Hotel Molitor Paris – Paris, France

For the last day of Sandra’s hen do we went to the Hotel Molitor Paris for a Detox Yoga Class and then enjoyed the hammam (steam room) and spa with all the Clarin’s products.

After the yoga, steam and getting ready, we went up to the roof terrace for some lunch. The views of the pool and around the hotel were so picturesque – I felt like I was in a film!

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View of the pool from the rooftop
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On the roof terrace
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The Burger
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The sausages
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The tuna steak
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The steak

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I food was simple but good quality and fresh. We all ordered something from the grill/ BBQ. I had a steak which was delicious!

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http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-7326-hotel-molitor-paris-mgallery-by-sofitel/index.shtml

https://www.facebook.com/MolitorParis/

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Marin D’eau Douce – Boating on the River Seine – Paris, France

For Sandra’s Hen Do (Bachelorette party) we went to Paris for the weekend. The Friday evening was spent in our mansion of an apartment that we rented for the weekend with nibbles and prosecco then on the Saturday we all got dressed in our striped tops, packed our picnics, and headed off to the River Seine.

We had three boats between us and each boat had about five people and each boat had a picnic packed with booze, bread, dips, cheeses and charcutterie.

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It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend an afternoon in Paris. It was so much fun driving the boats and so relaxing at the same time as we sipped on our drinks and nibbled on our snacks – and we ended up finishing off our picnic in the sun in a park nearby afterwards.

http://www.boating-paris-marindeaudouce.com/

Four Hours in Milano – Italy

On our last day of our six day Italian Lakes trip – we decided that after breakfast on the gorgeous private terrace of our apartment in Lezzano that faced the incredibly scenic Lake Como – we would drive to Milan and spend out last four hours in Italy there. We were flying from Milan Malpensa so it was perfect for us!

We parked up and walked through the little City to the Duomo Di Milano. The closer we got to the Duomo, there was much more of a hustle and bustle on the streets. We came up the very large square and we suddenly surrounded by tourist taking photos, street vendors selling selfie sticks and bracelets, tourists feeding pigeons, and behind it all stood the very grand Duomo facing us.

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The outside of the Duomo Di Milano

We got an overpriced coffee in one of the touristy coffee shops in the square over looking the Duomo (had to be done didn’t it?) and then went on a walk to find somewhere for lunch. We stumbled across a restaurant that was heaving with people on their office lunch break. Pizzas and pastas and steaks like flying saucers over everyone’s heads as the waiters and waitresses rushed around carrying them to the tables.

The food was good and extremely well priced and it was a really good vibe as the whole place was packed and everyone seemed like they were in a good mood chatting away. To be fair – I’d be in a great mood too if I actually got a proper lunch break at work everyday and there was a restaurant this cheap and tasty where I could take my time to eat!

Post eating we got out tickets for the Duomo and stood in line to get in. The line didn’t take long and soon we were inside the magnificently grand building.

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The grand pillars
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The beautiful architecture

We walked around the whole building trying to take in all the little details as well as appreciating the overall grandness of the architecture. The littlest details like the window paintings on every small square of glass, the carvings on each of the pillars and even the statues just added an intricacy to it all.

It is beautiful and I was truly in awe.

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Architecture
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The crypt
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Beautifully intricate and detailed window art

http://www.duomomilano.it/en/

Adventures in Lake Como, Italy

After Lake Garda, we continued our long-Easter-weekend-Italian-Lakes trip in our little Fiat 500 over to Lake Como for the next three nights.

Lake Como is a beautiful, clean, clear lake just off the Alps which makes it stunningly scenic. The natural beauty of the lake along with the colourful, rural, mini towns situated around the Lake makes it like something out of a film.

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The ferry port in Lezzano
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The church in Lezzano
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View of Lezzano village from a Ferry

We stayed in Lezzano, a peaceful, rural, little town right next to Bellagio. It was honestly the most peaceful and scenic place I have ever been to. We would go down to the town store and get bits for breakfasts and it there were restaurants dotted around down by the Lake which you had to do some exploring to discover. There are no late night bars or big groups of tourists everywhere and it just felt very low key like the beautiful views were our own little secret.

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The view from the beach outside our apartment in Lezzano

Below are some photos from the apartment that we rented in Lezzano and our private terrace where we had breakfast with the most stunning view.

We spent our first day in Bellagio, which was a buzzing, colourful, little town that is situated on a hill so there are great views from the top of the town. It was lovely to explore and go in and out of all the little stepped alleyways, shops, and art galleries. We sat on the lake in the sunshine to have our aperitivo for a little break before continuing with our exploring, then finished off the day there with dinner and drinks.

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Beautiful Bellagio
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Gelato time in Bellagio
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Bellagio
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Bellagio
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Aperitivo at Bar Sanremo, Bellagio – sitting out in the sunshine on the Lake
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Bar Sanremo, Bellagio

On our second day we drove around the Lake to Como Town which was a very big, busy and beige town in comparison to the colourful towns that we had been to so far. We actually couldn’t find anywhere to park because it was so busy so decided to keep driving to Cernobbio. Cernobbio was beautiful and quite grand as a town.

We continued driving up into the mountainous village – up and up we drove up the teeny tiny winding road until we came to Gatto Nero for a 3 hour lunch, which I will talk about in my next blog post.

The drove back to Lezzano and spent the rest of the day in our quite, mostly private beach outside out apartment to watch the sunset before dinner.

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Watching the ferry leave us when we got off at Isola Comacina

On our third day we decided to go ferry hopping. We jumped the first ferry that came to our port and got off at the first place it arrived at – which was Isola Comacina – the only island on Lake Como.

It is a beautiful island with so much history. It was a commune for women years and years ago so we explored all the ruins there. The views all around us from the top of the hill in the middle of the island of the colourful villages across the waters were breathtakingly beautiful.

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Views from the top of the hill at Isola Comacina
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Back onto the ferry for more ferry hopping

We got back onto the ferry after exploring the island and it was really scenic and really relaxing just sitting outside on the ferry and seeing all the different, colourful villages along the way.

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Scenic ferry views
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Arriving in Torno

We decided to get off at Torno for a late lunch and a bit of exploring. As we arrived at the port we were welcomed with the grand looking church, colourful boats and buildings, and a very blue sky.

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Exploring Torno
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Late lunch at Bar Italia in Torno

Our three days in Lake Como were absolutely gorgeous and every time I look back at the photos of the scenery, I still feel like it was something out of a film and I cannot get over the beauty of it. The mountains surrounding the clear, sparking lake, with the mini, colourful, rural villages that are situated all around the lake – all of this make it a truly beautiful place to visit.

I would love to go again in the summer, explore another side of the lake, and go swimming!

 

Touring and Wine Tasting at the Onepio Winery – Desenzano Del Garda, Italy

They say “while in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so while in Lake Garda, we went wine tasting in a vineyard.

The owner, Ilaria Accordini, comes from a wine producing family and after a few years of staying in different wineries around the world, she has decided to start her own winery in the Lombardy region.

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The vineyard
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The Vineyard

Ilaria showed us around the vineyard, talking us through the farming and her background in the wine production industry, while we sipped on the chilled Onepio Lugano wine.

Ilaria has put together all her knowledge that she has gained from working in vineyards all around the world and wanted to created high quality, unique wine at her modern winery – and she has definitely achieved this.

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The Vineyard
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Their products

After the tour, the wine tasting began. We had some risotto which was made with the Amarone and Ilaria talked us through all the wine in front of us.

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Wine tasting with wine infused risotto
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Amarone infused risotto
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Wine and cheese pairing

Then the cheese came out and some more wine to taste.

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The beautiful Italian cheese selection
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The smells that you can pick up are in these little glass jars

Below are our 3 favourite wines:

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The Lugana
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The Amarone
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The Ripasso

I would definitely recommend a trip to Onepio if you are in the area. Around July or August or even September are probably the best times to go so that you are able to see a much more fruitful vineyard than we saw – they were just getting started for the new season when we went in April.

It costs 30 Euros to tour the vineyard and for wine tasting and Ilaria is a really great host!

 

http://www.onepio.it/en/

Travels to Lake Garda, Italy

We spent the Easter weekend exploring the Italian Lakes and chose to go to both Lake Garda and Lake Como. We landed in Milan Malpensa, picked up our rented our very Italian car (a tiny little Fiat 500) and made our way over to Desenzano, a little town on the south west shore of Lake Garda, where we had booked our hotel for two nights.

There were a lot of motorways and very un-scenic views involved in this almost 2 hour drive to Lake Garda, but when we finally saw the beautiful Lake glistening in the sunshine in front of us we were very excited to have arrived. We parked, checked in, changed into more appropriate clothes for the gloriously sunny, 24 degree Celsius day, and headed out to walk around to see what Desenzano had to offer.

We walked up to the lake and onto the pebbled beach and I was amazed to see how crystal clear the water was as the soft waves pushed it in and out. It felt very much like going to the seaside in the South of France. We sat on the pier with our legs dangling out over the water watching the swans and ducks go by and taking in the peacefulness of it all – before heading off to find a somewhere to eat lunch in the sunshine.

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Desenzano del Garda
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Desenzano del Garda in the sunshine

We wondered through the streets passing the colourful little buildings with their colourful shutters and on the windows until we found Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo facing the gorgeous Porto Vecchio and the Lake.

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Ponte Vecchio
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Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo

After a long lunch we set off to see the Castello di Desenzano. It sits grand amongst the colourful low rise buildings that surround it.

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Castello di Desenzano
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Castello di Desenzano
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The beautiful little streets of Desenzano
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Pre-dinner drinks at Piazza Cappelletti

Overall Desenzano is a peaceful, gorgeous and colourful little town. I would definitely recommend staying here if you go to Lake Garda.

The next morning after breakfast we set off to a Vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting (which will be blogged about soon) before spending the rest of the day in Sirmione. Sirmione is a little town with a lot of history. It is a thin, long road that goes into the Lake and at the end of this road, you walk across a moat, through a castle entrance to then enter the old Sirmione town.

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Castello Scaligero
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Sitting on a pier to take in the gorgeous views

The old town is buzzing and full of people, like ourselves, being tourists and exploring.

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The busy Sirmione Old Town
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Found a spot in the Square in the sunshine for some drinks and nibbles before exploring the castle

We ended up finding a suntrap in the Square by the Ferry Port where we decided to stop for a drink – but every time you order an alcoholic beverage somewhere in Lake Garda, you will get nibbles to go with them – usually some crisps and olives but if you go between 5pm and 7pm you will get bread, bread sticks (they LOVE a bread stick), cheese and ham. It was lovely just sitting in the sun and watching the world go by around us.

There were gelaterias on every corner, thermal baths and spas, colourful shops and restaurants everywhere you look and some ginormously large lemons – all the things that Sirmione is famous for.

Unfortunately we didn’t try any lemons and we didn’t have a chance to go into the thermal baths, but we did have a fabulous time walking around the old town and going into the castle to see all the views.

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Views from the castle looking out to the Lake
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More lake views from the castle
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Views from the top of the castle looking down into the old town
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Views from the top of the castle looking out to the lake
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More lake views from the castle

If you do have the chance, definitely go for a day to explore this gorgeous area of Lake Garda.

Where to go? What to do?

  • Have a day to stroll around Desenzano town
  • Go to Castello di Desenzano
  • Find a vineyard to do a winery tour and wine tasting
  • Try some Lake Garda Lemons
  • Enter Castello Scaligero in Sirmione
  • Go to a thermal bath (historically used by the Romans here) in Sirmione
  • Take a boat ride around Sirmione
  • Have an Aperol Spritz (or other beverage) during aperitivo time
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride along the Lake
  • Have lots of pasta
  • Relax

 

Where to stay?

We stayed in Hotel Bonotto in Desenzano which was perfect for what we needed it to be. It is a well-priced 3 star hotel with wifi, free parking, a safe in the room, breakfast included and it is a 2 minute walk from the lake. What more did we need?

The staff were great at helping us out to find our way around, giving us tips on where to go, and helping us out with what we needed for our stay.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant on the top floor which has floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace overlooking Lake Garda as well as the castle and rest of the town. Breakfast is continental with a choice of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and boiled eggs as well as the teas, coffees and fruit juices. There was one morning when I was at breakfast and there was a bottle of prosecco as one of the drink options in the buffet, but it was a little too early for me, plus we were off to Onepio Vineyard afterwards.

Below are photos of our room and gorgeous views from the roof terrace at breakfast.

http://www.hotelbonottodesenzano.it/en/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194965-d2090589-Reviews-Hotel_Bonotto-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

 

Street Food – Istanbul, Turkey

My gorgeous girlfriends and I got our back packs on flew to Istanbul in May this year for some exploring. We managed to see loads of historical sights, visit the two big bazaars and do some shopping. This post is about all the street foods I tried while I was there.2015-05-03_14.45.31

Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels) – Found at the Ferry Port on the Asian Side20150504_194533

20150504_194553Emma, Astrid, Esme and I got a ferry across from the European side, where we were staying, to the Asian side, where my friend Hannah lives, as she was having a garden party at her house that evening. As we got off the ferry onto the Asian side, we saw a couple of these Midye Dolma street vendors. Obviously we had to try them. They opened up the mussel for us, scooped it all into one shell, squeezed some lemon onto it, and then it was served.

They make a rice mixture and then stuff it into the mussels to cook – it tastes very much like a seafood risotto or a seafood paella. DELICIOUS!

It costs 1 Turkish Lira for 2 mussels (£1 = 4 Lira at the time) and they are such a good tasty little street snack.images (1)

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Corn on the Cob and Chesnuts – Found around Sultan Ahmet20150503_181931

To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the grilled corn that I got. It was cold and the kernels was so hard and tasted like they were probably cooked in the morning and just laid out all day. They sprinkled it with salt which didn’t melt and infuse into the corn and instead lay over it dry. I doubt I will be rushing to have one of these again, but if you are to try these I would suggest asking for a freshly cooked one. Not my favourite. 2 Liras for 1 corn.

Islak Burgers (Wet Burgers in English) – Found in Taksimdownload (1)The Islak Burgers are found lining the streets of Taksim. You will see them in the windows of most of the shops. Emma, Astrid and I had one of these on our way home after Hannah’s garden party. It was surprisingly good.

It was a bun similar to a McDonalds cheeseburger bun, with a very thin meat patty inside, but what makes it a “wet burger” is that, not only is there tomato sauce on the inside of the bun like a normal burger, but it is absolutely covered in a tomato sauce. The sauce doesn’t taste as strong with flavour as a tomato ketchup. It had a lighter taste to it. This sauce somehow gave the burger bun a chewy texture, like the texture of a bagel.

A delightful midnight street snack AND it was only 2 Lira!images (2)

Simit (Turkish Pretzels) – Found all over the streets in Istanbulimages (3)These are great if you are hungry and on the go. It costs 1 Lira for one. Plain chewy-bagel-type-pretzels that are sold on every street corner.

Overall a fab place to visit and many interesting flavours. I still need to go back and try to famous fish sandwich which is also a street food.

Istanbul, I’m coming back.