Zanzibar Part 1: Park Hyatt

Last month I was invited to Zanzibar to discover the new Park Hyatt Zanzibar. . Admittedly I hesitated - the idea of packing my suitcase again after just returning from NYC and Iceland the previous weeks, seemed a little too exhausting, and then there was the 20hrs travel (door to door) for just a couple of nights, but I was sure this was going to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips that I couldn't bring myself to turn down. And I was not wrong. After the metro to gare du nord, RER to Charles de Gaulle airport, a 6hr flight to Doha (luckily we got the opportunity to lounge around in the business lounge ordering as many cups of tea/coffee and paninis that would could eat), followed by another 6 hour flight to Zanzibar, we finally emerged from the plane into a wonderful 30 degrees heat. 

It was my first real foray into Africa. I've been on the continent to Morocco and I was born near Dubai, but I'd never visited what in my mind was 'real' Africa. Of course Zanzibar is off the coast of Tanzania and is greener, lusher and more humid than the arid plains of the Africa in my mind, films and photos, but I wasn't complaining! Driving through the rich, green vegetation towards the hotel, I felt immediately smug with my decision, dismissed any impending yawns and couldn't wait to see more.

We arrived at the hotel and were greeted with numerous smiling staff. The hotel is old UNESCO heritage building, with Arab influence that has been beautifully and thoughtfully transformed into a hotel. It's right on the beach too, so when I woke up the next day and opened the curtains to let the sun stream in, I could see the morning light dancing on the water. Heaven. The food, the rooms, the beach were all wonderful and we were treated to a massage in the spa and a water safari, which entailed sailing on a dhow, snorkelling in the turquoise blue sea and lunch on a private island! It might have been just two nights, but I felt like I was there for a week. 

Thanks to Park Hyatt Zanzibar and Qatar Airways for making this trip possible. 

New York, New York

The last time I visited New York I was a teenager. My boyfriend at the time and I had just 2 days in the city, after backpacking around South America for two months, making it a very swift stop and not enough time to get a real taste for the city. So I can't describe how excited I was to finally have the chance to visit again. I have been waiting years to see the towering skyscrapers and feel small again. New York definitely has that certain je ne sais quoi.

It's exciting, full of life and there's so much happening it's like the streets are literally buzzing with energy. Here's a little guide I put together - we were only there for 6 days so there's plenty more that we didn't have time for, but I picked up a few of my favourites! We were also so lucky to have such great weather - it was positively warm the first two days, and I can't get over the autumnal colours of Central Park! 

Santorini Part 2: Folegrandos

As much as I loved Santorini and its incredible views, Folegandros was a welcome break from the crowds that chocked the streets in Oia and Fira. A tiny island just north of Santorini, only accessible by ferry, Folegandros has a lot going for it. There's only a tiny port, so no huge cruise liners can dock here, which was one of the downsides of Santorini - there must have been five or six cruise ships sat in the caldera while were there, at times tarnishing its beautiful view. 

We stayed just inland near the port, in a contemporary hotel that's part of the Design Hotels Group. There's not much to do on the island, so this is a great place to come for some proper r&r. There are only three towns, with the main one, Chora, a 10 minute drive up into the hills from the port. When we went to visit on the second day, it was practically deserted, with only a few tourists wandering around and some of the old local men sitting outsides cafes playing backgammon or putting the world to rights. 

It's by far one of the prettiest towns I've visited, with traditional white Grecian buildings all beautifully preserved - so pretty, it almost didn't feel real. I particularly loved the crazy paving cobbled streets. And in the evening, it was like a different town, full of locals dining out in the open air cafes under a canopy of trees and fairy lights. It was truly magical. 

Top Tips: 

Stay: Anemi Hotel (lovely design and decor, but the service and food needs some work - they got our breakfast order wrong a few times and didn't know how to cook a soft boiled egg, which in my book is the first thing you learn when cooking!) 

Eat: Pounda Restaurant, which you can see in the photos above and below. You can't see it in the images, but there's a beautiful walled garden behind where the tables are - it's like a secret garden. The food is delicious and run by a husband and wife team (she also makes beautiful ceramics).

Beach: Katergo - there's a boat that takes passengers to and from the beach during the day. (Make sure you bring a parasol as there's no shade, as well as food and drink. It's secluded and there's no cafe..)

The port seen from the boat to Katergo beach 

Katergo Beach

Santorini Part 1: Oia

Santorini is by far the most beautiful island I've visited. In fact whilst walking around Oia, I kept repeating: 'I can't believe this place exists!' The white washed houses built into the cliffs, made brighter by the blazing sunshine are striking against the deep blue sky and sea just below. (Fortuitously I even packed to coordinate! See

here

,

here

and

here

.) And the odd splashes of colour - the bright blue church roofs, and buildings painted coral, pale yellow and pink are an added bonus. 

Santorini tips: 

- We stayed in Rimida Villas - traditional houses, right on the edge over-looking the Caldera with breakfast served on our doorstep each morning 

- Get a good coffee or fresh juice at Passagio

- Dine at Dimitri's in Amoudi Bay (a 10 minute walk down steps to the water) and Skala in Oia (a tavern with a great view) 

- Eat ice-cream at Lolita's (try the blueberry - I had two helpings!)

- If you can get accommodation facing the caldera, buy a bottle of wine, some nibbles and watch the sunsets from your terrace to avoid battling with selfie sticks and crowds in the town! 

A Weekend in Montargis

I do love a good weekend getaway, and August is the best month for it, especially if you're one of the last souls who has been left behind in the city, while what seems like every last Parisian has deserted the capital in search of sun, sand and sea.. Luckily my friend

Meg

invited us (along with a few other friends), to her boyfriend's parents' ridiculously beautiful, film set-worthy house in Montargis. Although the weather didn't quite play fair and it remained cloudy most of Saturday, it didn't stop us frolicking in a

sunflower field

, picking fruit and vegetables from the amazing garden (serious life goals right there), BBQ-ing, eating outside and generally enjoying a couple of days of not breathing in Paris' car fumes or other ripe, unpleasant smells that emanate from the streets in summer - dubbed by many as 'eau de Paris'. Having felt lethargic as of late, it was the perfect weekend away to rejuvenate, enjoy nature and leave my cares behind for a couple of days. 

Empty Garnier

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. 

Porto Encore

I took only a few photos from my trip to Porto this time - you can see more from one of my previous visits

here

. It was a swift weekend stay and in between family time (my boy is from Porto) and a wedding, there's wasn't much time to do the sightseeing. So I snapped away at some of the pretty tiles, which you can spot all over the city. 

Updated Porto list: 

Flow

- new beautifully designed restaurant on the pricier end of the scale, but with good cocktails, seafood and sushi. 

Patch

 - a cute vintage/ concept store selling vintage clothing, trinkets and Portuguese pottery, which we may have bought in bulk!  

Quintal Bioshop

 - bio shop & cafe, with live-in cats

Lojas Liquid

- fresh juice cafe 

Manila: Commune Café

Commune Café

 is tucked between sky-rise apartment and office buildings, on the corner of a street in Makati. It looks a little out of place, but acts as a welcome haven for a coffee, breakfast or as a stop to wile away a few hours. We tried our first Filipino breakfast here - pork torcino with rice and a fried egg, which was surprisingly delicious. For someone who is used to cereal and fruit in the morning it sounded a little too much like dinner for my liking, but more fool me for not having tried it earlier. The coffee was also good, as was the cookie cupcake with salted caramel ice-cream. Now if someone can just tell me where I can get my hands on those green coffee mugs and saucers that would be great. Anyone? 

Commune Cafe

Liberty Plaza,

102 H.V. Dela Costa Street,

Salcedo Village, Makati City

Manila

I'm finally getting the rest of my Philippines posts up, so expect to see a flurry in the following weeks. Next up is Manila. The Philippines' capital is one of the most exciting cities I've visited in a long time - it's hot, tropical, noisy, colourful and sprawling. It's also a city in flux, expansion and growth, and is currently undergoing a lot of construction. But it's so filled with life and energy that I almost didn't want to leave. The contrast can at times be a little shocking and eye-opening, with colourful, makeshift shanty town homes positioned next to skyscrapers, or just across the road. One of my favourite things were the jeepneys - the elongated jeeps, used as public transport, which are each more colourful than the next, and unique to the city. Parts of the city admittedly felt very American, especially the area of Makati, where we stayed, and there are malls everywhere. The main cluster of hotels are in Makati so it is a little more touristy, but it's a great place to base yourself when exploring the city. Below were a few of my favourite places:

Address book: 

Wildflour cafe + Bakery

 - great for brunch/lunch

CO/OP

 - concept design store and cafe, great for lunch and dinner 

Commune

 - great for coffee and breakfast (post coming soon) 

Yardstick Coffee

 - great for coffee

Your Local

- restaurant, great for dinner 

Intramuros - Manila's old town 

Banaue to Batad

After touching down in Manila we gave ourselves one night to recover from jet-lag, before taking a 10hour overnight bus ride (for our sins) that took us to Banaue. We arrived at 7am the next morning tired and freezing cold - bumpy bus rides are no more conducive to sleeping than trying to fall asleep standing up, and the air con on buses in the Philippines is so strong that no amount of layers keeps the cold air from creeping in. Luckily our driver was there on arrival to greet us and take us in a 

tricycle

 to

Sanafe Lodge

, where we slept for a few hours before setting out to explore the rice terraces in Banaue. After a ride on the roof of a jeepney (by far one of the best ways to travel in my opinion), racing around the tiny mountain roads, hanging on for dear life, we reached the rice terraces of Hungduan, which provide a lovely afternoon trekking around the terraces with a break to bathe in a hot spring, followed by a refreshing

(read freezing) river in between.

Batad was another experience altogether. After the 45minute trek down to the Hillside Inn, where we stopped to refuel with a tea, we then began the walk to Tappiya falls, which involved a steep climb down, a walk along the rice terraces walls, another steep climb, followed by a tough downhill trek that played havoc on my knees. Finally we were rewarded with the waterfall - a 70m drop that thundered into a large pool below. The water was ice cold, so all I could do was dip my toes in while the others jumped right in. But it was a good break before hiking the steep steps back up the terraces and down again. This is not a trek for the faint hearted, we finished sweating and panting, but happy to have fulfilled the exercise quota for the week!  

A Cornwall New Year

If you're following me over on Instagram, you would have seen a few snaps taken in Cornwall, where I spent my new year with one of my oldest friends. This part of the UK is beyond beautiful and I'm glad I had the opportunity bring in 2015 there. Despite feeling predictably ropey on New Year's day, I was luckily dragged out of bed to visit Porthcurnick beach. There's a cute little cafe, called the

Hidden Hut

on the hill selling ice cream and hot drinks. After a stroll down the hill in the biting cold and down to the beach to watch a few crazies run in for an icy dip, we lodged ourselves on a table to warm up over a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Ice-cream does of course go against said warming up attempt, but I felt that I couldn't come to Cornwall and not try Cornish ice-cream. I managed about 3 bites before my lips froze over, but it made a pleasing picture nonetheless, so obviously totally worth it.

The next day we visited Godrevy beach (the slightly sunnier photos), which has a lovely long, sandy stretch of beach and a brisk wind that helped blow away all those 2014 cobwebs. It really did me good to get some good fresh sea air, calming my mind a little before getting back into the work mode, as did the super-sized sausage, egg and bacon sandwich we had for lunch. How was your new year's? 

Christmas on Columbia Road

One of the things I used to love doing when I lived in London was spending my Sunday mornings wandering (make that squeezing my way) up and down Columbia Road during the flower market, to peruse beautiful fresh blooms, foliage, cacti and a variety of potted plants and herbs. As I was back in the Big Smoke last week, I thought it was high time I paid an overdue visit. It being the second weekend before Christmas, the place had been transformed into a winter wonderland, with Christmas trees everywhere. I knew it might be festive, but not quite the explosion of forrest greens, berry reds and golds it was - luckily I brought my camera.

I haven't been in two years - so long that I arranged to meet a friend at a cafe that no longer existed. Luckily we managed to find each other in amongst the crowds. If you've been you'll know what I'm talking about, but for the uninitiated, it's quite an experience to find yourself pulled into the steadily moving traffic of bodies as they drift up the street, momentarily stopping to admire a flower or to purchase a bunch, in between the loud hawking noises of the stall vendors ("TULIPS!! - 2 BUNCHES FOR A FIVER!"). It's almost meditative to get swept along by the current, as the throng of locals, tourists, pets, children and buggies push you through the most congested part of the street and out the other side, where you can suddenly breath with ease again. I went through twice to try and capture what I could, after grabbing a tea and a warm pain au chocolat (as if I don't get enough of those..), with my friend in a makeshift cafe, which looked like it had been set up in an old garage. Despite the doors being open, the light was streaming in (hence I had to snap Gemma's sun-drenched hands clutching her warm mug), so we stayed wrapped in our coats, perched on a couple of stools and caught up, whilst watching the world, as well as purchased Christmas trees, go by. 

A day in Amsterdam

Last weekend we drove to Holland. Yes you can do that from Paris. You can even take the train - something I'm going to do more of, now having been and loved it and not wanted to leave... We stayed with friends in Rotterdam in their beautiful apartment (more about that later) and then had a day trip in Amsterdam. I'd heard good things about the city, although admittedly mainly memories from friends who had visited the city during their youth to try and get their hand on illegal substances of the smoking variety. Luckily the city has cleaned up its questionable reputation and is now a destination for design, coffee, shopping, sightseeing and eating - all of my favourite things rolled into one. We managed to pack in a lot in eight hours, but this is definitely a city you need to spend a good 2-3 days in to really make the most of it. Here's a quick little guide if you're planning to go below, and hoping you like the photos. (It's not so easy to stop and snap every five minutes when you have a man in tow...)

-

Nine Streets

(great shopping area, where we spent most of our time)

- Coffee and Coconuts (Amsterdam's newest hotspot for coffee and breakfast - it's a huge three-storey space in a converted 1920s cinema)

- KOKO Coffee & Design (good coffee and clothes)

- HAY (amazing design and things for the home)

- WEEKDAY (for jeans & clothes)

- Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum (great magazine shop where we spent a small fortune)

- Wolvenstraat (good lunch place for tasty pizzas and sandwiches)

- Bloemenmarkt (flower market)

KOKO Coffee & Design

An Italian Affair

After a warm bout over the weekend, the weather in Paris has suddenly turned colder. (Luckily I bought

these

, much to the amusement of the boy). Winter is certainly coming, which has had me reminiscing about our summer holiday that feels like an age away. So rather belatedly, here's another post from my travels. 

Now I'm no wedding photographer, I leave that up to experts like my dear friend

Katie

(if you need a great wedding photographer, she's your woman), but I couldn't help but document this beautiful Italian wedding in Abruzzo of our friends Catherine and Georgio. It was everything you might imagine an Italian wedding to be and more. 

The ceremony took place in a charming medieval church in a little village in the hills, with the most incredible stone flooring and crumbling wall paintings. Catherine wore a beautiful Grecian style, draped, but very modern one-shouldered dress, paired with bronze gold sandals and just a simple bouquet of baby's breath - the epitome of elegance. 

For the reception we drove through the winding roads to Georgio's sister Giulia's house,

Casale Centurione

- a guest house and restaurant, where Giulia also runs cookery courses - located on a hill in the countryside, surrounded by vines and olive trees. It's set amongst the most beautiful scenery - truly an Italian dream. And at the edge of the property you can look down into the valley below and catch incredible sun sets. Visiting places like this, reminds me that there's a big wide world outside of city living. I think I'll always be an urbanite, but it does make me think how amazing it would be to live in a house in the countryside,

Mimi Thorisson

style. The food was unsurprisingly amazing. Just look at that buffet spread! Have you ever seen anything so delicious? And that was just the warm-up (which muggins here didn't realise so stuffed her face, leaving less room for the mains.) Post buffet, came pasta, lots of it. I lost count after the third dish.. then there was focaccia, hog roast, beef, cold meats, cheese, fresh figs, oh and of course the obligatory wedding cake. I think I must have put on 3 kilos in one evening. And felt happier for it. 

London Calling

I lived in London for a long time before I moved to Paris (I used to be an East London girl and spent 4 years in Dalston & Hackney), so it's quite refreshing coming back as a tourist and staying in a different area to my old stomping ground. I didn't have much time to explore this trip and seek out new places, so I snapped a few shots near where I was staying, at a friend's in West London. I literally hot-footed it to Portobello Road in Notting Hill yesterday morning, to capture a few of the cute buildings and vintage teapots - apologies for the lack, but I'll be back next month (and quickly next weekend for said friend's engagement party), and will actually plan my stay properly next time. 

For more London, check out

Park & Cube

,

Liberty London Girl

 and 

What Katie Does

.

Cheeky new purchase - grey jumper from & Other Stories and previous blue clutch from COS

Wined & Dined in Bordeaux

The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least. Flat-hunting, moving (more on that to come), a ton of work and a trip to Bordeaux. I started this blog when I moved to Paris, because I wanted to not only document my time discovering, getting to know the new city, and my personal style, but also how I and others can and are living better, whether that be through food, fashion, travel or interiors. It's been happening slowly but surely - often a case of one step forward and two steps back, but I'm heading in the right direction. Visiting Bordeaux was definitely one of those steps in the right direction. 

I've been wanting to visit this beautiful city and its surroundings for a while now, not only to take in the architecture and ambience, but also to discover the food and of course the wine. Let's just say I may have developed a bit of a taste for French wine since I moved to France. Hard not to. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited by

Bordeaux Wines UK

on a fun-filled four days literally chateau-hopping my way around the region. I visited six chateaux, got wined and dined for lunch and dinner, and generally had the most amazing time learning as much as I could. The sun was shining, the weather hot, people lovely, food incredible and then there was the wine. I tasted around 70 different wines in total, and got to have a wine-tasting class at the

L'Ecole du Vin

, which I really recommend if you stay in Bordeaux as it'll give you a great overview. Although I do still feel a little weird spitting wine out in front of others, especially when it kept dribbling down my chin - not a good look (I'm sure this is just something I have to perfect with practise, which of course I'm not adverse to), but if I'd drunk everything that had been put in front of me, I would have been under the table by 11am! I'm admittedly a terrible lightweight.

We not only learnt about the wines, the different regions - Saint-Emilion, Graves and Medoc to name a few, the grapes - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, but also the 'terroir' (the soil and land). It's just one region, but the land is so diverse - wine produced on Bordeaux's Left Bank is so very different from wine on the Right Bank because of the type of soil. Luckily every chateau owner gave us a tour of their property and talked us through their vineyards and how they make their wine. It was fascinating and eye-opening, and above all delicious. I left a little fried from trying to retain so much information, but I do now feel that if I see a Bordeaux wine on the menu I would be able to order it with confidence. The parents would be proud. Anyway enough of the chat, I will let the images do the rest of the talking.  

Saint-Emilion

Le Bristol

 Chef Sommelier, Marco Pelletier, telling us about the vines

Chateau Candale

owner, Jean-Louis Vinter talking about his wines

Harvest in progress at Chateau

Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac

Bordeaux

The Good Life



I haven't been too well the last few days, either I ate something bad or caught a bug. Bad timing considering I have just started a new freelance job and have to move out of my studio this weekend. We are frantically looking and haven't found anything yet. Funny how things always happen at once! Yesterday was also the official start of autumn, and like clockwork the temperature suddenly dropped in Paris (I'm currently sat inside with a big woolly on, as it seems a little ridiculous to put the heating on now!) So I'd thought I'd share some more photos from my travels, which are a little warmer and more cheerful than what I'm feeling right now.

I took these whilst staying in Gordes at the Mas de la Baume, a beautiful bed and breakfast, with a pool and view across the street of the village (just don't go for the cheapest room, if you want a door on your bathroom. Not ideal if you want a little privacy...!)

While we stayed in Provence we also drove to the pretty village of Gigondas, known for its exceptional wine for a little wine-tasting. So we did just that and didn't leave empty handed! Hope you like the photos! 







Provence: Roussillon

It doesn't get much prettier than this place. The Provence village of

Roussillon

is built atop an old ochre quarry, which is where most of the buildings and cobbled streets get their beautiful rust colour from. Pair that with blue, green and yellow shutters and you've got a fairy tale of a place filled with ice-cream colours - the houses do look good enough to eat. 

Our trusty Lonely Planet recommended we get there early or late to avoid the midday crowds, so we arrived around 5pm, which was spot on. The main streets were still quite filled, but when we wandered off into the hidden streets and alleyways, we almost felt alone. We didn't venture into the quarry as I stupidly wore a white vintage skirt and espadrilles, but for a nominal fee you can explore it on foot; the shortest track is around half an hour.  

Market Day in Gordes

Perched on top of a hill in Luberon, Provence, Gordes is by far one of the prettiest villages I've ever visited. I've been wanting to go ever since I saw Russell Crowe trying to woo Marion Cotillard in her cafe, in

A Good Year

(yes I'm a sucker for romance, especially in the French countryside). Luckily we arrived just in time for market day, which is every Tuesday. 

We had the loveliest meal at

Marianna's

 on Monday night. (A little Italian restaurant owned by a Sicilian native - all the food is cooked by her in a tiny kitchen and is the tastiest Italian food I've eaten outside of Italy.) The restaurants are pricey in Gordes and generally very touristy looking, we chanced upon this one and got lucky - there are only a few tables so I'd suggest booking! We woke up early-ish on Tuesday and walked over to the village where the market was already heaving with people. As expected the main customers were tourists and a lot of stalls cater for them, but there are still some traditional stalls selling handmade soap, herbs, peppers, jams, cured meats and bread. We bought some herbs, jam and a string of red peppers for our future kitchen in Paris. Have you been to Gordes? Hope you like the photos!