Tag Archives: travel

T&T 25 | Lindsey Tramuta and The New Paris

Tea and Tattle Podcast Interview | Lindsey Tramuta and The New Paris

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, the lovely Lindsey Tramuta joins me on the podcast for a chat about her book, The New Paris, which was published just last week. Lindsey moved from Philadelphia to Paris a decade ago, and in today’s episode she shares with me the challenges she faced when first living in France, as well as how she came to set up her fabulous blog, Lost in Cheeseland, and start her career in journalism.

I’ve been a fan of Lindsey’s blog, where she shares beautiful photos of Paris and writes thoughtfully about the city’s culture, for a number of years. I was delighted when Lindsey announced she was writing a book, and now I’ve received my copy of The New Paris, I’m so enjoying reading every page of this beautiful celebration of one of my favourite cities.

In The New Paris, Lindsey writes about the changes she has observed in Paris over the past decade that are transforming the city’s creative, food and beverage industries. Lindsey reflects more about these changes on the podcast, as well as the rising ‘creative class’ of Parisians turning passion projects into careers.

We also chat about Lindsey’s research process, her book recommendations for people wanting to know more about the city, and the neighbourhoods Lindsey is particularly enjoying exploring at the moment. Lindsey also reads aloud an excerpt from her book, all about patisserie, which had me craving Pierre Hermé macarons instantly (thank goodness there’s a branch in London!).

Listen for a fascinating insight into the changes Paris has experienced in the creative and food industries over the past decade. 

What did you enjoy most about this episode? Are you a fan of Lindsey’s blog, and have you picked up a copy of The New Paris yet?

P.S. Sign up to receive weekly instalments of Tea & Tattle podcast.

Mark Hearld’s The Lumber Room, York Art Gallery

I mentioned in yesterday’s post how much I loved The Lumber Room exhibition at York Art Gallery. The exhibition is curated by one of my favourite artists, Mark Hearld, who lives in York with another favourite artist of mine, Emily Sutton. The Lumber Room was inspired by a short story Mark read by Saki when he was a teenager (you can read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do so; it’s a quick, but delightful, read).

“Since I heard Saki’s story I have always been intrigued by the idea of a locked room that contained treasures so wonderful they are beyond what your mind can imagine. In this exhibition I wanted to create the sense of excitement and wonder that you get when you discover the key to the room and see the “forbidden” objects for the first time.”  – Mark Hearld

Stepping into Mark Hearld’s exhibition is indeed like finding a wondrous room stuffed to the brim with intriguing and whimsical objects. The Lumber Room is filled with a wide range of artefacts: toys, ceramics, paintings, clothes and so much more, which perfectly capture the spirit of adventure and curiosity that permeate childhood. Everywhere you look something curious or beautiful catches your eye, encouraging you to stop and linger over every display. I took a childlike like pleasure in the vintage ice-cream stand, the old gloves and uniform jackets that made me want to play dress-up, and the wonderful lineup of rocking horses that were hard to resist stroking.

Mark apparently spent two years researching the objects and artwork included in the exhibition, and I thought his curation impeccable, offering a superb mix of the beautiful and the bizarre. This would be a fantastic exhibition for parents or teachers to take children, as it would be a brilliant stimulus for art and writing projects.

I’m a huge fan of Mark’s artwork, so I particularly enjoyed getting to see so many of his original paintings and ceramics as part of the exhibition, as well as many of the objects, colours, and styles that inspire his work. I’ve been to one of his and Emily’s studio tours in the past, which was also treasure trove of ceramics and paintings, and I remembered seeing some of his ceramic horses then too. Aren’t they exquisite?

After spending quite a bit of time in The Lumber Room, we made our way round the rest of York Art Gallery. I was so impressed by the large, comfy sofas and big desks throughout its rooms that visitors are allowed to use (the gallery does a great job at being interactive, which makes it an enjoyable place for children too).

As one entrance ticket allows you access to all exhibitions for the day, we also saw the current Albert Moore exhibition (on until October 2017). I thought it worth the cost of entrance fee just to see the glorious Midsummer painting. The incredible orange and green used in the picture can only be truly appreciated when seen in person, where the painting glows like a jewel amongst all the other works.

Midsummer, Albert Moore. Image via here.

It’s definitely worth taking time to explore York Art Gallery properly. There is a viewing balcony, from which you can look out over the gardens and surrounding buildings. We didn’t have time to pop into the cafe, but it’s run by the same people behind No.8 Bistro, where we enjoyed a fabulous brunch, so I’m sure it would be very good should you fancy a bite to eat or cup of tea.

The Lumber exhibition runs until 7th May, 2017; the Albert Moore exhibition is open until 1st October, 2017. At the time of writing, a standard adult entrance ticket to the Gallery is £6.81, and children under 16 go free with a paying adult. York Art Gallery is open everyday from 10am-5pm.

Are you a fan of Mark Hearld’s artwork too? Have you ever been to York Art Gallery?

P.S. – Look out for my York Travel Guide (Part 2), publishing in the next few days. You can read Part 1 here

UK Travel | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)Travel Style: I’m wearing  trousers (TOAST); jumper (TOAST c/o); striped t-shirt (Laura Ashley c/o – similar here); scarf (TOAST c/o); shoes (TOAST)

I’m increasingly interested in exploring more of the UK, and in particular identifying great destinations that are within easy distance from London. A few weekends ago, Mum and I travelled to York to celebrate my Mum’s best friend’s 60th birthday. Although the celebrations took place in a hotel in a peaceful little village a half hour drive from York, we still managed to spend some time wandering the city on both Saturday and Sunday. The last time I visited York was a few years ago, so it was a real pleasure to be back exploring the beautiful, ancient city.

Our journey from London to York was under 2 hours, so it’s perfectly possible to visit York as a day-trip (or weekend stay) from London. We’d booked an early train from King’s Cross, so we pulled into York station at about 8.30am, feeling a little peckish and on the hunt for a good breakfast spot.

Exploring The Shambles

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I’d had a suggestion on Instagram that The Flax & Twine cafe would be a good choice for breakfast and a lovely view across The Shambles, an historic (and very picturesque) street in the centre of York that is home to various shops and cafes.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

Alas, I realised my Londoner’s mindset had entirely overlooked the fact that not everywhere would be open before 9am on a Saturday. The Flax & Twine, and all the other little teashops nearby, were closed until 10am. Still, we took the opportunity to explore the surrounding streets before the masses of tourists arrived (it’s definitely worth arriving early if you’d like some relatively people-free shots of this popular part of the city). Every little alleyway seems to lead somewhere interesting in York, whether to a beautiful timbered building, or an inviting bakery, and there’s also a market at The Shambles (open from 7am everyday) which is fun to explore. I thought of a friend back in London and picked up some Yorkshire fudge for him to enjoy.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

After our walk, my growling stomach was getting harder to ignore, and a little research on my phone told me that No. 8 Bistro was a short walk away and served a highly acclaimed brunch menu.

A Wonderful Breakfast

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I’ll have to go back to Flax and Twine next time I’m in York, but I’m very glad that on this visit I discovered No. 8 Bistro, as it was the ideal spot to enjoy a tasty brunch on a sunny spring day. The Bistro has a very pretty garden, which is overlooked by the City of York Walls, and was a haven of sunshine, peace and good food. We had the garden almost entirely to ourselves (it seems the city doesn’t really wake up until about 11am on the weekend), and it was a lovely place to relax over a cup of tea before tucking into our Full English breakfasts.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

We had the full works: eggs, sausage, bacon, fried tomato and mushroom, hash-browns and black pudding, with toast alongside and copious amounts of tea. It was absolutely delicious, and I’d be happy for a visit to York to always start out with breakfast at No.8 first.

York Art Gallery

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I was very keen to get to York Art Gallery to see The Lumber Room exhibition (ends 7th May 2017) curated by one of my favourite York-based illustrators, Mark Hearld. I’d been on a tour of Mark and Emily’s home and studio when I was last in York, so I was very pleased that this time I was able to catch his exhibition. It was marvellous, so much so that I want to dedicate an entire post to my time at the York Art Gallery alone, so look out for that very soon!

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

After seeing the Gallery’s main exhibitions, we had a little wander around the pretty courtyard next to it, before heading back to the train station (only a 10 minute walk away) to catch a bus to Boroughbridge and celebrate with the birthday girl for the rest of the day.

Some Practical Tips

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

// Pack sensibly. It’s colder up North! I didn’t bring a coat with me, but I was very glad to have layered  a t-shirt, jumper and chunky scarf (I was lucky to be sent the latter items from TOAST, who noticed my love of their clothes from this post). Even though the sun was shining brightly, it was definitely chilly in the shadows.

// If you have extra bags with you, leave them at York Train Station so you don’t have to lug them around with you all day. It cost £7 per bag for the day (but prices may change or vary).

// Check opening times in advance! I’ve been caught out a few times now by having too much of a London mentality. The rest of the UK generally has much shorter opening hours and shops are often closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan ahead.

// If you don’t have a car, it can feel daunting to get out into the countryside. I was impressed by the bus system from York though, which is a tiny fraction of the cost of a taxi, and there are buses to pretty villages in the surrounding countryside, as well as to places of interest like the awe-inspiring Castle Howard. Be warned again though: for the most part, buses run on Saturdays, but often not Sundays! Check York bus times online, or pick up a timetable from the tourist information centre at York Train Station.

Stay tuned for my upcoming York posts, covering the fantastic York Art Gallery and how we spent Sunday in the city.

Have you been to York? What did you enjoy about your visit? Like me, are you keen to explore more of the UK?

P.S. For further inspiration about easy day trips from London, see my posts about Rye (here and here), Hastings, Bath, East Sussex (here and here) and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens.

P.P.S. Read about my Yorkshire adventures from a previous trip here.

A Perfect Getaway: The Gallivant, Rye

The Gallivant Hotel, Rye

arriving in Rye – Mapp & Lucia – we explore the town – lunch in front of a roaring fire – arriving at The Gallivant – we’re greeted in style – a walk on the beach – I feel thoroughly pampered – hotel dining – a breakfast table of my dreams – touring the hotel – steak & chips

If you fancy a mini-break from London, then look no further than a couple days spent at The Gallivant in Rye, which offers a wonderful mix of beautiful rooms, delicious food, pampering treatments, coastal walks and an incredibly picturesque town to explore….

Tickets to Rye

Rye, East Sussex

Last week, I packed a small bag and met a friend at St Pancras Station to travel down to East Sussex together, ready for a short break from London and to enjoy the delights of Rye and our hotel, The Gallivant.

I’ve been to Rye before and instantly fell head over heels for this charming coastal town, with its twisting, cobbled streets lined with beautiful ancient buildings (many of which date from the 15th Century), tea-shops galore and stunningly beautiful beach.

Although he had spent several of his childhood summers in Sussex, my friend had never been to Rye before, so I was keen to introduce him to some of the town’s highlights, as well as some of its many literary connections. The train ride from London to Rye is an easy journey of roughly 1 hr and 20 minutes, so we felt we’d barely finished our cups of tea before we were pulling into the pretty station. Happily for us, the sun was shining, and as we’d aimed to arrive in Rye for about 11am, we had a little bit of time to explore and eat a light lunch before calling a taxi to take us to The Gallivant in Camber (a 10 minute drive from Rye).

Mapp & Lucia

Rye, East SussexRye, East Sussex Rye, East Sussex Rye, East Sussex

A 1-2 hour walk is plenty of time to see Rye’s main attractions, and even my appalling sense of direction can handle its small town centre, so I led my friend up the path from the station to St Mary’s Church, filling him in on details of E. F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which are famously set in Tilling, a fictionalised Rye, along the way.

If you’ve never read a Mapp & Lucia novel, then I suggest tracking down the first in the series right away! These are wonderfully humorous stories set in the 1930s and describe the power struggle between Lucia Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp as they each battle to be crowned the societal queen of Tilling. If you’re a fan of P.G. Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford, then you’re likely to enjoy E.F.Benson’s books. They’re the perfect novels to bring with you for some light reading whilst in Rye, as Benson describes the town so lovingly in his books, and it’s fun to track down many of the sites mentioned in the stories in real life.

Rye, East Sussex

Lamb House, visible from the path leading down from St Mary’s Church, is the setting for Lucia’s home in the books, and was E.F. Benson’s former residence, as well as being the home of other notable writers, such as Henry James and Rumer Godden. Unfortunately, the house isn’t open to the public in March (you can see my pictures of it and the garden from when I visited last year), but we still enjoyed walking past, before rounding the corner into Mermaid Street. This street is surely one of the prettiest in Britain, with its beautiful, ivy-clad houses flanking either side of the cobbles, and the sign of the historic Mermaid Inn swinging gently overhead.

Mermaid Street RyeMermaid Street Rye

Simon The Pieman

Simon the Pieman RyeSimon the Pieman Rye

After taking far too many photos, we carried on our stroll, stopping by Rye Pottery and the Rye Bookshop (where I bought my friend a copy of Mapp & Lucia!), before deciding on lunch at Simon the Pieman (it was hard to resist the name!). The interior of this charming little cafe was made especially welcome by a roaring fire and a delectable display of homemade cakes in the window. We made our way through cottage pie (him) and goat cheese and onion tart (me), with plenty of cups of tea alongside, before calling a cab to The Gallivant.

Welcome Drinks at The Gallivant

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

I’d spent far too long lingering over the details of The Gallivant’s website the night before our departure, so I knew we had plenty of treats in store for our stay, and the Gallivant staff did not disappoint! On arriving, we were welcomed warmly at Reception and offered to be taken to our room straight away, or asked if we’d like to enjoy a welcome drink in the lounge first. We opted for our welcome drinks of Sloe Gin Spritzers, sinking into the comfy armchairs and sofas in the hotel bar area.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

The Gallivant is described as a ‘restaurant with rooms,’ so it’s not surprising that you’re never far from a good drink or tasty bite to eat at this fantastic hotel. The restaurant and bar area is spacious and inviting, with plenty of cosy features such as lit candles and sheepskin throws. It was the perfect spot to linger over our cocktails, feeling the stresses and tensions of everyday life in London melt away, and smiling at other guests’ dogs (the hotel is dog-friendly) napping in sunny corners of the room.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

The hotel’s atmosphere reminded me of my teenage years growing up on Long Island; it has that mix of elegance and beachside-casual that is very ‘Hamptons.’ Apart from the fact that I didn’t have any Herve Leger bandage dresses to hand (or a scary female nemesis); I could easily start fantasising that I’d walked onto the latest set of Revenge.

Luxury Garden Room

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

After finishing our drinks, we were shown to our room – one of the hotel’s Luxury Garden Rooms, which are the most spacious offered. It was just as pretty as I’d envisaged, and the bottle of Chapel Down English fizz cooling on ice for us was an extremely lovely surprise! Before we opened it to toast to our break away, though, I had to have a thorough explore of our beautiful room. I thrilled at all the thoughtful details: good books on the shelves, soothing colours, a beach bag filled with blue and white striped towels (as well as a jar of chutney and chocolate truffles – yum!) and our own personal little larder and fridge, stuffed with treats.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

I delighted in throwing open the french windows opening out onto our little patio and garden and breathing in the fresh sea air; in warmer weather we would definitely have enjoyed our fizz sitting outside, but as there was still a nip to the air we instead popped the cork and enjoyed a glass in the room. I love Chapel Down wines, and we both agreed that their sparkling wine is excellent.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

Feeling thoroughly in a holiday mood, we decided to enjoy the rest of the wine later and head out for a walk along the beach, before returning to the hotel in time for the slices of cake and cups of tea served to hotel guests each afternoon (I truly surpassed myself in the amount of food and drink I managed to squeeze into this stay!).

The Sea!

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

The Gallivant is situated across the road from the dunes, so after a two minute clamber over the path leading to the sea we topped the dunes and saw the beautiful view of the glimmering sea awaiting us.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

A huge advantage to travelling off-season is how much quieter everywhere is: we had the beach virtually to ourselves. I scampered about collecting seashells, stuffing a few of the prettiest into the pockets of my coat and trying to remember the last time I’d been for a proper walk along the beach (far too long ago, I decided!).

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

Tea Time then Spa Time

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

After our refreshing walk, we happily turned our minds to tea and cake and made our way back to the hotel, where a huge, steaming kettle greeted us, as well as a tray piled with slices of (extremely good) lemon drizzle cake.

‘This is the life,’ I sighed, leaning back into my chair and smiling at my friend. Usually, the time we spend together in London is much more hurried: snatching moments in-between gym and work, or a drink after what has already been a long day. It felt truly luxurious, in contrast, to have nowhere else to be; to have nothing else to do but to enjoy ourselves and relax, letting our conversation meander and loop back, discussing everything and nothing, knowing there was no imminent curtail to our chat; no rushing off to our other lives or return to reality just yet.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

After a lazy hour or so spent talking over our tea, I left my friend to read a book back in our room and headed for my full-body massage appointment at the hotel’s spa. All of the Gallivant’s beauty treatments are held in their cosy beach hut in the coastal garden. Strung with low-lit lights, it’s a peaceful oasis to enjoy a restorative treatment.

My full-body massage was given by Billie, who was brilliant, and it felt the ultimate relaxing treatment. I loved the WiDEYE products she used too, which she told me are blended in the UK using natural ingredients. I liked that this detail showed how The Gallivant’s focus on sourcing British (mainly local) ingredients extends throughout all experiences in the hotel.

Dinner Time

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

After my massage, I just had time to reapply my makeup and freshen up a bit in our room, before we headed into the restaurant for our 7.30pm dinner reservation. Amazingly, we were both hungry again – it must have been the sea air!

The Gallivant truly prides itself on its award-winning restaurant, which must be greatly appreciated by Rye locals as well as visitors, as in general I feel Rye is a little lacking in good restaurants. The Gallivant’s philosophy to food is simple, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible. The restaurant boasts that most of their meat and fish come from farmers and fishermen they know by name and are within 10 miles of the restaurant. More information about the provenance of the food and wine we were enjoying was given on a little scroll of paper waiting on our table, which I thought was a fun touch.

I was especially keen to try the local fish, so after polishing off an amuse bouche of delicious cheesy biscuits and spread, I tucked into pickled herring followed by the catch of the day, which was cod.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

My friend was clearly in a more meaty mood, as he went for pork terrine followed by the pork chop!

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

The food was beautifully presented and delicious. My pickled herring was a real highlight, as it was so delicate and fresh, but the cod was wonderful too, and my friend pronounced his choices as excellent as well. The portions are relatively small, so if you’re very hungry, then I’d recommend ordering some sides, but it’s not necessary to do so and we didn’t need any supplements to our main dish.

We washed everything down with a bottle of the house white wine, which was extremely palatable. If you’re more of a wine connoisseur than we are, though, then be assured the restaurant offers a truly excellent list, with opportunities to try some of the best English wines, as well as ones from further afield.

For dessert, I went for panna cotta with rhubarb sorbet (yum), and my friend indulged his liking for ice-cream and went for the rum & raisin (with a real shot of rum to pour on top!).

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

My panna cotta was wonderfully smooth and creamy, and the sorbet was perfection – not too sharp, but providing a pleasing tartness in contrast to the panna cotta. I almost missed the detail that my prettily pink sorbet was shaped to resemble a fish, which my friend pointed out to me, and I tried to capture the lovely presentation in a photograph.

Feeling thoroughly satisfied, we both agreed the meal was a wonderful end to a fabulous day.

We Eat Again

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

We were up early the following morning, as my friend had to catch one of the first trains back to London, although I decided to stay on and enjoy the extended check-out time the hotel had offered. I joined my friend for breakfast, though, after we’d had an early cup of tea in the room (which was stocked with an espresso machine, kettle, fresh milk and tea and coffee supplies).

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

We were both very impressed by the breakfast table laid out in the restaurant: it was laden with freshly baked banana bread, cinnamon rolls, madeleines and granola bars, as well as jars of yogurt and berries, stewed fruit, yogurt panna cottas, cereal, and more. There was also hot food to order, and my friend (who informed me breakfast was always his favourite meal of the day) looked very excited at the prospect of a Full English and the chance to try some of the hotel’s homemade bacon.

I ordered my favourite breakfast of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and toast and only wished that I had two more stomachs (or that we were in Hobbit land, where second breakfast is a thing), so I could do full justice to the feast before us. As it was, I contented myself with a bit of fruit and yoghurt before the hot dishes arrived.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

Our food was absolutely delicious, which we’d come to expect, and we had time for one more cup of tea before my friend jumped into his taxi to the station.

I went back to the bedroom, made myself some more tea (I really am addicted) poured a long, hot bath (with plenty of bubbles) in the room’s enormous bathtub and pressed play on my classical music playlist. The wind was whipping the trees outside, and a steady rain was falling, so I decided to put aside my plan of having another walk on the beach and instead luxuriated in a leisurely soak before wrapping up in one of the hotel’s fluffy bathrobes and writing a blog post. Then I got dressed again and headed to Reception for my tour of the hotel.

A Hotel Tour

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

I’m always curious about the other rooms in a hotel, and The Gallivant was kind enough to offer me a tour of some of their other rooms. I thought you might be interested to see them too, as it gives a good idea of the style of rooms offered under each rate.

The standard Garden Room is one of their lowest rate rooms, and – although not large – is very pleasant:

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

The Snug Cabin is one of a kind, and I think it would be especially charming for a romantic escape in the colder months, when the wooden panelling and darker tones would provide a cosy setting for staying warm and snug.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye The Gallivant Hotel Rye

None of the Deck Rooms were available to see, but it’s worth remembering these rooms allow dogs. Next up, I peered into a Baby Hampton room, the next biggest down from the Luxury Garden. I thought the window seat looked particularly inviting!

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

As you can see, all of the rooms are comfortable and attractive, but I must admit, I’ve definitely got a particular fondness for the Luxury Garden rooms, which really are something special!

Steak & Chips

After checking out, I decided to kill some time before catching my train and had lunch in the hotel (truth be told, I think I wasn’t quite ready to leave such a cosy haven!). Deciding I’d try some of the local meat this time, I ordered steak and chips with a side of red cabbage and a glass of the house red wine. The steak was melt-in-your-mouth good, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such delicious chips! Honestly, if you love a good steak then definitely order it if you’re ever at The Gallivant.

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

After polishing off (nearly) every bite, I looked up to see my taxi pulling into the hotel driveway. I bid a regretful farewell (resolving to go back again soon!) and made my way back to hustle and bustle of London.

Top-Tips for Your Rye Holiday

The Gallivant Hotel Rye

Organise: the Gallivant staff are wonderfully helpful, and it’s worth emailing them prior to your stay to request taxi numbers, check if any extended check in or out times are available, book any treatments and make a restaurant reservation. Also, if you are forced to leave quite early (or arrive late), then make sure you organise your taxi to or from Rye Station well in advance, as we realised the cab companies outside of London operate much more 9-5 hours! The team at The Gallivant really came to our rescue for my friend’s early departure, with one of the managers offering to drive him to the station herself if necessary. Fortunately, we were able to secure a cab, but it was a lesson to be more aware of ‘country hours’ in the future!

Off-Season: it’s such a joy to travel in the off-season, as not only are areas much less touristy, but there are also some great deals to be had! Check out The Gallivant website to view their latest offers and rates.

Pack: think coastal chic for your trip and pack Breton tops, cotton trousers, Keds or espadrilles (you might want a pair of wellies for your beach walk in the colder, wetter months), a trench coat and a light cashmere scarf for added warmth and style. Don’t forget to bring a good book too, to sit and read outside, or to enjoy as you munch that afternoon tea and cake….

If you’re in the mood for a weekend (or mid-week!) getaway, then I honestly can’t recommend a trip to The Gallivant enough. Our stay was utter bliss, and I already want to go back!

Have you ever been to Rye before? Do you fancy a stay at The Gallivant?

*Note: I was invited, with a guest, to stay at The Gallivant for the purpose of this review, but all opinions expressed are my own and those of my friend’s, and I would not be recommending this hotel to you if we had not had a truly spectacular time!

Weekend Journals | Cornwall

This interview is in celebration of ‘romance,’ February’s blog theme of the month, as well as the Miranda’s Notebook Book Club choice, Jamaica Inn, which is set in Cornwall. 

Cornwall is definitely a county steeped in romance, conjuring as it does haunting and dramatic love stories, such as Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and the Poldark series. The vivid, beautiful scenery lends itself well to tales of love and adventure, and has long been an inspiration for artists as well, including some of my favourites: Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Nicholson.

Known for its beautiful scenery, cultural richness and innovative food scene, Cornwall still manages to keep its secrets well, with many of its most inviting spots remaining largely undiscovered. Luckily for us, however, the fabulous team behind Weekend Journals dedicated the first in their series of gorgeous guidebooks to disclosing many of Cornwall’s hidden gems.

Weekend Journals was founded by the lovely Camille (Milly) Kenny-Ryder, alongside her husband, Simon, and brother Gabriel (who’s responsible for the beautiful photography). Milly is an instagram / blogger friend of mine whom I met on my trip to Paris last summer, and her blog and instagram account clearly showcase her exquisite taste in all things food and travel related. I love her beautiful Cornwall guide, and I was delighted when she agreed to sit down with me and share about her process in creating Weekend Journals, as well as some of her top Cornwall recommendations. Be warned, though: as soon as you read this, you’ll want to book a holiday to Penzance immediately (I know I do!).

Weekend Journals CornwallCamille Kenny-Ryder, co-founder of Weekend Journals

MN: How did your interest and love for Cornwall begin?

CKR: I come from a very big family (I’m the eldest of 4 kids) so we never had very much money to go far away on holidays. My parents are both artists, so they loved going to Cornwall because of the art scene and beautiful pottery there. We’d all get bundled up in the car and drive for hours and hours to the deepest, darkest depths of Cornwall, right at the bottom near Penzance. I used to go a lot as a child on B&B holidays there, and then when I got married to Simon, his family are from Cornwall so we would go together a lot. I found out that it was quite likely Simon and I played on the same beach as children, which is hilarious!

Writing the book came about because I was getting asked to write about a lot of new things in Cornwall on my blog, and I felt like there were all these things happening there, like new hotels and restaurants, and there wasn’t anything very modern or design-led in the guidebooks section for Cornwall. I thought that was a shame, as it’s such a popular place for people to travel to for the weekend. I saw there was a gap in the market, and I thought I’d shed some light on it!

MN: What was the self-publishing process like?

CKR: Really hard! If I knew now how much work it would be and how many new things I’d have to learn, I maybe wouldn’t have embarked on it. I have to say it is very rewarding, though, and – not having a publisher – we got to have all the creative control. We didn’t have anyone to answer to and could make all the decisions. That also means you can make all the mistakes, but you come out of the process knowing, not only how to write a book, but also how to design a book. Even knowing how to buy a barcode – things like that, that you never would have thought about before. It was a massive hurdle – there were so many things to overcome – but it was really rewarding when we did it.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

CKR: I feel Simon dealt with a lot of the biggest challenges! I think having to multitask so much was a huge challenge. The actual writing of the book seemed only about 2% of the work involved, like finding out about distribution, designing the book and so on. Simon taught himself how to use InDesign and created the whole layout of the book, as well as designing our website.

MN: What made you want to create a physical book, rather than an online product?

CKR: I’m a very tactile person; I’ve always loved physical objects, and I love books. As a child I was always making books and diaries out of pieces of paper. I like having an object, rather than something just on my phone, and I felt that I wanted to put my words and my pictures in something that wasn’t just on the internet.

I’ve had the idea to do a guidebook for years, but I wanted to do it about somewhere that is still a little undiscovered. Although everyone knows about Cornwall, I soon realised speaking to the locals there, that, for the most part, places that tourists were going were completely different from the places that locals went. There’s a place called Potager Garden that the owner of a coffee shop we went to told me about, for instance. At first he was quite cagey, and didn’t want to tell us about it, as he said he didn’t want everyone going there, but when he found out Simon’s family are from Cornwall, he warmed up!

So that was the idea: I wanted to put all of these special places I’d found in a physical book, that someone going down to Cornwall for a wedding or something could take with them, and could spend the next day exploring a few places that were still undiscovered.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: Do you have a particular area of Cornwall that you love?

CKR: There are a few areas that I really love for different reasons. I like Penzance because I feel it’s having a moment right now. It’s near to St Ives, which everyone adores! St Ives is like the pretty older sister, but Penzance has also got so much history and so much to offer. Over the past 5 years, chefs have started to see it as a real foodie destination as well, and there are a lot of interesting restaurants in Penzance. The Jubilee Pool has just reopened too, which is this amazing outdoor lido that’s totally stunning and has been around since the 1930s. There are lots of nice little art galleries too.

MN: If you could pick one – and there are so many lovely ones in the book! – which would be your favourite Cornish restaurant?

CKR: It’s so hard to pick, especially as I love eating so much! Everyone knows about Rick Stein and all the big Cornwall chefs, but one place I loved discovering for the book was a place called The Shore, which is actually in Penzance. The whole restaurant is run by only one guy, who’s worked in Michelin star restaurants for the last 10 years, and he uses all the fresh, local produce, and the food is amazing; definitely edging towards a Michelin star. The food is really affordable, though, and does a fantastic job showcasing Cornish ingredients.

I also really love Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, which is the 1 star restaurant run by Nathan Outlaw [there’s a fantastic interview with Nathan Outlaw at the back of Milly’s guide  – M]. It’s absolutely adorable, tucked away in this old, historic house, and it’s quite small so there are very few seats. Eating there is great chance to taste Outlaw’s expertise in cooking fish, but at much more affordable prices and it’s much more low-key and casual than his 2 star restaurant, which is nearby. I always recommend people go there.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What are the cultural aspects of Cornwall that you appreciate the most?

CKR: I think there is a lot of amazing art in Cornwall, but what I’ve discovered more recently are some of the incredible gardens. We went to the Isles of Scilly, a collection of islands just off Cornwall, which are just magical. There’s an amazing garden there that has tropical plants from all over the world, and it feels so exotic – you could be anywhere in the world! There’s also a sculpture garden quite near to Penzance that is beautiful as well.

I also enjoy spotting literary references – like going to see the lighthouse from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and seeing why Cornwall has inspired so many brilliantly talented and creative people. Cornwall really has an incredible atmosphere, that is so different from London life, and it’s so refreshing to just sit by the sea and enjoy it.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What’s next for Weekend Journals?

CKR: We’ve been really delighted by how enthusiastic people are about Britain. My family are from the South of France, so I’m desperate to do one on the South of France, but then I’m also aware that it’s good to appreciate and explore more of Britain, especially as travel abroad is getting more expensive. And I feel there is a need for quality guidebooks about places that Londoners and people like me can visit for the weekend in Britain. Very vaguely, then, we’re thinking of Somerset next!

You can connect with Milly through her instagram account and blog, and the Cornwall guidebook can be ordered here. For more Cornish tips and inspiration, follow @weekendjournals.

(all photographs in this blog post courtesy of Weekend Journals)

Have you ever been to Cornwall before? Are you tempted to plan a holiday now?

P.S. We’re discussing Jamaica Inn a week from today! I’ve been loving the pictures people have put up on Instagram of the book. Have you finished it yet?! 

A Writing Week in Geneva

back in Geneva ~ the gentle pleasures of a writing week ~ seeing friends ~ exploring the Old Town

Whenever the plane touches down in Geneva, I feel as though I’ve come home. Having spent my first 5 years of existence, and, later, my last 3 years of high-school, surrounded by the beautiful mountains and lake of this corner of Switzerland, Geneva always has a strong hold on my memories and my affection.

This time, Mum and I flew to Geneva for a week, to have a little visit with my Dad and also to enjoy a week of relaxation after a month of us both battling the horrendous winter bugs that have been going around.

Well, I say relaxation, but for me the week was really a chance to work hard and catch up on writing, podcasting and blogging tasks. It felt refreshing to get away from the distractions of London and concentrate on knocking items off my to-do list. During the day, I wrote, researched, emailed and audio-edited, and in the evenings I’d curl up with a book. Rather than a room of my own, I got to enjoy a whole flat, nestled up high over-looking the rooftops of Geneva, from which to write. I think Virginia Woolf would have approved!

Of course, I managed to get out and about and have some fun too. I met up with old friends from high-school over wine and cheese one night and lobster rolls from a food truck near the United Nations the next. We revisited favourite cafes and streets, marvelling anew at how Geneva manages to remain magically very much the same, even 11 years on.

The Old Town is always my favourite, with its twisting cobbled streets and beautiful doors with impressive engravings and elaborate, imposing knockers. There’s a calming quality to the city’s colour palette of grey stone and brown wood, especially in the winter when the streets are quieter.

It was very cold while we were there, with clumps of snow unmelted along some of the streets, and I was thankful for the thick jumpers and cosy hat and gloves I’d brought from London. The cold, crisp air smelt wonderful though, and we had the added pleasure when we were inside of contrasting our snug warmth, sipping mugs of hot chocolate, with the bitterness of the weather outside.

Have you ever been to Geneva? Would you like to spend a ‘writing week’ somewhere?

P.S. My 30th birthday in a beautifully autumnal Geneva.

 

An Afternoon in Cambridge

Last week, I hopped on the train from Liverpool Street to spend an afternoon in Cambridge. I’d managed to book some £6 tickets in advance, and I couldn’t wait to have the day to myself, doing whatever I wanted and exploring a city relatively unknown to me.

It felt such a treat to just relax and read on the train journey, which went by very quickly as I read another Murder Most Unladylike novel (they’re absolutely brilliant). In fact, it was reading Mistletoe & Murder over Christmas, which is set in Cambridge, that mainly inspired my trip. I couldn’t put off my cravings for Chelsea buns at Fitzbillies (which Robin Stevens’ characters seem to devour at every opportunity) any longer!

I’m much more familiar with Oxford than Cambridge, as I used to visit Sophie (my fellow Tea & Tattle co-host) regularly in my undergrad days and stay at New College with her. Cambridge, on the other hand, is little-known to me, and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in the past (you can read about one of my former visits here). It’s such a beautiful city, though, and so easy to get to from London, that I feel determined to explore it more thoroughly. Happily, too, I now have some friends who live there, providing yet more of an excuse to visit.

On arriving, I decided to pop into the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is home to a beautiful collection of paintings and ceramics. I was especially keen to see their Impressionist paintings and lingered in front of some enthralling works by many of my favourites: Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir.

As it was a bright sunny day, I resisted the temptation to stay too long at the Fitzwilliam Museum (making a mental note to explore it more thoroughly whenever I’m in Cambridge in less clement weather), and instead went for a saunter along the twisting, cobbled streets. Keeping well clear of the cyclists whizzing past (there seem even more cyclists in Cambridge than in Oxford, if that’s possible), I ambled along, happy to let my feet go wherever looked interesting.

I stumbled across some of the city’s famous bookshops: The Haunted Bookshop, G.David and Heffers, all a treasure trove of delights for the serious bibliophile. I resisted making any purchases, although I’m already regretting some of the pretty Georgette Heyer and Elizabeth Goudge editions I left behind in The Haunted Bookshop. I’ll just have to go back!

After strolling about for over 2 hours, my hands, gloved though they were, started to get very cold, and I decided it was definitely time to find a cozy corner at Fitzbillies and tuck into one of their deliciously warm and gooey currant buns. I’d arranged to meet a friend of mine at the cafe, but got there a little early, so pulled out another book I’d brought with me on the train and happily read (you know that scene in Gilmore Girls when Rory is debating what books to bring on the bus and winds up with a whole backpack full? I’m certainly her soul sister).

The buns were just as good as I’d remembered, and I happily chatted away to my friend until it was time to catch the train home. Of course, I bought some more Chelsea buns to bring with me back to London!

Have you been to Cambridge before? Do you have any recommendations for my next visit?

24 hrs in Paris

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

‘I’m writing a post on what to do if you had 24 hrs in Paris,’ I said to one of my lovely blog readers, a Parisian herself, who had given me a call at the start of a chill but sunny day in London (the power of blogging in forming wonderful friendships with people you would never otherwise meet never ceases to amaze me).

I sat in front of my laptop, curling my fingers around a mug of steaming tea, my mind wandering through the beautiful streets of Paris, picturing the elegant white-grey buildings and the trees that would be bare at the moment, darkly outlined against the blank page of sky. Paris is a good idea all the year round, but I think it’s an especially magical place to visit in the winter, when the light is especially beautiful. ‘24 hrs!’ my friend cried down the phone, ‘that is definitely not enough time.’

She was right, of course, 24 hours is definitely not long enough to get more than a glimpse of the many delights one of my favourite cities has to offer, and yet 24 hrs in Paris is definitely guaranteed to be a special and memorable day. The ease of travelling by Eurostar from London – Paris means that spending 24 hrs in the city is very doable, and if you don’t mind what time you travel, then my top tip is to check out the Eurostar snap tickets – they’re a bargain!

Drawing together advice from my Parisian friends, as well as sharing many of my own favourite spots, here are my top suggestions for what to do for 24 hrs in Paris. Be prepared for a jam-packed schedule of eating, drinking, sight-seeing, shopping, pampering and a little more eating!

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook
Start the day bright and early with croissants at one of Paris’ oldest bistros, Café Saint-Régis, in Île Saint-Louis. In the summer, grab a table outside to people watch, or in the winter cosy up indoors and enjoy the atmosphere of a very traditional bistro.

After your petit déjeuner, go for a little stroll around Île Saint-Louis. The tiny island in the middle of the Seine has a wonderful village feel to it, with cobbled streets and artisanal wine, cheese and flower shops. Press your nose up against the splendid cheese displays that beckon from the windows of La Ferme Saint-Aubin, perhaps purchasing some for a picnic-lunch later, or to bring back home. Summer and winter alike, Parisians flock to Glacier Berthillon for their incredible seasonal ice-creams and sorbets ( I recommend a scoop of pistachio ice-cream – for 24 hrs in Paris, you really do have to be prepared to eat all day!).

Île Saint-Louis is home to some splendid hôtel particuliers (grand townhouses), so take the time to admire their gorgeous facades (many of which date from the 1600s). Of particular note are the Hôtel Lambert and the Hôtel de Lauzun. Should you be in the mood for a hot drink after your walk (I always seem to be!), try la Charlotte de l’Isle for the best hot chocolate in the area (the coffee and tea is good too).

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

Crossing the pont Saint Louise, head through the garden Jean Paul II to Notre-Dame, looking out for the building’s famous gargoyles. Legend has it that a dragon – ‘La Gargouille’ – lived under the Seine hundreds of years ago and would rise up and eat the passing ships. St. Romanus, the Bishop of Rouen, slew the dragon and later mounted its head and neck on the town wall. This symbol became the model for gargoyles throughout France, and, at Notre-Dame, 422 steps wind upwards towards a platform filled with carved gargoyles and chimeras (a mythical creature that is part man, part beast).

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

Near Notre-Dame is the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle, a 13th Century chapel famed for its Gothic architecture and boasting the world’s largest collection of original stained glass (standing inside makes you feel as if you’re in the heart of an incredible jewel). If the queue to get in isn’t too long, then it’s well worth taking the time to explore this beautiful building.

On your way to Sainte-Chapelle, pause to gaze at the famous Conciergerie clock, an incredibly intricate piece of workmanship situated on the Clock Tower of the Conciergerie, which was Paris’ first public clock.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

After admiring these famous landmarks, flower lovers should head to le Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth 2, a speciality flower market also situated on the Île de la Cité. The flowers are housed in Art Nouveau pavilions and offer a glorious riot of scent and colour. The market is open everyday of the week except on Sundays, when it is replaced by the Marché aux Oiseaux (Bird Market), which specialises in the sale of birds, including rare ones.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook
Several tempting offers await you for lunch. A short distance from Notre-Dame, is Guy Savoy’s restaurant, L’Atelier de Maitre Albert, which offers some great value lunchtime set-menus. This would be a particularly inviting place to visit in the winter, as it has a large, wood-burning fire-place on one end of the room and an open grill on the other. The restaurant specialises in heartening spit roasts, with chicken, veal, lamb and fish on offer.

Alternatively, cross the Seine to the Marais district and enjoy a picnic lunch in the lovely La Place des Vosges, the oldest and most magnificent square in Paris.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

You can order sandwiches, salads and cakes to go from Carette, a pretty tea salon overlooking the square. If it’s too cold for picnicking, then order in (Carette serves wonderful hot lemonade in the winter).

La Places des Vosges is also home to Victor Hugo’s former residence, and it’s worth taking the time to see this beautiful mansion, where Hugo entertained fellow literary friends such as Alexandre Dumas.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook
I love the Marais district because it provides the perfect mix of culture, shopping and people watching. In the winter, I suggest working off your lunch by joining the ice-skaters in the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

If you’re in the mood to shop, then this charming district of Paris does not disappoint. Learn about the French Art of Tea and purchase beautiful caddies in luxurious surroundings at Mariage Frères or Dammann Frères. The Mariage Frères branch in the Marais is France’s oldest salon de thé and is well worth a visit to admire the building alone.

I always buy macarons when I’m in Paris, and my favourites are by Pierre Hermé. Fortunately, there’s a PH branch in the Marais district, so be sure to stop by to pick up a box of truly delicious macarons.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

The Marais is my favourite district for fashion shopping too. Here are a few places you might like to visit:

Iro
Lovers of Sandro would love the clothes in this shop too. It definitely has the cool girl edge.

Barbara Rui
Look no further for the most stylish coats, capes and blazers.

Carven
Classic clothes with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Bobbies
For fantastically designed shoes. I love their ballet flats and loafers.

Pourchet
With a shop at 13 Place des Vosges, it’s worth picking up one of these beautifully made Parisian bags.

Merci
This gorgeous concept shop is the perfect place to find beautiful pieces for your home and unique gifts for friends.

Village Saint-Paul
Just south of the Marais is Rue Saint-Paul, which is lined by a fantastic collection of independent boutiques and antique shops. It’s definitely worth having a browse along this lovely street. If you love stationery as much as I do, then make sure to pop into Papier +.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

After your shopping, there’s time to explore one of the many museums in the Marais. If you require a little pick me up first, then Folks and Sparrows or Lily of the Valley make delightful pit stops.

Musée Picasso
This famous museum boasts one of the most complete collections of Picasso’s work, which is arranged in chronological order. There are also lovely paintings by Cezanne, Matisse and Renoir, which were from Picasso’s personal collection. Be warned, though: the queues can be long to enter!

Musée Carnavalet
I love this beautiful 16th Century building, which houses a collection showing the history of Paris from the 1700s to the present day. There are gorgeous  displays of furniture, paintings and jewellery, and it’s a real treat to wander from room to room. Sadly, the museum is currently closed for renovations until 2019, but it’s well worth visiting once it has opened again!

Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
A must visit for those who are happiest behind the lens; this museum houses an impressive collection of contemporary photography. Note opening hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-8pm.

Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
One of Paris’ best kept secrets, this museum is full of the beautiful and the bizarre. Examining the history of hunting and man’s relationship with the natural world, the 17th Century mansion contains art, taxidermy and installations that are sure to captivate and surprise.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

By this point, you’ll likely be in need of some relaxation, so why not treat yourself to a massage at the lovely Caudalie Spa, which is open until 7pm, Tuesday – Sunday. You’ll feel a new woman after, ready for an evening of more fun!

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

Should you fancy staying in the Marais area, then a cocktail at The Little Red Door or at Le Mary Celeste would be ideal. The food at Le Mary Celeste is excellent as well, so you could always stay on for supper.

24 Hours in Paris Guide | Miranda's Notebook

If you’d rather explore some fresh turf, then I’d recommend making your way to the Canal Saint-Martin district. Here, you can enjoy a bite to eat and some excellent wine in one of the area’s many wine bars. Try Le Verre Vole or Mon Oncle le Vigneron.

Paris is enchanting at night, so after your meal take a gentle ramble along the pretty canals before heading back to your hotel.

I hope you enjoyed my suggestions for how to spend 24 hrs in Paris! I’d love to hear your recommendations as well, so please do pop them in the comments.

Note: this post was written as an entry for the 24 hrs competition run by Accor Hotels, which you can check out here. Follow along the fun with the hashtag #AccorHotels24hrs.

Images used in this post were purchased via Adobe Stock

Autumn in Geneva

Autumn in Geneva | Miranda's Notebook

Throughout my life, I’ve come back to Geneva like a homing pigeon.

Last week, I flew to the beautiful Swiss city to celebrate my 30th Birthday. Having played a significant role in my last 30 years,  Geneva felt the perfect place to welcome this new decade of my life.

Autumn in Geneva | Miranda's Notebook

My parents moved from Canada to a small French town, just over the border from Geneva, when I was only a few weeks old. My first years of school were spent at a French Nursery and then at the downtown branch of the International School of Geneva. It was a big wrench when, at almost 6 years old, I moved with my family to the USA. Within a year, I’d forgotten all the French that I’d spoken so freely with my friends as a child, and my recollections of Europe became increasingly vague. I learnt that millefeuille wasn’t a good thing to order in cafes in the US (it wasn’t anything like the original version); much better to stick to blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies. I went trick-or-treating at Halloween, played with neighbours’ children in the cul-de-sac we lived in in suburban California and almost forgot what snow looked like.

Autumn in Geneva | Miranda's Notebook

I still clung to some treasured memories of Europe that had made such a big impression on my very young mind: the muted, grey tones of the buildings; the markets we went to every Sunday morning; the funny shapes of the knobbly branches of Geneva’s plane trees that I loved seeing exposed when they were pruned in the winter. Much as I settled into my life in California and then New York, I still missed the place I’d spent the first few years of my existence.

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I was thrilled, then, when at 15 my Dad took a job that led us back to the French/Swiss border. I still remember that first wave of excitement when I stepped off the plane at Geneva airport and the vague sense of familiarity I had on seeing the beautiful mountains and lake once again. I was enrolled once more at the International School of Geneva (this time at their countryside branch, La Châtaigneraie, near where we lived), where I completed my last three years of high-school and got my International Baccalaureate Diploma. I picked up some shaky French and gloried in being in Europe once again.

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Since moving to London, I’ve been back to Geneva a few times, visiting friends who remained in the area and stocking up on my favourite French pharmacy beauty products, Swiss chocolate and raclette cheese. Much to my joy, my Dad (who has been based in New York for the past 11 years) has returned to Geneva again for a couple years for work, and of course I’m planning numerous trips. It’s lovely having him so close to London, and it was a no-brainer as to where I wanted to spend my birthday this year.

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These photos were taken on a stroll through the city the day after my birthday. I love Geneva in the autumn, when there’s a crispness to the air, but it’s still just warm enough to not require a coat, and the scent of marrons chauds served from street stalls wafts through the air. Rather than chestnuts, though, we settled on macaroons for a snack – always my preference!

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I’m generally not much of an impulse buyer (I tend to obsessively research and weigh up every fashion purchase I make), but I spotted this dress in the H&M window along Geneva’s main shopping strip, and decided that at 25 chf (£15), it was a terrific deal (just a fraction of the price of this very similar Maje dress). I’m so pleased I purchased it, even if it was on a whim!

Autumn in Geneva | Miranda's Notebook

Paired with a thin belt to add more shaping around the waist, an Hermes clutch I borrowed from my Mum and high-heeled ankle boots, I knew the dress would be a great staple this season. The high collar and ruffled sleeves are a nod to the 70s-inspired latest fashion trends, whilst the colour scheme gives the dress a classically autumnal style.

And now I’m already planning what I’ll pack for my next trip to Geneva, hopefully in November.

Have you ever visited Geneva, or would you like to? Do you have particular cities that always feel like home to you?

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Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras

Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras via Miranda's Notebook

In my final Provence Diary post, I wanted to share two beautiful – and quite different – towns that we visited. Carpentras was the largest big town near to our gîte, and had some good restaurants and cafes, as well as attractive shops, so we ended up going a couple of times. We had to go to Nîmes to replace our rental car after the disaster in Sault, and we decided to make a nice afternoon of it at least.

Nîmes

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The area around the train station (and rental car pick-up!) is hardly attractive, but happily Nîmes has a truly beautiful town centre, with its sand coloured buildings and pastel painted balconies and shutters. It reminded my Dad and Grandmother a little of New Orleans!

Les Arènes, the Roman amphitheatre, is a truly awe-inspiring sight in the heart of Nîmes. It was renovated in the 19th Century for use as a bullring, and regular bull fights are still held there. The Maison Carrée stands behind the Arènes and boasts one of the best preserved Roman temple façades. I only had time for a quick walk around these ancient buildings, and would love to explore them properly on a future visit. Indeed, I’d happily stay in Nîmes for a couple of days as I thought it was lovely and well worth a thorough explore. Whenever I’m next there, I’d like to pay a visit to the Jardin de la Fontaine too.

Nîmes’ main town square comes wonderfully alive in the evening, with people perched on the sides of the big round fountain and laughing and eating at the numerous dining tables set up outside of the main restaurants crowding the square. By happy coincidence, an instagram follower of mine had given me a cafe suggestion should I ever happen to find myself in Nîmes, so I dutifully guided my family (thank goodness for smartphones and google maps!) to the Patisserie Courtois, situated in the main square.

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The cafe, which has been going since 1850, boasts the most gorgeous interior – all chandeliers and gold and exquisite cakes beckoning from the counters. It was a hot day, so I decided on ice-cream; the Mont Blanc to be exact (I can never resist pureed chestnut!). I also picked up some calissons: sweet delicacies of provence that are bite-sized morsels of pure deliciousness (if you’re a fan of marzipan, that is).

Despite the massive ice-creams we shared, after a further stroll, we decided to get a bite (read: three course feast) to eat for supper and settled on Restaurant le Menestrel, which proved to be an excellent choice.

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I enjoyed the most delicious meal of jambon cru and melon salad, perfectly tender octopus swimming in a creamy tomato sauce, followed by a peach and almond pudding. We loved dining al fresco as the twilight settled into dusk and live music, played from somewhere close at hand, sounded through the streets.

Our visit to Nîmes was brief, but very pleasant, and I hope I get to go back again sometime soon.

Carpentras

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Carpentras certainly had a ‘shabby chic’ quality to it. Shutters were rather worn and paint peeled off the colourful walls of the buildings. I appreciated the faded charm of the town, though, and loved the pretty flags that fluttered above our heads as we explored the narrow streets.

We made a great discovery in Jouvaud Patissier, which was a stylish cafe filled with attractive homeware goods and – of course – exceedingly tempting cakes. I had a caramel millefeuille that I’m still thinking about! My Mum bemoaned the fact that there was no way we could carry back the beautiful pale green milk glass dishes they stocked back to London in our hand luggage.

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Unsurprisingly (knowing us!), we also had a couple of lovely meals in Carpentras. The first was at Le Galusha, which had the most beautiful courtyard, a very reasonable and excellent set menu and an offer for complimentary Kir Royales. We were sold!

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Our other choice was La Petite Fontaine, which was where I discovered a truly delicious aperitif that will forever remind me of our holiday in Provence. It was a combination of crème de violette and rosé and was heavenly! The meal was spectacular as well; I went for a beef carpaccio salad with crispy fried potatoes.

Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras via Miranda's Notebook Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras via Miranda's Notebook

I hope my Grandmother (who lives in Canada) visits London again sometime soon so I can recreate a great Provence memory with some crème de violette cocktails!

There was also a lovely museum and art gallery in Carpentras: the Comtadin-Duplessis Municipal Museum, which had a small but interesting collection of paintings, and I recommend visiting should you ever be in the area. I couldn’t resist posing in the pretty courtyard for a quick snap!

Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras via Miranda's Notebook Provence Diary | Nîmes and Carpentras via Miranda's Notebook

Apparently, Carpentras is famed for the black truffle markets held from winter to early spring. Definitely a good reason to go back!

Have you ever visited Nîmes or Carpentras? Where are your top destinations to go in Provence?

I hope you enjoyed my Provence Diary travel posts. Here’s a little round-up for you in case you missed any (you can also explore my travel category):

Guide to Sault || Interviewing Elizabeth Bard in Cereste || Wine Tasting || Where We Stayed

I’m going to be spending a few days in Geneva at the beginning of October to celebrate my 30th Birthday, so I look forward to sharing some more travel updates with you then!

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