Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Le Grand Bistro – Paris

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Before arriving in Paris we decided to book a table at a restaurant that we had already looked up so we wouldn’t waste time searching for one while there. Le grand bistro is situated in Maillot – St Ferdinand, a short distance from the Arc de triomphe and runs a set menu. The menu includes an aperitif of a cocktail and olives, followed by a starter, main course, dessert and coffee to finish. Each meal had a selection of around ten dishes to choose from and included a bottle of wine.

Décor/service

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We arrived early as is typical for me because I hate the thought of getting anywhere late. We were warmly welcomed and charmed by the swanky décor and comfortable seating, it was like having our own little corner sofa. The tables were all finely laid out and the waiter promptly took our order. I was quite impressed that he was able to remember everything we wanted without having to write it down! The restaurant seemed spacious while empty but as it was filling up it started to feel a tad cramped. We had two different waiters for the evening and they were both friendly although not overly chatty.

Food

We had already looked at the menu online before arriving so we knew what we wanted to eat. For starter we had a pate with bread and snails in a garlic butter. I have had snails before and wasn’t very keen but the OH seems to enjoy them.

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For the main course I chose the lamb served with dauphinoise potatoes and a little pot of gravy. I sometimes find lamb a bit fatty and chewy but this was tender and tasty and the potatoes were a perfect creamy accompaniment. The OH had steak that looked delicious and good quality, it was served with chips and a mayo sauce.

344A4051344A4054For dessert we had crepes and crème Brulee that were both lit at the table which I wasn’t expecting and nearly set myself on fire! They were a great end to a lovely meal, we gave the coffee a miss because we seemed to be sitting for so long and was eager to stretch our legs.

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Our food at Le Grand Bistro felt like a perfect Parisian meal out and at 44 euro a head we felt it was very reasonable for a fine dining experience.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Sofitel hotel Paris

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During our recent trip to Paris we stayed at the luxury Sofitel Hotel which is part of the Accor hotel group and has more than 120 hotels worldwide.

When visiting a city for a short space of time I don’t think the hotel is much of an importance because most of the time is spent outside exploring but as it was my birthday the OH decided that I deserved a treat. (It’s true, I did!)

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The hotel is situated in the La defense area of Paris and although it wasn’t too far from the metro station it was quite difficult to find and we had to ask a local to guide us.

On entering the hotel we were faced with a very distinctive smell, it wasn’t unpleasant but was quite overpowering, probably came from a plant. The reception area looked really cosy and colourful but there didn’t seem to be many people around. As the receptionist went over all the details I was preoccupied with taking photos, well you know, priorities! We were given a card to use in the lifts and for our room but on first use it didn’t work so we had to go back and change it.

When we finally got in there, we were really impressed with the comfort and style of the room. I did have to question whether I really wanted to see the sights of Paris after all when I could just put my feet up and have a relaxing break… no such luck!

The room had a large TV, music system and a fully stocked fridge which we steered clear of! We were told we could have coffee and tea but unfortunately we couldn’t  get the coffee machine to work.

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344A4016The bed was one of the comfiest I have ever slept in and I didn’t want to get out of it but with the sun shining through the window (we were expecting rain) we were eager to get out and see the sights and to buy some coffee.

The bathroom was lovely and I liked that it had a speaker in the ceiling so you could listen to music while in the bath, although it scared the life out of me when I went to the toilet and the OH put the TV on, all of a sudden there was a mans voice in the toilet with me!

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344A4019No hotel room is complete without a giant mirror to take selfies into!

344A4023We were up on the sixth floor and had a nice view of the business district, La Defense is full of interesting architecture and artwork so has become a popular part of Paris for tourist to visit, there are also lots of other hotels around the area.

344A4015As it was a quick visit we didn’t have a chance to check out any other facilities in the hotel. There was a bar and restaurant right next to the reception but on the first night we had already booked a table at La Grand Bistro which was a few stops away on the metro and the second day we were out visiting the town for the whole day so we didn’t use it.

Overall we had a pretty positive experience at Hotel Sofitel and would consider visiting another of their hotels in the future…Dubai would be nice 😉

 

 

 

 

Posted in London, Uncategorized

Art of the brick – Lego superheroes

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I often look at amazing Lego structures and think I could probably make something similar but then I get to work and all that comes out of it is a staircase, one that doesn’t even stand up! So when I see art, such as these DC superheroes that were created by the likes of Nathan Sawaya, all I can do is marvel at them (marvel…get it)

The art of the brick is situated along London’s Southbank and is hard to miss. Upon entering the reception area that featured one Lego statue and a film, my 12 year old declared that it was the best exhibition he had ever been to, and I do drag him around to quite a few! But that was just the beginning. I was thinking there would probably be a few statues and that would be it but the rooms just kept coming.

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It is amazing the amount of bricks that are used in each creation and alongside the statues is a caption from the artist with some information about the character and the amount of bricks that were used to make them.

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One of my favourite superheroes is Batman and did you know that he is the only one that built himself so he is depicted here putting each brick onto his own arm.

I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about superheroes as I love watching all the movies but there were many that I had never heard of and my son relished at being able to teach me all about them.

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The little boy with the cape was in the room that encouraged the viewers to think about what superhero they would create. Who would you be?

The penguin was my favourite and was much cuter than Cobblepot, the character from Batman that he is based on.

After we got through all the rooms we reached the end off the exhibition but it wasn’t over! There were trays filled with all shapes and sizes of lego pieces so you could get stuck in and create your own masterpiece as well as a row of screens so you could play your favourite video games (can you guess which one the 12 year old chose?)

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And even though the adults were getting stuck in with the Lego  there was also the option to relax with a coffee or browse the shop while the kids are preoccupied.

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I have read mixed reviews about the art of the brick exhibition but we thoroughly enjoyed it!

The entry price £16.50 for adults and £11.50 for kids but there are concessions and family tickets available. It is a temporary exhibition but will be around until September so perfect for a summer holiday trip and because it is situated on the Southbank there is loads of other things you could do while there. If you get peckish then grab a bite to eat at Feng sushi or cool down with a frozen yoghurt at Snog.

Who is your favourite superhero?

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Navigating the metro

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As the saying goes… ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’ so as we arrived at Gare du nord on the Eurostar we thought we would do as the Parisians do and find our way to the hotel using the metro.

As Londoners who use the tube frequently we thought it would be a pretty easy journey but our first hurdle came when we used the self service ticket machine, even with the option to use it in English we couldn’t understand how to purchase the ticket required and had to queue up to buy it from the ticket office. I suddenly felt empathy for all the people that use the tube and don’t speak English.

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Although there are really confusing maps everywhere that we didn’t understand (must attempt to learn French) the metro system is pretty easy to navigate. Each line has a colour and a number which makes it easier than having to remember the name of the line like the London underground. We started on line four and had to change over to line one, the whole journey was around 25 minutes and cost around 7 euros for a travel card in zones 1 and 2 which was much cheaper than it would have been if we took a taxi.

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I was really impressed with the screens on the carriage that tell you how many minutes until the next stop and how many minutes until the end of the line. Each stop is around two minutes so I think the stations are slightly closer together than they are in London. The trains themselves were a little worse for wear and as you can see from the picture many of the stations such as Gare du nord could do with a lick of paint, unlike the station at the louvre which looked like a museum itself!

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What was strange was when we were trying to find a hole to put our ticket through on the way out but there didn’t seem to be any, then we noticed that people were just pushing their way through the barriers that make you feel like you’re taking part in some sort of assault course.

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Seeing all the vending machines at the stations brought back some memories. Who remembers the old Cadbury machines with the square shaped chocolate bars that were on all the platforms in London? I wonder what happened to those!

If you are planning a trip to Paris and want to explore different areas I would definitely recommend the metro, for time and value its a good option.
 

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

Breakfast with a view

Situated on 20 Fenchurch street, just a short walk from London bridge, you will find a commercial skyscraper that is commonly known as the walkie-talkie due to its shape. Hidden away 155 metres up inside this building is an oasis overlooking the city that believe it or not is open and free to the public!

The sky garden opened in January 2015 and I have wanted to visit for ages. There are two restaurants that sit above the centre of the gardens and I booked a table at the Darwin Brasserie which seemed to be the more relaxed (less posh) of the two.

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We arrived nice and early for breakfast which is split into hour slots and we were free to wander the gardens before and after our booking. The restaurant was really modern and chic looking and luckily we got a table next to the window so got to eat our breakfast with a lovely view over London.

0X1A1528The menu has a few choices of cooked meals and a continental buffet style breakfast for a set price. We chose the buffet which had a choice of cereals, pastries, yoghurts, fruit and muffins with tea, coffee or juice.

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Typically when at a buffet you have a few bites to eat and feel miraculously full up so not sure I really got my moneys worth and if I went back I would probably chose one of the hot meals instead. The staff were lovely but we had a problem finding our waiter because for some reason they all looked really alike.

If you were planning on visiting but didn’t want to book a table you could still buy food and drink at the city garden bar and sky pod bar situated in the gardens.

The gardens open from 7am and it is fairly quiet but doesn’t take long to fill up. Although it is free to visit you do need to book a slot online to visit the gardens if you don’t have a restaurant booking as it is very popular and would be overcrowded otherwise.

Inside the gardens there are a few seating areas and stairs to explore the wide open space, it is a great place to do a photoshoot and as everyone has cameras you don’t seem out of place taking photos. Although there is loads of greenery I thought there would be a few more exotic, fancy plants to admire but I suppose everyone is more taken with the amazing views than to worry about looking inside.

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The balcony is great for spotting landmarks over London and I could have stood out there all day, my daughter actually asked me if we were ever going home because I made myself so comfortable that I didn’t want to leave!

I was recently asked where my favourite place to visit in London is and the sky garden was the first place that sprang to mind, if I lived closer I think I would be there every morning with a coffee and a newspaper.

Have you ever been to the sky garden?

Where is your favourite place to visit in London?

 

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

Photography project – Postcards from the elephant

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As part of one of our university modules we were required to make a photobook. This involved

  • researching the photobook industry, including looking into the history of the photobook
  • coming up with a concept
  • taking photos
  • using Adobe Indesign to create the template for the book
  • sourcing the right paper that would work with our images
  • printing the book out
  • experimenting with different ways to bind the book together
  • producing a set to work as an edition
  • putting together a pop up shop to sell our books to the public.
  • Marketing the pop up shop through social media and advertising

My university is situated at the heart of SE1 in Elephant and Castle. The area is undergoing major changes with new buildings popping up all over the place and plans to knock down the shopping centre in the not so distant future. In the past couple of years I have already seen lots of changes such as the roundabout having a complete overhaul but the future plans seem really extreme and the word on the street is that it will become the new time square, surrounded by high rise blocks and hotels.

The idea for my book was to just capture little snippets of what Elephant and Castle look like now because lets face it we’re all quite sentimental about how things are now and not so susceptible to change. We like to look back on how our area was in ‘our time’ so I thought this would be memorable keepsake for the people that have a connection to Elephant and Castle as it is now. I have a few quotes from local people about their thoughts on the changes in the area and think they accompany the pictures well.

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These are a few of the pages from the book and I will have an edition of 250 (yes I have chosen to hand make 250 books) They will be on sale at our pop up shop (see the enigma 31 Instagram page for the details and other fabulous books that are also on sale) and also in my Etsy store if you are interested in purchasing one!