What better way to start your day than on route to Paris?
What gave me away? The beret? The boobs? You may have gathered that subtly really isn’t my thing and I’m OK with that.
Forever in search of the next adventure, a few weeks ago we packed our overnight bags, hopped on the Eurostar, snoozed and et viola, 2 hours later, strolled out of Gard du Nord into the Parisian sunshine.
Trundling through town, cases and cameras in hand, we headed for the Instagram dream that is the Hoxton hotel.
Tucked down a side street in the 10th, oh my is it pretty. Originally three buildings that are now connected by glass atrium's, you can easily while away the hours sipping chocolat chaud (coffee is not my thing) and snapping away at this place if you are so inclined.
Alas, the rest of Paris called and it would be rude not answer.
What with it being so close, I’ve been to Paris a few times before but oddly enough never with mon amour. We wrapped up against the November chill (it was bloody freezing) and took to the streets in search of all things Parisian (and of course festive).
Before quickly realising we needed something to help warm us up and ducking in to Café de Flore.
I am a shameless people watcher (not in the odd stalker way, in the I wonder why that person is rushing/crying/laughing kind of way…OK, maybe still a bit odd) so luckily for me, Parisian cafés are made for a spot of voyeurism. Grab a table outside (if you go in winter then just remember that layers are your friend or else you may freeze), order something warm and kick back to watch the world go by. It’s all very romantic and wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without hitting up a street side café now would it?
Everyone likes to travel in their own way, some mooch around museums (I’m not a fan of queuing for ages to see often underwhelming things, Mona Lisa anyone?), some run from one tourist spot to another. However you prefer to do it, when you’re in Paris, make sure to stroll around. If pointless meandering is your thing then you don’t even need to be heading any where in particular but chances are something will catch your eye quick enough. Say, a Christmas market with Santa’s lodge for example.
I had a peek to see if the big man was home but afraid not, perhaps busy in the workshop with his elves what with it being December and all.
Giving Rudolf a run for his money on the red nose...I told you it was freezing!
When in town there are a few things not to be missed so get those walking boots on (or you know, grab an uber) and stroll around these beauties.
Searching for Esmeralda and the Hunchback...
I had absolutely no interest in standing in the queue to get inside to see the (no doubt) beautiful interior. With a line snaking around the building itself I figured that I value my fingers and toes more so instead, we popped just round the corner and to find this little gem.
Abound with flowers in the summer and spring, we were instead treated to all its festive glory. Cute huh?
Deciding we were still OK braving the cold, we strolled along the Seine to meander past the Louvre (again, more to drink it all in than wander round the museum itself). We were lucky with the weather, despite being nose bitingly cold, it was bright and sunny for most of our stay, save one afternoon when we found ourselves in a snow flurry. But if the weather is not on your side then who cares, pull up in a café and watch the rain soaked world go by and uber yourself around town.
If only I understood French...
Well known spots aside, get of the beaten track and discover some hidden places. Like little bookshops tucked down alley ways that smell like untold stories and memories long forgotten. La Galcante ticks all the boxes.
Peeking in to someones past.
Get raiding the shelves to find some new friends...
and familiar faces...
Paris is split up in to arrondissement's or boroughs and each one has it's own distinct vibe. One of my favorites is Le Marais, which is full to the brim with boutique shops and beautiful houses hidden away behind ornate gates just waiting for you to peek at.
When can I move in?
But let's be realistic here...all the wandering and wondering at Parisian sights is going to wear you out so make sure you have somewhere comfy to recharge your batteries pre dinner. Parisians eat late so it doesn't matter if you don't head back out until well in to the evening.
Post nap (one day I will grow up and not need to/love napping in the afternoon), we headed to Bistrot Paul Bert, an old school Parisian classic, where you will find locals chatting away loudly, tucking in to some no frills (tasty) French food before ending the night at Chez Papa listening to jazz and chatting to the American's next to us, pretending I knew about jazz music (I don't) and failing miserably. Its OK, I don't think they noticed.
Before leaving town the next day, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and check out Parisian concept stores Sezane and Merci but not all of us were quite as excited to hit the shops so after a brief snoop we headed to check out Sacre Coeur. After all of 2 minutes it started to snow so we made a quick dash and sought refuge in a nearby café to watch the snow fall instead.
Santa got himself some new wheels and elves by the looks of things...
Thoughts on 'concept' stores, Sezane is cute, Merci was full of things I couldn't see myself buying with an extraordinary price tag but cute courtyard.
And of course, no matter how touristy it may be, we had to have a quick sneak peek at the Eiffel Tower before the day was out.
After a quick dinner at Pizzeria Popolare (its so good, you should go), we popped ourselves back to Gard du Nord and headed home-bound back to London town.
Whatever it is that takes your fancy, jump on the Eurostar and go find your favorite corner of Paris. After all, I hear that it's never a bad idea.
I love Christmas, it is quite possibly my favorite time of year. That being said, it is the run up to the day itself which is just as much, if not more fun, running around cramming in festive frolics with friends and family. But is it just me or does anyone else always have grand plans about being organised and then before you know it, there's a week to go and you still need to think of, buy and wrap most of your presents and see a load of people (why are we obsessed with seeing as many people as possible before Christmas)? Guilty! But this year, no more last minute stresses for me (OK, I may be speaking too soon but let's just go with it). So in the vein of getting my sh*t together, last weekend I roped in a friend and we made our own wreaths to kick start the festive fun.
Being far more creative than me (she makes these amazing copper bird cages), she showed me the ropes and now I've got it down, I can share with you! I bought a beautiful fresh wreath last year because I thought who has time to make their own (plus I wouldn't have known where to start by myself) but actually it is surprisingly easy, so if you fancy having a go, this is what you need:
I bought a fresh blue pine 20 inch base but you can get artificial if you prefer and then reuse each year just buying fresh foliage. You can also make your base from scratch with a metal wreath ring, some moss and fresh or artificial pine but what with it being my first time and all, I went for pre made (who doesn't love a little shortcut now and then)
Check with the florist/wholesalers on what will be suitable, you'll need to pick things that are relatively hardy and will dry out nicely rather than turn brown and fall off. I doubt that a patchy brown wreath is the look you are going for although each to their own. I chose eucalyptus (my favorite), olive branches, mistletoe, baby rabbits ears and something else I don't know the name of (handy, right?). We bought 5 bunches and it was just enough for 2 wreaths although you can easily pack them out depending on how full you want them to look so add more or less as you prefer and adjust for the size of your wreath base
Needs to be able to bend easily to secure down the bits of foliage that may need taming
Ribbon (to fix your wreath to your door and show it off to all your neighbours)
We got everything from a local florist wholesalers so either pop yourself along to your closest one (bare in mind you may need an account in order to buy anything) or else a florist will have everything you need it will just probably be a tad more expensive. I kept mine pretty simple to make it easier but you can add all sorts of things, dried fruit, cinnamon sticks etc. Whatever festiveness that makes you happy, go for it.
So, off we go..
Get your base
and then your bits...
don’t forget some mistletoe for Christmas kisses...
Grab all your foliage and start trimming it down in to manageable sized branches. Cut a few first and lay against your wreath to check the size and make sure they aren't too long or too short. I found that if I cut them so the branches hung slightly over the edge of the wreath, that worked best.
Leave the berries to one side for now, you can pop them in to fill spaces at the end
Branches prepped, now we need to get making small bunches. Take a branch of each and arrange together in little bundles, making sure you put them at slightly different heights so that some branches are taller than others. It makes it easier to arrange on the wreath this way and means you will be able to see all the different branches. Secure them all together by wrapping a piece of wire tightly around the base. A little something like this...
This was a bit fiddly and took me a while to get the hang of, but you'll soon be on a roll. Once you've made a bunch, lay it on the wreath so as you go you'll get an idea of how many you'll need. Like this...
When you're happy that you have enough bunches to fill the wreath then begin to secure them down. Lift up the pine branches on the wreath base and slot in your bunches of foliage, just make sure to really squish the ends in to the moss base to keep it all secure. Fiddle around and arrange the bundles until you're happy everything is in the right place and not sticking out everywhere.
I worked anticlockwise around the base repeating the above until it was full. Don't worry if you stick bunches too close or too far apart, just pull them out and move it along. This part can a bit of time whilst you fiddle around and figure out what bunches look best where etc.
Now its all looking lovely and wreath like but perhaps a little wild no? Cut of some strips of wire, long enough to go through the wreath and tie at the back, grab bunches where it needs a little taming and secure down to neaten it all up, using the other branches to hide the wire. Now remember the berries? Depending on their size, cut them down as needed and start popping them in gaps or to hide bits of wire and complete the wreath. Happy? Fabulous. Use your ribbon to tie a small loop around the metal ring of the base to secure to your door and et viola, wreath maker extrodinar.
Pop it on your front door, adorn with lights if that's your thing and impress your festive visitors with your handy skills (no need to tell them how easy it was to make).
If you have any questions, pop them in the comments below.
Happy wreath making!
Welcome to Hollywood! LA was an odd one for me, I really wasn’t fussed about going, at all. You need a car to get anywhere so the traffic is awful and I figured that every one in tinsel town was waiting for their big break so would whacking out a song and dance at any opportunity. Stereotype much? Me? Never…
Attempting to make the most of the sunshine (asides from just melting in it), we spent our first morning in Santa Barbara lazing around the pool for some much needed R&R. It’s a tough life seeing all these places you know…
Once we'd had our fill of vitamin D, we headed out for a drive before lunch and found ourselves in Montecito, well more specifically at the San Ysidro Ranch and being ever inquisitive, we drove on in and had a peek around. Sticking out somewhat in a little beach dress, I’m never one to mind going against the grain a little and we got to wandering around the gardens and checking out how the other half holidays pretending we fit in, spoiler alert…it’s pretty nice.