Disneyland Paris

For me, waking up to the panorama of a sunrise over Paris will always be a magical experience. The years go by, the seasons change and I grow older, but my excitement at seeing the Eiffel Tower basking in the sun’s rays never diminishes. On this particular morning, I was in an especially good mood, buzzing with the anticipation of spending a day at Disneyland Paris, Europe’s top tourist destination.

paris sunrise la defense eiffel tower

parisian sunrise paris tour eiffel

A few days previous to the glorious sunrise, my uncle Eric had contacted me over Skype asking if I’d be interested in joining him, my aunt and my cousin on a trip to Disneyland Paris. Like many people, I count myself as a lifelong fan of Disney animation and  I’m also a big fan of the Disney Park in Marne-la-vallée, having been on my first ever trip to the resort in the summer of 1994 at the age of 3. On this occasion, my mum had decided to dress me from head to toe in a Minnie Mouse dress with matching ears. These garments were relics from when my parents had previously gone off gallivanting to Disney in 1992 leaving me behind with my grandparents in Normandy. Whilst I outgrew the dress a very long time ago, those Minnie Mouse ears from 1992 still fit… and have accompanied me on return visits to the park (christmas day trips in 2003, 2007 and an extended summer trip of 4 days in 2011 when the Dance World Cup took place at Disneyland Paris).

1526161_10152114520733119_754244478_n

The pictures above are from 1994 and 2011 – as you can see Disneyland Paris has always been a place that evokes many happy memories for me and my family. I have always loved the fact that it is a bilingual attraction, with characters, parades, shows and rides often featuring both French and English because this reflects the way in which I was brought up – Franglais for the win!

The Disney company has several parks throughout the world, however Disneyland Paris is widely regarded as being the most beautiful in terms of layout and architecture. Many Disney films have been inspired by French fairytales, style or architecture (such as ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘The Aristocats’, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Ratatouille’) and so the choice of building a Disneyland park just outside Paris makes for a romantic and whimsical French backdrop that pays a lovely homage to many Disney classics. Disneyland Paris’ excellent transport links with the rest of central Europe means that the park is most definitely a jewel in the crown of the Disney Parks family.

We took the RER from Chatou to Marne La Vallée – a journey which only took about 45 minutes. There is a lot of parking available in the Disney complex, however it is easy to commute by train (the park even has a direct link from London with Eurostar). What I was particularly looking forward to on this excursion was the fact that we were visiting Disney on an off-peak day in the middle of the working week.  If you really want to maximise your chances of going on as many rides as possible with minimal queues then I would definitely advise visiting the park on a day with low attendance – luckily for us, the waiting time for most rides was a maximum of 5-10 minutes. This meant that we could truly make the most of our park hopping day tickets – the Disneyland Paris complex contains two theme parks, Disneyland Paris (est.1992) and Walt Disney Studios (est. 2001), as well as a Disney Village full of restaurants, cafés and shops, and it is possible to zip in and out of the two if you buy a two park ticket. At the height of the Christmas and summer holidays (peak attendance) it is not uncommon to queue for over an hour for some of the top rides.

Arriving at Marne-la-vallée, we made our way throught the archways of the bright pink Disneyland Hotel and entered onto Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

disneyland paris disneyland hotel

The park was beautifully decorated for the Christmas season (which runs from November-January) with trees, wreaths and flurries of artificial snow.

disneyland paris main street isa

Main Street USA is a really beautiful area with wonderful 1920s style architecture. Vintage cars and horse drawn carriages are often parked near the entrance, with Disney characters available for meet and greets under the band stand. There are many different activities available within the park – some guests want big thrills, others are looking for gentler rides, some just want to absorb the atmosphere and take in the sights, whilst many guests go to Disneyland with their children in order to meet Disney characters. For many children, meeting a character is an unforgettable and magical experience. If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland Paris and are especially interested in photo or autograph opportunities with characters, then I would recommend checking a programme for character locations at the beginning of your visit so as to optimise your chances of avoiding long queues and getting to meet with as many as possible. Programmes and maps of the park can be found at the ticketing booths by the entrance or online.

Disneyland is split into different themed zones – Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventure Land and Discoveryland. My cousin Maxim’s favourite attraction is the ‘Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast’ which is based on the character of Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story films, and so  futuristic space age Discoveryland was our first port of call. ‘Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast’ is a popular fastpass attraction – and is especially popular with younger children. At certain attractions within the park, it is possible to print off a Disney fastpass which enables you to return at a certain time slot and skip the queue – it’s a ticket that can come in handy!

After zapping some aliens with laser guns, we dashed over to Star Tours – a Star Wars spacecraft simulator. For us, there was no wait for the ride – however, if you do find yourself with time to spare, you can spend a long time marvelling at the attention to detail in the queuing area. The animatronics, which include talking robots of R2D2 and C-3PO, are very impressive. The first magical moment of the day was when the little boy in front of us (wearing an oversized fluffy hat) was referred to as an Ewok by one of the castmembers operating the Star Tours attraction – this quite visibly made his day.

disneyland paris discovery land videopolis space mountain

See the magical steampunk rocket launcher, pictured top right? That’s the Space Mountain Mission II attraction, an enclosed roller-coaster which draws inspiration from the works of French science fiction writer Jules Verne. After our simulated journey through space on Star Tours, my uncle suggested optimistically that I accompany him on the Space Mountain Mission II roller-coaster. Now… I’m not entirely sure whether he was expecting me to say yes, as on my previous trips to Disneyland, I had never really had the courage to go on big roller-coasters. Time was always of the essence, and I imagined that I’d queue for ages, panic at the last minute and then change my mind about going on the ride – which would end up being a waste of everyone’s time. However, as there were no queues at Space Mountain and as we had been hopping on and off rides at a fast pace, I ended up over excitedly agreeing with my uncle that going on Space Mountain Mission II was a BRILLIANT idea and before I could hesitate, I found myself strapped into a rocket and being counted down in preparation for take off… ie. being fired up a cannon. With a wicked gleam in his eye, uncle Eric had assured me just before we got on that there was no loop the loop or ‘looping’ on the ride… this was a lie. A necessary lie to get me to face my fears of being flipped upside down at speed.

As you are propelled upwards and subsequently whooshed along the inversions and loops of the track, a light show of swirling neon constellations, supernovas and vortexes come into view – making for an exciting and disorientating experience. It’s fast, it’s violent but extremely fun. I bruised my knee and had tears in my eyes from the speed at which we were going but left the ride giggling feeling giddy and happy from the adrenaline rush.

Reunited with my aunt and cousin, who had been patiently waiting with our bags, we headed onwards towards Fantasyland – this is the most magical area of the park in my opinion, as it has the gorgeous Sleeping Beauty Castle (Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant). We stopped briefly to visit the ‘mysterious’ dragon which lurks beneath the castle in ‘La Tanière du Dragon’. As a little girl, I seriously believed that this was a real dragon – and each time I visit the park, I find it quite heartwarming to see that the 27m long mechanical dragon is still puffing smoke and terrifying little children… it ‘s a mechanical masterpiece that has not changed in the slightest since the very first time I saw it 18 years ago. Most of the children gathered around it  (including a certain ten year old cousin) were marvelling at the fact that they were in the presence of a  ‘genuine fire breathing dragon’.

sleeping beauty castle

la tanière du dragon

We didn’t actually stay in Fantasyland for very long, instead making a beeline for Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland. This ride is wonderfully atmospheric and extremely popular. As you descend into the caverns of the attraction you are hit with the smell of brine, and by the time you arrive at the loading bay of boats you could almost believe that you are actually on a caribbean lagoon underneath a starry sky. The film ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is based on this ride and its counterparts in the American theme parks – you’ll enjoy spotting similarities between the ride and the film. You can even dine in the Blue Lagoon restaurant which is actually situated within the attraction itself – how’s that for an immersive dining experience?

The visual highlight of Adventureland is Captain Hook’s pirate ship, which is docked next to Skull Rock. Adventureland is not only inspired by pirates, however – it also features Moroccan architecture, with scenery inspired by ‘Aladdin’.

adventureland pirate ship captain hook pirates of the caribbean

After spending some quality time with the pirates, it was time to visit cowboys and ghosts in Frontierland. This area is themed around Big Thunder Mountain and has two of my favourite attractions – the Thunder Mountain Railroad and the delightfully creepy Phantom Manor.

thunder mountain jack skellington phantom manor
After a ride on Thunder Mountain – a runaway mine train – we were greeted theatrically by Jack Skellington from ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ – this was exciting for me as this was a character that I had never seen at Disneyland Paris before. He was waiting outside Phantom Manor and accompanied by Sally the rag doll. Phantom Manor is a slow moving dark ride which features stretching rooms, ‘doombuggies’, holograms, ghostly brides and many visual references to Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a beautifully designed attraction – towards the end, see if you can spot the ghostly skeleton which appears above your reflection in the mirrors. After a brief skirmish with Cruella Deville….

cruella deville

… we took a break from the park, heading into Disney Village for food. The restaurants in Disney Village are great value for money – we went to Planet Hollywood (pictured slightly blurred below). Planet Hollywood is known for paying homage to films throughout the ages and of course as we were in Disneyland the restaurant had to have a Disney twist.  After lunch, we carried on the Hollywood theme by going to Marne-La-Vallée’s second park, Walt Disney Studios – the first stop being a ride that I was anticipating and dreading in equal amounts – The Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror (La Tour de la Terreur – Un Saut dans la Quatrième Dimension) – the lift which takes you into the ‘fourth dimension’.

tower of terror walt disney studios

My aunt didn’t fancy joining in on the jaunt to the fourth dimension ie. a terrifying series of drops. This ride is one of the most popular rides out of the two parks in Marne-La-Vallée – although Disneyland is much prettier in comparison to Walt Disney Studios, the Studios has the most thrilling set of rides – the Tower of Terror was exhilaratingly fun. Bellhops in costume greet you in character as you enter the building (I got a bow, a flourish of a cape and a kiss on the hand). Later in the afternoon, I even got whirled and twirled around by one particularly goofy bellhop who we happened to bump into on the way to Crush’s Coaster.

goofy dingo bellhop tower of terror tour de la terreur
Who said that character interactions were purely for the children…?

Walt Disney Studios has a lot of different shows – in 2011 I’d previously seen Animagique, Cinémagique, Stich Live!, the Studio Tram Tour and Moteurs…Action Stunt Show Spectacular. As it began to rain, we quickly dashed to the backlot to catch an afternoon showing of the cars stunt show – there’s a lot of fire, smashing of glass and bike/car chases. The show lasted for about 45 minutes – afterwards it was time for Uncle Eric to persuade me to go on yet another death-defying ride – the Aerosmith Rock  ‘n’ Roller Coaster. THIS IS A FAST RIDE – in fact it is the fastest at Disneyland Paris and ‘goes from 0 to 60mph in 2.8 seconds’. There are loops, there are lights; in short, it’s pretty brilliant. Again, by the end I had tears in my eyes but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would highly recommend going on the ride if you like strong sensations (…. and Aerosmith, of course).

After Aerosmith, my aunt and cousin joined us on Crush’s Coaster – this is a spinning indoor roller coaster based on ‘Finding Nemo’. This ride actually had the longest wait time of any of the rides that we’d been on during the day – if you really want to go on this one then I would advise going on it as soon as the park opens in the morning in order to avoid the queues. Although this ride did not have any loops, it was rougher than I expected – hold onto your belongings tightly on this one! At the beginning, I couldn’t sit back and relax as we were dragged backwards up a high vertical slope and I was worried that my satchel was going to fall out of the turtle shell – let that be a valuable lesson to me! The lighting and visuals on the ride were beautiful and really did justice to the film – I especially enjoyed the glowing jellyfish that were suspended in midair over the track.

donald duck topiary fantasia hippo disneyland hotel

Passing by topiary hippos from Fantasia, we headed once more into Disneyland for a repeat ride on Buzz Lightyear and to watch the evening parade.

disneyland paris parade mary poppins

The rain was really starting to lash down by this point – not that you’d have been able to tell that it was raining from the characters’ enthusiasm. After a trip around the shops, my uncle, aunt and cousin left as my cousin had school the next day, leaving me alone to wait in the shops until Disney’s Christmas Wishes and the big finale of the day – Disney Dreams Christmas. The shops were packed with people waiting for the shows… and it seemed as if every small child was deliberately going out of their way to touch the hundreds of glass baubles on display. Every so often you’d hear the tinkling of glass smashing followed by a parent’s gasp of horror.

IMG_5409

disney christmas wishes

disney dreams christmas

I was starting to feel the icy rain by this point but I’d heard so much about the ‘Disney Dreams’ light and water show, where images are projected onto the castle to spectacular effect, that I didn’t want to miss it. If you get a chance to see ‘Disney Dreams’ then do so – this may sound cliché but it’s entrancing – probably the closest that you’ll ever get to bathing in pixie-dust (…I went there). I watched the Christmas version which featured scenes from ‘Bambi’, ‘Toy Story’, ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Frozen’ – hearing Idina Menzel’s rendition of ‘Let it go’ from ‘Frozen’ as fireworks were shot off from the Castle was incredibly moving.

disney dreams

Completely soaked to the bone and shivering, I left at the end of the show as the park was closing, ran to the RER station and managed to get a hot chocolate just before the station shops closed down. I then hopped onto the RER and managed to find a seat before the rest of the disney crowds packed the train compartments. Mission accomplished, I settled down with my hairbrush (plucked magically from the satchel of wonders to the bewilderment of the men sat next to me) to try and make myself look less like a bedraggled swamp monster. I stopped off in Vincennes to dry off and be fed pasta and drink Monaco’s (thanks go to G) before being accompanied part of the way back to Florence’s apartment at about 11pm.

All in all, I had another wonderful Disney experience – with several pictures to add to my memories! Thanks go to my Uncle, Aunt and Cousin for taking me to Disneyland Paris – hopefully it won’t be too long before my next visit to a Disney Park!

Advertisements

The Bells of Notre Dame and the Glitz of Printemps

tour eiffel

Are you ready for another story from Paris? Well then, I won’t keep you waiting a moment longer!

The day started off slightly overcast – after having been reunited with my suitcase, I spent a while deciding what shoes to wear on my day in the city before eventually settling for sensible flats. Heels are all very well but when you’re dashing all over the city and having to anticipate the thought of climbing lots of stairs at BREAKNECK SPEEDS (slight exaggeration) then flats are the best option… Satchel packed with a change of clothes, I headed to Maison Blanche  (which is not a glamorous presidential house or home to Blanche Neige but a relatively small and quiet metro station) where I took line 7 to Châtelet. Emerging from the underground, I was greeted by the stunning architecture in Place du Châtelet.

I soon found myself crossing the Pont au Change (a bridge which features as an iconic location in two of my favourite books Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables‘ and Patrick Süskind’s ‘Das Parfum’. The latter tells the story of a sensual yet gory quest for the perfect scent through 18th Century France and a large portion of the book takes place at a fictional parfumerie on the Pont au Change).

From the bridge, I got a great view of the Palais de Justice complex, which is a really impressive sight to behold. Whilst the gothic towers and spires  look as if they belong in the illustrated pages of a fairytale book, it’s important to remember that  Paris has more than its fair share of dark secrets. This building has a particularly bloodthirsty past, for it was in the Conciergerie, an ancient prison within the complex, that numerous prisoners (including  Marie Antoinette) were imprisoned before they were guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

conciergerie palais de justice

Just around the corner from the Conciergerie is the Palais de Justice – this is the most exciting part of the building because this is where all the action takes place and where justice is carried out to this day! This was a very busy area, with a heavy police presence. The national tripartite motto of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ is featured on the façade of the Palais, with one word chiselled above each of the three main doors.

palais de justice paris

When you cross over the Pont au Change, you leave the right bank of the Seine and find yourself on the île de la cité – a natural island on the River Seine, which is dominated by the iconic gothic cathedral Notre Dame de Paris.

notre dame de paris

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is one of my favourite sights in Paris – measuring over 70m high, construction began in 1163 and today the Cathedral is considered to be one of the most beautiful religious landmarks in the world, showcasing a perfect example of French gothic architecture from the Middle Ages. Notre Dame was also one of the first buildings to feature flying buttresses as a form of architectural support. I’ve already mentioned my love of gothic novels and admiration for the author Victor Hugo elsewhere on my blog, so the fact that I love the novel ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ (in English ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’) will probably come as no big surprise to the reader. Everyone knows the Disney version of the story –  where deformed hunchback Quasimodo falls in love with the beautiful gypsy girl Esméralda and spends a lot of time singing and chatting with his anthropomorphic gargoyle friends and swinging on bells. The novel has much darker themes – as well as playing with juxtapositions of the grotesque and the sublime in the form of the different characters in the novel for effect, Victor Hugo was extremely passionate about the importance of preserving Notre Dame’s beautiful architecture from destruction and corruption. The character of Esméralda in particular serves as an important metaphor for the potential fate of the Cathedral…

Arriving at Notre Dame, I wasn’t too impressed with the massive eyesore ie. blue walkway that has been built in the Place Jean Paul II to mark the 850th birthday of the Cathedral. This pretty hideous looking construction (what was that about heeding the important warning about the corruption of the beautiful Cathedral by modern architecture?) leads to an elevated grey viewing platform which is covered with the names of French Saints  (I was mildly appeased by the fact that the name Louise was included. Mildly. I remember visiting the Cathedral when I was much younger and being able to have a Mary Poppins ‘Feed the Birds’ moment, however now all the sparrows have been scared off by the terrifying sight of that walkway)

notre dame louise

I do have to admit, however, that even though the view of the plaza was compromised by the big blue monstrosity, the view from the platform was spectacular, giving the viewer a closer look at the ‘Gallery of the Kings’, a line of statues on the Cathedral façade. The air was cold and even though I wasn’t that high up the ground, it felt as if I was at quite a high altitude.  I stayed for a while gazing at gargoyles – and I ended up being approached by a seemingly never-ending chain of couples wanting to have their photographs taken with the impressive backdrop of the Cathedral. This went on for a good twenty minutes, (I started to feel as if I was a teacher on a school trip in charge of everyone’s cameras) but it was actually quite a lovely feeling helping others get a good memory to take home.

river left bank bouquinistes books book stall

Moving swiftly onwards, I left Notre Dame to have a look at the ‘Bouquinistes of the Seine’. Along the river, you will find green stalls which have a large variety of second hand and antiquarian books – as well as the obligatory postcards of the Eiffel Tower, cats and Brigitte Bardot.

In the two lower pictures, you can see some examples of Parisian graffiti. On the left hand side, brightly coloured Chopin and Gospel concert posters have been stuck to the side of a green box covered with tags and scribbles, whilst on the right hand side there is evidence of some of the more tongue in cheek graffiti artwork that you can see around Paris. Just above the street sign ‘Rue des trois portes’ there is a red horned octopus – Octopuses seem to be a popular image to use as graffiti in Paris. According to this interview with Underground Paris  (http://undergroundparis.org/gzup-interview) street artist Gz’Up has managed to place over 214 plywood octopuses in locations hidden around the city. (I’ll interject here with a vaguely fun and random fact about Guernsey and the octopus. The French word for octopus, ‘pieuvre‘, originally came from the Guernsey French language of Patois. When Victor Hugo came to live on the island of Guernsey for 15 years whilst he was exiled from France, he wrote a book dedicated to the island called ‘The Toilers of the Sea’. One of the villains of the novel is an angry giant octopus. Victor Hugo quite liked the sound of the Guernsey word ‘pieuvre‘ and so decided to ‘borrow’ it in order to give his aquatic beast a name, and after the book was published, the word ‘pieuvre’ came into common usage in the French language)

Pieuvres aside, I continued on my travels and eventually stumbled across a weekly market. Taking a break to buy a drink, I was amused momentarily by the commotion caused by a small flock of pigeons flying out from behind the counter of a bakery before I looked at the time and realised that I had to meet a friend in the west of Paris and that I had no idea where I was supposed to go, which metro line to take… or indeed where the nearest Metro station was. Although I was cutting it very fine, I made it just in time and promptly found myself in a Japanese restaurant with ‘G’ struggling to make a dent into a large platter of avocado sushi, rice, mushroom skewers AND miso soup whilst trying to appear elegant and demure using a pair of chopsticks. A sushi massacre ensued.

sushi paris

Seeing as I had moved onto the west side of Paris, I was relatively close to the big department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. Outside, the grey clouds were dispersing, leaving the skies over Paris a glorious shade of bright blue, so I decided to go for a walk along the boulevard. The blue skies were contrasting beautifully with the golden art nouveau domes of Printemps’ Flagship store. The shop windows were beautifully decorated for the festive season.

printemps et opéra garnier

Just across the street from Printemps is the rear façade of the Palais Garnier,  l’Opéra National de Paris. This structure was planned by Napoleon III and designed by Charles Garnier – the project completed construction in 1875. It’s an opulent, beautiful building – and was the scene and inspiration for Gaston Le Roux’s 1910 novel ‘Le Fantôme de l’Opéra’. Having recently been bowled over by Gerónimo Rauch’s performance as Erik the Phantom in London, I had been particularly looking forward to getting a closer look at the building. Florence had told me that if you turn up an hour before certain performance then it is possible to get cheap tickets, however I didn’t have time to try this out. The Opéra interiors are gorgeously decadent and can be toured for a small fee of around five euros.

IMG_7249

I allowed myself to get lost in the glitzy decorations of both Printemps and Galeries Lafayette (which was built 30 years after Printemps) for a few hours. The Christmas tree in Galeries Lafayette was the most beautiful tree that I’ve ever seen. It was lit up with electric blue lights and studded with large pink flowers with mechanical petals which opened and closed at regular intervals. A big snowy owl perched at the top of the tree whilst animatronic puppets of mice, cats, rabbits and monkeys danced above the heads of shoppers making extravagant purchases at the make up counters on the ground floor. Galeries Lafayette has ten stories and so there are escalators on each floor in order to make the ascent to the heavenly glass domed ceiling – ‘la coupole‘ – much easier on your legs. I decided to make my way up to the top in order to get a closer look at the big fluffy owl.

galeries lafayette sapin de noël hibou

For many families, it’s a time honoured tradition to go and see festive displays in the big Parisian department stores. The 2013 window displays at Printemps were designed by Fashion House PRADA. Grown ups and children alike were peering into the colourful vitrines whilst upbeat retro music played from speakers – I especially enjoyed hearing the goose walk from ‘The Aristocats’.

prada christmas

I would return later to Boulevard Haussman later in the week with my mum to bask some more in the bright lights and beautiful shop displays.  As dusk began to fall, however, the time came for me to head to Chatou, a town in the suburbs famous for being popular with impressionist painters, to spend an evening with my uncle, aunt and cousin.

We would be leaving for Disneyland Paris in the morning…

“Aux Champs-Élysées…”

1546334_10152091513703119_728112583_n

For me, a trip to Paris is never quite complete without a stroll down “the World’s most beautiful avenue” – the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The majestic Arc de Triomphe stands at one end of the avenue (if you want a view fromt the top, then the 300+ steps can be climbed for a fee) whilst the obélisque de Louxor waits for you at the other end. The obélisque, which is over 3,000 years old, originally stood at the entrance to an Egyptian temple – however, it was moved from Egypt to France around 180 years ago when it was given as a gift to the French government.

At just under 2km long, the Champs is the perfect place to stretch your legs and people watch – if you’re not afraid of a bit of hustle and bustle and having consumerism thrust into your face.  It’s a street where worlds collide and the activity of window shopping reigns supreme. Walking down the Champs, you’ll see all sorts of characters, from excited children on their first ever trip to Paris to little old ladies clad from head to toe in 1930s fur doing a bit of ‘lèche-vitrine’ whilst walking their poodles and pomeranians.

From Chanel and Louis Vuitton to Quiksilver and H&M, from Fouquet’s to Macdonalds, the Champs-Élysées has it all. The shops are all beautifully laid out  – particular highlights include the Nespresso boutique (which has walls studded with gleaming jewel coloured Nespresso capsules), the car showrooms, which always have intriguing displays showcasing the latest must have luxury vehicle and of course, the piles of cakes and sweet treats placed alluringly in the windows at Ladurée. My favourite part of the Champs are the arcades and galeries –  these areas feature stunning 19th century architecture and are tucked away under covered passageways sandwiched between the larger shops. Inside the galeries, chic boutiques, vintage bookshops, souvenir emporiums and James Bond-esque gadget shops nestle side-by-side.

1497507_10152088659733119_660578581_n

 So, with time to spare in Paris, it was only natural that I would be tempted to go to the Champs-Élysées – after all, window shopping doesn’t cost anything. After a breakfast of pastries in Villiers, I got on the metro and changed line a few times before arriving at my destination. I decided to walk the 2km along the Champs to the Louvre through les jardins de Tuilieries. As this was just before the festive madness, the streets were relatively quiet, and I slipped into a reverie, gazing at doubledecker tour buses, pastel green Ladurée vans and sparkly shop windows… until all of a sudden a  giantess came into view.

1496641_10152089296953119_2004824232_n

 I feel that if David Bowie, a Falconer and Kirsten Dunst were fused together and thrown into the Baroque era, then this statue would be the outcome. The theme for the holiday season was ‘Noël Barock’ which was conveyed pretty well through the outlandish décor. I have to admit that glam rock Marie Antoinette was quite alarming (i.e.terrifying) but I headed into Sephora regardless.

Inside, I was greeted with the sight of stuffed cockatoos and a vast 1,500m² cavern of cosmetics, perfumes and powders.  Upon entry, I was duly spritzed with a Dolce and Gabbana scent by men (dressed as butlers) who were lurking just inside the entrance, waiting for unsuspecting shoppers to strut in from the street and down the red carpet. After checking out the new Ladurée makeup range, (originating from Japan, the cosmetics are sold exclusively in France by Sephora) I continued on my way and arrived at Place de la Concorde. Below you can see the obélisque de Louxor as well as la Grande Roue de Paris – a large transportable ferris wheel that has traveled all over Europe. I was particularly captivated by the mint green lamp post, which is quite possibly the most flamboyant LAMPADAIRE that I have ever seen.

1528495_10152091642268119_1310457768_n

Eventually I found myself back at the Louvre. Feeling a bit peckish, I bought myself a baguette from PAUL (www.paul.fr) which had a little van situated next to L’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. PAUL does great sandwiches (including, in my opinion, the best sandwich of all time) however when it comes to bakeries in Paris, then you really are spoilt for choice. If you’re planning a trip to Paris and are looking for ways to budget during your stay, you can save money food wise by having picnics or by eating on the go. Fruit, cheese and baguettes (and of course, wine) from the supermarket are all relatively cheap and taste great.

1534348_10152088406928119_287680361_n

Before I headed back to the deep dark depths of the Metro, I stopped to gaze at these giant bubbles that were being blown by a street performer just in front of the Palais-Royal. The buildings of the Palais-Royal are home to the Comédie Française (a famous state theatre group) the Minstry of Culture and a national library, amongst other things! La Place de Colette (named after famous French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the writer of ‘Gigi’) is a particularly lively area, surrounded by grand hotels and antiquarian bookshops and has a very fancy metro entrance  –  the “Kiosque des noctambules”.

1509766_10152091859283119_1809698864_n

See that dapper chap bottom right? That’s Molière, France’s answer to Shakespeare. If you’ve ever had to study French Literature, then you’ll probably be well acquainted with Molière. His works always feature somewhere on the literature syllabus of the French Baccalauréat!

Bidding farewell to Molière, I left Place de Colette and headed to Chinatown, where I was reunited with Florence, copies of Vogue, Normandy apple tart and a mug of hot chocolate! All we had to do was retrieve my suitcase from Claire’s flat…

 Coming up soon – Disneyland Paris, Place des Vosges and a recipe for galette des Rois!

Skating at Somerset House

There’s nothing like starting off the festive season with a bit of Bambi on ice – yes, I’m referring to my iceskating attempts. On my last full day in London, I got the chance to go iceskating on a beautifully lit outdoor iceskating rink – surrounded by the neoclassical façade of the wonderful Somerset House, which has served as a backdrop to two James Bond films, “Tomorrow never dies” and “GoldenEye”, both starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, the super smooth intelligence officer with the famous code number of 007.

After meeting Brendan at Euston, the day started off quite early with a walk around Leicester Square – you remember how I mentioned that I definitely didn’t cave into the temptation of buying peanut M&Ms from M&Ms World?

Image I caved. Oh, how I caved. You can see that in my shame (and euphoria) I couldn’t even look straight at the camera. London tourists, heed my advice – Definitely don’t go into M&Ms world on an empty stomach – as they say, a fool and their (or in this case, her) money are easily parted! 

After a short break for lunch, the next pit stop was Ladurée in Covent Garden to buy some macarons – I’d failed to locate the Ladurée café in the labyrinth of Harrods the day before and I wanted to buy some to share with friends. I hasten to add that by this point, I had hidden the sealed M&Ms in a deep, dark recess of my satchel and had blocked out their purchase from my memory.  Despite appearances, I am not the ultimate sugar junkie.

Ladurée have beautiful display boxes – once empty, macarons devoured, the glamorous boxes are perfect to keep jewellery or mementoes in. I had my eye on a mint green cylindrical case covered in gold baroque swirls – it looked as if it would make a great glasses case.

image-11

After I splashed a casual fifteen pounds on pastries, we carried on our walk from Covent Garden along towards the river and ended up walking around Somerset House. We had already discussed the possibility of going ice skating, however ended up at the Somerset House rink completely by accident – it must have been fate! We booked tickets for a skating session at 16:45 –  that gave us a bit of time to wander around the Embankment and take in the sights around the Tower of London and London Bridge.

Image  Somerset House by day….
… and the Tower of London by sunset…

image-10

 It was a beautiful yet wintry day. Above you can see some photos of The Tower of London buildings, bathed by the rays of the setting sun. We didn’t go into the tower (where the Crown Jewels are on display) as we did not want to be late for our iceskating rendez-vous – however it is well worth a visit, being a world heritage site and an interesting record of London’s history. At the time we visited, an iceskating rink was being constructed for Christmas – London seems to be full of picturesque rinks! The Tower of London rink is open until the 5th January 2014… however there are a few others that are open later into the year. The ice rink at Canary Wharf is open until February – for more information on places, dates and to book tickets you can check out the following article by Time Out London.  http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/ice-skating-in-london

The Tower of London is a major tourist attraction or honey pot – the buildings are allegedly haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn (the second wife of bloodthirsty King Henry VIII). The wire sculptures of lions pay homage to the lions that were once kept at the tower in the Royal Menagerie. Across the river, we could see the HMS Belfast – an impressive floating museum which is operated by the Imperial War Museum (it was also the filming location for a hilarious Christmas Special of the BBC sitcom “Outnumbered” a few years ago).

Image

I was basking in the beauty of the view. After gazing a while at sparkly replicas of the crown jewels in the Tower of London gift shop, we scurried back to the tube in order to be on time for our skate session. We had to make a quick trip to Accessorize en route to buy some gloves – sounding suspiciously like my mother, I insisted that I had to wear gloves to go ice skating… in case I tripped, got my fingers stuck to the ice and someone subsequently skated over my hands, severing my digits. This was perhaps not the most rational of explanations for needing to buy gloves…

I left my bags behind in the cloakroom (this cost me one fine english pound but was really practical) we exchanged our shoes for skates and hit the ice. It was pretty magical – I felt as if I’d been whisked away and transported into Disney’s Fantasia. Classical music was played – it was a relaxing and chic experience, gliding along a rink lit up in purpley pink hues whilst excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ from ‘The Nutcracker’ and Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ were played. Much to my relief, there were no dodgy British Christmas Classics played (Slade and Wizzard, I’m talking about you) – I love the festive season but those kind of songs bring out the Grinch in me!

image-13

image-14

You can tell from the photos that I was loving my time on the ice! Towards the end of the session, the music transitioned to 50s pop – we skated off the ice to The Chordette’s ‘Mr Sandman’ and went in search of beverages. There was a cool drinks marquee to the left hand side of the rink, however there was not enough seating inside so we decided to continue on our travels – first to Trafalgar Square (where we clambered over the lions) and then onwards to Planet Hollywood (which is just around the corner from Her Majesty’s Theatre, at 57-60 Haymarket). Brendan and I are both big fans of Hard Rock Café and so Planet Hollywood seemed like a good choice of grazing post. I’d been a few times to the Paris Planet Hollywood (which has since closed down, boohoo) and the Disneyland Paris Planet Hollywood for pizzas and burgers – this time I atoned for my macaron sins and ordered a big salad. We were placed next to Halle Berry’s rather fetching orange bikini from James Bond flick “Die Another Day”. If you want to dine out at a restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere then definitely book a table at Planet Hollywood – apparently you can often get good deals if you buy a set menu and West End ticket package…

image-15

Before we headed back to the train station, we took a quick glimpse into British memorabilia shop “Cool Britannia” which was very quirky and sold everything from cuddly toys and snow snowglobes to life-size One Direction cut outs. I didn’t buy anything, but it was a colourful shop which left a fun and vivid impression on me – just like vibrant, cosmopolitan London really! It truly was a lovely last night in London.

Covent Garden Cuisine (with a little bit of cruising around Camden Market)

On the fifth day of my trip, I found myself accompanied through the London streets by some pals from University – three physicists and a mathematician, to be exact. Nick, Tom, Caleb and Daryl (Daryl of Hamleys teddy bear snuggle fame) managed to organise a London meet up day with relatively short notice and it was great to catch up with what they’d all been up to over the summer. We met in the morning at London Victoria –  Nick, who was busy with his fancy jet-set number-crunching job (or so he’d have us believe…), joined us later in the evening. With so many scientists in the entourage, you’d think that the day would have gone ahead with logical precision, however apart from a request from Daryl to visit Chin Chin Labs in Camden, it was a relaxed freestyle day – which was more than ok with me, as you can tell from my previous posts, “magical mystery tours” of random discovery are just the way I like it.

We had a mosey around several different areas of London throughout the day – As the only girl, I found myself outnumbered by the boys, however used this newfound manly troupe as the perfect excuse to finally try out Five Guys burger restaurant. I had finally worked out where the building was and had a hunch that it would be a crowd-pleaser  – from experience, messy burgers tend to be a hit with men. Of course, I have a secret weak spot for a good barbecue bacon cheeseburger (but shush, no-one must know!) and was really intrigued to see if Five Guys lived up to the hype.

I had decided to take my new shoes from Forever 21 for a test drive – they would come to be referred to throughout the day as the “disco shoes” by Caleb and Tom, who both seemed to have an affinity for their apparent 70s look (or more likely, the 70s in general). It took a while for everyone to get used to my new height, as at first glance it seemed as if I had grown about seven inches over the summer. It was a lie. Fashion can be deceiving, folks.


Image

After traipsing around London Victoria for a while, looking for an “edgy café” for Caleb to get a coffee from, we decided to do a bit of sightseeing, starting with Buckingham Palace. We zipped from Victoria to Green Park on the tube and caught some action at the Palace gates. We were actually lucky enough to see some ornate carriages leaving the palace, which was quite exciting. I think one of the things that I love most about cities, is that even if you visit a landmark several times, you never have the same experience twice as there is always something different to observe or take part in. It was interesting to see the ceremonial dress of different dignitaries – I believe that the blue national costume pictured below is the attire worn by the Mongolian ambassador to the UK.

IMG_6597
After witnessing some artistic Instagram photography attempts at the Canada gates by a certain member of the gang (who is in denial of his passion for Canada and subsequent status as aficionado of all things canadian), we headed to Covent Garden to catch a bit of street magic and busking.  Whilst we were en route to Five Guys – we had decided that we were pretty ravenous by this point – we spotted the official Tintin Shop, which can be found at 34 Floral Street. The street name indicates Covent Garden’s early origins and roots as a flower market (the pun is unintentional this time, I swear). “Les Aventures de Tintin” is a comic book series which was created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé in 1929 and the shop on Floral Street was established in the early eighties. The Tintin comic series has since been adapted into a major feature film and still enjoys popularity today. I remember walking past Le Grand Rex in Paris whilst visiting a friend on my year abroad in 2011 and being awestruck  that the façade of the cinema had been magically transformed into the exterior of the fantastical boat La Licorne.

IMG_6603

Tintin is a classic character known all over the world – on one of my first ever trips to Germany, I stayed in a host family and instantly felt at ease when I spotted a Snowy poster on the wall of the lounge*- Tintin ended up forming the basis of one of my first German conversations.  The comic books have in fact been published in over seventy languages, which just goes to show how international a character Tintin has become over the years. I have good memories of spending the christmas holidays (in particular the night of ‘Reveillon’ – Christmas Eve) as a little girl watching the animated Tintin series (from the early nineties) with my dad, uncle and grandfather – the series was often broadcast on French TV!

Once the boys spotted the Tintin Shop, we all thought that it would be rude to walk right past without taking a glimpse inside… just for the sake of nostalgia of course… 😉

tintinshop

These tourists walked into my photo with lightning speed – however I do like how these London ladies coincidentally match the colour scheme of the shop! Inside, Daryl and I got sidetracked by the fluffy Snowy toys, whilst Tom and Caleb checked out some of the books – I think that’s what they were up to at any rate, I was too busy being entranced by fluff.

*Snowy’s name in German is Struppi, in case you were wondering – his French name is Milou.

Once we had torn ourselves away from the fluffy Snowys, we were back on track on the hunt for food. Five Guys turned out to be not far from Floral Street and surprisingly there was no queue outside – there wasn’t even much time to enjoy the heaps of free monkey nuts that line the restaurant before we were served with our burgers and fries. Of course, I can’t complain because if we had indulged on the peanuts then we would not have had enough space for the main event! The menu at Five Guys is quite simplistic, however there are several different combinations that you can create from the ingredients on offer. I decided to go for a ‘little’ burger – which was a wise choice, as the portion sizes are massive! I would not have been able to cope with a normal sized burger and I hadn’t even eaten breakfast! Look at the cheesy barbecue bacon deliciousness below, pictured on the bottom right – if I could choose any adjective in the world to describe this burger, I would not go for little! Decadent, perhaps?

bbqbaconcheeseburger
I naively ordered a “regular” diet coke, but soon discovered the novelty of the Five Guys refill ‘coke freestyle’ system – where you can choose from hundreds of different drinks options including combos such as Grape Sprite, Strawberry Fanta, and Raspberry Coke. It was mind-blowing for the first five minutes… until I found myself craving the normalcy of a plain diet coke! When it comes to being served your food, you have to present yourself to the counter to receive your order when the number on your receipt is called. The food is then handed over to you in a plain brown paper bag. The burger is wrapped tightly in foil; as soon as you unwrap it, the squishy bun expands (a bit like a slinky or a sponge) to reveal itself piled high with your chosen fillings.

I decided to try the cajun fries as well as getting a burger (naughty, naughty). Now, I have a confession to make – I am the kind of girl who likes to slather tabasco and jalopeños over everything. When I was living in halls of residence I even had a little spice selection that I would take to meals to douse my plate with – one of my friends ended up calling me Tabasco girl – not my finest moment.  Although my taste buds must be slightly numb from all these years of chilli pepper abuse I actually found that the cajun fries tasted very spicy, so be warned! Again, a ‘little’ sized fries was a crazily generous serving – the cup you can see above was only half the portion, most of the fries were to be found at the bottom of the glorious brown paper bag. So many fries, so little space in my stomach – one portion ended up feeding three of us! We stayed in Five Guys for a while, tucked into an old fashioned 1950s style booth in the downstairs underbelly of the restaurant. The walls are plastered by endorsements from newspapers, bloggers and food critics – not really my taste of decor but the food was satisfying and great value for money. I guess the posters provide you with a bit of light reading if you find yourself on a solitary lunch break!

After leaving Five Guys, we had a look around Leicester Square and ended up venturing into M&Ms World. It was pointed out that it was a great marketing strategy to have such a large pick and mix of chocolates available next to one of London’s top cinema venues – the M&Ms building is vast – just about every kind of kitsch M&Ms memorabilia that you can imagine is spread out over four enormous floors. As you cross the doorway under a maquette of a London double-decker bus (given an M&Ms twist, of course) you are hit straight away with the cloying smell of chocolate. I think it’s probably a marmite experience, in that you either love the shop or hate it… maybe you even love to hate it, as evidenced by point number 3 on the buzzfeed link below …

http://www.buzzfeed.com/robinedds/things-youre-only-scared-of-if-you-live-in-london

I have to admit that I enjoyed looking around the shop –  I definitely didn’t cave into temptation a few days later and return  to buy a handful or three of peanut M&Ms….

IMG_6608

IMG_6610
It was definitely turning into a “foodie” day by this point in our reunion – our next stop was Camden Market to visit the place where dessert meets science – the mysterious Chin Chin Labs. Place your order at the small counter, and you can watch as ‘test-tube ice cream’ is created before your very eyes using liquid nitrogen, being frozen into a delicious triangular slab just for you. This was definitely up the boys street – I, however, have not been near a pipette or beaker for years and tend to be scared that scientific equipment will break if I touch it, so it was a slightly surreal experience. There was a choice of four flavours – Tom and I went for Pondicherry Vanilla whilst Caleb went for a slightly more adventurous “limited edition seasonal” flavour, Szechuan Peppered Pineapple (which was actually the nicest in my opinion and turned out to be dairy free). Daryl chose a dark chocolate flavour which was around 80% cocoa and tasted extremely bittersweet. You can choose one sauce or topping from the pyrex beakers displayed on the lab shelves – I was a little bit greedy and went for grilled white chocolate bits AND salted caramel sauce. Caramel pretzels looked like an intriguing topping, but will have to wait for another visit. The tasting was an unusual experience – I find it hard to describe its exact consistency but it definitely felt a lot smoother than ‘normal’ ice cream.

IMG_6619
IMG_6618

We walked off all our ice cream on the Camden cobbles – it was an interesting experience to navigate around over the said cobbles wearing the “disco shoes”, but I managed it, just about. Thanks for the patience, guys… the sun was setting over the Lock and the view was breathtakingly beautiful, so we stopped for a while to soak up the scenery. Camden is a very quirky open air market and residential area, which serves as a haven for all sorts of alternative fashion shops, one off street stalls, tattoo parlours, piercing studios and bars. It’s a good place to look for cds, a vintage look dress or if you’re feeling particularly daring, a steampunk-esque corset!

image-1

It was here Daryl left us, as he had to be up early the next day to drive up to Durham to visit the Lumière light festival. And so, the remaining trio retreated to The Lockside Lounge to wait for Nick, who had text us to confirm that he was finally deigning to join us.

IMG_6632 IMG_6631
 The Lockside Lounge is a cool haunt – and definitely has a boathouse vibe with its nautical beams. As you may have guessed from previous posts, I love buildings with character and this bar was no exception. I ordered a glass of Burlesque rosé and was informed by the bartender that the label of the wine was chosen because the lounge often pays host to burlesque evenings. Camden nightlife seemed to be pretty vibrant, and I reckon that The Lockside Lounge would be a great place to spend an evening as it had an awesome atmosphere. It also endorses up and coming indie, funk, blues and jazz performers.

The peace was shattered when Nick arrived – he was enthused after a day at work and obviously hadn’t had to go through the tiresome trials of tasting various foodstuffs all day…  We stayed in the bar for a little longer, being updated on his recent exploits in Lithuania and Latvia, before we found ourselves being frogmarched out of the bar and taken to Fire and Stone, a pizzeria on Maiden Lane near Covent Garden. I can’t personally vouch for the pizzas as I was still feeling pretty full from Five Guys and Chin Chin Labs so picked at a salad, but the boys seemed satisfied with their meal choices. Nick claims that it was “better than Nando’s” – high praise indeed.

image-4

I took the opportunity to take a few snaps of the guys looking relatively refined, taking on the role of slightly overenthusiastic paparazzi photographer/a grandmother. Nick helped me accessorise my Mai Tai with aplomb.

IMG_3978

We ended the night sat in a Canadian sports bar called The Maple Leaf just a few paces away from Fire and Stone. We stepped off the street and found ourselves in a forest green canadian log cabin themed interior. Canadian flags and maple leaves were draped all over the bar and I felt as if we’d somehow managed to warp into The Hoser Hut from the popular TV series How I met your Mother. Caleb was in his element. It wasn’t long before he discovered the tempting array of Canadian beers on offer behind the bar…

image-5

I guess you can say that we all had quite a diverse day of café, bar and restaurant hopping! After returning to Victoria via Covent Garden tube station (with its surreal lifts that transport you from the street into the bowels of the underground) it was time for me to head back to Croydon, reunite with Ellie and to begin planning another day indulging in pleasures of a different nature – the theatre! Thanks go to Caleb, Daryl, Nick and Tom for an unusual culinary themed day of sightseeing in the capital.

P.S. Forget the riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”. We had an incident on the tube where Caleb tried to persuade us all that lemon strepsils are as effective at cleansing the palate as chewing gum, much to the amusement of our fellow tube passengers. “Why is chewing gum like a lemon flavoured strepsil?” – the new riddle of our time.

The Onset of October

October! The cobwebs are beginning to settle on the summer memories, nights are getting longer and gruesome Halloween trinkets ( gruesome in price AND  quality) have already been set up for sale in the supermarket aisles. Halloween is a time of year that I embrace wholeheartedly because I am, at times, a massive child who loves a big ole novelty themed bag of sweets and a cheap black lipstick smeared all over my face. You can’t beat cosy evenings in whilst the wind howls outside, and of course freaking yourself out with a good horror film and a few ghost stories is always a good way to keep you on your toes. If anyone has any good horror film recommendations I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Bonus points if it’s something retro with horrifically dated (and therefore comedic) special effects. I will always remember being given a copy of a very strange DVD called “Witchcraft Hotel” at the age of 13 – the tagline was… “We hope you enjoy your slay”. It has a terribly gory plot and left my young naive being mentally scarred – If I recall, I was simultaneously amused and horrified by the casting of David Hasselhoff as the male lead.

If you find yourself having to entertain children (or of course, your inner child) around Halloween then I would recommend sitting down and watching one of the following cult classics ; “Hocus Pocus!”, “The Nightmare before Christmas”, “The Corpse Bride” and “Beetlejuice”. I’ve already spoken about my love of Tim Burton elsewhere on this blog – his films are definitely a ‘must’ around the Halloween holiday. There’s also two great shorts from the 80s/90s by Tim Burton which are worth a watch – an animated poem called “Vincent” which is narrated by the late Vincent Price and the 1984 live action “Frankenweenie” (not to be confused with the more recent disney adaptation, also directed by Tim Burton).

Image
An old photo from the vaults! The morning after…. a Halloween night. An inflatable skeleton floating down the River Weir in Durham.

The highlight of the Halloween season for me, is without a doubt, getting creative (ie. over the top) with costumes! I especially love messing around with face paint and perhaps take the macabre make up looks  a little bit too seriously… It’s time to start thinking ahead of October 31st and get cracking with the costume ideas, my friends!

But don’t be a ‘mean girl’ and go for a simple animal costume (unless it’s an ironic pop culture reference, of course). And try to avoid looking as if you’ve covered yourself in superglue and rolled around a Halloween bargain bucket of flimsy plastic fluorescent things at Poundland, it can only end badly! 😛

Whatever, you decide, keep me updated!

IMG_1978

Scintillating Summer Nights

Happy August to one and all! Oh how I love the summer… and this year’s summer festivities in particular are shaping up to be rather glorious. Admittedly in the last couple of days there have been a few rainy moments – including the one day where I faced an unexpected cycle ride in a thunderstorm, but on the whole I have had the chance to bask in sunshine reading good books and I even appear to have a tan! It only seems like yesterday that I was bidding farewell to my student days living on the Bodensee, enjoying the last summer parties with my Konstanz friends before returning to Durham to knuckle down and get my degree… what a whirlwind of a year it has been. This year I’ve had the pleasure of graduating, I just received some good news regarding a job, and will be hitting up the South of France later this week! I am ridiculously excited. I haven’t written a decent blog entry in a while because I’ve been concentrating on soaking up the sunshine (wearing my sun screen of course) but I am breaking my silence to share a few of my July/August favourite things!

Image
IMG_6551

Let’s start with beauty products, SHALL WE. I bought a new perfume to celebrate the summer (perhaps a lame excuse to splash some cash, but I think every girl needs a signature summer scent… or three). I chose Elixir des Merveilles by Hermés to be the scent that embodies my summer 2013. The fragrance actually came out in 2006, so it is not technically a new perfume, but it’s fresh to me! I fell in love with the warm orange aromas and the beautiful glittery bottle – it looks like Hermés managed to bottle a sunset – excuse the poetics, but just look at the sunshine glow in the picture above! 😉 I also decided to buy a light coverage Chanel foundation to accompany Mr. Elixir on my summer travels and received some great travel size skincare samples with my purchase. I have a ‘sophisticated summer lipstick’ in the form of Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet 33, La Distinguée – however my brother presented me today with a funny little present in the form of ice-cream flavoured lipbalm, which will probably be a lot more convenient down on the beach! I have included a photo below – growing up the Twister ice lolly was my summer corner shop standard!


So many flavours! I think 'Feast' is my favourite!

So many flavours! 

Entertainment wise, I have quite a bit of summer reading to get through in preparation for my new projects. However I’m also looking forward to reading “Tender is the Night” by Scott F. Fitzgerald (which coincidentally takes place on the French Riviera) and “The Little Book of Chanel” which was a chic and unexpected present from my friend Flo. The most recent film I watched was “Le Camping”, a hilarious French comedy that takes place on a campsite – I definitely recommend watching this film for an insight into French campsite culture!  If you are more of a discerning film critic (i.e. inflatable lobsters and campsite banter are not your scene) and you’re feeling in the mood for a sophisticated summer film classic then I would recommend Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” for stunning panoramas of Monaco and scenes showcasing timeless elegance from Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly

IMG_6559

I’ll leave you with a clip of my favourite fashion campaign from this summer – Dior Addict. I have not tried the product, but I love the fun, flirty video campaign that in my opinion captures the essence of a French seaside summer perfectly – it’s just a shame that I can’t find my heart shaped sunglasses – they would pay a perfect homage to Daphne Groeneveld!

Iridescence - Glittery Polishes and the Beauty of Vanessa Paradis

The sparkliest of nails. Natural lighting, with a vignette added. This is 2 coats of OPI “What Wizardry is This? with 2 coats of OPI “Which is Witch?” layered on top. Potentially a tad excessive but there you go. I have tried a few other combinations and will post them sometime in the future, when my hands look less ravaged! “What Wizardry is this?” is best on its own, but I felt like spicing it up a little anyhow! “Which Witch” has big chunks of glitter that have a wow factor, with little pieces of bar glitter also visible if you hold your nails up close! I apologise for the quality of the photo, it would be interesting to get a macro shot, but alas my decent DSLR is in Guernsey – the overdue library books had to take precedence in my luggage. Such is life! I have a lot of revision to do, and I’m listening to a lot of French music. I’ve only just managed to get “Bonnie and Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot out of my head.
Currently I am listening to Vanessa Paradis:

I am a big fan of Vanessa Paradis – I think she is extremely elegant and classy. The thought of listening to her today actually occurred to me after having painted my nails…. I think the look of the glitter that I used on my nails is very similar to the look/effect of the lighting used in another of her music videos, “Divinidylle”, in that the glitter is striking (almost blinding) and reflects many colours… just like the spotlight on Vanessa.

Both these songs date from a few years ago! However, Vanessa Paradis’ new album called “Love Stories” will be out on May 13th. I just find her voice sultry and captivating and I wish her every success with her new album.