Pienza Cocktails at Idyllium Bar

If there was one way to kick off a mega weekend of wedding celebrations in style, that’s exactly what we did with sunset drinks in the old town of Pienza on Friday 30th August. With the wedding party of over one hundred people arriving in Italy for the weekend ahead, my brother and his bride-to-be hosted welcome drinks in this dreamy location overlooking the Tuscan countryside.

Edit 3It was the most fabulous occasion with a breathtaking backdrop as the evening sun treated us to perfect golden hour hues. 

Edit 5We had the entire back terrace at Idyllium to ourselves with a selection of bubbles, wines and beers served by our own barman who kept everyone’s drinks flowing. With its prime location and flawless service, it’s no wonder this cocktail bar is known as one of the best in the region.

Edit 8.jpgI had such a wonderful time hanging out with my family and friends of my brother’s, some of which I hadn’t seen for years! Sipping our bubbles overlooking that Tuscan landscape with my awesome cousins by my side, I couldn’t have been happier at that moment.

Edit 7.jpgPre-wedding excitement was certainly on a high and I was extremely prouder of my big brother for bringing together so many loved ones here in Italy for the occasion.

Edit 6.jpgAs the night drew in, it was soon time for the groom to say goodbye to his fiancé the final time before their wedding the next day. Joining us for dinner just around the corner, it was a special meal together as a family of five before he became a married man.

Edit 9.jpgAnd so is evident from the wavy photo above, I knocked back a fair few proseccos as the night continued and we enjoyed another delicious Italian meal involving plenty of bread and pasta. I wore my electric blue lace cap sleeve Lipsy dress for the occasion with stiletto nude heels. These proved quite the challenge when walking the cobbled streets of Pienza, however I had my sister and future sister-in-law by my side to give a helping hand!

Edit 2.jpgWhat an evening it was and terrific welcome to what was to become the wedding of the century. Idyllium; A romantic interlude…let the wedding day commence ❤

Italian Eats; Daria Monticchiello

Staying in the heart of Tuscany, we were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing not only the fabulous local wine, but also the exquisite food on offer. Each region of Italy has its own specialities which use the best of local produce, the Tuscan cuisine being known for its simple, quality dishes often incorporating meat from the land.

Edit 1Following recommendation from fellow visitors at our villa and rave reviews online, we decided to try Ristorante Daria in the nearby town of Monticchiello. This ancient walled village makes for the perfect setting for this fine dining restaurant serving traditional Tuscan food with exceptional service to match.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntering through the glass doorway laden with green plants and pots, we are greeted by welcoming staff who seated us to our table tucked away around by the artistic wall display of wine bottles. Edit 5From the moment we arrived, the attentive hospitality and personal service from Daria herself made for a homely ambience. As we sipped on our aperitif of prosecco and browsed the menu, Daria quietly circled the tables making recommendations where sought. Edit 3With an extensive menu showcasing the best of Tuscan flavours served with an elegant twist, I was torn by a number of dishes. For a starter I opted for the goats cheese tomato salad and for secondi the ‘spaghetti di zucchine su cream di piselli’.

Edit 6After choosing a local red wine from 2010 to accompany our meal, we were treated to a tasty amuse bouche of fish pate alongside a gourmet basket of breadsticks, flatbreads and fresh breads. Served promptly after this, the salad starter I chose featuring plenty of goats cheese in different rinds was a taste sensation.

Edit 7With a hum of fellow diners including locals and foreigners alike, wine continued to flow as our waiter insured glasses were topped up and Daria came over to have another chat between courses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon our secondi was served and once again presentation made for a feast for the eyes as well as our bellies. Despite choosing an all vegetable based main, my zucchini spaghetti in a veloute of green peas was packed full of flavour. I also had a try of my cousin’s homemade gnocchi which too was delicious.Edit 9To finish my Dad and I shared the chocolate cake a la Daria served with custard and chocolate sauce, the perfect end to a perfect meal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this wonderful restaurant to anyone visiting the region who is looking for authentic local cuisine served with a touch of elegance. Ristorante Daria certainly does epitomise the best of Tuscany – its energy, culture, food and friendly locals.

Bellissimo Poolside Bliss

It doesn’t get better than long days spent lounging around the pool on holiday with loved ones. With the worries and stresses of home life far away and the only thing on our mind being what delicious Italian food we were going to indulge in next, it felt like we were in our own little paradise for the week.

Edit 2Our villa and grounds at Borgo Poggiardelli in the heart of Tuscany was exquisite with the infinity pool and water well completing such quintessential Italian surroundings. Wearing my new Lack Of Colours rancher hat I too was feeling very European.

Edit 4My usual morning routine on holiday consists of an am workout, followed by a quick jump in the pool to cool off before sitting back to enjoy my morning coffee – given the heat I often opt to make it iced!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf I’m not reading a magazine or plugged into my current favourite podcast (Venetia Falconer Talking Tastebuds), I try to make the most of catching up and just hanging out with my family. And that is what I consider to be bliss; chilling with my loved ones, listening to music and having a laugh like old times.

Edit 5Bliss; perfect happiness, great joy.

Italian Vibes and Tuscany Highs

And so our long awaited trip to Italy commenced at the end of last month with our entire family and relatives making the journey from all corners of the world for my brother’s wedding. Landing in Rome a week before the wedding, I joined my family on a week’s holiday prior to all the celebrations.

Edit 1Following a long two hour car journey from Rome airport into the heart of Tuscany (those Italians are maniacs on the roads!), we arrived at our stunning villa at Borgo Poggiardelli for the week. Just out of Montepulciano nestled in the rolling hills of the Italian countryside, we were surrounded by spectacular scenery with an abundance of vineyards producing our favourite red wine of the region.

Edit 2With so much fresh local produce in the supermarkets as well as stunning wine selling for a fraction of what we’d pay back home, we made some brilliant spreads of food ourselves. I get so inspired in foreign supermarkets trying out new ingredients and incorporating these into meals. From mozzarella, tomato, basil and balsamic salad to juicy sweet cantaloupe melon wrapped in salty parma ham, each day we put together a number of delicious dishes for lunch served out on our terrace under the scorching sun.

Edit 5Cooking is always one of my favourite parts of holidaying with family as we have the time to spend in the kitchen so everyone does their bit to help out. This isn’t usually something my sister gets that excited about, but this holiday she really did enjoy getting involved with the cooking and I even helped her perfect a potato salad recipe which became her speciality on the trip!

Edit 4As usual our time at Borgo Poggiardelli was far too short and we could’ve done with staying another week just relaxing by the pool by day and sipping on our Montepulciano wine by night. Given all the family we had to visit before the wedding, we never even got the time to visit the wineries and indulge in a tasting. It was however the perfect mini break in preparation for the wedding which won’t be quite so restful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy sister, cousin and I have already agreed we will come back to this fabulous region of Italy to properly experience the historic towns and surrounding vineyards offering wine tastings and authentic local cuisine across the high hills of Tuscany.

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Victorious Festival Southsea

With temperatures soaring in the UK this weekend, it was the perfect weather for a festival. I joined my sister at Victorious in Southsea to assist with her radio show broadcasting live from the site on Saturday evening.Edit 1We spent the afternoon grabbing interviews with the artists lined up for the show. Working for BBC Introducing Solent, all of the artists were local, up and coming acts which the show gives platform to. Edit 3Using the portable mic and headphones, I was on hand to assist my sister with logistics and capture some photos too.

Edit 5I kept my outfit simple with an all black everything ensemble and black fedora hat to match. On reflection I should’ve worn something a little lighter given the scorching heat!

Edit 7The show was going live at 8pm, so we got ourselves back to the press tent and setup ready to go on air just as James Bay was beginning his set on the main stage.

Edit 8Steph pulled off a fantastic show with the energy of the festival buzzing in the background. I was glad to be on hand for the day and act as PA to my radio star sis!

Oh what a night; A Hen to remember

Having been on the other side of the world in the run up to my brother’s wedding next week, I was thrilled to be back in time for the Hen do! With the bride already having celebrated with friends abroad last month, this was the final night with her closest girlfriends and family before jetting off to Italy for the Wedding.

Edit 2.jpgI caught the train into London with my mum and sister for the occasion and it was great to be back in town. The night started in a fabulous bar called Mr Fogg’s House Of Botanicals just off of Goodge Street in the city. We had our own private room up the stunning spiral staircase where we got things going with prosecco and nibbles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe venue was so photographable with all the lavish decor and themed props which reflected an Alice in Wonderland vibe. The service was also impeccable as the waitresses made sure our drinks were flowing and took photos of the ladies to capture the special evening.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo finish up we ordered in a round of sharing cocktails. Served in bone china cup and saucers, these were fun to drink and equally delicious – my kind of afternoon tea.

Edit 4Before leaving we made sure to get a few shots in front of the gorgeous rose arch doorway.

Edit 6Next on the agenda was a bar just 5 minutes around the corner called Bourne & Hollingsworth. Here I chose to have an Espresso Martini to get me going for the night. This hidden underground bar was a contrast to our previous location and whilst it was a busy Saturday night, they still served up topnotch cocktails very quickly.

Edit 13.jpgAs the drinks continued to flow and the girls were itching for a good dance, we made the decision to go to Little Italy in Soho. Given the Wedding next week in Italy itself, it seemed the perfect place to round up the evening…our bride to be even jumped up on the bar for a final boogy! Edit 7I’m so proud to be calling this bundle of beauty and joy my future sister in law ❤ Congrats bro, you done damn well!

Love brings you home

Sometimes it takes a little time and space to truly appreciate and cherish your humble beginnings. Whilst my adventure down under has been more than I could’ve ever wished for, I’m so excited to be returning home to my loved ones after almost two years away.

Pic04948Up in the clouds on the long journey back to the UK, I can’t help but feel nostalgic reflecting on my experiences and achievements accomplished on my time in Aus. I’m so incredibly lucky to have my family and the life long friends made down under, who I have shared so many beautiful memories with.

Pic04903As I head home to England for a few months, this certainly isn’t the end of the road for my Aussie life as I return to Sydney for the New Year and my 25th Birthday in January…so Ciao for now Aus, it ain’t over yet!

Sydney Sunday

As I leave Aus tomorrow on my trip back home to England, I had to soak up one last weekend in Sydney before I go. First on the agenda was of course what Aussies do best – a brunch date with a good friend on a Sunday morning. We grabbed Acai at Bondi Fruitologist where every bowl served is fully loaded with scrumptious granola and a generous dollop of peanut butter.

Edit 1We strolled the Bondi to Bronte beach walk as we devoured our delicious pots of refreshing acai and caught up on life.

Edit 2When we reached Bronte it was time to grab an arvo coffee. We went to Huxton’s Cafe on the main drag where it was hard to resist the indulgent array of stunning cakes, fluffy doughnuts and largest lamingtons I’d ever seen!

Edit 3Of course a trip into the city wouldn’t be complete without a bit of retail therapy too. I visited Newtown to have a good browse of the eclectic mix of vintage and outlet stores where I finally purchased the perfect dress for my brother’s wedding at the end of the month. Opting for an authentically Australian made peice, the dress was only $69 from the Melbourne brand Ache.

Edit 4One final stop by Paddington for the afternoon and I inevitably ended up in my favourite shoe boutique on Oxford Street. Zomp sells hundreds of covetable designer shoes at a discount price, making it hard to resist adding to my ever growing shoe collection anytime I visit the store. In search of a pair of heels to match the dress for my brother’s wedding, I bought this stunning pair of Senso satin copper pink mules down from $200 to $95.

Pic04809.jpgGoing back to where it all started in the Paddo hood was the perfect way to end my last weekend here in Sydney for a while. It won’t be long before I’m back in town again though, no doubt strolling the beaches in the Australian summer sun with an acai bowl in hand and good friend by my side ❤

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Sydney Eats: Bush Cafe Redfern

You’d be forgiven for missing this hidden nook located amongst the neighbourhood of Redfern, yet this innovative new restaurant has already got people talking. Bush is an Australian inspired cafe dreamt up by a couple of local lads passionate about the foods which represent and shape the culture of Aussie households.

Edit 1As a good friend of mine is one of the team behind this new hotspot, we visited the cafe this Friday evening to experience it firsthand (and see our friend in action of course!) Dropping in on a blustery winter’s evening, we were greeted by toy wombats and kangaroos as we took our seats on the wooden benches. At 7pm on a Friday night the place was already packed out.

Edit 2The menu is super simple with their famous cheeseburger taking pride of place as star of the show. We began with the Curry Roo Party Pie, a novelty for me as I’d never tried kangaroo meat before. Whilst this delicacy has struck a nerve with some customers, roo meat is actually very sustainable as there is an abundance of wild kangaroos which get killed and discarded of anyway.

Edit 3That’s not to say this restaurant isn’t vegetarian friendly though – the mixed greens served on a smashed potato salad are delicious and the cheeseburger can even be made veggie with a mushroom pattie.

Edit 4Opting for the traditional beef cheeseburger loaded with pickles and special sauce served on a steamed fresh brioche bun, I would go as far as to say this is one of the best burgers in town!

Edit 5To complete the authentic Aussie feast, we had to try the Fairy Bread n Butter Pudding. Served hot from the oven with a scoop of ice cream, this delightful desert would take any Australian back to their childhood days.

Edit 6Bush cafe has certainly filled a gap in the market when it comes to traditional and somewhat ironic Aussie fare. Whilst the interiors reflect the outback with sandstone walls and wooden table tops carved by locals, the nostalgic menu feels like you’re in the company of true Australians at home – well done lads, keep it real!

Edit 5

Highlands Merchant; Best Coffee in Town

One thing the Aussies can confidently claim to do best and take very seriously is their coffee. Consequently, the cafe culture is a competitive market here with brilliant baristas to match.

Edit 1My favourite place for an arvo coffee hit in the south is Highlands Merchant. With its art deco inspired decor and selection of niche cookbooks and kitchenwares on offer, this cafe is perfect for mulling over a book or magazine whilst sipping your favourite hot beverage served to perfection.

Edit 3The friendly staff are always welcoming and they’re never short of a delectable selection of sweet treats baked fresh daily. Their savoury muffins are a must to try or if you have time, the extensive brunch menu has something for all tastes.

Edit 4So if you do happen to pass through Moss Vale, it would be hard to miss the pastel hues and rose gold exteriors of Highlands Merchant. From tradies on their way to work to local mums getting their 11am coffee fix, this local gem is known for serving the best coffee in town!