Bastille Day

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Here are a few photos from Bastille Day last week. After jumping on a couple of Velibs, we cycled down to the 5th to lunch at one of my favourite burger joints, Loulou. We wandered the streets of Saint Germaine, as it's not an area I often get down to, being south of the river an' all. As it was with my London days, I'm a north of the river girl, or Right Bank as it's called in Paris. We walked all the way to Coutume Café, where we stopped for one of Rachel's irresistible cheesecakes and iced lattes. 

Having a packed a blanket, just in case - we then headed over to Champ de Mars to check out the crowd situation in front of the Eiffel Tower. At 5pm it was already heaving, but we managed to find a small spot so decided to camp out and wait for the fireworks. While fighting others off we managed to hold the fort for 5 other friends who joined us armed with rosé, baguettes, cheese and cold meats, so we could enjoy the evening with full bellies. The crowd got gradually bigger (if that was possible) as we waited in anticipation for the firework display. As the sun set against a backdrop of the iron lady and to a soundtrack of classical music ranging from Gershwin to Tchaikovsky, the clock finally struck eleven and the light display began, lighting up the sky for an intoxicating 40 minutes, in what was the best firework show I've ever seen in my life. You can see a snippet of the show on my Instagram here.  If you haven't seen them, I urge you to coincide a trip to Paris on Bastille Day, it truly is a feast for the eyes and ears! 

Summer Favourites

Saturday, 18 July 2015

I've been meaning to write this long overdue post for a while now, but what with all the travelling backwards and forwards to the UK recently (I feel like I'm currently living on the Eurostar, so much so that they should install a bed for me), my blog has (as is usually the case) has taken a backseat. 

So summer arrived rather abruptly a few weeks ago, when Paris was thrown into the depths of a heatwave. I usually love the heat - give me 30 degrees and I'm a happy girl, but the weather got a bit much even for me. And there's something that happens to Paris in the heat, it actually gets warmer in the evening. The small streets and Haussmann buildings insulate and keep the heat in, so by nightfall the city feels like a sauna, making it almost impossible to sleep. I've spent the nights tossing and turning trying to find a small available un-sweaty space on the sheets, to no avail. 

Since summer arrived I've been on a bit of a spending spree, yet still managed to be defeated by the heat. But when the weather's hit a cooler 30 (an oxymoron, if ever there was one), I've been literally living in this outfit. I'm happiest in a simple white tee - and this ASOS offering is a great option. White tees dirty and age easily, and I won't break the bank replacing this one, when the time inevitably comes. The skirt I picked up from the Zara sale. It's the perfect length, hitting just around calf level, but with buttons that go to the knee, adding a bit of je ne sais quoi and making it nice and airy, as well as easy to move in - perfect for cycling in (my newest obsession: I finally, after two years in this city, purchased a Velib pass!). 

The British brand, Whistles has particularly good to me of late.  The velcro sandals (another current obsession) and silver clutch are just a couple of things I've purchased in their summer sale this year. The clutch will be making an appearance at the rest of the weddings we have this year (three in a month starting the end of August!!) and matches a pair of silver heels that I bought from COS for the various occasions. The sunnies are Retro Super Future and have also become a summer staple, although I'm currently lusting after a pair of tortoiseshell ones. 

Along with a new wardrobe, I thought it high time I updated some of my make-up. I wear SPF 30 moisturiser every day, but I've also been plastering mattifying foundation over the top, in the hope of not looking like my face is dripping with sweat. But in a recent quest to feel a little lighter (especially in this heat) and not like I'm troweling on make-up every morning, I did a bit of research and decided to try the Bare Minerals Tinted Moisturiser. It's light (even lighter than the cream I've been using) and has a bit of colour, which I add to with some bronzer and blusher. I've been covering up any blemishes with Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage and suddenly feel a few pounds lighter! What's your go-to summer make-up regime? 

Notes from the Weekend

Monday, 6 July 2015

It's been crazy hot in Paris this last week - the canicule (heatwave) has been long lingering. I love the heat, but even I have been suffering. Living in the 4th floor of a Hausmann building, which is usually wonderful with the sun streaming in in the mornings, has turned into a greenhouse slash sauna. It's been so hot that I've been fantasising about air-conditioning (something that's pretty unusual for me - I'm used to expressing how cold I am on a daily basis, much to the boy's annoyance). Yet the heat didn't stop us getting out and about on Saturday, as my mum and her partner were visiting for the weekend. Opting for cycling over the equally sauna-like metro, we rented Velib bikes and cycled to the Pompidou in search of air con and art. We sauntered around the inspiring Le Corbusier exhibition, lingering to enjoy the cool air, and then headed over to Bob's Kitchen for lunch. We spent the rest of the weekend cycling and wandering around Paris in search ice-cream and air con, while I snapped a few photos. 

A few links/discoveries: 
- I drooled over this gorgeous post - we're off to Santorini the end of August of a wedding and can't wait!
- I started reading US by David Nichols and am already enjoying it
- I'm excited to see Cereal's New York city guide - I'll be helping with the Paris guide later in the year
- I checked out Ob la di cafe & Kitsune's newest cafe on Rue Amelot last week
- Ate at the new Grand Coeur in the Marais - bit pricey, one for special occasions, but beautiful interior (marble-topped tables and stone walls) and a huge terrace

The Parisian Kitchen

Friday, 3 July 2015

I’m a big foodie. I love to try different foods, discover restaurants and generally eat until my heart’s content, but I’m not a very inventive or well-practised cook. And I'm not one of those people who can just throw things together et voila! I have my go-to dishes that I return to time and time again, such as chili, or I consult one of my many cookbooks (25 at last count - which are admittedly more for decoration) and try to recreate a recipe, but often fail as I'll be missing a quarter of the ingredients.

So being invited to The Parisian Kitchen was a chance to get a little more creative in the kitchen and learn to cook some typically French dishes. Run by the lovely Bénédicte, she launched the venture earlier this year out of her love of cooking - a passion she'd inherited from her mother. Having worked in the luxury goods industry, Bénédicte wanted to do something a little more personal. Located in her gorgeous apartment in the 17th, she welcomed my friend Rachelle and I with tea and coffee on a Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago. The first part of the morning was taken up by a trip to her local market and cheese shop to buy fresh produce (along with explanations from Bénédicte - who knew there were so many different types of onions!) that would be used for the three course menu that she'd planned for us to make together. We then spent the next couple of hours cooking (or they did, while I snapped away) before sitting down to the most delicious feast! 

We cooked & ate the following:
Cream of asparagus soup, foie gras froth and truffle oil 
Coley with a citrus dressing
Vegetable pie pastry 
Chocolate soufflé


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Last weekend I spent a few days with my Father. It's not often that I have the chance to spend quality time with him, let alone a whole weekend doing the things we enjoy most. So when were were invited to stay at Palace Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme for Father's Day in collaboration with a new book written by U2's Bono, aptly entitled Sons & Fathers (celebrating the relationship between sons and fathers, and daughters and fathers), I jumped at the opportunity.

After checking in we quickly changed and headed down to the terrace for cocktails in the sun - no better way to start. Just past 8pm we were taken to our table in Pur, the hotel's one michelin-starred restaurant, headed up by chef Jean-Francois Rouquette. We were immediately welcomed by the sommelier who served us with a glass of champagne each; a preview to what was to come - one of the most indulgent and delicious meals I have ever had in my life! Four hours later we had eaten around 10 courses (honestly, I lost count), each with its own wine pairing that varied from white and red wine, to port. Considering I was already feeling a little merry following the first cocktail, it took all my energy I could muster, to not reveal my impending silliness.

The next morning, after sleeping in one seriously comfortable bed (wider than it was long!), I recovered from my hangover, with perfectly-cooked poached eggs and avocado, while dad munched his way through the buffet that was laden with pastries, fruit and cereals.

At 11:30am, a driver came to collect us and we drove out the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Dad introduced me to the wonders of art when I was young, so it was great to discover one of Frank Ghery's most recent creations with him. If you haven't been yet, I urge you too - an incredible feat of architecture, it's worth visiting just for the building itself - with the art inside being an added bonus. We returned to the hotel, gorged ourselves on burgers, changed and were collected early evening by our driver to enjoy a classical music concert (as one does) in Sainte Chapelle, a beautiful gothic medieval church situated on Isle Saint Louis. After being serenaded by Vivaldi's Four Seasons, we sauntered down the river to Chez Julien for one last indulgent supper. 

- Thanks to Park Hyatt for making the weekend so memorable! 

Dedar Milano

Friday, 19 June 2015

Last week, as you may have seen from my Instagram photos, I went on a little trip to Milan to discover the Italian furnishings brand, Dedar (short for Design D'Arradamento) and had quite a journey (this is an epic post, just like the trip, so be prepared!) A family run business, Dedar has been going for some 40 years and creates gorgeous luxurious fabrics and wallpapers - they recently did a collaboration with Hermès. First we drove to their showroom in Milan and were introduced to the team and thousands of richly-coloured fabrics in an array of materials, from silk and velvet to linen - some so soft to the touch, that I could have happily laid down on one and had a little snooze. I'd woken up at 5am for the flight after all. Next we drove over to the Arts & Food Triennale to peruse the vast exhibition dedicated to food and art through the ages that showcases everything from kitchen design, cutlery and ceramics to how food is portrayed or used in modern art. If you're a big foodie, this is a good one to add to your bucket list.

This was followed by lunch in the terrace restaurant on the roof of the building, which had launched when the exhibition opened this year. Lovely and airy, with a view over the gardens and Milan's financial district beyond, it was the perfect place to take a lunchtime pause before we ventured on to our next destination. 

After lunch we visited Villa Necchi. If you've watched the film, I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton (in which she plays a Russian, married to a Milanese), you'll recognise the interior, as it's the house where the family lives. An incredibly-designed space - the architect, Piero Portaluppi was given free reign and an unlimited budget - it was originally owned by one of Milan's wealthiest families, who made their fortune by creating the Necchi sewing machine. It's one of the most beautifully designed and furnished villas I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. To say I was excited to see it, was an understatement. I would happily have stayed there all day snapping away, and probably done my best to lock myself in and never leave had we not had a guide. The interior is what you might expect (and more) from an Italian villa built in the 1930s in the art-deco style. Marble is in abundance -  all the bathrooms are furnished from floor to ceiling in the opulent material, either in blue, green, pink or black. The staircase is made from walnut, there are wooden floors, marble fireplaces, ornately-carved doors and the furnishings are equally luxurious. My favourite being the green velvet sofas in one of the living spaces, which has a huge corner window that looks out into the trees and garden, so that the outside feels part of the space. The villa was the location used for Dedar's most recent collection campaign, hence our visit and I could see just how well Dedar's fabrics suited the villa's interior style. Heaven. 

After dragging myself away - I was of course the last to leave, literally running after the group - we drove over to the new Fondazione Prada. Another feast for the eyes, the new foundation has been built in an old distillery, with warehouses renovated into large gallery spaces by the architecture firm OMA, led by Rem Koolhaas. It's a modern space that reveals its historical roots - old buildings have been given a new life, with mirrored walls and one of the buildings has been painted entirely in gold. [You can see me posing against its wall here]. The foundation is currently showing a range of contemporary artists, including Louise Bourgeois. If you're an art fan and find yourself in Milan, this is a must-see. 

By the end of the day, my head was literally buzzing with visual and inspiration overload. So an hour's car ride to our hotel in Lake Como was a welcome relief. But of course more beauty was waiting. We checked into the Hotel Villa Flori, right on the bank of the Lake, so that when I opened my doors onto the balcony I could have jumped into the water. [See the view on my Instagram here]. I quickly changed and met the rest of the group, including the Dedar's two owners Caterina and Rafaelle Fabrizio for a drink on the bar's terrace. After a full day of sightseeing it was time for the classically Italian drink, Apero Spritz.  Drinks were followed by dinner in a nearby restaurant, again with magnificent views of the lake. After eating and drinking a little more than my fill, I woke up fuzzy-headed the next day, but luckily it was a much more calm and relaxed itinerary - we visited the company's offices and then the factory to see how all the fabrics are made before heading to the airport to fly home. 

The terrace restaurant at Arts & Foods 
Villa Necchi
Fondazione Prada

Empty Garnier

Monday, 15 June 2015

A week ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to the #emptygarnier event at the Opera de Paris' Palais Garnier, to experience the beautifully ornate 19th century building and get a behind the scenes look at its incredible space. Before it officially opened its doors in the morning for tourists, a small number of us (including the lovely people over at Instagram), were able to explore the stage (much larger than I thought it was), the basement where large cogs work the scenery, walk on the roof to take in the breathtaking view of Paris (without toppling off) and watch a ballet class. It was a magical experience and as someone who spent many years dancing ballet, it's one I won't forget in a hurry. The only downside is, I won't ever settle for cheap theatre seats again! And top it off, I was also included in a lovely article in last Monday's le Figaro about the event. 

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