Festivals, London Living

Happy to be back at The Chap Festival 2018. Enjoying the day with London’s fashion finest!

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If there was one event I’d encourage you to attend in London, it would be the Chap Olympiad. It takes place every year in July, in the beautiful and elegant Bedford Square: which I am told is the only fully Georgian square in London. Whether you are a Londoner, or visiting the city, you will absolutely love this quiet masterpiece of an event.

I believe this year was the 13th year of the festival, organised by Gustav Temple who is the founder of the Chap magazine, which details itself as ” a journal for the modern gentleman” http://thechap.co.uk/2018/07/05/fashion-at-the-chap-olympiad/ The magazines, also were sold on the day, come out quarterly and offer simply beautiful fashion articles and advice for the distinguished modern gent. I certainly recommend taking a look. Subscriptions would be a novel and special gift for a friend, partner or father who has an interest in finer male fashion and dandy wear. People who attend the Chap event range from general vintage and period enthusiasts, to those who wear such garments on a regular and even daily basis, and some of them look as though they’ve been styled directly from the magazine itself.

Bedford Square itself is a small and charming area, and absolutely perfect for an event of this kind. In the heat, the green is shaded by several leafy trees of which bunting adorns. Period music is played from speakers around the green, and the format changes slightly every year, but this year a jazz band played later on in the day and regaled us all in the sunshine.

The day itself is split into several fantastically silly games (eg, “Not playing tennis”) and attempts at breaking world records (eg,”how many people can smoke from a pipe in 1 minute”) and as well as being a celebration of such beautiful fashion, it’s also a sheer celebration of English eccentricity. A compere introduces and leads the day, and rounds the partaking ladies and gents up. There is normally a central stage and this year was the first year without it, but I’m not sure this changed the overall feeling of the festival too dramatically. Changes are as good as a rest they say!

Certainly many of the attendees like to take part in the fun of these Olympiad games. But the absolute essence of the day is the sipping of Pimms and G&T’s and just people watching; marvelling at some of the absolute glorious individuals who come in what is mostly early 20th century regalia. Arrive early and you can grab yourself a table for yourself and friends, or bring a picnic blanket, spread out on the grass and just take in the visual feast surrounding you. It really is just lovely.

This year I went alone, and took part in “working” behind the scenes on a stall selling the Chap merchandise. Beautiful pocket square, cravats, magazine subscriptions, lapels and cufflinks. I had always meant to return to the event since first attending in 2014 but July has been quite busy the last few years and returning had become more and more difficult. This time, the idea of working was also a perfect way to return! I don’t mind attending events alone, but this is certainly one you’d get more out of by attending with special friends.

I got chatting to many wonderful attendees who had come over from the US, Canada and the continent and specifically timed their visits to attend this event. All spoke of being starved of events like this at home, and really appreciating the vintage scene in London and the Chap event itself. Some of the gentlemen who attended the stall tipped their hats when saying hello to me which was just lovely! I was even lucky enough to be treated to a few G&T’s on the stall (and ended up a little squiffy!) It just made me feel so wonderfully happy to be in London and enjoy the special events we have here. My team of fellow stewards were lovely chaps and ladies. And the Chap founder and organiser of this event Gustav Temple is the epitome of being a true gent and made the event very special.

The Chap takes place around the 14th July every year- do not forget it! Tickets were £25 this year and well worth the price. If you are looking for a special occasion for yourself and a loved one, or perhaps with a larger group of friends, mark this one in the diary; and make sure you give yourself enough time to find an outfit!

Super thanks to Gustav, Hayley, Marcus, Paul, Jimmy Keck (visiting from Providence Rhode Island, US!) and all the others who made the day so wonderful.

 

 

 

 

London Living

A beautiful day at Hampton Court

Hampton Court is a beautiful day out and easy reach from London. We’d planned it during a week when I had a week day off, and thought therefore it would be relatively quiet. Actually what we had overlooked is that the RHS Hampton Court Flower show was taking place during this week, which made Hampton Court busier than usual and the train packed! I’d have preferred the romantic notion I had in my head for the visit of virtual emptiness and being able to stand and stare in rooms without having to worry if you were standing in peoples way, BUT I still had a really lovely visit!

The visit was actually for a birthday present to mum, who was trying to decide over it or Arundel Castle. We are starting to notch up visits as mother and daughter to impressive and historic buildings, with visit earlier this year to Kensington Palace and a previous visit to the Ritz for a lovely afternoon tea, and Arundel remains on the list!

Mum can only walk short distances, so we asked for a wheelchair on arrival. Her disability status and my needing to push the wheelchair, actually meant that we actually both entered the Palace and grounds for £18 combined. Ruben bought his ticket online that morning, for an online rate of around £19.00 and the ticket was there waiting for him to be collected. The facilities are so, so disability friendly and no where is out of reach.  The staff were so polite and friendly, that was also really wonderful! We had people carrying the wheelchair for us and going out of their way to ask if we were ok, and re-directing us as it was at times a little confusing as honestly the Palace is humungous! There was no where that we missed- everything was access friendly and we were directed to and taken in the lifts around the Palace where necessary.

When it comes to the beautiful grounds, do ask for an electric scooter if you or your party is needing one, as they have these on offer also and you just need to sign a form before borrowing. It meant mum could come out with us, over the gravel and pebbled areas, and enjoy the vast grounds. And when I say vast, these are something else! Our favourite garden was the Rose Garden which was elegant and peaceful. Whether you are an avid Royalist or not, it’s still incredible to be there and think about Henry VIII and the time in which he lived there. One of our favourite parts inside the Palace was Henry’s kitchens, which was very busy during the time of our visit but had men and women dressed in period costume scurrying through and around the areas, bowing their heads to you and offering a “Good day madam” as they passed. It just made it feel really authentic and brought to you a visual of how it must have been, way back when.

We came on a train from Waterloo and opted to buy return tickets as we were hurrying, and on advice of incorrect information from train staff present. Please note and remember, if you are coming from London and you have an Oyster card, just ensure you have pre-pay on your card! As Hampton Court is still in zone 6. We paid something like £15 each for a return ticket, when really we only needed to have a few pounds each on our Oysters and could have easily used them- oops!

It’s a very worthwhile day trip and one the 3 of us were happy to have finally visited! Perhaps my only negative point would be to say I didn’t think the food on offer was particularly exciting, and it was also quite expensive for what it was. I suppose, to be expected in these settings. If you could bear the thought of carrying items, the ground would make a beautiful setting for a picnic! 🙂 Otherwise happy viewing- the quality of the Palace rooms and the restoration work involved is just outstanding, it’s super value for money and amazing to see a set of buildings where such history took place.

 

Health & Well-being

Give yourself permission (to find your soul)

I have been so, so lapse on my writing for some time. I’m not quite sure why, but it’s definitely lovely to be sat back in front of the laptop again with so end game, no work related activity to complete, other than to share some thoughts and open up. We’re having this seemingly endless spell of sunny weather and I’m sat on our big dining table watching the Stoke Newington world go by as the sun goes down. It’s gorgeous.

Where I’m at these days: Well, Ruben and I obviously moved! We both love our new house. The journey to work is slightly longer- but that’s ok. It’s well worth it to have extra space, and be in a beautiful “village like” area. It’s not as hip as Dalston as I said before and I say this with a huge “phew”. I’m not hip! I just love the cosy byt anything goes nature of Stokie though. I can’t wait to properly attend the markets one weekend and just hang out in Clissold Park!

Workwise, well, I handed my notice in about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been working for the NHS for just over 2 years as an Occupational Therapist and I’ve just got more and more anxious in the acute hospital environment. I’m over the critical culture I feel the NHS has, and I’m looking to do agency or locum and just find my feet in a few other areas before deciding on the longer term path.  I’ve now got a month to go (it was a 6 week notice period), so really, the count down is on! I feel honestly that the NHS has derided my confidence, and I’m hoping with all hope that these new ventures lead me to building some of that back up!

And with regards to this new work and life related vigour, I’m all about Gary Vaynerchuk right now (https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/) Whilst his speaking and motivational messages were not the direct catalyst for me handing in my notice, the video link I’m attaching here sums up exactly how I’m feeling right now about- well about everything! Please listen to it if you’re feeling low, about anything. He’s too bloody right- tomorrow isn’t promised for any of us and it’s time to take action if you can:  https://binged.it/2ME8w4x

You see, here is the trap I was making for myself: I’m 36, I can’t leave! I need to stay for the benefits, like the maternity pay! I also let people within the environment reduce my confidence. The truth is the longer I stayed with the a job or environment that wasn’t right for me, the worse I was feeling. And part of me couldn’t believe I was feeling like this at 36, there was a bit of shame attached to it too.  The more I believed the negative of “what choice do I have” the more desperate and down I became. I’m definitely feeling better now. Less disempowered and more empowered with my choices.  Nervous but hopeful. Tonight, I’ve sat down, finally finished the CV and sent it off to a few agencies.

I’ve realised that sure I’m 36, but that’s still pretty young! And regardless of any age, we have to be happy! And no one deserves to stay in an environment that makes them feel miserable, where people take advantage of them.

So! Some beautiful things I’m totally recommending you look into (both London focused and online):

1)The crystal channelling workshops at Buddha on a Bicycle in Covent Garden, £25 for 2 hours with a small group of other women http://www.buddhaonabicycle.com/workshops-and-events/ (none posted yet for July) Roberta Boyce is something extraordinary and really has a gift. You’ll see what I mean if you go! Crystal channelling might sound out there, but is nothing more than focusing on the most inner part of yourself: your soul essence. The part you might attribute to god, to a higher power, to the universe. Whatever you name it, giving it focus is part of self love and self healing. This was a beautiful event and I really recommend this for anyone. I plan to go once monthly as each month there is a different topic. So you know, you are invited to speak in front of the group, but it’s not as scary as it sounds! After a while you forget/don’t care that anyone else is listening!

2)Gary Vanerchuk podcasts. The content we consume is so so important. Some of it focuses on entrepreneurship, but I still find a lot of it interesting and relatable and at the moment am just a huge fan girl on anything the man says! It’s clear he’s got to where he is because he knows what he’s talking about and who he is. He’s also not been afraid to work hard for his dreams and talks a lot about the fear of failure holding us back. I listen on my phone or you can access the podcasts here :http://www.richroll.com/podcast/gary-vaynerchuk/

3) Yoga. This is something I tried in my 20’s and found the “stillness” aspect of it too difficult to achieve. I think at the time I wanted movement and action and had too much energy in my head and mind to manage it! I’m currently enrolled in a introductory offer at Yoga Home in Stoke Newington. Whilst it isn’t the cheapest yoga offer you can get, it’s literally 3 minutes from my house! And I’m having fun trying all sorts of yoga and realising how amazingly hard and inspiring it is! Plus the breath and focusing on mindfulness obviously declutters your mind and almost reprogrammes you. I think for someone feeling very very low, this might be too intense, but for someone coming up from negative thinking and a low period, it has been a blessing http://yogahome.com/

Furthermore, I’ve also been going to my friends Sunday “Weekend Warrior” yoga sessions which are just £5 a class and super brilliant for all levels, including beginners. if you can get to Clerkenwell for 12.15pm on a Sunday i really recommend them https://www.facebook.com/Weekend-Warrior-Yoga-2049700728383028/ Who knew that the puppydog pose could be so intense?! I love challenging myself with these sessions!

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3) Emails from tut.com. These have really made me smile! Sign up for pearls of wisdom from the Universe, direct to your inbox! See the photo below for an example of what I mean. They’ve really cheered me up!

4) Access the website thetallphotographer.co.uk for subscription to  “Five good things”. This is a weekly email which, you’ve guessed it, details 5 lovely things to brighten up your week, and for me balances out the negativity of the news and the small hum drum details which bog us down and serves to lift your spirits! I love this idea so much- I’ve recently unsubscribed from a lot of spam, so that my inbox can send me little treats such as this one!

5) The Chap Olympiad! I don’t think I’ve been back since 2014. It’s on every July in Bedfordshire Square (which is just glorious) in central London and is a celebration of pure English eccentricity. If you want to see the smartest looking people (this is an understatement) look no further, and if you want to laugh and delight at literally the silliest things, here’s the place! I loved this event, and have tried to go every year since but one thing or another has stopped me. This weekend I saw an email come through regarding help required and it therefore transpires I’ll be there on the 14 July in my finery! Check here for tickets! Come on! https://www.chapolympiad.com/

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Just one of my hilarious emails from http://www.tut.com

 

If you are feeling in anyway in a place of shift, I wish you all the best with it. It’s a cliché but you’re not running out of time and it’s never too late.

Happy Sunday all xx

 

London Living

Half a day at Westminster Abbey

I had no idea of the amount of famous people who are buried here! A famous quote is that Winston Churchill refused to be laid to rest here, saying he had had so many people walk over him in his life, he didn’t want that to continue after death. Or words to that effect: so there is a tribute to him in the cathedral instead! It really isn’t just the royalty, aristocracy and names from history you know you should know more about but don’t. It’s a very exciting line up of scientists including Sir Issac Newton and Stephen Hawking and novelists including Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens (yes: it’s also a bit male heavy, such were the times I suppose). I learned that at the start of the building of Westminster Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster (now Houses of Parliament) they were built on an area called Thorney Island- a small island that obviously ceases now to exist. And that everyone is laid horizontally of course in the cathedral and excavation work still brings up unknown graves. There is one plot however that stands out and that is the grave of the poet Ben Jonson, who could only afford to be buried standing up!

Over 3,000 people are buried here which is just unbelievable! It feels vast, but not that vast to encompass so many!

The logistics

We bought our tickets online the night before and were at the Cathedral by 10am. If you have bought tickets, you’ll jump the long, LONG line which even by this time is already in formation. You will be given an audioguide and headphones as part of your ticket entry fee (£22 for adults if bought on the day, or £20 online). I have to say, we didn’t use this so I can’t review it for you. As soon as we were inside we went to the desk on the right to pay for the “verger tour” which is a group tour for an extra £5 p/p, taking you around the cathedral. We had already decided on this, and were advised that this tour would cover areas that the audioguides couldn’t. In case you don’t know (I didn’t), a verger is an official who takes care of matters in the church- looking after the priests and the patrons, but not someone who has been ordained. The 10.30am slot was sold out, so we went for the 11am instead and decided to take a walk through the cathedral, past the cloisters and have a cup of tea in the Cellarium Café. Which was quiet and rather blissful!

 

We really liked the tour! Ruben struggled to hear at points, but John, the verger we were taken around by was really lovely. As I’ve said, we can’t compare and contrast with the audioguide as we didn’t listen to it. We did feel though that the tour didn’t take us to that many places,  that the audioguide would not have done. Which was ok by us, just we were informed otherwise! That is, apart from one of the most considered important places in the Abbey which was the Shrine of Edward the Confessor who ruked as King of England from 1044-1066(http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/confessor_shrine.html). This was a beautiful area of tombs of Kings and Queens from British history and we got to spend about 10 minutes here, away from the crowds, which was lovely.

Useful information to plan your day

When you arrive to the Cathedral you really need to ask one of the assistants in the red coats before joining a line, to make sure you join the right one!

Note that photographs are only allowed around the Cloisters area (Ruben’s favourite part and we were advised you could come back into this part without paying

As with most things, arrive early! As we were leaving at 1pm, people were being turned away unless they had bought tickets online. The church closes at 3pm and the officials were advising the queue was already too long!

Consider peeking into the 12th century St Margarets Church before going into the Cathedral. We lost an opportunity there as they would not let us back through the main gates as the queues were so long when we were leaving!

Check it out and enjoy your trip! https://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/

Health & Well-being

Our Y-Spa wonder day!

It’s been quite a few months since I properly caught up with my good friend Helen and so we’ve had to make do instead with text messages that at times resemble mini essays. (Lucky we both enjoy writing them!). I’ve also had some important moments of reflection of late that I need more grounding and stillness in my life, to make some important life decisions and give myself more opportunity to focus on “being” rather than “doing”. Therefore, what could be better than spending a whole day of relaxation with a really good friend, to debrief and catch up on the twists and turns of life, than at a super lovely spa?

A wonderful blogger friend of mine (see http://thewanderingquinn.com/)  had recently attended Y-spa, located in the tranquil countryside of Bedfordshire, and the pictures of her and her mothers day there looked glorious. I was already sold, so Helen and I decided to check it out as an early birthday present for her. We had an online offer (which appear to be advertised fairly frequently) and only paid £86.00 for the 2 of us, for the whole day! With this, we of course had access to the swimming pool, steam/sauna rooms, relaxation rooms, and a gorgeous 2 course lunch included in the package. Literally the only thing we had to worry about was bringing the swimming costumes!

From London it’s actually very straight forward to get to, with a rail time of just over an hour and regular services from London Bridge and Kings Cross. Also aware that these trains stop at other places such as Finsbury Park, as it really helped me on my return journey, not realising that I could have made my outward journey at a much closer station! St Neots is the closest rail station that you should book your ticket to, and the spa is really only about a 10 minute drive from the station. I had some problems on my return journey where the St Neots rail staff had to put us in a taxi to another nearby station, but it appears that the staff are well versed at managing current rail issues, so this shouldn’t disrupt you too badly, just something to be aware of and make sure you check ahead.

The staff at the spa were super lovely, and on a special relaxation day that’s precisely what you need! On arrival we were greeted at reception to the complex by the lovely Emily, who directed us again to the Spa’s main desk. We were provided with a welcome drink and tour by Erika and were fully orientated on where to go. The spa is fairly compact, but having someone point out areas and explain how to get the most of your day is really helpful. By this point we were both delighted and rather keen to get into the steam rooms.  We were given bands to open all doors and access our individual lockers which are roomy. The spa of course provided slippers and a robe, and towels in abundance should you require them. Water fountains are everywhere, and when we were lounging on the fun waterbeds in the afternoon we both enjoyed a lovely complimentary mocktail brought around by one of the smiling staff. The only bits of information you need for the day are to remember your locker number and your time for lunch- literally what could be easier!

My favourite bits and why I’m definitely recommending you should visit!

-It’s so easy to get to from London, but far enough that you feel you’ve had a proper break away. Look to book your train tickets with as much notice as possible to cut down on ticket costs.

-The lovely staff. Service with a smile is definitely what you’ll receive at the spa. Even when checking out and paying for the additional drinks we had had during the day, we were warmly thanked by the supervisor at the desk and asked to come again. I watched the staff and their interactions with one another and they definitely came across as a very friendly and happy team- it makes a difference to the customer service you receive.

-The room called “The Big Sleep”! Ok so Helen and I selfishly loved this as we had this room to ourselves for about 40 minutes! Picture a darkly lit room with 6 beds decorated with scented pillows, cushions, and warm fuzzy blankets. Imagine soft plush carpet under your feet, gorgeously scented Neom candles and diffusers and an atmospheric (unlit) fire as a centre piece flickering away. It was bliss!

-The pool which is always warm and provides super powerful jets should you want a bit of a shoulder and neck massage as we did!

-The gorgeous food and the good choice available! The food was fresh, colourful and included healthy and delicious options. I’m a big foodie and you won’t be disappointed. There are veggie options considered and a good range. Especially lovely were the desserts; plenty to choose from

-It isn’t overcrowded. Granted, we went on a Thursday and so I haven’t experienced the spa at weekends, but we never felt like we were on top of anyone, or anyone on us! We had space to talk and properly catch up, and that was so so valuable for us.

-The setting. So important. At Y-Spa feel like you’ve stepped away from it all, which is precisely what you need on a spa day. The premises was ++ clean and tidy, with very modern and shiny facilities. It was beautiful. The lunch room overlooks the lake and has picture-esque views. There were a few birthdays and romantic meals happening around us, and they’d clearly requested the window seats for lunch- clever people! I’d recommend you doing the same if going for a special occasion (or just because!)

I felt so sad on leaving, so I want you to go and tell me about it and then I can live vicariously through your experience- until my return! I’d really love to hear your thoughts if you visit, and/or please keep recommending other great spas to me! I love information swapping and hearing good reviews.  For more information on this wonderful spa which also has a hotel option to stay overnight, please see  https://www.spabreaks.com/venues/the-waterfront-hotel-spa-and-golf

Enjoy! x

 

Journal, Travel

Cadiz for Ricky’s birthday

So some ago Ric turned up with an exciting plan for his 40th, a group of us heading to Cadiz in Spain and having a wonderful party weekend! I mean- how wonderful! I love how much he planned it and how far in advance- because that’s what I’M like for events, let alone for one as big as this one!

So basically, an amazing opportunity to party with one of my best friends, in order to party with some of his best friends from Spain and London in the beautiful country and climate that is Spain.  Plus, I’ve never been to Cadiz (this was written out of the 3 week backpacking trip I did around Spain in 2016), so an extra big tick! 🙂

Ruben and I purchased our flights in January this year (return with Ryan air to Jerrez- not overly cheap, I guess because it was May) and our Stanstead Express train tickets in advance, and set our alarms for 3.40am! We travelled with our friends Rodolfo and Antonio and had a car ready to be collected on arrival…

Cadiz might not be the place you think of when you think of Spain. It wasn’t somewhere I’d necessarily heard of until 2016 and planning my backpacking trip. We drove about an hour from Jerrez airport to the coastal region of Canos de Meca, but stopped on route in Cadiz which is the oldest city in Western Europe, and explored a tiny, tiny part of the old town.

From there, we headed onwards to our costal region, where Ricky had rented 5 bungalows, each with living room, kitchen, double room and twin room with single beds. Each bungalow had its own grass area with a barbeque, and just down the lane was a swimming pool.

We had such a great time! Each night was a party, Ric’s friends DJ’d, we watched sunsets and made BBQ’s together and had our own private time too. lLittle sleep, as to be expected, but super, super chilled!! Going in May is a bonus as the temperature was already getting high, but it was low season so no where was busy as yet, and we had excellent food and service everywhere.

Here are some of my favourite snaps from the weekend!

 

Accommodation recommendation (car required to explore local area- we booked via Firefly who were quite straight forward): http://www.arenaymar.es/ If there is a group of you, like us, it’s just perfect. As we were there off season, we saw no-one else and had the entire pool to ourselves.

Restaurants recommended in the area of Canos De Meca:

El Pirata (we had some wonderful fresh fish here, including grilled calamari which was sublime)

Los Pinos: on arrival we stuffed ourselves with plenty of Tapas, a home made burger and home made desserts and it was truly lovely. Check them out via Trip Advisor; https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g580273-d2201373-Reviews-Restaurante_Hostal_Los_Pinos-Los_Canos_de_Meca_Barbate_Costa_de_la_Luz_Andalucia.html

Sightseeing recommendations in the area of Canos De Meca: 

-I didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked to, but visit the town of Conil de la Frontera. A gorgeous and relatively untouched little Spanish town, full of charming white houses and small hotels overlooking a beautiful beach, and about a 20 minute drive from Canos de Meca. My cousin was staying in Conil at the same time as we were in Canos de Meca, and she and her family took a 35 minute ferry to Tangier in Morroco! So, pretty cool!

-Visit the lighthouse at Cape Trafalger and watch the sunset with a bottle of wine

 

I’ll finish by saying- what a birthday! It was truly epic and I was soooo thrilled to be able to be there for such a special person and friend xx

 

Travel

Top tips for beautiful Paris!

Paris. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did! This is nothing more than due to, despite the fact I live in the UK’s capital city, the fact I would prefer to see other countries smaller cities than their capital. I was bowled over by Paris and how beautiful it was. We planned the trip sometime ago, and decided to go by Eurostar from London, as this year they seem to have made their prices cheaper than ever (£60 each return). We stayed 1 minute from the metro stop “Voltaire” in a very sweet little Air Bnb apartment. The owner was a wonderful guy called Yvon and thanks to similar words between English, Spanish and French, plus the added assistance of Google Translate (invaluable I’ll be honest!) we were able to more than get by. We adored the food, had perfect weather and found Parisians a wonderfully accommodating and friendly bunch! Maybe that’s because we’ve been in London a long time and are used to the hustle and bustle of cities, but honestly, the stereotype of Parisians being “rude” was so NOT our experience. We roughly spent about £250 in total, each for the accommodation, travel and expenses whilst there from a Friday-Monday. We fell in love with it!

Here are the highlights I’d totally recommend!

  1. Visit the Catacombes! (http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website). I heard about this via The Wandering Quinn’s blog post on Paris and was instantly, ghoulishly fascinated. Over 6 million bones were placed here in these underground tunnels, from the overflowing Parisian cemeteries of the 17th and early 18th century, and Ruben tells me the French resistance set up home here during WW2 (not directly at this site of the tunnels- where the bones are is just a small fraction of the size of the tunnels).

    Ruben, on first hearing about this, thought I was a complete weirdo. Turns out we both “enjoyed” it (if that can be the right word). It’s also really rather sad, but just something you’ll never see again. We had read heard horror stories about the queues and how bad it might be. Perhaps visiting in April was the help there, or going on a Sunday afternoon, but I think we waited only about 50 minutes-1 hour and paid the normal adult price of 13 Euro each. Definitely unusual, definitely fascinating. There are 130 steps to go down, and it can be a bit narrow and wet in places, so best to make sure you and your party are fit, well and healthy before considering it!

  2. Visit the district of Monmartre– watch the Parisian skyline at night, so beautiful! We actually visited Monmartre during the daytime AND the night, as it just connected with us and we were keen to return. It’s the home of Moulin Rouge, and has a sophisticated but down to earth village feel, many cafes and bars and people eating and drinking outside. The beautiful skyline from the church the Sacre Couer is well worth a visit. People always say food in Paris is expensive. Well, the mains might be what than what’d we’d pay for a main meal in London, but we found set menu options from 12 Euros in Monmartre! For us, it was buying a soft drink in a Parisian restaurant where we really noticed the price difference- a coke was 5 Euros in most places!

     

  3. Stroll around Luxembourg Gardens and find a tranquil spot with a good book on a deck chair
  4. Get off at Assemblie metro stop and walk along the River Seine until Notre Dam. People watching along the sidewalks here is just lovely, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon when everyone’s out! We queued on a Sat morning for Notre Dam itself- no more than 20 minutes. We also foolishly paid for the Treasury inside the Cathedral- recommend you don’t waste 5 Euros on this exhibition- unless we missed something there didn’t appear to be anything too spectacular here!
  5. Absolutely visit the Louvre– but in the evening if you can! Swarms of people including many large groups is just. not. fun! It’s well worth it the price; 15 Euros per adult, but about 10 times the size of the Victoria and Albert museum in London, with access to Napolean III’s apartments which are just beautiful. These photos don’t reflect the large numbers of people who were present with us, but it also probably wasn’t the best idea to have left this visit until the very last day. Go mentally and physically prepared and you’ll love it!
  6. Buy a combined ticket for Saint Chappell and Conciergerie– 15 Euros combined ticket (or 9 Euro entry separately). The Conciergerie is all that remains of the royal Palais de la Cite, built as as early as the 6th Century, then becoming a judicial court and prison. It housed thousands of prisoners, including Marie-Antoinette, the very last Queen of France before the French Revolution and makes for a very nice and informative visit. Saint Chappel is small, and does not take more than 20 minutes to admire. It was built to “house the relics of Christ”, and was home to Kings of France until the 14th Century. No photo can reflect how beautiful the colours in the chapel were.
  7. Buy a pack of 10 tickets for the underground for just under 15 Euro! We used approximately 5 of these each a day, which therefore cost us around £7.00, which is what you would spend on a day pass in London for the underground. Be savvy and plan your day around similar areas- you’ll do soooo much walking, and don’t therefore use these tickets for “just one stop” as therefore it won’t be worth it.
  8. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It’s absolutely beautiful. Get off at the metro stop aptly named the same, and look over to your right- the cemetery is just there. We visited on a quiet and sunny Sunday morning and paid 2.5o Euro for a map (which you will need) to look for the graves of artists including Jim Morrison from the Doors, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf (whom we couldn’t find, sadly)

9.The Eiffel Tower of course. It’s something I thought would just be a bit “pah” and a cliché up close. It wasn’t! There’s something definitely romantic and captivating about it, and we didn’t go up (we said next time we will!) but being close was good enough, and here’s to the next time!!

We spent our days in Paris walking, eating the best of food (I’ve always hated pan au chocolates in the UK, now I realise how they could be tasting!), enjoying the random drinks and cocktails you have to have on a break away, and simply being in the moment. Paris, je t’aime: we can’t wait to return!

What were your highlights of Paris, and anything you’d particularly recommend?