From London to the Lion City

Gallery/features/2013/09/19/str2_wk_1909_p5z.ashx?w=620&h=413&crop=1&” width=”620″ height=”413″ /> Spectacular : Endless green fields and a variety of trees at Windsor Great Park.[/caption]

ALTHOUGH I have just returned from trips to two countries in a week, one far in the West – London – and then Singapore, it wasn’t hectic at all.

After the mad rush of getting our Spring/Summer 2014 ready and packed, I needed a break and that was precisely what I prescribed myself. Going to London was a last-minute decision.

We had to send our collection there for our agent to start marketing it at all the trade fairs around Europe. Instead of using a courier, however, I decided to go myself as the cost would be about the same. Plus, I have always loved London and every visit is a real treat for me.

It was a short three-day trip, but I was extremely lucky in that the city, as famous for its erratic weather as it is for its Royal family, blessed me with sunny days. Though it is already autumn, it was still quite warm but with a fair bit of wind. I loved it. In fact, if we had just a little of this wind in Malaysia, I would say our weather was perfect. Still, I can’t complain; Malaysia’s year-long balmy weather is wonderful in its own way.

Before I delivered my collection, I enjoyed a day’s break with my good friend Ping, her family and their good friend, all Malaysians.

They took me to the Windsor Great Park, which belongs to Queen Elizabeth and is looked after by the Crown Estate. This is a large deer park to the south of the town of Windsor on the border of Berkshire and Surrey.

Dating back to the mid-13th century, the park was the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle. Now largely open to the public, it serves as a popular recreational area for residents of west London and its suburbs.

I thought the park was simply amazing – endless green fields populated by a variety of temperate trees which we would never see in tropical South-East Asia. What’s more, the park was extremely well-maintained and clean.

Although it attracts a number of visitors, you don’t actually bump into that many people because of its sheer size. They are dispersed all over its many acres. Some even go horse-riding here. As the weather was good, it was perfect for picnics and we walked past families tucking into snacks as their kids ran around. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any deer – perhaps they were having their siesta!

The next morning, after delivering the collection to my agent, I decided to check out some designer brand stores to update myself on what’s hot and what’s not. Ping suggested that I visit the New and Old Bond Streets, which are known for luxury products. Besides that, she mentioned the two-year-old Dover Street Market, comprising six storeys of shopping paradise.

Looking at it from the outside, it does not strike one as a fashion mecca as there is none of the window dressing that you find at other shopping centres. If anything, it looks like an art gallery. Inside is an eclectic collection of shops including some that sell stuffed birds and pieces of décor made from ivory, which I found fascinating! There were also amazing jewellery by famous names such as Amedeo, Ann Demeulemeester and Jo Hayes Ward, and designer collections from Comme des Garçons, Alexander Wang and Lanvin.

And on the very top floor, there is Rose Bakery, with a very basic but modern interior – just the way I like it. Although the entire “market” is not very big, you can find interesting designer items.

Other than window shop, I managed to meet up with some friends and catch up on life. Funnily enough, I always bump into fans and friends from Malaysia in London, which just goes to show how many Malaysians are in Britain.

But sadly, I didn’t get to visit my favourite flea market or vintage store haunts; nor did I go to the theatre. I heard the new Charlie And The Chocolate Factory musical is quite good, but I simply did not have the time to watch it. Hopefully it’s still on when I go next time.

After London, I returned to KL for a night and then packed my bags again, this time for Singapore. This trip was purely for leisure – to catch up with my good friend Shin and celebrate her birthday, as well as to introduce my kids to hers. So it was a kiddy kind of holiday with visits to the Sea Aquarium and Universal Studio.

Luckily, when we went to the latter, it was neither too hot nor did it rain. We couldn’t have asked for more. The kids tried out all the rides and games, and even us adults were suitably impressed by the use of modern technology to amuse and entertain.

All in all, it was a really nice week for me and my family as well as friends whom I hadn’t seen for quite a while. This to me is what life is all about – spending time with loved ones.

Today, Mika turns three, and although he cannot read this, I would like to wish my little man a happy birthday. Meanwhile, have a fabulous September, everyone!

Mel’s Place is a fortnightly column by Melinda Looi for The Star newspaper.

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