Staycation: St Regis

Booked ourselves in yet another weekend staycation. This time round, we tried out St Regis Hotel. We thought we will be venturing out of the hotel room.. I did picture leisurely walks around the Botanic Gardens and a spot of window shopping around the Orchard Road belt but all these grand plans were shelved for the kid had a mind of her own and preferred to stay indoors with room service and Netflix (again). So call this over Lim version of SHN where we literally holed up indoors for about 48 hours with the exception of going to the restaurant for breakfast and then dinner.  That said, the view of Orchard was pretty scenic and it was nice to peek into some of these huge properties with an enviable size of a swimming pool.

This is the kid’s idea of a perfect weekend in. Room service with fries plus her fave cheese and ham toastie. Yup, that’s what we basically did all weekend. Holed up as Saturday saw grey skies which derailed our pool plans but I managed to squeeze in some of my work at the Company as well as finish off my book on the Kindle. I’m really glad that after getting the Kindle, I’ve started reading more again. It really helps to take my mind of indulging in social media which of late, has brought more emotional harm than any kind of good.

On our second night, we did manage to finally emerge from our room to head out for dinner. My fave kind of cuisine – Japanese!

It was a treat for the girl too since we all missed Japan very much!

We didn’t manage to sit at the counter but we got a private room instead for we were dining with a child under 7. I guess the upside to this is that the kid got to watch her programme without us shouting at her to lower down the volume.

And before heading home, we were thankful for the clear, blue skies that allowed us to hit the pool for a bit. Water was really, really cold so I couldn’t manage to head in without screaming. I just thank God for the Man who doubled-up as a play-mate for her.

So here’s my overall view of our stay in St Regis:

  • Hotel facilities are a little dated and they do seem a little understaffed so our Room Service requests did take a while to come.
  • Our toilet as well as our air-con did break down during our stay but thankfully, they managed to fix it without us having to move to another new room.
  • Rooms were pretty clean, toiletries were basic and nothing much to shout about.
  • There isn’t Netflix installed on their built-in televisions, so do bring your personal devices if needed.

Would we come back? Probably not.

On to our next staycation! 🙂

Staycation: Raffles Hotel

Well, since we can’t really travel for now and do not have nearby towns/ cities because of our country’s limitations on land, we decided the next best thing we can do for a short get-away is a staycation.  The little one couldn’t be happier to just stay under the sheets, order room service and just watch her fave cartoons on Netflix as we whiled away our weekend. Just check out that face.Over the National Day long weekend, we checked ourselves in for a night at the recently renovated Raffles Hotel. It was such a treat for the girl and she couldn’t wait to jump straight into bed. But sleeping was not what she was keen on doing.. instead, after checking out the room, she immediately asked for us to turn on the TV and then proceeded to ransack for snacks. We didn’t have any.. attribute it to last minute poor planning which I haphazardly just dumped a couple of dresses into an overnight bag.

Well, at least we got similar outfits to twin on our staycation.

The girl wasted no time in tucking into sweet treats courtesy of the hotel in celebration of National Day after enjoying a warm bubble bath complete with a Lush bomb.

The hotel’s grounds were spacious and we actually didn’t cover much for the room made for a great stay-in. I managed to squeeze in a luxurious massage (thankfully) and after that, we had an early dinner booked in for Butcher’s Block. Steak was fine but not superbly memorable. And after our bellies were filled, we strolled leisurely back to our room. We had grand plans to watch the annual fireworks from our balcony but the fireworks were best enjoyed from the Marina Bay area. We were obviously not in the right location but well, the live telecast of the parade coupled with the best company surely made up for it!

The next morning, she lazed in bed and because we wanted to avoid the crowds and possibly not over-eat from the breakfast buffet selection, we just ordered another round of room-service.

Living the best life for now and she ain’t complaining for sure! For us, we are just thankful that we are able to provide this bit of happiness for her and spend the entire day with her.

Of course, no vacation or rather staycation is quite complete without a visit to the pool. Pre Covid days, everyone would be hanging out by the pool and soaking in the rays. Now, in order to hit the pool, you will need to make an appointment to book the slot for the family. Each family is given about 1.5 hours at the pool so do check with the hotel on their procedures for the pool and see if you are comfortable with their approach.

The kid had so much fun and to be honest, me too! I slept at 9.30pm and had one of the most restful sleep I’ve ever had. I probably attributed this to the black-out curtains or quite possibly having too much to drink over dinner that I was knocked out. But it was fun and we are looking forward to our next ‘staycation’.

Cat cafe for kids in Tokyo (MOCHA Takeshita Street)

Pet cafes such as owl, hedgehogs and even cat cafes are apparently a plenty in Japan but not every cafe allow kids under a certain age. While planning for our family trip to Tokyo, I did want to bring the little one to visit a cat cafe since she has always loved cats.

I went online in search of a few of these cafes that would allow kids of 5 and above in and thankfully, we managed to find one conveniently located in Harajuku. The girl was beyond excited and I think it must have marked one of her highlights of our family holiday. We visited the cafe on a public holiday so there was a short queue that formed when we arrived. Thankfully, it moved pretty fast for the girl not to whine about the situation.

We had to sanitise our hands as well as leave our shoes behind before entering the premises of the cat cafe. When the doors to the cat land opened, the girl went wild! She was beyond thrilled to see so many cats under one roof and wasted no time in asking me to fork out some money for cat treats for her to entice the cats to come to her.  FYI, cat treats start from 500 yen.

She had such a fun time chasing after the cats and then pouting when none of them would sit next to her to let her pat them.  It was priceless watching her interact with the cats and then being so gentle with them.

The Man and I aren’t particularly big on the feline creatures but I have to say that there are several breeds of cats that are found in this cat cafe and they were fun to look like. We probably spent an hour in this cafe prancing up and down while the girl wanders off to find a new feline pal to play with.

As a family, I’m glad we did this for the kiddo. Look at her beam from ear to ear! So if your kid is a cat lover just as much as ours, do bring them to the Cat Cafe in Japan. It will make for a fun and memorable experience.

Cat Cafe Mocha

AddressJapan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−19−9 プライム原宿 2F

Those who are between 3 and 12 years old can only enter this shop accompanied by a guardian.

Price: ¥200/ 10 minutes- Maximum Charge
– General ¥2,400
– Junior High/High School Students ¥1,200 *Weekdays onlySeparately ¥350 is charged required fees for All-you-can-drink.* All listed prices are excluding tax.

Atelier Crenn

Final Table series on Netflix got me real excited about heading to San Francisco. I really wanted to visit the winner’s restaurant but we were only in San Fran for two days and the Man worked out the itinerary for both nights. So a miss it was. That said, I was also excited to check out Atelier Crenn by Dominique Crenn who’s restaurant was also critically acclaimed by many food lovers. She was also featured on Chef’s Table and watching her particular episode got me excited about going to her restaurant (that recently received the 3 Michelin stars award). That said, we knew she wasn’t going to be there as she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. 😦

Gotta love Summers overseas for the day is longer and the sun only sets about 8 odd pm. Our first stop before dinner was drinks at Bar Crenn – conveniently situated next to Atelier Crenn, of course.

First round, bubbly to celebrate our friend’s upcoming birthday.

And we saved our bellies for a supposed epic meal but couldn’t resist starting with a round of oysters that were glammed up with keffir lime jello. Very refreshing for the palette indeed. We were later showed to our table where our epic dining experience began. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for each course was a story waiting to be unfold/ untold.

This is acutally my fave part of the meal. Something simple and humble like the perfect brioche bun paired with the prettiest slab of homemade butter dusted with beautiful florals.

Burger Land!

It’s been nearly 9 years since we last visited San Francisco and this time round, we headed back to the Bay area with our friends. The Man was on a Pro-Am tour and the golf wives tagged along while the husbands swung their golf clubs at Pebble Beach.

Burgers are a staple in the US and when we were there, I guess we couldn’t quite pass up a burger. So here are the two famous burger joints that we checked out during our stay around the Pebble Beach area.

Had my first In-N-Out Burger nearly 9 years ago, I didn’t think it was that great but with Shake Shack opening in Singapore and a crazy wait of at least 60 minutes and up, I thought to give In-N-Out another go.

For me, burger was pretty basic. Patty was juicy, the proportion of meat to the veggies were just nice and the buns were soft and toasty. Size-wise, it was good enough for a meal on-the-go.

Fries were not entirely impressive. In fact, after finishing our burger, the fries turned limp. In the end, we just left half a pack of the fries untouched. So go for the cheeseburger, if you must, make a meal with fries. But otherwise, if your stomach has enough space, go for two burgers then.

On our second visit to In-N-Out with the men, I didn’t feel like having carbs on my burger, so I swapped the buns for a lettuce wrap instead. Yeah, they do have veggie wrap options so speak to the server and explore other alternatives. I’ve also learned of a “secret” menu (not so secret now that I’ve decided to blog about it). There is an “animal” style option that our friend insisted we try. I got a little confused because one of our friends ordered their burger “animal” style and got more veggies plus onions with it. That’s where our lead ended. So if you do know what the “animal” style option entails in the burger. Pray tell.

Our friends who went with us on the trip have been raving about Five Guys burger joint. We were not sure if we would stumble across one so we were pretty pleased to find the Five Guys burger chain at Sand City (approximately 15-20 minute drive from Pebble Beach).

One should probably steer clear of Five Guys if you are on a diet for the portions here are true to what one can expect – ie: American sizing/ portion. The dining experience at Five Guys ain’t fancy but it’s a fun one for you get to pick and choose the variety of toppings that you would like to be accompanied with the burger. The concept is pretty close to how Subway does it for their subs but for burgers at Five Guys.

What I really enjoyed about the burger from Five Guys is that it was truly juicy with every bite. The toppings that I picked ranged from mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, pepperoni, etc is what I would like to be placed for my burger. I also liked the attention to detail paid on the packaging. Using foil to wrap the burger may not necessarily be environmentally friendly but guess what, given how generous the toppings were and how thick the burger eventually became, the foil helped kept the burger intact (unlike paper packaging) while I tried to gracefully finish my burger without looking like some hungry maniac.

I hear that Five Guys maybe making its way to Singapore sometime this year. This would be a place to look out for. I doubt prices will come cheap but it’s definitely worth checking it out at least once.

 

New Zealand – a little something for everyone!

This is a re-cap of our annual family holiday that we took in 2018. YIKES! I know.. but it has been a crazy couple of months, with work at the Company and then work at MAPL (retail peak season), it’s like I finally got a chance to take a short break on my own and just chilling on ME time when the Bub goes off to bed.

But blogging has always remained close to my heart, so here’s an attempt of putting down the memories as I clear my back-log of photos/ posts.

Why New Zealand?

When the Man asked where we should go for our annual trip, I suggested New Zealand. Mostly because if we didn’t want to go back to Europe and a trip to the US with a young kid does sound quite daunting. New Zealand was a country I had wanted to head back to for friends with young kids who have been there do give it a thumbs-up for being close to nature. Also, I visited New Zealand when I was a teenager and it would be nice to go back to visit a country and see the changes that it has undergone in the last 20 years.

For our trip to New Zealand, the Man decided to use a travel company to plan our family holiday. We knew most holidays in New Zealand are self-drive but driving on holidays are also quite stressful – planning the route, making sure that the hours on the road are not too long for the driver, rest-stops, etc – the Man didn’t want to deal with this. I wasn’t going to be a good navigator, so we decided to leave the planning of our holiday in the good hands of the people who knew the ins and outs of the country instead.

As for the itinerary, we did have a couple of things that we wanted to incorporate on our holiday, such as golf for the man as well as sight-seeing for both me and the Bub. Because the Man and I are both big on wine and food, we wanted an itinerary that would be curated to suit our needs.

What we did as a family?

We couldn’t quite call it a holiday in New Zealand if we didn’t visit the Hobbiton Movie Set tour. This was done on Day 2 of our holiday where we didn’t quite adjust to NZ time yet and was horribly late in meeting our guide. The weather was also very deary and cold. We needed to be out at the set for a good 1 – 1.5 hours and so we braved the rains/ winds, dressed the Bub as warm as possible and decided to put forth our best smiles for the camera.

The tour coupled with anecdotes from our guide made it very enjoyable. We did catch Lord of the Rings and could associate with a couple of familiar scenes from the actual set. The Bub was probably tired from the cold so the Man did his fair share of weight-lifting as we meandered around the tiny set.

Fun fact! The Royals were also in town when we arrived in New Zealand and we visited some of the attractions before they did.

We (or least I) get a thrill out of saying ‘We did it first!’ before the Royals did. The Redwood Treewalk at Rotura was very enjoyable as the weather was cool and being up in the trees felt pretty surreal. The kid was also very adventurous in being the first to complete the tree-top walk. Competitive indeed!

Day 4 of our holiday, we took a private boat-ride on Lake Taupo where we experienced Taupo’s crystal clear waters. We sailed past the famous Maori Rock Carving which is only accessible on the water and it’s a must-see in Taupo.

We also opted to fish while on board as the area is protected and to fish in the lake, a special license must be obtained. Thankfully the weather cleared up quite a fair bit and sunshine greeted us as we both tried our hand at fishing.  The Bub also wanted in on the fun and was a tad disappointed when the fish she caught got away. We had to pacify her a little and tell her to try harder.

What we did in Queenstown:

In Queenstown where we spent the remaining 5 days of our holiday, we took a chartered plane ride to visit the famed Milford Sound. It was very beautiful admiring the alpine scenery and rainforest from the top. I think what would have made it more enjoyable on the almost hour-long plane-ride is if it could be accompanied with commentary or some music. The Bub was obviously very soothed by the ride that she fell asleep almost immediately after the plane took off. We were supposed to do a cruise back into town but because the weather had been bad while we were there, it was cancelled eventually.

We also enjoyed the Ben Lomond High Country Station private tour that saw us on an ATV zipping in and out of the countryside while stopping by to say hello to the thousands of sheep that were grazing on the hills. The little one enjoyed this up-close-and-personal touch with nature very much and was super thrilled by how the ATV could maneuver through tiny roads and river streams.

All in all, this trip to New Zealand saw us bond as a family and allowed us or rather me to fully rest from the hustle and bustle of city/ normal life. I really have been so worn out with work and it was good to just to not do anything and just turn in early to let the body rest.

I’ve only just scratched the surface on what we did on our holiday! Will probably try to find time to blog about where we stayed and what we ate in a follow-up post! Till then, dreaming of our next holiday already.

 

Sydney with the girls (a Mommy and daughter trip)

It feels like not too long ago, I was tumbling down the slopes of Tomamu in Hokkaido and a couple of weeks later, we packed our bags to head down under for a Mom-and-Girl Brat trip. Yes, sans husband/ father for 5 days and 4 nights.

Pretty manageable now that the girls are older but also pretty crazy because even though the meltdowns are lesser, there were moments where they individually drove us moms bat-shit crazy. I guess the expectations of them as little girls are higher compared to when they were toddlers where we could just brush it off and say that they are still young, they don’t know. But they do know.

Our itinerary this trip was pretty much rest and relaxed. Well, largely because Libby and I were so busy with MAPL days leading up to the trip that we didn’t really have much time to do much planning. I guess the whole point of a holiday is that we just figure out along the way and just have fun. Which we did.

Here’s a quick summary of what we did, what we ate and basically, how we survived with two little kids in tow.

How we traveled around Sydney:

We took the red eye from Singapore to Sydney and about 1 hour into the flight, both girls slept for a good 5-6 hours which allowed me to catch up on all the movies that I really wanted to watch but didn’t get a chance to. Win! After we landed into Sydney, we booked our airport transfer from babytaxis.com.au simply because we heard/ know that it’s pretty strict in Australia and kids needed to be strapped in with their own child-seat. Initially we wanted to bring our own Trunk booster seat but realised that we couldn’t as the seat did not comply with the standards of car safety stipulated by the Australian Government.

How we got around Sydney? We relied heavily on public transport such as the train and taxis. We used Uber alot and indicated clearly to the assigned drivers that we had two kids at the age of 4. Some days we were lucky and the drivers actually accepted our booking and insisted that we belt them up. On some occasions, we would get rejected. We later found out that if you are traveling with young kids and do not have a car-seat, you could simply book a cab or flag down a taxi. All you needed to do is to belt the kids up with the safety seats. So that became our favoured mode of transport for nearby locations.

Otherwise, most of the time, we really explored the nearby attractions by foot and pushed the girls around in their compact city strollers by Mimosa. We were invited to test this newly launched product by Mothercare and it was a life-saver. The girls are at a age where they are slightly too heavy to be carried all the time. If we drag them on their feet to walk, I’m sure we will be stopping every 1 minute or so only to hear their complaining and whining that they are simply too tired. The city compact stroller was lightweight and easy to maneuver around the crowded streets of Sydney. The girls loved being in the stroller and when it was time for a nap, they happily snoozed in it while us moms continued shopping. Not bad at all. Highly recommend a compact stroller if you are planning your next city getaway with a kid.

Where we stayed:

Libby suggested that we get a 2-bedroom service apartment located near shops/ restaurants around Darling Habour. It was a lovely and comfortable stay that provided all the comfort of what a home would give for a short-stay. The girls had a great time play-pretend camping and swimming in the make-shift pool which was actually their bath-tub. The apartment was close to Darling Harbour where we brought the girls too on Good Friday when almost everything was shut. It was also close to Surry Hills where the girls enjoyed a scoop of that creamy artisanal Gelato Messina before burning their energy at a nearby playground.

What I particularly liked about the area was that shopping was also a stone’s throw away from where we were. A walk down the street and Queen Victoria Building plus the swanky Westfield shopping mall were just within our reach. For ease of convenience, Coles supermarket was just downstairs our apartment. That really helped when we needed to stock up fast on groceries plus wine or even grab a bite or two.

Where we went:

On entertaining the kids, again, we had grand plans to bring them to the zoo, to Bondi beach, to check out the Sydney Opera House (which we did for all of 10 minutes), but I guess nothing really mattered to them except being around each other to play with. I did manage to score a reservation at the highly popular Grounds at Alexandria Cafe. But, guess what? We overslept the next morning – girls slept at 1am and the moms slept at 3.30am. So our best laid plans went awry. We settled for a leisure breakfast around the hood and then chilled out.

Ahead of our trip, we did purchase tickets online to the Sydney Royal Easter Show which was this grand carnival affair where the highlight of the show was the Easter Showbags filled with merchandise that you probably may or may not want at a value that you will certainly get for more.

There were like nearly 100 different types of showbags to cater practically every age group. Our eyes widened when we entered the grounds but we tried our best to control given that we have limited luggage space plus we didn’t want to bring home more things than what the girls actually needed.  So we let the girls choose one showbag each. I would have loved for mine to pick either the Disney Princess or My Little Pony themed showbag, but she went straight for the LOL Surprise Doll showbag. Well, since we don’t get much LOL Surprise Doll merchandise in Singapore plus each doll actually cost so much, I decided to let her get it. One of the other reasons is that the merchandise that were in this particular showbag actually looked quite pleasing to the eye.

We also brought the girls on some rides and then each of them had a scoop of ice-cream as a treat while we Mamas rested on the bench with cold coffees/ beverages. For Autumn, the weather in Sydney felt surprisingly hot.

But we are thankful for the warm weather and the blue skies that allowed us to fully enjoy the Sydney Royal Easter Show. We spent about 4 hours exploring the area which was really huge. We heard that there are several activities that are lined up for kids and adults that will go all the way to the night but well, we didn’t have enough energy to last till then.

Where we ate:

There are no lack of restaurants and cafes in Sydney. Prior to the Bub’s arrival, I would have taken the time to go hunt down the coolest cafes and restaurants to dine in. But I find it somewhat harder to do that with a kid because truth be told, their schedules (as erratic as it sounds) do take precedent. Luckily for us, we had Libby who already knew a couple of hip/ cool places that we could go to so I felt comforted of being part of the dining scene in Sydney.

While the girls took their naps, Libby and I had a good work-out from our hotel to Surry Hills and hunted down Bourke Street Bakery. The sausage roll (fresh out off the oven) were divine and what I really enjoyed more was this ginger creme brulee tart. The caramelised sugar crust had a nice crunch and there was just about the right amount of ginger flavouring to the creme brulee as the dessert entered my mouth. By the way, we didn’t just stop at one tart. We decided to bag one back to the apartment as well.

On Good Friday when most of Sydney was shut, we managed to find Devon Cafe open and we headed there with the troop. There was a short 15 minutes wait where we got the girls to run around before we were promptly seated. Devon Cafe serves up hearty Asian fusion meals and we really enjoyed the miso grilled salmon while the girls couldn’t pass up the fries during the meal.

And I guess no trip is complete if we didn’t make our way down to the Adriano Zumbo kiosk for macarons for the little ones. They really enjoyed it and so did we. The salted caramel ones were my fave.

There you have it, a quick round-up of our 5D4N trip to Sydney. Lovely memories to last us till our next holiday! 🙂