van gogh museum

I’ve always been drawn to the bold colours, somewhat childish charm and honest simplicity of Van Gogh’s artwork. Visiting Van Gogh Museum was of course on the top of my list during this trip to Amsterdam.

Bedroom in Arles, first version. 1888

van gogh museum

Getting to Van Gogh Museum wasn’t difficult but the queue in front of the museum was scarily long. That’s normal. People queue for 1 hour to buy a ticket to get in the museum on a weekday usually. Lucky for us, we saved that hour by chance. There’s Diamond Museum on the other side of the street, literally opposite to Van Gogh Museum. Being a girl, I wanted to check out what they have. It turns out to be nothing special (Buckingham palace has bigger, extraordinarily sparkling and more diamonds for you to see) so within 5 minutes, we were on the way out. Next to exit, I spotted a sign: skip the line to Van Gogh Museum; buy ticket here for the same price. We bought the tickets there, walked towards the door next to the long queue with nobody in front of us, showed our tickets to the guard and there we were, inside the Van Gogh museum immediately.

“I put my heart and soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process.” Van Gogh

Security check was required and no photograph was allowed in the museum. We spent a good few hours in the museum, totally forgot about the time. Going through the entire amazing collection of his original work, I gained so much insight into Van Gogh’s rather short life, professional growth and personal emotions behind his artwork. To date, I am still deeply saddened by his lifelong struggle. Pardon me. I always thought Van Gogh might be a little obsessed with himself since he created so many self-portraits. As a matter of fact, I learnt, it was because it cost him nothing to paint himself. Although he was unable to pay for models, he was determined to master the art of portraiture as he thought this might earn him some money in the future.

How Van Gogh became an artist later in his life and rose to fame after death fascinated me. Indeed, these are 3 key ingredients to success: talent, consistently hard work and effective marketing campaign. Vincent Van Gogh’s brother Theo suggested that Vincent might train as an artist after his failure in previous careers.  At that time, Vincent was 27 years old. His life as an artist lasted only 10 years. Without a doubt, he was talented, not only in painting but also in expressing himself, through his artwork and large amount of letters. How hard did he study and work in those 10 years! Approximately 1,100 drawings and almost 900 paintings were produced. Sadly he only lived to the age of 37. Theo died 6 months after his death. Theo’s young widow Jo van Gogh-Boner shared the ambition of Theo who was determined to establish Vincent’s reputation, was convinced of the importance of Van Gogh’s art. She administered Van Gogh collection on behalf of her young son with drive and passion, oranised exhibitions to gain publicity for the works, sold paintings to art dealer and prepared the first Dutch edition of Vincent and Theo’s correspondence (published in 1914). I couldn’t help but wonder: without his letters being published, would people get to know Van Gogh’s personal struggles and emotions expressed in his artwork so well? Without Jo’s full commitment in marketing Van Gogh’s work, would many people in the world even know his name or appreciate his work this much? I used to dislike sales and marketing staff’s arrogant comments that they make money for the company and they are the most important part of the company. Thinking back, the attitude is still arrogant but maybe after all, there’s some truth in it.

The potato eaters, 1885

van gogh museum

On the way out, we told people waiting in the long queue outside Van Gogh museum that they could buy tickets just across the road in Diamond museum and get in the Van Gogh museum straight away. A mother and her daughter confirmed the direction with me, happily left the queue. Other people stayed where they were, staring at us suspiciously. I smiled politely and walked away. Most people would just follow the majority and I totally get it. It’s easier that way.

Check out this Sunflower!!! – You are right, this is no Van Gogh. J took this photo in his mum’s garden:)




It is hard to pick which one is my favorite messenger bag, but the Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag with adjustable long shoulder strap has proven to be superbly handy for travel and shopping hands free.

Louis Vuitton Hudson GM Paris

Walking along Champs Elysees, Paris

Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag first caught my eyes simply because, it is a good-looking bag! This modern city bag offers loads of classic appeal, reminds me of Louis Vuitton Manhattan bags but smaller and less heavy. There were GM and PM models, short and long shoulder straps to choose from and I picked GM size with adjustable long shoulder strap. This GM size measures W31 x H24 x D10 cm, not that big.

I took it traveling with me for its style, size and functionality. The Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag can be easily dressed up and down. You can wear it with dresses or jeans for dressy or casual wear. Rest assured in any cases, it’d look the part. I have smaller sized messenger bags but this time I chose my Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag because it is not super big that can become heavy and it is big enough to hold a lot, including a tablet/ipad. I love it the most for its functionality – it has so many pockets! There are 2 front exterior pockets with golden brass press lock closure where I normally put hotel room swipe card and some change coins for convenience in one and a compact mirror, lip gloss and hair bands in another. There’s one larger zippered pocket on the front where I would keep our passports and travel tickets and documents handy.  The spacious interior is big enough to hold a large long wallet, a tablet/ipad, maps and travel books. There are 2 open wall pockets inside to keep loose items organised, one is perfect for larger mobile phones we have nowadays. Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag with adjustable long shoulder strap is indeed a better choice. Wear it cross body, you don’t have to hold it or adjust its position on your shoulder all the time.

OK, here’s one thing I need to mention. The push locks of the front pockets make that “cling, cling” noise when you walk. It did annoy me a little bit from time to time. But hey, I’m sure it also prevented me from being pick-pocketed at busy tourist spots.

Just a few other photos where my Louis Vuitton Hudson GM bag made appearances.

Louis Vuitton Hudson GM Bag

Louvre, Paris

The Great Wall, China

The Great Wall, China

 

 

Don’t ever skip breakfast; it is the most important meal of the day!

~ Yes mum.

Don’t have cold food in the morning. It’s not good for your stomach!

~ Alright mum.

Make sure you buy fresh food everyday!

~ Ok mum, I’ll try.

 And don’t forget…

~ Yes and yes, mum! I’ve got to go, bye!

No matter how old I am, mum always loves telling me what to do. Since we live in different countries, she’s particularly worried about what I eat. Sometimes I could get a little offended, like, I’ve been living in Sydney for more than 15 years now, my mum still thinks I’m not capable of looking after myself? But hey, remember, mum always has the best intention. Note to self:

  1. Mum is always right.
  2. It is good have a warm, big breakfast to kick start your day.

I love exploring different places around the world. The perk of travelling is, someone else will cook me breakfast and there’s no need to clean up afterwards!

Tamanu On The Beach restaurant is the only beachfront fine dining restaurant in Vanuatu.  This eggs benedict with smoked salmon was divine.

It’s on a tropical island so there are always plenty of fresh flowers and fruits.

My coffee after the big breakfast was tasty and sweet looking:).

J took this photo of me while I was having my coffee and checking messages. What I love about it is that the photo was so nature, no make up, no posing. Who said you have to smile to the camera?:).

I haven’t been blogging for nearly a week, mainly because I’m among the happiest people on earth(aka people in Vanuatu).

One really doesn’t think much of Internet, television or phone, when the sunset is this amazing…

McDanald’s won’t be in one’s mind either when freshly cooked seafood is served on the deck of your cottage…

Very often, you get visitors like this:

Life is full of precious moment. Embrace it.

This time I didn’t forget to take photos before eating as I wanted to be able to remind myself  later how lucky we were. Vanuatu has been voted the happiest country in the world. It’s also a country without McDanald’s. I guess it doesn’t need one.

Endless beach, soft silky sand, warm ocean water and sun. Finally it feels like… Summer. Before we left the big smoke, I was a little worried that we might get too bored to stay in Broadbeach for a week even though it was decided to be a “dot nothing, just chill” holiday. But 4 days on, cosmopolitan Broadbeach has exceeded our expectation in so many ways that it becomes more and more tempting to buy an apartment here overlooking the ocean and stay permanently or at least come over every once in a while.On the way from airport to the resort, I asked the driver if there’s any nice local restaurant she could recommend. She listed a few then ended firlmly: “ You won’t go starving people”. She was right. There are restaurants next to restaurants. Italian, Thai, yum cha, loads of Japanese, 10 minutes walking around in the heart of Broadbeach, we had the 7 days menu planned, different dinning experiences every day.

Live bands playing for you while dining. All the possible modern amenities within walking distance. Lots, lots and lost of shops. Great coffee. Friendly, helpful people. The lady in bright yellow top, hot pink skirt and bright yellow feather in her blond hair. That amazing expression on the little boy’s face on the beach holding a Pipi half size of his palm… Those are the things about Broadbeach that make me say Oooh…. And of course, the wild, long beach. “I want to spend 4 hours on the beach every day, no computer, no mobile, no charts, no emails!!” I declared as soon as I stepped on the beach the first day. “But,” J protested quietly, “ I will be deep fried, or at lease well done:(.” So we settled on 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon when the sun is less strong. But really, the beauty about the ocean is that, you don’t have to be in it to enjoy it, it simply makes you feel good to look at it or be around it.

4 days no rain & being able to look at the sunning ocean whenever I wish, I feel a little spoiled, happy and even proud as I’ve been getting up before 8am every morning (very early for me, not a morning person). The sparkling pool is waiting for me every morning, there’s no time to be wasted before heading back to rainy Sydney.

That’s right, a fabulous  holiday doesn’t have to involve bungee jumping or 24 hours flight to Europe.

Extremely impressed with the picturesque historical towns, superbly clean streets and endless shoe shops in Germany, we even managed to get a speeding fine in a country that normally doesn’t have speed limits. Our Journey in Germany started from Cologne. If you only intend to stay in Cologne for 2-3 days, here are a few things you could try.

Cologne, view from Hilton

Cologne Dom

We were lucky to have an awesome view of the Cologne Dom tower from our hotel room in Hilton. Cologne Dom is a splendid Roman cathedral and heart of the metropolis on the Rhine. And yes, it only took 600 something years to complete.  On the second day in Cologne, I got to see the impressive panorama from the cathedral tower across the city and Rhine on the top of Cologne Dom though in order to do that we had to climb 533 narrow, winding steps first.  Honestly at one stage I felt the climbing was never going to end and it was becoming increasingly hot battling with traffic (lots of people going up and down) on the narrow stair case inside an old cathedral. But the view from the top was rewarding. On the way to the viewing platform, we walked pass the St Peters bell, the largest freely swinging church bell in the world weighting 24,000 kg. I’m still wondering how could this bell swing being so huge and heavy?

Cologne

This is the view from the top:cologne

Kolsch and Roast Pork Knuckle

In the heart of Cologne city, just a few steps from the cathedral is the old town where you can always find authentic German food and enjoy the famous local beer in Cologne, Kolsch. Kolsh is a beautifully refreshing warm- weather beer normally served in skinny glasses. Its pleasantly fruity and slightly bitter taste goes perfectly well with roast port knuckle, one of my favorite Germany/ East European dishes. You know, the roast port knuckle with golden brown crispy, crackly skin attached and fell-off-the -bone tender meat. Finding nicely cooked pork knuckle however is a bit of a hit and miss. We finally found it at Peters Brauhaus in the old town. Sorry I didn’t take any pictures, couldn’t wait to start eating and drinking.

Pretzels and Berliners

They are on the list  because they are huge. And everywhere. And surrounded by massive bees.

Shopping

Cologne is one of the most popular cities for shopping. We were told that there are people who make special trips to Cologne just to stroll and shop on the most popular shopping streets Schidergasse, Hohe Strabe and others. Apparently Schidergasse is the number one shopping street in Europe. Its highlight is the weltstadthaus, which resembles a huge glass whale. Inside the glass whale is a gigantic, multilevel shopping centre with a sea of clothing and shoes.. more clothing and shoes.. You guessed it, more shoes.

Below left, view of the glass whale shopping center from Cathedral Tower.

Whenever you are tired of shopping, stop to have a cup of coffee. Or have a pretzel, they are everywhere.

I don’t give Sydney fish market enough credit. It’s only steps away from me and I go there at least 3 times a week. To me, it almost feels like a local canteen, nothing really special. Every time I go, there are always plenty tourists holding (video) cameras, shooting or videotaping. I always wonder what the fuss is all about.

Anzac bridge in the background

Anzac bridge in the background

Fresh oysters opened daily:

Sydney fish market

But, I took it for granted.  I grew up in a coastal city and seafood is no big deal to me. I’ve seen larger fish markets with a lot more varieties but Sydney fish market is nevertheless the biggest in the southern hemisphere. To be fair, what other fish market has such a wonder combination of beautiful harbor with dotted fishing boats, view to the handsome Anzac bridge and perfectly lined palm trees reaching out to the sky… Oh the sky, the amazingly clear, beautiful blue sky. Next to the water, thoroughly enjoying fresh sea breeze and the delicious taste of oysters, suddenly I felt slightly guilty of not appreciating what I have..

So I took out my phone camera, just like a tourist, captured a couple of pictures to remember this blissful moment.

On the way home, I picked up a super sized mud crab, weighted 2.5 kg. And this was our dinner.

Hey dad! Who said I can’t cook?

Paris Designer Outlet shopping

Designer outlet shopping Paris experience is quite different from shopping form Italy designer shopping outlets. High end designer shopping outlets are quite popular in Europe and I have been to a couple of impressive ones in Italy. Recently, I checked out the luxury designer shopping outlet around Paris area, just 30 minutes away from the center of pairs. La Vallee Village is only 5 minutes train ride from Disney Europe outside Paris.
How to get to designer outlet La Valle Village:

Designer outlet shopping paris

La Vallee Village August 2012

If you have some spare time  in Pairs apart from engaging the usual sight seeing activities, designer outlet shopping is fun and worthwhile. There’s a shopping express shuttle bus service departing from Place des Pyramides near the Louvre Museum twice a day but we went by public transport,  just in case we wanted to leave early or stay longer. Public transport is very convenient in Paris so it wasn’t a hassle at all to get there by suburban train RER. If you want to travel by RER, remember it is from any central PER A station to Val d’Europe station, the second last stop (the last one is Disneyland Paris). On Sundays, there’s free return shuttle bus service every 15 minutes from the RER station to La Vallee Village. Do worry if there’s no shuttle bus to take you there directly. It is only about 10 minutes stroll from the PER station any way. Once you walk out the RER Station, you’ll see the Val D’Europe shopping mall. Walk through the huge shopping mall, you’ll arrive at La Vallee Village – your Paris designer outlet shopping destination.

The Designer Outlet Shopping Paris Experience:

The Village is pleasantly charming with over 90 outlet boutiques offering reductions on the recommended retail price. Not quite like the Italian designer outlets I’ve visited before offering mainly the very high end designer like Fendi, Prada, Gucci etc, this shopping village has a mixed luxury brands such as Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Tods as well as the mid- range popular brands like Calvin Klein, Guess, Polo Ralph Lauren etc.

Discounts are usually around 30 -60% of the recommended retail price here. The last piece in stock could have a deeper discount. If you are lucky that it happens to be your size, you can save up to 80%. Normally I don’t have such luck picking up bargains as I have a size 8 (Australian Size) frame and size 7 feet. Anything of that size would normally be out of stock from my past designer outlet shopping experience. So my expectation wasn’t high before the Paris designer outlet shopping trip but I did have a list of brands that I wanted to browse in particular:




Jimmy Choo: Handbags and shoes

Salvatore Ferragamo: Comfortable, not so out there yet stylish shoes for daily office wear/functions

Reberto Cavalli: Funky dresses, pants and accessories

Missoni: Zig zaggy patterned sweaters and dresses

Dolce & Gabbana: Loud and colorful outfit and accessories

Versace: Bold patterns and accessories

Burberry: Clothing and handbags

Armani: Jackets and jeans

Michael Kors: Dressing watches

Tod’s: Leather handbags

Nike: Socks and sports shoes

Lacoste: Comfortable and stylish walking shoes

Samsonite: Travel luggage

Valentino: Over sized leather totes

Charming village style:

Paris Designer Outlet shopping

The weather was excellent on the day I was there, making this Paris designer outlet shopping experience extra enjoyable. Offers from the shops didn’t disappoint either. You could get a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes for as low as 150 euro, the iconic black patent Jimmy Choo Ramona Bag at an 800 euro discount. You could get a Roberto Cavelli Jacket (equivalent Australian Size 16) at 300 euro, discounted from 2500 euro or 99 euro for a Burberry light jacket for men with a retail price tag of 399 euro. Michael Kors dressing watches were marked as low as 115 – 149 euro.

Winter in Sydney generally doesn’t get really cold; as a result it is extremely hard (for me) to buy good autumn/ winter clothes. My mission for this trip was to buy some high quality, good looking Autumn/Winter clothes at relatively bargain prices.  Long sleeve shirts, dresses, sweaters and jackets would be nice.

Did I buy anything?

Well, there were a lot for sale but it was hard to buy anything at the beginning. There wasn’t anything I fancy in Roberto Cavalli or Missoni. The shoes in Jimmy Choo are mostly not my size, or my size but undesirable color. Samsonite didn’t offer any better deals than normal shops outside the shopping outlet on their luggage. Lacoste didn’t have any walking shoes on display.

Just as I was wondering if I would end up leaving empty handed, Guess store appeared in front of me. The store is big and busy so I went in. There were piles of casual clothing and the discounts were deep. I found a long sleeve shirt with wide collar and fitted waist line for only 9 euro (discounted from 79 euro). Just what I needed and what a bargain!  In Burberry store, I found a Burberry silk, pleated back short jacket for 150 euro, discounted from 550 euro, last one for my size. A Burberry sweater made of silk, cotton and linen for 150 euro, discounted from 750 euro, last one in stock and my size! Of course they went home with me.

It turned out to be a successful trip! I would certainly recommend all my girlfriends to do some Paris designer outlet shopping if they go to Paris. Usually there would be more promotion offers if you go between mid – July to mid – August. If you are planning to go, why not make the most out of your Paris designer outlet shopping trip! The choices are abundant in that area… Val D’Europe shopping mall next door is huge. You can find the usual European chain stores like Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear’s there. If you don’t find anything to buy, Disneyland is just one stop away! :)

louis vuitton paris

If you like timeless style and quality with a touch of luxury, then you have enough reasons to pay a  visit to Louis Vuitton Paris Champs-Élysées.

Standing tall and proud, Louis Vuitton is situated the left hand side of Champs-Élysées towards Arc de Triomphe. Expect a small queue to get in if you visit on a weekend. Summer day time runs long in Paris, the store opens until 8pm while day light is still plentiful. Handbags and wallets are usually 10 – 100 euro cheaper to buy from Louis Vuitton Paris and you can exchange your bags within 30 days in any Louis Vuitton stores in Europe. There’s also a 12% tax refund for overseas shoppers.

I was in Louis Vuitton Pairs Champs-Élysées last week. Sipping champagne while picking out goodies was such a treat; better still, Louis Vuitton organised all my purchases to be delivered to our hotel on the same day so we were able to keep meandering on the streets of dreamy Paris for the rest of the day, baggage free.

louis vuitton paris

Louis Vuitton Paris Champs Elyesse August 2012

Among my new additions, the Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte  Secret Long Wallet will be accompanying me the most. Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte leather line is pricier than the other monogram canvas lines but it is indeed one of a kind. I particularly like the amazingly rich feel of this supple, grained leather. Louis Vuitton Monogram is embossed on the grained leather, looking just like footprints in sand. The wallet is big with wrap around zippered closure. Inside, there are 10 card slots, 2 long pockets for notes and 1 large zippered coin compartment. With large enough capacity to hold my lip gloss and key, it can also be carried as a small clutch.

I also bought Louis Vuitton Artsy from Damier Azur line. Artsy is a classic, feminine bag with exquisite handcrafted handle and golden charm key rings attached to the bag. There are 6 open wall pockets and one large zippered pocket inside the bag. This IS my type of bag, at least I can pretend to be organised with so many pockets in my bag.

Did I need to buy another Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag? Maybe. Louis Vuitton Neverfull is cute and ever popular. I like its light weight, large capacity and practicality. A little over extremely large bags by now, I got both Artsy and Neverfull in MM size. Could have easily picked up more bags during that one trip to Louis Vuitton Paris Champs-Élysées, but 20kg luggage limit was bothering me. Might go back soon to get another one or two.

Louis Vuitton Paris