Dubai | Trip Report

October 24, 2016


What type of city would you build if money was no object ?

After being exposed to a lot of different services and facilities in their adopted cities, I think this is a question every expat (or serious traveller)  ponders at some point in their journey (usually while sleep and oxygen deprived in a dark aircraft cabin….).

We recently discovered how one man would spend his dream city budget, when we visited Dubai for a long, long weekend.

Sheikh Mohammed, is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Emir of Dubai and is credited with shaping and sculpting the modern, glittering metropolis of Dubai from the sands of the desert.

So, what was on Sheikh Mohammed’s wish list for his dream city ?

Here are my findings:

STAY | Dubai has marina at one end ; a sparkly commercial precinct at the other.

And an enormous 12 lane freeway running between the two.

For our starter stay in Dubai, we opted to stay the first two nights at the marina at the Sofitel Jumeriah Beach.  A beach and sandcastles, even if they are 40 storey sand coloured condos and hotels, are definitely  on the wish list for a dream city.

The boardwalk installed on Jumeriah Beach by Sheikh Mohammed, may  be rather on the short side, but it does feature outposts of some of the worlds most high profile culinary purveyors (I am not sure Laduree envisaged their signature Parisian macrons being eaten on the edge of the Persian Gulf ) and exclusive retailers.

It also features beach clubs that would look at home on the exclusive Belgian coastal town of  Knokke. (Thinking someone did their homework…..)

STAY | The last two nights were spent being bedazzled by the lights of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in the Downtown precinct at Manzil Hotel Downtown 

The world’s biggest something was probably an obvious get for Sheikh Mohommad, but Burj Khalifa is  truly striking. Kind of like an exquisite piece of jewellery that you know is ridiculously expensive and unattainable, but you find yourself mesmerised anyway. It is definitely worth the USD$35 to whiz up to the 124 floor in 28 seconds. I swear I could see our Singapore condo from the viewing deck. 

EAT | It is not longer necessary to send your private jet around the world to collect your favourite delicacies. Just go to Dubai where you can have cupcakes from  Magnolia Bakery (New York),  signature Mogador macarons from Pierre Herme (Paris)  and Michelin starred dumplings from Din Tai Fung (Taiwan).

Sheikh Mohammed also convinced the world’s best hamburger restaurant, to open multiple outposts in his glittering new city,  As hamburgers are a seperate food group for teenage and tween boys, Shake Shack  featured heavily on our culinary itinerary.


Fortunately I also have a treasured friend on the ground in Dubai – D whom I originally befriended in Bruxelles. I must admit I cannot remember much of the cuisine, but her choice of The Villa Beach Restaurant at Jumeirah Beach Hotel looking out at the iconic Burj Al Arab (aka The 7 Star Hotel), combined with her witty banter, made this one of the most memorable places I have ever eaten.

DO | Sheikh Mohammed obviously had a shopping list of retailers for his Dubai shopping malls. Both Dubai Mall (the world’s largest mall) and Mall of The Emirates feature outposts of the worlds best stores. 

Shopping Malls do not normally give me any buzz. However, the combination of atmospheric music, a striking butterfly installation and the heady fragrance of so many luxe brands (and possibly Fauchon french pastries)  did result in a shopping moment at Fashion Avenue  at The Dubai Mall.


And when you throw in a snow run that looks like it has been transported straight from Verbier, Switzerland (or at least a very high budget movie set) to the mix at Mall of The Emirates,  it is hard not to be a little smitten.

DO | A starter trip to any city gives you a free pass to do something a little cheesy. So we choose to do a Desert Safari.

Hello rollercoaster in a luxury four wheel drive over the dunes, hello camel rides, sand boarding and good evening belly dancer. Apart from observing that watching a belly dancing show is the equivalent of a going to a strip club for 13 and 9 year old boys, one of my favourite moments of the tour was sitting cross legged on a rug at the dinner tables and drinking in the clear desert stars. And maybe some wine, while also partaking of dips and meat skewers. By the end of the Desert Safari, its status had been upgraded from cheesy  to highlight.

So much more to explore in Dubai. Another long, long weekend is definitely in order. And who knows what else Sheikh Mohammed will have added to his dream city by then.



Radar | April

April 28, 2016


Hello April.

Well actually hello end April. (How did that happen ? )

Definitely time for another edition of The Urbaniste Radar. This is what I have unearthed on my travels in the last month.

Stivicklin | I am a serial monogamist when it comes to skincare. I find a new brand, we date for a year and then I drift, only to find myself in a new, exclusive relationship with another brand. My current crush though StriVectin is moving into a more serious place. Some of those potent promises made in the frantic first few months are actually coming to fruition (or maybe it is just that my eyesight is deteriorating.) I now use the eye serum, face and neck cream and body cream in this range. And even if everything hasn’t tightened quite as much as I would like, the texture of my skin has certainly improved.

Lekue | It’s green. Its rubber. And its speaks only Spanish, but it has revolutionised how we cook fish in this house. Toss in everything, toss it in the oven and await your perfectly cooked feast.

The Weekend Cake Bake | While the reporting in this Tatler profile of Helena Morrisey made me bristle (You know the drill…if a man with a demanding job has nine children it is not referenced, however if a woman working at the same level has lots of kids, it is the focus of the article ) her “thing” of baking a special cake each weekend with her daughter, did appeal to my inner baker. So when possible I have also made this my thing. Plan is to push out of my culinary comfort zone, but the repeat demands for this one – Hummingbird Cake   have limited my creativity so far.

Cooking Book Porn | Currently pawing this one

Musique | I think developing a relationship with a local radio station is an essential part of moving to a new city. It gives you an insight into the taste and mood of your adopted home, that it not possible using any of the new music delivery systems (Hello Spotify).  Singapore also happens to have one of my favourite stations globally : Lush 99.5  – where indie meets electronica and dance.  Sometimes I am so busy Shamming songs I nearly crash the car. And even though I advocate going local for your daily soundtrack, I think visiting old radio friends (or finding new ones) via streaming apps is also an essential Urbaniste amusement. You can find Lush 99.5 using Tune in

May your weekend be filled with Urbaniste amusements.



The Queen | Urbaniste Heros and Heroines

April 21, 2016

Is it just me, or does anyone else have a little crush on The Queen ?

As a child of the 80s and 90s, living in Australia, it was impossible not to have Dianna, Princess of Wales on your radar. She was omnipresent, even before we  all had our heads constantly lowered over digital devices. Ironically, watching the story of Dianna play out, was like watching a car crash, not unlike the one which ultimately took her life. So ultimately I was curious, but not enamoured.

However my feelings for The Queen have kind of crept up on me.

A newfound understanding after viewing the movie The Queen.

A growing admiration for the way she works that colour blocked wardrobe.  (During her extensive travels she has also provided a masterclass in how to do a travel wardrobe – a major pre-occupation of The Urbaniste. )

And a  little buzz after watching her performance with Daniel Craig (aka James Bond) at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.  (Shall we watch it again ? You know you want to….James Bond and The Queen | 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony  )

So tomorrow on her 90th birthday, I shall be enjoying a little tipple, popping on a colour blocked dress and shoe and probably watch that clip of her and James Bond again to celebrate.

Please join me if you share my crush.

Or if you would like to get a little more acquainted with The Queen, here are a few of my favourite pieces on her.

The Royals by Kitty Kelly  | Did you know The Queen and her sister were conceived by artifical means ? Or that The Queen started corresponding with Prince Philip at 15 and threatened to walk away from taking the crown if she was not allowed to marry him ? The Royals By Kitty Kelley has these and many other delicious insights into the House of Windsor.

BBC Photos | 90 Photos of The Queen

The QueenThe Movie |  Helen Mirren does The Queen. Excellently.

Tatler | So many lovely photos, articles and quizzes about The Queen and even a basket of her favourite things to win (if you live in the UK). I was quite taken with these Royal Emojis.

BBC TV | An enjoyable little documentary series The House Of Windsor. Watch it with a cup of tea and a corgi at your feet.

Happy 90th Birthday, to The Queen.

House Tour | The Urbaniste

April 7, 2016

Hands up if you need a deadline ?

The arrival of some visitors to complete the sorting of the spare room and the disposal of the piles of paperwork that have become part of the decor ?

To be selling, renting your home or relocating to a new apartment|country to finally repair the fridge, broken blinds and faulty sink, that you have had on your to-do list forever ?

If this is you, (it’s definitely me) then do not fret. According to Happiness Guru Gretchen in her latest book Better Than Before it simply means we are Obligers who : “respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.”

Her book explores habits, which she claims are “the invisible architecture of our daily life.”  She has identified the Four Tendencies or profiles for how we respond to expectations, which in turn determines how we form habits. If you want to find out your tribe (or more about Obligers) then you will find a Link at the end of the post. (Don’t want you to leave The Urbaniste just yet.)

The biggest take-way from the research, is that Gretchen encourages everyone to embrace their tendency and work with it, not fight against it.

Cue fireworks …..champagne bottles opening….celebratory kisses.

So this why I thought I would share with you, a few updates | changes | tweaks in our condo that happened as a result of an invitation (possibly jet-lagged fuelled) by our Astronaut (aka A | current location on a plane to a meeting, somewhere on the globe) to his new colleagues (read boss and the CEO) to enjoy a casual “home-cooked” meal at our home.

While not much of the meal would qualify as home-cooked, this visit was a major disruptor (aka outer expectation in Gretchens parlance) and for the first time in nearly 9 years, 3 countries and 3 apartments, our living quarters finally look a little bit done.

Of course, I cannot neglect the influence also of Expat Syndrome on the “undone status” of our apartment|s for so long. In this case, Expat Syndrome exhibited itself as mis-matched furniture originally brought for different room configurations, which cannot be discarded or stored and must find a place in the new (often smaller) space.  It also includes large items such as wardrobes and coat closets,  which were essential in Europe, but not so useful in tropical Singapore which has built in storage.

An obliger with expat syndrome is an interior design disaster.

Which is possibly what makes these new developments ever more thrilling.

There are, of course a few more tweaks required.

But  I guess that can only mean one thing – organise some more Dinner Parties.

(And bonus points  – finally repay all those lovely invites )


Question the positioning of pieces | Is that special table still in the corner because you didn’t know where to put it when you moved or  were concerned about damage by a haphazard cleaner and put it in a less “high risk” spot ?

Add a new colour through some inexpensive highlights | flowers, plants, candles, books, boxes, trays, pots.

Shop your cupboards | You might fine you already own a piece very much like that one you are coveting online.

Rest things | Enjoy the possibility that you may discover a whole new attraction to a little decor item when you put it back into your decor.

Throw or give away things | If you haven’t used it in years or it doesn’t give you pleasure (even if it was a well meant gift) time for it to go.

Add a plant with some fashion cred | The fig is the new rubber plant. Maidenhair ferns are the new cacti.

And to make change happen |  accept your Tendency. (Visit Gretchen’s Quiz to find your tribe)


Peonies VS Orchids | Expat Life

March 30, 2016

A monumental new battle has hit our movie screens this week : Batman VS Superman.

But I think we all know that a bigger battle has been raging in fashionable homes everywhere, for a very, very long time.

Peonies VS Orchids.

For the longest time, the Peonies had my complete devotion.

And then we moved.

As with many other things, the Expat Factor, disrupted and changed my world view. Or in this case, my fleuranical view. (My word : when fleur meets botanical.)

In Singapore, scarcity and cost became a major obstacles in my relationship with The Peonies.

And it was so hard to resist the seductive charms of The Orchid. Especially when they are everywhere. Impossible to stay true to the pink powderpuff balls of loveliness.

So, where do you sit in this battle ?

5 ways to know you are Team Peony

1 | You have Peony Week blocked on your calendar so you have sufficient time to procure bunches with closed buds (open peonies will only last a few days), quickly transfer them into room temperature water after ditching any green foliage that falls below the water line, monitor the temperature of the room  (warm but not hot) and vigilantly watch the water levels over the next few days (peonies like a drink.)

2 | You are prepared to pay SG$54 (at the wholesale market) for a tiny bunch that will be lucky to survive till morning, after they leave the safety of the florist fridge  in Singapore.

3 | You have a highly successful Instagram feed, because of your poeny portraiture skills.

4 | You wear Chanel .Or you would, if the peonies didn’t cost so much in Singapore.

5 | You drive a mini. Peonies look great on the front seat. Sometimes with a belt on them to keep them safe.

5 ways to know you are Team Orchid

1 | You have tight butt, are a successful entrepreneur and still manage to attend all your kids sports events,  because orchids are fuss free, requiring only temperate indoor conditions and a spray of water once a week.

2 |  You have nowhere to fold your laundry in the laundry room as all available bench space is covered with pots of  green orchid stems,  you truly believe will re-flower. (They won’t. And you will kick yourself when you realise you not only do you now have to spend hours at the osteo working on your lower back which is damaged from folding laundry on the floor, but one day all those hours of care given to those stems will be blithely thrown away when you have to toss them in the dumpster as part of the moving process…… Just saying. I am ok now. Wow. This battle is fierce.

3 | You can’t walk past Marsano Florist  in Zurich without at least looking at the orchids on display at $80 Swiss Francs a pot, which may also explain the greenhouse laundry.

4 | You wear Celine. Ok, you have a small Celine bag  – but only because you live in Singapore and the orchids are so cheap.

5 | You drive a four wheel drive. How else will you be able to transport the orchids ?

Just as our lust (Did I type lust? I meant flirty feelings ; it’s a tight costume thing) for Batman OR Superman can waiver (especially if you encounter an article strongly arguing that they are BOTH gay) our affection for Peonies or Orchids can also alter.


You know The Urbaniste rule | Don’t pine for what you can’t have in your adopted (or permanent) city. Instead immerse yourself in the stylish amusements (aka fleurtanicals) that exist in the current moment (or your local flower market.)

What team do you belong to ? Or do you play for another team (hello tulips, roses and gardenias) please share.

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MELBOURNE | Westgarth Village

March 24, 2016

Do you live in a city or a village ?

In Zurich I lived 10 mins from the city centre by car (or 12km on foot  –  of which I know every centimetre intimately, as it was my training track for the Paris Marathon), but my apartment was not regarded as being in Zurich, but in the village of Thalwil.

Singapore, is only 42km wide but it has approximately 12,400 villages. These are more commonly known as apartment blocks, but with their communal areas, recreational facilities, innate dress codes and in some cases shops and restaurants (hawker markets ), I think they definitely constitute vertical villages.

Melbourne, in comparison, sprawls across  9900 km2, has four very distinct regions and 538 suburbs or villages. Many of these suburbs even have tribes of warriors – aka Australian Rules footballers – who defend the pride of the village in a national competition.

At The Urbaniste, I am all about cities. But if I am completely honest, I really am a village girl. As an aspiring urban anthropologist, I find discovering new villages to be one of the greatest thrills of travelling or moving to a new city. I love the tribalism. I especially enjoy dissecting the dress codes, food and shopping habits and belief systems that make particular pockets not only unique, but completely different to the next village only a few kilometres away.

Westgarth | Melbourne

Last Christmas, my lovely friends, C & J (current location Melbourne | soon to be Auckland ) generously offered me the opportunity not only to stay in their home while they were overseas, but to immerse myself in a new Melbourne village – Westgarth.

Here are my findings :

EAT | If  you want to see what Melbourne food is all about at the moment, then please go to Barry

Big, honest, organic breakfasts with lashings of avocado and the best of local organic produce are served all day, alongside some of the world’s finest coffee (yes the world’s – this is Melbourne people and Barry’s has damn fine coffee).

The carefully curated industrial chic decor and communal tables provide a perfect stage for the cast of attractive locals and day tourists. It has the new Melbourne hours of 7am-4pm. You can’t book and there are always big queues  – even on weekdays – so if you don’t like to wait,  go very early or in the morning or mid afternoon.

Special mention must also be made of Gypsy Hideout. It may suffer from being the less glamorous sister on the Westgarth strip, but it was the scene of one of my greatest culinary moments of 2015. On Boxing Day I had a smoked turkey, brie and quince jam toasted sourdough sandwich. It may have been the novelty of eating bread, cheese and a sugary condiment, but this treat was so good it almost eclipsed the Christmas fare of the day before.

SHOP | There is a very curated look in Westgarth (see WEAR), but the residents do not queue to purchase the latest handbags ; they queue for a wicker basket in which to put their organic produce at Terra Madre | Fruit Peddlers

The warren of rooms housing grains, organic meats and coconut everything, may be designed to make you believe that it has remained frozen in time from its origins as a hippie food store, but the artisanal food gives it aways as being at the cutting edge of the clean eating food movement.

WEAR | To dress Westgarth, requires skills I do not possess. I think the word Hipster should be rested (but see how I used it to to plant an image in your head) so, the local look could be best described as arty bohemian. Beards, strategic tattoos and singlets are the uniform of the Westgarth menfolk. While the womenfolk look like they have Amy Winehouses’s former stylist on speed dial. Do not wear head to toe black in Westgarth and if you cannot extract yourself from your Lululemon activewear, please turn your car around and head back to the eastern suburbs.

DO| If you want to experience the thrill of going to the movies when the grandeur of the cinema alone made it an event, then head to Westgarth Cinema.


DO | Alternatively, take a wander along the streets of Westgarth adjacent to the High Street Shopping centre, where you can enjoy a masterclass in Australian residential design.



Use this weekend to check out a new village in your city. Or to explore your village further.

Please share all amusing findings here at The Urbaniste.

Melbourne What to Souvenir

March 20, 2016

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

I love this quote. And I subscribe to this belief.

But I will come clean – one of the big thrills of travelling is finding new stuff.  Not just that souvenir of local provenance that perfectly triggers  your holiday memories every time you look at it.

But that item that perfectly compliments your decor, fills that hole in your shoe wardrobe or will improve your diet so that your body will finally be closer to that of Gigi Hadid. (Ha !)

And preferably that can be brought online and re-stocked as required.

Travel provides the opportunity to explore shops curated by buyers with a new point of view, more relaxed shopping conditions and most importantly, an excuse to buy – just in case you can’t find that alluring new item in your home city. As an ex-professional shopper who still has some shopping regrets, I have a personal mantra which I will share with you so you can avoid your own shopping heartbreak :  see it, like it, buy it.

And now it is my pleasure to present you with some of my recent discoveries, unearthed on my recent trip to Melbourne.

Melbourne | Souvenirs

Melbourne is aglow with hand poured candles.  Every counter in every homeware or fashion store is stacked with little square boxes,  desperate for your attention.  I am a little concerned that if some-one threw a match, the whole city may be engulfed in flames.

This Maisey Candle doesn’t smell like Melbourne. It smells like a tropical island. Or the fancy candles that are strategically placed around your expensive villa when you are on a tropical island.

Melbourne is bursting with good restaurants. But you can’t eat out every night. (Ok, you can try….) Which gives me an excuse to trawl through a few of my favourite food stores,  and unearth from the icy depths of the refrigerated section, delicous, healthy new finds like CoYo. All the nutritional value of coconut in a user friendly format of yoghurt.

(It was available at Supernature food store in Singapore and hopefully will return. Try here for UK )

The language of beauty products is universal. But there are many dialects. When I walk into Mecca, the multi brand beauty emporiums dotted over Melbourne (and Sydney), I know that I will be understood.  My concerns will be listened to; my needs will be translated. And after a short stay in the beauty chair, in the knowledgeable hands of the Mecca girls, I will have some new terms in my beauty lexicon, some indispensable new products in my handbag and I will walk out like a brighter, photoshopped version of myself.

So if hands up if you want a impossible to mess up, cream eye shadow. Then may I please present : By Terry | Terribly Colour Eye Pencil

Are you still having beauty nightmares about 90s lip liner but are secretly a little sad that you have never been able to replicate the staying power of this piece of beauty arsenal. Well please say hello to Hourglass |Panoramic Long Wear Lip Pencil by Hourglass. It will coat lips with soft, intense colour but won’t dry them out.

Please visit Mecca if you are in Melbourne or Sydney to have them fully translate your needs, but if you can’t wait, our friends at  Net-a-Porter Beauty also ship these items.


Embrace shopping as one of the priviledges of visiting a new city.

If an airport is not on your radar in the near future, challenge yourself to seek out some new stores in your own urban jungle.

Who knows what life changing, amusing new goodies you will find.

Melbourne Street Art | Day Trip

March 17, 2016

Melbourne is inked. Arms, calves, backs, butts (presumably) and biceps featuring colourful scribbles,  parade through the streets like a mobile art gallery.

But it is not only the city’s residents that are tatted up. Every building wall, residential fence or factory siding has become a  canvas for street art.

Hosier Lane and the surrounding laneways were the early adopters of this trend, after the Melbourne City council sanctioned the use of these derelict laneways as the permanent studios of Melbourne’s graffiti (street) artists. With a constantly rotating exhibition of work, these street galleries have become a major item on every tourist’s to-do itinerary for Melbourne.

Like body tattoos, the inking of Melbourne’s walls has gone mainstream. Even the once innocent walls of milk bars (think corner stores) in suburban streets,  now feature elaborate street art.

So where are the best pieces hanging ?

Hosier Lane and the adjoining Rutledge Lane are the big players. The sheer volume of work, which is colourful, inspired and often provocative, is guaranteed to impress even the most well-traveled teenager, such as a certain thirteen year old in these pics. You might even be able to further add to your cool parent quotient if an artist happens to be in residence during your visit. (Timing is everything.)

However, be warned – things can get a little crowded. So I suggest heading to the smaller laneway galleries of  Duckboard Place and ACDC lane, which you can find by detouring a little further up Little Collins Street.

And the perfect way to finish this day trip ? With street food; Greek street food courtesy of Mr George Columbarus (yes, from Australian Masterchef ) at Gazi Restaurant on Russell Street.

I might be too much of a scared chicken to get inked, but a crab souvlakakia from Gazi and visit to the street galleries are always very high on my to-do list for Melbourne.


March 5, 2016

I have a dream. That one day my digital life will be in sync with my real life. So that I will be both living and reporting on the same moment.

But I have been working on a plan. Starting with a little catch-up next week on my recent adventures in Melbourne.

Until then, here are some of the things on my radar this week, which hopefully might provide you with some inspiration for the weekend.

Short Course | I have a little short course addiction problem (as I have discovered, do many of my lovely friends, of a certain age). My friend R (current location – Singapore) and I discovered a new provider this week – The Change School. I will be going back and highly recommend you take a look at their offerings if you are in Singapore (or have the means for a week long retreat in Bali)

Culinary Amusement | Ate one of my favourite dishes in Singapore – the Moroccan Stack – at one of my favourite establishments in Singapore , PS Cafe at Dempsey Hill, after “graduating’ from the course.

Shoe Week | It might be Fashion Week in Paris, but it is Shoe Week in my world. Living in the tropics means that it is sandals all year long. As an ex-retail insider, I know March is your one opportunity to snare the best styles –  a quest that is made even more challenging if you have the misfortune of largish feet like me. Local outposts of  retail behemoths like Zara, must be stalked in order to procure the one pair of Aquazurra “inspired” mid heel in your size. Or you have to enter into the global shoe arena and battle it out online for highly coveted beauties like these.

Oscars | Film and frocks – does it get any better than that ? Well it does if you add some of this. Hands up who thought our girl Cate won the battle of the dress (not that we want to vilify actresses by focusing on their couture).

Pinterest | As someone who has carted around the globe, their notebooks of tear-sheets from magazines, curated for both pleasure and professional reasons, I would like to nominate Pinterest as one of the best apps ever.  It is a brillant tool for storyboarding projects, as I have spent much of this week doing for The Urbaniste. Tragically, much of this work is on secret boards (need to keep some things secret so that you come back to this digital space) but if you want to check out my other interior, travel, fashion or food boards, I would be thrilled if you went here. If you are not onboard with Pinterest, maybe this is the weekend.

Buy | I believe in The Force. Not the Star Wars one, the shopping one. In need of some new European pillow inserts (the name may go some way to explaining why they are tricky to find in Asia ) I was thrilled to discover the other night, en-route to dinner at Dempsey Hill (the major culinary hangout of expats in Singapore), that one of my favourite Swedish homeware brands, Lexington, has opened a store. Hello European pillows…and tablecloths, serviettes and plush towels. This brand is the design equivalent of a Belgian (from chic Flanders) procreating with a Swede and raising their child in the Hamptons. They ship to Europe or you can get international shipping of their products from here.

Tennis | I am guilty of contributing to “The Conspiracy of Silence” that surrounds women (particularly mothers and “non working expats”) and sport. We are sometimes a little embarrassed by spending our time in this way (Ok, maybe it has something to do with the exotic locations in which we get to play. These tennis courts are rather special – scene of last Monday’s session) But apart from the obvious health benefits, sport also brings camaraderie and networking opportunities not as readily available to those without an office. So I am out and proud that I am back on court with M (current location  – Singapore) very early on a Monday morning, playing with SITA Tennis. And so thrilled that M (current location – Dusseldorf) is on the golf course.

There has also been some big events in the lives of my global family this week, ranging from the loss of family to the thrill of securing a big deal. These things have also shaped my week and I am grateful for the privilege to be part of your lives.

Wishing you many Urban(iste) amusements this weekend, wherever you are.


How to Speak Expat

February 22, 2016

At The Urbaniste it is my mission to inspire, amuse and hopefully (occasionally) inform.

So in keeping with this quest, I thought I might share with you a new language I have been slowly learning to speak over the last few years : the language of Expat.

Let’s start with a phrase you commonly hear at this time of year – SNOW WEEK.

When I first heard this phrase while living in Europe, it confused me.

For Australians, Snow Week refers to the mystical week, once a season, where there is enough ‘real’ snow to justify going to the bank, withdrawing a mortgage payment, then driving 4-6 hours, so that you can ski.

The meaning is different in Europe.

Generally, Snow Week refers to the magic seven days in February where you head for the Alps, working your new ski outfit and the moves you have probably been working on since you experienced your first Snow Week, which was at age three.

The phrase also holds some urgency for Europeans, but only when it is uttered in September, as this is when it is necessary to book your chalet. Or start smoozing the new family at the International School who quadrupled their child’s friendship group, by casually dropping the existence of their little place at Davos, at the first parent information evening in August.

Curiously, Snow Week does not always have to involve skis, open fires and schnapps.

It can look like this.

And more curiously, you can opt for a hot or cold Snow Week regardless of whether your Expat assignment is in Brussels or Dubai.

If you are a parent, Snow Week generally involves kids, as it corresponds to half term (on the northern academic calendar). But my friend D – current location Dubai – did educate me on another variant : Snow Week sans enfants.

This is where she and her beloved went.

Hello to the Movenpick Resort and Spa, at Karon Beach Thailand whose world class spa has a menu guaranteed to keep parents well amused.

I was marvelling at D’s mastery of Expat Life when I suddenly recalled a little adventure we had to Verbier, Switzerland…. in Snow Week 2014… sans enfants……

Guess I am actually  more fluent in Expat than I realised.


Book early for Snow Week, especially if it falls at the same time as Chinese New Year.

Dedicated skiers secure their chalets or rooms at resorts like W Hotel Verbier up to a year ahead. Japanese resorts are also popular skiing destinations for those in the tropics.

Competition is also hot to secure beach villas with powdered sand, so make sure you book popular resorts like Batu Batu, Malaysia at least six months in advance.