Cocoon Maldives, Heaven on Earth

We have just arrived back in London after two weeks of pure honeymoon bliss in the Maldives, a tropical oasis in the Indian Ocean made up of more than 1000 beautiful islands. We stayed at one of the first designer resorts called Cocoon Maldives – a short 45 minute seaplane from Malé located on a picture perfect atoll in the middle of the ocean on the Ookolhufinolhu Island. To say it was paradise would be an understatement.

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Travel Guide: Prague

Prague completely stole my heart when we visited in January. It is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited – the gothic architecture makes you feel as though you’re in a fairytale. It’s home to some of the best-kept architecture in Europe and it’s wonderfully charming. Between the gorgeous castles and cathedrals, the fantastic restaurants and its rich history, it’s no surprise that Prague attracts thousands of tourists each year. Here’s all my recommendations for what to see, where to eat and where to stay in Praha!

GETTING TO PRAGUE & WHERE TO STAY

Prague is a really short plane ride from London – we flew via Stansted Airport straight into Prague. Wheels up at 7am, we arrived in Praha by 9am – ideal timing for an entire day of exploring! From the airport, we grabbed a taxi and drove 20 short minutes to our hotel. It is brilliant driving through the Old Town and up a narrow, winding cobbled street to our hotel, the Hotel Golden Star, that sits right beneath Prague Castle. It is truly like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale book.  It’s worth noting that Prague is a really cheap city overall. Our cab to our hotel from the airport only cost about £18.

As we arrived to our hotel, the snow was falling and I was just in awe of the sheer beauty of the city. The Hotel Golden Star, which I have previously written about, is a fantastic hotel to stay at. Located in the heart of the Castle District and right underneath Prague Castle, it is a wonderfully affordable option in a spectacular area of town. The hotel concierge is incredibly accommodating and even let’s you have your choice of room. Once we checked in, we enjoyed a glass of welcome bubbles and admired our insane view. The hotel costs around £70 a night depending on when you go and that includes welcome champagne and a full on breakfast along with bottomless prosecco should you wish. The rooms have been newly renovated to a very high standard and they have all the amenities you could want for a few days stay.

WHAT TO SEE: THE ESSENTIAL SIGHTS

Our first full day in Prague was spent seeing as much as we possibly could. There is so much to see and do in Prague that very shortly after we checked into our hotel, we set off on foot to explore. We had no real itinerary in mind, but we knew a lot of the spots we wanted to definitely see.

The Charles Bridge – Prague’s most iconic bridge is a must-see for any first timer in Prague. Commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, the stunning bridge spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 baroque statue of religious figures. The bridge is lined with cobblestones and has the most fantastic views of the Vlatva River. It’s a real cultural melting pot that meets together at the bridge – think painters, dog walkers, food vendors, and musicians – all gathered together day in and day out. If you want to beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience of the Charles Bridge – head there at dawn and watch the sunrise! Something I wish I would have done!

The Old Town & the Famous Clock – On the other side of the Charles Bridge is Prague’s famous Old Town – best known for the Astronomical Clock. It is a breathtakingly beautiful area of Prague, but be careful of falling into tourist traps, and overpriced food stalls! Keep reading for my food recommendations below.

Prague Castle & St. Vitus Cathedral – One of the most enchanting castles and cathedrals I’ve been to, you have to pop them both on your Praha bucket list. St. Vitus Cathedral is located within the Prague Castle complex and is the grandest gothic cathedral I have ever seen. Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the castle’s complex, where you’ll find yourself walking down winding cobblestone streets to surprises around every corner.

Josefov – Prague’s Jewish Quarter is one of the best insights into the rich Jewish history you’ll find in all of Europe. I highly recommend a visit to the Jewish Museum, taking a walk through the Jewish Cemetary and visiting the Old New Synagogue. While it is a bit of a sobering experience, I am really glad that we did the tour as I learned so much about Jewish culture that I didn’t previously know.

WHERE TO DRINK

Prague is best known for its Pilsner Lagers – and truth be told, beer is cheaper than water. There are plenty of drinking dens to hide out from the crowds of bustling Prague and we found a few great ones I’m happy to share with you guys.

Svaty Norbert Strahov Monastic Brewery – We happened to stumble across this 17th-century brewery that was restored and reopened as a craft brewery in 2000. They serve a small, but outstanding selection of craft beers that they home-brew. In fact, it’s some of the best beers I’ve ever had. The food is also quite good – simple, hearty Czech food – think sausages, dumplings and bread. We came for the beer, not once but twice during our three days in Prague. It’s really close to Prague Castle, so after you’ve done a tour, unwind with a pint of dark beer. Also, the Strahov Library is a short walk away and apparently gorgeous inside.

Tygra – The Golden Tiger – this hidden gem was recommended to us by one of Ciaran’s colleagues who is from Prague. It is located right in the centre of Old Town, so we were a bit worried it would be totally touristy but we were wrong! Hidden behind an unassuming green door on the street – you walk in and are led down a long corridor until you hear the sounds of laughter and lively conversation coming behind another door. Walk through and you’ll be met by a crowd of friendly bartenders and regulars. Take a seat (if you can find one) and breathe in the Czech atmosphere of the pub – oh and don’t worry about queuing to order a beer – the awesome bar staff will welcome you with a round of beers and will keep topping you up til you leave. They tally up the amount of beers you’ve had on a receipt that you bring up to the front when you leave. Oh and apparently, Bill Clinton has frequented this mythical place. It’s worth finding and staying for a really fun evening. PS. It’s cash only.

WHERE TO EAT

Chimney Cakes/Trdelník – These are the most sinfully delicious treats that are really popular in Eastern European countries. I first came across them when we went to Budapest, but they are all over Prague. You can get them in all different flavours – chocolate, vanilla, almond, etc. You can also get them filled with ice cream or savoury fillings like ham and cheese. Bottom line, they’re delicious and they are sold on pretty much every street corner, the perfect snack to enjoy on-foot whilst traipsing through the city.

 Hergetova Cihelna-if you want a more upscale restaurant, this beautiful spot right on the river is just for you. It is one of Prague’s best restaurants located on the bank of Prague’s Vlatva River with spectacular views of the Charles Bridge. The food is equally as stunning – featuring out of this world dishes like fluffy dumplings with pulled pork, saddle of deer and slow baked wild boar. The setting is utterly romantic and the service was impeccable.

Bellavista – What can I say – I am a sucker for an incredible view and Bellavista is such a special restaurant nearby Prague Castle that has some of the very best views of the city. Even in the winter, they have heated tents so you can sit outside and take in the gorgeous views whilst warming up over delicious Czech food. The pumpkin soup was the best I’ve ever had and the turkey schnitzel – dreamy. Bellavista was wonderful in the winter, but I can only imagine how fantastic it would be in the summertime with a beer or glass of wine in hand sitting out over looking the city.

WANDER AROUND

We were only in Prague for 3 short days and I would without a doubt go back. It was magical seeing it in the winter with a blanket of snow over the rooftops, but I would love to go back in the summertime and experience it again. Let me know if I’ve missed anything off of this list that I can save for the next time I visit. Have you been to Prague? What’s your favourite part?

Happy travels!

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Hotel Golden Star, Prague

 

Our flight took off at 7am from Stansted Airport in London and we arrived in Prague around 10am – nice and early for a day’s worth of exploring! We grabbed a cab from the airport and headed to Hotel Golden Star, our home base for the next few days! Located right underneath Prague Castle and just a short walk from the Old Town, it’s the ideal spot to stay. The hotel itself has been newly re-constructed and is located in a magnificent baroque building. You get all the modern comforts with old world touches like the 270 year old staircase and wooden beamed ceilings throughout the hotel.

I really can’t say enough lovely things about the staff at Hotel Golden Star. They are incredibly accommodating and ensured we were very well taken care of throughout our stay. As we checked in, we sipped on a complimentary glass of prosecco as they let us choose between two rooms on the top floor. The entire hotel itself is beautiful, but the view from up top is something rather spectacular. We went for the smaller room that had one of the best views of the city.

Waking up to this view every morning makes you giddy inside. It looks particularly enchanting when you wake up, look outside and all of Prague is under a beautiful blanket of fresh snow…

The rooms feature a large King Size Bed with soft linens and fluffy pillows for a wonderful night’s sleep.

The marble bathrooms are lovely and clean with a large waterfall shower to warm up in after a day of exploring Prague in the snow.

The rooms have everything you’d need for a few night’s stay – a hairdryer, toiletries, a mini bar stocked with wine, beer and water, a kettle with coffees and teas, etc. There’s free wifi throughout the hotel and the complimentary breakfast in the morning was superb. Fresh, homemade omelettes to order, warm pastries, cereals, granolas, fresh bread and cheese, fruit, yoghurt, Prosecco, Nespresso coffee – you name it, they had it! Perfect for fuelling up before braving the cold and exploring Prague.

There is a restaurant in the hotel as well that is great for grabbing a Pilsner and some snacks before heading to dinner. In the summertime, they open the terrace outside so you can enjoy the beautiful views of the Lesser Town with drinks in hand. I definitely want to make a trip back in the summer – I can only imagine how gorgeous it must be.

Hotel Golden Star is a fantastic and affordable hotel option if you’re visiting Prague for a few days. The service cannot be beat and the hotel itself is quite charming. The location is ideal – right underneath Prague Castle and just a short walk away from Old Town. There’s tons of bars and restaurants in the area if you want to stay close to home. I would definitely choose to stay here again the next time I visit Prague.

Hotel Golden Star | Nerudova 48, 118 00 | Prague |1-Malá Strana | Czech Republic | Book Now 

 

American Gal’s Guide to Windsor, UK

Sometimes, there is nothing better than escaping London and one of the amazing perks of living in the UK is having an awesome train system where you can visit lots of beautiful destinations with ease. Windsor is one of those lovely escapes that is just 45 minutes from London via a Southwest train from Waterloo or Paddington – perfect for a day trip or a weekend away. I’ve been to Windsor quite a few times over the last few years and have put together some recommendations for how to make the most of your time in this charming and historic British town.

EXPLORE

You can’t visit Windsor without a trip to the castle of course. Part-time home to the Queen and steeped in 900 years of history, it’s an absolute must-see for history buffs, anglophiles and tourists alike. Tickets are only £20 and you can buy them ahead of time online. You can also visit for free up to a year if you save your ticket stub!

Be sure to visit St. George’s chapel – it’s breathtakingly beautiful inside. I like to light a candle and say a little prayer every time I visit.

After a visit to Windsor, be sure to take a walk or enjoy a picnic in the Windsor Great Park. You may recognise it from pictures of the long road leading to the castle. Windsor Great Park dates back to Pre-Saxon times, and today you’ll discover historical monuments, rare wildlife, deer, and beautiful plants as you walk along. It’s perfect for long walks in the summertime.

The town of Windsor is very charming, with little shops, side streets and fantastic pubs, it is truly a quintessentially British town. It’s also equally as beautiful in the winter with Christmas baubles and lights as it is in the summertime.

Take a wander around the town and head over to the river where Windsor meets Eton. Both towns are fully walkable and you can get around without a car just fine.

A footbridge along the Thames connects the lovely towns of Windsor and Eton. Eton High Street has remained unchanged for many years and you’ll find plenty of antique shops, cute restaurants and cafes, and of course Eton, one of the most famous colleges in the world. Royal processions from Westminster to Windsor passed along the High Street, one of the most famous being the funeral of Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII, in 1537.

DRINK

The Two Brewers Pub on Park Street, (the oldest street in Windsor) right outside Windsor Castle, is the perfect spot to grab a pint of English beer. The pub dates back to 1792 and is one of the smallest pubs in the town with only 9 tables inside and a few benches outside. This is a must-go spot for a drink, but be sure to book ahead!

EAT

Gilby’s on Eton High Street is a fantastic little wine bar and restaurant that is ideal for a spot of lunch on their fabulous terrace in the summertime or a cosy dinner inside in the winter. Gilby’s used to be a an old butcher’s shop and then it became one of the first wine bars outside of London in 1975. After years of success, they changed the name to Gilby’s as the food became more well known than the wine (it’s still great for the wine!). This quaint restaurant serves up delicious modern British food in a picturesque setting with wonderful service.

STAY 

Ciaran and I visited Windsor right before Christmas and it was beaming with charm. We made a relaxing weekend out of it and stayed at the Castle Hotel conveniently located on Windsor’s quintessentially English High Street directly opposite Windsor Castle. It was amazing to wake up to the view of the Queen’s residence in the morning.

You’ll find a “welcome” fruit platter upon arrival to enjoy whilst you unpack your suitcase. The suite features everything you could want and more including a luxurious large bed fit for a queen, a waterfall shower, fluffy bathrobes for lounging, The White Company toiletries and a Nespresso stocked with a variety of coffees and teas for your convienence. The hotel is also steeped in history, dating back to 1528.

History and charm resonate throughout the hotel. We noticed little details and touches that brought the past and present together. We were pleasantly surprised to find we were staying in the gorgeous Charles Sheriff room, the Royal Warrant Holder during the 1850s.

After day of exploring Windsor, enjoy a cosy afternoon tea in the lounge of the Castle Hotel next to the crackling fire. The Afternoon tea at the Castle Hotel is lovely with fresh warm scones, finger sandwiches, an array of teas and champagne to wind down before a glass of wine in the bar.

Whether you are visiting Windsor for the day or making a relaxing weekend out of it, there is so much British history to explore in this beautiful town. Have you been to Windsor before? What’s your favourite thing to do?

The Newly Launched Farmer, Butcher, Chef – Sussex

The Goodwood Hotel is a fantastic countryside escape for so many reasons, which you can read about here, but one of the best aspects of the hotel is the newly launched Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant…

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goodwoodhotel-017959The restaurant itself is stepped in history, dating back to 1780 and was once a coaching in used to accommodate the many guests of Goodwood House.

goodwoodhotel-017961Farmer, Butcher, Chef is located just a few yards away from Home Farm and was inspired by the relationship between farmer Tim Hassell, butcher John Hearn and chef Darron Bunn. The trio work together to create an incredibly diverse menu that showcases the best meat in terms of flavour and quality. Goodwood has been farmed by the family for more than three hundred years and is one of the only self-sustaining organic farms in Europe, which enables the farmer to produce the best tasting beef, pork and lamb.

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goodwoodhotel-017945We got a chance to sit down with Chef Darron and Farmer Tim to learn more about the concept behind Farmer, Butcher, Chef. They told us that every single part of the animals are used and the availability of the produce truly does dictate the menu. They also take great care in the well-being of the animals. They also supply many cuts of meat to the Ritz in London and are very selective about who they supply to as it’s important to them to only work with companies that share their same values. With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising that Farmer, Butcher, Chef has already been one of the first to receive the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts ‘Sustainable Philosophy Seal.’

They also said that Farmer, Butcher, Chef is all about simplicity and going back to traditional techniques of cooking meat, which in my opinion, was quite refreshing. You won’t see the food come out in a dramatic fashion with a layer of dry ice drifting over it, but what you will get is simple, fresh, out-of-this-world delicious dishes that will leave a lasting impression. We asked them what the most underrated cut of meat was, and surprisingly they mentioned the Pork Collar.

goodwoodhotel-017926From the moment we stepped into Farmer, Butcher, Chef I was enamoured with it. I have always been a huge fan of farmhouse interior decor and the restaurant’s interior design was stunning, cosy and embodied what Farmer, Butcher, Chef is all about. From the dark wood floors and tables, to the mismatched plaid chairs, and all of the knick knacks on the walls, this was by far one of the most charming restaurants I’ve been too. Can I move in, please?

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goodwoodhotel-017911Isn’t it beautiful? The food though – equally as stunning. goodwoodhotel-017801We started off our spectacular dinner with a bottle of Bolney Pinot Noir, a local vineyard in West Sussex. A delicious, medium-bodied wine with notes of cherry and and hint of oak – it’s an ideal wine to drink with dark meats. goodwoodhotel-017815We enjoyed fresh, out-of-the-oven bread with salted butter to whet our appetites whilst we looked over the menu. Farmer, Butcher, Chef is able to control every aspect of the produce and the butcher designs the dishes depending on what cuts of meat are available that day. All of the ingredients used are also from local suppliers, so every thing you eat on the menu is local to West Sussex.

goodwoodhotel-017830All of the starters sounded incredible, think Venison Tartar, Crispy Oysters, Beer braised lamb belly, etc. We went with our server’s recommendations, which didn’t disappoint, including this Crusted Beef Shin with British crayfish, tarragon and chanterelles. The beef itself was incredibly tender and just broke apart as soon as you dove in with your fork. It was a stunning dish packed with natural flavours that we couldn’t get enough of.

goodwoodhotel-017840We also shared the Oregano Rubbed Pig Jowl with fennel, walnut and raisin slaw, which I loved The fresh, fruity flavours of the slaw, cut the saltiness of the tender and juicy pig jowl. I had never had Pig Jowl before and really enjoyed this cut of meat – the fat was rendered down and the meat itself was packed with flavour.

goodwoodhotel-017846All of the menu is phenomenal, you would really have to go back about 5 times to try everything you’d want to. In a bid to try as much as we could in one sitting, we went for one of their legendary Butcher’s Boards, which is a great try some of those unique cuts of meats Chef Darron told us about. You can choose from Lamb, Beef or Pork and we went for the Beef. goodwoodhotel-017849You know that saying “your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” well such is the case here, but it’s inevitable – it all just looks so good – and it is. In all honesty, three people could have shared the Butcher’s board, there was so much meat to choose from.

The butcher’s board comes with charcoal skirt steak, sticky Jacob’s ladder, oxtail faggot, crispy tongue, marrow crusted ox cheek, truffle celeriac gratin and dripping confit potatoes.

goodwoodhotel-017867We also got a side of Winter Greens and Hazelnut butter, which I’ve got to say, is the best dressing to drizzle on any salad.

goodwoodhotel-017876I really cannot say enough positive things about ALL of the meat. The skirt steak was cooked to perfection, more on the rare side but I always have it cooked the way the chef recommends. The sticky Jacob’s ladder (beef short rib) was a magnificent cut of meat that seemed to be slow cooked and fell right off the bone. t was my favourite of all the meat we tried.

goodwoodhotel-017862The braised oxtail faggot was another highlight. The rich, demi-glaze sauce that it was marinated in was excellent. Let’s just say, I wasn’t sharing this little morsel of goodness with Ciaran.

goodwoodhotel-017881The Crispy Tongue was unusual, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! It was a quite unusual texture, but I still rather enjoyed it – go for it. The dripping confit potatoes were the best I’ve ever had. We did almost order another portion, but I’m glad we didn’t because I nearly went into a meat coma after our meal.

We sat for a while and recuperated after what was a meal for the books, before tucking into our desserts (yes, there is always room for pudding).

goodwoodhotel-017887Our server suggested this heavenly Milk & Praline Bar with salted almonds and dark chocolate. It was the perfect balance of sweet and salty and a welcoming treat after our meat-laden meal.

goodwoodhotel-017890Ciaran went for this gorgeous Bramley Apple Crumble Soufflé that was absolutely delightful. The soufflé itself was light and creamy and the apple crumble was divine. I loved it. When we go back, we are going to get the cheeseboard because all of the cheese is made right there at Goodwood, which would be really interesting to try.

The entire meal was exceptional, but what resonates with me even more is Farmer, Butcher, Chef’s commitment to sustainability. I personally like knowing where the meat and produce I eat comes from and how they are being raised and treated. I really like their environmental approach of using local and seasonal produce, not letting any go to waste, and having a very strong ethical approach to handling the animals, butchery and cooking. I think more restaurants need to adopt these philosophies and stick by them.

I am so happy that I had the opportunity to dine at this very special restaurant and learn more about sustainability. The food is phenomenal, the interior is gorgeous and the values are all ones that I am personally on board with. It was an incredibly memorable and special dinner.

Thank you Farmer, Butcher, Chef for the warm hospitality. We will be back!

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A Countryside Escape at the Goodwood Hotel, Sussex

This past Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to escape busy city life for a relaxing stay in the English countryside at the gorgeous Goodwood Hotel in West Sussex. Home to the exquisite Goodwood House, Festival of Speed, a golf course, an incredible spa, and now the newly opened and highly anticipated, Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant – this countryside escape is just what the doctor ordered. It’s also only 1.5 hours away from London via Victoria station, making it the perfect weekend getaway spot.

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We checked in a bit early and went for a nice long country walk around the estate. I couldn’t wait to breathe in some fresh country air. The hotel gave us a walking map with a few different trails to follow. The grounds themselves are truly spectacular and you can see all sorts of animals from sheep (my favourite) to cows and deer. Oh, and make sure to watch out for any pheasants that may fly out from underneath a pile of leaves suddenly. Depending on which path you take, you may be led to Goodwood House or the motor circuit.


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goodwoodhotel-017740For more than 300 years, Goodwood has been farmed by the family and is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK (more to come on this later). It was incredible to see so many animals freely grazing throughout the grounds.

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goodwoodhotel-017743As the sun set, we took a little shortcut and eventually made it back to the cosy Goodwood Hotel  just in time to check into our room and explore a little more of the fabulous hotel before heading to the bar for cocktail hour.

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goodwoodhotel-017977Our quaint room had the perfect dash of English countryside charm with plaid accents throughout. The room featured a flat screen TV and tea and coffee making facilities. Some rooms also have private terraces, which would be lovely in the summertime.

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goodwoodhotel-017756The bathroom featured a swoon-worthy farmhouse sink along with subway tiled accents and a large deep bathtub to soak in after a long walk through the grounds. Our room boasted all the amenities you could want for an evening away, including these lovely Elemis products. Overall, the room is super comfy and I really enjoyed the countryside charm that came with it. We felt right at home from the get-go.

goodwood-hotel-pool-1We were told to check out the spa when we got there, and I’m really glad that we did because it was gorgeous. Guests can make use of the lovely wet spa area, featuring a large pool and relaxing hot tub or make the most of it and enjoy some stress-busting treatments. Facial and body treatments at Goodwood include waxing, hot stone massages, Indian head massages, and reflexology. I am planning to come back with a few girlfriends for a relaxing spa-weekend next year.

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goodwoodhotel-017773Later that evening, we made our way to the bar and settled into one of the stunning private rooms and curled up by the crackling fire with drinks before our highly anticipated dinner at Farmer, Butcher, Chef. I loved every element of this living room – from the fireplace, to the comfy furniture and the colour scheme – it was incredibly charming and cosy. We both agreed that one day we’d love to have a room in our house similar to this.

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goodwoodhotel-017789A couple of hours flew by whilst we sipped on Sussex Lagers and Tinwood Estate sparkling wine and before we knew it, it was time for our reservation at Farmer, Butcher Chef, which you’ll find out all about on the blog tomorrow…

The Goodwood Hotel is a gorgeous countryside getaway far enough away to escape the hustle and bustle of London, but close enough that travel time won’t cut in to your weekend plans. With a relaxing spa, an awesome golf course and stunning grounds, it’s great for both him and her, and I haven’t even mentioned how incredible the restaurant is yet…

The Goodwood Hotel | Chichester | PO18 0QB | Book Now 

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American Gal’s Guide to Paris

Growing up in the US, a trip to Paris always seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I never thought would become a reality. One of the greatest parts about living in the UK is the ability to travel to some of these places I’d always dreamed of going as a kid because they are now so much closer and easier to travel to.

paris-graphicWhen Ciaran surprised me with a trip to Paris for my birthday last month, I was so incredibly happy and couldn’t wait to explore as much of it as possible. Paris is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever visited and there is so much to do. We were there for two and a half days and did so much sightseeing, which was great, but we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that Paris has to offer. I want to share all that we did with you and hopefully it will help any first-time travellers map out their itineraries.

1.Visit the Eiffel Tower 

_r015534Kick off your trip to Paris with a walk along the Seine over to the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be giddy with excitement the first time you see the beautiful landmark. It is truly spectacular and one of the most breathtaking structures I’ve ever seen. You can take a tour up to the top, but be prepared to wait in some serious queues. Tip: You can either take the elevator or you can walk all the way up, the latter having a shorter line, but tougher on your legs!

2. Walk Over to the Arc de Triomphe  

Arc de triomphe The Arc de Triomphe is the most monumental of all triumphal arches in the world. It is a Paris landmark that must be seen while you’re visiting. After visiting the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, we walked over to the Place Charles de Gualle, located really close to the Champs-Élysées to see the beautiful building. The architecture of the Arc de Triomphe is remarkable and it was built to honour all of those who fought for France.

3. Walk down the Champs-Élysées

_r015544-2The Champs-Elysees is one of the most famous streets in the world. If you love to shop, be sure to take a stroll down this beautiful avenue, filled with luxury flagship stores such as Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc. We went into the Cartier shop to have a look at some of the watches and jewellery and it is one of the most elegantly decorated shops I’ve been in. Swoonworthy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I must note that the Champs-Elysees is very crowded and whilst I thought it was stunning, I couldn’t spend long periods of time walking around. If you’re like me, and aren’t a fan of big, touristy crowds, make a plan to go into a few shops, call it a day and go grab a glass of wine and fromage to unwind!

4. Aperitivo Hour on the Seine 

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_r015563-2After a long day of sightseeing, there is nothing better than a crisp glass of wine to relax and unwind. The weather was marvellous during our time in Paris – sunny and hot, with temperatures reaching up to 30C (90F). After walking down the Champs Elysees, we crossed the bridge Pont Alexandre III, which connects the Champs Elysees quarter with the Invalides quarter. Once we got to the other side of the bridge, we found a really cute boat to have a few libations on before our dinner reservation. In Paris, everyone seems to flock to the banks of the Seine for picnics and drinks, so we decided to do the same! There are quite a few great boat bars along the Seine, so just pick one that takes your fancy, have a seat and enjoy!

5. Dine with a View 

_r015568-2 For my birthday and our anniversary, Ciaran made reservations at Chez Francis, a fantastic brasserie with breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower. Chez Francis has a marvellous terrace, which we were lucky enough to sit in and enjoy our dinner with a beautiful view. The food was lovely, but if you go to Chez Francis, you are paying for the stunning view. It’s worth it, trust me. If you go to Paris, definitely book a restaurant with a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. There is nothing like clinking glasses as the day comes to a close and the Eiffel Tower is lit up and twinkling.

Chez Francis | 7 Place de l’Alma | 75008 | Paris | France

6. Eat a Crepe (lots of them) 

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_r015566-2I fell in love with crepes while we were in Paris. They are delectable and the ideal snack to have whilst traipsing around the city. There are creperies nearly on every corner and there’s all different types to choose from – lemon and sugar, ham and cheese, Nutella, berries, peanut butter, jam, whatever takes your fancy! They’re great to grab while on the go for a little pick me up. Try one – you’ll love them.

7. Visit The Notre Dame Cathedral 

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_r015715-2It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the Notre Dame Cathedral should be on your Paris bucket list. Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris and is one of the most gorgeous cathedrals I’ve ever seen. Building began in the 12th century and it took more than 300 years to finish. The architecture is French Gothic and is stunning – you could honestly marvel at its beauty all day. You can go inside the Cathedral but photos are prohibited and there is usually a very long queue to get in, so it’s worth getting there early. You can also climb all 387 steps to the top of the Cathedral,but again, the line for this is also really long. If this is the ONLY time you are likely to travel to Paris, then by all means, brave the queues and see it all, it’s definitely worth seeing.

8. Walk to Hotel de Ville Quay

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_r015733-2After visiting Notre Dame, we walked across a small bridge over to Hotel de Ville Quay, also in the fourth arrondissement. We grabbed a couple of beers and more crepes (yes, we ate a lot of crepes), sat by the river and took in the gorgeous views. All of Paris is stunning and there is charm everywhere you go. I’ve never been to such an all-around beautiful city before. It was so nice to relax for an hour and take it all in. It was one of my favourite areas we visited.

9. Visit the Tuileries Gardens & The Louvre 

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_r015663-2Like I previously mentioned, everywhere you walk in Paris, you will be swept away by its sheer beauty. Walk through the Tuileries and Carousel Gardens and check out the Louvre. We opted not to go inside the Louvre this time around as we wanted to make sure we had enough time to spend a whole day there. Wake up early and go to avoid the queues. If you don’t decide to go in, the entire area around the Louvre is incredible. Walk around, grab some lunch or instead go to Musee D’Orsay nearby.

10. Buy a Love Lock and Throw Away the Key 

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_r015673-2The official “Love Lock Bridge” had all of its locks sadly taken down last year but there are a few other bridges that you can still put a love lock on and throw the key into the Seine. It’s completely cheesy, but one of those things I always wanted to do in Paris. It is really romantic looking at so many locks on the bridge and it’s a great celebration of love and friendship. If you have time and see a bridge with love locks on it, go for it.

12. Visit Sacre Coeur 

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A trip to Montmartre is a must for any Paris first-timer. It’s a super charming and artsy area of Paris and is also home to Sacre-Coeur, the Basillica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It’s a Roman Catholic Church that sits at the top of the hill in Montmartre and it is remarkable. The church itself is stunning and the views from up top are breathtaking. This spot has some of the best views of Paris, it is very touristy though and usually packed so definitely get there early on in the day to avoid the crowds!

13. Get Lost in Montmartre 

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_r015795Montmartre can be very touristy, but if you walk around the back streets it’ll be much less so. As I said before, it’s a really charming area of Paris and was one of my favourites to walk around. There are so many cute cafes, bars and restaurants, we had such a great time exploring and even found an amazing rooftop hotel bar called Terrass Hotel, which I wrote about a few days ago. Definitely check it out if you are in the area. Also, be sure to pop into some of the art galleries – you’ll find really fantastic pieces from local artists.

14. See Moulin Rouge 

_r015860Moulin Rouge is the world-famous cabaret club in Paris founded in 1889. It is the birth place of the modern can-can dance and was notorious for seductive dancing and promiscuity. At one point, a huge wooden elephant was installed in the gardens and private dances would take place inside for men only. If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge the movie, then you’ll know what I’m talking about! Anyways, Moulin Rouge still exists today and you can go see shows there, though I don’t think it’s as wild as it once was!

It is super close to Montmartre on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement. I was happy we got to see the outside of this iconic club and if you have time, then definitely go see a show! Truth be told, I wasn’t a huge fan of the area as it’s a bit seedy, so we hopped on the metro and headed for the Eiffel Tower one last time.

15. See the Eiffel Tower Twinkling at Night 

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There is nothing like seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkling and all lit up at night! If I could see that view every night of my life, I’d be one happy gal. As the sun sets, the Eiffel Tower slowly lights up and once it gets completely dark, it begins twinkling every fifteen minutes or so. It’s a spectacular show and so exciting the first time you see it. There’s nothing more romantic than having a glass of wine or champagne with your partner as the Eiffel Tower starts sparkling. It was one of my favourite parts about our trip to Paris. The best part is, you don’t have to be at a restaurant with a view to see it, you can see the Eiffel Tower from thousands of spots in the city so no matter where you are, you’re likely to get a great show! I recommend getting as close as possible for the best view though. There is truly nothing  like it.

These are my top recommendations for any first-timer in Paris! We were only there for two and a half days and packed so much in. Bring great walking shoes and walk all over the city. Map out a few things you really want to do and make a plan for where to start your day and where to end your day so you can see and do things that are close to each other. Also, the Metro can be a little bit confusing at first, but I highly recommend it. It is so cost-effective and super quick to get from place to place.

The next time we go to Paris, I’d like to spend a whole day at The Louvre, visit Musee D’Orsay (which we were going to do on this trip, but they require you to have a passport to get in and I left mine at the hotel – so be sure to bring yours) and actually climb the Eiffel Tower.

What are your favourite things to do and see in Paris? I’d love to hear any recommendations you have.