Husbands are with the kids, boyfriends have hit the golf course and dogs are at the neighbours. After weeks of careful planning and enough negotiating to orchestrate an armistice, other halves (and little quarters) are otherwise occupied. It’s time for a girls’ weekend – and watch out, because when the ladies get together, they know they’re going to have fun By Lisa Perkovic & Margaret Pincus
Sure, Gucci on Castlereagh St in Sydney stocks the same tote as the Melbourne Collins St store – but a tote bought on holiday is a tote to remember. Returning home with new “other city” purchases is all part of the fun. So is walking into a high-end store and sipping champagne while girlfriend No. 1 one decides between the leather tote and the faux fur one. Shop assistants won’t know about the cheap Tiger Airways flight or the Virgin Blue Happy Hour special that got you there but they can spot a girls’ weekend and a serious shopping agenda a mile a way. Walk in with a posse of your peeps and they’ll bow down like Sarah Jessica Parker herself has come out to play.
In most CBD centres, high-end luxury stores line up in a row. It’s one swift trip but the buzz is completely post-retail (and the only major high you’ll score is the amount on your credit card).
Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Gucci gravitate around Martin Place in Sydney – but, as in many city centres, these retailers don’t like to hedge their bets with just one store; The Rocks is filled with luxury brands but hardcore shoppers stay away from the harbour front and join locals along the busy CBD streets.
In Sydney’s very own laneway, probably best known as The Ivy corridor, the entrance to Justin Hemmes’ party palace complex The Ivy doubles as a chic shopping haven amid the concrete jungle (www.merivale.com). The Hugh Hefner of Australian pyjamas, Peter Alexander, dream team Sass and Bide and urban legend T-Bar have all set up shop under the shade of the Ivy trellises.
After a hard day at the shops, it’s important to unwind. From the Ivy corridor it’s a Manolo stride to the big girls’ playground: 18 bars, nine restaurants, two penthouse suites, a ballroom and lots of fun. Start off the night in the intimate Ash Street Cellar. With low-hanging chain chandeliers and dark wood panelling straight out of a gothic chateau, this wine and tapas bar is a good way to ease into the Ivy extravaganza. A two-page bubbles menu and attentive waiters chosen for their Enrique Iglesias looks will help. The small space sits at the back of the venue and slipping in for a few drinks is a good way to avoid standing in the main entrance queue.
Sprawl out on old, aviator-style leather lounges and admire the waiters’ meticulously groomed physiques.
Anyone prepared to wait in line will gain access to the bird cage-like main bar but getting away from the smoke and suits is a little harder. Splurging on a booking at elegant Italian restaurant Ucellos or kitsch steakhouse Mad Cow is one way to get access to Ivy building No.2, home to the much-talked about but supposedly taboo Pool Club. It doesn’t take many of the bartenders’ concoctions to get girls jumping in the pool but watching the aqua adventures take place is much more fun.
While the Ivy continues to unveil new heights of extravagance ($6500 a night in the penthouse, anyone?), old favourites are being outfitted to wrest back the reigns. The Beresford in Surry Hills has taken a leaf out of the Ivy with its equally attentive staff (www.theberesford.com.au). The bartenders are almost all male and moustached in this old-school pub recently reworked with a glamorous touch. Everything here is dark and mysterious, from the men to the bathrooms to the squid tortellini. Sprawl out on old, aviator-style leather lounges and admire the waiters’ meticulously groomed physiques. Girls’ weekends require stamina and after a day of serious shopping, prepare for the night ahead with a plate of Chef Danny Russo’s special pasta: the plateful of black pockets moist with crabmeat reward the adventurous.
There’s always courage in the crowd and the girls’ weekend is the perfect time to test those comfort zones. Spice things up a bit at Spice Temple, Neil Perry’s newest venture (www.rockpool.com.au). The underground eatery lives up to its name, with a good kick in most of the Asian fusion dishes.
To really spice things up though, use this girl time to purchase those extra special items. There are some places men are just not made welcome, and even then purchases of a delicate nature can be daunting. Like a vodka black, a girlfriend on each arm is a special form of Dutch courage. So take advantage of the moral support to try out the latest in French negligees and brassieres at Dirty Pretty Things in Paddington (www.dirtyprettythings.com.au). The name says it all at this intimate, Parisian-inspired boudoir of a boutique. Relax on the chaise longue while proprietress Melissa Gallagher finds the perfect souvenir for those loved ones at home.
After a long day of shopping, a mani-pedi is a must. And Your Sanctuary Day Spa is the place to rest tired feet (www.yoursanctuary.com.au). At the very end of Oxford Street’s shopping district, this old church rectory oozes serenity. Give the credit card a final workout on a paraffin wax treatment. Akin to drizzling warm honey across the body, the Spa Deluxe pedicure includes afternoon tea and is certain to ease the most serious shoppers.
For a whole body treatment, and a true bonding experience, the new Body Inc Bathhouse and Spa in Potts Point, formerly the Ginseng Bath House, has traditional Japanese exfoliation sessions that are well worth the compulsory nudity policy (www.bodyinc.com.au). Girlfriends don’t need to be shy and this is a great way to get rid of inhibitions.
Ladies of leisure, for a weekend at least, need somewhere to rest their heads and the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay is certainly up to the job (www.stamford.com.au). Their Celebration Package just screams girls’ weekend: High tea and bubbly, slippers, headbands, commemorative photos and magazines – all that’s needed are scrunchies and facemasks to make one hell of a sleepover. Buffet breakfast and late checkout are icing on the cake.