Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A December Round-Up: Home For Christmas.

The past few weeks have been a bit hectic with a lot going on in my personal life (bit of an understatement tbh), so apologies for this being a little late! I still have my Christmas in NYC posts to write too - so much to do, so little time, the main problem with having a full time job as well as a blog ;) If you were following my Instagram in December, you may have seen that I was home in the UK for Christmas! After last year's Aussie Christmas I was desperate for a cold 'real' Christmas, and so headed home via New York on my First Class Singapore Airline's flight that I bought using all my airmiles.

Christmas was bliss. Don't get me wrong, as with all expat visits home, there were some lows as well (mainly being sad at not getting to see everyone in just two weeks), but for the most part it was wonderful. But anyway, let's start at the very beginning of December. It was 30 degrees C in Sydney and my housemate and I threw a Christmas house party! 

We bought a Christmas tree from Target as they had 30% off, and we asked all of our guests to bring us a decoration. We had some pretty great ones including some hilarious ones. I wore my sparkles because if you can't wear sparkles at Christmas, when can you? And myself, Joe, and his boyfriend Nick learnt the Mean Girls Christmas dance LOL. We had about 25-30 people over, and put on a spread and I made a *very* potent Christmas punch...which was pure alcohol and got everyone very drunk very quickly and it all descended into madness, with people dancing on our kitchen counters haha. (also, the monkey in the below pic is covering my dignity *ahem*)

I then flew to NYC on Singapore Airline's First Class Suites, spending over 40 hours travelling and 28 hours with bum-in-seat. The whole experience was just incredible, and you can read more about it in my full review, or watch the vlog.

I stopped off in Singapore for a few hours, but it was pouring with rain the entire time! I went to the Tanglin Club for a drink, and then got the MRT over to Gardens by the Bay. Last time I was in Singapore I didn't have time to actually go inside the domes, so this time I took the opportunity to wander around them and stretch my legs during my long transfer. It was all very festive with lights and Christmassy things everywhere.

I had the best long weekend partying and seeing New York in the snow and covered in Christmas decorations! I'll be posting more about this soon as I did and saw WAY too much to include in one round-up post. My fave things though included seeing the Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree, ice-skating at Central Park, partying with friends all from different times in my life, and seeing the Radio City Rockette's Christmas Spectacular!

I was originally supposed to fly from NYC to London via Iceland, with a one day stopover in Iceland. I had a tour booked to experience the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik, but unfortunately Icelandair had a strike, so they re-booked me onto a direct flight to London with British Airways *sad face*. Let me tell you, going from Singapore Airlines Suites to BA's Economy was a SHOCK haha. Anyway, I got into London a day earlier than planned, so had some extra time with my family which was nice. 

I was working in the London office for a few days before Christmas, so I used the lunchtimes and evenings to catch up with friends. I spent Tuesday evening after work wandering around London just soaking up the Christmas atmosphere. I walked from Covent Garden down to Trafalgar Square, then along Pall Mall and up to Jermyn Street before heading to the club for a drink. 

Wednesday evening James and Katie had a Christmas party, and the gang who were there I didn't get a chance to see when I was back in July due to holidays clashing etc, so it was SO great to see them all! We sang Christmas carols which was hilarious (Sufi and I weren't so sure about this at first as we're not massive lovers of organised fun...but we ended up loving it!), played table tennis, and ate lots of mince pies and sausage rolls.

On the Thursday I had a little gathering with about twelve friends at Barts in Chelsea. If you've been around here a while you'll already know that it's my favourite bar in London, so I made the most of their rhubarb crumble flavoured cocktail! Scott also kindly got us all a teapot sharing cocktail, which also tasted amazing. I also loved that despite Peter still being in Geneva and unable to come, his sister Assumpta and her new husband Horia came along to have a drink and catch up :) Assumpta is an incredible poet and writer and shares her work and musings on her blog - you should go check it out

Friday night I had a chilled one at home as it was Dad's birthday, so we just went out for a family dinner, and then we celebrated it properly on Saturday. I treated Dad to a train journey on the Belmond British Pullman and lunch at Le Manoir (we even got to meet Raymond Blanc!), and in the evening I drove my brother and I up to Essex so he could see his girlfriend, and I could see Pete, who had just arrived back in London from Geneva to spend Christmas with his family. They literally live 5mins round the corner from each other which is very handy! 

Sunday was Christmas Eve, so I picked my brother up in the afternoon and we drove back to ours for family time. Christmas Day we opened presents, and then went to my best friend Emma's house in the morning for our old traditional Christmas nibbles and drinks that we used to do every year with both of our families. Her mum Clare always puts on the best spread ever, even when it's just canapes! We had bubbles and catch-ups and then after a couple of hours my family and I headed home for Christmas lunch. 

This year we just had our own family Christmas lunch instead of spending it with extended family. It's been years since we did this and it was so lovely. The oven stopped working though so the turkey took forever to cook, and we had to finish it on the barbecue, haha! It was great though and nice and relaxed. Boxing Day was spent being lazy with the family. My Nan and aunty/uncle and cousins came over for lunch, and we spent the afternoon playing games and eating all the food all over again!

The few days after Christmas were busy, we went to Polesdon Lacey (a National Trust property near us) to see the house all decorated for Christmas, and we saw The Greatest Showman at the cinema (well worth a watch, btw!). I also headed up to London to catch up with Dan for dinner and drinks. We started at Somerset House at their ice-rink bar, then walked across the road to Roka for food. We ordered a bit too much though (why do I always do this every time I go to Roka?!) and had to waddle out of the restaurant we were so full! 

We also had a family walk up Leith Hill which looked glorious in the frost and light dusting of snow (and Dylan LOVED rolling around in it all!), and I went into Guildford with my bestie Emma for some girlie time. We went to Pret for lunch and both had their amaze mac & cheese that I miss constantly when I'm in Australia! After lunch we had a wander round the shops and sales, and it felt like we were 14 again haha. It's been so long since I went shopping with a friend as I usually just do it online or quickly after work on a Thursday these days (Sydney shops only open past 5pm on Thursdays...).

Friday was probably one of my busiest days, with a lovely catch-up lunch with Angie and Emma, and then the V&A Balenciaga exhibition with Claire. After the V&A we headed to Polpo in Soho for dinner and then walked up to Selfridges for Lola's Cupcakes. And then it was time for a quick change at ROSL before meeting Jemima, Analu, Scott, and Alper for drinks at the Mandarin Oriental bar and dancing at Mahiki in Kensington. I wasn't feeling great and was exhausted after a busy couple of weeks, so I stayed for an hour or so and then said my farewells and drove home.

Saturday was one of my fave days of the trip! I once again drove up to London, this time to Shev's house to have cuddles with baby Vinny and the girls! Shev put on a gorgeous afternoon tea and we each brought something with us. Naturally I brought the sweet things, so we had M&S's chocolate eclairs and New York Cheesecake (M&S I do miss you). Vinny is literally the cutest little thing, although he did almost choke on my hair when it fell onto his face - oops. Bad Aunty Catherine.

When Vinny started getting grouchy we left Shev to deal with him (soz Shev...), and I drove over to Mayfair for drinks at Sketch with Aftab (they do amaze non-alcoholic cocktails)! We were only there a couple of hours as I was exhausted again, but my goodness had I missed this guy, we literally didn't stop laughing the entire time, like proper belly laughs that interrupted the ambiance of the bar.

The following day was NYE and my last day of driving up to London before I left. Loads of friends were away for NYE this year, so Catherine #2 (CMK) and I got tickets for Archer Street Great Gatsby party. It's our second fave bar in London and we had so much fun!!! I drove to CMK's in Putney and we got ready together and then got a taxi into central as I was worried about parking and traffic etc. Nicole from New York joined us, and the three of us had a great night with plenty of dancing!

It got to around 1am and we were getting a bit tired, so decided to go to VQ for food on the way home. We had the usual burger and chips with a milkshake, which is our NYE post-night-out tradition. Aside from last year when I was in Australia, every year for the past six NYE's I've ended up in VQ on NYE for a post-midnight feed haha. It's the best.

New Year's Day was pretty chilled out, as it was my last full day at home before I flew back to Australia via Abu Dhabi and Dubai. My parents and Emma's parents and I all went to the Wisley Christmas Lights and were *so* impressed! It's basically like a version of Lumiere London and Vivid Sydney...but in an RHS Garden.

And then before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye and leave again. I spent the first week of January in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but I'll tell you more about that shortly! It was a bit different to the last time I went back in 2016 because I was feeling so unwell this time, but I still managed to have a great time and did loads!

Sadly the year for me began with so much hope, and the past couple of weeks have turned into a bit of a nightmare. I'm not going to be talking about what's happened anytime soon as it's so personal and I'm just not ready to, but it's made me so thankful for all of my friends.

When tough things happen and you're 10,000 miles away from your entire support system it's really difficult and makes you realise how hard it is being an expat. But it also shows you who your real friends are and who will be there for you - day or night - no matter what. So, I don't think 2018 can get any worse (and if it does then that's really bloody unfair), and it's only at least it's all upwards from here! Fingers crossed eh. 

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  1. What a whirlwind Christmas though sorry about your nightmare few weeks lovely.

  2. Oh baby girl! I want to reach out and hug you through the screen but I guess I'll have to wait till February! If it's any consolation, according to my (Chinese) calendar it's still technically 2017 so you haven't started the year badly at all. I'll do everything I can to make sure you start the Year of The Dog (beginning February 16 2018!) on the highest note! x

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