Hidden behind a big blue door, away from the brouhaha of the rue de Rivoli, is a gold mine for those of you interested in old press. Make sure you have a couple of hours to spare because once you enter the arched glass doors, time will run away as you lose yourself amongst its treasures. And if you like your piles super organised, i.e. arranged alphabetically, then just leave that to one side for your visit.Read More
Kentish Town is located in the Borough of Camden (north west London). It's also my London stomping ground whenever I need to recharge my British batteries.
Below, I share a few of my favourite Kentish Town addresses. Please feel free to share any of your local favorites with me in the comments!Read More
This 4 star hotel, located centrally in the Avenue Louise district of Brussels, has 421 recently refurbished rooms/suites which have been designed around the theme of "zen". After choosing your room (Superior, Deluxe Panorama, Panorama Suite, Deluxe Suite) sit back and enjoy your stay: the hotel offers free Wi-Fi, which works excellently, a free mini-bar and a widescreen television. If you don't want to venture out of the hotel, The Restaurant is a safe and stylish choice. Under the direction of Pierre Balthazar, who has ten years serving Heads of State, you will find an exciting menu full of flavour and fresh ingredients. The Spa offers relaxing massages if you need to unwind after a long flight. Still not convinced? The Hotel was Barack Obama's choice when he visited Brussels in March 2014.
Where we ate
Ici is a real gem of a spot, located in the genteel neighbourhood of Ixelles. This neo cantine is the perfect spot for a group brunch with kids, a girly lunch, a productive work session with a tea or an afternoon snack. You can even hire it out for private events. Everything on the menu is healthy and seasonal, and the cakes are made with organic ingredients. The space is light, leafy and calm which lends an unpretentious vibe - something I appreciate since moving to France from the UK.
La Mercerie is a charming (and photogenic) tea salon. The menu comprises both sweet and savoury - I indulged in both because it was a rainy afternoon (any excuse). Fresh produce from the local farmer's market are to be found on the menu, something I'm a big fan of. I would highly recommend the date cake which is served with a warm caramel sauce.
Pierre Marcolini is a well-respected Belgian chocolatier and pastry chef, winning the title of (international) Best Pastry Chef in 1995. Marcolini is heavily involved in the training of his staff and travels as far as Mexico and Venezuela to test cocoa beans, farmed by independent growers. There are several stores in Brussels so you won't have to look too hard for a sweet treat: the macarons are excellent but his chocolate and pastries are just as tempting.
Maison Dandoy is a lovely place to have a waffle. Best known for their speculoos products (I hope you all know what that is, if not go out and try it now) this family bakery has been baking biscuits for the folk of Brussels for over 180 years. We picked up a few bits to bring back and share with our Parisian friends.
Where we drank
Beer Mania: technically you can't drink here but with over 400 craft beers in stock, Beer Mania is the place to buy your hops. They also host beer tasting events and cooking classes, around the theme of beer obviously. Not making it to Brussels soon? No worries, they deliver internationally.
Little Delirium is slightly less manic than Delirium, the beer joint that can be found in the city centre full of boozy tourists (Impasse de la Fidélité), which suits me just fine as I am not good in drunken crowds. With over thirty beers on tap to choose from, you can taste the Belgian beers whilst on their terrace watching the stag groups walk by (often in fancy dress).
Café Walvis is situated in the bobo district of Dansaert and is ideal for a fun afterwork or a Sunday brunch with friends/family. JB and I stopped by here for a beer (or 3) after an afternoon walking around the city and taking photos.
What we saw
I always love a good nosey around a book store, although it's less exciting for me when the contents are exclusively in French. Originally opened in 1984, Librairie Candide underwent a refurbishment in 2010 which has left it looking pretty swanky. Filling two floors and open seven days a week (08h - 19h) you can find international newspapers, books on health, psychology, religion and psychology, in addition to an extensive catalogue of classic literary works. Only French (for Anglophones, fear not, there is a Waterstones in a different part of the city).
I always feel good arriving at St. Pancreas station - it's not just the convenience of having so many shops on hand, it's hearing English accents and knowing I can hop on a bus outside the station that will take me wherever I need to go. In Paris I tend to travel everywhere by métro, but in London I go out of my way to travel on the bus, or even better, walk, as it is a great way to see the city. I understand it is not so good for the environment but you miss so many glorious sights whilst crammed on the tube.
High tea is quintessentially British to me and so whenever I'm over in the UK I like to indulge my British side. For my recent trip to London I made sure to do some high tea research. First up was the Alice in Wonderland themed tea at Conrad London Saint James', a 5 star hotel which is located next to Westminster and St. James' Park. Celebrating the 150 year anniversary of Lewis Carroll's fantasy world of rabbit holes, mad hatters and a caterpillar who likes his hookah, the tea is served in Emmeline's Lounge, named after political activist Emmeline Pankhurst. Settled in comfortable arm chairs, a school friend and I spent almost two hours having a good catch up.
Both the service and presentation of the food were excellent: we started with a glass of champagne and mini club sandwiches, followed by freshly baked scones and finished with a selection of cakes and pastries designed around the theme of Alice in Wonderland. We enjoyed everything but there was too much food so we had to ask for a take-away box, to which the staff happily obliged. I would definitely recommend the Conrad London Saint James if you have a friend's birthday or fancy treating your mum. You can find their themed teas for 2015 on their website.
Getting some alone time with my sister can sometimes be a bit of a challenge as we have a lot of mutual friends and often fall into the trap of organising group activities where everyone can catch up with each other. Therefore I was happy when Charlotte Street Hotel invited myself and a guest to their high tea as it meant my sister and I could catch up in style. The hotel is located just north of Soho and is only a short walk away from the theatre district. We chose the Bloomsbury tea as it comes with both savoury and sweet options. The choice of tea is so tempting that it took us a while to decide, finally opting for Summer Mint and Persian Rose. Both the service and food were wonderful so I would confidently recommend the Charlotte Street Hotel, especially if you are a fan of contemporary design as this is the style of their restaurant. You can discover more of what the Firmdale Hotels have to offer on their website -I have my eyes on the Film Club for my next trip to London.
Where do you like to go for high tea? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below.
Coffee. Again. There are quite a few aerial shots of latte art to be found on my Instagram feed, guilty as charged. Back in 2009 the Paris coffee scene wasn't moving or shaking much. Nowadays however we are spoilt for choice: Belleville Brûlerie, Cream, Fondation, Telescope and Ten Belles to name but a few. So whenever I'm planning an upcoming trip I look on Instagram, or ask around the Paris expat network, for coffee spots worth visiting.
I came across Drop Coffee whilst doing some research for a recent weekend visit to Stockholm. Already feeling confident that it was a special spot, I knew I was on to a sure winner when Frank sent an IG message telling me to go there for a morning coffee fix. So Ineke and I headed there, and I can confirm that it is a must if you ever find yourself in Stockholm.
The folks at Drop Coffee take their beans very seriously, roasting in small batches to preserve the aroma of the coffee beans, which has won them the Swedish Brewers Cup in both 2013 and 2014. The cafe itself is gorgeous: luminous with high ceilings and free wifi. The ideal spot to get some work done if you're a freelancer. They also deliver their beans worldwide if you want to give them a try. Paris people, I spotted their beans for sale last week at Telescope Cafe...
Did you know that the Swedes have their own version of the British tea-time? It's called "fika": the literal meaning is "to drink coffee" but for the Swedes it signifies the ritual of taking a moment out of their day to relax and enjoy a sweet treat with some coffee. If you're looking for some fika inspiration, look no further - Anna Brones, from the Parisian expat crowd, has written a book featuring over 50 illustrated recipes and charting the history of this Swedish tradition. You can find out more in Lindsey's article for the New York Times T Magazine.
Happy Fika time!