A Venice Moment – reflections on a recent trip to Venice

On June 01,16

I can’t even count on one hand the number of time’s I’ve visited Venice. As much as I love the city of bridges, my little floating world has fallen victim to considerable vandalism and abandonment in the form of graffiti and ancient buildings that are in such vulnerable states, I wouldn’t even risk leaning on them. As the throngs of tourists continue to visit Piazza San Marco and ride the gondolas, you can still catch glimmers of beauty in the historical city.  Continue Reading

First Signs of Spring at the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

On April 16,15

Are we there yet?

It has been an age and a half since I last felt the warmth of a fresh Spring day. The same warmth that makes early morning rises for work that little more bearable, and the temptation to stay out until the crack of dawn all the more inviting. The powder puff pink sunrise and blazing fireball sunsets contrasting with the brilliant green hue of freshly cut grass, as the graceful flora peek their delicate heads above flower beds for the first time since the previous Summer, somehow my surroundings feel different, as if reborn, anew.  Continue Reading

A Little Town Called Hoorn

On February 21,15

Once upon a time, about half an hour’s train ride away from Amsterdam, there was a little town called Hoorn. Though Hoorn might look like a smaller, wonkier version of Amsterdam, it was once an important base for the Dutch East India Company, and the hometown of the ruthless adventurer and trader Jan Pieterszoon Coen.  Continue Reading

La Boqueria, Barcelona

On April 13,14

La Boqueria is one of Barcelona’s many fresh produce markets. Barcelona appears to have a deep rooted market culture, a culture we are slowly losing in London. You can find pretty much everything you’d need for your kitchen at La Boqueria, from vegetables to locally sourced fresh fish, dried fruits, nuts, oil and yeah, pretty much everything you’d ever need. As a vegan and supporter of fresh produce, this market was like a giant toy shop for me. Continue Reading

Barcelona – Del Mar – Gothic Quarter

On April 13,14

Back from my Barcelona research trip with heaps of information and photographs taken for my dissertation. I’m so glad that I took the extra two days to look around the city as the last time I was there was back in 2008, and things seem to have changed since then. I stayed in the Del Mar region “The Sea”, close to the church I am writing on Santa Maria del Mar. It is part of the Bairro Gotica of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, though slightly distanced from the general throngs of tourist (I do have my way of avoiding the masses).  Continue Reading

My Favorites: Vintage Shopping in Paris

On December 24,13

Why is it that the French are painfully stylish? Every time I visit Paris (which is often) I learn something new about how to dress well and yet when I’m back in London I simply cannot replicate what I’d learnt in the city of light. The answer is simple, scattered around Paris are the most amazing vintage shops, vintage shops that are far and few in London. They’re not your typical second hand shops but true vintage boutiques. Quality items of clothing are sourced (and God knows from where because I am yet to figure out that little secret) and sold at affordable prices. By affordable I don’t mean £20 for a pair of vintage high-waist denim shorts (a la London Portobello Market) but five Euros for a pair of leather shorts or 15 Euro for a faux fur jacket. I once even scored myself a pair of cowboy boots for 5 Euro! This is why the French do fashion better.  Continue Reading

Merci.

On September 30,13

An afternoon stroll down Boulevard Beaumarchais led to the discovery of Merci general store that literally, generally sells everything. We sat outside their  used books cafe (seeing as they sell everything)  and sipped on hot cocoa before browsing their shelves. Continue Reading

Visiting the Sun King at Versailles

On September 29,13

Versailles, beautiful yet tragic. A spectacular achievement in French architecture that would only see three generations of the French royal family inhabiting its walls. The Chateau  de Versailles was begun by eccentric Louis XIV, who moved the court from Paris to Versailles in the seventeenth century. The site of the palace was originally a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII, over the next century Versailles would be expanded upon and transformed into an exquisite pleasure palace from which the descendants of Louis XIV would continue to act out the sacred royal rights initiated by the Sun King.  Continue Reading

My Favorite Paris – Montmartre

On September 25,13

My preference for arrondissements has changed over the years. From historical centre 1st, to spreading out slightly to the 2nd, trendy 4th over to Latin Quarter 5th, back to 3rd, pass by 11th, touristic 7th to the canal in the 10th… but the 18th shall always hold a special place in my heart.

Montmartre lies perfectly at the tip of the 18th. Though a popular tourist attraction, the crowds of tourist with flashy cameras can easily be avoided if you know how…

The Sacre Coeur is one of my all time favorite displays of magnificent French architecture. I always pay homage to it on my visits to Paris. It sits peacefully and elegantly on top of the hill. One place I do avoid (at all costs) is the Place de Tetre behind the church, which is heavily populated by tourist and souvenir shops.

Sunny Day at Montmartre
Sunny Day at Montmartre

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Eating out in Montmartre can either be expensive or disappointing if you end up in a tourist trap. One lesson I’ve learnt is never to order a crepe from a place that has a pile of precooked crepes on the side waiting to be filled. The French are famous for their emmental filled crepes though it’s best to look for a place that makes them fresh from the batter on the spot, unfortunately I haven’t yet found a decent creperie in Montmartre. What I have found are fantastic bakers and cheese shops (yes shops that solely sell cheese).

I Heart French Cheese
I Heart French Cheese

Rue des Abbesses and the roads that follow down from it to Pigalle, such as Rue Lepic are my favorites for boulangeries, fromageries, fresh fruit and veg and fresh fish (oyster bar anyone?).

I’ve blogged about it before and I’ll blog about it again. Le Relais Gascon is my favorite restaurant in Paris. I like to convince myself that I’m eating healthy by ordering one of their huge salads. The food is a treat, the wine is decent (and decently priced) and the service is quick, most of all it’s not pretentious and doesn’t try to be “typically French”, it just is. I especially love sitting outside as the view down to Pigalle is great for people watching, even on a rainy day.

"salad" at Le Relais Gascon
“salad” at Le Relais Gascon

I’ve come to realize that the main reason people in Paris dress so well is the availability of inexpensive fashion a la vintage shops. Though not the centre of vintage (which I shall discuss in a later post), Montmartre has it’s fair share of decently priced vintage boutiques (5 Euro boyfriend coats for example…). My friend and I spent well over an hour inside one particular shop that not only sells vintage clothing but shoes, bags, furniture, books… you name it, they sell it.

The shop: Les Billes de la Gamine, the owner: Cecile. Cecile is a connoisseur in all things vintage. She just has to look at you to pick out the perfect item that you will instantly fall in love with. The star buy was my friend’s 30 Euro pair of Doc Martins boots in ivy green. Cecile’s little shop can be found at 66 Rue d’Orsel, at the very tip of Rue des Abbesses.

Vintage Cool at Les Bille de la Gamine
Vintage Cool at Les Bille de la Gamine

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Other great vintage shops that I shall definitely be visiting again include:

Chine Machine

100 Rue des Martyrs

75018, Paris

and Vintage Desir (for those 5 Euro boyfriend coats)

28 Rue Yvonne le Tac

75018, Paris

(sadly they don’t have a website or a Facebook page)

Sunday is flea market day in Montmartre, Rue de Clignancourt boasts stretches of market stalls selling all sorts. I felt absolutely chuffed to have discovered it by chance one day! Nearest Metro stop in Montmartre is Chateau Rouge though it’s a 5 minute walk from the Sacre Coeur. You can also stop at the very tip of the market at Metro stop Porte de Clignancourt where they have the bigger more serious stalls, I believe these are also open on Fridays and Saturdays.

early morning just as the flea market was opening
early morning just as the flea market was opening

Most of all I love Montmartre for it’s slopes and slides, green open spaces and quiet little back streets. The sky always appears bluer in Montmartre, I can only imagine the influence the landscape would have had on the great French Impressionists who populate this area.

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