Kemp. The rooms are known to be some of the largest in Central London. The attention to detail in the room décor is amazing. The photos don’t even do it justice. The rooms are decked out with all the essentials and more. The bathrooms are also very large and include double sinks with a large walk-in shower and separate bath. Did I mention the fabulous steam in the shower also? I could have stayed in there for days. While I didn’t get to see one of the four suites I can only imagine how dreamy they are with wrap around terraces and spectacular views of London. Maybe next time!

soho room

soho bathroom

If you’re planning on enjoying drinks or dining at The Soho be prepared for a great experience at Refuel just off the hotel lobby. We had afternoon cocktails and nibbles in the bar shortly after arriving. Even in the late afternoon the atmosphere was lively and upbeat. The bar menu features signature cocktails from the Firmdale bars such as “Lady Charlotte” of The Charlotte Street Hotel, “Cherry Orchard” of the Dorset Square Hotel and of course the “Soho Sensation” of The Soho Hotel. Indulge in tapas, a mezze platter, Asian platter or crab platter while you sip on the drink of your choice.

soho bar

sohoh bar

We also very much enjoyed our dinner at Refuel that evening. The cuisine is modern and international using organic and fresh, seasonal produce. There truly is something for everyone on the menu with some of the more indulgent dishes being an Aberdeenshire beef fillet, truffle macaroni and cheese and any of the decadent desserts. Just like the bar the restaurant was packed and lively creating a fun dining atmosphere.

soho rest

soho downstairs

If you’re looking for a trendy and sophisticated option in Central London I highly recommend The Soho Hotel. This property is definitely on my “must stay again” list of London luxury hotels.

The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London WID3DH T:+44  20 7559 3000

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The Capital Hotel, London Tue, 26 Nov 2013 01:43:36 +0000 Location, location, location. This five-star boutique property is in a prime location for some of the best designer shopping in Knightsbridge, London. Harrods is literally a hop, skip and jump away while you’re also very close to the designer shops on Sloane Street and Harvey Nichols. Hyde Park is in walking distance, as is the Knightsbridge Tube Station. In addition to being situated in one of the nicer neighborhoods of the city,  The Capital Hotel is a family-owned, traditional British property with a staff that makes guests feel very welcome. It lacks the big hotel feel and instead a classy, comfortable environment of a boutique hotel surrounds you.

Capital downstairs

The Capital Hotel has fifty guest rooms including a two-bedroom suite, eight junior suites, seven deluxe doubles, and both Classic Queen and double rooms. A great perk are the Capital Apartments next door to the hotel that are available for longer stays. If you feel like settling in for a longer period of time the apartments just may be the option for you. The rooms in the hotel are very nicely decorated with a classic, elegant feel. We stayed in the Classic Queen room and while it wasn’t extremely spacious the little touches in the room were lovely. The Templespa bathroom amenities, fresh flowers, delicious fruit platter and afternoon tea were just a few. If you’re staying more than a couple of nights or have a large amount of luggage as we did, I’d recommend choosing one of the larger room options. It does come down to how much you’ll actually be in your room though. With so much to see and do in the great city of London I can’t imagine anyone would spend too much time in the hotel especially when the property is in such an ideal location such as this one.

Capital room touches

You don’t have to go far to have a special dining experience. The Michelin starred restaurant Outlaw’s at The Capital is known for its unique and delicious seafood dishes created by Nathan Outlaw and Head Chef Pete Biggs. While we didn’t get to dine in the restaurant during our short stay the menu had me salivating with delicacies like oysters, scallops and lobster risotto, just a few of my favorite things.


Since this is a boutique hotel you won’t find a gym or large business center within the hotel however The Capital has plenty to offer its guests during their stay. If you find you’ve indulged a bit too much in that rich English cuisine and must hit the gym guests have access to the exclusive The Peak Health Club and Gym on Sloane Street in Knightsbridge. If you decide to forego the workout and opt for some retail therapy to burn those calories the hotel offers a personal shopper for Harrods and Harvey Nichols.  The friendly and helpful concierge can assist with these services and more.


If you’re planning a trip to London and designer shopping is high on your list as well as a traditional English boutique hotel experience, The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge is a good choice.

The Capital Hotel, 22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London SW31AT  T: +44 20 7589 5171

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A baby moon in Koh Samui Thu, 10 Oct 2013 09:58:11 +0000 I’m not sure where the “baby moon” idea came from or even if many expecting parents take them but I have to say, I’m a big fan. Simply put it’s some special time away with just you and your other half before baby arrives and life is turned upside down and inside out – in a good way of course!

Ozdane and I decided to go to Koh Samui, Thailand for a long weekend for some rest and relaxtion together for our baby moon. Less than two hours from Singapore makes it one of the perfect get-away destinations. Some were probably suprised we didn’t choose Bali which is usually our go-to spot but it was nice to go somewhere different for this occassion.

beach 1st photo

us on beach

During our time in Koh Samui we stayed at the exquisite Four Seasons Koh Samui Resort and we literally never left the property. There was no need to leave since everything we wanted for our blissful time away was at our fingertips. I think the most active thing I did the entire time was walk up some stairs to meet the buggy to take us to the spa. Yes, hard work I know.




I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the resort. Upon arrival we were surprised with an upgrade to a large beach villa right on the beach with the largest, private pool I’ve ever seen in a one-bedroom villa. Thank you beautiful universe! We fell asleep to the sound of the waves. We spent plenty of time lounging on our huge daybed in our outdoor living room area or taking a dip in our refreshing pool or the ocean which was just steps away. The service was outstanding and the Thai people are always such a pleasure. We definitely will be going back to the Four Seasons Koh Samui and the next time with Baby P. in tow.



Be sure to check out Instagram Travel Thursday to see some amazing travel photos, read travel stories and learn great tips about Instagram. Started by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Lifestyle, this is a great way for passionate travelers to share Instagram travel photos and posts while connecting with like-minded travelers. I personally am finding it to be very inspirational as travel and Instagram are two of my favorite things. Be sure to check out the latest Instagram travel photos and posts and also learn how you can join in on the fun at Instagram Travel Thursday.

instagram-travel-thursday-linky-bannerOne of my favorites this week is Cozy up around grand fireplaces in the North Carolina mountains by Leigh Hines of Hines-Sight Blog. Living in Singapore I miss the seasons so this post was a special treat for me where I could pretend I was experiencing the cozy fall season. Thank you Leigh!

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Instagram Travel: Singapore Sun, 06 Oct 2013 13:00:13 +0000 I don’t know about you but sometimes I get so caught up with the idea of traveling to other places that I forget about the very interesting place I call home today, Singapore. After living here for a few years now I still see things I find interesting and continually learn about the culture. As you may already know Singapore, the “Lion City,” is known for its great cuisine, abundance of shopping, tropical weather all year round and one of the most beautiful city skylines set along the picturesque Marina Bay.

When I’m not sharing travel photos on Instagram I like to share some shots from this fascinating city. I attempt to put myself in the mind of the viewers including pictures of things I would find interesting to see of a place maybe I’ve never been before. This week for Instagram Travel Thursday I’m sharing some of my favorite Singapore snaps with you. Maybe they will entice you to one day visit this great place in Asia.

Finally, what is Instagram Travel Thursday you ask? Started by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Lifestyle, this is a great way for passionate travelers to share Instagram travel photos and posts while connecting with like-minded travelers. I personally am finding it to be very inspirational as travel and Instagram are two of my favorite things. Be sure to check out the latest Instagram travel photos and posts and also learn how you can join in on the fun at Instagram Travel Thursday.

instagram-travel-thursday-linky-bannerSpeaking of all this travel Instagram Travel to Ireland this week with KatjaPresnal of Skimbaco and ToDestinationUnknown. They will be sharing photos from the great city of Dublin, Ireland. Sigh. I wish I was there too.

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Instagram Travel: The Magical Cotswolds Thu, 26 Sep 2013 14:27:12 +0000 Limestone villages set in lush, green surroundings. Friendly locals happy to chat it up while you dine in a local pub. Meadows and rolling hills as far as your eye can see. You can’t help but completely surrender to this peaceful place while soaking up its magnificent natural beauty. This is the magic of the Cotswolds, England.

The Cotswolds are a range of hills a couple hours outside of London with quaint villages tucked throughout that together create a truly unique and peaceful place. I love the names of the villages themselves like Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Camden to name a few. After a very busy and fun-filled trip in London and surrounding areas a visit to the Cotswolds was the perfect end to our time in England.

I’m happy to be joining Instagram Travel Thursday this week to take you on a little trip through the beautiful Cotswolds in England. While it’s hard to really capture the true beauty of a place like this through pictures I’ve tried to do give you a little sneak preview through my Instagram photos. I’m a huge fan of Instagram and have found it to be invaluable to share travel experiences with others, learn about possible new travel adventures and best of all a great way to connect with travelers around the globe.

The beautiful Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter, Cotswolds. Where we called home for three relaxing nights.

The beautiful Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter, Cotswolds. This is where we called home for a few relaxing nights.

Relaxing taking in the serene surroundings

Relaxing in the serene surroundings of the Lords of the Manor. I could have stayed there all day.

Quaint villages in the Cotswolds

Typical village in the Cotswolds. Lovely to wander around at your leisure.

One of my favourites. Doesn't this look like the coziest home ever?

One of my favorites from the Cotswolds. Doesn’t this look like the coziest home ever?

Beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water. One of my favorite villages we visited.

Beautiful village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Another favorite of mine to walk around and we also had a good dinner at a local spot.

A very old school in the village of Chipping Campden.

A very old school in the village of Chipping Campden. Love the old etching in the limestone.

I spy a quaint house nestled in the gorgeous greenery.

A village home hidden behind the greenery.

Heavenly cheese scones at a local restaurant in Chipping Campden.

Heavenly lunch of cheese scones in a local tea room we found in Chipping Campden. 

If you’re planning a trip to England I highly recommend a visit to this area to truly get a taste of life in the countryside of England. With all the villages there are plenty of different options for where to stay depending on if you’re traveling solo, with a partner or family. Your time in the Cotswolds can be active exploring the area on bike or taking long walks and hikes. If you’re purely after some relaxation it’s perfect for that too. Renting a car is the best way to get around and you have the freedom to stop wherever you please. Our time in the Cotswolds was a highlight of our trip for me. I’m already looking forward to another visit during our next trip to England.

Finally, what is Instagram Travel Thursday you ask? Started by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Lifestyle, this is a great way for passionate travelers to share Instagram travel photos and posts while connecting with like-minded travelers. I personally am finding it to be very inspirational as travel and Instagram are two of my favorite things. Be sure to check out the latest Instagram travel photos and posts and also learn how you can join in on the fun at Instagram Travel Thursday.


Last but not least, one of my favorites of the week keeping with the England theme is this great post, Day trips from London to home counties, by @HouseofAnais.

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The Wellesley, London Fri, 20 Sep 2013 03:32:44 +0000 As you walk in from a long day of shopping on the streets of bustling London the glass door is swiftly opened as the doorman greets you personally with a smile, “Welcome back Mrs. Paterson. Did you have a nice day?” You step into the elegant lobby feeling like you’ve walked into a friend’s home as smiles and “good afternoon” greetings surround you. Before you even reach the lift, the button is pushed and you simply glide in as it whisks you away up to your floor. You breath a sigh of relief and happiness as you step into your beautifully decorated room and smile because you feel like you’ve arrived home. Kicking off your shoes you nestle your tired feet into the coziest slippers you’ve ever felt and giggle as you walk across the room because you feel like you’re walking on pillows. Allowing yourself to succumb to the luxurious surroundings you throw your tired body on the bed, kick up your feet and gaze out the window at the peaceful view of Hyde Park. First you daydream then quickly find yourself dozing off sinking deeper into the fluffy pillows beneath you. You’re pretty sure this is your own personal idea of heaven. Well, it’s actually the luxury experience of staying at The Wellesley London.

wellesley outside

What is it that makes this property so special? The Wellesley is a boutique, luxury hotel that oozes elegance and sophistication while also maintaining the utmost level of comfort for guests. While the hotel hasn’t even celebrated its first birthday you don’t experience any of those pesky new hotel teething issues and the outstanding service makes you think this property has been open for years. Since it is quite a young hotel everything throughout is shiny and new. No expense seemed to be spared in the rooms themselves and around the hotel. Everything from the décor to the room furnishings are of the highest quality. A friend with fabulous taste recommended The Wellesley to me so I knew we were in for a treat. Thank you again Miss Kitty-Cat!

wellesley lobby

The Wellesley is in a great location situated in the very nice Knightsbridge area of London across from Hyde Park. It’s a perfect escape from the busier parts of the city. High-end boutiques and the infamous Harrods are just a few minutes away along with a plethora of cafes and restaurants. You’re even a quick walk to Buckingham Palace so you can rub elbows with the Queen herself. We discovered Shepherd Street walking distance from the hotel with a few good breakfast spots and pubs. The small area just screamed quintessential London to this American gal.

shepherd street

With only seven deluxe rooms and twenty-nine suites The Wellesley is truly a boutique hotel, which I loved. I’ll take a boutique property any day over a huge hotel brand. The level of personal attention you receive fits well with the boutique theme. The staff truly seems to care. We looked to our concierge for dinner recommendations a couple of nights and these were some of the best dining experiences we had during our entire time in London. My husband realized he needed a last-minute hem on some pants one evening. Within minutes our personal butler was knocking at our door happy to help. We had a small issue with our card key reader but it was resolved quickly while we enjoyed some nice beverages on the house in the lounge area downstairs. On another occasion I had two dresses pressed. The butler was back with the pressed dresses within minutes. I kept looking around for the magic wand she must have waved to get it done so quickly. Needless to say I was truly impressed by the service.

room photo 1

Downstairs by reception and the lobby you’ll find a nice indoor and outdoor bar area where you can also enjoy coffee, tea and nibbles. If you’re a cigar fan like my husband you’ll be pretty excited about the sleek and sophisticated cigar bar. It seemed to be a popular spot at night even for those who weren’t staying at the hotel. If you choose to dine at the hotel they have The Oval Restaurant serving fine Italian cuisine, where you can also enjoy a lovely breakfast. One part of the restaurant transforms into an intimate jazz piano lounge on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. If you’re a fitness fanatic who must get their workout in during your travels you won’t find a gym here but you do have the park right across the street. You do so much walking around London that you get your fair share of exercise as it is.

restaurant single

cigar bar soloTo top it off The Wellesley has some wonderful perks for its guests including a complimentary Rolls-Royce with a driver ready to take you where you need to go. If you didn’t already feel spoiled with luxury at this hotel the minute you sit down in this baby, trust me you will. I had a fleeting vision of imitating the Queen’s dainty hand wave out the window as we were driven to dinner one evening in this beauty.

rolls royce

My husband I have been fortunate to stay at a handful of nice properties during our travels, which I’m grateful for and I have to say The Wellesley is at the top of my list for city hotels. If you’re planning a trip to London, enjoy boutique hotels and are in the mood for a splurge I highly recommend The Wellesley. You too can experience your own personal slice of heaven. I’m quite sure you won’t find anything else like it in all of London.

The Wellesley, 11 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X7LY T: +44 20 7235 3535

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Remembering Aunt Jean Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:35:05 +0000 It’s been thirteen years since that horrible day on September 11, 2001. No matter how many years pass by I don’t think any of us will ever forget. My family and I lost my Aunt Jean on 9/11. I miss her and think of her often. She was taken from us much too soon. As a personal tribute to my Aunt I continue to share this post I wrote about her on the tenth anniversary of that day. I love you and miss you Aunt Jean.

September 11, 2001 is a day nobody will forget. I think everyone can tell you where they were, how they found out and what emotions they felt that tragic day. I know I remember it like it’s yesterday. I remember every detail from that morning. My Aunt Jean was on the 97th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At first I comforted myself with the thought she wouldn’t be at work yet. She just couldn’t be, I kept telling myself. She and I just had a conversation a few weeks before during her visit to California about how we both arrived to work around 9am. But I quickly found out she had gone into the office earlier that day for a project she was working on. My heart sank. I was in shock and disbelief. We never heard from her again. My family and I lost my Aunt in the 9/11 attacks.

Over the past 10 years since 9/11 there have been many days I recall the details and the intense emotions I felt during the entire experience. It was a roller-coaster to say the least. The anger has passed and now what I feel the most is that I miss her. I have chosen to focus on the happy memories I have of my Aunt Jean up until 2001. In my mind this is how you move on so the painful memories and emotions don’t overtake the positive. When I think about my Aunt now, I find myself smiling or laughing thinking of these things. I wanted to write this to share some of those memories and to honor her. I guess this is my own little tribue to my Aunt on this 10-year anniversary and I hope somehow she knows that.

When I was growing up I looked up to my Aunt Jean in so many ways. You know how people have their favorite Aunt or Uncle? My Aunt was that to me. I remember wanting to be just like her in everything she did when I was a little girl. I really admired her. I always felt a kinship and closeness with her. It started when I was a little girl and remained that way as I got older.

Aunt Jean

My Aunt Jean had a very classy style and way about her. One of my favorite memories is when I was a little girl and my Aunt would be putting on her make-up and doing her hair getting ready for a family gathering at our house. I’d plop myself down next to her in the bathroom and just stare in awe while she applied her mascara, her signature bright red lipstick, blush and eyeshadow. I’d beg her to put make up on me too so I could look just like her. I even remember her putting in her contact lenses one time and I told her I wanted to wear them too, obviously because she was. She laughed out loud with that contagious laugh of hers and patiently explained to me I didn’t need to wear them and should be happy about that. Then there was her jewelery. My Aunt Jean and Aunt Ginger, both of my Dad’s sisters, wore these gold bangles. They were like part of their body. You never saw them without them. Sometimes I’d get to put on the bangles myself and get my makeup done just like hers. I loved it. Nine times out of ten I’d walk out of that bathroom with a little bright red lipstick, rouge and blue eyeshadow.

Another time when I was a bit older she had me over for the weekend to her apartmnet. That was like Christmas to me! I got to have my own special time with Aunt Jean with nobody else around and that was simply wonderful. I remember the two of us sitting on the living room floor of her apartment while she showed me her artwork. She was a very talented artist and did some beautiful pieces. I recall her being quite humble about them even though in my eyes they were absolutely amazing. The next day she drove me home in her silver Mazda RX-7 which was like a little sports car. I loved her car and thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread! Of course I decided I wanted one also when I was old enough to drive. My Dad was working for Volvo at the the time and the only car his daughter was going to drive for safety reasons was a Volvo so no surprise that I never ended up in a Mazda RX-7.


Aunt Ginger (left) and Aunt Jean (right) circa 1980s

As years passed and we lived in different parts of the country and world, Aunt Jean and I kept in touch through cards, phone calls and eventually email when it replaced letters. She’d send me meaningful quotes and little things like that she wanted to share with me. Not long before 9/11 she sent me a version of “The Paradox of Our Time.” I loved it when I first read it and it means even more to me now because of my Aunt.

What I remember most about my Aunt Jean was her big, beautiful smile and laugh. She had one of those smiles and laughs that lit up a room. If you met her, you loved her. She had that type of personality. She was intelligent, driven and successful in her career. She had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember her looking glamorous in all black and the animal print scarves she loved so much. She was very caring and loving, especially to her nieces and nephews. I loved how she called me her little princess and she’d sing that song “K-K-K Katy” to me. I could go on and on.

I miss my Aunt very much. At times I find myself wondering what our conversations would be like now if she was still here. What advice she would have given me over the past ten years the times I would have gone to her about my career, moving overseas, relationships or just life? When I’m faced with big decisions in my life I think of her, what she would say to me and how she would handle it. I find it gives me strength and comfort. I know she’s watching over me.

On this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and my Aunt Jean’s death I am writing this in her honor, as a tribute to her. I love you and miss you Aunt Jean. We will never forget.

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A taste of England Tue, 03 Sep 2013 02:54:21 +0000 There I was enjoying a warm sunny afternoon sprawled out on the soft grass soaking up the summer sunshine feeling totally relaxed. A chilled vibe wafts through the air of the park. I couldn’t help but smile falling deeper into holiday mode, all of my worries slipping away. Beautiful summer weather in this peaceful place was perfect. I bet you’ll never believe where I was this exquisite summer afternoon? Hyde Park in London, England my friends. What’s this nonsense about horrible English weather? I’m beginning to think those are all tall tales. This set the tone for a very special trip to England that included gorgeous weather the entire time, unforgettable experiences with great people, impressive sights and of course delicious food. Oh, did I mention I bumped into David Beckham himself in Harrods? Read on for the juicy details of that encounter.

In July Ozdane and I were lucky enough to spend almost an entire month in the land of scones, the Queen’s English and afternoon tea. This was my first time to England and we were going for a couple big events, which made the trip even more special. Some good friends got married in the beautiful Suffolk countryside where we got to stay in a spectacular, old hall dating back to 1354. We went on tour with the Singapore Cricket Club who Ozdane plays for here in Singapore. We were even in the country when the royal baby was born which for me was the icing on the cake. Unfortunately we weren’t actually in London when George was born as we were enjoying the Cotswolds but it was very exciting nonetheless with all the buzz over the momentous occasion.

mixed collage1

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen some photos from our adventure. When we were planning the trip I remember feeling overwhelmed as there is so much to see in England so how do you decide where to go, how long to stay where, what to see and so on? Of course we solicited suggestions from trusted friends and the social media world came in especially handy for hotels, destinations, restaurants and more. I highly recommend leveraging your social media network when planning travel. You may be surprised how helpful it turns out to be. Instagram and Facebook coupled with a lot of TripAdvisor research worked best for us.

Touring around London seeing all the main attractions was on the list especially since this was my first visit. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Tower of London, London Eye, Tower Bridge and Big Ben are a few of the spots we toured. A couple of highlights for me were the Crown Jewels on display at the Tower of London and visiting the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. If you’re a fan of English literature it’s pretty exciting to see the words of some of the greatest writers on the floor in the abbey and of course what gal doesn’t enjoying drooling over some magnificent, sparkling jewels? I also enjoyed the Kensington Palace tour including the lovely photos of Diana and of course William and Kate.

london replace 1Collage

I wasn’t sure about actually going up in the London Eye but I do recommend it purely for the views you get of the city sprawled beneath you. I also highly recommend you buy the express tickets in advance online so you skip the lines especially in peak season. We endured the long wait one morning to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and I’m glad we did. Some think it’s worth it, others not so much. As Ozdane so eloquently captured his Instagram photo, “After 1.5 hours waiting to watch a bunch of men in red jackets and black fluffy hats walk in unison.” So, clearly this was more of a “Katy wants to do” activity. When you travel with a partner or friends it does come down to compromise on some things doesn’t it? It’s all part of the fun.

changing of guard

Ozdane and I love to just walk around different neighborhoods to get a good feel for the areas when we go to a new destination and since I’m an avid people watcher/observer I especially enjoy this. We hit up most of the shopping areas and explored neighborhoods like Notting Hill, Covent Garden, Soho and Chelsea. We made the most of the bright, sunny days strolling around Hyde Park and Green Park. We definitely did our fair share of walking. That is one of the things I really loved about London. You can walk for ages and just hail a black cab or hop on the tube when your feet are killing you, which will happen by the way. I also loved the energy of the city, the diversity and most of all the meeting of the beautiful, old buildings mixed in with the contemporary. That old history is everywhere around you in England, well Europe really I suppose. It makes you stop and think about how just how young America and Australia are in comparison.

london signs

Don’t forget one of the best parts of being on holiday, indulging in exquisite cuisine! I always feel like I have this magical free pass to eat anything and everything I see since I’m on holiday. The fact I was pregnant during our travels, (and still am), made the indulging feel even more necessary. One of our first nights in London we went to a great, traditional English pub, The Grenadier in Belgrave Square in the Knighstbridge area of London. It’s hard to beat starting off your trip with a succulent, traditional Sunday roast. Some other delicious foodie favorites of mine in England include the scrumptious scones that I could eat every, single day if they were at my fingertips, traditional meat pies, fish and chips by the sea, juicy steaks and the biggest hot fudge sundae I’ve ever eaten in my life at the decadent Fortnum & Mason in London. Yes my friends, I ate the entire thing!


Our adventures outside of London took us to the beautiful countryside areas of Colchester and Suffolk first for a very special wedding of some good friends. During the cricket tour we visited a few villages and towns including Sevenoaks and Arundel, home of the Arundel Castle. We finished off our trip in the breath-taking Cotswolds, which is hands down one of the most gorgeous places I’ve been on my travels. I had seen pictures of the English countryside but to experience it is a completely different story. It’s nature in one of its most beautiful forms with rolling green hills surrounding you, quaint villages, some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and a sense of serenity that washes over you as you make your way through this special part of the world. Whether you’re driving, walking or enjoying a bike ride in the country the landscape is nothing short of spectacular. I took every opportunity I could get to breathe in the crisp, clean, fresh air we don’t get here in Singapore. I went for a walk one morning and just stopped to listen to the most peaceful sound of all, silence. No hustle and bustle, no honking cars, nobody rushing around, no tall buildings, no stress, it was magical. I found myself wondering at times what it would be like to live somewhere like that where you’re so far removed from the daily hectic life and things are simpler in a positive way. A trip to the sea for fish and chips gave us a glimpse of the stunning seaside areas. We also did a day trip to Bath, which quickly became a favorite city of mine after only a few hours there. More to come on our countryside jaunts in an upcoming post.

country Collage

Bath Collage

OK ladies, by far the biggest highlight for me personally was my David Beckham sighting in the famous Harrods department store! Yes, it really happened and no, I didn’t intrude on his privacy and ask for a photo although I have found myself regretting that decision later at times. When I say sighting I mean less than five feet away walking towards me while I fumbled over bags and tried to remember how to mutter a single word of the English language. I never see famous people, much less extremely gorgeous famous people, so I was a deer caught in headlights to put it mildly. Ozdane was there as my witness. Sigh.

Needless to say our trip to England was a memorable one. In upcoming posts I’ll share more about our countryside adventures and also reviews on some of the wonderful accommodation we stayed at during our visit including luxury hotels and an old English manor house nestled in the Cotswolds. For now I’ll leave you dreaming of delicious delicacies like scones and Becks himself!

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Tipping While Traveling in Different Countries Fri, 17 May 2013 02:04:37 +0000 A version of this post was published on The Trend Tribe, July 17, 2012.

Imagine you just indulged in the most luxurious massage and body wrap while listening to the ocean waves pounding on the beach in beautiful Hoi An, Vietnam. As you slowly come to out of your haze of relaxation the question that pops into your head is, how do I show my gratuity for this incredible massage in an acceptable manner? What’s the appropriate amount to leave? Do they prefer the local currency or are US dollars acceptable? You’re quickly snapped back to reality with these questions spinning in your mind.

While traveling it’s natural to encounter various cultural differences ranging from traditional customs to basic etiquette. Falling in the etiquette category is the custom of tipping. Being American tipping is something that is just ingrained in me. America is such a huge tipping culture that it has become second nature to us. You receive a service and you leave gratuity, it’s as simple as that. However I quickly learned as I started to travel years ago this greatly varies by country and cultures. This can be tricky since tipping etiquette varies around the world not only by country but also by region and circumstance.


In a few countries tipping is not openly accepted. In other countries like the U.S. if you don’t tip you could have a furious waiter chasing you down the street demanding one. Yes, I’ve experienced this first-hand more than once in San Francisco!

So how can you keep track of the different customs? Hopefully the guidelines below will come in handy when you’re faced with this dilemma during your travels.

Do your destination research. Most travel guides will include information about tipping. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines for various services including restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, taxis and tour guides. Tipping Tips is a great app available for download.

Check to see if US dollars are acceptable as gratuity in your destination before you go. Sometimes it’s more difficult for local people to convert and it’s better to tip in the local currency.

Here are general guidelines for some popular destinations outside the U.S. Some of this is based on my personal experience traveling in the different regions.

Asia. China and Japan are non-tipping cultures. In China if you desire to tip for good service do so discreetly and they most likely will accept it. In Japan it won’t be accepted. That has been my experience anyway. I’ve always found this interesting since this is where I’ve experienced the best service in the world. Tipping isn’t common in South Korea either although most hotel and restaurant staff will accept tips from tourists. In the rest of Asia 10 to 15 percent is customary.

In places like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam tipping has become more common thanks to the growing number of tourists to these beautiful destinations. If  you’re staying at a five-star luxury resort for example you should probably tip the staff however don’t feel obligated to leave gratuity for service at every cafe you dine at either.

Europe. A service charge is normally added to your bill in restaurants in Western Europe. If a service charge is included then leaving a small amount is fine.  If it isn’t included then leave 10 to 15 percent depending on the quality of service. For porters in hotels 1 to 2 euros is acceptable. Eastern Europe can vary so check your travel guide.

Australia/New Zealand. Both countries follow western tipping guidelines of 10 to 15 percent today in the big cities. If you’re dining in a nice restaurant or staying in a four or five-star hotel in Sydney or Melbourne tip 10 to 15 percent depending on service quality. However don’t feel pressure to tip in bars or taxis. When I first moved to Sydney my Aussie work colleagues always gave me a hard time for tipping the bartender for each drink  saying I was spoiling it for the rest of them. Like I said, it’s practically part of my DNA!

Middle East. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most popular tourist spots packed with restaurants, shopping, entertainment galore and luxury hotels. Tipping isn’t essential in these places but is given for good service usually in the 10 to 15 percent range. One thing you’ll notice in these places as well as Singapore and some other destinations is a “service fee” or “service charge” usually around 10 percent included in your bill at a restaurant. Keep in mind this doesn’t always go the staff so if you had exceptionally good service be sure to leave your server cash as a tip to ensure she/he gets it. The flip side of that is if you receive very average service don’t feel obligated to leave anything in addition to the service fee or service charge.

South/Central America. Service charge is usually included in restaurants however if it isn’t then 10 to 15 percent is customary. $1 for bags in hotels and 10 percent for other services is fine. Tipping isn’t expected in Peru and Brazil except in restaurants.

Africa. Tipping 10 to 15 percent is the norm. Keep in mind that in South Africa local currency is preferred over foreign currency.

I’d love to hear about your experiences and insights with tipping when traveling in different countries in the world.

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