Christmas Baking in Salzburg

Salzburg is such a magical place to enjoy the Christmas season! Nestled among the mountains, a blanket of snow over the city, twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the smell of gluhwein and apple strudel float in the air. It is one of my favourite places to visit in December!

In addition to exploring the lovely Christmas markets, charming winding streets, fortress perched on the hilltop overlooking the city, and enjoying the Sound of Music tour, there is a unique and fun thing to do: Christmas baking!

Having been to Salzburg a few times, I wanted to do something a little bit different during our trip. I brought my mum along with me, who is a baker herself. I came across the Edelweiss Cooking School, and signed up for the Apple Strudel and Salzburger Nockerl (christmas cookies) cooking lesson.                     

This cooking school is located inside a cave engraved in the Monchsberg mountain range. Only a ten minute walk from the Mirabell Gardens, it is a historical spot known as the Kaverne which served as the Tollgate to the Old Town, part of the Klausentor (city border) in the 18th century. It is beautifully converted inside, making it feel charming and rustic. It isn’t a large space, so the maximum size of a class is 15 people. All classes are taught in English.

When we walked over for our lunchtime class, we found that we were the only ones signed up for the afternoon, so we got to have a private class! Johann is a wonderful and fun teacher, in addition to being an experienced chef. We had a great time with him during the afternoon.

Johann worked with us to teach us how to make the strudel dough, stretch it out perfectly, create the filling, and put it all together. While the strudel started to bake, he taught us how to make the traditional ‘nockerl’ cookies. Learning to bake both treats was a wonderful way to also learn about the traditions in Salzburg, both their historic origins and how modern day Salzburg families use them now.

While the strudel and cookies were baking away, Johann served us his homemade goulash soup, which was absolutely delicious! Ever attentive, Johann also took photos while my mum and I were baking, which are terrific memories of this fun afternoon!

I highly recommend this cooking school if you are in Salzburg for something different and fun to do! There are a few different classes to enjoy throughout the year as well.

If you’re interested in the Apple Strudel and Salzburger Nockerl class, it runs daily between 11:30am - 1:00pm or 2:00 - 3:30pm, and costs 44,90 Euros per person. Book in advance so you can secure at spot on their website!

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Christmas in Paris

When I first moved to the UK in 2008, I discovered the phenomenon of Christmas Markets. I mean, being able to pop over to a new European country for a long weekend to explore a new city without high season tourist crowds, walk around in the frosty air amongst beautiful Christmas trees, twinkling lights, little market stalls selling all sorts of treasures, the smell of baked goods in the air, and sipping some hot gluhwein (mulled wine) to keep warm and festive - does it get any better? Well, perhaps, when snowflakes begin to fall around you adding to the magical atmosphere! Between exploring the Christmas markets in the city, you can duck into interesting museums, shops, and restaurants to explore and warm up. Since that first year I went in 2008 (to Prague), I have continued the tradition by visiting a new Christmas Market each year.

Paris is magical any time of year you visit, but add some more lights and sparkle at Christmastime and it's almost overwhelming! I'm sharing my Paris Christmas Market trip guide and recommendations below.

Christmas Markets:

La Defense:

This is the largest Christmas Market in Paris with over 350 christmas stalls to explore, shop, and eat. It's in the business area of Paris, so while it isn't right in the centre of the city, it is a pretty quick Metro journey to get there. It is prettiest at dusk and into the evening when the lights switch on over the market and the surrounding buildings. 

Open: 23 November - 28 December, 2017; open every day from 11am to 8pm.

Metro: Esplanade de la Défense, La Défense - Grande Arche; RER: La Defense 

 

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is one of Paris's most iconic and beautiful landmarks. There is a lovely Christmas Market in Square Rene Viviani selling a host of French arts, crafts, and gastronomy. There are fewer market stalls here (about 40), but the setting and atmosphere are beautiful - and you can check out the Cathedral while you're there. 

Open: 15 - 24 December 2017; open every day from 10am to 8pm. 

Metro: Saint-Michel

 

Saint-Germain-des-Pres

This is one of my favourite areas in Paris. It features a lovely Christmas Market in front of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. After exploring the wooden chalets, enjoy a coffee outside at one of the bistro tables of Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots to people watch. There is great shopping and other great restaurants in this area too. Try checking out Le Bon Marche or stock up on French beauty products at City Pharma

 

Place d'Italie

This small Christmas Market is in the lovely Place d'Italie, and features delicious food to enjoy as well as a selection of Christmas chalets selling festive items. 

Open: 28 November - 31 December 2017

Metro: Place d'Italie

 

Eiffel Tower - Mail Branly

Close to the Eiffel Tower, there is another small market to enjoy shopping at and warming up with some mulled wine. While it's small, it makes up for it by its location - close to the Eiffel Tower (go in the evening to watch is sparkle) and the beautiful Bir Hakeim bridge (a double height bridge, made famous in Last Tango in Paris). 

Metro: Alma - Marceau 

 

Montmartre

Montmartre is the Paris often described in books: it has a dreamy Parisian village feel with its fairytale-like shops and homes dotting the hilly landscape and providing some of the most stunning views of the city. This market has about 30 christmas chalets selling mulled wine, French food, and traditional gifts below the Sacre-Coeur.

Metro: Abbesses

 

Gare Saint-Lazare

This Christmas Market is located at the Saint-Lazare station, and features a variety of pop-up shops selling unique items which are made in France. 

Metro: Saint-Lazare

 

Champs Elysee

This elegant, famous boulevard is a cavalcade of lights and market stalls competing for your attention. There are over 200 wooden chalets stretching from the place de la Concorde to the Champs Elysee roundabout. To be honest, this isn't my favourite area for Christmas Markets in Paris as I found it to be too busy, too commercial, and very few unique things at inflated prices. If you're in the area, check it out, especially in the evening when all of the lights are on along the boulevard creating a beautiful sight. Another idea is to take a ride on the Wheel near sunset for stunning views with beautiful low winter light over the city. 

*Note: this Christmas Market has been cancelled by the Paris City Council due to its 'inferior quality food, toys, and trinkets'. It remains to be seen if this decision will be overturned!

Do:

My favourite thing to do in Paris is to explore new areas and walk for hours discovering new shops, restaurants, and cultural and historical sights. Let yourself get lost and see what you can discover! Below are some of my favourite things to do in Paris:

  • Musee Rodin: This small but beautiful museum is perfect to explore without feeling overwhelmed. Many of the sculptures are in the beautiful gardens so you can walk around and explore outdoors, as well as inside the museum building. It also has a very nice cafe to stop for a small bite to eat or a coffee.

 

  • Museum National d'Histoire Paleontology Section at the Jardin de Plantes, is very cool. They have lined up the skeletons of dozens (hundreds?) of animals progressing in size, so if you stand in front of it facing them, they look like they are running towards you! A small, but very cool museum inside a beautiful park.

 

  • Louvre: Incredible but overwhelming. If you go, pick a few things in advance you really want to see and target those. This museum is absolutely enormous with thousands of things to see, and will tire you out quickly. Try and also buy a ticket in advance online to beat the crowds and queues. Definitely check out the grounds of the Louvre with its iconic Pyramid dominating the square. Grab a pastry and coffee from Claus and people-watch on one of the benches in the square.

 

  • Musee d'Orsay: Another iconic Parisian museum to explore devoted to the arts between 1848 - 1914. Artistic movements featured include Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau. Artists include Bonnard, Carpeaux, Cezanne, Degas, Guimard, Lalique, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Rodin and Van Gogh. There is a lovely cafe on the top floor of the museum to stop and rest your feet. While you're there, check out the large clock window for great views and photo opportunities. There is also a great terrace offering fabulous views over the city near the cafe.

 

  • Musee National Picasso-Paris: This museum was recently renovated and features over 5,000 works of Picasso and tens of thousands of archived pieces. This collection, housed in a beautiful building, is the only one in the world that presents Picasso's complete painted, sculpted, engraved, and illustrated works, as well as a record through sketches, studies, drafts, notebooks, etchings, photographs, illustrated books, films and documents of his creative process. This is a fantastic museum to visit and not too overwhelming. It also has a very nice gift shop nearby.

 

  • Eiffel Tower: For me, this is a must-visit every time I visit Paris. Yes, it's touristy but there's just something about it that draws me in, whether early in the morning when that magical Parisian daylight is rising, or in the evenings when the Tower sparkles and shimmers. My suggestion is to go to Trocadero first to admire it and take some fab photos, then walk down the steps and across the bridge so that you're at its base. under it. It sparkles on the hour every hour at dark (usually from 6pm) for about 5 minutes. There is a lovely park stretching out from the Tower as well, which is perfect for a picnic. Click here for more of my Eiffel Tower suggestions.

 

  • Institut du Monde Arabe: This stunning building opened in 2012. The Institut features exhibitions and objects that show the diversity of the Arab world and Arab-Islamic civilization throughout history. More than 560 unique works are displayed across four levels including bronzes, ceramics, woodwork, textiles, scientific objects, and illuminations. One of the most beautiful and fascinating elements of the building are it's windows, which features 240 photo-sensitive motor controlled apertures / shutters, which automatically open and close to control the amount of light and heat come into the building from the sun. This mechanism creates interior spaces with filtered light, which is an effect often used with climate-oriented strategies. I love going to the top of the building to enjoy the beautiful views over Paris from its rooftop terrace, and stopping at the rooftop cafe for a glass of champagne and delicious baklava. 

 

  • Musee de l'Orangerie: This beautiful museum is located in the Jardin des Tuileries. With many beautiful works of art to admire, the jewel in its crown is the spectacular room featuring Claude Monet's 'Waterlilies'. Worth the visit even if you just go to see this famous work of art! 

 

  • Notre-Dame Paris:  This Parisian landmark is an iconic medieval Catholic cathedral located on the Ile de la Cite on the Seine. The cathedral is one of the largest and most famous religious buildings in the world, and considered to be one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. You can climb up inside and enjoy stunning view of the city, as well as stroll the perfectly manicured gardens surrounding the Cathedral.

 

  • Sacre-Coeur: The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur dominates the hill of Montmatre. It is a Roman Catholic church at the highest point in the city, providing visitors with incredible views over Paris. It is actually also a double monument as both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the social Paris Commune of 1871, which crowned its most rebellious neighbourhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order.  located at the summit of the hill of Montmartre, on the right bank of the Seine. Its dominating appearance on the hill in white with rounded towers make it seem almost fairytale-like. There are public 'steps' located out front that you can sit and enjoy the fantastic view and street performers. Annoyingly, there are some aggressive people selling cheap, knock-off items and trying to rip tourists off. Ignore them. Also ignore the tables selling lottery and games towards the bottom by being firm and confident. 

 

  • Palace of Versailles: It probably requires at least a half a day but is well worth a visit.  The Palace of Versailles has been a World Heritage Site for 30 years. Once Louis XIII's old hunting pavilion was transformed by his son, Louis XIV, when he installed the Court and Government here in 1682. A succession of Kings continued to expand the Palace until the French Revolution in 1789 forced Louis XVI to leave Versailles for Paris.  The Palace became the Museum of the History of France in 1837 with the rooms devoted to housing new collections of paintings and sculptures representing important figures and events that had marked the history of France. Today, the Palace has 2,300 rooms! The palace has extensive, beautifully landscaped gardens which spread over 800 hectares. One of the most spectacular rooms is the Hall of Mirrors, which was built to replace a large terrace which opened onto the garden. If you're a fan of Marie Antoinette, you'll enjoy seeing the chambers where she lived and slept! 

 

  • Palais Royal: Located close to the Louvre, this beautiful spot is popular for people to come for a walk around the beautiful gardens, strike a pose against the chic black and white columns, check out the contemporary fountains in the courtyard, or grab a coffee from the popular Cafe Kitsune. The Palais Royal was originally built for Cardinal Richelieu. The main part of the palace became a royal residence from 1661. It was completed and modified in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 19th century, it became a place of promiscuity, which was immortalized by Balzac. 

 

  • Gardens: Paris is known for its stunning gardens. Some of my favourites to explore are the Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes, and Jardin des Tuileries.

 

  • Pere Lechaise cemetery: Located in the 20th, it is really fascinating and worth a visit (it isn't creepy). This is one of Paris's most famous and frequently visited cemeteries due to its extensive size (44 hectares and 70,000 burial plots), its landscaping (modeled after an English park), architecture and shrines including Gothic graves, Haussmanian burial chambers, and ancient mausoleums, and the numerous famous people who have been laid to rest here. Famous residents including Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Jim Morrison, Colette, Frederic Chopin, and Moliere, just to name a few. 

 

  • Fondation Louis Vuitton: Designed by renowned architect, Frank Gehry, the Fondation is an art museum and cultural centre which opened in 2014. The building itself is worth seeing, which is located in the Bois de Boulogne (near the Jardin d'Acclimatation). There are panoramic views throughout the building, due to its extensive and creative use of glass. It features a permanent art collection as well as special exhibits, and has a lovely cafe on the ground floor. 

 

  • Place des Vosges: One of Paris's oldest and most beautiful squares! Explore the arches housing shops, restaurants, and galleries which surround the main square and central garden. On the edge of the Marais, it is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic if it is nice outside.

 

  • Arc de Triomphe: At the 'top' of the Champs Elysee and at the Place de l'Etoile, you can climb this famous arch and have beautiful views from the top across the entire city.

 

  • Palais de Tokyo: This gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, near the Trocadero. It also has a terrace with incredible views out to the Eiffel Tower that can be accessed for free.

Shop

  • Le Bon Marche: I visit this beautiful store every time I'm in Paris. It's chic, filled with all kinds of fabulous brands (especially the beauty and women's contemporary sections) and items, and a seriously Instagrammable main hall with art deco escalators criss-crossing each other. They often feature creative art installations, so worth checking out to see what's on display.

 

  • Galeries Lafayette: go here to check out the incredible main hall which always features a breathtaking Christmas tree! Some nice shopping for contemporary fashion and beauty, but I usually prefer Le Bon Marche.

 

  • Printemps Hausmann: The showstopper here is their fantastic rooftop cafe for stunning views over Paris. Enter through the beauty counter entrance of the building and head to the rooftop via this route. The view is free, and it's lovely to sit with a coffee or glass of wine at the rooftop cafe, especially at sunset.

 

  • ColetteLocated on the swish Rue St Honore, this is a fashion favourite. They always have cool features happening in-store as well as carefully curated, unique items and brands to check out.

 

  • City Pharma: If you're as obsessed with beauty and skin products as me, you have to visit City Pharma in St Germain. This beauty cult favourite has all the best French products, like Caudalie, Avene, La Roche Posay etc etc, and all at inexpensive prices. Be warned though - it gets insanely busy so I suggest going early on a weekday morning or later in the evening on a weekday if you can. Stand your ground and ideally go with a list of things you want with you to stay focused. 

 

  • Merci: In the Haut-Marais is this fabulous fashion and home store. You'll probably know it by seeing the iconic Mini Cooper in the courtyard and its cool Used Book Cafe. Merci acts as a launching pad for young designers to make themselves known to French and international shoppers. 

 

  • Shakespeare and Co: This brilliant and famous independent bookshop sells a wide selection of English language books on the left bank.  It was the first bookshop to publish James Joyce's Ulysses in full. It regularly hosts events, including hosting some of the most famous literary figures in history such as Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. The shop was forced to close in 1941 when Nazis occupied Paris. It also has a little cafe attached to it next door. It is definitely worth checking out!

Eat

There are too many wonderful places to eat in Paris to possibly list them all, so I'll dive in by sharing some of my current favourites:

  • Fish La Boissonnerie: Located in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, this restaurant has a regularly changing menu featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and dishes. Their wine selection is also terrific. I have never had a bad meal here. Make a reservation for this small restaurant to secure your chance of having dinner here, or slide up to eat at the bar to enjoy and chat with the people around you. A must visit on any trip to Paris I make!

 

  • Semilla: This restaurant is by the same owners of Fish La Boissonnerie and is also a wonderful, slightly more upscale restaurant just across the road. Semilla features very tasty dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients on its regularly changing menu.

 

  • Le Mary Celeste: This is easily one of the coolest places in Paris. This tiny restaurant and bar is located in the Marais and features creative, delicious dishes on a regularly updated menu. This place is buzzing with people so reservations are recommended. It's a great place to go with friends to share a variety of dishes, or try some of their amazing cocktails (some of the best I've ever tried anywhere!).

 

  • L'Éclair de Genie: The best eclairs anywhere, hands down. The incredible eclairs by master pastry chef Christophe Adam literally brought tears to my eyes when I first tried them - they are THAT good! There are a few locations in Paris now, but my favourite is the one in the Marais. If the Salted Caramel eclair is available, definitely make that your first one!

 

  • Rose Bakery: This is a great place for brunch, particularly at their Marais location, or take a shopping break and have a coffee and their famous carrot cake if you're at their Le Bon Marche location. Don't go too late in the day though or you'll miss the carrot cake and some of the other in-demand cakes!

 

  • Bistrot Paul Bert: Classic French food in a beautiful bistro style restaurant. The food was incredible and the desserts were out of this world. We ordered a cheese board, which arrived at our table on a giant cutting board - with full size blocks of cheese and a knife to cut the amount you wanted! One of my friends ordered the baba au rhum (Rum Baba cake), which came with an entire bottle of rum to top up at your pleasure! I had their Paris Brest, which was to die for.

 

  • Grande Mosquee de Paris: Enjoy a fabulous mint tea and baklava in the lovely courtyard and gardens, and explore one of the biggest mosques in France.

 

  • Printemps Haussmann: If you're looking for a great quick lunch or snack, the gourmet food hall at Printemps is incredible! This is a food hall Parisian style - think champagne and oyster bars, fancy tapas, gorgeous pastries, and more. The last time I was there, I enjoyed some sparkling wine and tapas. Lovely!

 

  • Mama Shelter: Not just a fabulous place to stay, it is also a great place for cocktails at night and where cool Parisians hang out.

 

  • Mariage Freres: This French tea company is my favourite brand of tea (particularly Vanille des Iles and French Breakfast). They have a few locations around Paris, and some of them do a wonderful afternoon tea.

 

  • Ralph's Paris: This lovely little cafe by Ralph Lauren is in Saint-Germain-des-Pres inside a beautiful courtyard. It is a nice experience if you want something a bit lux.

 

  • Claus: A lovely brunch and coffee spot in the Marais, close to the Louvre. It's always busy so I've usually just grabbed some of their lovely to-go pastries and a coffee and eaten them on one of the benches outside of the Louvre while people-watching.

 

  • Au Petit Versailles: One of the best bakeries in Paris in the Marais. It's tiny but wonderful, and regularly wins awards for their bread. Their croissants are wonderful for breakfast, and don't forget to try their Paris Brest (located at 1 Rue Tiron)!

 

  • Cafe Kitsune: Fantastic coffee in the beautiful Palais Royal.

 

  • Daroco Paris: Daroco is in the building of what used to be Jean-Paul Gaultier's first store, and leaves much of the original footprint in place. New, chic additions have been added, such as an open kitchen, opulent velour banquet booths, and mirrored ceilings. The pizzas here are out-of-this-world delicious! Make a booking as this restaurant is proving to be one of Paris's most popular.

Stay

Mama Shelter Located in the 20th arrondisement, this Philippe Starck designed hotel is one of Paris's coolest places to stay. While it isn't in the centre of Paris, it is easy to get around to due its proximity to the Metro. It is one of the most diverse, interesting areas of Paris, as well as being close to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. there are 172 rooms which are equipped with 5 star bedding and fun interiors. The restaurants are all delicious, from simple, homemade cuisine. You can check the huge island bar, pizzeria, or terrace. There is also a lovely rooftop to enjoy during warm days for a drink or meal. 

 

Grand Hotel du Palais Royal: I absolutely adore this beautiful small luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the Palais Royal. Incredibly friendly staff are there to help you have a comfortable staff, the rooms are impeccably decorated, and the location can't be beat. Check out a more detailed review of this hotel when I had the opportunity to stay there here

 

Le Meridien Etoile: This hotel is located very close to the Champs Elysee near the Arc du Triomphe end. It has small and stylish rooms, and is well located to travel around the city with a Metro station very close by. Check out more details and full details on my stay here

 

Airbnb

Staying at an Airbnb is a wonderful option, particularly if you are staying in Paris for longer than a weekend, and/or want to feel like / pretend you live in the city. Below are two Airbnbs that I have stayed in that I really enjoyed!

Le Marais - rue Vieille du TempleLarge (especially in Paris terms), stylish, and a super location in the Marais. 

Saint-Germain-des-Près: Tiny, but in lovely building in an unbeatable location in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. 

 

 

Getting There and Around

  • Paris has a great Metro system. Buy a set of 'carnets' (tickets) so you can pass through the stations easily without having to buy a new ticket each time. While you're in the stations or on the Metro though, be sure to watch your pockets and belongings very carefully, particularly when it is busy, as there are very skillful pickpockets that work the system. 

  • Walking around Paris is one of the most wonderful things. Overall, Paris is a pretty small city. I suggest picking a neighbourhood and just start to wander. Literally, just pick a neighbourhood and wander. My favourites are St Germain, Marais, the Latin Quarter and Montmatre.

  • If you can take the Eurostar to Paris, I highly recommend it! It is such an easy, quick, and chic way to travel. From London, it takes just over two hours from St Pancras International Station to the centre of Paris at the Gare du Nord station.

  • Paris is well served by two main airports: Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly. Both are well connected into the centre of the city by transit links.

Venice Carnevale: A Photo Story

For the past several years, I've been wanting to Venice during Carnevale time. The costumes, the wintry, mysterious atmosphere, the celebrations, and tradition. This year, I finally decided to book and experience it! 

It was everything I hoped it would be. Whether people were in full costumes, getting into the spirit with a mask, or taking in the scenes, it was a fabulous way to experience Venice. Below are just a few of the incredible costumes at this year's Venice Carnevale. 

City Break in Paris

I absolutely adore Paris. I know that won’t be earth-shattering because let’s be honest – who doesn’t? One of the things I really love about it is that you can have a different Parisian experience every time you are there – an art focused weekend; girls weekend; romantic weekend; foodie weekend; shopping weekend; or a combo of any of those.

I want to share a few of my current favourite things to do, see, and eat in Paris that hopefully provides some inspiration for you!

Eat

First things first – where are you going to eat?? There are too many wonderful restaurants, cafes, bars, patisseries, and markets to name, so I’m going to share just a few of my current favourite places:

  • Start the day off right with doing as the Parisians do and stop off at a patisserie or boulangerie in the morning and grab a croissant or pastry to go. When I was visiting in the spring, I stayed in the Marais and stumbled across an amazing little bakery called Au Petit Versailles du Marais. Turns out it has been voted as one of the best bakeries in Paris! It's tiny but wonderful, and regularly wins awards for best bread. I highly recommend their pain au chocolat, as well as one of my favourite pastries, Paris Brest.

 

  • Fish La Boissonnerie is a lovely restaurant in St Germain. I don’t usually do this when travelling, but the food is so good that I usually end up there more than once on a trip to the city of light. The food is seasonal, tasty, and never disappoints. It also has a fresh, regularly changing menu, and brilliant wine menu to boot. Across the street from Boissonnerie is its sister restaurant, Semilla, which is also fantastic though a bit fancier or more upscale. Expect a delicious, seasonal menu and terrific wine as well.

  • I’m a much bigger tea drinker than coffee drinker, so if you’re with me on that (and even if you aren’t), my absolute favourite tea is Mariage Freres. I discovered it a few years ago and stock up whenever I’m there. My favourite flavours are French Breakfast and Vanille des Iles. There are various locations across Paris, including a few where you can sit in and have afternoon tea.

 

  • A lovely brunch and coffee spot is called Claus in the Marais, close to the Louvre. It's always busy and I have never organized myself enough to book a table, so I've usually just grabbed some of their lovely pastries to go and eaten them with their coffee on one of the benches in the Louvre square (perfect for people watching and stunning surroundings).

 

  • My best friend and I went to Le Marie Celeste for the first time together a couple of years ago and LOVED it. Tricky to find (thank goodness for google maps), it’s deep in the Marais, located on a corner, and tiny. It’s also absolutely wonderful. It’s got a young, cool vibe, with a menu to match. The menu is fresh, features seasonal ingredients, and changes regularly. It’s great to go with friends and try various things through small sharing plates. But the real star might just be the incredible cocktails they concoct.

 

  • Bistrot Paul Bert is possibly one of the most traditional French restaurants I’ve visited. Fantastic food but what really stands out in my mind is the dessert course. It may have been the enormous cheese plate they brought to the table (think a large cutting board with big pieces of cheese and a knife to cut off the amounts that you pleased!), the rum cake that came with an entire bottle of rum to pour yourself (incredible!), or the magnificent Paris Brest that I tried for the first time and fell in love.

 

  • If you’re looking for a great quick lunch or snack, pop into the fab food hall at Printemps! I stopped in while shopping on my last visit and sat at the counter of a Spanish tapas vendor enjoying sparkling wine and tapas. Lovely!

 

  • Mama Shelter is an excellent place for cocktails at night and is where cool Parisians hang out.

 

  • I have saved the best for last. Promise me that you will go to L'Eclair de Genie for life changing eclairs? Yes? Ok. Seriously though, these eclairs are out of this world good. There are a few locations now but the one in the Marais is my favourite.

See/Do

There are a million things to do and see in Paris that it would be impossible to list them all – especially as everyone’s interests and tastes vary. If I was to recommend a single thing though, it would be to just wander around the city without a plan and few glances at the map. Perhaps start wandering along the Seine and crisscross over the bridges, such as Pont Alexandre, Pont Marie, Ile Ste Louis, etc.

Here are some of my other favourite places to visit at the moment when I’m there:

  • Check L'Institut du Monde Arabe. Zaha Hadid designed the building, so it is not only stunning to see on its own, but it features an incredible free view on the roof terrace. The café is great to stop for sparkling wine, mint tea, and some baklava too!

  • Visit the parks in Paris as each are unique and beautiful in different ways. The Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes are my favourite parks to wander through.

  • My current favourite museum is the Rodin Museum. Much of the museum is actually outdoors in their beautiful gardens, which is also a favoured location for Dior during Paris Fashion Week.

  • I’ll come right out and say that I'm obsessed with the Eiffel Tower. I think the best place and time to see it is at Trocadero super early in the morning - like 7.30/8ish when there are barely any people around. There's a wonderful little mobile coffee place there where you can grab a cappuccino and enjoy the view before wandering down the Champ du Mars. Alternatively, when it sparkles at night (each hour from twilight to 1am for 10 minutes on the hour each hour).

  • The Place des Vosges is lovely to wander and hang out in, as well as the newly re-opened Palais Royale. Cafe Kitsune is in the Palais Royale, so it’s a great place to grab coffee and sit outdoors when the weather is nice.

  • If you plan to do the Louvre, plan it carefully and have a game plan. It is enormous and overwhelming, so don’t put pressure on yourself to see everything. Do your research beforehand and pick a few things you’d like to see and focus on those areas. The best times to go are early morning when it first opens, or later in the day a couple of hours before closing to avoid crowds.

  • Walk up the steps to the top of the Arc du Triomphe as the 360 view is fab from the centre of Paris!

 

Shop

  • Bon Marche is a must! It’s personally my favourite place to visit and shop when in Paris. They have the best in beauty, contemporary fashion, accessories, and homewares - and the store itself is stunning! While you're there, take a break and stop in at the Rose Bakery inside and have one of their famous carrot cakes and coffee or tea.

  • Printemps is a fun store, though my favourite things about it are the food hall (across the road in a separate building from the main store) and the rooftop terrace where you can enjoy stunning views across Paris free of charge (one of Paris’s best viewpoints and little known to many tourists). There’s a great café up there to enjoy something to eat and drink while overlooking the city.

  • If you're as obsessed with toiletries like I am, you have to visit City Pharma in St Germain. For many in the know, it is an essential pilgrimage and I would happily take the train from London just to stock up. It has the best products, like Caudalie, Avene, La Roche Posay, Klorane, etc, at inexpensive prices. Be forewarned - it gets insanely busy I suggest going early on a weekday morning or later in the evening on a weekday if you can.

  • Shop some of Paris’s local independent shops as well as homegrown talents, such as Isabel Marant.

  • I can’t forget to add Colette to this list, possibly Paris’s coolest shop! You can find Colette and many other wonderful upscale stores to shop along one of Paris's most famous shopping streets, the Rue Saint Honoré.

 

 

Getting To Paris

Paris is easily accessible as a major transportation hub:

Travel Smart - Save and Spend Where It Matters - Before You Go: Part II

 

So, you’ve booked your flight and hotel and no doubt you’re getting pretty excited for your upcoming trip! In the lead-up, a little bit of planning and research can go a long way to finding the coolest, best places to visit, eat, and explore according to your travel style, as well as help you decide where and how you should save and spend your money.

Everyone has different travel styles, interests, likes, and dislikes. Full disclosure: I really hate travel itineraries. I find them to be too constrictive and focuses more on ticking things off a list and hurrying from one place to the next without allowing yourself to fully enjoy a place by wandering or lingering at a spot if you want to. I would much rather go with the flow and see how things play out because if there’s one thing about travel, it can often be unpredictable and you need to be flexible enough to understand that it happens and not let it stress you out too much.

What I do like to do though is have an idea of the things I want to do and see, and the neighbourhoods they are in. I’ll then pick which neighbourhoods I’ll ‘bundle’ together on a given day for the trip. If there’s one tip I can give you, avoid criss-crossing around a city unless you absolutely can’t avoid it because it wastes time, money, and energy unnecessarily.

Transportation

  • Look into your options for getting from the airport or station ahead of time.

  • Many cities have great transit links from the airport via train, bus or coach –and at a fraction of the cost of taking a taxi.

  • For many cities, it will be more cost effective to buy a transit pass to get around once there because chances are you won’t be taking the bus/subway/tram just once. 

    • In London, for example, NEVER buy a one-off journey ticket because it is outrageously expensive.

    • Instead, get yourself an Oyster card and top it up with money as you go, or buy a day pass if you are going to be using the tube more than four or five times in a day. Recently, ‘Contactless’ payment has been introduced where you can tap on and off with a bank card; however, it should be noted that this may not work with all foreign cards so check with ticket agents in advance.

    • Alternatively, walking is my favourite way to see a city as you’ll be able to discover things that you’ll miss if you’re underground. Think back to the neighbourhood bundling I mentioned as I’ll typically take transit to the neighbourhood and walk all around from there.

 

Research & Planning

  • I like to look at blogs and Instagram accounts of local people in the destinations I’m going to visit to get some ideas and inspiration for the places and things local people like to go, do and see. Instagram hashtags for destinations are a great way to find these accounts.

  • For me, there is nothing worse than spending your time in places with lots of other tourists because you don’t get a real feel for the culture and life of a city.

  • There are, of course, some places that absolutely should be seen or visited as they are big sites for a reason, such as the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, and Park Guell. But make sure to get yourself off the tourist trail too and experience what real life is like there. Consider alternatives in visiting these sites - for example, in addition to buying tickets in advance, major sites can often special events or programs.

  • For example, the Colosseum offers evening tours that you can book where there will likely be fewer people and you can avoid the searing Roman sun as there is no shade and the heat is unforgiving at this site during the summer. It’s also a pretty cool and different way to see it! The Castel Sant’Angelo also offers a really cool summer evening experience, where you can walk part of the secret path that connects it with the Vatican (especially for all of you Dan Brown fans!), as well as evening concerts (e.g., classical, opera, etc). 

  • Consider doing something different than taking a bus tour to see the city. There are often very cool alternatives available with a bit of research. Two of my favourites were an awesome morning of exploring Rome with Annie from Scooteroma Tours on the back of a shiny red Vespa, or with Oz from Circle Tours which took us to many places off the beaten track in Istanbul. Not only do you get to see the city, but you get a much more personal and memorable experience.  

  • I also like to look at more boutique travel sites such as Fathom and Wallpaper, as well as travel magazines such as Lonely PlanetAfar, and Conde Nast Traveler.

  • For city guides, I like to get ideas from the New York Times 36 Hours In... seriesThis is a fantastic series of books (and a great gift for the travel lover in your life!). 

  • I will sometimes take a look at TripAdvisor but please use a healthy dose of skepticism when looking at it, and don’t use it as your only source of research.

    • Restaurants, for example, may score more highly on TA either for actually being great, or simply due to a higher volume of reviews as opposed to a great restaurant off the beaten track or new.

    • Also look at who is doing the reviewing. For example, which country are they from? How old are they? Do they sound like they have a similar travel style to you? Keep in mind what is important to you. Some places get lower scores because there may not be a kettle in the hotel room, the weather was bad, or museum was closed that day. Let TA be a guide but not the ultimate determinant.

    • Also beware that there may be fake reviews (for better or worse) from competitors. Although TA has taken steps to cut down on this, be aware that this happens.

  • Check out the details of some of the places you want to visit. Are they closed on certain days? Are there any public holidays happening that can shut things down (I made this mistake in Florence recently by forgetting about the May Day holiday)? Are they offering any special free days? Are there special late night openings?

    • Many museums are free (such as in London) or free on certain days of the week or month, as well as staying open late.

    • If you’re planning on seeing lots of different sights, museums, and attractions, it might be worth looking into whether the city has a ‘City Pass’. A City Pass offers discounted admission and often includes a transit access and other perks. It will be worth it if you are planning on visiting many of the sights offered within the time you will be there. Check any restrictions though, such as having to use it within a certain period of time (e.g., over 72 consecutive hours).

  • Food can also be a tricky thing while travelling. Doing a bit of research on areas and restaurants/cafes/markets ahead of time can take the stress of choosing a place to eat away. There are some great sites to do research on, such as Chowhound.  

 

Logistics

  • Before you go, look into the currency you will need and foreign exchange rates. Also consider whether you need a visa or not. For this, check with your country’s Foreign Office for the latest information. Some countries require you to apply beforehand, and some you can purchase when you arrive at the airport (such as in Istanbul). Please also double check the expiry date on your passport as some countries will not accept them if it is within a certain period of time to expiry (e.g., three to six months).  

  • I recommend bringing some local currency with you because you don’t want to be caught out in a situation when you arrive where it’s needed. I was recently in Hong Kong and discovered that the taxis there only take cash, so that resulted in a long search for a bank machine to withdraw money. A few notes:

    • For some currency, your bank may need to order it in because they may not have it (or enough of it) in stock and you’ll need to factor that time in.

    • Don’t change currency at the airport unless you really can’t avoid it as the commission rates tend to be exorbitant.

    • Keep your receipt from your foreign exchange provider as if you return with money, you can be guaranteed the rate you exchanged at. Note that the vast majority of currency exchange/banks will not take back coins, so spend those before coming home! Some of my favourite currency exchange places are Marks and Spencer’s Bureau de Change as they are easy, reputable, usually well-stocked and convenient within store locations across the UK, as well as the TD Bank Foreign Exchange desk located in Toronto in the Path in the TD Centre. I like this place because they have many different currencies available and in stock versus a regular bank.  

  • I will usually use debit or credit cards for other purchases along the way during the trip. Just check with your bank around any need to notify them that you are travelling so that you aren’t cut off (also an important point about having cash just in case your bank card won’t work).

  • Check for any key things you need to do ahead for flight with your airline, such as luggage restrictions (have you purchased baggage; size restrictions; etc) and printing your boarding pass ahead of time (especially for Ryanair and Easyjet) to avoid potentially significant fees. Also check what time boarding is as some airlines (such as Easyjet at Gatwick Airport) have become increasingly strict in refusing entry to people and closing the gate 30 minutes before the flight. 

  • If you collect airline points (which you definitely should - remember, no travel should be point-less!), check whether you have enough to upgrade your seat, or if you have status to use the lounge (saves money if you do because you can get a good meal, drinks, and/or magazines and newspapers complimentary at the lounge rather than buying things at high prices in the airport itself).  

  • Check the weather ahead of time so you can tailor your packing and maximize space in your suitcase (and avoid luggage weight restrictions, which can potentially be very pricey!). 

  • Do you need to check-in and/or print/bring your boarding pass to the airport with you? Many low-cost airlines require this. Don’t get caught out as this can be very costly. 

  • If luggage weight might be an issue or you want to go hand luggage only, consider alternatives to the liquid toiletries you need to bring. For example, if you’re going on a beach holiday, consider buying your sunscreen and other toiletries after you’ve gone through security at a drugstore like Boots at the airport, or at your destination. At the end of the day though, there are few places in the world where you won’t be able to find a little shop at the very least to buy something that you forget. 

 

Part III - While You’re There - will be coming soon!

If you missed Part I, you can find it here, as well as much more travel talk at Woman Meets World

In Praise of Slow Travel

I recently shared my article below with the Huffington Post, which you can find here, or below as I wanted to share it with you all here as wel! 

During my travels over the past few months, I have noticed a trend. In today’s connected society and new, impressive devices, smart phones, and DSLRs, we are keen to snap photos and share them on our favourite social media sites. However, while taking in the views of the River Arno in Florence, it quite literally hit me when I was jostled out of the way by a group of 15 nuns on an organised sightseeing tour, who proceeded to reach their smartphones out in succession, snapping photos of the Ponte Vecchio and dashing away to the next sight without taking time to stop and look at it. I realised then that an epidemic of fast-food travel has hit us.

Don’t get me wrong - I love photography and enjoy social media. Photographing new places is a great joy. But over the past year in particular, I have been making a conscious attempt to stop, observe, and take in sights and the world around me first by taking a mental picture. I don’t want to have to recall my trip by having to scroll through my camera phone; I want to be an active participant in the world around me, and remember the experience and memories.

I have also been more consciously observing what others around me are doing. It’s a sea of smartphones snapping photos. People taking more selfies of themselves rather than the sights. Trying to manoeuvre around the masses of selfie sticks waving in the air. At a museum in Florence, I watched a large group of young people on a school trip walking past exhibits filming everything on their smartphones without stopping to read or take in what they were looking at. I saw others taking photos of relics where a sign next to it read to respect the sacred nature of the artefacts in the room.

I wonder how much the people around me are taking in of their experience. Travel should be about using all of your senses to interact with a new place and immersing yourself in the experience, rather than trying to cram in as much as possible to tick things off a list and take hundreds of snaps to post on social media.

The joy of travel comes from learning about a new place, a new culture, new people. On park benches, outdoor cafes, museums, and restaurants, on their own or with others, people are engrossed in their phones rather than their surroundings or company. Last weekend, while sitting in the hotel lounge with an incredible view of the Hong Kong skyline, I was enjoying lunch while taking in the view. A friendly waiter came by to inform me that they did indeed have free wifi, seemingly concerned that I was apparently the only one not using my smartphone and taking selfies with my lunch.

So, I’ve got a proposition for us. Let’s put down the smartphones more, enjoy our surroundings and make memories by being fully present when we’re exploring new places (or everyday life, for that matter). Take in new sights, meet new people. Let’s embrace ‘slow’ travel and observe the world through our own eyes and not just the lens of our camera. Life flies by quickly enough. Let’s slow it down by enjoying the precious holiday time we have by living in the moment in real life and not just on social media. Take the time to breathe, unplug, and enjoy the break that we have worked hard to get. Discard detailed itineraries and go with the flow. In essence, slow travel is the newest old way to travel and a luxury in today’s busy world. 

Paris for the Day with Eurostar

A couple of months ago, I had the exciting opportunity to visit Paris for the day with Eurostar, as a winner in their #ParisOnUs competition. This was incredibly exciting to me because not only do I absolutely adore Paris, but being able to go for the day has been a bucket list item of mine.

Being Canadian, it still amazes me that you can hop on a train in London, and be in a new city and continent in two hours, as it takes ages to get anywhere in Canada! The Eurostar is a much chicer, more comfortable, and quicker way to travel to Paris (and their other destinations, such as Brussels, Bruges, and Lille) than air travel. 

Our day in Paris was a blast - great food, great experiences, and meeting great new people. Eurostar took care of every last detail and made us feel like stars. 

Here are a couple of short videos from the day! Photos and full story to come. I share my Paris thoughts at 0.30 on the first video! 

Exploring London Town

Living in London is never dull. It's chaotic, fascinating, exciting, interesting and never ever a shortage of things to do. I can't believe that there are still so many museums, events, and sights that I need to check out that I haven't seen before, but I'm making my way through exploring the city. Here are a few things I've been doing recently from Instagram - come follow along with me! You can find me on Instagram at @woman.meets.world

Travel Smart: Save and Spend Where It Matters

I truly believe there is no money wasted on travelling. I remember telling this to friends last year, who promptly began to laugh but then stopped and realized I had a point – while also pointing out to me that travel can be really expensive.

Over the past few years, I’ve had lots of people make comments to me about how much I travel, asking how I can do it, have I won the lottery, how much do you earn, the classic ‘must be nice’. It was starting to get to me because at the end of the day, I work hard and travel is something I love to do.

It also got me thinking about travel perceptions, misconceptions, and realities about costs. Yes, travel involves money, but it genuinely does not have to be expensive. Over the years, I’ve picked up various lessons and tips through experience along the way, trial and error, speaking to friends, colleagues, reading websites, blogs, and magazines. I realized that instead of getting upset when I perceived people to be questioning me, why not share how I plan and budget my travel because spending my money effectively and wisely is important to me! It really doesn’t have to be expensive, I promise, and all it involves is a bit of patience and knowing a few tips and tricks. A wonderful trip, long or short, can always be tailored to your budget, priorities, and preference.

 

I believe there are three stages to any trip:

1)      Selecting and Booking Your Destination

2)      Trip Planning Ahead of Departure

3)      While You’re There

 

Part I: Selecting and Booking Your Destination

  • For me, this is often the hardest part because I have such a long list of places I want to visit – where do you even begin?? Sometimes you have somewhere specific in mind, which can be helpful sometimes, such as visiting a friend or event. Sometimes you just want to get away somewhere – anywhere – or want to do a short city break or epic long trip.

 

  • There is one email that I enjoy receiving every Wednesday: Travelzoo’s Hot 20 Travel Picks of the Week. It’s always filled with some great inspiration. Not only are the Top 20 finds that they scour the Internet for great (free to sign up on their website), but they also have great deals that crop up for your local area (e.g., theatre, spa, restaurants). I’ve been using this site for years.

 

 

  • Do you have friends living abroad? Family? That can help you narrow your destination down. Or, just dive into your list and start somewhere when a great deal arises.

 

Flights

  • One of my new favourite apps is Hopper. This great little app helps calculate flight costs with a twist: it helps identify for you with a high degree of accuracy the best time to book your flight. You can put a ‘watch’ on a certain flight route you’re interested in and it will message you with updates if it goes down, up, or to take the plunge and buy now.

 

  • I recently also discovered a site called SkyPicker, which I used for my flight to Stockholm recently. It identified a fare to travel here for the weekend form London for £66 – how to say no to that! It also has a cool feature where you can put in your starting destination and select a radius (e.g., for me, I will pinpoint London and radiate out across Europe to find the best deals available).

 

  • The one site for flight research I always check out is Kayak – especially for planning multi-city trips as it gathers information from a large number of different airlines and websites worldwide and pulls together loads of options to choose from and customise, finding the best deals and combinations to pick from.

 

  • When searching for flights, regardless of website, check the ‘flexible with dates’ box (if you have flexibility). This will show you whether it is cheaper or more expensive to fly in or out a day or so earlier or later. This has definitely been helpful to me in the past.

 

  • Connecting flights can often be cheaper than direct. But, consider the money saved against time lost. There are some connection cities I avoid at all costs – NYC and Chicago airports in particular. I have rarely had a flight to or from these cities that has not been delayed or baggage lost. If this happens, missing your connection can be highly likely, which then cuts into your time, cost, and stress levels. Some cities are extremely efficient at connections though – Munich and Frankfurt in particular. But keep in mind that both of these airports are enormous and you need to be focused in finding your next gate to avoid missing your connection.

 

Hotels

  • Ok, so you’ve secured your flight, let’s work on your accommodation. In many ways, it’s all dependent on where I’m traveling and if I’m going with someone or on my own.

 

  • I have had a lot of luck over the past year with using Priceline – specifically, their Blind Bids or Express Deals. The catch with these is that you can grab a fantastic deal for 4 and 5*plus hotels, but you won’t know what the hotel is until after you complete the purchase. This can feel risky to many people (myself included) because you want to stay somewhere that you’ll feel comfortable and enjoy. But, you can do this using calculated risk:

    • Priceline allows you to select the neighbourhood you are interested in and the star level.

    • What I usually do then is do a google search for the hotels in the city and/or that particular neighbourhood under the star levels I’m interested in to get an idea of what I might secure.

    • Withthe Express Deals, there is a significantly reduced price named; with the Bids, you enter a price, which checks with the hotels to see if they will accept your bid.

 

  • Other sites that I have used are hotels.com, booking.com and Agoda, all of which have found me terrific deals. Agoda is particularly good for finding amazing hotel deals across Asia.

 

Airbnb

  • I’ve had terrific luck with Airbnb over the past few years, staying in terrific flats in European cities, such as Paris, Athens, and Rome, as well as beautiful villas in Greece. You can find fab places at customizable prices based on your budget. I’ve never had a problem with the Airbnb properties I’ve stayed in.

 

  • It works by setting up a profile and requesting to stay at a property. The owner has the ability to select who they have stay at their property because understandably, they want someone that will take care of their place too. Read the reviews of the property and do a bit of research on the area, and select where you’d like to stay. Consider factors such as proximity to transit, amenities, and safety.

 

Loyalty Programs

  • A colleague of mine says that no travel should be ‘point-less’ and he’s right. If you are travelling and/or staying with a company that offers a reward program, sign up for it and get the points. You never know what the future holds as you may end up staying with the hotel chain again or flying frequently with the airline (or affiliates, such as Star Alliance or One World).

 

Check out Part II: Before You Go here

London Life

What else have I been up to since moving to London three weeks ago? Sharing a few of the places I've visited and explored. Follow along as I post on my Instagram at @woman.meets.world - I'd love to get your London recommendations!

Some of my favourite places featured in the photos below:

Three Weeks in London

It's hard to believe that three weeks have already flown by since I've been in London! But, it has been enough time to (re)learn and remember a few key things:

  • Never trust the weather forecast. Not your iPhone weather app or even the BBC. Just use it as guidance because most of the time, it will be wrong.

  • On that point, invest in a small umbrella that you can pop into your bag and carry it with you always because you will need it regularly. And carry sunglasses because I can guarantee that if you forget them and just bring your umbrella, or vice versa, it will be bright and sunny.

  • If you want to leave a restaurant or café, ask for the bill because they won't just bring it to you. This was remembered after sitting at various places for ages and wondering when they might bring it by. It’s considered rude for them to bring it unprompted.

  • With the exception of Starbucks, you need to specifically ask for the barista to put milk in your tea when they give it to you for ‘eat in’ or 'takeaway' (not take out), or you will receive it black. Example: if you want a breakfast tea with skim milk, ask for a 'skinny tea'.

  • All stores close much earlier than Canadian and American stores do so plan ahead!

  • The joys of free newspapers and magazines: Metro in the morning; Evening Standard in the evening; Time Out magazine to let you know of all the happenings in London for the week; Stylist (my personal fave) every Wednesday; and, Shortlist every Thursday.

  • VAT (tax) is included in the price, so you pay what you see on the tag, unlike Canada, where tax is applied afterwards at the till and often a surprise.

  • British "you ok" = Canadian/American "how's it going"/"what's up"/"how are you". This is a hard one to get used to without thinking you are being asked if something is wrong!

  • On that – be prepared for multiple ‘byes’ on the end of telephone conversations!

  • Walk left, stand right. I repeat – walk left, stand right. This might be the most important thing to remember so that you don’t get trampled on the escalators on the tube.

  • Always have your Oyster card to hand when entering and exiting the tube. Trust me, you don’t want to be that person fumbling to find it and disrupting the flow and order of busy Londoners.

  • Check the streets left and right at least two or three times before crossing to make sure you won't get hit by cars coming in directions you aren't used to. Or cyclists for that matter on a mission.

  • How green it is here all year round!

  • The kindness of the Brits and their willingness to assist you - whether it be with suitcases, directions, or generally helping you navigate life here from taxi drivers, to people in banks, to random people in the street, and my lovely new colleagues!

  • How international London is. London is an incredible, frenetic, fascinating, chaotic, energetic, beautiful place to be and it’s easy to see why it attracts people from all over the world.

 

I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks and months bring!!

Cross-Canada Tour

Over the past six weeks, I've had the incredible opportunity to go on a whirlwind, cross-country tour of Canada for work. The vast size of Canada really hit home for me, crossing several time zones and experiencing many different landscapes and climates. This trip has shown me my home country in all its beauty and there have been many times where I have wondered why I haven't visited before! I think part of the reason that everyone can relate to is that when you live somewhere, you don't think to explore it the way you do other countries, nor does it seem as exciting. My recent travels and living abroad have helped me see Canada with new eyes and I'm really trying to be a traveller in my own country now.

Below are some snaps from my trip that I've posted to Instagram, moving from Western Canada (Victoria, BC) through to the Rockies (Calgary, Banff, and Edmonton), the Prairies (Winnipeg and Shilo), the Great Lakes (Toronto), Quebec (Quebec City), and the East Coast (Halifax). 

I'd love to know: what are some of your favourite Canadian destinations to visit? 

Uber Your Way Through New Cities

Have you tried Uber yet? It's easy and convenient, and operates in many cities worldwide. I was quite hesitant at first and didn't believe it could be quite as easy and great as everyone says it is.

All you need is the app and an account (takes minutes to create), and a ride is at your fingertips. No worrying about whether you are going far enough for them to take you or having to haggle over whether they take cash, debit or credit cards at the end of a ride. All you have to do is hop out. And - you get to rate your driver anonymously afterwards. Drivers have to have a minimum of 4 out of 5 stars in order to continue driving with Uber. 

Why not give it a try by having your first ride free? You can do just that by entering my discount code into the promo code box and you can get your first ride free up to $20! Code is: rheannesue.

Let me know what you think after you try it!

Recent Travels to Croatia

Was it all just a dream? That's what I'm asking myself today as I ease myself back into everyday routine after returning back from a wonderful holiday spent in Berlin and Dubrovnik. 

This was the first time I have visited Dubrovnik and completely fell in love with it. It is such a special place and the beautiful surroundings, food, culture, and people took my breath away. It was one of those holidays that makes you forget about everything in your everyday life and inspires creativity, introspection and new perspectives on life. In effect, a bit life-changing and I cannot wait to go back again soon! I promise to post photos and my story soon, but I wanted to give a glimpse of some of the beauty I experienced from my recent Instagram posts that I took along the way (find me on Instagram at @woman.meets.world). 

xo Rheanne 

Coastal Living Magazine

Coastal Living Magazine is a favourite publication of mine. Their magazine and beautiful regular posts on Instagram always provide daily inspiration and a breath of fresh air. The coast - and the ocean/sea/lake/river/any body of water - has always provided me with a sense of calm and serenity. This might be due to growing up in Oakville, ON, which is right on Lake Ontario, but I find peace in watching and listening to the regular rhythm of waves rolling into shore. I have recently purchased my first condo in Toronto and one of my favourite features is the fact that it has a view of the lake. I love to gaze out and watch sailboats float by on the shimmering water in the sunlight. It only made sense to also draw inspiration from the beautiful design inspiration of coastal properties to decorate that the magazine highlights!

So, you can imagine my delight and happiness that the wonderful Coastal Living Magazine shared one of my recent photos taken in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on their website on Saturday as their 'View of the Day' - and paired it with the most perfect soundtrack! You can find the post here: http://dailycatch.coastalliving.com/2015/07/11/beach-music-beyond-the-sea/

Parisian Architecture

In Toronto (and many places in North America), part of the thrill and appeal of Europe is the history of the buildings - many of which are much much older than our own countries. We live in cities that are very new, not the greatest at preserving heritage buildings, and lots of glass and concrete rectangular buildings which often look alike. 

Wandering around in Paris is a visual feast. Parisian architecture celebrates detail, beauty, and history, as opposed to solely function and efficiency. It also helps that the Parisian light seems ethereal and illuminates the buildings in beautiful ways. At sunset, so many of its buildings seem to glow in the sunlight. When in Paris (or anywhere in Europe to be honest), be sure to look up, down, and all around you as you'll never know what intricate details and surprises you  might find! Below are some of my favourites from my recent trip in April. 

xo Rheanne