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          Like a treasure chest of pop-up fairy tales, the Bavarian Alps unfold to reveal hideaway castles, their dreamy turrets and towers reaching for the velvet clouds.

          We take a 30-minute hike up the mountains toward Neuschwanstein, the whimsical getaway of the child-like King Ludwig II.

          As the backbone of inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Neuschwanstein has forever left its stamp on popular culture. But nothing could be further from a Walt Disney fairy tale. King Ludwig's life was a tragic story... there was no happily-ever-after. One evening he was found dead in a lake with his mysterious death ruled as suicide.

Grand city halls... every European town has them. The Marienplatz, at Munich.

          Unless you can't simply wait to get high on beer, Munich is not the place for you. The Marienplatz is about the only glorious landmark worth seeing in the famous city of Oktoberfest.

In Würzburg, a lesser-known city, we found peace.

Vineyards running up the terraces on hills, leading to a fortress way up high.

Like a painting — the Marienberg Fortress overlooking the Alte Mainbruecke bridge.

A servant boy brings a letter to the Würzburg Residenz, palace to the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg.

          Its exterior majestic like any other palace in Europe — and here you may think that if you've seen one, you've seen them all — but the Würzburg Residenz! Its exquisite interiors are unmatched.

          The UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its grand staircase, the White Hall, and its sequence of rooms in increasing degrees of decoration (known to intimidate visitors to the Prince!). All these culminates in the masterpiece that is the Mirror Cabinet and the Green Lacquered Room. Do the names fascinate you already? No pictures of the interiors are allowed, so you'll have to see it for yourself. And by gosh, in this instance seeing is believing! ;)

In the garden, a statue of a putto fighting with a faun.

Time to wine and dine... decidedly un-German fare.

Trout and seafood at a Swedish fast food chain slowly taking over Deutschland.

A sculptor wisely chooses to rest his artwork beneath the shade of a tree.

After lunch; we set foot on the Alte Mainbruecke bridge toward the Marienberg Fortress.

          Up and up we go, the many flights of stairs... a better soldier can march on with dignity but not mere peasants. We huff and puff;

          To the top of the hill, where the once-was drawing bridge awaits us. Pictured in the foreground is a niffy art installation of tree roots snaking up a concrete slab, which I couldn't take my eyes off of.

          Like a mouse in a maze, we start crawling along the outer walls toward the center of the fortress. Where grass and trees now grow, there was once a river.

This is the entrance to the heart of the fortress.

And what treasure does the fortress so jealously guard? An amazing view of the city, which we admired from its gardens :)

We take the Bayern train to the medieval heartland of Romantic Germany.

          Except for the cars and modern electricity, everything about the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is preserved from the Middle Ages.

          We scaled the town walls of stone, trying to imagine from our ancient perch of a lookout people from the 1400s strolling up the same streets.

In 1488 the mayor of the town resided in what is now known as Marien-Apotheke, the local pharmacy.

          No ordinary character, legend has it that the mayor had drunk three liters of wine in a single gulp to save his town from Swedish invasion. A view of the town center, from the town hall.

          We wandered through the charming cobbled-stone streets, tranquil in our pursuit of nothingness. Gradually, it begins to rain. There is a little bit of sad fragility, this rain, that lends itself to the charms of Rothenburg.

          A series of three clocks, installed during various periods on the facade of the City Councilors' Tavern. When the clock strikes, you can see a reenactment of the famous drinking scene through the windows.

          The pointy, spiny rooftops of the Burgtor Gate; hard to believe that once upon a time, this fantasy-like kitsch was the order of the day.

          A few steps beyond the gate; see the mask on the wall? In olden times, hot pitch would pour forth from the mouth of this mask onto unwelcome visitors. This is why the mask and the strip of wall directly beneath it is darker than its surroundings.

          Klingen Tower, framed on both sides by a row of ancient houses. Note the pulleys sticking out of the roofs of each house; these were used to hoist sacks of food up into the attic.

A medieval town is incomplete without a criminal museum, depicting the various forms of medieval torture and punishment.

          But gore is not my cup of tea, and I refused heartily to pay a dime to scare myself. So we braved the rain and hiked to the outskirts of the town, where we could admire the view of the entire village.

          See the city walls running along the length of the town? I would have loved to complete my walk along the city walls. But before we knew it, the day was done and we headed back to modern civilisation.

At Potsdam, where a sinister cluster of dark statues on the roof of the Neues Palais reminded me of waiting vultures.

          Potsdam itself is home to eleven castles. The most famous of these is the French-sounding Sanssouci summer palace, which means "without a care".

Beautifully crafted atlantes holding up the roof of Sanssouci.

Figs and trellised vines grow along the terraces up to the palace.

Photography by my dearest Edmund and me.

          This is Priscilla, Jessica, and me in our final pose for the Creme & Co segment. Here we are waiting for Doris to finish walking the length of the catwalk and complete our pretty picture. On the stage is Teresa and the rest, quietly waiting for their cue from Yew Chong, Vanessa's business partner. He's holding a walkie talkie in his hand which he uses to communicate with Vanessa who's on the floor. During the show Yew Chong and the models will be hiding behind the stage curtains so you won't see all this except Pris, Jess, Doris and me.

          Who's wearing what, clockwise from top left to right: Jessica in the Colourblock Bodycon Dress, Brenda in the Autumn Goddess Maxi Dress, Doris in the Jealous of Green dress, me in the Military Cape Vest over the Don't Look Back Corporate Dress, Priscilla in Entrench in Blue, Eva in the Belt Up Vest over the gorgeous Colourful Printed Maxi Skirt, Serena in the Breezy Orange Cape Dress, and Teresa in the sell-out Mint Green Party Dress.

          Who's wearing what, clockwise from top left to right: Me in the Military Cape Vest over the Don't Look Back Corporate Dress, Teresa in the green Criss-Cross V Dress, Doris in the Applique Office Dress, Eva in the Jap Prints Corporate Dress, Serena in the reddish pink Recadre Work Blazer over the black Ramasser L'ourlet Shirt-dress, Priscilla in a yet-to-be-released two-tone dress, Jessica in the bestseller grass green Dynamique Ruffles Corporate Dress, and Brenda in the Raffin Plaine Blazer over the immensely popular Sophistique Corporate Dress.

On me: the incredibly sexy Chauve-souris Ruches Dress from sister line Creme & Co.

And here's everybody in their Miss Singapore Universe pose.

Photography by Kuan Lok, Yew Chong, Jia Yin, and my dearest Edmund.

Missed the first post? You can read it here.

    Strut the catwalk — that's a dream most girls would have had at some point in their lives or other. But perhaps you are not quite tall enough... your shoulders are broad... or you are pear-shaped... and a thousand other things. Stop. We know not all of us may be perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't look terrific, gorgeous, and stylish. And that's the message Ministry of Retail wants to share. This October eight customers were chosen to headline the runway during its birthday bash, and Hourglass, Petite, Inverted Triangle, Stick, Pear, were all part of them. Meet the cast.

          Fittings were held at shopowners Yi Fong and Vincent's place. Their apartment was strewn with clothes, racks and racks of clothes running helter-skelter everywhere... a shopper's paradise!

But with eight models and sixteen outfits to settle, that was an organiser's hellish nightmare.

The team dealt with it by staggering the fittings session at intervals. Teresa, Jessica, and I were the first to arrive.

          Meet Jessica, our tallest model at 1.8m. She wears the Dynamique Ruffles Corporate Dress from Ministry of Retail's sister line, Creme & Co.

          Each of us models one outfit from Ministry of Retail and another from Creme & Co. Here is Jiaxin from the team helping Jess with the Belt Up Vest that would eventually be modelled by Eva.

          And this is the piece Yi Fong has specially singled out for me. She knows me well; I love capes, and this Military Cape Vest has all the hallmarks of a high fashion piece. Wear it with shades and Chanelesque shoes to look like you have just gotten off your private jet. Psst... you can also remove the outer cape and wear the jacket as a vest ;)

Teresa, Jessica, and I self-amuse while waiting for the others to be fitted.

Caught in motion: practising the basics of catwalk during our training session.

          Catwalk is nothing like normal walk. When you are on the runway your strut has to be fierce; it has to be exaggerated. I cross my legs one over the other and thrust my hips as I walk.

          Here we are against the funky backdrop of Recognize! Studios, with our trainer, Mrs Singapore World 2011 Vanessa Tan, teaching us how to pose with attitude. A who's who, from left to right: Teresa, Serena, Doris, Eva, Brenda, Priscilla, me and Jessica. Everyone is in their Ministry of Retail outfit.

Doris is asked to change her strapless wedges into covered heels to prevent herself from slipping on the runway.

Serena demonstrates how she will pose in her Breezy Orange Cape Dress.

          The amazing Jess, who eventually joined Elite Model Look Singapore 2011, is chosen to open the show. The music starts, and she mirrors Vanessa's act of whipping open the curtains.

          Left: Priscilla finds her slingback pumps wobbly. She can't seem to control walking in them. Note to self: change her shoes for the special day; Right: Vanessa directs Jessica on where to stop and pose.

          Left: Vanessa demonstrates how to remove a jacket while walking; Right: Us girls laughing at ourselves as we do our little turn on the catwalk.

          A big thank you to Vincent, who managed to capture this little gem of me doing the turn. Gotta love my hair and the way my cape flies as I spin ♥ My pencil skirt is actually a dress — the Don't Look Back Corporate Dress. Shhh... it's got a very sexy back ;)

It was a challenge mastering the turn. I can't get it right. I need to practise!

Priscilla, second in the lineup, crosses Jessica's path. "Hey aren't we supposed to stop and pose together here?"

          Jess is ready, but Priscilla can't stop laughing. This was where Jess played the joker and tried to swipe Priscilla's hand off her arm :P Look at Vanessa!

Vanessa saves the day and tells the two where to go.

          The trio bursting out in renewed laughter. Do you know Priscilla is actually a proud mother of a 4 months old baby? She looks great, doesn't she!

They make their way back to the back, as Vanessa directs the next step in the routine.

Doris, Priscilla, Jessica, and me in our final position for the Ministry of Retail segment.

          As night falls, everybody practises posing with a jacket. Doris is wearing the bestseller Jealous of Green dress, Priscilla cuts a svelte figure in Entrench in Blue, Jessica rocks the Colourblock Bodycon Dress, Eva has on the Belt Up Vest over the gorgeous Colourful Printed Maxi Skirt, and Brenda is in the Autumn Goddess Maxi Dress. Watch out for the next post, which will cover the events of the birthday bash cum fashion show ;)

Photography & Filmography by Vincent Goh. Screenshots made by me.
13 November 2011 @ 06:21 pm

With an address like 28 Royal Road, the University of Warsaw is a fashionable place to be spotted... college cramming no less.

          Much of Warsaw today is dominated by ugly Socialist architecture, so the old world beauty of the Royal Road comes as a pleasant surprise. The apple of my eye are these nude muscular atlantes, heads bent forward to bear the weight of the balcony on their bare shoulders.

          Fine Polish dining, so amazingly good and easy on the pockets. Duck meat is something I studiously avoid back at home but I simply adored the Polish roast duck with apple and cranberries.

And what about this cheesecake, with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream? Po prostu pyszne!

The Prague Castle watches as I make a wish on the Charles Bridge. "She's doing it all wrong," they say.

          Prague, what terrible winds you have. Look what you've done, I parted with Czech crowns for gloves and Ed has a L'Oreal moment at the Old Town Square.

          We were probably only the 1,572,604th commercial tourist roaming around that summer. It was hard, so hard, to enjoy myself amidst the jostling crowd. All I fondly remember is the spectacular Gothic architecture of the St Vitus Cathedral up at the Prague Castle.

The facade features a precious mosaic of The Last Judgement: in the center sits Christ in a halo, judging the living and the dead beneath Him.

We had špíz at the Old Town Square for dinner. This is grilled meat and vegetables on a skewer. It's a Czech dish: say špíz, not kebab.

12:15pm; exploring the city's lunch options at Munich against the pretty backdrop of Frauenkirche.

          We settled on Vinzenzmurr, a Munich-based butchery chain, and by God that was the best pork knuckle we ever had! With meat so juicy and tender, and the skin roasted to a golden crisp perfection... that's Heaven in a bite.

And how much for a bite of Heaven? You won't be able to guess — just 2.99 Euros! Which is why I'll never pay $36 for the same at Brotzeit.

At a butchery joint in Augsburg, we take another meal.

Butchers make terrific cooks. This butcher here specialises in lamb and mutton. His lamb fillet has no nauseating odor.

Ed had the lamb liver with mashed potatoes. A meal to frighten children (and me), but it is wonderfully cooked — just right, I'll give him that.

          We passed by this bakery in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Holzofenbrot means old-fashioned bread straight from a wood oven. A pity we didn't try; we had no idea what to do with such a huge loaf of bread at that time.

          A two-hour stop at Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, where we were nearly neatly bored to death. The most interesting sight? A statue peeking out from the underground sewage system. Yaawwwn.

A band of soldiers marching into the President's House at Budapest, Hungary.

          As our coach crosses over from Buda to Pest on the Elizabeth Bridge, I hastily snap a shot of the Gellert Monument with its charming stream and waterfall.

          It's easy to see why Budapest has sometimes been called the Paris of the East. Link two Arc de Triomphes up with chains and you get the famous Chain Bridge with its lion bridgeheads. The towering dome behind the bridge is called St Stephen's Basilica.

          That's St Stephen's Basilica again, as seen from Fisherman's Bastion. If you'll like to find out more about Budapest, I've actually written a more extensive post. You can read it here.

          Looks like the twelve disciples at the Church of Peter & Paul are singing along with the old musician with gusto... This is Krakow; welcome back to Poland.

          Frankly, I like the Old Town of Warsaw better than the Old Town of Krakow, but if you're talking about gastronomic satisfaction there's cheap, good food to be had anywhere in Poland.

          The Polish Golabki is another of my favourites. Simple, hearty, and unpretentious, the golabki is a cabbage roll stuffed with rice and meat, served with mushroom gravy rather than a tomato-based sauce à la Hungary. It's obvious the Poles love their mushrooms, and so do I!

Photography by my dearest Edmund and me.

Also Read:
I left my heart in Budapest     |     Český Krumlov, the little Prague     |     Tratto's at Augsburg: Gourmet Delights on a Budget

14 September 2011— Today, indulging in a little casual luxury, Oscar de la Renta-style.

A fairy tale is woven into the seams. Court destiny in a T-shirt, heels, and a ballroom skirt; a dreamy mix of relaxed femininity.

On my arm: 门神挂件 /mén shén guà jiàn/, ancient guardian of Chinese homes, traditionally hung on doors to ward off evil spirits.

I thought the door hanger would make a fantastic bracelet, so I wrapped, looped, and knotted it around my arm. See the adorable eyelashes on the green mask; the red mask sure is scary but I like how it matches with my red shoes.

faces print T-shirt, printed inside-out, last worn here - Hong Kong
navy blue tulle skirt - boyfriend's sister's closet
chinese masks door hanger, worn as bracelet - Bugis Street
silver braided necklace worn diagonally across - boyfriend's sister's closet
mini backpack - Oniah Sling & Carry, from childhood times
ring set with opal stones - Mum's
yellow envelope wallet - spree via Fayfey
tammy red patent peeptoes last worn here - Foxtrot

Also Read:
Peter Som Inspired Lace Frill     |     Miu Miu Inspired: Variation on the Cocktail Dress
18 September 2011 @ 06:13 pm

          The setting sun reveals an orange cargo vessel looming on our horizon. Here in Istanbul there are snaky long traffic jams, so we toured the city by boat instead. Up the river Bosphorus we go, and what a god-awfully cho-cho-choppy ride! Did you know the Bosphorus divides Istanbul into Europe and Asia? Yeah, that's right, the city Istanbul straddles both continents of Europe and Asia. Not quite enough to join the European Union, though.

Photography by my dearest Edmund and me.
11 September 2011 @ 07:36 pm

19 February 2011— On a swinging Thursday I dropped by local Pedro for a copy of their Spring Summer catalogue. Ah, but for the impeccable styling, and a vintage baby on wheels, the glossy new spread was shot in a vast desert... meaning slender legs were perched on towering stilettos sunk in sand, the feminine curves voraciously hugged by skin tight mini dresses... stuff, you know, one will never actually wear on safari. Yes, fashion is there to sell a dream, and this is the city slicker's guilty pleasure of embracing Mother Nature without any real fondness or understanding for it.

I am this guilty city slicker too myself. Here is Oscar, my beloved imaginary companion/ sleeping partner/ movie chum, but if a real lion came charging towards me now I would be gone in a jiffy. Taking a leaf out of the wrong book, I borrow Ava Gardner's overkill, overdressed style in a scene from Mogambo (1953), donning a dress with a wide swinging skirt and swiping her pearls for tribal stones.

Then I fasten the tamed jaws of a panther around my finger,

and ditching the sensible backpack I reach for a tiny, little, fashionable purse. (No, I won't be needing my water bottle, just an insect repellent and my lipstick, thanks.)

Well, at least I didn't wear any heels.

greenish blue faux wrap dress - Forever 21
tribal necklace - Mum's
chunky wood watch last worn here - Fossil
thick elastic belt with wooden buckle last worn here - Topshop
tan buckle bag - Cristian, Italy
panther ring last worn here - Candypulp
lace up gladiator sandals - Charles & Keith
04 September 2011 @ 10:40 pm

Dawn breaks, it is barely 4:30 in the morning and already we are up, waiting to go around the world in 80 days:

          You know I'm only kidding ;) We are just barely going to cross the skies of Cappadocia today. Still, I wouldn't miss a hot air balloon ride for the world!

Even at 4:30am we were already too late to catch the setup of our hot air balloon. So we turned to watch our neighbour set up instead.

They are pumping propane into the envelope. The black solo wheel you see on the ground is an inflator fan.

And with all passengers on board, they are ready for takeoff.

          What about us? This is us in our wicket basket :) You can see how huge it is — there are four compartments, each able to fit 6-7 people. I'm sorry our friends are much too excited to look at the camera...

The holes you see on the side of the basket are for you to climb in and out of the balloon.

A burst of flame, the propane ignites; and we are off to seek an adventure of a lifetime.

          As our swollen, pregnant, giant of a balloon slowly rises out of the valley, we discover like-minded explorers, dotting the magical landscape.

          Spread out before our eyes was a whole riot of candy stripe colours — dozens of teardrop globes nestling in the lap of Mother Earth, like a circus carnival suspended in mid-flight.

And now we spy curious holes in the rock, fashioned like windows...

And gigantic starlight mints — the crown of a fellow hot air balloon.

So set sail to a place where a fine veil of mysterious mist enshrouds us.

Beckoning us to unearth its hidden treasures... from ghostly balloons to a rainbow encircling our balloon's shadow in the clouds!

And higher and higher, on our rocket to the Moon.

Earth, we are forsaking you for the Heavens.

900 feet above your homely grounds, we soar at the will of the wind, laying our dreams over her billowing cloths of white clouds.

And then the Sun, edging over the curtains of dawn, bestows his blessings upon the dreams laid at his feet.

          "Now prepare for landing," says the aeronaut, and we crouch down beneath the rim of the basket. Thuddd our skyship pelts and skids to a bumpy halt on rocky ground.

But our balloon! — it refuses to admit defeat, and struggles with the pilot...

...with all the terrifying might of an angry octopus!

Taming the mammoth balloon... 1, 2, 3, pull!

And a closer look at the strange lands we flew over:

Cappadocia, Alice in a Turkish wonderland.

Hillside homes, riddled with holes like swiss cheese.

These old school Flintstones cave homes are carved out of volcanic tuff. Erosion took an artistic hand in shaping the rest.

          And will the Flintstones ever have to flee a freshly spewing volcano? Mount Erciyes, the menace responsible for this charming landscape, has long since been extinct.

Building upon the natural rock; a cave house's inner courtyard.

Inside a cave house: traditional Turkish style decor. Renting a cave home like this will set you back by about 3,000 Euros per month.

Antiques nestling in a wall cabinet, simply niches cut into the rock.

Human-constructed wings are added to the ancient cave house for expansion.

          Many of these cave homes are now restaurants, hotels and shops. This studio cum showroom belongs to a master potter of traditional Cappadocian ceramics. The ancient Cappadocian wine jugs (above) have a hole in the center so the server can carry it on his shoulder.

          Coming to the valley of the famous Fairy Chimneys, a local surprises me with the generous hospitality of the Turks. He is intrigued by my two-tone stockings and gives me a miniature of the cave houses. I was so shy I ran away ^^;

Curiouser and curiouser; aliens with small heads and large cloaks disguised as rocks. Or is it the other way round?

By jove, a Freudian exhibition of phallic rock towers.

          These phallic columns are respectably named Fairy Chimneys. In case you are wondering why, the people of long ago believed these strange formations could only have been made by fairies. To be fair, some of them do look like chimneys...

Say hello to the resident camel at Devrent Valley, whimsical playground of imaginary shapes.

          Completely oblivious to his unusual presence are a pair of lovers locked in a passionate embrace — can you see what I see, two outcrops shaped like heads locked in an eternal kiss?

Perchance the fairies scattered some Hershey's Kisses onto the soil and watched them grow.

Photography by my dearest Edmund.

Also Read:
A Love Letter to Turkey I     |     A Love Letter to Turkey II