We talk to Nicole Brazier Fries from Toronto, Canada about her quiet and calm Bukit Timah condo. The Senior Director at Market Access tells us about the neighbourhood and how she’s loving the family-friendly vibe of the Duchess Crest condo.
About the location of this Bukit Timah condo
What’s the name of your street? Duchess Avenue.
What’s a common myth or misconception about your neighbourhood? Despite what Google Maps notes, the 11-minute walk to the MRT needs to be adjusted by a heat and humidity factor!
Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? “Duchess Avenue – Duchess Crest Condo.”
Closest MRT station? Tan Kah Kee (Blue Downtown Line).
How long have you lived here? We have lived in Bukit Timah for nine months. My family and I wanted something equidistant from school, work and the many additional activities we participate in.
Family-friendly condo facts
Name of condo: Duchess Crest
Facilities: Pool, Tennis court, gym, party room, barbecue pits
Size: 251 units (20 Blocks)
New or old: Built in 1998
Walking distance to supermarket: 1km The vibe: “It’s a family-friendly, well run condo with a good mix of various nationalities, from expats to locals, and families with young and school-aged children”
When you walk out of your Duchess Crest condo, what’s the first thing you see? I see mature trees, stately houses and sidewalks.
What’s the closest store to your Bukit Timah condo? Other than the vending machines in our condo, that would be the Sinopec Gas Station where you can pick up drinks and that all-important snack.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street? The oriental pied hornbill seems to prefer the grounds in our family-friendly condo. You’ll often see not one but several of these unique-looking birds perched high in the trees.
If your street was chosen for a remake of a film, which would it be? Best in Show – it seems that every third person in the neighbourhood has a dog.
We’re sure your neighbours are great, but is there anything you wouldn’t mind a little less of? There’s nothing I would like less of. But one thing I would like more of is better cell reception in the parking garage! (I’m sure the Grab and Gojek drivers would also like that!)
What’s the unofficial uniform of your street? School uniform! We are at the epicentre of several local schools – including Raffles Girls’ Primary School and Nanyang Primary. Also, with the family-friendly condo vibe and location many families with children reside around here and send their children to international schools.
Best things in the area
What are your three favourite places to eat or drink in the neighbourhood? We love Choupinette. It’s a cute little French restaurant that’s been a neighbourhood staple for over 20 years. The staff are super friendly, and the coffee is amazing. An added bonus is they make fabulous quiches that you can pre-order and take away. The Daily Ground is another cute spot that’s convenient to meet up for an offsite work breakfast or lunch catch-up. We’ve also just discovered (much to our daughter’s delight) the Koi bubble tea stand that is located in Coronation Plaza’s FairPrice. It’s a nice post-grocery shopping indulgence!
What are the best places to shop at in the neighbourhood? I wouldn’t say the neighbourhood is known for shopping, particularly fashion outlets. Coronation Plaza covers many of the necessities, but given Cluny Court is within walking distance and it’s a quick train ride from Tan Kah Kee MRT to Holland Village, Chip Bee Gardens and Orchard Road, we are spoiled for choice.
What are some fun or interesting things to do near this family-friendly condo? We love biking along the Rail Corridor, visiting the Botanic Gardens and taking part in the various events community groups hold such as outdoor movie nights at Coronation Park.
What’s one thing you’d never change? The quiet and calm vibe of the neighbourhood. Once you turn on Duchess Road from Bukit Timah, you enter a vortex of serenity.
How about one thing you would change? The street signs. Anyone who has driven me home and has tried to enter the neighbourhood by way of Farrer Road understands! With multiple street signs with similar names such as Duchess Road, Duchess Avenue, Coronation Road, Coronation Road West, it can get quite confusing!
If the city gave you a million dollars to soup up your street, how would you use it? A morning shuttle to Tan Kah Kee and Botanic Gardens MRT stations!
Beyond Bukit Timah
What are your favourite Singapore spots for taking out-of-town guests? We haven’t had as many out-of-town guests as we would have liked, so when we do, we try to go all out! For visitors with kids, the water park at Gardens by the Bay or at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden followed by satay is always a hit! If they’re foodies, we tend to go to Tiong Bahru and the Old Airport Road Food Centre for char kway teow, chicken rice and wanton noodles. For the selfie and Instagram fanatics, the Singapore River Cruise and a stop at the Joo Chiat or Emerald Hill shophouses are key destinations.
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, where do you go? Our old neighbourhood, the East, including the Old Airport Road Food Centre in Geylang.
If you’re missing home, what do you do? For a dose of simulated cold weather, we go to Snow City or ice skating at Kallang Ice World. I suspect, with Canadian café chain Tim Hortons coming to Singapore, you will find me there when I am missing home! A “double double” (two shots milk and two shots sugar) is probably similar to a “kopi ga da.
About the oriental pied hornbill
While this bird species is a common visitor to Nicole’s Bukit Timah condo today, only a few decades ago it would have been unlikely. The oriental pied hornbill was considered virtually extinct in Singapore for almost the whole 20th century. Then, fresh sightings emerged in the 1990s. Now, thanks to ongoing rehabilitation efforts, numbers are relatively healthy, and you’re much more likely to see the bird, with its trademark bill with a knob on top (called a casque). Oriental pied hornbills are mostly frugivores – their diet consists largely of fruit. They also have a loud call that’s been described as a bit like a cackling witch! Hornbills help to regenerate Singapore’s forests by spreading fruit seeds.
This article first appeared in the July 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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