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.

Panoramic Paris Views at Terrass Hotel

As I’m sitting here writing this post, I can’t believe it was a month ago that we ventured to Paris for my 26th birthday and our anniversary. It was the first time Ciaran and I had ever been to the beautiful city and it was truly one of the best weekends of my life. Without a worry in the world, we traipsed around the City of Lights and fell head over heels in love with all its charms.

I have a lot to share from Paris, but I wanted to kick off the series of posts with my favourite day we spent there – my actual birthday. We headed to Montmartre, a hillside area in the 18th Arrondissement with sweeping views of Paris. This area is home to the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, a stunning Roman Catholic Church with some of the best views of the city.

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_r015755We marvelled at the sheer beauty and vastness of the city before walking around the rest of Montmartre. Parts of the area are packed with tourists, but if you venture down the charming back streets, you will really enjoy this quaint area, which is bustling with art galleries, cafes, restaurants and bars.

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_r015762It’s not hard to fall in love with this city. Everywhere we went was even more picturesque than the last. I loved walking around and soaking in just how charming it all was. We popped into an art gallery that caught our eye and the woman working there showed us a unique cartoon-esque painting of the Eiffel Tower, which she explained was painted somewhere nearby. We made it our mission to find that exact area where the artist had painted the picture, as we knew wherever it was, would show us the best view of Paris. So we set out walking, and although we sadly didn’t find the exact spot where the painting was created, we stumbled across something a bit better…

_r015855As we were walking around, we looked up and noticed some yellow umbrellas coming from what looked like a rooftop bar. A little more walking, we finally discovered this hidden gem called Terrass Hotel, a beautiful hotel located at the entrance of the hill in Montmartre with an awesome rooftop bar! We headed up to the 7th floor and fell in love with with the view…

_r015795Does it really get any better than that? I’m a sucker for a phenomenal view and Ciaran and I always seem to find some great ones wherever we go.

_r015771The rooftop bar is super cute and features a back garden with a little bar and umbrellas to take a respite from the sun. I, however, opted to sit in the sun, which offered the best views possible. We were both shocked that this rooftop oasis wasn’t busier and both agreed that if a bar like this were in London, it would be jam-packed with people. We definitely relished how quiet and relaxing the setting was though!

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_r015784We shared a crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and toasted to Paris. It couldn’t have been a more perfect setting to celebrate.

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_r015790We planned on only staying for a couple drinks, but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we decided to grab another bottle, some tapas to share and watch the sun set over the Eiffel Tower.

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_r015833There is nothing more beautiful or romantic than watching the sun set, followed by the Eiffel Tower lighting up the skyline with the person you love. I’ll never forget how wonderful this evening was. It was the best birthday to date and so special to me. After taking in the views, we capped off our evening with a walk down to Moulin Rouge, which isn’t too far away from Montmartre.

_r015860It was lovely to see Moulin Rouge, but the area around there is quite seedy at night. We walked onwards over to the Eiffel Tower for one last look at the sparkly lights before heading back to our hotel.

_r015870Paris je t’aime!

What are your favourite rooftop restaurants/bars in Paris? I’d love to add them to my list for our next trip.

Seafront Views at the Grand Brighton

For the past few months, my friend Lizz and I have been planning a gals trip away and decided on beautiful Brighton! I had never been before and we wanted a little getaway from London where we could have fun and relax and Brighton was the ideal spot. Brighton is a short hour away from London and it’s super easy to jump on the train from Victoria and in 50 minutes you’re at the beach.

When we arrived in Brighton, the sun was shining and we were both really excited to just breathe in the fresh sea salt air and be out of the city for a while. We walked over to the Grand Brighton hotel to check in, and I must say, it is one of the most grandiose hotels I’ve been to.

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The Grand Brighton is a show-stopping hotel that stands centre-stage on Brighton’s beautiful seafront.  The gorgeous hotel is steeped in history, dating back to 1864 and still exudes the same elements of glamour as it did all those years ago.  The hotel itself was built with an Italian influence in mind, though Victorian in structure, it is truly magnificent.  From the moment we walked into the unique hotel and saw the dramatic winding staircase extending over seven floors, we knew it was going to be a most memorable stay.

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We had the pleasure of staying in a spacious sea-view room with breath taking views of the Brighton seafront. The moment we walked, in we were in awe of the sheer size of the room and were filled with excitement at how gorgeous it was. We had a lovely welcome card and sweets waiting for us on the table when we arrived, which was a lovely surprise.

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The room featured a soft egg blue and grey colour palette with elegant beach-inspired decor including silver starfish lamps and photos of Brighton adorning the walls. French doors lead us out onto a large balcony and there was also a comfortable seating area that was ideal for drinking champagne and taking in the exquisite seaside views. I also must note, that the beds were so incredibly comfortable. It was lovely to fall asleep in 400 thread count Egyption Cotton sheets and fluffy pillows! Needless to say, we felt like we were on cloud 9!

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The bathroom was clean, modernised and chic and boasted fluffy towels and robes and all the amenities one could hope for.

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After settling in and taking in all the views of the beautiful room and ocean-front views, we decided it was time for some bubbly before dinner! We headed down to the opulent Victoria lounge, bar and terrace for some snacks and pre-dinner tipples. I loved the art-deco inspired lounge area with bright plush furniture and pretty chandeliers.

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The bar exuded 1920s glam, featuring a large marble topped bar, dark wood liquor cabinets and a great cocktail list. It was the perfect place to kick off our mini holiday and toast to our gals trip. The service was friendly and outstanding and always on hand for a top up! After a few more glasses of champagne, we headed out for dinner and a night out in Brighton. More to come on that later.

The location of the Grand Brighton cannot be beat, as it is situated between the Brighton Pier and the remaining structure of the West Pier, making it central to all Brighton’s major attractions. We suggest heading out of the hotel and taking a long walk down the beach or shopping over in The Lanes – Brighton’s quaint historic quarter, before heading back to the hotel for cocktail hour, where cocktails are just £5 from 5-7pm!

The Grand Brighton Hotel exudes elegance and grandeur, making it one of the most iconic hotels not only in Brighton, but England too.  From that stunning sweeping spiral staircase (I recommend you climb to the 8th floor to experience the true magnificence of the hotel), to the beautiful sea view rooms and elegant decor throughout,there is no doubt you will have a memorable stay at the Grand Brighton.

Thank you to the Grand Brighton Hotel for hosting us.

My review of the Grand Brighton for Luxuria Lifestyle can also be read here! 

20 Things to Pack For Studying Abroad in London

This June will mark four years since I first came to London and studied abroad through my university. I remember packing for the summer and thinking two months was an awfully long time to pack for. I of course ended up over packing and practically took everything in my wardrobe including the kitchen sink. I remembered wishing there was a guide for what to pack and how to dress before coming over here and I’m sure there’s a lot of other girls out there who are embarking on their first study abroad adventure across the pond who would love to be in the know too! Here is my essential packing list for all the gals out there who are preparing for their London adventures.

  1. Ballet Flats – I personally think a few pairs of ballet flats are one of the most important things should invest in before you study abroad. I made the mistake of packing my trusty pair of Jack Rogers metallic sandals for the summer, thinking that would be all I need. I was sorely mistaken, pun intended! My feet became destroyed from walking around and eventually my sandals ended up breaking and I had to buy a pair of flats anyways, which also gave me horrible blisters because they were a cheap pair. My best advice is to buy a few different pairs of very comfortable flats a few months in advance and break them in before you fly over to London. My favourite ballet flats are from Banana Republic. I think they are the most comfortable, wear well and are made with soft leather that won’t tear up your feet whilst traipsing around the city. Leave the sandals and heels at home, ladies.
  2. Camera and Memory Cards – When I studied abroad, social media was nowhere near as visual as it is today. With that said, I still wanted to document every single part of my time over here and brought my mom’s Canon point and shoot camera and I’m really happy that I did because I can look back at my photos for years to come. While iPhones take wonderful photos and are handy to have, I still suggest bringing a compact camera with a few memory cards as your photos will be higher quality. London is such a beautiful city and if you’re like me, you will want to take photos of literally everything. My suggestion for a small compact camera that takes tack sharp photos and won’t break the bank is a Ricoh GR. I use it for everyday shooting and it has been fantastic. You can throw it in your handbag and pull it out to shoot at anytime. No heavy duty equipment required!
  3. Cross Body Bag – I am a huge fan of cross body bags. They are convenient, light weight and perfect for touring the city and beyond. You won’t want to bring a huge tote bag as it will get really heavy lugging it around all day. A cross body bag will hold all of your essentials and much more secure than a tote bag, clutch or satchel. COACH has my favourite cross body bags and I get a new one every year, but there are tons of really cute ones out there that come in all different sizes depending on what you need to fit. Invest in one you love before your trip!
  4. Rain Coat – It rains a lot in London despite what season it is and I can’t recommend buying a rain coat or a trench coat before visiting. Your instructors will take you on tours both rain and shine and you don’t want to be drenched, freezing and sick at the end of the day. I brought two rain coats – an athletic waterproof wind breaker for excursions and a nice trench to wear during my internship.
  5. Light Coat and Winter Coat – The weather in London during summer can be really unpredictable. It will rarely be 90 degrees and sunny. The summer I studied abroad, it rained every single day with the exception of 3 days and it was cold – around 50 degrees was the average this particular summer. Some days, however, it shot up to about 70, so it really just depends! I recommend bringing one light weight jacket – a denim one or light leather jacket, and a heavy duty parka for the not so warm days.
  6. Sweaters – As I said before, the weather is so unpredictable, but if you pack a few light weight sweaters and layer, you will be fine! The majority of the summer I spent studying abroad, I lived in sweaters and my white jeans.
  7. A Pair of comfortable boots/booties – In addition to flats, bring one pair of either tall boots or booties to keep your feet warm at night. I love Frye Boots and Cole Haan. I have a tall pair of black Cole Haan swede boots with a heel that are perfect for dinners out and a pair of Frye cognac riding boots to wear during the day. Both are super comfortable and keep me really warm.
  8. An LBD and a few smarter outfits – Afternoon tea? A nice dinner out with friends? You’ll want to dress up and look a bit more smart than you normally would for these occasions. I suggest bringing a cute little black dress and a few other blouses, skirts, trousers or dresses. Some places have dress codes here where you have to be dressed up and you won’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
  9. Black and Tan Pumps – Bring one black pair and one nude pair of heels, that is all you will need, I promise. They will match with everything and will be perfect for a night out. If you are like me, and your heels get destroyed from the pavement within about 1 hour, you can buy a cheap pair from HM over here.
  10. Scarves – scarves never go out of season in London! Bring a few comfy ones to wear everyday, or you can buy a few pashmina ones from over here. I got one in every colour the summer I studied abroad (I have a thing for bright colours). They were nice to bring home with too!
  11. Umbrella – this is something you can of course, buy over here. I suggest buying a really sturdy one the first time around so you don’t have to keep buying a new one every time it breaks (trust me, the cheap ones do break). Carry one with you everyday, because one minute it can be sunny and the next it can be down pouring.
  12. Bathing suit, cover up, shorts and T-shirts – You’re probably wondering why I would add this to a London study abroad packing list? Well, you will probably take one or two fun trips with your friends to Spain or somewhere warmer than London and you’ll want these things when you go! We went to Barcelona and soaked up the sun and laid on the beach for a few days, which I highly recommend!
  13. An Extra Weekender Bag or Duffle Bag – For those weekend trips away. You will most likely take a cheap airline such as Ryanair, which have really strict luggage policies. My suggestion is to invest in a Vera Bradley duffle bag or something of the like to pack your clothes in that you can then carry on to the flight easily. Just fold one up and throw it in your suitcase when you fly over here.
  14. An Extra Towel – For when you do have weekend trips away and stay in a hostel or for laying on the beach. Trust me, you’ll want one.
  15. Prescriptions – Don’t forget your prescriptions! You can of course get some medicines over the counter here, but anything prescribed by your doctor is important to pack.
  16. UK Plug Adapter – You can buy these over here, but you will want one on your first night to charge your phone, iPad, lap top or for your hair straightener and curling iron! You can buy them from Amazon or any travel or luggage store.
  17. Laptop/iPad  – I originally wasn’t going to bring either of these when I studied abroad, but I am really glad that I did because I uploaded a lot of my pictures and used it to Skype my friends and parents back home. Get a nice protective case for it and carry it on the plane. I wouldn’t recommend bringing these items when you take your weekend trips away, it’s too risky leaving them in the hostel, but they’ll be safe in your flat in London.
  18. Chargers  – lap top, iPad, iPhone and camera chargers are all essentials! It’s easy to get iPhone chargers over here, but more difficult to get camera chargers and you won’t want to splash the cash on a new lap top charger.
  19. Comfortable trousers/black jeans – Pack a few pairs of comfortable pants and black jeans. Everybody in London typically wears darker colours. Don’t feel that you need to follow the rest of the pack, but if you want to blend in a bit more than I would bring a few pairs of darker pants to wear for everyday. When I studied abroad, I wore bright pink trousers, turquoise pants, neon sweaters and I stuck out like a sore thumb. At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. London is a very fashionable city where mostly anything goes, but if you do want to blend in a bit, opt for darker colours.
  20. £300 cash – Funny story – My dad dropped me off at the airport before I studied abroad. I very idiotically thought the currency was Euros, not Pounds (I know, what was I even thinking??). My Dad bought me 400 Euros so I had some extra cash when I got there. I had landed in London and was all set to hail my black cab (again another horrible and dreadful mistake) to take me to my flat. He charged me £80 and when I handed him the money, he was incredibly confused and said no I need 80 pounds. Feeling very discouraged and silly, the driver drove me to an ATM and luckily, I had just enough in my account at the time from some money I had transferred over to pay for the cab. I gave him his £80 and went on my way, still carrying all this money that I couldn’t use. Sadly for me, it was a bank holiday two days in a row for the Jubilee, so I couldn’t even go to the post office or bank to transfer the money into pounds! At the time it was a bit of a disaster, but it ended up being a funny story. Moral of the story is – 1) the currency in England is Great British Pounds, not Euros and 2) Have £300 cash hidden away incase of emergencies – credit card gets stolen or your bank accidentally places a fraudulent hold on your account.

What Not to Pack: 

  1. A Blow Dryer – The amps in this country differ from that in the US. We tried using a blow dryer that was plugged into an adapter and it actually blew up and set off the fire alarm in my flat on the first night. You can buy a cheap blow dryer over here from Boots.
  2. Expensive Jewellery – it could get misplaced or lost and you don’t want to lose any sentimental jewellery while you’re here. With all the moving and travelling, things can get easily lost.
  3. Unnecessary items – Just remember, you will want to leave room in your bag to bring back some things! I had to pay loads for 2 overweight bags at the airport coming back because I made the mistake of packing way too many things I barely wore and bought things to bring back with me that I had to stuff in my bag to fit.

If you have any other questions about what to bring or to pack, please comment below or drop me an email at blondeacrossthepondcm@gmail.com. I hope you have a fabulous trip across the pond! x