Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Le Grand Bistro – Paris


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.




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.


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.


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.



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


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!)


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.


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!


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


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.


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.



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.



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?)



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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.









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!

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Partying at Pizza Express


I have been to a pizza making party for kids and I have been to a pizza making party for adults and I have to say, the adults party is much more fun!

I was invited to take part in a pizza making party at the Gloucester road branch of pizza express where there seemed to be flowing drinks, tasty food and great company. As I don’t like to arrive anywhere late I was instead very early, so early in fact that I had time to explore the area and stop off at a lovely little coffee shop beforehand!

Upon arrival to the swanky looking pizza express I was greeted by the lovely Alex and showed to a table while the party was being set up. I met with lots of other blogging ladies and had a chance to get to know a few of them in real life, as opposed to via 140 characters on Twitter, which was lovely.

After donning our hats and aprons we were let loose with the dough, luckily it was just a practice as they were being flung all over the place and one ended up covered in prosecco…mmm prosecco pizza…

Our two guides Alex and Gianmaria were great teachers and loads of fun. We were provided with a selection of toppings and my pizza, aptly named Oh Pretty Pizza, had a red onion, chicken, ham, mushroom, lots of cheese and herb topping. It tasted as delicious as it looked!

Once we had devoured our handmade creations the awards were given out, best pizza, biggest tosser and don’t give up your day job we’re the accolades of the day and fully deserving the winners were 😉 We finished the day with a lovely dessert, a vanilla latte and a blogging gossip.

I wouldn’t have thought about a pizza making party myself but if you’re gonna go out for a meal it’s a great way to add a bit of excitement to the evening and at least you’ll know what’s going in the food.

If your looking for a perfect way to celebrate or even just have a catch up with friends then book a table at your local Pizza express and let the dough throwing competition begin.


*written in collaboration with pizza express, all views are my own

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

Robots @ the science museum


Who would have thought that robots went back 500 years!

This fascinating show begins with a very lifelike baby robot to greet you at the door and is followed by some other pretty freaky, yet interesting humanoids throughout.


You can really see how far technology has moved on as you move through the rooms of this exhibition, starting with a clock onto a life-size terminator and then robots that interact with people. I was brought back to my youth with some of the toys and movies featuring robots on show.



Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the robots exhibition looks at the quest to make robots more human and explores the ways robots mirror humanity.

The installation is really interactive and I can imagine it would be very popular with inquisitive youngsters. I was really surprised by the way some robots are now being used, particularly the ones used for helping children with special needs.

A great show for those interested in electronics, engineering and all things robot! If you are planning to visit the robot exhibition it is on until 3rd September so would make a great day out over the summer holidays. This particular show is suitable for children 8+ years and does have an entrance fee but once you have been around you are free to explore the rest of the science museum at no extra cost!


Posted in Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Ocean invaders – Sea life

Over Easter I went to see the new addition to the London sea life aquarium. Ocean invaders is a new world of Jellyfish and if you are a fan then you won’t want to miss it as it’s the largest jellyfish experience in the UK. I didn’t know that there are over 350 different species of this mesmerising creature or that apparently they have been around for 500 million years!!


This was my first visit to the aquarium and as I went in the evening there were some sections that looked closed off but there was still loads to see. The jellyfish were the main attraction of the night but for me the penguins were the stars of the show, I just find them so amusing to watch. Each Penguin wears a coloured band so you can tell them apart and their names are on the wall. They would walk towards the glass and see everyone watching and then turn back and walk to the back wall, I don’t think they are fond of human company!

The aquarium itself is rather large but does look like it is in need of a makeover, it looks a bit dated but then I imagine it would be a pretty large and expensive job considering a lot of it is under water. As well as having various sea life to admire there are also some interactive activities and games aimed at children. It was great to be able to walk over and under the glass as the fish, including sharks and stingrays, swim past you and the rock pools and smaller tanks allow you to get a better look at the fish close up.

I think this would make a great day out if you have a young family and situated along the Southbank it is perfect to see lots of other sites while you are there. Have you visited the London aquarium, what did you think?