For anyone who missed my insane excitement, I went to Paris with my friends at the beginning of the month and it was just the best thing ever! In my previous post ab0ut Paris, I mentioned a book shop that I loved so much it deserved a post all of its own. Well here is that post!
About a week or so before I went to Paris, I was at home watching the film Midnight in Paris for the first time, purely by coincidence and I noticed Owen Wilson’s character hanging around by a rather cool book shop. Thinking it was way off the beaten track and I’d never have time to go there, I put it to the back of my mind. However, when we were in Paris one of my friends spotted it and pointed it out as one of the must-see tourist stops. I got ridiculously excited about this so when Sunday afternoon came round and we only had time to do one more thing, we hopped along to Shakespeare and Company.
As you can see, from the outside this looks like the quaint, old English bookstore that you have to search high and low to find in the UK these days. Inside, photos are not allowed though if you Google it, you’ll find quite a few. However, if you peek through the window of my photo, you begin to get a flavour of how exquisitely perfect this shop is.
If like me you think the Kindle has been sent to Earth by Lucifer himself, you will love this shop. As soon as you step through the door the stale mustiness of old books hits you. You have to watch every step you take because there is no sense to the layout of the shop and there are hoards of people squeezed into the tiniest of spaces. Downstairs there is more uniformity to the books and the shelves because this is where the new books, ready for sale are waiting. Walk upstairs however and you will feel how I imagine Alice to feel when she ventures down that rabbit hole.
There are nooks and crannies everywhere, notes from admiring visitors planned to walls, an old typewriter tucked away and all sorts of different chairs dotted around. Why the chairs? You can’t buy the books upstairs, they are to be read and enjoyed in situ. and what a selection of books there is. Many of the books are extremely old and the way they line the uneven shelves produces and effect I could only dream of recreating when I eventually own a house big enough to house a library.
If you’ve already fallen in love with the place, read on and you’ll be booking the next Eurostar over there. Just as my friend and I were debating how long we should stay, a tray laden with mugs of all shapes and sizes (some minus their handles) was brought out from a back room. Then a kettle, tea bags, sugar and milk appeared. One inquisitive visitor asked whether the tea was for general consumption, only to be informed that he’d have to stay for the tea party if he wanted any. Tea party???
A few minutes later a bright, vivacious older lady burst into the room and started ordering us to take seats and passed us cushions which we were to scatter on the floor when the seats ran out. Pan Melis is her name and being an eccentric, old Welsh poet is her game! We were at a real life Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Every Sunday between 4 and 6pm, Pan entertains anyone brave enough to enter her lair. She will fill you in on the history of the shop, her crazy life, read some of her own poetry and bully you into reciting or reading yours…or singing…or sharing a memory. There’s no escaping Pan, she will drag you into her world no matter how much you resist and so she should too after she’s given up her tea, and in our case her M&S Christmas cake
I’ve never experienced anything like it and obviously the majority of the people who attend are there just for that one session and often by accident but some are regulars and their contributions are clearly very well valued by Pan. It fulfilled my romantic dream of Paris and I’d seriously consider moving to Paris just to be able to go there every Sunday. It really was a gem in the middle of the city; perhaps the French see it differently but I was astounded to find something and someone so quintessentially British in the heart of Paris. If you visit Paris, make time for this, I promise it will be worth it; at the very least it will be an experience you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else x
Related article: Shakespeare and Company – A Surreal Afternoon by the Seine
Trip Advisor: Shakespeare and Company
Last weekend I was lucky enough to get 2013 off to a cracking start with a weekend in Paris My birthday was back at the end of November and this was my present from my fabulous friends. So we got up at some ungodly hour on Saturday, hit the Eurostar and spent 2 amazing days in a truly beautiful city.
We stayed in a hostel – yes I said hostel! This was my first hostel stay but one of my friends had been before and it was just like staying in a cheap hotel; as there were 6 of us we had a room and bathroom to ourselves so I now feel like a proper traveller but without the whole bathroom sharing thing! The hostel is called Oops and has great bus and Metro links; you can check out their website here.
As we were in Paris for just 2 days and 1 night, we literally flew around the city taking in as much as we could but without spending too long in any one spot. The things we spent longest doing were eating (obvs) and in an amazing book shop which deserves a post all of it’s own so watch out for that. I’ve decided I won’t bore you with any more details, I’m just going to post some of my favourite pics of this stunning city and let you decide what you think of Paris
Hello blog friends!
Oh boy has it been a long time since I wrote a blog post; in fact it’s nearly a month! Well, you’ll be pleased to know that heart-break Sam is gone – G.O.N.E. Done and dusted! In the past month I have been on holiday to Marrakech, resigned from my current job, put myself out there on the single scene and generally taken time to reboot and refresh so that now I am ready to move on up
Hectic is the word I would use to describe single life; I’d forgotten just how much I like to ram into each day given half a chance and without anybody more laid back to help me reign it in! I’ve been up to all sorts, including watching my new favourite musical: Rock of Ages and getting far to drunk in London and ending up calling my daddy to rescue me from Paddington station at 4.30am – this is the life!
Anyhow, a few weeks ago a couple of friends and I ventured over to Morocco, to a small town you may have heard of called Marrakech. What an experience! Our hotel, the Kenzi Club Agdal Medina absolutely knocked the socks off where we stayed in Kos last year and the rest of the trip was a learning curve. So, starting with the hotel, this was a totally bargacious all inclusive and it is fabulous. The staff are very attentive and the grounds of the hotel are incredibly well kept and very beautiful. Going slightly out of season as well meant that it wasn’t too busy and it was pretty child-free so we made a few friends while we were there too If you do ever end up visiting this hotel, be sure to go to the “discotheque” – it’s so empty it’s actually almost cool and you can properly boogie on down in there!
Other than the hotel, there is loads to see and do if you visit Morocco and we went completely unprepared so all we managed to do was a bit of quad biking through what was essentially desert land and a small bit of exploration of the city centre, including the souks. Things you can do include Sahara treks and visiting waterfalls, etc. Things we did do mainly include lying on sun loungers and drinking… what can you do when you’re in an awesome hotel with free drinks, hey!?!
We did venture out a few times though and one word of advice I would give is that you do not walk anywhere on the roads, especially ladies. We had a couple of instances with guys on mopeds which weren’t pleasant and we were lucky we were on guard so we were able to spot what was going to happen and keep ourselves safe.
However, when you are out, you simply must visit a spa and have the full hammam experience; there’s loads of them over there. We went to Les Bains de Marrakech on the recommendation of a friend and it was fab, even if the ladies that scrubbed us were insanely masculine and nearly skinned me alive! Then, once you’re done with relaxation, you’ll be ready to hit the souks.
The souks are scary and maze-like and you need to be on-guard the whole time for people trying to steal things from you. Crossing roads to get to them is also insane, you have to pretty much suck it up and take your life in your hands. However, you will find loads of beautiful things and it’s an experience you simply must have. You then have to go back at night when the square is transformed by street food traders. It’s crazy busy but the food is great and it somehow feels authentic even though it’s all clearly put on for us tourists. Here are some of my snaps:
I do of course have many more snaps, especially of drunken dancing in the discotheque but I figured you only need to see the pretty ones
For now, that’s me done – normal service has resumed though so watch this space for some reviews soon! x
As promised, here is the second part of my Budapest write-up and this one focuses on the food! If you haven’t seen Part 1, check it out here.
If you’re like me then you’ll probably have no idea what Hungarian food really is and therefore no idea what to expect. Well, we’ve left feeling almost the same! It was very hard to find restaurants serving traditional Hungarian cuisine in Budapest, there was a lot of influence from the countries that have featured in their history books. You can find Greek food, Turkish food and Serbian food on pretty much every menu in the city but Hungarian food is much harder to find.
On our walking tour, we were told that Hungarian food is extremely unhealthy and involves a lot of meat and deep frying. Dishes you should look out for include goulash, pancakes with cheese or meat in the middle and what they call cottage cheese but which is really a cheesecake like cheese full of syrup! What you may not be aware of is that they also make a lot of wines in Hungary and their wine is fantastic, I’ll recommend somewhere to try their wines in a bit
Ok, so things we tried whilst we were there…the pancakes with cheese in the middle. I had these on Margaret Island and they were like pancake parcels with a weird soggy centre. I’m not sure if they were a good example but they were very strange! Goulash…we had this at Castro Bistro (Trip Advisor link here). The restaurant itself seems bizarrely placed and feels a bit like you are sitting in the middle of a car park but the Goulash was good. I also had some strange chicken dish with beetroot patties…not so good!
The cottage cheese we were told, is best sampled in bar form covered in chocolate which you can buy in any shop. This is what it looks like:
Now these bars are rather tasty and they are a bit like a cheesecake, that kind of sweet yet tangy flavour yet get with some vanilla cheesecakes. Be sure to grab yourself one if you go!
Whilst we were there we also tried out some of the Turkish cuisine; by this I mean we had an epic kebab one night from a place called Ali Baba’s right by our hotel. We sat out on the street and ate our kebabs and they were delicious, served with loads of fresh salad and your choice of rice, potato or pasta salad. Finally, our other big meal came from a place called 400 upon the recommendation of our walking tour guides. We sat outside and the ambience was amazing, such a friendly, laid back place. We went for the Serbian meat platter to share, here it is:
The platter was pretty epic as you can see and came with a pile of chips, plus we had ordered some salad on the side. The various meats were pretty tasty but I had to wimp out and give half of my share to my bf as it was just too much for me! The golden rule with the restaurants is really to try and avoid any near the river. The Jewish Quarter is where you will get a more authentic experience and where you’ll find Hungarian people hanging out as well.
Drinks wise, we stumbled upon a couple of places by accident when it was raining one night. Firstly there was GM Klub which is clearly where some of the cool kids go; the DJ was a beardy dude on the decks, there were exposed pipes and a black and white film was being projected onto the wall. It seemed awesome until we waited so long to get a drink that we gave up and moved on:
The next place we stumbled upon was called Kadarka and is a fabulous wine bar. It’s very minimal, was pretty quiet and they sell the wines by the bottle to take away as well as to drink there. I went to the barman and asked for a sweet white wine and was presented with 4 samples to try so I could choose before committing to the glass. The wine was delicious and I’d highly recommend you pop in here.
Finally, I’d like to introduce you to Szimpla, a ruin bar which I’m told is awesome of a night time. Sadly, being old and having walked around all day, the bf’s leg had given up so we didn’t make it there for a night but we did pop in during the day; even if that’s all you can do, you have to go and check out the interior. There are several bars and the place extends outside and upstairs with so much to look at. My pictures do it no justice at all but here they are:
They have something on basically every night so head on down there if you’re young and fit!
So that was our food and drink experience. I’d say Budapest isn’t somewhere you go for the food but it is worth trying some of their more traditional dishes, just so you can leave assured that you had an authentic experience. There are plenty of lovely places to eat and drink so try as many as you can, it’s dead cheap out there and the wine is delicious! x
I am back! This week I have been in Budapest (pronounced Buddapesht btw!) and I have walked miles and miles in the sunshine looking at pretty things and generally having a bloomin’ good time I’d like to share some of my experience with you so this post will be a bit of a generic one about things we did and the next post (Part 2) will be about where we ate and what I’d recommend on the food and drink front. Here’s my travelling outfit:
First thing’s first… getting from the airport to your hotel can be a costly affair, don’t take a taxi from the airport unless you pre-booked it. It cost us more than double what it should have for that journey and as our walking guide told us, taxi drivers are not nice people, they will just try and con you! I’d agree with the con bit for sure!
The hotel we were heading to was the Corinthia Hotel Budapest which looks very expensive but really it was pretty bargainous for the deal we got and it’s somewhere I would definitely recommend. The staff are very friendly and the rooms are huge; check out Trip Advisor to see exactly how good it is
Once we’d settled in, we went in search of some food and utterly failed. We reached a crossroads and walked 3 out of 4 possible directions and didn’t find any nice restaurants… they were down the 4th road!!! However we did accidentally stumble upon the stunning train station and sat outside it with a picnic of cheese, meat, bread and a giant apple! Just check out how stunning the station is:
The following day, we decided to check out the city some more so we enrolled ourselves on a free walking tour…not sure what possessed us to do that in the boiling heat but it was well worth it! They have a FB page which is here if you want to find out some more. Between the walking tour and our Legenda cruise down the Danube, we saw a lot of the city, including Margaret Island which sits between Buda and Pest. There is loads to do and we barely scratched the surface but here are some highlights:
Sadly I was very good at putting my camera away just before the best shots came up but I think the above gives you a tiny inkling of how beautiful the city is.
I’d say definitely get on the free walking tour, they run them twice a day and they give you a really good introduction to the city and some of its history. A trip down the Danube on one of the river cruises is also very worthwhile, though if you stop off at Margaret Island for an hour as we did, you’ll find that you barely have time to get your bearings before you need to be back on the boat! The Szechenyi Baths are also very popular if you have the time to visit, though this isn’t something I would rush to do. What I would choose over the baths is the Terror Museum, TerrorHaza. Luckily for us, this museum was actually pretty near our hotel and it’s a haunting but insightful look at what happened to the Hungarian population under Nazi and Communist regimes. There are a lot of video accounts from real survivors which are very uncomfortable but make the experience feel very genuine.
Finally for this post, just a quick one…Andrassy Utca is the path to all things beautiful and fun. If we’d known that on day 1, that would really have helped! There are designer shops, stunning architecture and lots of fab places to eat down there, but more on the food in the next post x
A couple of months ago the bf and I took a trip to London Zoo and whilst we were there we happened to bump into a couple of donkeys. That got me thinking about how totally awesome donkeys are and how totally not awesome it was that I still hadn’t visited the donkey sanctuary down in Devon. So we booked ourselves a little trip-ette down to the coast to visit some Eeyores. Said trip was last weekend as we had the super long bank holidays and I thought I’d share a little with you.
The first new experience for me was staying in a B&B and boy did we pick a good one. We stayed at the Tyrone B&B in Sidmouth and it was fantastic. Our room was huge, as was our en suite shower room; we had free tea, coffee, biccies, hot chocolate & toiletries in the room. The breakfast menu was phenomenal; fruit, yoghurt, cereal, full English (& any combination of), toast, etc. and the owners were lovely too. We even had a little map of the town and some leaflets on local attractions in our room. Embarrassingly, we left our room in a right state on day 1 thinking nobody would go in and when we returned it had been tidied, the bathroom cleaned, our tea stash restocked and our towels changed. You wouldn’t get a hotel of this standard for £33 pppn. (We had bedroom 1 if you are booking.)
Ok, enough bedroom talk, let’s move on. Whilst we were there we visited The Donkey Sanctuary which was brilliant, we had a guided tour which taught us loads, including the fact that donkeys shouldn’t eat grass – take note if you have one! Here are some of my many donkey pics:
I hope you did the polite thing and ignored my hair / face in that last picture. Windswept is so not my look!
Other than visiting the donkeys, we also visited Bicton Botanical Gardens, Lyme Regis and lots of yummy food outlets. Food highlights for me include some ginormous scones with cream and jam and a scrummy fish based dinner at Neil’s Restaurant in Sidmouth. Neil’s gets busy so book your table as it’s only small but the food was fab, I’d highly recommend it.
Here are some more pics of our break:
So that was my bank holiday getaway. A change really was as good as a rest; yes it was windy, yes we had to hide in a pub for a while on the first night because it was raining so hard but yes, we had a great time and holidaying in the UK can be really fun! My advice to you is to give it a try, the coastal parts of the UK are totally different in their atmosphere to the cities so it’s all the fun of the break with none of the stress x
Back at the end of January I updated on my progress against my objectives / resolutions for the year and had assumed I would be doing that every month. However, here I am at the end of April, a third of the year through and this is only the second time I am checking in. I’m ashamed to say I had totally forgotten about some of my objectives as I was focussing on others far too much. Here comes my update for where I am now; I’m glad I’ve done it and it’s reminded me to drive forward with some of my other objectives which aren’t so reliant on money to achieve!
- Weight 9st7 (or less) by March – somehow have managed to reach 10st…oops!
- Once again I am still at 10st. I did briefly drop to 9st 9 or so but I was really unhappy and put it all back on. With the threat of summer looming, I am now pushing forward with this one. In all honesty, I’ve done well to keep at 10st given how much I have been eating!
- Weigh no more than 9st at the end of the year
- As above
- End the year with £3,500 credit card debt or less (fair chunk to pay off to reach that!)
- My strategy on this has changed following my car disaster. I ended up selling the car for far less than I paid for it so the only thing I could do was to use the money to pay off a chunk of my credit card. On this basis, I have achieved this objective but on the other hand, my total debt is still higher than I would like. I do however have to say that the £750 car I drive now is awesome for it’s price; get yourself a Ford Puma if you’re on a budget – they rock! Luckily I bought mine off a friend so I knew it had been really well maintained for the last few years.
- Read 10 new books
- So far I have read 2, neither of them particularly intellectual but they were fun. With holidays in the summer, etc. I expect this to go up quite considerably.
- Star in at least 1 theatre show
- I didn’t go to the auditions I mentioned in the January post. I have however very recently landed a part in a play called Relatively Speaking which will be on in June It’s a new theatre for me as well so it should be a great experience
- See 12 theatre shows
- This one is super fun. Have so far seen an amateur show at my local theatre (Neverwhere, was awesome) and went to see Cirque Du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall which was spectacular! (January update)
- I have booked to go and see The Wizard of Oz in London on 9th May so I am still on track with this one and will get the bf involved in a bit more theatre soon. (April update)
- Spend 3 weekends away with the bf
- Finally we have 1 booked in. We are heading to Devon for the bank holiday in June and will be visiting the donkey sanctuary while we are down there. It took a little bit of persuasion to get this in the diary but it’s been done and hopefully we will get the others booked in too.
- Eat in 6 new restaurants
- I had totally forgotten about this one but luckily I have started on this path. So far I have eaten at a Yo! Sushi for the first time (first time in a sushi restaurant) and at The Greyhound in Berkshire with my daddy which was super yummy. With holidays, etc. this one should definitely happen.
- Leave the country 3 times
- Trip to Budapest booked for July, super luxury as well (January update)
- Holiday to Marrakech booked in with the girls for October; we had a minor setback with booking but it’s done and I’m excited! (April update)
- Exercise for at least 1.5 hours per week (up from 0 hours)
- I am not yet there with this; I was for a few weeks but then have been so busy I haven’t managed it. I am taking a pole class on Mondays for an hour and I had been combining it with a 45min aqua class on Wednesdays but that one has dropped off recently. I’m hoping to start that up again this week…
- Make my eBay store self sufficient by June (i.e. have enough profit to buy next lot of stock)
- CLOSED – so many people had the same stock it was just too hard to make a good profit so I figured it was best just to have that time back and take on some other work instead (which I have done).
- Have a trip to NY booked in (actually have at least deposit paid)
- This one’s for later in the year
- Make and try 3 home made beauty products
- Nada! Have however inherited a heap of non home made products from a friend who is emigrating. The pile of products I have in reserve is MASSIVE. I will use them all though…eventually! (January update)
- I plan to get on this next week when I have some time off. Have bought some tea tree oil to add to a scrub I have seen on someone’s blog so I’ll be reviewing that soon
All in all I am doing ok but I had definitely forgotten some of what I was meant to be focussed on. I’m pleased I have some big plans in place but I need to start doing the basic things like reading more, etc. I set these objectives with the aim of keeping a balance and that’s exactly what I need to do; stop just thinking about big things and get into the smaller stuff as well. I also think it’s interesting how many things have already changed from my original plan; a reminder that flexibility can be the key to happiness sometimes!
Is anyone else out there still working on their new year’s resolutions or has everybody given up by now!?! x