Barcelona Day 1

I promised after asking for all of your Barcelona tips that I would share what we did on our Babymoon back in March.

We stayed for 4 nights at the RoomMate Emma for about £300 and I would definitely book again. The breakfast was amazing and the staff were lovely too. We were woken up one night by screaming European teens but that can happen anywhere and the reception sorted it straightaway. The room was clean and modern, the only thing lacking was an exterior window. We were offered a very cheap upgrade when we got there which we normally would have taken but figured we wouldn’t be in the room and it wasn’t worth it. In fact I wish we had, as we banked on staying out for evening drinks as we would do normally and felt obliged to because the room was a bit dark, but really given how tiring the sightseeing was, it would have been nice to have some downtime back at the hotel in a slightly nicer room. Don’t get me wrong though, it was still great, cheap or not.

So what did we do?


Our walking tour day 1 – Port Vell, Port Olympica, Barcelonetta, Parc Ciutadella and the beach. Click here to view an interactive version of the map.

Well, the answer is a lot of walking. Normally when we’re on a city break we do everything, but this time we didn’t want to go into museums, enjoying the sunshine instead, so we saw everything from the outside while walking. The first day was predicted to be the best weather, so we got the underground metro to Port Vell and wandered around looking at the boats and enjoying the weather.

We walked though Barceloneta which was cute in parts and quite run down in others so we kept going. It didn’t take us long to get to the beach so and we carried on all the way along until we reached Port Olympic, and then walked on to Parc Ciutadella. The fountains and space there was great. If we hadn’t been going to the beach later I would have parked myself on the grass there to read and enjoy the sun.

By then we were starving and headed onto El Born, where we ate a tapas lunch at one of the places on Placa des les Olles before heading back to the beach where we just lay on the sand for a couple of hours and read. Bliss!

Once we were ready for home, we headed in to the atmospheric gothic quarter and stopped in Placa Reial for a drink. I loved this square – there aren’t that many in Barcelona which are big enough to hold the sun into the evening, particularly in March but this one is so pretty and great for people watching.


I was so exhausted that night after walking so far that we ate at an Italian just down the road from our hotel and collapsed into bed early.

I’ll be back with Days 2 and 3 soon!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Plan a Trip

Todays #JanuaryJoy prompt is definitely one of my favourites and sure to become a Florence Finds tradition. For last years ‘Plan a trip’ I talked about safari and what became my epic trip to South Africa. I’m so glad I took some time over planning it and your advice. Today after hearing a few people talk about it (and having a long term ambition to visit myself,) I’m sharing Becky’s trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark, in the hope that it inspires you to explore. Please do sure your travel plans for this year in the comments!

Oslo


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SLEEP
We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Guldsmeden

EAT
We ate a fantastic Easter lunch at the Ekeberg restaurant. Ask for a table by the window or if you’re visiting in the Summer, the terrace would be my choice.


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SEE
A lot of our exploring was on foot. Walking to the top of the opera house roof was fun – A fantastic example of architecture and landscape rolled into one.
We took a boat trip to The Viking Ship museum and The Norsk Folk museum.
We also got the underground to the Holmenkollen ski jump and museum. The view from the top of the ski jump across the fjords is breathtaking and certainly made us want to return to do a fjords trip one summer.

Stockholm


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SLEEP
The Rival hotel is a converted cinema owned by Benny from Abba. It was great and the cocktail bar was buzzing every night as was the adjacent cafe every morning which does a good breakfast. The location was amazing for getting around too.


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EAT
As I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and feeling pretty ropey, dining out in fancy restaurants wasn’t a priority but we had a good meal at Riche restaurant and the bar had a great atmosphere too.

Under Kastanjen cafe was a nice stop for a coffee whilst walking the streets exploring Gamla Stan

SEE
The Vasa Museum
Skansen open air museum – A combination of a Zoo and folk museum. Probably best seen in late Spring and Summer.
Hallywyl Museum.
We also wandered around Gamla Stan – The Old Town and got around predominantly on the underground or walking.

Copenhagen


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SLEEP
We stayed in the Marriott as my husband had points from work so got a free night. Sure you can find something with a bit more character – We did walk past the ‘floatel‘ a few times and thought it looked interesting… as long as you don’t suffer with motion sickness!

EAT
We decided not to go to Noma due to the bump but if you fancy it, I expect you’ll need to book your table now for June.

We enjoyed a really good fish lunch at Kastellet, Nordre Toldbod 12-20… a warehouse style informal dining restaurant & foody supermarket next to the water. Expect it’s lovely on a sunny day

SEE
Again, we explored the city on foot unless we got a boat. A visit to Christiania was eye opening.
Nyehaven shouldn’t be missed and a good point to start a boat tour from. I found the most dreamy shop… Illums Bolighus, Amagertorv 1-11
See The Little Mermaid – the clue’s in her title….she’s little!
Rosenborg Castle
Tivoli gardens…. All in all a pretty naff amusement park. The lights make it look pretty at night!
Louisiana Museum of modern art is a pleasant train ride north of the city and on a clear day you can see over to Sweden from the galleries gardens.

So readers… have you ever been on a Scandanavian trip? It’s Stockholm that has always tempted me – all the islands are supposed to be beautiful in the summer.

Where are you headed in 2014?

Love,
Rebecca (& Becky)
xo

Girl about town: (Working until) Midnight in Paris – Part 1


A few months ago I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to spend some time working in my firm’s Paris office. Erm, sorry, let me pinch myself whilst I just digest that.

You’re going to put me in a rooftop apartment in central Paris, send me to work in the most beautiful surroundings (on Place Vendome, next door to the Ritz,) and you’re going to pay me whilst I do it? Amazing! Where’s the catch?

Oh… I will be doing two jobs and working 13 hour days, every day, for the entire six weeks? Ahhh, there we go!

Needless to say, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time “about town” and I’m not going to lie I spent a lot of my spare time sleeping off my exhaustion. However, when I did get out, I wandered, ate, drank, observed, shopped, snapped and absorbed everything Paris had to offer with the hugest smile on my face and a skip in my step. After six weeks literally living la reve en Paris, I returned to rainy London (and my husband) last weekend and thought I’d share some of my favourite Parisian delights:

Brunch
I didn’t realise brunch was a “thing” in France. I went out there three days after landing back from the US, where brunch is the biggest “thing” and I was surprised to discover that they do it just as well. A colleague recommended the Marais area, specifically Rue de Bretagne, for brunch and made a few restaurant suggestions.

I picked the Grizzli Café, mainly because of the name, but also because of the description of a four course feast for a very reasonable price… “reasonable price” not being a phrase you hear often in Paris. It turned out to be a great decision – we started with fresh coffee and juice with a bread selection and pastries, followed by Eggs Benedict, a choice of salmon skewers or steak tartare and finished off with fromage blanc and fruit coulis. We got there just in time to get a seat, but it’s recommended that you book on Sundays as it gets busy! [For more details/pictures check out this post.]

Treats
I was undecided whether to tell you about the Laduree Salon du The or Angelina under this heading. I weighed it up and decided that it’d have to be both. The hot chocolate served at Angelina is infamous for a reason – it’s amazing. Thick, creamy and with just the right balance of bitter and sweet – it was totally worth queuing.

Although the sweet treats served here are as famed as the hot chocolate (in particular the Mont Blanc speciality,) I think the confections on offer at Laduree just edge it.

Of course there are the quintessential macarons (pistachio and orange blossom on this occasion), but in addition my mum and I tried the pistachio éclair and the rose raspberry Saint-Honoré which was almost too beautiful to eat. It consisted of a puff pastry base, topped with dinky cream puff pastry balls filled with light rose petal custard cream and raspberry compote, rose-flavoured Chantilly whipped cream, rose syrup fondant and raspberries. Of course there’s only one thing to drink with such pretty, delicate, pastel coloured confections – pink fizz.

Dinner
As I mentioned in a previous post, I like a restaurant with a difference, so when Mr G came out to visit me, I tasked him with finding a restaurant to fit the same brief. He did well and found La Gare not far from Trocadero.

As the name suggests, it’s an old train station that has been transformed in to a restaurant. You enter at ground level in to a funky bar (that serves a decent margarita whilst you wait for your table) and then head down a very grand staircase in to an enormous dining hall. At first glance I was worried that the size would make it feel over-crowded and like a canteen, but a clever layout and good interior design means that when you’re seated it feels much smaller and intimate. We went for a three course set menu and wines and fizz by the glass, all of which was delicious, and in a city notorious for its awful service, we were pleasantly surprised by how good it was!

Cocktails
At the other end of the size spectrum to La Gare is Jefrey’s. At about midnight one Saturday, my friend and I went in search of the Paris branch of the Experimental Cocktail Club (also very good and worth a visit). We were wandering down the road and saw the door to a teeny-tiny bar standing open. It was so small and well hidden we almost missed it, but after a double take and a quick confirmation that it was in fact a drinking establishment and not someone’s house, we took up residence at the bar and started working our way through the cocktail list.

Good cocktails are hard to find in Paris, but we were lucky enough to stumble across some of the best. Like I mentioned it was tiny, with only three stools at the bar, two small coffee tables and armchairs on the ground floor and a smattering of wing back chairs and banquette seating on a small mezzanine. If you turn up too late you just won’t get in, and the cocktails were so good it’s worth turning up early to bagsey your seat. The cocktail menu is inventive and the bar is stocked with weird and wonderful liquors from around the world, homemade infusions and syrups and fresh ingredients such as mint, fruit and spices. It evoked mental images of ye olde apothecary shoppe, and the painstaking care and attention with which the drinks are made only added to the feeling that the mixologists really are creating amazing potions! Add to the mix a great playlist full of new tunes and old classics (sadly not played on the vintage gramophone by the door) and an interesting menu full of tick boxes for DIY martinis and I think I found my favourite bar, ever.

I went back repeatedly.

I want to go back right now.

Come back next week for the Dancing, entertainment, shopping and sightseeing…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

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