eiffel-tower

The Best Three Days in Paris Itinerary

Paris is one of the my favourite European cities with its French cuisine, countless museums, historic architecture and charming parks. I treated my sister with two tickets to Paris for her 18th birthday so that she could go with her best friend to see the Christmas Markets. Because my family still had some reservations about her going alone, I had to go and just be their point of contact if they need. Who wouldn’t turn down tickets to Paris!? 

In my opinion, Paris is not a once and done type of city. I would happily return again and again, especially with my husband. Paris is just so vase and there is so much to explore. Im going to give you a brief breakdown of what I did in each of the three days. You will find that it was pretty laid back because I went to Paris as an opportunity to de-stress from work and to re-connect with myself. In other words, I wanted to see the main attractions but also soap up the wonder of Paris at a street side café, indulge in way too many croissants at a local patisserie, watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night and just feel the city envelope you – that’s part of the Parisian charm!

As we went in late November, we were lucky enough to experience the French Charismas market. There’s an extra dose of magic when visiting Paris in winter. So dig out your scarf and glove and see the best three day itinerary for Winter. 

Day 1

After checking into the hostel, my sister and I parted ways. The first thing I always like to do is go on a free guided walking tours to learn more about the city’s history and to get my bearings. This is what I go up to on day 1: 

Walking tour 

I booked the walking tour with Sandman’s as I’ve used them before and know they are brilliant. The 3 hours ‘Free Tour of Paris’ covers many of Paris’ top attractions, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and the Arc de Triopmhe. It started at the Saint Michel Fountain and ended at the Louvre. It was a great introduction to Paris at a price that suits everybody’s budget. 

Notre Dame

Notre Dame was the first stop of the walking tour and was the most architecturally impressive in my opinion. Like many other cathedrals, it was very intricately detailed and had some beautiful glass-stained windows. The cathedral has free entry so before the tour began, I quickly went inside to appreciate its beauty. Unfortunately, due to the huge fire last year, the church is closed for the foreseeable future until they do the repairs.  

notre-dame-paris-france-sister

Louvre

After walking along the Seine for about 40 minutes, passing iconic sites such as Alexandre iii bridge and the Tulleries Garden, the tour ended at the world-famous Louvre Museum. The louvre is home to hundreds of medieval ruins and priceless artefacts from around the world. It also happens to be the largest museum in the world. I did find the museum to be expensive as you have to pay for each separate section – so I just opted for the site with Mona Lisa and that was plenty for me. Catching a glimpse of the Mona Lisa was on my bucket list, so I didn’t want to pass this opportunity by. 

inside-louvre

Even if you don’t plan to go inside, I would aim to at least visit the outside of the Louvre as the architecture is simply stunning. 

Galeries Lafayatte 

The two grand shopping complexes along Boulevard Haussmann are Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Both stores are completely decked our with stunning window displays. I went to the stunning dome shaped 10 story Galeries Lafayette after dinning as I was keen to see the larger than life-sized Christmas tree, which has a different theme each year. 

I loved just walking around each floor of the shopping mall. I bought a gold bracelet from this pop-up stall Lou Yetu as the queue was leading to outside the mall. It is also home to one on of the best free panoramic views in the city if you go its rooftop terrace. You can also ice skate on the roof of this department store, but as I was alone, I didn’t think it would be fun. 

At this stage, i was absolutely exhausted and started to get hangry, with myself as i had no-one to aim my hanger towards. I have no idea where i walked or how long i walked for, but it seemed like more than an hour. I reached this neighbourhood which was evidently not very popular with the tourists. I was craving a duck confit and finally came across this adorable french restuartaunt. I had the nicest conversation with the waiter and ordered duck confit. I just remember sitting down and my head was so clogged up with thoughts about work, family, friends, life that i just pulled my notebook and started writing. I really enjoyed it, especially with the candle and dim-lit room. The food also exceeded my expectations! Im a terrible travel blogger as i should have noted down the name, but it felt good being lost in the moment.

Day 2

French Market

En route to Eiffel Tower, we stumbled the most French street market you can imagine. It was the cutest thing – I picked up some cheese from here. 

Eiffel Tower

There is nothing more Parisian than catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. We also ascended the Eiffel Tower – even though it provided a great view over the city. I personally don’t think it was worth it, and you’re better off seeing from the top of Arc de Triomphe or another rooftop bar. Luckily there was no queue when we went so it didn’t necessarily eat up my time. 

Eiffel-tower-christmas-market

Arc de Triomphe

Another must-see in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe; a monument in honour of troops who fought in the French Revolutionary. Its located at one of the Champs Elysees and is looks very majestic. Its worth checking out from the outside and if you have the chance, to go up to the very top. 

Champs Elysees 

This is the oxford street of France – a huge boulevard lined with famous French luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Cartier. I spent a long time just sitting outside in Paul café, reading my book, people watching and drinking coffee and eating their amazing pastries. 

Dinner at Bouillon Chartier 

I heard great things about the Bouillon Chartier. It shows a slice of Parisian history as its perfect-preserved relic of an old Paris, with glass-globe fixtures, tables jammed together, coat racks high above the tables and a menu that hasn’t changed in the last three or four decades. I was eternally curious… 

Bouillon Chartier is tucked away down an alley off a side street, Bouillons were established so anyone can get affordable traditional French food and speedily. There are very few left and the price of started range from €1 – €6.80 and mains not exceeding €13.50 (and that includes steak). Its no wonder there was a queue snaking outside into the street. I expected lots of tourists, but I surrounded by the locals. It wasn’t too long before I was sat in this beautifully ast room, elbow to elbow with some strangers on a shared table and digging into my steak. 

Going to a restaurant is an experience and never just about your meal. Its about the room, the service and everything in between. The steak I had was absolutely delicious but the experience was even better.

Day 3

I wanted to do something slightly different on the third day and explore a new district. I was recommended by my colleague to go to Montmartre to soak up with 18th arrondissement’s ambiance. I definitely did not regret it as it was my favourite part of the trip. The hilltop neighbourhood of Montmartre was once synonymous with drinking, dancing and debauchery. This is because in the mid-19th century, it was just outside the city limits meaning it is free of the city’s taxes and controlled and ultimately evolved into a bohemian, artistic enclave. I did a self-guided walking tour of this unique city. 

Place Dalida

This stunning location is named after Dalida, a legendary Italian-Egyptian singer who is absolutely huge in France. I just know her from her rendition of Bang Bang, which is just perfection. 

Dalida’s Parisian home was in Montmartre and it was only after she died that the city named this square after her and installed the bust of her. You’ll notice a few shiny places because its apparently good luck to rub it – hmmmm. Say hi to the bust of Dalida and continue up the stunning Rue de l’Abreuvoir, the most beautiful street I saw in Paris. 

Moulin Rouge

This Is the birthplace of the can-can dance. I wanted to go to a show here but the tickets were sold out. Maybe next time… 

Le Moulin de la Galette

Le Moulin de la Galette is the last remaining windmills in Montmartre and also a tourist attraction. This windmill, once used for grinding flour is a favourite of Vincent Van Gogh. The owners of the windmill created a brown bread (Galette) that was so popular that the windmill got its name from it. 

Sacre-Coeur

Built in late 1800s, Sacre Coeur, otherwise known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is one of the most famous churches in Paris. I enjoyed going inside the church and also just enjoying the sunset over the city. However – be cautious with your personal belongings as there many pickpockets around. 

I couldn’t leave Paris without trying a fresh Macaron from a bakery. I came across one on the way back to the accomodation and was blown away. It was so fresh and sweet that i had to go back and buy a box for my family!

french-macarons-paris-bakery

Do you have any questions about travelling to Paris that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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2 Days in Miami | Travel Guide + Itinerary

I never quite realised how huge and diverse Florida is before this trip. There is so much to do and the state is brimming with yummy foodie scenes, a mix of cultures and so much natural beauty. Miami was our first stop in my family’s 2 weeks Florida road trip and we only had two full days here before driving to Tampa, Orlando.  

In all honesty, at the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first but the longer I spent there and the more I think back on it now the more I appreciate how much character and vibrancy it has in comparison to other parts of the state.

It’s a place of two completely opposing parts separated by a couple of bridges.  Whilst central Miami is heavily influenced by authentic South America, Miami Beach is pure USA at its most shiny and extravagant.  In my opinion, to get the best out of what Miami has to offer you need to experience a bit of both.

Here are some of my favourite spots in Miami that you can include on your trip to the Sunshine State. 

Day 1

Everglades

One of the nicest things to do in Miami is visiting Everglades National Park, Florida’s largest swamp. As I love nature, this was something that I definitely wanted to go to as its just such a unique national park! It’s home to panthers, alligators, snakes and birds. 

We walked the Anhinga Trail which is a 0.8 miles paved and boardwalk trail along a small section of wetlands. This is where we spotted the alligators and Anhinga birds (the bird the trail is named after). 

If you have time, you could also take an airboat ride through the swamps to see how many gators you can find. However, please don’t make the same mistake as we did and make sure you mosquito spray the hell outta your body! I definitely left with more than 20 bites. 

The weather can be unpredictable in August – it can be so hot one minute and then pouring down with rain the next!

The Florida Keys

We then continued driving south to the the Florida Keys. The Keys stretch 190 km (120 miles) from Miami to Key West. The islands (or keys) are linked by a series of bridges. It looks like a concrete snake across the ocean between mangroves. What’s nice is that each key is different to each other – but all of them are a tropical delight. We only had time to go to the first big key – Key Largo but it was heavenly! As we didn’t do any research beforehand, we stopped off at some local shops and asked the guy behind the counter what is the best local secluded beach he knows. He said that he goes to one that not even the locals go to -it had no name, but pinpointed on the map exactly where it is. We went in between the small side streets and then some more residential streets before we discovered this gem. We met this Cuban mafia guy while swimming and my dad got excited and was talking to him for a while (while I was trying to find my escape route). We must’ve been in the sea for more than an hour, just talking, swimming etc. It was just so perfect.

The sunset was legendary. 

Day 2

Little Havana

We started off the day by exploring Little Havana. This neighboured was once largely Anglo-Jewish but then blossomed in the 1960s to the lively Latin quarter it is today when Cuban emigres settled in Miami after Castro’s conquering of Cuba. 

The main street is called Calle Ocho (Eighth street) – you’ll recognise the street as soon as you go in as its full of salsa music, shops selling cigars, café con leche and the Cubano (Cuban sandwich). If we weren’t heading to Tampa that evening, it would have been nice to explore the area in the evening where it comes even more alive. 

Instead of buying my brother a keychain and fridge magnet, we headed to a Cuban cigar shop and bought him a few cigars! We watched as this fella rolled up the cigar himself.

South Beach

As the sun was starting to set, we parked the rental car near the South Beach strip and walked to the beach. We loved the colourful lifeguard towers dotted along the shoreline – its so Miami! We found a patch of sand, soaked up the sun and then watched the sunset. 

Art Deco style

I was really excited to see the world-famous Art Deco District. As the family nerd, I took it upon myself to google the fact on every retro building that caught our eye along Miami’s art deco streets: Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road. 

Truth be told, I didn’t even know what art deco is until this trip. Art deco style started in Paris in the 1920s and then made its way to the US in the 1930s. Because it was during the time of the Great Depression, the style was more subtle than its European counterpart. The style can be described as a representation of luxury, glamour and technological progress. It features bright colours, geometric forms and chrome plating.

 


Do you have any questions about travelling to Miami that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Review: Reef Safari Tour with Mason Travels

We got up bright and early to have our breakfast and then went on a booked tour with Mason’s Travels for their trademark Reef Safari to St. Anne National Marine Park. The Marine Park was established in 1973 – first of six in Seychelles. The tour started by us going into the boat to just sunbathe in our swimming gear which they were taking us to the first stop of the tour.

Mid-journey, the boat stopped so that we could feed the tropical fish surrounding the boat. We threw pieces of bread overboard and watched the fish eat them up in no time. The child in me came out as it was just so gleeful to watch!

We then hopped abroad a semi-submersible vassal for a closer look at the rich coral life below the surface. 

Admittedly, there wasn’t a huge variety of fish and I was definitely more impressed by my experience in Hurghada and the Red Sea – but it was still amazing to watch the brilliantly coloured fish. We then went back to the boat and had an hour-long snorkelling session in the middle of the ocean. We all know I’m not a fan of snorkelling (especially when someone in the boat throws a piece of bread next to you) but it was spectacular to see the whole new world down there.

This was followed by a traditional Seychellois BBQ lunch on the deck. The crewmen were the stars of the moment as he was prancing about with his guitar and singing some wonderful melodies while we sat and devoured the scrumptious food. 

Soon after, we took an inflated speed boat and made our way to the stunning Moyenne Island. The tour guide told us how the island was completed abandoned and inhabited up until 1962 where Englishman by the name of Brendon Grinshaw bought Moyenne Island for £8000. He stayed there with his friend and the pair of them planted more than 15k trees and built 4.8km of walking trails. They also brought and bred Giant Tortoises which we were fortunate enough to visit. It is now known as the island with more species per square foot than any other part of the world! 

We also visited old ruin sand pirate graves. 

The day ended with a tropical cocktail and a leisurely cruise around the Marine Park before returning to Mahé.

If you find yourself in Seychelles and looking to participate in exciting activities -my husband and I really enjoyed our tour with Mason Travels and would whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone! It was really punctual, organized and you are well looked after. They also offer a bunch of options throughout the island group.