Category: Ambassador post

24
May

A trip to Europe is a YES, no matter your age or life stage.

When my friends and overlords at Expedia asked me to write a piece about Europe as a good holiday destination I said NO WAY and pretended to jam my fingers down my throat.

“Europe is the worst.”

“Then why do you keep going?” they said.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That’s right. Europe is the FRIGGEN BEST.”

It really is. God, it’s good. And I’m not alone in loving a trip to Europe: USA and Asia aside, Europe is where Aussies go most for holidays. And good on us, I say! If we can suck up a 30-hour flight to Athens/Rome/Heathrow, we bloody deserve it.

Depending on our age or life stage, your Euro holidays will vary tremendously. But they’re all significant, whether they’re building resilience, or inspiring us creatively, or just giving us some unrivalled memories. After all, having your handbag stolen in Berlin when you’re 25 means you’re a smarter traveller when you’re in Venice at 35. Missing your flight to your cousin’s wedding in Sardinia at 22 and having to spend a night in Naples and $1,000 Euro on a new flight ensures you’ll never miss another flight again. And taking a two-month trip around Tuscany at 48 because you’ve earned it, well, that’s just bloody golden.

But before we get to the elegant-strolling-through-vineyards bit, there are a few European-holiday rites of passage…

*These may or may not be based on personal experience. You’ll never know and I’ll never admit it.

The Total Blur Trip

When you’re 18 and fresh out of high school, a party trip through Europe is a fantastic idea. (Do NOT tell my children this, please.) Mostly because organised tours, backpacking, compulsory socialising with strangers, and being broke doesn’t yet faze you. You must capitalise on this. Within a few years the idea of sharing a Spartan room with three snoring, deeply-boozed mates (and 1-2 non-English speaking but quite handsome holiday flings) in Mykonos will not seem fun, nor will having no money when you lose your credit card on a nightclub floor. Also, your body won’t be resilient to a daily diet of gyros and red bull vodkas forever. You’re here because the tour was cheap, because everyone else was going, and because FOMO in the age of social media is torture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeeing important ruins with a hangover/while being a goose, and not paying any attention is a vital part of growing up. 

 

The Fun Seeking Adventure

In your early twenties the thrill of being overseas far outweighs the expensive and largely prohibitive experience of visiting places like Paris and London. But you’re 23! You don’t care that your bedroom is the size of a mandarin! That you’re sleeping next to a train line and a nightclub! That the low cost airline lost your suitcase and you’ve been wearing the same jeans for 10 days! You’re as robust as McDonalds lard, which, funnily enough, is probably your major food group, along with street crepes and pots of cider. You walk or catch trains everywhere; you actively and happily meet new people (a trend that will fade with each subsequent trip), and the idea of your accommodation being anything more than a place to store your suitcase, and occasionally, your head, is truly foreign. You’re here for adventure, for excitement, and for experiences: good, bad, uncomfortable, ecstatic: all of it. Your energy, resilience and enthusiasm is disgustingly buoyant. Embrace it.

VENICEPlease note my elegant bumbag. Please also note it’s fake Gucci. Many thanks.

 

The Grown-Up Euro Holiday

By thirty, many of us have set off on the classic sightseeing adventure of, say, Venice, Rome and Florence. This is when travel finally starts to look a bit more like Real Life, as opposed to making you feel and live one notch up from a backpacker. Your hotel offers more for breakfast than boxed cereal and cordial, decent dining kicks in, and souvenirs extend beyond ashtrays and shot glasses. Since you saved up so much money for so long to take this trip, you chew the bone and suck the marrow: no landmark is left unphotographed, no three hour queue for David unjoined, no signature aperitif undrunk. You give every day 120% and your sore feet, depleted bank account and sky-high calorie count are proof. You’re here to see and appreciate other cultures, collect memories, and amass a nuclear social media feed. GOOD!

 

SCOTLANDThis is a small Scottish castle. It was 11.30pm and freezing, despite being mid-summer. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA ladies trip to Santorini. It may not get better.

….. Read the rest of the article here!

But not here.

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27
Feb

Tips for flying (long haul) with a toddler.

Those congenial Expedia travel lords recently asked me to write about my experiences travelling with a toddler.

I happily obliged, because if there’s one thing I know about travelling 36 hours with a toddler, it’s two things:

  1. If possible, choose a toddler you actually like or are related to,
  2. It’s achievable.

We decided we liked our two year-old enough to fly to Europe with him, and so the planning began. We are frequent flyers, we travel domestically a lot and overseas a few times a year. We have even done this exact trip with him before… except he was four months old and all that was required was my boobs and the plane bassinet. We have flown to NYC and the Maldives with him, but this was before he was moving around. A toddler is different. And by different, I mean, do you really need to go to Italy?

There is a reason many antipodean parents instill a no-fly rule when their kids are aged between about 10 months and three. It’s a marathon effort. My husband wears sports clothes because he genuinely thinks of it as an endurance race.

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Alas, I write this knowing our parent (2) to child (1) ratio is comically easy, especially when a friend of mine with SIX children, including twin one-year olds was on the same flight as us, but there is still planning involved, inasmuch as ideally you:

  1. a) Avoid melt-downs (yours. But also theirs, I guess)
  2. b) Get some sleep
  3. c) Not deliberately leave your child in transit because they’re slowly but powerfully extinguishing your will to live
    Here are some of the tips I have accrued for long-haul toddler flying.

Fly at night

Choose a night flight if it’s a long one. The child will be wide awake and stimulated at the airport, so run them ragged and make sure they have food in their belly. Yes, you risk a bit of a meltdown choosing a late night flight and it likely won’t be pretty at the departures gate, but better to have them so exhausted they can’t put up a fight on the flight, rather than well-rested and ready for ice cream and Despicable Me followed by Frozen and a few hundred laps of the aisle. Day flights have always failed for us. It’s too bright and exciting for child to sleep, and they are generally already hungry, antsy and tired from transit before we even board. What fun.

Be at the airport first, but board last

Be at the airport early. Everything takes longer with kids. If you’re travelling as a family, try to get one parent on first to ensure you get some cabin space for all your bags, then the other parent boards last with the kids (why sit on the plane any longer than required?) Once you’re on, try to make their seat as ‘bedroomy’ as possible: bring their sleeping sack/blanket or pillow, their comforter or teddy, and our travel must have for both the flight and the hotel at the other end: a big black scarf or piece of fabric and gaffa tape to tape over any lights above them. Read books to calm them.


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Spare clothes

Pack a Wondersuit/PJs for child, (we dress ours in this for the airport, just chucking a jumper over the top and some shoes on for a stylish update) plus a full change of clothes for arrival. And plenty of undies or nappies. (We went through TEN NAPPIES flying to Greece with him as an infant. TEN. And four Wondersuits.) Also pack a spare top for you. You’ll be grateful for it.

Read the rest of the article over here.

But not here.

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28
Nov

My favourite bits of Italy.

Despite the fact that it requires many thousands of dollars/kilometres for Australians to holiday abroad, and our currency is always being picked on by the bigger kids, we Strayans continue to travel overseas in rising numbers, and with craftier luggage tricks. Good on us.

I usually choose Italy. I’ll go there annually if they’ll continue to have me, despite my terrible pronunciation of “grazie”.

Some reasons include:

  • Carbs
  • Fashion
  • Negronis
  • Ricotta cheesecake
  • Swimming off rocks and no sand anywhere
  • No judgment when ordering a bowl of pasta, then pizza
  • Friendly, warm, welcoming Italians
  • Everyone looks great because everyone wears sunglasses always
  • Carbs

Like most people, I’ve done the classic Italian hotspots: Venice, Positano, Sicily and, of course, Athens. Here are some of my favourite things to do/see/eat/visit in the aforementioned hotspots.

Taormina, Sicily

We stayed in Taormina, on the beach, rather than up in town. But with a cable car swinging its way between the town (all the food/shops and most of the hotels) and beach (a handful of hotels and restaurants) all day, both options are good. Have a fancy, view-soaked drink at Grand Hotel Taormina, and outstanding aperitivo at Timoleone. Have your (daily) granita at Bam Bam bar, swim at Isola Bella, and make a day trip to Noto and Syracuse if time permits. Definitely eat lunch (or ideally stay) at Country House Villadorata, just outside of Noto, if you’re roaming. It served up the finest meal of my trip.

 

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Portofino

Portofino could never be accused of being cheap, but that’ll happen when you’re a) tiny, b) breathtaking, and c) overrun with super yachts and tourists. But it’s so lovely! Pop on your best boaty pastels and make the trip already! Head up to Hotel Splendido (often called the best hotel in the world, and after staying there, I’m a believer) for a sunset cocktail, and when the bill arrives suck it up and file it in your “Lifelong Memories” folder. Buy some cheese, wine and crackers in town and have a picnic in the surrounding national park; have a casual lunch at La Taverna del Marinaio, or walk away from the packed main square to L’Isolotto for some of the best pizza of your goddamn life. There’s a small, protected swimming area just below Splendido where locals swim laps (scene of one of the most magical rock swims of my life), or Paraggi beach just outside town.

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Venice?

Rome?

Capri and Positano?

Florence?

Click here.

Definitely not here.

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27
Oct

How to pack for (and dress up on) your holidays.

When Expedia (he’s just one guy wearing a cowboy hat and board shorts, by the way) said to me: “Hey Travel Ambassador Lady, does dressing up on holidays make sense to you?” I said, “Expedia, to me, dressing up on holidays makes PERFECT sense.”

I put it in the same category as ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ except that it’s more, ‘dress for the place you’re in, not the one you came from.’

I cop a fair bit of stick about it from my mates, of course. It’s so much effort, my mates say. Who cares how you look on holidays, they say. Take off that velvet cape, they say.

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But it’s not an effort for me. I love it. I adopt a new personality overseas, a much more flamboyant, fruity one than the jeans and trainers girl back home.

To me, the holiday experience is about playing along. About immersing into the city or country you’re in. So, if you’re in Sicily, you eat pasta alla norma, cannolli and caponata, you drink Zibbibo and you swim where the locals tell you to. And for me, you dress in bright colours and with as many pom-poms as legal.

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I’m embarrassingly osmotic when I travel. If I see a cool woman wearing a slip dress with a flamboyant head wrap in Portofino, I want in. If I see a minimalist woman wearing bejeweled slippers with a white pantsuit in Rome, I want in. And if I see a babe in a white shirt tucked into a colourful ankle-length skirt with a neckerchief in Florence, I want in. To me travel is Real Life Instagram; I see things that inspire and delight, and in that moment, in that piazza, in that sunshine, I want to play along. Even if it’s just with a new ZARA top and belt, and a bucket of holiday confidence; I’m in.

Anyway. Recently I went to Italy.

I knew I’d shop over there, so I packed light: a tight edit of shoes and a few dresses and tops from last summer, half of which I was ready to farewell if space got tight. This, I’ve learned, is smarter than flying with nothing, assuming you will fill your suitcase with cute new stuff the second you arrive, only to arrive and discover they are already doing autumn-winter fashion, and it’s 30 degrees, and you’re screwed.

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Read the full story here.

Not here.

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03
Aug

Five Total Florence Food Wins.

In a sentence that’s so gross even I’m repulsed: a few years back I lived in Tuscany while writing a novel. When I say ‘lived’, I mean schlepped around from B&B to B&B, from Lucca to San Gimignano, Forte dei Marmi to Florence, for six weeks. But still, it counts for something. Oh no, no, no, you mustn’t call me a local, it’s too much, basta, basta!

Florence swiftly stole my heart, the old dog. That’s its thing! It’s a heart-stealer, an extremely pretty, romantic city boasting an exciting history, art superstars, terrific food, world-class shopping and breathtakingly long queues for nude statues. (Also, in July, far too many tourists, but as one of them, even a local one, I’m not meant to say that.)

ZOEFLORENCE

 

As it happens each time I fall off a plane, I Goog everything from ‘finest Negroni in Florence’ to ‘best gelato in Florence’ to ‘local favourite pizza Florence.’ I need to know what’s best, old and new. If I’m in a city for only a few days, there is no time for a bad meal. They each must be sensational, lest my holiday slip below a 100% perfection rating. (Airports and, yknow, actual travel in general notwithstanding.)

And not a bad meal was had. Click this link to read my favourites, all of which are pretty perfect if you only have a few days/a stomach with a perfectionist complex.

Click this link if you like hearing goats yell like humans.

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02
May

I finally found my ‘mum’ style.

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend, but if you’re a mum you already know that cos you’re busy putting in your specific pancake order (maple syrup, butter and whipped cream) for Sunday morning, to be delivered no earlier than TEN AM.

One (of the four billion) thing(s) they don’t tell you about being a mum is how much your personal style can (and will) change post-baby: you may end up with an entirely new fashion identity. It could even be guy called Merl, who favours bark-brown slacks and sensible sandals. Who knows.

I thought I was sartorially prepared for being a mum. I figured being a stay at home writer (‘dressing for comfort but courageously foregoing fleece for denim’) meant I’d be a gun at it.

And I was TOTALLY right!! Man am I the friggen best. The end.

Just kidding, I have way more bragging to do first.

But seriously, I was astonishingly wrong. The Newborn Days were the first fashion slap in the face. Huge, messy boobs jammed into daggy bras, tracksuit pants, Air Max, a hoody and a pair of bleary, shell-shocked eyes was my go-to look, and I gave zero toots about it. I’d stuffed all my maternity slops into a cupboard when I first got home from the hospital, then dejectedly got half of them back out again because, um, they fit, and were comfortable, and I didn’t care if I spilled meatballs on them. (Just so you know what brand of optimistic you’re dealing with here, I packed my old jeans in my hospital bag. I did not wear them home.)

At around 10 weeks, (of my son’s life/of eating cake twice a day/no exercise or even walking because of a fractured pubis) some work events forced me out of the fog. I’d squeeze and Spanx myself into a bright, fun dress that seemed right, like something I would wear, then tear straight back into my soft clothes to express milk and watch Survivor. When my Son was five months old, I did a series of national pop-up events for my skin care company, Go-To and realised that the problem was not the nine outfits I tried on for each one, but that I had no idea how to dress this new busty, materbity-bra-ed, wide-hipped frame I’d been given. All my old stuff (preppy, fitted shirts, high-waisted skirts and novelty sweaters) didn’t fit, and the cute, colourful young woman I used to dress as seemed wrong now, somehow. I was having a clothing identity crisis as a symptom of my new role in life, and was alarmingly judgey of all my old clothes. (Too tight! Too short! Too busty! Too non-motherly!)

Sonny was about a year old before I started to understand The New Me. I was acutely aware that couldn’t rely on the old me, or my old clothes, because not only did none of them ‘spark joy’ anymore, or fit well, I wanted to start fresh, with a zingy new look that made me feel happy, and like ‘me’, whoever that was now. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you look like shit, you will feel like shit, and after the dark newborn days, (dark sartorially and sleep-wise; thrillingly happy heart/family/pastry wise), and the not-fit-not-feel-or-look-right days, I decided to start over, and dress for how I wanted to feel: happy, polished and colourful.

I started investing in beautiful clothing again, shaking off the ‘Don’t spend good cash on clothes that won’t fit in a few months’ mantra that plagues all women in their baby-making years, to create a wardrobe that was simple, meaningful; a practical blend of casual and stylish, designer and chain store.

After all, I wasn’t only a mum. Or a stay at home writer pig. I was a godamn proper grown up career lady woman with a successful skin care business! An author with a new book about to come out! Associate producer on the TV show being created from my novel! A mid-level chainsaw juggler! A terrific lipstick-applier! It was time I started dressing like it.

My KEY wardrobe rules are:

  • To spend cash on beautiful flats cos I will wear them 500x more than heels
  • Collars always dress things up
  • Layers indicate a level of thoughtfulness and effort even if it’s entirely faked (eg: shirt under jumper/blouse under trench)
  • A few good jackets will do a LOT of heavy lifting (specifically: a leather biker jacket, a lightweight trench, a classic blazer)
  • Colour and patterns makes everything better, my mood especially
  • Flashy, fun earrings and necklaces are Holy Outfit Transformers
  • If you buy it, it has to spark joy, as per Marie Kondo’s now ubiquitous don’t-accrue-so-much-shit philosophy

As an ambassador for Westfield’s new #ownyourstory campaign, I was asked to show my personal (mum/business lady/work-from-home-r) style using some of the shiny new AW16 clothes and accessories in-store. It was FUN.

My story? I’m a woman who is just as likely to be tearing around a park after a toddler and schlepping around Coles buying milk and salt and vinegar chips (my secret shame) or sitting at her laptop for six hours straight in her home office… as she is to be popping onto the set of TV production set of The Wrong Girl, or attending an interstate meeting for the day, or heading in to see her publisher to discuss her idea for a book about a sexy, angry teen vampire who attended a wizard school called Fogwarts and had a secret billionaire lover who was into S&M. I need something casual, but with some zing. Easily transformable, and with a punch of polish.

The Getting Sh*t Done Look

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The light grey coat is stylish, warm and practical, the tote is tan and oxblood, two uber-neutrals, and fits a laptop and a nappy roll easily, the sunglasses are big and make me feel more fabulous than I have any right to, and the orangey lipstick brightens up my face and my mood immensely.

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A jumper over a collared shirt or dress always looks fun, fresh and a bit dressy/efforty. I love adding at least one pattern into block colours.

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Look at this happy woman! She got ready in 15 minutes! 

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Boxfresh trainers are beautiful, magical things that mean you can wear nice dresses, or fancy slacks but still be comfortable.

Shop and steal the look RIGHT HERE, you cute time-poor monsters: Ravishing Rampling Coat from Jac + Jack at David Jones, cute, playful gingham dress from Country Road, blindingly white sneakers from Witchery, bigass sunglasses from Karen Walker, handy tote from Country Road, jumper my own, from Country Road.

Anyway. So that’s my everyday look. But when I need to be a little bit fancy, well, then I go to the…

Little Bit Fancy Look

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This look takes me from a day time meeting (with brogues) to evening (with heels) should my husband and I decide to steal off to a show or dinner. I friggen love a good day-to-nighter; and each element of this outfit can be worn with a million other things. This pleases me.

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A glitzy earring quickly dresses things up, and makes a boring hairstyle irrelevant.

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 I love a shirt or blouse all done up. Big fan. Add a blazer with pushed up sleeves if you remember, (some skin is important with all that chest covered up) and you’re cooked.

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High-waisted pants have always flattered me more than low-waisties.
(It definitely took shedding some baby weight before 
I felt good in them again. Oh, high-waisted anything can be so cruel.)

Steal and shop the look right here: Fancy spotty pants from CUE, silky, slinky blouse from CUE, tuxedo jacket my own, from Country Road, earrings from CUE, clutch bag from Olga Berg at David Jones, heels my own, ivy from Simon my neighbor.

Head to Westfield to find out more about #ownyourstory and shop the HECK out of some very nicely edited looks and stories, actually.

And hey. If you’re a new mum, and you’re feeling like you’ve lost your fasho mojo and identity, IT WILL RETURN. It will! And likely in a whole new form, like mine did. An exciting new form that is more streamline, practical and confident. It just takes time, like a good roast, or getting to anywhere from Australia.

For now, just pop on a swipe of bright lipstick, and your favourite black jacket and off you trot, you beautiful bastard. Happy Mother’s Day!

Zo xx

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