Shopping spree delight
BRISBANE'S Queen Street Mall has long been considered the centre of fashion and retail in Queensland and is one of my all-time favourite shopping haunts.
You can pick up just about anything here, from an unrivalled mix of local, national and international labels available in some 700-plus stores.
My credit card is put to the test with the abundance of options and I walk away with a divine Rachel Gilbert layered-silk ruffle dress from Bessie Head Black and splurge on Stella McCartney sunglasses from a one-of-a-kind eyewear boutique, OPTIKO.
After a day of shopping, head to the new Sparrow & Finch café-come-pizzeria by day and a cool laneway bar at night for a tasty pizza or gourmet sandwiches.
The next day, a quick taxi ride from the city sees me in the trendy inner-city suburb of Paddington.
Starting at Given Terrace, I wander in and out of modern jewellery treasure trove The French Door, named for the old French doors at the entrance, Olive Home, Miss Henry and then wind my way around to Latrobe Terrace to discover Steve and Dori Sheldon's adorable little shop Monty's Chocolates.
Monty is their chihuahua, in case you were wondering.
Here you can taste your way around the world's finest, including some you won't find anywhere else in Australia.
A friend of mine recommends drinks at South Bank's aptly named Sardine Tin.
It's owned by Simon Livingstone, who also runs the busy bistro Piaf, just across from the new eatery.
Both venues appear to share a philosophy of value dining, although Sardine Tin focuses on a smaller menu, which always includes a sardine dish.
A sauvignon blanc and some marinated white anchovies later, I continue shopping at Akuti, Nancy King and Jonak.
South Bank, the new home of this year's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival, also hosts the South Bank Young Designers Market on the first Sunday of every month. Pencil them in now!
For a different view of Brisbane, I hop on the CityCat at South Bank and glide to New Farm Park.
From here I stroll down to James Street, Fortitude Valley, a leafy enclave bristling with designer shops, cafes, fresh food markets and an art-house cinema. After several hours spent venturing into beautiful boutiques I'm very excited when I stumble upon Libertine Parfumerie.
Housing some of the most prestigious, niche fragrances sold in the finest boutiques and department stores around the world, the Parisian-inspired boutique specialises in perfumes, home fragrance and body products.
Co-director Nick Smart tells me he wanted to create a visual and sensuous experience, which pays homage to the history of French parfumeries, but with a contemporary edge – and he does just that.
I feel like I'm in Paris, layering myself in the scents of Robert Piguet and Amouage. I purchase the Ladurée Café Crème candle, hoping to be reminded of my experience.
I continue my Parisian encounter one street over at French-style brasserie Belle Epoque, pictured right. Stunning tall glass mirrors are interspersed with a dazzling carved bar, buzzing atmosphere and a flamboyant ambience that combines beautifully to create an instant chic.
I indulge with a pain au chocolat – definitely one to share – and can't resist purchasing a handful of raspberry macaroons (for later).
Located within Emporium on Ann Street, this shopping mecca is the place for quality imported and Australian goods, designer labels, gourmet delicacies and wine, sumptuous perfume, beauty products, beautiful books and other luxury items.
If, like me, you fantasise about wearing a pair of Miu Miu heels or carrying Prada, you simply can't go past the window displays at Jean Brown, pictured top, and Jean Brown Robe, in the same complex. The lust-after brands are second to none, including Balenciaga, Chloe, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang.
With so many retail delights to discover, a long weekend will barely scratch the surface, but it will ensure you'll want to come back for more…