WMW and the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal

I first discovered the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal after walking through the Palais Royal a couple of years ago. I looked it up on Instagram to find that they had a beautiful account that I began to follow, enjoying the regular dose of inspiration from the hotel and its surrounding areas. 

The Grand Hotel du Palais Royal is a small luxury, five star boutique hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Louvre and across the road from the stunning Palais Royal. With interiors designed by by Pierre-Yves Rochon, the hotel is chic and elegant, wrapping you in private luxury from the hustle and bustle outside. It is also part of an 18th century building with aspects of it holding a historical designation, including the facade. Some of the 68 rooms and suites in the hotel have their own balcony with stunning views of Paris and famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur. Throughout the hotel, fresh flowers and plants greet you as a nod to the stunning Palais Royal gardens on its doorstep. You can also indulge your senses at the Le Lulli Restaurant, Lounge Bar, and Carita Spa

The Palais Royal area is a fantastic location when visiting Paris due to its proximity to so many of the city's main attractions:

- Famous monuments and sites: Palais Royal with its beautifully landscaped gardens and black and white podiums, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Comédie Française theatre;

- Some of Paris's chicest boutiques, restaurants, brasseries, and cafés, including shops in the covered arcades of Palais Royal, rue Saint Honoré, and Place des Victoires (including Christian Louboutin, Pierre Hardy, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney);

- World-renowned museums, galleries, and art dealers, including the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and National Museum of Modern Art (Georges Pompidou Centre)

I recently stayed at this beautiful hotel, feeling like royalty from the moment I arrived. An attentive doorman was waiting to open the door to my taxi, sheltering me from the downpour of rain with an umbrella overhead and whisked me inside. Inside, I received a warm welcome from Concierge, who checked me in quickly while also explaining all the amenities and services available. I then had a bellboy guide me to my suite. 

I stayed in the Palais Royal Suite, which took my breath away as soon as the door opened. When you step inside, you are greeted by a plush chaise lounge and small terrace overlooking the courtyard, and a staircase (!) leading up to the rest of the suite. As I walked upstairs, I took in the warm and welcoming bedroom, chic, modern bathroom made of glass and marble, and inviting living room with a walk-out terrace. I actually felt happy that it was stormy outside so that I could change into the cozy bathrobe and relax in my mini palace in the heart of Paris, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour.

The suite is on the 7th floor and has private access. The view from the living room looks out to the Opera Garnier and Sacre Coeur Basilica, as well as looking over the Palais Royal and street below where you can watch the world go by. 

The jaw-dropping bathroom is all glass, light and marble, with a double sink, deep bathtub with a lovely window view, and separate shower stall. Those who follow me know that high quality toiletries are always a sign of a great hotel, so I was very happy to see that luxurious Atelier Cologne products were provided, as well as the extra thoughtful touches including vanity and dental kits. Make a cup of coffee with your own Nespresso machine and walk out to your private terrace, where you can gaze out to the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. 

After enjoying a delicious buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, Le Lulli, take a stroll into the Palais Royal with its chic black and white-striped podiums and perfectly manicured gardens to enjoy a coffee at one of Paris’s most popular coffee shops, Café Kitsune.

After a day of exploring Paris, pop into the hotel's cozy Lounge Bar for some tea and pastries. Or, enjoy a masterfully mixed cocktail or tasty bite to eat, open from 11am to 11pm. If you're feeling fancy, enjoy the Champagne Bar, where you can choose from over 30 different selections. 

At the Le Lulli Restaurant, which is housed inside a winter garden flooded with light, enjoy exquisite French cuisine by Executive Chef Clement Le Norcy, trained by Michelin Star Head Chefs Francois Adamski and Michel Portos. Le Norcy works with quality, seasonal, regional, and organic products in his creations. For reservations, contact lelulli@ghparis.com or +33 142 96 72 20.

I enjoyed a wonderful hour-long massage at the Carita Spa. Part of the personalized luxury touch was the fact that service can be upon request until late in the evening. After arriving on a Friday evening during a storm after a long week, I rang the Concierge who arranged a massage for later in the evening, which was divine. The Spa features a large Turkish bath, two treatment rooms, a beauty salon (including hairdressing and nail services), and wide menu of services, as well as a fitness room with state-of-the-art exercise equipment and personal training. You can also purchase Carita products and Kure Bazaar nail polish on site. You can also enjoy the services of the Spa if you aren't a guest at the hotel; however, access to the fitness centre and hammam is reserved for the guests of the Carita Spa and Hotel. The Spa is open daily from 9am to 10pm. 

A unique offer by the hotel is to enjoy an exclusive tour of the Palais Royal and learn about its history, including it being the former palace of Cardinal Richelieu (originally built in 1639) and how it became the most important market in Europe in the 18th century. The tour lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours with tea included at the hotel lounge. The price per person is 130 € per person (2 persons minimum, 55 € per additional person).

Additional services offered by the hotel include 24 hour room service, daily turndown service with complimentary water, laundry and dry cleaning services, highly trained 'Clefs d'or' concierge, a business centre, valet services, and complimentary wifi. Multiple languages are spoken by staff including French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. The Concierge can also help you with everything from booking restaurant reservations to theatre tickets to key sights and attractions in Paris - nothing is too much trouble!

 

Getting There:

The hotel is easy to find. If arriving by plane, it takes about 45 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Airport, and 30-45 minutes from Orly Airport. If you arrive via the Eurostar, the hotel can be reached in about 15 - 20 minutes by taxi from the Gard du Nord or by Metro (lines 1 and 7; Palais Royal - Musee de Louvre). From Gare de Lyon, it is about a 10 - 15 minute taxi ride. You can also take the bus via lines 21, 48, 69, 72, or 81. There is also a Velib bike station about 50 metres from the hotel. 

The hotel also offers private transfers, which can be arranged with the concierge team prior to, and during, your arrival.

 

Paris City Guide

Need some more Paris inspiration? Check out some of my favourite things to do in Paris here!

 

 

Source: grandhoteldupalaisroyal

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. 

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

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!!

Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Palliser

What are the essentials for an afternoon tea? I take afternoon tea seriously and feel like I can be a discerning guest. For me, there are five key things I like to look for that I think makes a great afternoon tea worthy of recommending:

1. Quality of Service

2. Scone Quality

3. Mixture and Balance of Savoury and Sweet

4. Quality and Selection of Teas

5. Atmosphere

I recently had the great pleasure to have afternoon tea at the Fairmont Palliser, located in Calgary, Alberta, and I have to say that it excelled on all of those key points! Firstly, the stunning, classic Rimrock Room where the Palliser holds their tea is steeped (pun intended!) in history. This grand room has played host to many guests over its 101 year history, including everyone from Canadian Prime Ministers, Sharon Osbourne, British Royalty, and the Game of Thrones cast! 

The service is impeccable. We were attended to from the moment we arrived - and not in an annoying, hovering way. They genuinely want to ensure you are looked after and have everything you need and want. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge that our young server had of the teas he brought around in a lovely box. He could give you every last detail of the entire extensive selection from where the leaves were from, pros and cons of loose leaf versus bags, what goes best with what food, and how long to steep the tea for. 

When you arrive at your table, there are the loveliest little touches and attention to detail, such as the beautifully presented menu, a gift of the Palliser's own blend of tea to take home (Margaret's Hope Darjeeling), the white lace tablecloth and crisp linens, and classic centrepiece of a single white rose. It is obvious that a great deal of care and attention has been put into making guests feel welcome and have a luxurious experience that they will remember. 

The vanilla scones were just perfect - not too sweet and perfectly baked - and paired with a delicious selection of jams and cream. Having the right cream for scones is essential and the Palliser's choice was terrific: not too heavy and not too sweet.  There was a delicious range of sandwiches from classic cucumber, to salmon, to a very light curry chicken. I'm not usually a fan of curry chicken but I have to say that it was so fresh and very light in flavour, surprising me with how much I enjoyed it! And the little cakes... absolutely divine! I've had afternoon tea in other places around the world where the desserts can dominate the experience, making it sickly sweet and you leave feeling a bit ill. Not here - the desserts were the perfect ending and everything was in balance with each other. 

My friend and I were a bit of a last minute addition to attend the tea. My friend, Andrea, is celiac and as soon as we mentioned it to our waitress, she went to the kitchen and worked with the chef to produce an incredible speed of treats that she could enjoy. It was incredibly thoughtful and we were stunned by the service and how they went out of their way. We later had the opportunity to meet with the Chef who came to our table, which was another absolutely brilliant touch. It was great to let him know how much we appreciated it and how much we enjoyed his tasty treats all around. 

Now, we had the opportunity to attend afternoon tea on a special day at the Palliser, which was celebrating Heritage Day in Calgary. As such, all of the guests moved to another beautiful room where we had the chance to enjoy a talk on the fascinating history of the Palliser over the past century and experiences and memories from its many guests over the years! Who would have thought it has played host to everyone from members of the British Royal Family, to Prime Ministers, to Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie, Bill Murray, Marilyn Manson, and the wildly popular Comic Con celebrities (and eager fans!). 

Overall, it was such an enjoyable experience with impeccable service! I just wish it was closer to home so that I could enjoy it on a regular basis; though, perhaps the distance is what also makes it special to enjoy every moment. This would be a brilliant outing to go to with girlfriends, take your mum, a bridal or baby shower, or just because it's a weekend! 

If you're in Calgary, make this a must-do on your list! The Palliser's Afternoon Tea Service is held daily between 1 to 3pm. To ensure that you can enjoy this service, give the Palliser a call and they will be more than happy to help you with securing a reservation (tip: book before 11am on the day of the service at the latest, if possible) The tea is $37.50/person plus tax and worth every penny!  Also very cute - there is a junior high tea menu offered for children under 12, which would be a lovely experience. Keep your eye out also for special tea events that the Palliser will hold during the year for an extra special experience.

 

A big thank you to the Palliser, Jacqueline and team for a wonderful, memorable experience. I can't wait to return!

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 

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 

Postcards from Paris: An Ode to the Eiffel Tower in the Springtime

I have a confession to make. I am deeply in love with the Eiffel Tower and I just can't get enough of it. Yes, I realize how much of a tourist that statement makes me sound but I can't help it. I've been to Paris four times now and I often find that it's one of my first stops. I get a rush of excitement when I see it rising above the city. I love it in the morning, noon, and night. I adore it in the evening the most when it sparkles and glimmers - absolutely magical. Once it starts sparkling at the top of the hour for a few minutes during the evening, there are always people around who gasp and adore in its brilliance. I have heard more than one French person exclaim, "Ooh la la!", which to someone who is not French is fantastic! Its intricate details, its curves, its romantic design....it's no wonder it has become a worldwide symbol for Paris. There is something that draws people to it and can gaze at it for ages. 

I hadn't ever seen it just after sunrise in the early morning hours, so I made it my mission this time to do that. I went early on a Monday morning before the crowds had appeared and when the spring sunlight was hazy and glowing. This is my ode to the Eiffel Tower through photos and I hope you like it! 

 

xo Rheanne 

Postcards from Paris: Place des Vosges

On my first morning in Paris, fresh off an overnight flight from Toronto and desperate to stay awake and beat jet lag, I took a walk around the Marais after dropping off my bags at my apartment. Having left Canada in snow flurries, the bright blue skies and 20 degree temperatures felt invigorating! I grabbed a tea from my favourite tea institution, Mariage Freres, and a sandwich and began walking to Place des Vosges to have a picnic. As this was one of the first nice days in Paris this spring, I think the rest of Paris had the same idea! Although the lawn was packed with people, it was lovely to see everyone outside enjoying the beautiful weather in high spirits. 

Postcards from Paris: Sunday Morning in Le Marais

Ahhhh, Paris! Paris is beautiful in all seasons, but I truly believe that it is most magical in the springtime. People are out and about again, soaking in the spring sunshine, drinking coffee outside in bistros on boulevards, and riding on bicycles. The city is awakening with the green buds appearing on the trees and shots of colour with tulips appearing in gardens and parks. And perhaps most mesmorizing is when the cherry blossoms burst into bloom in shades of fluffy white and candy floss pink. 

I wanted to take a few days off from work and to have a break between finishing my last course module of my MSc before launching into my dissertation. That, combined with a flight sale from Air Canada, and I couldn't say no to a trip to Paris last minute trip. I booked a lovely flat in Le Marais through Airbnb to try a new arrondissement (I stayed in Saint-Germain des Pres last time and loved it there too) and I was all set.

My flat was located just off Rue Vielle du Temple - a fantastic location as it was close to both the St Paul and Hotel du Ville metro stations on Rue de Rivoli, Place des Vosges, as well as a wide selection of wonderful restaurants, boulangeries, and shopping - including some of my favourites like Le Mary Celeste, Mariages Freres, and L'Eclair de Genie.  

It's a beautiful arrondissement to stay, visit and explore with many nooks and little streets to explore as it is one of the oldest areas of the city with many important historical and architectural sights. Make sure to wander around its winding streets and let yourself get lost - that's always how you make the best discoveries! On my walk, I stumbled across a wonderful little boulangerie called Au Petit Versailles Du Marais, which has the most bread and pastries - but you must try their pain au chocolat as they are to die for! Their bread was also an award winner for the Top 10 baguettes in Paris. It's tiny but beautiful indoors, with all of the meticulously prepared, colourfully pastries that look too lovely to eat (but not quite because they are so delicious!) on display under a glittering chandelier. There is some outdoor seating when it's nice outside, though no indoor seating.

Sharing a few photos with you from a lovely Sunday morning two weeks ago wandering around Le Marais in the beautiful, warm morning spring sunshine. There's nothing like taking a few deeps breaths of the fresh air and turning your face to the sun to feel its warmth after the winter, and taking in all of the sights and the scents around you, like the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries, to make you feel reinvigorated and ready to take on the world!