Looking back on 2016, one of the biggest highlights, apart from getting engaged, was our trip to the UK, France and Hong Kong back in May. It was a huge trip incorporating Oliver’s younger brother’s wedding, introducing my fiancé to my friends and family and my first trip home since the move.
We smuggled some Tim Tams in our suitcases as requested, threw our matching tour hoodies in our hand luggage and then, before meeting the rest of the family at the airport, we headed out for breakfast. Knowing we had 24 hours of plane food ahead of us, we decided to make the most of the mid-week quiet and picked The Grounds for our last meal. It really has become our place for celebrations.
After a quick flight (ha!) we were met at London Heathrow by my Mum & Roy. There is nothing better than airport reunions, Love Actually had it exactly right. We have two weeks of almost daily airport reunions to look forward to in February before our wedding and I am already get teary thinking about them!
After all the hugs we headed to our perfect Airbnb in Clapham for a quick shower and change and then went out to find coffee before we fell asleep! We met Oliver’s brother Wilson and his fiancée Isabelle with their dog Samson and the rest of the family for breakfast at Colbert in Sloane Square. We spent the rest of the morning wandering around Chelsea and catching up.
We spent the next couple of days getting reacquainted with London and celebrating Oliver’s birthday. It was very special spending time with our collective families and having the chance to show Oliver some of my favourite spots.
My real life Aussie in front of Australia House.
One of my favourite views of London is from the rooftop of One New Change. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to share this view with him and to see it for myself again. In the bustle of the City, it feels like a million miles away – a completely different perspective of London.
We celebrated Oliver’s birthday with boxes of my favourite Crosstown Doughnuts. We literally ate all the flavours! Then a big combined family dinner at The Mall Tavern in Notting Hill, where we took over the kitchen table and had a blast tucking into the amazing table top dessert, created for us in front of our eyes. So fun!
The next day the boys travelled to Bath for Wilson’s stag/bucks weekend, while I got to go wedding dress shopping with my Mum. We went to Angelica Bridal in Islington and were so lucky that Sydney-based designer Karen Willis Holmes was in the boutique on that day only. I didn’t know what style of dress I was looking for but after being styled by the designer herself, I left with a much better idea of what I wanted. It was a really special morning with memories I am so grateful I got to make with my Mum.
While Oliver was paint-balling, clay pigeon shooting and generally causing mayhem in picturesque Bath, I spent the weekend at home in Poole. While Sydney has some of the most best beaches I have seen, nothing compares to stepping onto the beach at Sandbanks being flooded with memories of summers, beach parties and winter walks.
Breakfast with one of my favourites. Felt like I hadn’t been away and that we had seen each other just a few days ago for a cup of tea.
I spent a day in the New Forest with my nephew Tyler and my Nan, stopping for ice creams in Burley. It is truly one of my favourite parts of the world; rolling hills, wild ponies and a sky that stretches for miles. I love that Tyler still wants to hold my hand at 7 years old.
A great weekend that included getting a lift from Mum to dinner and drinks with the girls (some things never change), looking for fairy doors at Upton Country Park with Tyler, sitting in bed flicking through bridal magazines with my Mum, a Sunday roast with my brother Joe, commandocrawling through the house with Tyler so we didn’t have to take off our shoes on our way from front door to the garden.
On my way back to London, I took a little detour to Reading to meet new baby Tilly. Brunch with two of my three urbs (urban family) finished with me asking them to be my bridesmaids. I still can’t believe that all three of them will be travelling all the way around the world next month to be by my side when I get married. I am so glad I don’t have to imagine doing it without them and so was obviously thrilled when they all agreed to be my bridesmaids.
But first, Wilson + Isabelle’s wedding week.
The boys (including Samson) playing frisbee on Clapham Common. The light nights in British summer time is one of my favourite things about home.
While the brothers were hunting around London for purple socks, I got to spend an entire day with Lex. As awesome as phone calls, FaceTime and Whatsapp are, nothing in the world beats actual face to face time with a friend. Lex came into my life entirely by accident as a friend of a friend who was looking for somewhere to live at the exact same time that I was looking for a flatmate. Thank goodness she did! She is a very special person, and means the absolute world to me. And I owe her big time for introducing me to Oliver! We had the best day eating our way around Soho and then walking the length of Oxford Street avoiding saying our goodbyes. Eventually we sat on a bench at Marble Arch and chatted until it got dark; it felt like we could be on our old comfy sofa in Stoke Newington.
A couple of nights before the wedding we had a wonderful meal at The Bolingbroke with the bride’s and groom’s families. My future in-laws couldn’t hide their pride and delight at having all of their children together for the first time in a few years.
The next day was a pretty big one for my side of the family. My Dad flew over from California so he could coincide his visit with ours and meet my fiancé. As it was the night before the wedding Oliver was on best man duties but Dad, Joe and I had an delicious dinner at Dishoom near Carnaby Street. As always, it was well worth the wait time for a table and satiated Dad’s craving for Indian food.
On the morning of the wedding, we grabbed coffee in matching tour hoodies before the festivities began at Dartmouth House, Mayfair.
Somehow I didn’t get any photos of the bride and groom, but I did get one of the groom and best man, waiting for the bride to arrive.
It was a spectacular wedding; pure class just like the newly weds. It was so fun getting to know some of the extended family and having the best time dancing the night away. We took the afterparty next door to the hotel bar of the honeymoon suite for espresso martinis and toasted cheese sandwiches.
The next morning we dragged our sore heads and feet to Daisy Greens for an Aussie style brunch. The perfect end to the London leg of our trip before we set off to on the next part of our trip.
After the wedding, the whole Shawyer family gatecrashed the newly weds’ honeymoon in Brittany. We got the ferry from Portsmouth and crammed into these tiny little four person cabins – I’m sure they were exactly the same size as my ‘flat’ in halls at Cardiff University! We were all so exhausted from the week’s festivities, we managed to sleep in our little bunks, and when we woke, we were on the other side of the channel in France.
We checked in to our cottages in the little fishing port of Cancale, and begun exploring. The water was the most beautiful clear blue that caught me by surprise. It definitely wasn’t something that I remembered from our family trips to France as a teenager.
After settling in we ventured back to the walled city of Saint Malo, where we had disembarked the previous day. I have since read Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, one of my favourite reads of 2016 which happened to be partly set in Saint Malo. We spent the afternoon eating crepes and walking around the top of the walls with Oliver’s older brother Taylor.
I still regret not buying this straw bag!
My Mum & Roy arrived in France the next day and joined us for a trip to Mont Saint-Michel. An amazing town situated on an island set out in the sea, historically accessible only at low tide. We climbed all the way to the top and toured the stunning abbey.
We ate the most delicious, fresh moules marinieres and frites before we headed back across the Channel.
The last European leg of our trip saw me return to Dorset, this time with my fiance. No pressure but he was going to meet my entire family in one weekend, most of which at our engagement party.
But first, I wanted to show off my home and the stunning scenery just a few minutes drive from where I grew up. Mum & Roy took us on a tour of the Purbecks, taking in Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Corfe Castle. We took a speedboat ride along the coast to see the incredible rock formations of the Jurassic Coast from the water.
After exploring, we met my Dad and Joe for a very special lunch at Rick Stein’s restaurant at Sandbanks. It was very special to have my family together and enjoy a delicious meal to celebrate our engagement.
My parents spoilt us again by throwing us an engagement party the next day, an opportunity to see many of my friends and family in one place and introduce Oliver to everybody. I didn’t take many photos as I was busy catching up with loved ones and soaking up the moment, but I love these two photos with my urbs and my fiancé.
It goes without saying that Oliver got the seal of approval (lucky really seeing as we had already booked our wedding), but I think it is safe to say that his biggest fan was Tyler. I will forever treasure the memory of sitting in Mum’s garden on our last night in the UK, watching two of my favourite boys acting out Star Wars scenes and rolling around on the floor laughing. It was a very special end to a very special trip. Reminiscing several month on makes me even more excited to see everybody when they arrive in Sydney next month!
We said our tearful goodbyes and boarded our flight for part 2 of our trip – Hong Kong.
To be continued…