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Cafes, Paris

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal

One of my favourite things about a short break in Paris is having the time to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.  Of course there is no shortage of cafes to refuel in Paris, whether you’re after a traditional espresso at the counter of a tabac, a chic café crème on the terrace at Café de Flore or a chai latte and vegan cake at a hip place near the Canal St-Martin.

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal is rather special and a joyful blend of all of the above.  Best of all, it was right on our doorstep when we stayed at the beautiful Grand Hotel du Palais Royal for two nights.

Created by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki in 2002, Maison Kitsuné is a music, fashion and lifestyle brand that’s always ahead of the rest.  I became a fan of Kitsuné soon after its launch from seeing the label’s bands and DJs play at their gigs and club nights.  I also can’t resist the modern-classic, well-cut clothes – one day that luxurious lambswool fox sweater will be mine.

So, I was pleased to find that Café Kitsuné lived up to expectations and is the perfect place to sip a matcha latte in the heart of Paris.  It’s a tiny cafe in the Galerie de Montpensier with simply a mirrored counter to stand and drink.  However, there are plenty of tables outside where you can watch the ebb and flow of the Palais Royal gardens.

We ordered a chai latte and an almond milk matcha latte and browsed the Maison Kitsuné products while waiting at the bar.  The extensive drinks menu also includes coffee using Daterra Santa Colomba beans from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil (roasted in London), artisan teas and cold-pressed juices from Parisian favourite Bob’s Juice Bar.  For something to munch on, there are slices of cake, cookies and cute foxy shortbread from nearby organic, gluten-free bakery Noglu.

My almond milk matcha latte was so dreamy and delicate (the trick is not to burn the matcha with boiling water) and Steven’s chai latte was punchy and aromatic, made with proper spices rather than syrup.

There is a a larger, colourful Café Kitsuné at Filles du Calvaire which I’m planning to visit on my next trip, but the Palais Royal cafe is a must for its picturesque, inspiring location.  What better way to spend an hour or so in Paris?

Photos by Chérie City

Paris, Restaurants

A Foodie Trip to Paris

Our recent trip to Paris was a whirlwind of foodie delights and as ever, we made lots of new discoveries.  I usually plan our meals with military precision but decided to loosen things up this time and go wherever our hearts and stomachs took us.

When we arrived in Paris and settled in to our lovely room at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, a lazy Sunday afternoon was in full swing.  Our Paris trips are almost always mid-week, so it was a rare pleasure to see Parisians and visitors strolling around with their pooches, kissing in the Tuileries and making the most of a sunny weekend.

One of my favourite people-watching spots in Paris is the terrace of Cafe Le Nemours on Place Colette, sandwiched between the Louvre and the Palais Royal.  We managed to score an outside table and ordered two Croque Madames for a tasty refuel.  I’m always on the hunt for these traditional Croques with bubbling, oozing Gruyère, crispy buttered bread and a runny egg yolk (none of that slim slice of pain Poilâne nonsense).

As much as I tend to seek out creative neo-bistros and hip new bars, I also love a bit of Parisian old world charm.  The kind of institutions that have been serving up exemplary steak frites to the hungry masses for decades without a care for the latest trends.

There’s no better place to find these gems than around the Palais Royal with its many traditional arcades nearby.  So later that evening, we headed to Bistrot Vivienne set in the characterful, early 19th century Galerie Vivienne for a relaxed supper.

We both had our hearts set on steak frites and washed them down with a Monaco instead of the usual red wine.  My Scotch beef onglet steak was tender and lean, served perfectly medium with a velvety, mild gorgonzola sauce.  Steven’s Scotch Beef entrecôte with Guérande sea salt had a more mature flavour and a melt-in-the-mouth texture and was served with pot of a tangy, herby Béarnaise sauce.

The accompanying hand-cut fries are possibly the best I’ve ever tasted in Paris – hot, crispy, golden and freshly cooked.  We didn’t find room for dessert but will no doubt be lured back next time for the Brioche pain perdue and the Bourbon vanilla rice pudding with salted caramel.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a luxury Paris trip without a little casual fine dining and what better than a leisurely three-course lunch at Le Lulli, the stunning restaurant at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal?

I loved the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere and contemporary design with a pretty winter garden referencing nature in the Palais Royal Garden.  It was quiet when we visited but is generally popular among the local business crowd and ladies who lunch, looking for something special and more private than nearby bistrots.

At the helm of Le Lulli is Executive Chef Clément Le Norcy, who honed his skills under the guidance of Michelin starred chefs at Hotel Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly, L’Abbaye Saint Ambroix and Hotel Le Saint-James and Le Gabriel in Bordeaux.

I started with the most delicious Gambas with roasted sucrine and shellfish vinaigrette.  The plump gambas were perfectly cooked and had an Asian twist with the slightly sweet vinaigrette and tiny mushrooms infused with soy.

Steven’s Salmon marinated with rose berry, cucumbers and spring onions was a delight with plenty of nicely-cured salmon, mini blinis and tempura spring onion.

After the previous evening’s indulgent steak, I went with a light and healthy Cod with mashed mushrooms and pistachio pesto.  It was succulent and crispy on top and the accompanying sauces were full of flavour with a smooth texture.

The winning dish, however, was Steven’s Lamb marinated with thyme and lemon, grilled leeks and spiced yoghurt.  The tender, lightly glazed lamb was ever so satisfying with a rich, meaty jus and delicate, fresh leeks.

Our meal ended on a high note with delicious desserts and a pot of tea.  My Entrement Chocolat, described as melty and crunchy from Tanzania, was simply heavenly.  The exquisite, velvety milk chocolate mousse (obviously made from very high quality chocolate) was filled with sticky sponge and topped with a chocolate sablé biscuit and drops of shimmering fruit gelée.

Steven’s Lemon tart was a refreshing classic with zingy lemon curd softened by lightly-whipped meringue, a buttery pastry base and crunchy lemon sugar tuiles.

We walked off this delicious, memorable meal around the Palais Royal Gardens and the Tuileries before checking out the Perspective Playground by Olympus at our favourite art space, Palais de Tokyo.

That evening, it was back to Le Lulli Bar for an aperitif with a long-time Twitter friend.  We chatted about all things Paris and travel over the most fantastic cocktails – head barman Maxime Rousseau’s cocktails are so tempting it took us a while choose.  My cocktail, Le Louvre, was a potent, fragrant blend of Hendick’s Gin, iced tea, hibiscus syrup and lime.  If you’re in the mood for bubbles, there are over 30 types of Champagne available.

After cocktails, we raced across town to meet our friends Coralie and Sunny at Glou in the Marais.  We have Coralie to thank for suggesting this cosy, loft-style bistrot by ex-food writer Julien Fouin.  It’s all about simple, honest cooking with a focus on organic ingredients from French terroirs and natural, biodynamic wine.

My Perigord chicken with Paris mushrooms and potato purée was the very best of comfort food and Steven was impressed with the Cod fillet with fennel choucroute and black olive oil.

Coralie enjoyed her Grilled plaice with potato purée and while the vegetarian Moussaka had run out, Sunny was brought a platter of rich, creamy vegetable-based dishes.

Desserts were typically French Tarte Tatin and Caramel rice pudding, which were executed well and with few surprises.  Glou is a great spot if you’re in the mood for fresh, home-cooked food in a pleasant atmosphere with friendly service – we would certainly visit again.

Of course, a trip to Paris is only complete with at least one beautiful cake.  I was delighted that our hotel was so close to the Sébastien Gaudard Patisserie Salon de Thé des Tuileries, as I’ve wanted to visit since discovering his first patisserie on the rue des Martyrs last year.

Since we were running late for the Eurostar (time is always too short in Paris), we ordered cakes to take out as a special treat for the train ride home.  A great idea in theory, but the baggage scanners aren’t always patisserie-friendly and they looked a little rough and ready, but still edible.

Steven’s Rum Baba was a classic done exceedingly well, but my Religieuse au Chocolat wasn’t really to my taste.  I rarely meet a cake I don’t like, but the dark chocolate filling was a little too heavy and intense (the selection at Ladurée remains undefeated as my favourite).  I am however undeterred and will continue to work through Sébastien Gaudard’s sweet repertoire on my next trip.

Our trip to Paris was a foodie success and there are still plenty of restaurants on my wish list for next time – Rachel’s, Monsieur Bleu, Lazare, Paris-New York and Le Grand Colbert to name but a few.

Have you tried any of these cafes and restaurants?  Where are your favourite foodie spots in Paris?

Photos by Chérie City (restaurant interior by Le Lulli)

Chérie City was a guest of Le Lulli as part of a two-night stay at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal 

Hotels, Paris

Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, Paris

Paris has always had a special place in my heart, but this month it became even more special as the home of our engagement.

Our trip was made so memorable with a two-night stay at the elegant five star Grand Hotel du Palais Royal.  Now, I’ve stayed at many luxury Paris hotels but this has been without a doubt one of my favourites for a number of reasons.

Of course, we never would have believed that just a few days after our dreamy, rose-tinted stay in Paris, when the city felt as majestic and cultured as always, such darkness would fall.  The wounds are raw and the city is still healing, but let me share the magic of Paris as we know and love it.

Grand Hotel du Palais Royal boasts an enviable central location overlooking the prestigious Palais Royal Garden – in fact it’s the only five star hotel in this historic quarter.  Also on the doorstep is the Comédie Française on the popular Place Colette, the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens and chic rue Saint-Honoré for designer shopping.

The hotel occupies a beautiful 18th century building, neatly tucked away from the main street on the quiet Place de Valois, and features 68 rooms and suites.  Inside, it’s all about understated luxury with tasteful interiors by one of my favourite designers Pierre-Yves Rochon.

We were warmly welcomed by the staff at check-in and instantly felt at home in this charming luxury hotel. The lobby is so cosy and refined with intimate lounging nooks filled with books and objets d’art, elegant white lilies and an intoxicating signature scent of warm tuberose.

Take a peek through to the original listed staircase and you’ll meet a classical bust of Jean-Baptiste Lulli, composer for the royal court and Louis XIV, whom the hotel’s restaurant Le Lulli is named after.  You also can’t miss the fabulous leather trunk at the foot of the stairs, referencing the glamour of travel and Parisian heritage brands such as Hermès and Goyard.

Our Deluxe Room on the fourth floor was lovely and bright with highlights of soft lime green, mocha and light wood to evoke the lush greenery of the Palais Royal Garden.  It was just the right size for a Paris city break and I liked the addition of a juliette balcony overlooking the courtyard.

The hotel was completely renovated and redesigned two years ago, so all of the furnishing still appear brand new, to the credit of the meticulous housekeeping team.

I was pleased to find a kettle in our cabinet with a selection of teas by Palais des Thés, a TV with English language channels other than the news, free wifi and a tempting room service menu that includes a rather posh Croque Madame.

We were kindly welcomed with beautiful flowers, a large bottle of Evian and a selection of hand-made macarons – the ideal pick-me-up after our Eurostar journey.  The nightly turn-down was just as dedicated with complimentary bottles of mineral water and slippers placed on a cotton mat by our bedside – those extra five star touches.

The bathroom was petite but well-appointed with a powerful walk-in massage shower, two sets of bathroom products by Atelier Cologne (an independent Paris fragrance and body care brand based nearby) plenty of fluffy towels and embroidered bathrobes and slippers.

Breakfast is a indulgent affair with a luxury breakfast buffet served in Le Lulli restaurant.  Breakfast service can often let down even the best hotels, but the morning staff at Le Lulli are a real credit to the hotel.  They were so friendly and caring, making everyone’s day begin with a smile and some much-needed caffeine.

The generous offering included eggs cooked to order, hot dishes, smoked salmon, mini pastries, crêpes, charcuterie, French cheeses, set yoghurts and even a few treats such as bite-size chocolate fondants and fruit tarts.  Each morning, I started with warm pancakes with maple syrup and fresh berries and a bowl of apple compote (a childhood favourite), with a tasty little pain au chocolat for good measure.

On our second day in Paris, we enjoyed a fabulous, leisurely three-course lunch in Le Lulli, but more about that later…

After a long day exploring the city, the floral-mosaic hammam is perfect for unwinding.  There is also an elegant spa with treatments by Parisian skincare brand Carita and a well-equipped gym.

Grand Hotel du Palais Royal is the very definition of a hidden gem – a real insider’s address for those who appreciate discreet luxury and a warm, homely atmosphere.  We left feeling charmed by the hotel, its dedicated staff and the city itself – as always, Paris is full of wonderful surprises.

For more information and booking, visit: www.grandhoteldupalaisroyal.com

Chérie City was a guest of Grand Hotel du Palais Royal

Photos by Chérie City and Grand Hotel du Palais Royal 

Paris, Restaurants

Top Eats in Paris

As Audrey Hepburn once said, ‘Paris is always a good idea’ and it’s even better when you really indulge in the city’s exquisite gastronomy.  With so many tempting French dishes, chic terrace cafes and hidden gems to navigate, it’s hard to know where to start!

On my regular trips to Paris, I try to find a balance between traditional specialities that I can only find in France and the city’s new international style of cooking, however there’s always room for cake…and a lot of it!

A fabulous foodie trip to Paris can be done on all budgets (it’s the home of gourmet bakeries and markets, after all), but you’ll want to leave plenty of Euros for some memorable eating.  That’s where low-cost regional airline Flybe can help with cheap flights from a number of UK cities to both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly Ouest Airports.  I’m particularly happy to find out that Flybe runs a Newcastle to Paris route, so I can meet my mother in Paris for a girls’ weekend of shopping and dining.

So, what should you be eating on an autumn trip to Paris?  Here are some of my top bites in the City of Lights…

Le Hamburgé 

Burgers are a big deal in Paris and there’s just something about a French hamburgé that really hits the spot.  Two of the best I’ve ever tasted can be found on or around the rue St-Honoré at chic brasserie Le Castiglione and cosy family-run restaurant Ferdi (Kim and Kanye’s favourite French comfort food spot).  It’s the gooey melted cheese, grilled bacon and secret sauce maison that make these Parisian burgers oh so special.  Other notable American-style patties can be found at Ralph’s, Hotel Amour and Maison Mère.

Onion soup

A traditional brasserie classic, soupe a l’oignon gratinée is one of the best things you can order for a tasty lunch in Paris.  Not all onion soups are created equal, but I recently had a fantastic one at Bar du Central in well-heeled Saint-Germain.  A really good onion soup should be rich and piping hot, packed full of thin caramelised onions, topped with a bubbling Gruyère crouton and ideally served with a basket of baguette and French butter.

Steak frites

A true joy of dining out in Paris is a juicy, tender steak served with slim, crispy fries and a yummy Béarnaise or Café de Paris sauce.  Three Michelin starred chef Yannick Alléno is renowned for his ground-breaking cooking, but a more hearty meal of excellent steak frites can be found at his two casual restaurants Terroir Parisien and STAY at Paris Le Faubourg.

Neo-bistro fare 

Explore Paris’ innovative neo-bistro scene with a daily-changing, affordable set menu created by Michelin standard chefs in modest surroundings.  A hot neo-bistro opens almost every month in Paris, but I highly recommend established players Inaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand, Chez l’Ami Jean by Stéphane Jégo and Grégory Marchand’s Frenchie.

Croissants

A breakfast staple the world over, but no one can bake a croissant quite like the Parisians – they even have an annual competition to award the best ones.  Most Parisian hotels will source their breakfast croissants from their trusted local boulangerie, but you can also go straight to the source and queue at the counters of Gerard Mulot, Boulangerie Pichard and Arnaud Delmontel like a true Parisian.

Patisserie 

My days in Paris are usually spent on a rose-tinted sugar high, as it’s impossible to resist the copious, beautiful cakes.  The ultimate tea salons to enjoy decadent pastries are the gilded Angelina, Ladurée Champs-Élysées and Le Jardin Francais at Hotel Le Bristol where you can choose from the sweet trolley.  To sample the coolest pastry trends, visit L’Éclair de Génie, Popelini for pretty profiteroles and Pierre Hermé for exciting new macaron flavours.

Are you tempted by a foodie trip to Paris?  What are your favourite Parisian hotspots?

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Photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Paris

A Left Bank Stay at Hotel Saint-Dominique, Paris

It’s been a few years since I stayed on Paris’ Left Bank, so what better way to rediscover the area with a stay at the stylish Hotel Saint-Dominique?

I always keep a close eye on the Paris hotel scene, but it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across this beautiful gem on rue Saint-Dominique in the seventh arrondissement.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is a four star independent boutique hotel with a focus on contemporary design.  It’s a small, cosy hotel with friendly staff and a number of thoughtful features to really make you feel at home.

As the name may suggest, Hotel Saint-Dominique is housed in a former 17th century convent built during the same period as Les Invalides for a religious order.  It also boasts a picturesque view of the Eiffel Tower from the street and is just a short walk away from the Champs de Mars, Les Invalides and Pont Alexandre III.

Our Junior Suite on the top floor overlooking rue Saint-Dominique was enormous and I loved the minimalist interiors with quirky design touches.

The super-comfy king-size bed with reading lamps is covered with high quality linen and a grey felt throw and cushions with a purple trim.

Other features include a long corner sofa, executive writing desk, air-conditioning, free wifi, loan of a mini iPad, Nespresso machine with plenty of espresso capsules and a separate kettle for making tea.  A highlight is the complimentary minibar stocked with Evian and Badoit, Granini orange juice and a can of Coke Zero.

I couldn’t help thinking that a room this size should have a slightly larger wardrobe than the multi-functional mirror one, but it did the trick for a short stay.

The suite is sophisticated and furnished to a high standard, but it also has a playful side with colourful bedside tables, cool rope-mounted photos of the Sacré-Coeur and a plush carpet trimmed with yellow crosses (or ‘bisous’, if you’re a romantic).

We were kindly welcomed with some delicious macarons and a delightful book – The Best Places to Kiss in Paris.  It was a lovely touch and totally in tune with our rose-tinted view of Paris – even after countless trips it still feels like the most magical city for us.

The white tiled bathroom has a cool urban feel and is an adequate size with a powerful walk-in shower, rectangular marble sink, fluffy towels, bathrobes and a full set of Azzaro bathroom products.

We weren’t so lucky with the weather during our trip, but happily the hotel has plenty of posh umbrellas, which kept us a bit drier on the walk over to the Jeanne Lanvin exhibition at the Palais Galliera.

On the way back to the hotel, we warmed up with a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée at neighbouring Bar du Central – a casual, stylish bistro just a few steps away.

That evening, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris. Hotel Saint-Dominique doesn’t have a restaurant, however it has a reasonably-priced, tempting room service menu if you fancy a cosy night in.

Of course, the 7th arrondissement is filled with foodie delights that you won’t want to miss out on.  For a memorable dinner on the doorstep, visit Brasserie Thoumieux by Jean François Piège just a few doors down, or Stephane Jego’s much loved L’Ami Jean, known for its outrageously decadent salted caramel rice pudding.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, rue Saint-Dominique has a number of excellent Parisian boulangeries and patisseries, including one of my favourites, Aux Merveilleux.

After a lovely, peaceful night’s sleep, we went down to the breakfast room for a leisurely Parisian breakfast.  I loved this bright, Scandi-style breakfast room with comfy seats and flowers on the tables.

The buffet was filled with a generous morning offering of fresh baguette, mini pastries, crepes, pancakes, granola, cured meats, cheeses and yoghurts.

Hot items are also included and are made to order.  I was in the mood for croissants and jam but the friendly French-speaking lady who was looking after us for breakfast cooked up a fresh plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for Steven.

Everything was nicely done and in the warmer months, it would be a delight to have breakfast in the pretty Parisian courtyard.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is the perfect base for a stylish city break with great design, an inspiring location and affordable rates.  It feels like a secret address in Paris where you can live like a Parisian on the elegant Rive Gauche.

For more information and booking, visit: www.hotelstdominique.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Saint-Dominique

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Saint-Dominique

Hotels, Paris, Restaurants

Dinner at L’Oiseau Blanc, The Peninsula Paris

When the much-anticipated luxury hotel The Peninsula Paris opened last summer, I couldn’t wait to get back to Paris to take a peek inside.

On my recent trip to Paris, I happily had the chance to visit the five star hotel for dinner at its stunning rooftop restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc.

This first Peninsula Hotel in Europe is housed in a grand 19th century Haussmannian former palace (also once the Hotel Majestic) on the prestigious Avenue Kléber, close to the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe.

The historic building has been beautifully-restored and is perfectly complemented by contemporary luxury interiors and Far Eastern design details referencing the origins of the exclusive hotel group (its iconic flagship hotel is The Peninsula Hong Kong).

On arrival, we were greeted by two stone lions guarding the entrance to the hotel, which leads on to the opulent white and gold Lobby.

Inside The Peninsula Paris is truly breathtaking with an elegant white marble promenade, sweeping black and gold-trimmed staircase and exquisite artworks.  At the heart of the hotel is the Lobby’s ethereal Dancing Leaves installation, made with over 800 hand-blown glass leaves by Lasvit.

The Peninsula Paris is a delight for foodies with authentic Chinese fine dining at LiLi, the gilded Lobby serving The Peninsula’s famed afternoon tea and The Kléber Terrace offering international dishes including the all-important Club Sandwich and typical Parisian steak.

L’Oiseau Blanc restaurant, bar and terrace on the sixth floor is the jewel in the hotel’s crown with spectacular 360 degree views over the city.

The restaurant has an aviation theme and even boasts a custom-made biplane hovering above the courtyard as though en route towards the Eiffel Tower.  It is in fact a replica of the ill-fated biplane flown by flying aces Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli who attempted to cross the Atlantic in 1927 from Le Bourget.

Peninsula Hotels are known for their love of motor vehicles, such as the fleet of Rolls Royces at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and L’Oiseau Blanc extends its tribute to aviation with flying objects and artefacts in glass cases and biplane motifs on the menu and tableware.

At the helm of L’Oiseau Blanc is acclaimed Alsatian Chef Sidney Redel, who previously worked for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and Courchevel.

He brings Paris’ hip ‘bistronomy’ concept to L’Oiseau Blanc, celebrating France’s finest produce and seasonal ingredients with a daily-changing set menu.  This offering is a refreshing change from Michelin-style fine dining that you might expect from a restaurant in a five star luxury hotel.

The chic restaurant feels spacious yet intimate with leather banquettes, crisp white table cloths and red roses adorning the tables.  It also has a retractable roof, so you can enjoy dinner in the open air during the warmer months.

We started with a glass of crisp, refreshing Peninsula Paris Champagne and were swiftly treated to the dazzling light show from the Eiffel Tower.  It was a very memorable moment – what could be more romantic than sipping Champagne against the backdrop of one of the world’s most iconic monuments twinkling away?

We ordered from the three-course Sierra Menu (€99 per person), which offers two choices for each course, however the chefs are happy to present other options if there’s something else that takes your fancy.

To start, I ordered Carabineros – tandoori, bitter citrus marmalade.  This was a very satisfying Asian-inspired starter with complex, malty flavours from the mellow tandoori spices and intense citrus bitterness cut through with a flash of freshness from the cucumber.

Carabineros prawns are known for their bright red colour and robust flavours and these ones were tender, plump and utterly moreish.

Steven went for the Duck foie gras – terrine, smoked breast, beetroots and raspberries.  The high quality foie gras had a smooth texture and its rich flavour was lightened with the acidity and sweetness of the raspberries.  It was an interesting, modern way to serve a classic French dish.

I followed this with a typically French Matured beef chuck from Limousin, bone marrow, anchovies and spring onions.  The flavoursome beef was cooked medium as requested with a tender pink centre and was nicely browned on the outside.

It was served atop a smooth potato purée with paper-thin golden potato crisps, small pieces of soft bonemarrow, a wilted whole spring onion and a rich, meaty jus.  I didn’t actually detect the anchovies, but perhaps they were subtly blended with the potato.

Steven tried the John Dory seasoned with Iberian chorizo, carrots and turnips with curcuma.  The succulent, substantial fillet of John Dory had a clean, fresh taste and was complemented by the bold, slightly spicy chorizo.  The beautifully-presented vegetables added some colour and tasted lovely and market fresh.

Desserts at The Peninsula Paris are by Executive Pastry Chef Julien Alvarez – winner of the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in 2011 – and we were excited to see what he had designed for that evening.

Since we were so close to the Charle de Gaulle Étoile and gazing at the little stars adorning the Eiffel Tower, it seemed only right to try the Chocolate star, crunchy praline, macae ice cream.

This gorgeous dessert was everything that I’d hoped for.  The glossy dark chocolate dome was filled with a velvety chocolate mousse and ganache with a crunchy praline biscuit base.  The delicious macae ice cream was served atop a chocolate cookie and the delicate gold-painted star biscuit made it even more special.

Fruity freshness, almond biscuit, mango yuzu cream, strawberry sorbet was bursting with juiciness and exotic fruit flavours.  The soft almond sponge and fine biscuit was topped with fragrant, smooth mango and yuzu cream and fresh raspberries with flecks of gold leaf.

The strawberry sorbet was a real highlight and the mango and lime compote finished the dessert perfectly.

To round off our meal, we were served pots of Earl Grey tea and some decadent white chocolate nut clusters with a slightly iridescent sheen.  The rain started beating against the glass, but it did nothing to dampen our spirits as we couldn’t be more content sipping tea in front of the Eiffel Tower.

L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris is the perfect place to experience the magic of Paris from above with stylish surroundings, exceptional service and a creative yet unpretentious menu.  I’d love to visit again in the summer to make the most of the city views over a cocktail, however dinner in the evening with the Eiffel Tower light show is unmissable.

For more information and booking, visit: www.peninsula.com

Chérie City was a guest of The Peninsula Paris

Photos by The Peninsula Paris and Chérie City

Hotels, Paris

A Stay at Hôtel Bourg Tibourg, Paris

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is a real hidden gem in the heart of the Marais with the feel of an exquisite private residence.

Nestled on the chic rue Bourg-Tibourg, just a few steps away from high end tea emporium Mariage Frères, the hotel is so discreet that it may only be recognised by its signature clover motif.  I’ve strolled up and down this street countless times and this was the first time I’ve ever been able to locate the hotel.

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is an independent Marais boutique hotel with a serious style pedigree, designed by the renowned Jacques Garcia in 2001.

The hotel has just 30 rooms and is small but perfectly formed, with exquisite interiors and a cool, sophisticated ambiance.  The style is neo-gothic with opulent Byzantine and Oriental touches.

Entering the hotel, it felt like we had arrived at a bijou Parisian townhouse with lots of character and a touch of mystery.  We were warmly welcomed by the staff dressed stylishly in black and were offered a drink in the lounge while our room was checked over.

It’s a delightfully homely space with comfy sofas, a vintage record player, coffee table books, a Costes brown candle burning an intoxicating wood and bitter orange scent and the sultry sounds of Hôtel Bourg Tibourg’s exclusive vinyl album, ‘Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast’, playing in the background.

Next door is a library and honesty bar with a plush chaise-longue, inviting armchairs and bowls of fresh red apples.  The double doors lead out on to the atmospheric, red-hued inner courtyard with a statement water fountain, creeping ivy and heady jasmine flowers blending with the aromas of burning candles.

After relaxing in the lounge momentarily, we were swiftly shown to our Double Deluxe Room via the super-tiny lift that can only really fit two people sans luggage.  The smart, royal blue corridors led on to our room, which we accessed with an ornate blue and gold tassle key.

We were pleasantly surprised with the size of our room, proving Jacques Garcia’s design philosophy that ‘small can become grand’.  It must be one of the sexiest bedrooms in Paris, designed with a mix of stripes and filigree in a palette of rich vermillion, ochre and navy blue.

There are some stunning design touches such as Jacques Garcia’s signature silk tassel lamps, side tables with studded legs and a luxurious striped carpet.

Room features include a super-comfy double bed covered in fine, crisp linen, a B&O flat screen TV, CD and DVD player, wardrobe with shelves and hanging space, minibar, free wifi and a cute upholstered table with little red velvet stools.

If you feel like having a cosy night in or escaping bad weather, you can watch a DVD from the extensive library with room service and borrow an iPad.

Waiting for us in the room was the most perfect plate of fresh strawberries and raspberries, a set of beautifully-shot postcards (the beautifully-shot images can be admired on the hotel website), an English edition of Palace Costes magazine and a hand-written welcome note.

We grazed on the delicious berries while exploring the room and they were made even sweeter when enjoyed on the romantic balcony, where we could people-watch from high above the Marais.

Behind the double wood doors carved with the hotel’s clover motif was the spacious, wood-panelled bathroom.  It includes a large sink, deep-soaking bathtub and mosaic-tiled shower with good water pressure and plenty of fluffy towels.

Best of all is the full set of Costes red line bathroom products with a spicy floral aroma of juniper berries, coriander seeds, rosewood, incense, musk, laurel, white pepper and lavender.  As a discerning hotel bathroom product lover, I was thrilled to try out these exclusive products during our stay and the intense scents filled our room with a seductive aroma.

That afternoon, Steven headed over to the Palais de Tokyo while I caught up with my Parisian friend Coralie for some shopping and afternoon tea in the Marais.  With so many French designer stores, cute independent boutiques and pavement cafes and boulangeries on the doorstep, the hotel’s prime location really is unbeatable.

After a glorious night’s sleep in that heavenly bed, we headed down to the basement breakfast room for a morning feast.  We had the cavernous, arched room all to ourselves and loved its atmospheric mix of Medieval-style tapestries, ornate chandeliers, cheetah print chairs and tassels aplenty.

We were served pots of Mariage Frères Earl Grey tea and large glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice, along with another beautifully-manicured fruit plate and fat-free yoghurts.

Breakfast also includes two organic eggs with the option of adding bacon or smoked salmon, but we simply enjoyed the exquisite pastries and ficelle baguette accompanied by jams and French butter.  I highly recommend taking a leisurely breakfast at Hôtel Bourg Tibourg, as it really enhances the hotel experience and is a luxurious start to the day.

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is a stylish bolthole that will set your heart aflutter with its sumptuous design, cool ambiance and attention to detail.  It’s an irresistible hotel for couples spending a romantic break in the Marais and is sure to make for a memorable stay.

For more information and booking, visit: www.bourgtibourg.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hôtel Bourg Tibourg Paris

All photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Paris, Restaurants

STAY Paris Le Faubourg by Yannick Alléno

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the pleasure of enjoying dinner at STAY Paris Le Faubourg, the new restaurant by three Michelin star chef Yannick Alléno at Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg.

The renowned French chef brings his exciting Simple Table Yannick Alléno concept directly from Asia, where he has already opened STAY restaurants in Dubai, Taipei and Beijing.

In Paris, STAY sits comfortably between Yannick Alléno’s two casual Terroir Parisien restaurants and the ultra-exclusive Alléno Paris at Pavillon Ledoyen.  The menu is inspired by his worldwide travel, offering dishes with Southeast Asian and Japanese influences, as well as exploring French gastronomy.

When I stayed at Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg last year with my mum, we enjoyed breakfast each morning in the bright, airy and ever so chic restaurant that was previously named Les Collections.

The breezy character of the restaurant remains with just a few design tweaks and a new highlight colour of zesty yellow.  There’s also a private dining Communal Table for six to eight people and a chic courtyard terrace where you can dine among the fragrant flowers, palms and fountains.

At the helm of STAY Paris Le Faubourg is Executive Chef William Girard, who started working for Yannick Alléno at Hotel Scribe in Paris and has since overseen top restaurants across Asia, including STAY and Sweet Tea in Taipei.  Not only is he passionate about introducing Paris to the STAY concept, but he’s also a colourful character with a playful sense of humour.

We began our evening in style with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne while navigating the menu.  To start, I ordered the Dublin Bay Prawns à la Polonaise (€32), as I’ve always had good langoustines in Paris.  This dish was an absolute delight with incredibly tender, plump chilled langoustines in a typical Polonaise style with a twist.

They sat atop a tangy, lightly creamy sauce and were topped with separated, finely-shaved egg whites and yolks, tiny breadcrumbs, burst-in-the-mouth vinaigrette pearls and fresh chives.  It’s a deliciously light and flavoursome starter that really invigorates the tastebuds.

Steven went for the beautifully-presented Tuna Tartare with Niçoise-style salad (€22).  The lean, ultra-fresh tuna had a clean and natural taste and was perfectly complemented by blanched asparagus spears, halved quail eggs, red peppers, thinly-sliced radishes and a light herb sauce.

It’s hard to resist a proper Parisian steak and it’s even more tempting when you know that Yannick Alléno sources his meat from one of the best butchers in Paris.

I tried the Beef Fillet ‘fleur de sel’ (€48), which came with a choice of sauces and one side dish.  My steak was ever so lean and succulent, cooked perfectly medium à la plancha with nicely browned edges and a coating of fleur de sel.

The succulent meat just melted in the mouth and was served simply with a baby gem lettuce leaf brushed with the meat juices.  The smooth Béarnaise sauce came in a petite jug on the side and was punctuated with tiny pieces of shallot and torn fresh tarragon.

My side dish of Gratin Dauphinoise Louis Grondard (€10) was just heavenly and so indulgent.  Slow-cooked in its own crock pot, the exemplary gratin was creamy with slightly sweet potatoes, plenty of garlic, butter and herbs and topped with bubbling, golden rustic cheese – French comfort food at its very best.

But where does Louis Grondard come in with this divine potato dish?  The celebrated Michelin star chef was Yannick Alleno’s mentor at Paris institution Drouant and his secret recipe is certainly worthy of this thoughtful tribute.

Steven tried the classic Beef Tenderloin Cafe Faubourg with fine French Fries (€48).  The steak was very tender and full of flavour, served with a creamy, meaty sauce studded with aromatic Asian peppercorns.  The French Fries were just as they should be – crispy, golden and hand-made with high quality potatoes.  This is undoubtedly one of the finest steak frites in Paris and believe me, I’ve tasted many.

A real highlight of dining at STAY is the magnificent Pastry Library, which guests are invited to visit to choose their dessert.  This is a chance to have a dessert ‘consultation’ and a bit of banter with the chefs, who present the desserts while plying you with hand-made chocolates, marshmallows lollipops, nougat, caramels and hazelnut brittle.

You can then watch them assembling your dessert and customising it to your preferences.  It’s a leisurely, unhurried experience that makes you feel just like a kid in a sweet shop (albeit with the city’s best chefs at the counter).  Seeing the desserts through the glass window and the fun inside the restaurant was too much for non-dining guests – they couldn’t stop themselves from popping in to ask for a lollipop or two.

For dessert, I went for Gavottes with hazelnut ice cream garnished with smooth caramel, candied hazelnuts and flecks of gold leaf.  Gavottes are traditional French crispy lace crepes and STAY’s hand-made versions were lovely and crunchy and went nicely with the velvety hazelnut ice cream.

Steven tried a Chocolate Cone filled with a lightly whipped milk chocolate cream.  We loved the artistic presentation with a chocolate disc spiked through with a chocolate stick, finished with gold leaf and tiny chocolate cookies.

As if dessert wasn’t enough, our sugar high reached its climax with a selection of petit fours to accompany our Earl Grey tea, served in a signature Sofitel Asian-style cast iron teapot.  We grazed on bite-size chocolate éclairs topped with a glossy ganache and gold leaf, mini pistachio macarons and some inventive lemon meringue tarts.

STAY Paris Le Faubourg is the perfect spot for a relaxing meal in stylish surroundings, whether you’re in the mood to go all-out French or enjoy an international dish.  Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg is one of my favourite central Paris hotels and I’m always wowed by Yannick Alléno’s cooking, so for me, it’s a match made in foodie heaven.

Chérie City was a guest of YUZU Yannick Alléno

Photos by Chérie City and STAY Paris Le Faubourg

Bars, Paris, Restaurants

Dinner at Les Niçois, Paris

On the first night of our recent trip to Paris, we caught up with our Parisian friends Coralie and Sunny for a bite to eat.

Since we were staying just a short walk from their apartment at Hotel du Petit Moulin, we decided to go local for the evening so we could walk to dinner and back.

For something light and a bit different, I suggested we try Les Niçois, a casual tapas bar inspired by the French Riviera.  Located on the edge of a quiet, leafy square, the bar is far from the busy part of the Marais and feels like a cool neighbourhood find.

Owners Vincent Traoré and Luc Sananes bring a taste of the Med to Paris with Les Niçois.  It’s low-key and atmospheric with simple wooden seating and emblems of the south of France such as a retro Ricard dispenser, vintage-style publicity posters and old maps.

There’s even a Pétanque sand pitch downstairs if you really want to get into the spirit of the Côte d’Azur.  As if that’s not enough to lure you in, it gets the Colette seal of approval – you can buy Les Niçois home-made tapenades, pesto, olive oil and Rosé de Pétanque at the hip lifestyle store.

The menu at Les Niçois features a selection of dishes typical to Nice as well as a daily chalkboard of specials.  I also thought the drinks menu was rather fun with what Coralie calls ‘holiday drinks’ like Monaco, Panaché and all kinds of aniseed aperitifs such as Pastis and Ricard.

Steven and I both couldn’t resist a Monaco (€3.60) while Coralie and Sunny had a glass of really good white wine from the south of France (I forget the name but it had lovely notes of juicy apricot).

We both ordered the Assiette Nissarde (€12) to share and it was the perfect size for two people.  The Pizza Nissarde was petite yet rich with sunkissed tomato confit atop and a sliver of anchovy atop a fluffy, moist base.  The Pissaladière was also delicious with sweet, slightly tangy slow-roasted onions and fresh herbs.

We all loved the crispy, pillowy Panisses – chunky chickpea fries that were surprisingly light and not at all greasy.  They were the ideal accompaniment for dipping into the home-made Tapenade Vert, Tapenade Noire and Anchoïade.

The olive tapenades are full of punchy flavours and are so very moreish – luckily we were also offered a basket of top notch rustic bread to make them go even further.  The Anchoïade is more of an acquired taste and it split opinion on our table.

Steven and I shared a plate of Chipolata Croquettes (€6), which were plump and substantial with a rich, creamy filling and a crispy, golden breadcrumb coating.  Coralie and Sunny also tried a few vegetable dishes that went down well.

Of course we didn’t pass on dessert and these ones are particularly tempting.  The Speculoos Creme (€6)was velvety and decadent with a crumbled biscuit topping, while the Brownie du Chef (€6) was rather special.  Far from a regular brownie, this one was filled with white chocolate chips, hazelnut praline and a touch of salted caramel.

As usual we were one of the last tables to leave, but we were never once rushed by the friendly, charming staff.  It’s definitely the kind of place you can come to with friends and chat the night away over drinks and regional French bites.

Not only does it have a great atmosphere but it’s also refreshingly affordable, so you can eat well for a little or really indulge and sample an array of dishes.

Les Niçois has made it onto my list of favourite spots in Paris and I can’t wait to go back and try the lunchtime formule or the weekend brunch for a bargainous €25 per person.

For more information and booking, visit: www.lesnicois.com

Photos by Les Niçois and Chérie City

 

 

Hotels, Hotels - Design, Paris

Hotel du Petit Moulin, Paris

A stay in Paris doesn’t get much more romantic or magical than at Hotel du Petit Moulin in the stylish Haut-Marais.

Housed in what was once one of the oldest boulangeries in Paris, Hotel du Petit Moulin is the very definition of a hidden gem.  Only a few clues give away its hotel status, so it has the intimate feel of a private residence.

The hotel’s charming, 17th-century Parisian architecture is brought to life with creative, otherworldly interiors by renowned couturier Christian Lacroix.  It has a petite, maze-like appearance with just 16 rooms and one junior suite all designed uniquely with bold digital prints, catwalk sketches and sumptuous fabrics.

Hotel du Petit Moulin may seem like an independent hotel, however it has two stunning sister hotels that I’ve also had the pleasure of staying at – Pavillon de la Reine on the nearby Place des Vosges and Pavillon des Lettres.  A perk of this union is that guests are welcome to use the fantastic Spa de la Reine facilities – it’s definitely worth stopping by for a spot of pampering.

Hotel du Petit Moulin has a beautifully-designed lounge with a cosy reading nook as well as an Honesty Bar where breakfast is served in the morning.  Even the corridors have cool design features such as a dress illustration next to our door and monochrome polka-dot carpet that made me think of Yayoi Kusami.

Our Deluxe Room on the third floor was truly atmospheric with an exquisite moon and stars digital print above the bed and soft gold walls.  The popular Moon and Stars Room is often requested by returning guests and I can see why they’ve fallen in love with it.

Room features include a comfy queen-size bed covered in sumptuous linen, large Samsung LCD TV, writing desk, Lacroix illustrated notepad, minibar, air-conditioning, a complimentary bottle of mineral water and free wifi.

The room is unexpectedly spacious with a living area covered entirely with black and white toile de Jouy fabric, offset with pop-style orange felt swivel chairs.  The open wardrobe with plenty of hanging and storage space can also be sectioned off with a curtain and even the light switches have the toile de Jouy pattern for that total immersion effect.

I also loved that some wall edges are covered in mirrors (I never imagined how handy they would be) and that the bedside lights have a sensor, so you simply give them a regal wave to dim or switch off the light, rather than scrambling for the switch.

Most Paris hotel rooms that I’ve stayed in usually feel very contemporary, so it was a real pleasure to look up at the ornate cornice above the bed and fling open the traditional windows to the sounds of the street below in the morning.

The large bathroom has an urban-country feel with cream painted wood-panelled walls, black slate tiles, a deep claw-foot bathtub with shower, extra-wide towels and face cloths, thick bathrobes, slippers and a set of Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte bathroom products.

After a blissful night’s sleep (and a glorious lie-in), we headed down the bar for a typically Parisian breakfast.  The colourful bar has a vintage French feel with a trompe l’oeil statement wall and a traditional zinc bar.

We were served a generous morning feast of fruit salad, French set yoghurt, artisan baguette with President butter and cheese and a basket full of exquisite pastries, with Mariage Frères Earl Grey tea and freshly-squeezed orange juice.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a table with cereal, nuts and fresh fruits that you can help yourself to.  Breakfast is 16 Euros per person and is definitely worth ordering to start the day feeling happy and well-fed – it can also be taken in the comfort of your room.

As Hotel du Petit Moulin is a small hotel, there’s no restaurant, however you can indulge in room service with a menu of French classics such as onion soup and confit duck from a good neighbourhood bistro.

Of course, the Marais is a haven for foodies, so you don’t need to stray too far for a memorable meal.  Nearby, you can find American neo-diner Rachel’s (my Parisian friends rave about the cheesecake), merci’s pizza restaurant Grazie, Le Mary-Celeste cocktail bar, historic foodie spot Le Marché des Enfants Rouge and my two new favourites Profiterole Chérie and Riviera-inspired tapas bar Les Nicois.

This hip part of the Marais is also home to some of the city’s best art galleries, independent boutiques and discount stores for French designer brands such as Alaïa, Zadig & Voltaire and Sandro.  It’s quickly become my favourite part of Paris to stay in for a romantic, relaxing break.

Hotel du Petit Moulin is the perfect urban bolthole that makes you feel immersed in Parisian life.  If you love the Marais, couture fashion and plenty of privacy, this is the place you should call home when in Paris.

Stays at Hotel du Petit Moulin from €195 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis.  www.hotelpetitmoulinparis.com: +33 1 42 74 10 10.

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel du Petit Moulin

All photos by Chérie City

Afternoon tea, Paris, Patisserie

Afternoon Tea at Profiterole Chérie, Paris

On my recent trip to Paris, I caught up with my friend Coralie for an afternoon of shopping and a bite to eat in the Marais.  Steven headed over to the Palais de Tokyo to check out the latest exhibition, allowing us a few hours of girl time.

We met up at our hotel Bourg Tibourg and headed out into the Marais for a bit of an adventure.  We shopped at Maje, American Vintage, Comptoir des Cotonniers and Repetto and Coralie showed me her favourite jewellery boutique, Marine de Diesbach.  It has the feel of an artist’s studio with handmade pieces that you can’t find anywhere else.

Another stop was at the wonderful Palais des Thés, where we sampled green tea and jasmine tea paired with financiers.  Continuing the tea and cake theme, we headed up to rue Debelleyme in time for the ‘quatre-heures’ (tea time).

Coralie took me to a new profiterole place that had recently opened, but she left the name as a surprise until we arrived (needless to say I was thrilled).  Profiterole Chérie is a bijou little patisserie and tea salon that simply offers traditionally French choux with a twist.

Profiterole Chérie is the first Parisian patisserie by acclaimed pastry chef Philippe Urraca (awarded Best Craftsman of France in 1993).  It’s pretty and oh so Parisian with dreamy pastel pink walls, marble tables and highlights of dove grey.

Profiteroles are freshly-baked at the store and prepared to order at the open counter.

The menu features choux filled with ice cream or pasty cream in a variety of flavours, as well as a special profiterole of the moment.

Knowing that I would be eating dessert later on, I went for the light and fruity Ma Chérie citron meringué (€6).  The crisp, freshly-baked chou was filled with smooth, cool lemon curd cream and topped with meringue sticks and lime zest.  It was accompanied by a pot of zingy, sharp citrus coulis to pour over the top.

Coralie’s Ma Chérie Paris-Brest (€6) was a delicious blend of velvety praline cream, roasted hazelnuts and rich chocolate sauce (if you love Nutella, this is the one to order).

We washed down our profiteroles with cups of Earl Grey tea (€3), although I would be tempted next time to try the chocolat chaud.

Profiterole Chérie is a delightful spot for an afternoon pastry fix and a good gossip.  It’s surprisingly affordable for the area and feels friendly, intimate and unpretentious.  I can definitely see it becoming our new Paris tradition.

For more information, visit: www.profiterolecherie.fr

All photos by Chérie City

Barcelona, Caribbean, Lisbon, Miami, Paris, USA

Top 5 Travels of 2014

2014 feels like it has flown by, but luckily it’s been filled with some unforgettable travel experiences, from European city breaks to a long, relaxing cruise in the Caribbean.  Here are some of my favourite moments from over the year…

Cocktail Masterclass at Le Bristol Paris

My first stay at Le Bristol was one of my most memorable times in Paris, so I was thrilled to be invited back a second time (staying in the very same Junior Suite, no less).

I had the pleasure of meeting Head Barman Maxime Hoerth, who took us on a fabulous tour of the city’s coolest cocktail bars – Le Mary Celeste, Sherry Butt and Jeffrey’s.  We learned how to make a variety of Old Fashioned cocktails in a private masterclass in Le Bar du Bristol and Maxime created my very own cocktail, the ‘Chérie Club’.

Happily, most of our time was spent in the hotel, indulging with room service breakfasts, lunch in Le Jardin Francais and 114 Faubourg and exquisite cakes.

Not only was it a dreamy, relaxing trip in the company of a fun group, but I was reunited with Fa-Raon, the hotel’s majestic white Birman cat.  I dare say my cocktail making skills have improved too.

A Foodie Trip to Lisbon

Lisbon is a place that I’ve always wanted to visit and I was really impressed by the warm, welcoming Portuguese hospitality wherever we went.  We were kindly invited by Four Seasons Lisbon, who went the extra mile to make our trip so special.

We saw the city in style with a private car tour organised by the hotel, taking in the city’s beautiful sights such as the Castle of São Jorge and Church of Santa Engrácia in old Alfama, the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.  Trying a couple of Portuguese custard tarts from the famous Pastéis de Belém is an absolute must.

Lisbon is also a haven for foodies and we had the most fantastic meals at José Avillez’s two Michelin star restaurant Belcanto, one Michelin star restaurant Feitoria and lunch at Flores do Bairro and Varanda.  I’d love to spend more time in Lisbon and explore the nearby coastal town of Caiscais.

Late Summer in Barcelona 

It had been quite a few years since I visited Barcelona, so it was definitely time to revisit the Catalan city.  We spent a good amount of time by the Barceloneta, staying at the stylish Hotel Arts Barcelona and munching on Californian-style burgers at SALT Beach Club at W Barcelona.

Visiting during Catalan Day offered an interesting insight into the cultural and political mood in Barcelona and we could feel the energy of this important day when strolling around the MACBA square, El Raval and El Born.  As ever, food was high on the agenda with dinner at Blanc at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, tapas at Ocaña on Plaça Reial and gelato at Eyescream and Friends.

Birthday in Paris

I have my Parisian friend Coralie to thank for suggesting I spend my 30th birthday in Paris.  As we all know, Paris is always a good idea, and where better to spend a monumental birthday with friends?

Steven and I spent the first night in Pigalle with a wonderful birthday dinner on the terrace at Hotel Amour with Coralie and Sunny.  We ended the night with a nightcap at Le Mansart, just a few steps away from where we were staying at the atmospheric Hotel Josephine.

Then it was on to the beautiful Pavillon de la Reine in the Marais and an evening at legendary Paris cabaret club, The Crazy Horse (I’ve always wanted to see the show in Paris).  Other highlights of the trip were country-style burgers at Big Fernand (arriving soon in London), perfume shopping at Nose and watching the world go by at the Place des Vosges.

Eastern Caribbean Cruise

This was a trip of firsts – the first time I visited the Caribbean and the first time I’d been let loose alone (well, with Steven) on a cruise ship.  The Celebrity Reflection was a destination in itself with copious amounts of food and drink around the clock, a fabulous pool and sundeck and plenty of entertainment.

We explored three very different Caribbean destinations that I never thought I’d have the chance of visiting – San Juan (Puerto Rico), Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) and Philipsburg and Marigot (St. Maarten).  I’ve definitely caught the cruise bug, as they say, and look forward to more sailing with Celebrity Cruises in 2015.

After the cruise, we stayed in Miami for two nights at boutique design hotel The Tides, right on South Beach.  We enjoyed a stunning dinner at The Setai, discovered the Wynwood Art District and marvelled at the pretty Art Deco buildings on South Beach.  It was a perfect end to the year and led nicely into the run-up to Christmas in London.

What was your travel highlight of 2014? Which destinations are on your wish list for 2015?

All photos by Chérie City