Dressing the bump: part 2

NIK_3167 copy1024duoNIK_3223 copycr1024NIK_3122 copy_1024NIK_3083_1024

I’ve always wished for a winter or autumn pregnancy – cosying up in turtleneck sweaters and hiding all those lumps and bumps under stretchy leggings with a warm milo in hand has always seemed much more appealing and comfortable than sweating it out in shorts and flip flops in 40C temps with your feet swollen to the size of a cantaloupe. I mean, throw a coat over anything and you look instantly chic. And a coat will fit you throughout all trimesters, so you don’t have to worry about growing out of it by 32 weeks. Not to mention you’re out the door in 0.0005 seconds. Kim K learnt this lesson the second time around, she’s been throwing a coat over literally every single outfit of hers in 98F temps throughout the LA summer.

Anyway, before I fell pregnant, I had this radiant image of Charlotte Gainsbourg pinned to my Pinterest board, hoping to emulate at least a tenth of her je ne sais quoi when it was my turn to be with child. Because I loved this outfit so so much (and because it was probably far more achievable than Mira Duma’s bump style – though I have to say, I adore this) I promptly went out and bought a pair of maternity jeans (and subsequently two more) until I realised that I had about three weeks’ worth of wear out of them before summer turned up early to the party in Perth. With two more weeks until summer officially starts, I’m still holding out for that freak storm to hit the city so that my maternity jeans aren’t relegated to the back of my wardrobe just yet.

I was fortunate enough to spend my first trimester in winter (July/August) when I was feeling the most crappy and bloated and generally just blergh, so it gave me a little taste of a few firm (non-maternity wear) favourites that would see me through the rest of an autumn/winter pregnancy.

First things first, a black slimline midi skirt.

Possibly even more versatile (and comfortable) than the humble pair of jeans, this is my numero uno bump essential. Preferably in a stretchy fabric with an elasticised waist and a slim/pencil silhouette. I’d have a casual one (like the one I’m wearing above) on rotation as well as one with a front split a la Elin Kling for more dressy occasions to wear with heels. I really love this Topshop one as it’s so lightweight (perfect for summer too) as well as stretchy and comfortable to wear under the bump.

So why not mini, knee-length or maxi lengths? I personally find midi-lengths (both in skirts and dresses) the most practical and flattering but it could just depend on one’s height and body shape. It’s so much more slimming on me as it conceals the thighs and slims the hips – two areas that I’ve put weight on during this pregnancy. Plus, if you’re working in an office, the midi length is the most corporate-friendly on any figure – it looks best with a silk shirt tucked or untucked (like I’ve done above) or with a sweater over the top – she’s obviously not pregnant here but I’ve always thought this outfit on Anja Rubik would be perfect to wear during pregnancy.

A relaxed, button-down shirt

I love pairing these shirts (preferably in silk or cotton) with everything – they look especially chic over a pair of leggings, jeans, cigarette trousers or aforementioned midi skirt. Tucking in button-down shirts is always a bit awkward as your bump gets bigger (I prefer tucking in t-shirts and tank tops) so I like to leave them untucked to flow over the belly.

However, I’m getting to that point in my pregnancy now where my usual size shirts are no longer buttoning up, so I’ve been making do with shirts I’ve bought in bigger sizes (see, I knew it was never a bad idea to cave into the size 12s just because they were cheap at all those designer sample sales!).

I have to say, the cross-over blouse I’m wearing above has also proved to be super practical (just because I don’t have to worry about popping any buttons!) and because there’s excess fabric at the front to accommodate a growing bump. I’d wear this to the office as an alternative to the button-down, it’s so comfortable but still looks really polished if you pair it with slim trousers or a skirt.

An essential jacket or coat

I’ve always loved how a jacket or coat streamlines just about every outfit, adding a more polished element to whatever you’re wearing. Which is perfect when you’re pregnant and feeling really frumpy.

Perth has been seeing some cooler and rainy days during spring so I’ve been rotating through denim jackets, lightweight trench coats, blazers and leather jackets and wearing them with my jeans, midi dresses and skirts.

This season – well, for as long as I can, anyway – I’ve been trying my hand at the humble denim jacket; opting for one that hits between the waist and the hip so that it sits a bit more flattering with the bump (I find when it comes to denim jackets, if it’s too short – it cuts your body in half in not a very good way and too long – it’ll just look like a painfully unflattering tent over your body).

I’ve been wearing my leather jacket to death (such a winter essential!) so the welcome change in colour and style with this denim jacket has been great for variety’s sake as well as still coordinating with all the black, grey and black I’ve been wearing. It’s also perfect on Casual Fridays where blue denim is a bit more accepted in the office!

Flats when you’re feeling frumpy

As someone who isn’t genetically blessed in the height department but who has an embarrassingly low tolerance for heels, pointed toe flats have become my go-to flat shoe for days I want to look put-together without hobbling to the photocopier by the end of the day. Ballet flats also work quite well but I save them mostly for the weekend as I find they’re a lot more casual plus they’re not as lengthening as a pointed toe. These flats I’m wearing above are comfy enough to wear the whole day; they instantly dress up the most casual of outfits; and anything with a gigantic grosgrain bow on them… well, I’m sold.

By the way, I’ve decided to make this a 3-part series in bump dressing, so for those of you interested, look out for my next post which will feature a few more things and brands I’ve loved wearing during my pregnancy.

In collaboration with Topshop | Wearing Topshop Denim Jacket, Striped Drape Front BlousePlisse Tube Skirtpointed suede bow flatsDaniel Wellington Lady Sheffield watch.

Dressing the bump: part 1

NIK_2933_1024NIK_3008_1024NIK_2975bw_1024NIK_3019_1024

I don’t think anyone (me included) can say they’ve ‘mastered’ bump dressing until they’ve navigated the tricky waters that is the third trimester. Having said that, trying to stay comfortable and true to your personal style when pregnant is challenging enough throughout all trimesters, as you try to get used to your body’s shape and size that changes and increases literally every single day.

I honestly can’t believe how fast time is flying for me at the moment. Some weeks have definitely dragged whilst the rest has flown during my pregnancy (especially once I got past the 20 week mark). I’m about 6 months pregnant now (24 weeks to precise) with only a few more weeks to go until I enter the third trimester. Crazy!

To be honest, I have been consciously flying much of my pregnancy journey under the radar as I feel it’s something I haven’t yet felt comfortable enough to share online – bump watch, ultrasound pics and all. I’m loving being pregnant so far – more than anything else in this world – and it’s been so special sharing these precious moments with just my closest friends and family.

Having received a few emails about dressing my bump from some of you lately though, I thought I’d put together a few things I’ve learnt about pregnancy dressing – mainly what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for me throughout the first and second trimesters.

I’ll be spending my entire third trimester in a Perth summer which means an average of 36-42C degrees – I’m dreading it so so much! It was 37C degrees when I took these photos a couple of days ago (plus I had just scoffed down a burger and large fries for lunch – no regrets!) so I thought I was somewhat qualified to speak about how to be comfortable, confident and pregnant in summer. I have to say though, it’s definitely no walk in the park.

So far, I’ve put on about 5-6kgs from my pre-preg weight (I’m averaging a weight gain of about 1-2kgs per month so far, which is normal I think) with pretty much all my weight going to my hips, thighs, belly and boobs. Oh and baby/placenta too, of course. I’ve been so far successful in getting away with wearing no maternity clothes except for essentials like bras, a pair of SRC leggings for working out, and maternity jeans. I’ve just been going up a size (or three!) in non-maternity clothes and mostly in stretchy, breathable fabrics. To most of you I probably don’t look 6 months pregnant but I certainly feel it – I’m taking a size 12 and 14 in ‘normal’ clothes these days and even then, I can’t do up the zip (longer tops are a godsend!) or a size 14 doesn’t fit me around the belly at all.

Whilst I’ve found casual dressing a lot easier and simpler, it’s the dressing for parties and weddings that I’ve found SO hard, especially as you want (and need) to feel comfortable too. Pregnancy is no time to be cutting off blood circulation to your limbs for the sake of looking good. Thankfully for me – though after much trial and error – overcoming these challenges have come with practice and knowing what works/what doesn’t.

Here are a few things that have worked well for me in terms of special occasion dressing so far, especially as the temperature rises:

Off-the-shoulder tops and blouses

One of the best things about pregnancy dressing for me is embracing and discovering different styles of clothing to accommodate my changing shape. I’ve never been a huge fan of off-the-shoulder anything, but as my bump and waistline gets bigger and bigger, I’ve learnt off-the-shoulder tops are seriously flattering and also really chic (which is not a word you throw around often when you’re the size of a whale with raging hormones). For evening/special occasions during summer, the best thing to wear is an off-the-shoulder blouse or dress in a fancy or structured kind of fabric. It cleverly hides those expanding arms (I wish I was going into a winter pregnancy as I hate having my arms out!) as well as those awkward first-second trimester mini beer guts until you properly pop. If you want to conceal your bump, choose something with a hemline that falls to your belly button and then pair it with high-waisted trousers, tailored shorts or a skirt like I’ve done here.

When it comes to an off-the-shoulder dress though, I find the fitted silhouettes way more flattering than those grecian-inspired, flowy tent dresses. As comfortable as they are, they look god-awful-potato-dumpling-like on me so I personally avoid them, preferring something more fitted.

Embrace bodycon anything

Going back to my first point about pregnancy dressing forcing me out of my sartorial comfort zone; the only time I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing something skin-tight is when I look like I’ve swallowed a basketball (and don’t have to suck it in). I personally think baby bumps look SO much more beautiful and flattering in something form-fitting than baggy and loose. If you’re not into the head-to-toe bodycon look (let’s be real here – who is after they’ve just wolfed down a burger and fries) I recommend wearing something loose up top and fitted down below – as I’ve done here with this outfit.

Wear all one colour in simple shapes

Okay, I’ve stayed true to something that has always been a part of my personal style and it’s worked wonders during my pregnancy. No prints, no psychedelic colours and no crazy fancy cuts. I’ve always been a big fan of minimal dressing and zeroed in on this ballerina pink two-piece at Topshop as soon as I saw it. I love the simple lines, the gathered detailing at the shoulders, the midi length skirt with a subtle split, and the structured overall shape. Subtle details with maximum impact has been my pregnancy wardrobe mantra. Head to toe black is also your best friend when pregnant!

I’ve always thought I’d take inspiration from Miroslava Duma’s maternity looks when pregnant lol but I soon found out that simple and minimal dressing is the best way for me to look chic during pregnancy because, er, I kind of forgot that I don’t actually have Valentino on speed dial.

Two-pieces/separates are the best things ever invented. Ever.

I haven’t had much luck AT ALL trying to find a dress for a wedding that fits in all the right (and tight) spaces. These days, when I’m looking for a new outfit, I have to shop for it literally the day or two before the event because I’m growing out of clothes way too quickly now (if it’s not stretchy, I’ll only have 1-2 weeks at most to wear it before I can’t fit into it anymore). I’m also finding I take hours or days just to find something suitable, which I don’t really have time for.

Cue the fantastic invention that is the two-piece. I’m wearing a size 10 top here and a size 12 skirt (I would have preferred a size 14 to be able to fully zip the skirt up but there was none available for me at the time). There’s no way I’d be able to find a non-maternity dress that accommodates a smaller upper body and larger bottom half at the same time (unless it’s 100% lycra), so dressing in separates has become my saving grace for special events and occasions. If there’s a coordinating skirt, then go for it – you can kind of create the illusion of wearing a dress and still look super polished. It’s so much more comfortable and you obviously get more wear out of your separates as you can pair them with other things in your wardrobe. I have Elin Kling’s baby shower outfit on file for inspiration (hello, off-the-shoulder top and split pencil skirt!).

The ultimate slimming effect

I’m in flats and sneakers 99% of the time these days, but as I’ve been lucky so far to not experience a bad back, puffy ankles, pelvis dysfunction or any leg cramps during my pregnancy, I’ve been able to get away with wearing heels on occasion. As I start piling on the weight now that I’m nearing the third trimester (and my legs/ankles get sore easily from all the weight), I spend the majority of events and occasions sitting down and I always pack a pair of ballet flats in my bag when I’m out just in case I end up having to walk really far due to a lack of parking etc. I don’t wear heels any higher than 10cm (these Louboutins I’m wearing are 100mm) because I’m clumsy af and I almost took a tumble in my five inch Charlotte Olympias in front of the mirror the other day.

Having said all that, I’m starting to notice this week that my feet have seemed to increase half a size (not sure if it’s pregnancy hormones or the weather, or both) as some of my shoes (especially heels) have started to feel a little tight. Vanity aside, the key to dressing a bump is listening to your body – don’t stay on your feet all day and don’t wear anything too restrictive if that’s what your body is telling you!

I’m hoping I won’t have to switch up much more of my pregnancy style come the third trimester (simply because there are probably more urgent things to think about like picking a name and doing my kegels!) but who knows. I really do love and embrace my new shape and am in complete awe of the miracles my body is really capable of, but when you fall pregnant you quickly realise your body is no longer yours and that you just have to go with the flow!

In collaboration with Topshop | Wearing Topshop Structured Bardot Top and Split Pencil Skirt, Christian Louboutin nude patent Decollete pumps, Daniel Wellington Lady Sheffield watch.

Bubblegum dreams.

NIK_2846NIK_2888NIK_2850_1024NIK_2871

It only seems like yesterday that my husband and I were packing our bags to spend two months overseas.

Suddenly it’s two months away from the end of the year, my waist has officially disappeared, and next week I’ll be five months pregnant. For reals. My time now is divided between researching prams, completing the last of my deadlines, and turning to my husband every so often with a knowing glance that in a few months’ time, we will never be able to sleep in (or travel so carefree) again.

Within a few days I’ll also not be able to get away with wearing this bubblegum pink playsuit again because anything with a zip has become the root of all evil, as far as pregnancy is concerned. So I whipped this playsuit out today for errands and fish and chips in the sunshine. Belly is definitely about to pop!

In collaboration with Topshop | Wearing Topshop Cut-Out Playsuit, Simone Leopard Sunglasses, Mid-Heel Sandals, Daniel Wellington Lady Sheffield watch.

A new take on classic style.

NIK_2559NIK_2646NIK_2652NIK_2642

I love this time of year. It’s finally becoming a little warmer to warrant bare legs with a couple of extra layers. Speaking of, one of my favourite finds lately has been this Topshop trench coat (the other being something I picked up on sale from Country Road yesterday – will post this one soon!). For years I’ve been on this eternal search for a classic trench in the right shade of tan and after a few contenders (which I later ended up selling) I think I’ve found The One in this Topshop number.

Being a fairly average 5’4, it’s hard to find a coat that’s the perfect length for me as well as something that fits neatly at the shoulders. I also have to accommodate my growing bump (it’s somewhere there, promise!) with everything I’m wearing these days. I paired the trench with this season’s lace-up shift dress for a marathon meeting with our builder last week. With a million things to think about and organise in the coming months, I’m all about easy dressing at the moment.

In collaboration with Topshop | Wearing Lace Front Dress, Trench Coat, Snakeskin Lace Up Flats, Daniel Wellington Lady Sheffield watch.

Love at first scent.

5NIK_1514_10248

When I was little, I spent most of my summers at my grandparents’ place, moseying around their backyard. I was six, whiling away the afternoon collecting a bounty of grapes, tiptoeing to smell my grandmother’s blooming rose garden, and climbing their apple trees until the sun went down. There was a decrepit wooden swing that would sway precariously from one of the branches and I remember often climbing into it, and staying there for the rest of the day collecting all of my six year old thoughts.

That was 25 years ago, and while the trees are gone and my grandparents now both rest in peace, the nostalgic scent of green apples and memory of that afternoon still lingers to tell a thousand stories.

My recent work for Miu Miu’s new fragrance takes me back to my childhood in all of its rebellion, mischievousness and insouciance.

The weather was absolutely terrible for half of this shoot so much of the photos are of me standing in the rain (while much of my time post-shoot was photoshopping raindrops off the perfume bottle). It was a few days after my grandfather passed away and it all hit home a little too much because I ended up having a hormonal meltdown and an ugly cry in the middle of the most amazing tulip field. It goes without saying though, that my best work always comes out of adversity.

See the story on Vogue here.

Styling by me | photography by Jamie Lau.

How to pack for a weekend escape.

Denim dress 1_1024NIK_1402_1024

It goes without saying that travel has been – and still is – a huge part of my life. With the arrival of our little bebe in just under five months’ now, our travels will become more and more of the weekend road trip variety to escape the hum of the city, whilst still being close to home. As selfish as it might seem our love of travelling is probably the biggest reason we didn’t start a family earlier and though I have no regrets, I’m really looking forward to living a more grounded, settled life instead of jumping on the next plane every few months!

As much as I have loved exploring new, far-flung places (though not so much the 30 hours in transit on four different planes!) the idea of mini weekend escapes are something I can’t wait to do more of. I have a couple of trips down south planned before the end of the year (before the home stretch of the third trimester begins!) and now that spring is here, it’s such a perfect time of the year to soak up the sun in idyllic locations.

Little holidays in short doses are so much more fun to pack for, too. All it takes is a little bit of planning but mostly just throwing whatever you have on hand in a large weekender.

This month, I’ve shared what I typically pack for a weekend escape for Country Road. For those travelling to Perth in the near future, you’ll also find a few of my very favourite places to eat, sleep, and relax!

Read the full post here.

The Allure of Broome.

NIK_9118NIK_9243NIK_9541NIK_9228 1024NIK_9557NIK_9254NIK_9265NIK_9222NIK_9549NIK_9382NIK_9230NIK_9149aNIK_9590NIK_9200

While we’re all traipsing the world in search for the perfect holiday, it’s so easy to forget that heaven’s actually closer than we think. Having spent so much of our travels in far flung places overseas, it was refreshing to explore the natural surroundings that have always been right on our doorstep.

Jamie and I were lucky to have the opportunity to head up to Broome for a weekend in August (staying at the luxurious Cable Beach Club and to attend the Broome Cup as a guest of Allure South Sea Pearls). It didn’t take us long before we were blown away at discovering how beautiful northern Western Australia really is – with all of its ochre red dirt, turquoise waters and fiery sunsets and all.

Each afternoon as the sun set before our eyes and the chill from the Indian Ocean softly blew in, it let us take in the enormity of what lies before us and appreciate what would be the last spontaneous adventure we’d enjoy with just the two of us. Something tells me the next adventure we’ll soon be embarking on will be the most life-changing yet. I can’t wait.

Wearing Allure South Sea Pearls jewellery, Hello Parry Isadora sweater and Morrison Pippin silk dress (available soon).

Styling by Michelle Lau | Photographed by Jamie Lau on location at Cable Beach, Broome.

 

A Light Bulb Moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In between tying the waist of my jeans together with elastic bands and trying to stop myself from throwing up (or falling asleep) behind the camera for all of July/August, I was lucky enough to be commissioned by Clinique and Vogue to style and photograph a set of images for the launch of their new Smart Custom Repair Eye Treatment and Clinique Smart Custom-Repair skincare range.

Having the amazing opportunity to work with some of the most game-changing products aside, it was a small relief to be behind the camera rather than in front of it (if you didn’t already know, I am almost 14 weeks pregnant – and going through that awkward ‘just fat’ stage…) creating content for a brand I’ve long respected and personally used for so many years now (I still wear my faithful Chubby Sticks daily!).

To see the rest of the images and to read more about Clinique’s new range, follow the links below.

If you don’t use a daily eye treatment, here’s why you should

How to tell when it’s time to start using an eye cream

Cut your morning routine in half: meet beauty’s multi-taskers

Styling and photography by me.

Part 1: How to Pack for Copenhagen.

NIK_8574_1200NIK_8634_1024

Effortless style is in the DNA of all Scandinavians. When it comes to dressing the part on a chic holiday to Copenhagen, the look is all about the concept of less is more: uncomplicated but interesting colours, relaxed tailoring, and simple but sophisticated separates – with a dash of the 70s trend thrown in the suitcase for good measure. Making the case for a certain kind of minimalism involves exuding that Scandi-chic vibe without trying too hard. I teamed up with Country Road this month to share a little of my travel and packing tips for one of my favourite destinations in the world. So with a trip to the Nordic city in mind, what does one pack?

1.  The layered effect

Packed two entirely different pieces that you were planning to wear independently of one another? Make your travel wardrobe go the distance by pairing the two together. Here, I’ve layered the Broderie T-Shirt over the Linen Fringed Dress for a play on proportion, colour, and texture.

 2. Depend on denim

No travel capsule wardrobe is complete without your favourite denim. My take on the 70s trend involves teaming the beautiful Drop Shoulder Blouse to soften these Indigo Flare Jeans. The illusion of height these jeans give are always welcome, too!

3. New neutrals

Although packing light and right for a holiday usually goes hand in hand with black and white (i.e. go-with-anything colours), live life on the edge a little and include other neutral shades that work just as well as monochrome. I always love adding camel to my travel wardrobe mix – not only does it pair perfectly with white but it also looks great pared back with this season’s burgundy.

NIK_8264_1024NIK_8287_1024

4. The easy-peasy playsuit

Something that’s easy to throw on (and wrinkle resistant!) is always one of the first things that goes into my suitcase. Just add a classic wool fedora and a pair of suede ankle boots to give an added 70s vibe to this kimono-esque printed playsuit.

Look out for Part 2 of my Country Road travel series up soon – How to spend the perfect weekend in Copenhagen.

In collaboration with Country Road | Styling by me & Photography by Jamie Lau.

Travel Journal: Iceland Road Trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everyone seems to raise their eyebrow when I tell them – emphatically – that the most beautiful place I’ve ever travelled to is Iceland. Granted, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s a country you’d probably have to see for yourself, but no other place – not even Santorini – has blown my mind in the same way Iceland has. I mean, where else can boast the biggest natural hot tub in the world?

When it came to planning our two month trip around the world, Iceland was always on the cards. It was going to be our second trip (with only 4-5 days spent here on our first trip, we barely scratched the surface). This time, we’d be driving around the entire country for eight days. It’s probably the craziest thing I’ve done travelling (aside from cycling around the South of France for a whole week by ourselves) but hey, you only live once.

After a ton of planning (thanks, Google!) using the Ring Road as our overarching guide seemed the most sensible and scenic. If you’re thinking of doing the same, I’d definitely start with other people’s itineraries on the internet (there’s heaps) and use mine (below) as a rough guide.

If you’re living vicariously for now, make yourself a mug of milo. This is one adventure I’ll be telling my grandkids about.

DAY 1 – Reykjavík > Borgarnes

We flew into sub-zero Iceland from sunny New York (it was only a 5.5 hour flight!) landing at Keflavík airport at around 6am. After collecting our luggage, bleary-eyed, we picked up our car from the rental company (it’s a short walk from the airport) and then made the 45 minute drive into Reykjavík. The plan was to stop into a cafe (Kaffitár – very decent coffee), acclimatise a little to the weather, and pick up a few grocery supplies from Bónus (a supermarket chain in Iceland with the unmistakeable cartoon pig as its mascot) for the road trip out north-west to picturesque and very, very remote Borgarnes.

The idea here was to set up camp in Borgarnes for the night as a pit stop before our bigger legs of the trip. The drive to Borgarnes was achingly beautiful. It rained for most of the way there but with the soothing strains of Sigur Ros accompanying us, it made for the perfect storm. It’s a shame that I will never be able to find the words to accurately describe how breathtaking the landscape unravelled before our eyes, so you’ll have to rely on our photos on this occasion.

After a couple of hours, we finally arrived at our airbnb and settled in for the night. This airbnb was more like a bedroom with an ensuite attached (it’s a semi-detached house so the host actually lives next door with their family) – but all the personable and thoughtful touches they added to the room made for such a lovely stay.

Because I wasn’t kidding when I said this town was tiny, we had dinner at a service station that actually had a really hipster-looking burger establishment attached to it (in typical Icelandic fashion) so you can guess what we had for dinner that night. It was the best. PS if you’re more of a hotel person, I’d recommend IcelandAir Borgarnes – in fact, all the IcelandAir hotels are modern, clean and such great value for money.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA          Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

DAY 2 – Borgarnes > Snæfellsnes Peninsula > Akureyri

We spent the morning exploring a little more of Borgarnes before setting off further west for Snæfellsnes and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall. After packing up our things, we had brunch at the only open-looking restaurant in town that morning – The Settlement Centre – and we dove into pickled herring and the like. The restaurant is situated near the peninsula so after brunch we took a walk and found ourselves at one of the most incredible places my eyes have ever seen (above).

A few quick snaps later, we jumped into the car en route to Snæfellsnes to check out Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall. The plan was to get to Akureyri by the end of the day, which – and we only discovered this later after my husband miscalculated the route – that it was no picnic in the park (or leisurely drive) from Snæfellsnes. But anyway, our drive from Borgarnes to Kirkjufellsfoss was honestly my most memorable. It was like a scene out of Walter Mitty (sans skateboard) with its winding, deserted roads and layers of majestic mountains that lay before us (photo below).

11093013_1543379972589768_1302707909_n

We stopped to take a few photos and filled our bottles with water from the glacial streams by the side of the road and it was the most incredible thing ever. Home felt such a long way away.

Because it was fucking cold and unbearably windy and rainy as hell, I set up camp in the car whilst my husband explored Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall (before you start thinking I’m a spoilt brat, even my husband insisted I stay in the car lol). The waterfall itself is modest but it sits opposite from Kirkjufell mountain which is a magnificent sight to behold on a clear day.

Time was escaping us quickly, so we decided to drive straight to Akureyri which was located in the far north. What we thought was a 4 hour drive turned into a 7 hour one once we correctly inputted it into the GPS, so after a minor freakout about driving 7 hours straight with no break and an arrival time of 9:30pm, we got our act together and hit the road.

The first half hour of arriving into pretty Akureyri was spent endlessly lost in pitch black darkness with our GPS losing its shit (Murphy’s Law after a 7 hour drive). We finally (finally!!) found our airbnb though and promptly dropped our bags off before driving back into town for a super late dinner. Note: restaurants in Akureyri (and there’s not many of them, by the way) tend to shut around 9pm. We managed to find a cosy cafe serving pizza and toasted sandwiches though and they opened til quite late, around 11pm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAY 3 – Akureyri

As Akureyri gave us a good base to explore surrounding areas (though you wouldn’t have thought so, being a mere 100km from the Arctic Circle) we organised to stay here in Iceland’s second largest city for two nights. It’s always lovely being able to spend longer than a night in any one town so we made the most of it and took in the area at our own pace.

We woke up late and then headed into town to make the most of the rare blue sky and sunny weather, exploring the city centre (love this bookshop cafe) and having fish and chips for lunch here (it was okayyyy, but it has nothing on Reykjavík Fish & Chips – THIS is a must do, by the way). But back to Akureyri, to be perfectly honest, you can hear the tumbleweeds rolling through the town on any given day so it didn’t take long before we ran out of things to do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent the rest of the day making a pitstop at Bónus (our airbnb was equipped with the most amazing kitchen so rather than pay $40 for a mediocre burger that night, we thought we’d stay in and cook a roast for dinner) then taking a short drive out to the spectacular Godafoss waterfall. The best thing about visiting Iceland is turning up to a “major tourist attraction” then finding you’re the only one there (or being in the company of two other tourists, at most). Iceland makes it so blissfully easy to remember how far away you are from civilisation.

Calling it a day, we then ventured back to our airbnb and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. Nothing beats that feeling of not needing to do anything else or be anywhere else.

Day 4 – Akureyri > Myvatn > Námafjall > Eglisstadir

We woke up to a BUCKETLOAD of snow this morning (about 10-15cm deep) which showed no sign of letting up. The plan today (before it was forecast to be snowing) was to have a dip at Myvatn Nature Baths (a geothermal pool) then let the Ring Road guide us around the Lake Myvatn area (to get your bearings, it’s north-central Iceland).

Breakfast was leftovers from dinner (so good!) and my husband and I mulled over the prospect of peeling off our seven layers of clothing and stripping down to our bathers to go swimming in negative-something temperatures while it snowed.

We decided to take the plunge and do it. And it was, hand on heart, the highlight of our Iceland road trip. Which is saying something considering I’m a tragic Perth girl who complains about how it “cold” it is during “winter” in Perth. Safe to say, after my trip to Iceland, I’ve hardened up. A LOT.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So we piled into the car, played a few Monsters and Men tunes, and 90 minutes later, we changed into our togs and went swimming. It was still snowing, I shivered my ass off, but I loved it. Myvatn Baths isn’t as fancy-pants (i.e. no Parluxes or GHDs in the bathrooms) – or as big – as Blue Lagoon, but that was the magic of it. It wasn’t deserted, but it wasn’t swarming with tourists either, so it was the perfect way to unwind at your own pace at this blissfully unpretentious haven. It’s also half the price as Blue Lagoon and you don’t have to pre-book so I highly recommend visiting it if you’re going to be in the area.

Afterwards we drove to nearby Námafjall where mud plots and lava fields awaited us. I swear, this is what Mars or Venus must look like; Námafjall felt like we were literally on another planet. It was so bone-achingly cold (real feel was about -7 to -9 degrees celsius) and blusteringly windy (the kind where you have to hold onto the car door as you open it otherwise it’ll literally fly off the car). It was so cold that my runny nose froze on my face – not even kidding. That said, Námafjall was as surreal and spectacular as you could imagine; an almost-eerie, menacing wasteland that back in the day, was a place where they banished outlaws.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eglisstadir (so tiny it’s probably not even a town, really) was our port of call that evening so we jumped back on the Ring Road, explored a little more of Myvatn on four wheels (it was heavily snowing at this point) and made our journey across East Iceland. The plan was to call in for one night just to sleep before setting off tomorrow to Höfn. The drive to Eglisstadir from Myvatn along the Ring Road was beyond incredible: we were treated to cotton candy sunsets, dusk clouds that blazed across the sky, and snow-capped mountains and glaciers that stretched for miles and miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 5 – Eglisstadir > Höfn

We woke feeling fresh from the previous day, but it was a pity the weather had other ideas. As we checked out of the hotel (we stayed here) we were told a fair portion of the Ring Road was closed due to severe snow storms. They weren’t kidding. I stepped outside (it took a brave soul to even do that – the locals were having none of it) and the snow was at least 30cm deep. Our itinerary that day was a 186km drive from Eglisstadir to Höfn (south-eastern Iceland) but now we had to re-calculate the route and take several detours, it would take us double the amount of time to get there. Bummer.

As some of you may have experienced yourselves, it’s pretty fucking scary driving through snow and teetering on the edge of vertigo-inducing mountains (I must admit I feared for my life a few times) so for most of the way we were travelling at around 40-50km/h. But, better safe than sorry, even if it took us a few hours longer than planned to get to our destination in one piece.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So after another trip to Bónus to fuel up on car snacks, we set off for Höfn. The weather in Iceland has a way of either going really badly really quickly or really sunny just as swiftly but thankfully as we inched closer to Höfn, the snow stopped falling and the sky gave way to a spectacular sunset and scenes like these.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We checked into this simple but sweet motel/hotel that was literally plonked in the middle of nowhere (it was a great place to stay though), then ventured to the local pub to have dinner as it seemed to be the only place to be open. There didn’t seem to be much happening in Höfn at the time (honestly, I think things pick up more in summer) so we spent the rest of the evening resting up at our sleeping quarters, planning the next leg of our road trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAY 6 – Höfn > Jökulsárlón > Vik

Only a couple of days left of our road trip! Having already driven three-quarters around the entire country, it’s hard to believe that although we’ve seen so much, we’ve only really scratched the surface.

Still, the best was yet to come.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We left Höfn after breakfast with Vik in mind as our final destination that evening. On our last trip to Iceland in 2013, we didn’t get the time to visit Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon so we made a point of finally dropping by. I was completely blown away by its untouched beauty, and its overwhelming sense of complete stillness. Being in Iceland – or a place like this – makes you realise how insignificant we all are when we’re in nature’s grip. Jökulsárlón had me completely floored.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We didn’t do the hike or anything fun and crazy like that, so we spent a couple of hours at Jökulsárlón, taking it all in and visiting the nearby black sand beach (which was a sight to behold in itself). The beach – with all its life-size icebergs washed up on shore – is just on the other side of the Ring Road. The ice bergs were like diamonds in the rough, if you will.

The cold was unbearable after a while though, so we piled back in the car, cranked the heater, and headed to Vik; a place we visited a couple of years prior but never really explored all that we wanted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We arrived at Vik in the afternoon (staying here – I can’t recommend this hotel enough) and had an early dinner here. My husband had on his to-do list a sunset photography excursion to the Reynisfjara Beach, which translated to shivering in the cold until 10pm (it was almost summer so late sunsets were beginning to set in) whilst he got his time-lapse shot. With not a single soul in sight though and a blazing sunset that painted a fire across the sky, we were in good company. After that, we made our way back to the hotel, kicked back with a hot drink in the amazing lobby, then got some much-needed beauty sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAY 7 – Vik > Reykjavík

Ideally, you would set aside around 10 days for the Ring Road road trip – it’s at least a 1,332 kilometre drive.

We attempted to cram everything into 7-8 days. I had been booking the flights for the entire two months of our travel, and my husband was in charge of the Iceland itinerary so somehow we miscommunicated along the way and when we found out, he was not too pleased I had accidentally booked too little time in Iceland (the plan was 9 days but I mistakingly booked for 7-8). Whoops. Day 7 was our last leg of the road trip before heading back to Reykjavík and staying in the capital for one night before flying to our next destination (Munich).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We woke up in Vik with a few sights on the agenda before arriving in Reykjavík: Reynisfjara Beach (again) and nearby Dyrholaey (sadly we were in the wrong season to see Puffins); the site of the Crashed DC 3 Plane; and Skógafoss – which is known as perhaps Iceland’s most famous waterfall aside from Godafoss (the copious and incessant amount of tour buses gave a good indication if nothing else). I couldn’t even begin to tell you how windy it was that day; the day after we heard all roads around Vik were closed due to severe sandstorms, so we counted our lucky stars I mistakingly booked a day too little haha.

Anyway, visiting the eerie wreckage of a crashed U.S. Navy aircraft was kind of cool; my husband obviously enjoyed it more than I did, taking photos of it from a gazillion angles. Trying to find it was an adventure in itself, though. If you’re planning on checking it out also, the wreckage is located a loooooooonnnnng way from the Ring Road – as in, go off-road (there’s a small sign/open gate that’ll guide you through) and keep driving for about 10-15 minutes until you see the plane. We saw a couple of people make a wrong turn along the way but just remember to stick to the faint markings along the dirt road and you’ll eventually find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Next stop was Skógafoss. This was absolutely mindblowing. The walk from the car to the waterfall was a bit of a workout (it was so windy everyone was walking more backwards than forwards) but the sheer scale and overwhelming beauty of Skógafoss draws you in like nothing else. It was pretty barren in April (it’s a lot more green and thriving in summer) but the sun conditions that afternoon made it favourable enough to see a rainbow stretching across the 60m tall waterfall.

After battling the wind for long enough, we embarked on our final leg to Reykjavík to spend one last night in Iceland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAY 8 – Reykjavík

Despite how tiny the city really is and having spent a few days here already last time, I would have loved to have a couple of days up our sleeve in Reykjavík to wind down from the epic road trip we’ve just done. Last time we booked an airbnb, but this time we stayed here. It was okay – the wifi was a bit sketchy but it offered free parking for our car.

We were intent on making the most of our last day in Iceland, so I suggested a half-day trip out to Geysir (it was one of my highlights from our last trip). It was pretty shitty weather though and the Geysir was a lot more disappointing on this occasion (very infrequent and small eruptions) but we were pleasantly surprised to see a new restaurant and shops open up across the road (which weren’t there a couple of years ago) and decided to kill some time there. Weather-wise, I do recommend visiting Geysir in the summer just because it’s so much more green and beautiful during that season, which really adds to the charm of the area.

When we arrived back into Reykjavík in the afternoon, we explored all the little shops on foot and stopped in for a coffee at Reykjavik Roasters (best place in Reykjavík for a cup, in my opinion). That evening we had fish and chips for dinner (surprisingly not that expensive for what it is) and called it a night shortly after, as we were due to be at the airport at 6am the next day. And we all know how the next morning panned out…

For more recommendations in Reykjavík itself, check out my travel guide from my first visit to Iceland, if you haven’t done so already. You’ll find lots more things on that list that you won’t find here (and vice versa).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A FEW TIPS

The best time to travel to Iceland is May – October, particularly if you’re thinking of embarking on a similar road trip (less chance of inclement weather). If you’re visiting in early May or late October, it might be worth asking the rental car company to fit the car with snow tyres, just in case. The weather is unpredictable in Iceland and can turn very easily, very quickly.

Hiring a car is obviously essential. Our favourite rental car company is Budget. The cost of hiring a car is about the same as here in Australia. Definitely book online before you depart as you’ll be picking up the car as soon as you arrive at Keflavík airport (it’s super easy!).

A GPS is also essential. We downloaded the Tom Tom app on our iPhone (you’ll also have to download and pay for the Iceland map) but it’s money worth spending. If the car you’re hiring doesn’t come with a mount for your phone, make sure you bring one.

Set aside a fair portion of your budget for food and petrol – Iceland is as expensive as it gets in Scandinavia (almost as Norway) so be prepared to spend a bucketload on fuelling up (in the case of petrol, we were paying around $1.60 per litre).

Speaking of budget, I couldn’t tell you precisely how much the roadtrip cost us in total (unfortunately we are not one of those freakishly organised travellers who keeps a running tab of how much we spend in an Excel spreadsheet). Off the cuff, I’d say we averaged $150 per night for accommodation + $40-$60 per day for food (for two of us – and that included grocery supplies and 1 meal eaten at a restaurant whether it was lunch OR dinner (we rarely ate out for both lunch and dinner in a single day). Car hire was around $90 a day I think. We literally didn’t shop or buy anything other than food, hotels, drinks and fuel for the entire 8 days of our roadtrip, and tried to keep things pretty frugal (impossible when you’re in Scandinavia though).

When it came to food, most of the towns we passed through were so heinously remote that cafes and restaurants were few and far between. Each morning we’d start by heading to the nearest Bónus (there’s plenty of them around) which had everything you could think of under the sun. We pretty much bought our breakfasts and lunches from the supermarket, and then had dinner out once we reached our final destination. I definitely recommend filling up the car with snacks as there’s very few chances to do so as you start driving!

Pack as many layers and practical shoes as you can. In summer you can get away with sneakers and a couple of layers but during winter and the shoulder season, I was wearing up to 7-8 layers on the coldest days.

Lastly, if you’re searching for a blissful geothermal spa other than Blue Lagoon and Myvatn Baths, check out Fontana Spa. It’s new and I haven’t been there yet, but it’s only an hours’ drive from Reykjavík and perfectly located if you’re doing the Golden Circle on the same day.

Photography by Michelle and Jamie Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia

Packing for Santorini.

1-Santorini copy6-SantoriniOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning know that the Type A in me loves nothing more than a good packing list.

So I’m really excited that the next three months will see me teaming up with Country Road to share my travel and packing tips from my travels around the world and around Australia.

First up, a summer in Santorini and all my must-have packing essentials for a blue sky holiday.

Head over to the Country Road journal to read the full post.

Calm before the storm.

NIK_6707OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANIK_6601topshopamafs2NIK_6535v11024

I’ve been sitting here since last night writing an eloquent and witty opening paragraph for this post; about how it’s been a month since I swapped ice cream and sandals weather in Santorini with the impending grey and gloom in Perth; about how it’s actually not quite winter yet; but how it doesn’t really matter because winter in Perth is usually just sweaters and Birkenstocks weather anyway.

Then I backspaced the entire thing because all of it – the weather, the Santorini blue, the small talk, celebrating the fact that I’ve been comfort dressing in monotones lately – seems so futile after an ominous morning I’ve spent inside a dimly lit room, listening to a doctor saying things I didn’t want to hear today. It’s funny how a single moment can make your heart beat so fast when you don’t want it to beat at all.

So I backspaced the whole paragraph because there is nothing more paralysing than pretending not to care.

But I remember the afternoon these pictures were taken, and I remember how much I love this outfit, how much I loved the way the clouds rippled across the sky for just a few seconds. And how wearing grey – and all at once – has this magical ability to instil a sense of calm in me as I fall in and out of fear on an otherwise gloomy day.

But then the wind changed. It started to rain shortly after. It’s unnerving how a split second can make you feel like you’re either on top of the world, or under it.

And it’s times like these photos let me remember how beautiful the world is before it all comes crashing down.

In collaboration with Topshop | wearing curved hem tunic over raw-edge sweatshirt, MOTO slim boyfriend jeans, and grey long duster coat. All items available from Topshop instore.

Styling by me. Photographs by Jamie Lau.

Let’s never leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s a little crazy to think that it was only three weeks ago when half the contents of my unzipped carry-on bag literally flew halfway up the street outside our Iceland hotel as we piled into the car en route to the airport. A tour bus load of passengers who – with much amusement apparently – witnessed me running after my Roshe Runs as they made for a great escape along with the ferocious wind at 5am.

I can’t begin to tell you about the howling and unforgiving Icelandic wind that morning, but let’s just say steel lamp posts were swaying rather precariously from side to side and it took no less than 10 minutes for my husband to successfully put one suitcase into the boot.

And if that wasn’t enough, my hands were jammed in my pockets out of fear they’d turn blue and fall off in -9 degrees celsius weather.

So I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to (and dare I say, earned) sun-drenched Santorini – and the daily overdose of vitamin D – to end our two month-long trip.

Of course, the excitement was kinda dampened when our airline lost our luggage on the way to the Adriatic coast – but that’s another story for another day (see, I wasn’t ever joking about packing that spare change of undies).

The short story is that eventually our suitcases turned up and the long story? Maybe I’ll just let these pictures speak a thousand words.

In collaboration with Topshop Australia | wearing Finders Keepers pinstripe top + culottes available at Topshop.

Photographs by Jamie Lau.

Life in the slow lane.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fridays are for my favourite things: sunshine, waking up at noon, cups of tea, leaving things half done, and life in the slow lane.

They say time goes quicker in New York, whilst in Iceland, life is the complete opposite. I’ve been watching snowflakes fall to the floor from my bedroom window every day I’ve been here; taken the roads that are less travelled, sat by waterfalls as they crash to the ground and it’s as if the second-happiest country in the world doesn’t know a damn thing about time.

But the thing is, they’re completely okay with that. And so am I.

In collaboration with Topshop Australia 

Travel Journal: Tokyo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I always leave my heart in Tokyo.

The midnight vending machine run; the beguiling sense of order and chaos at Shibuya Crossing; the meticulously wrapped fruit and stationery; the simple fact that you can find good ramen on every street corner; and the way not many Tokyo-ites can hold a conversation in English but always try to – even if it means walking you 500m to the nearest subway station when you find yourself lost in this incredible labyrinth of a city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Truth be told, I love Paris for its architecture and New York City for its old-world, well-mannered grandeur, but I love Tokyo for everything. There is no other city that comes even close and no other place I could definitively say I love most.

IMG_7255

As with my other travel journals, my guide to Tokyo is by no means definitive. I’m the non-tourist tourist – I prefer to spend my afternoon at a café sipping coffee rather than line up for hours at a major tourist attraction. So with that in mind, the recommendations I’ve shared below is a snapshot of how I like to spend my time travelling.

This is my Tokyo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

EAT

Ramen

Ippudo Ramen – in my opinion, some of the best ramen in Tokyo is right here. I’ve been countless times and it’s such a different experience to the chains in Sydney and New York.

4-10-3 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo

Ichiran Ramen – ramen in your own booth, ordered from a vending machine. It’s a tiny restaurant in a basement and its main aim is to minimise customer contact as much as possible for the sake of efficiency. A classic and compulsory Japanese experience. If you have trouble finding it, it’s just a few doors down from Zara.

1 Chome-22-7 Jinnan, Shibuya

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Japanese the locals love

Maisen Tonkatsu – life-changing tonkatsu, not even kidding. Maisen has ruined eating tonkatsu anywhere else in the world for as long as I shall live.

4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya

Harajuku Gyoza – cheap but cheerful gyoza and, in my humble opinion, the best in Tokyo. Remember to order the mince beansprouts and pickled cucumber with your dumplings! Also, try to go for an early dinner or late lunch as queues form quickly here.

6-2-4 Jingumae, Shibuya

Café hopping

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bread, Espresso & – people queue up for the French Toast and understandably so – it’s served in a cast-iron skillet (enough to share between two so for 650 yen it’s a bargain) and it’s also to die for. I did read somewhere, though, that it’s only served on the skillet for the 3pm run.  In any case, I’d jump on a plane to Tokyo just for this. The French Toast is only served before 10am or after 3pm and not in between so don’t try getting a table at 2:30pm then ordering the French Toast when it hits 3pm. You’ll be refused and told to go back outside to line up. It’s a Japanese thing, I think.

3-4-9, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Café Kitsuné – I love the matcha lattes here. Pricey at $6 a pop but it’s surprisingly difficult to get matcha lattes anywhere else in Tokyo (even from a vending machine).

3-17-1 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku

Nicolai Bergmann Nomu Café – this breathtaking space is a sight for sore eyes. It’s a florist and café in one. Order the Scandinavian lunch set.

1F, 5-7-2, Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweets

Shozo Coffee Store – the cutest little store (try their famed madeleines) with an amazing courtyard at the back. Don’t miss it!

3-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Sadaharu Aoki – Japanese pastry chef who honed his craft in Paris. Make sure you try the eclairs!

Shinkokusai BLD, 3-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Rose Bakery – for the carrot cake, of course. Be sure to do a little window shop at Uniqlo and Dover Street Market after!

7F, 6-9-5, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Snacks

Onigiri from the corner store – my most favourite part about visiting Japan is the convenience stores! I’m obsessed with having onigiri for breakfast. It’s hard to miss, but look for a Lawson, Familymart or 7-Eleven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Specialty Coffee

See my five must-visit spots in Tokyo on vogue.com.au. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

SEE

Meji Shrine – a beautiful shrine in the middle of a forest in the middle of Harajuku. An experience like no other when in Tokyo.

Mori Tower – an amazing 360 view of the Tokyo skyscapers. On a clear day I think you can see Mount Fuji.

Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa – go on Sundays when all the food stalls are peddling everything from Doraemon cakes to takoyaki.

Get lost in Omotesando – the best thing. I could spend hours walking around and dropping my jaw at all the architecture here.

Get lost in Daikanyama – one of my most favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo. There are so many small cafes and shops hidden at every corner. Go here before everyone else does.

Ghibli Museum – I’ve only seen (though really enjoyed!) a few Miyazaki films, but this one is definitely something you shouldn’t miss if you’re a huge fan.

1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo

Cherry blossoms – refer to my Hanami section below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hanami in Tokyo

‘Hanami’ is Japanese for ‘cherry blossom viewing’ and it’s one of the most magical things you’ll ever experience if you visit Tokyo during March and April. It’s the happiest and most exciting time of year in Japan. The season doesn’t last long – two or so weeks tops, so it pays to research the best time to go!

When should I book my trip?

As far as Tokyo goes, the last week of March to the second week of April is generally a safe bet. I have visited Tokyo for the past two cherry blossom seasons and found that full bloom peaks around the 26th-28th March give or take a couple of days.  This year, I was in Tokyo 26th-31st March and full bloom fell the day or two after I arrived.

Because it’s the most popular time of year to visit Japan, it’s typical for hotels to book out a year in advance. Book your accommodation and flights as early as possible if you’re planning a cherry blossom trip.

Where is the best spot to see/photograph cherry blossoms?

If you don’t mind crowds and have a whole day to spare, Ueno Park is beautiful, vast, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It seems everyone and anyone in Tokyo is here at any one time!

For cherry blossoms with a lake view, visit Inokashira Park and Chidorigafuchi Moat of the Imperial Palace. Both of these parks also give you an opportunity to hire a row boat. I love photographing Inokashira after everyone’s gone home and as the sun’s setting – just before 7pm.

Nakameguro is probably my most favourite spot for hanami with its cherry blossom-lined canal and shops/cafes on either side.  It’s packed with tourists during blossom season though, so bear this in mind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

SHOP

Omotesando – shop your Chanel bags, Church’s boots, and Dior earrings here. Don’t forget to comb the backstreets for cool little boutiques.

Minami Aoyama – Prada, Miu Miu, Diptyque, Acne Studios and tons more (including amazing architecture).

Found Muji – located near Omotesando, it’s the most inspiring and incredible place to shop a curated edit of one-of-a-kind Muji homewares. APC is also just around the corner if that’s your thing.

Margaret Howell – the Ginza store is beautifully merchandised and the sales ladies here are always so lovely!

Rag Tag – Japanese consignment stores are seriously amazing. I’ve found archival pieces from Balenciaga and Isabel Marant here for heavily reduced prices in immaculate condition as well as designer handbags for so low. It’s also shoe heaven here if you’re a size 36-38. For the best and largest designer handbag selection (think Celine, Chanel, Balenciaga, Prada, LV, Hermes), head to the Harajuku and Ginza outpost. For accessories and jewellery, Ginza wins. The Harajuku store is by far the biggest though in terms of all designers. Rag Tag Shinjuku has the most range of pre-owned Acne Studios. As you can tell, I’m such a discount shopper!

Nakameguro and Daikanyama – you can find all the indie boutiques here, stocking everything from Bassike and Isabel Marant to local Japanese labels.

T-Site –  the most incredible bookshop in Daikanyama, Tokyo. It’s so easy to spend hours here.

Muji – no Japanese retail experience is complete without a visit to this iconic and quintessential Japanese store. I love stocking up on wearable and chic wardrobe basics (Breton striped dresses and linen skirts) from Muji as well as stationery.

WEEKENDERS/DAY TRIPS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kyoto – it’s an easy Shinkansen (bullet train) ride to and from Tokyo. For me, two days is enough but I’m not fanatical about shrines as others! Arashiyama (the beautiful bamboo forest) and the surrounding parks/markets can be done in a couple of hours.

Hakone – a beautiful and serene escape from Tokyo, which you can combine with a trip to Mount Fuji. I’d love to stay at Hakone Ginyu next time, but it always seems to book out at least a year in advance during peak season!

Mount Fuji – I’ve done the Mt Fuji/Lake Ashi Viator day tour and highly recommend it. It’s about 13 hours in duration and it’s easy to get to and from Tokyo. It was inclement weather to go up to the 5th station but the sky was clear enough to see Fujisan in all its symmetry!

Visit an onsen – I’ve stayed at Manza Onsen Hotel and although it’s nothing overly fancy, it offers a truly authentic and charming Japanese experience. The all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet was a highlight, haha. The hotel offers bus transport to and from Tokyo from a bus terminal in Shinjuku. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ESSENTIALS IN TOKYO

Suica/PASMO metro transport card – budget around 1500 yen per day for moderate metro use. These cards can be purchased at all train stations or at the airport upon arrival.

Portable wifi – I’ve used Global Advanced Communications twice for my trips to Japan and highly recommend it. Order it a month online before your trip and have it delivered directly to your hotel on the date you arrive. The wifi works throughout Japan. I order the ECO Pocket WIFI 21mbps + extra battery. The cost was around AUD$70 for 11 days. It might sound expensive, but it’s really not as Tokyo is hugely difficult to navigate without the benefit of having wifi with you at all times – this far outweighs the cost.

Google Maps – absolutely essential when in Tokyo, but you will obviously need wifi to power it.

Basic grasp of the language – learning how to say thank you goes a long way in Japan!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WHERE TO STAY

My favourite areas to stay include

Shibuya – a distinctively youthful and frenetic part of Tokyo that never ever sleeps. Close to all you’ll ever need, really.

Shinjuku – quite similar to Shibuya, home to the giant department stores, and a great base to explore Tokyo.

Shinbashi – an affordable option if you want to be close to Ginza, Asakusa, and the Yamanote line (to get to and from the airport).

Omotesando – close to boutiques and some of the coolest cafes in Tokyo. I’d try and book an airbnb here as there’s probably not much in the way of hotels.

IMG_7158

Hotels I’ve stayed at + recommend

Park Tokyo (Shiodome), Granbell Hotel Shibuya, Granbell Hotel Shinjuku, Sunroute Shinbashi (no-frills, tiny, but a great location). For those of you lucky enough to be not on a budget, try Claska or Park Hyatt.

Photography by Michelle Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia

To see more of my travels, follow my Instagram + #seetheworldwitholympus for real-time updates and a peek at where I’m off to next.

Travel Journal: Vietnam.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So 18 years have passed since my last trip to Vietnam. Back then, I was a pimply, tracksuit-wearing, makeup-inept teen, so much has (thankfully) changed for both myself and my native country in that time.

Whilst the palm-leaf conical hats, rickshaws and the food-on-a-stick epidemic has remained, the incredible cafe scene in Vietnam was a wonderful discovery. Who knew this South-East Asian country known more for brewing their coffee in a Moka pot could embrace the specialty coffee movement (and accompanying minimalist and concrete cafe interiors) that’s sweeping the world, one bearded hipster at a time?

It was a travesty I only had a few days in Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang to dedicate to some coffee exploration (the rest of my time was spent visiting relatives I haven’t seen in 18 years). That said, I managed to uncover some of HCMC and Da Nang’s best coffee spots so I thought as part of my Olympus Travel Journal for Vietnam, I thought I’d share them with any of you planning a visit to this part of the world soon.

HO CHI MINH CITY

L’usine Cafeteria

IMG_7112lusine le loi duo

My favourite, hands down. They have two outposts, both of which are beautifully merchandised with a thoughtful edit of homewares (including Copenhagen’s Madam Stoltz & local Scandinavian-inspired wares) as well as clothing (think Kenzo, Cameo, and labels for both men and women).

Open daily 7:30am – 10:30pm / website

151/1 Dong Khoi St., 1st Floor, Hồ Chí Minh (features beautiful marble tables, larger retail store)

70 Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh (slightly smaller retail space, but still super lovely + photogenic cafe!)

The Workshop Coffee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They take their coffee pretty seriously here, in an Aeropress/Chemex/Kenyan brew kind of way. It’s a beautiful space (floor to ceiling windows, amazing light, and free wifi!), with impressive latte art to match. The dubious ground floor is full of motorcycles, so once you get past that, head upstairs to the first floor where you’ll see the cafe.

Open daily 8:00am – 8:00pm / facebook

Address: 27 Ngô Đức Kế, Bến Nghé, 1, Hồ Chí Minh (upstairs)

 

DA NANG

Wonderlust Bakery & Coffee

Workshop 3 duoWanderlust 2

If you happen to be in this neck of the woods (Da Nang is towards central Vietnam) and you’re craving a matcha latte, head here. Not too sweet, the matcha has an authentic green tea twang.

Open daily 7:30am – 10:00pm

101 Trần Phú, Da Nang / facebook

Cafe Caricoli

IMG_6952

Okay, so my mother dragged me here because she’s obsessed with this old guy from YouTube who happens to be the founder/owner of Cafe Caricoli. The coffee here is more of the traditional Vietnamese than specialty kind (i.e. drip coffee sweetened with condensed milk). To my surprise though, it was all kinds of amazing. The beans are selected by hand and roasted in-house. I absolutely recommend it if you’re after traditional local coffee with an emphasis on quality and provenance.

Open daily 6:00am – 10:00pm

2 Duong 3 Thang 2, Da Nang, Vietnam / tripadvisor

 

Photography by Michelle Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia

To see more of my travels, follow my Instagram + #seetheworldwitholympus for real-time updates and a peek at where I’m off to next.

Travel Journal: KLIA Minimalism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have this thing with airports. I almost always hate them with a passion – my Type A, hyperactive, impatient self has too little attention span for waiting. But on the other hand, I’m a believer that airports see more sincere kisses than wedding halls.

On Christmas Eve a few years ago, I was picking up my husband from the airport when I realised that the arrival hall of any airport the day before Christmas Day must truly be one of the happiest places on Earth.

So it didn’t feel right to start my Olympus travel journal without sharing these quick snaps I took at KLIA2 airport with my OM-D E-M1 (whilst running for my departing plane, no less). I don’t usually photograph airports ever as I’m so pre-occupied with getting to my destination on time and in one piece, but as soon as I landed at KLIA2, I drew an audible and incredulous gasp at how put together the arrivals and departure terminals at KLIA2 now looks.

KLIA2 is the new, rejuvenated home for all low-cost carrier flights, leaving all horribly tedious layovers at drab LCCT in the past (which has now become a cargo hub). And needless to say, this one took me by complete surprise.

With the afternoon sunbeams flooding the minimalist, grey and white interiors (fact: this kind of thing never goes out of style) it was as if KLIA2’s departure hall spoke an insouciant charm that knows the way to my heart.

Photography by Michelle Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia

Topshop: An essay on style.

NIK_6142editbwNIK_6193 duoNIK_6102edit copyNIK_6106editbw

Wearing Topshop pale blue raw edge cropped shirt

My catholic high school uniform consisted of a white shirt and striped tie, and a grey pleated skirt no higher than 12cm above the knee. We weren’t allowed to tie our college sweaters around our waist, and our hair had to always be tied back with a teal scrunchie.

Even when I was 14, being indistinguishable from everyone else bored me. So I’d change out the buttons on my shirt cuffs. I wore black Clarks oxfords with a heel a little higher than everyone else. I’d find novel ways to plait my hair each morning.

Style must have come to me early but looking back, it was ironic, given that for most of my childhood, I craved to have the same colour hair and the same contents in my lunchbox as everyone else.

I find ‘style’ difficult to define. I always knew it was an intangible quality – something money can never buy and something you either have or you don’t But it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Tiffany from Perth’s Topshop Personal Shopping (a free service that’s available to anyone) that I realised style – of the sartorial kind – is merely an unapologetic interpretation of what you wear and an expression of our personality.

As Topshop Perth’s Style Ambassador for 2015, that’s precisely the message I hope to convey through these monthly ‘style essays’.

That maybe it’s okay to buy a plain Jane blue shirt in favour of the fuchsia spray-on dress that’s hanging in the shopfront window just because it’s what you think you should wear (and not because it’s something you actually want to wear). They say you should never wear two voluminous things together. That flat shoes should never be worn with hemlines longer than the knee. That you should never leave the house without brushing your hair.

But rules were meant to be broken – and having a sense of personal style is just a matter of knowing which ones to break.

In collaboration with Topshop Australia 

Photographs by Jamie Lau.

In love and war.

NIK_15562000

Right before this photo was taken, my husband and I sat on the edge of the jetty for almost an hour waiting for the sun to start making its way towards the horizon. It’s a photographer’s curse – there’s either too much light, or not enough of it.

In any case, now that we’ve all officially heralded the start of spring (in the southern hemisphere, at least) here’s a closer look at one of my favourite looks from my latest Spy Style post for Vogue Australia. Alex Perry has me at lace on lace this summer. Here’s the full post in case you missed it.

Speaking of, my husband and I are saying goodbye to Helsinki and hello to Paris tomorrow, specifically to work on a beautiful project with Vogue and Cartier. With my husband behind the lens and me taking care of everything else as is always the case (hair/makeup/wardrobe/creative direction/excessive pedantries) I can already sense the tension (let’s just say Jamie and I love/but probably mostly hate working with each other) but am quietly hopeful everything will be just fine. Can’t wait to share this pinch-me moment with you all!

Vogue Spy Style: Spring Summer ’15.

NIK_13752000NIK_14082000NIK_17552000

Even though Jamie and I went to hell and back to get the perfect photos on the perfect day with the most perfect weather (we shot a couple of the photos at 6am on the day we were due to fly out to Europe because it had rained all week), my latest Spy Style for Vogue Australia is without a doubt my favourite post to date.

I was lucky enough to team up with Myer this season to style and shoot my favourite trends for spring summer 2015. My can’t-live-without-pieces? The divine jewel-toned jacket by Ellery and Aurelio Costarella’s ostrich feather cami. A dramatic tulle maxi skirt is also hard to beat!

See the entire post over at Vogue.com.au.

The Gentlewoman.

NIK_11471NIK_11901-1024x730CRshortsuitduo1NIK_1270bwNIK_1020NIK_1047NIK_1183NIK_0974NIK_1122NIK_1016NIK_1215NIK_1159cr2 (1)

Country Road silk crepe de chine blazer & silk shorts, Everlane silk blouse, Molten ‘The Life Aquatic’ ear cuff, b’tempt’d lace bralette, Country Road Adriene patent loafer.

Funny but tragic story. I was running an errand at the local university last week when I had to get some cash out. As I stood in front of the ATM (with a long line of uni students behind me, no less), the screen stared back at me with two words most students are probably familiar with: Insufficient Funds. The last time that happened to me was probably 10 years ago at the local university. Funny how some things come full circle. Between that and not being able to justify buying Alphabet Journal (like how I can’t afford to get a haircut so if you’re about to ask why my hair’s looking so long these days…), it’s been a week of emotional meltdowns (the kind where you don’t wanna get out of bed – ever – and want to get off the internet for the entire year – at least), as well as crazy exciting happenings (like me leaving for Europe this week).

And whilst the word ‘busy’ has become so overused in my vernacular that it means nothing to anyone close to me these days, I’ve got so much time for black on black, even if the current pastel-hued storefronts try to convince me otherwise.

There’s only one week left to instagram your #COUNTRYROADSTYLE entries. Take a photo of yourself, your friends, your family, your home or a flat-lay featuring at least one Country Road item (old or new!) and hashtag it #countryroadstyle on Instagram to have a crack at winning the very last $1000 Country Road gift card. Get snapping!

Melbourne in a day with Farage.

LB2aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALB3LB4OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALB10LuxBite3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALB9 copyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALB6OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADD7OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADD5OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADD4OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADD9duoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALB5DB2

How does one ought to spend 36 hours in a city that boasts the best coffee (and cafes with the most Instagram handles) in the world?

This is how: hand-dipped doughnuts for breakfast, raspberry Ispahans for lunch, and popcorn macarons for dinner.

After all, when in Rome…or in this case, the capital of coffee supremacy, Melbourne.

I love this city. Heck, I was ready to pack my bags if it wasn’t for this guy I had just met (who, erm, also happened to take these photos). But it’s the grey sky on a good day, the electricity in the air down Flinders Lane. The pour over and the stirring of a Synesso on any given streetcornered cafe; and the places and spaces in all their white-washed glory. It’s the appreciation and celebration of which – according to Market Lane – making coffee for the city that loves drinking it. It’s this paying-it-forward that kind of makes me want to wear my heart on my sleeve, too. Above everything else, it’s the doing what you love and only what you love, that speaks to me now, more than ever.

Meeting the wonderfully inspiring and uplifting team at Farage during the time I spent in Melbourne last week made me realise how staying true to yourself teaches us something about survival. And aside from the two things that struck the world for me (the very fact that the incredibly lovely and down-to-earth Joe & Katy have been in the business for a remarkable 17 years and Farage have never been stronger; and that all the beautifully crafted clothes are still made right here in Melbourne) that maybe it’s not always about charisma, but instinct. Honesty. Trusting yourself. And being okay with making mistakes. As I got back on the plane en route to home, it gave me so much food for thought.

Speaking of, I wasn’t about to come home without my take on tuxedos (men’s silk bow tie essential) as well as my mini-guide to Melbourne’s best sweets, best coffee, best brunches, best everything. Next time, I shall be bringing friends.

Bon appétit!

Sweet Tooth?

LuxBite | 38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra | @luxbite

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio | 647 Chapel St, South Yarra | @burchpurchese

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier | Claremont St, South Yarra | @ilovezumbo (the popcorn Zumbarons!)

Doughboys Doughnuts | Mercat Cross Hotel, 456 Queen St, Melbourne | @doughboysdoughnuts

Chez Dre | Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne |  @chezdrecafe

Gelato Messina | 237 Smith St, Fitzroy | @gelatomessina 

 

Notable Coffee

Market Lane | 109-111 Therry St, Melbourne | @marketlane

The League of Honest Coffee | 8 Exploration Lane, Melbourne | @LeagueofHonest

Bluebird Expresso | 134 Johnston St, Collingwood | @Bluebird3066

Proud Mary | 172 Oxford St, Collingwood | @proudmarycoffee

Industry Beans | 3/62 Rose St, Fitzroy | @industrybeans

Barry | 85 High St, Northcote | @barrycoffeeandfood

 

And if you have more than a day…

Tall Timber | 60 Commercial Rd, Prahran | @tall_timber

Top Paddock | 658 Church St, Richmond | @toppaddock (the pancakes!)

The Kettle Black | 50 Albert Rd, South Melbourne | @kettleblackcafe

Hammer and Tong | Rear 412 Brunswick st, Fitzroy | @hammerandtong

The Grain Store | 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne | @GrainStore517

Supernormal | 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne | @supernormal_180 (the lobster rolls, the white cut chicken, everything, really.)

 

Photographs by Michelle & Jamie Lau. Creative Direction & Styling by Michelle. 

I’m wearing the Scarlet tuxedo, men’s silk bow tie, Monica silk shirt and the Goldie soft pink trouser from the upcoming Farage SS14/15 collection.

Thank you Farage, Emily/WM Media & The Olsen.