An Unusual Night at the Hotel Original, Bastille

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Whenever one of my London friends comes to visit me in Paris, we always try to make the most of the occasion and reserve something special… lunch at Le Fumoir, brunch in the Rue des Martyrs or even a weekend escape into the nearby Forest of Fontainebleau, these treats always make the weekend feel more like a mini vacation and it’s a great excuse to splash out a little!

Last weekend, my best friend came to stay for a long weekend and for the extra night we booked an unusual boutique hotel right near the Place de la Bastille. Let me just say that the Hotel Original is probably the weirdest hotel I’ve every stayed at! Everywhere you look, there’s something unusual staring back at you… jellyfish lamps, faux deer heads and neon butterflies; it’s definitely not your usual 4* hotel and it ended up being a really fun experience and definitely a more amusing type of accomodation for a short break in Paris.

The interior was entirely imagined by designer Stella Cadente, who has worked with numerous hotels as well as launching her own collection of clothing, accessories and fragrances. You’ll see even from the reception, the decor is something else and every room has its unique theme from quirky Alice in Wonderland decorations to a cosy Chalet feel!

Hotel Original, 8 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75011 – Metro: Bastille

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The Legendary Shakespeare & Co, Paris

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Sometimes, every now and then, you come across a place which touches you in some way. It can be anything, an interesting building or a curious little coffee shop… For me, one of these special places is Shakespeare & Co, the dusty second-hand bookshop along the banks of la Seine in Paris.

It’s small, and the books have seen better days, but it’s enchanting; you feel like Alice in Wonderland. The history of this little bookshop transports you and it’s hard not to be swept up in its stories…

Founded in August 1951 by the late George Whitman, the shop is set in the very heart of the French capital on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame (another location of magic and mystery). George had spent several years travelling in South America where he was moved by the hospitality of locals who would feed and accommodate him willingly. From this moment he decided he too would create a sanctuary for writers, artists and aspiring talent in the form of a bookshop. Inviting guests into his home, over 50,000 heads have slept on the pillows at Shakespeare and Company many sharing tea and pancakes with George such as Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Allen Ginsberg.

The best thing about this little bookshop full of tales and talent are the stories you can find directly on the bookshelves. It’s not impossible to be leafing through a James Baldwin only to discover the author has signed it to the bookshop! Today the bookshop is home to an array of events such as poetry readings, concerts, lectures and bilingual readings; you can find out more on their website but more importantly in the shop itself.

So the next time you’re passing through the City of Love, take a moment to unglue your eyes from the stunning Cathédrale Notre-Dame and look to the other side of the river, to a smaller sight with a less impressive façade but just as much mystery and delight to be found inside its walls…

Shakespeare & Co, 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 (Metro Saint-Michel)

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Christmas at Disneyland Paris

Disney 6Disney 4Disney 3Disney 1Disney 19If there’s one place you can rely on for the full Christmas atmosphere, it’s Disneyland in Paris! Fake snow, toys, gifts, sugar highs and smiling faces everywhere you look, it really doesn’t get more Christmassy than this and it was the perfect Sunday destination for two big kids this weekend!

Giddy boyfriend in tow, I couldn’t wait to shut out the real world for 12 hours of pure fantasy and cartoon-character-filled-joy which began the very minute we stepped into the first park, Universal Studios, which I had never visited before. Here the Christmas theme was subtle but present in tree-shaped decorations and candy canes hanging in all the boutiques and stalls around the park. We began with a visit to the brand new Ratatouille attraction which is incredible! If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be shrunk down to the size of a mouse (ok, rat!) then trust me this is the closest you’ll ever get to finding out… 3D videos screens, giant-sized decors, drastic changes in temperature and a cosy rat-mobile will have you whizzing around Gustau’s restaurant, feeling like you’re pretty lucky to have made it out alive!

Inspired by the morning’s rat-adventures, I decided to brave my fear of rollercoasters and took a ride on Crush’s Coaster (terrifying!) followed by an even more daring venture onto the Rock’n’Roller Coaster with Aerosmith (absolutely flipping terrifying!)… I don’t know whether it was my love of Aerosmith music or the relief at still being alive after such an experience but I was in a mad laughing fit as the ride came to an end, though not in any way tempted to go through it a second time!

The rest of the day was spent in the main Disneyland park, wandering from the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse to Aladin’s cave stopping for a quick spin at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! The Christmas decorations were spectacular in the Main Street with foam snow falling from the beautifully lit boutiques and cafes, so tempting that we left with two bags of Christmas goodies (tree decorations, gifts and candy canes)!

Christmas runs until January 7th at Disneyland Paris so if you’re looking for a fun day trip or weekend getaway, check out the website and head back to your childhood!

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Vintage Shopping on Portobello Road

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Wow, until last week, I hadn’t been back to Portobello Road since my first year at university so it was really exciting to head back to Notting Hill and take in the beautiful coloured houses and vintage boutiques… Since I was mostly looking forward to taking in the scenery and getting a little shopping done, I decided to avoid the crazy Saturday market crowds and I can confirm that on a fall Thursday morning, it’s a very different atmosphere.

There were still a few stalls out, mostly selling jewellery and winter accessories, but it was actually great fun just browsing the quaint little boutiques selling anything from retro preppy clothing to antique sports equipment and very cool home furnishings.

Obviously, a refreshment stop at the orginial Hummingbird Bakery was a must and they even had a delicious selection of limited flavours for Christmas, more about those on my previous post. The street art in and around Portobello Road is very entertaining and makes for some perfect photos (I didn’t realise at the time that I had a cartoon man holding a gun to my back in my photo below!) and the pretty coloured houses, whilst quite unexpected in central London, are really charming and add an exotic feel to the city!

For more information on market opening times, check out the Portobello Road website but even if you can’t make the market it’s still definitely worth strolling through Notting Hill for the environment itself.

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Ice Skating at Somerset House

Somerset House Ice SkatingSomerset House Ice SkatingSomerset House Ice SkatingWhen spending time in London during the lead up to Christmas, there are a few moments which everyone has to experience… and one of these is ice-skating and mulled wine at Somerset House. The windows at Selfridges and Harrods have to be seen, Christmas cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery are not to be missed but the beautiful ice-rink with the backdrop of Somerset House is one of my favourite winter moments!

Last week, I was lucky to have shared the experience with my beautiful mummy and Parisian boyfriend (he was absolutely loving all the British festivities!) and despite the fact that none of us actually made it out onto the ice, we had such a great time just taking in the merry atmosphere, drinking mulled wine and browsing all the tempting treats at the Christmas Arcade.

This year, the Somerset House Rink is hosted by Fortnum & Mason which means the après-skate shopping and entertainment are exceptionally good! There’s champagne and cream tea in the Fortnum’s Lodge, cocktails and fondues in the Skate Lounge and late-night shopping with a limited edition range of items available on-site only!

Book tickets online at Somerset House or find out more on the website. 

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