Sunday, 21 January 2018

A Weekend with my Best Friend in Paris | TRAVEL

A weekend in Paris with your best friend sounds like the ultimate dream holiday and let me tell you something -- IT WAS!

It all began with my beautiful best friend Laura flying all the way from New Zealand to surprise me and my wonderful husband planning the whole thing! 

The day she arrived was a typical cloudy London day and as it turned out I happened to be off work sick with a cold/flu. No hint at all of what was about to happen. 
When she walked into my room I didn't know what to do! I was (and am) so overwhelmed that I have a friend who would travel halfway around the world to visit me and whisk me away to Paris for a long weekend away in the sun!
As the weekend came closer, London got windier and rainier and evidently colder considering it is the beginning of 'summer'. Paris was looking better and better.

When we arrived into Paris and were immediately welcomed with beautiful blue skies and a 30 degree day! And that my friends, was the beginning of a great weekend!

Paris Must Dos:

The Louvre

Originally The Louvre was build as a fortress for Philip II in the 12th century and served as a palace for Napoleon. It is now one of the biggest museums in the world. It is well known for housing Leonardo da Vinci's  'Mona Lisa' and the 'Venus de Milo'. Take 4 hours out of your day to walk around the exhibitions, taking in the art and history that surrounds you. I would recommend that you get an audio guide as the signs on each exhibition are not only in French but the descriptions are very minimal. You cannot visit Paris without going to the Louvre! 





Eiffel Tower

I mean -- this is a MUST! You cannot visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower! Tickets to get to the top are 14 euros and can be bought online but are sold in limited quantities. To avoid waiting in the looooooooong que I would suggest buying your tickets in advance. The view is worth the wait! 









Moulin Rouge

Made famous by the movie, Moulin Rouge is one of the most iconic cabaret shows in Paris. Situated the Montmartre area in the heart of the red light district, the street has an edgy vibe and is lined with strip clubs and peep shows. If your budget allows, I would absolutely recommend going to a show although there are plenty of cheaper cabaret shows in the area as well. We didn't get the chance this time but when I was in Paris 4 years ago I was lucky enough to go to a show and believe me it did not disappoint! 




Sacré-Coeur

The Sacré-Coeur is a Roman-Catholic church situated on a hill in the heart of Paris. It is also the highest point in the city. Well known for its beautiful exterior and incredible panoramas this church is a must see and it is free (BONUS!)! The inside is absolutely breathtaking but unfortunately no photos are allowed. Take a seat on the grass to soak up the astounding view of the city and church in the background but make sure you have you walking shoes on because that hill is no joke! 





Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées is one of most famous streets in the world. It is known for its luxury shopping, cafes, restaurants and theaters. For all those shopaholics (like me!) this is a must! Beginning at the Place de la Concorde and ending at the Arc de Triomphe, the street is beautifully lined with trees and the busy hustle and bustle of cars makes for a vibrant and lively stroll. 



Arc de Triomphe

After walking down the hectic Champs-Élysées, you will arrive at the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe is a monument to honour those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I lies beneath its vault. An underground tunnel allows you to walk under the roundabout so you can get to the centre. You are also able to climb to the top for 8 euros. The Arc de Triomphe is such an iconic and beautifully symbolic structure that I would recommend seeing.





Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the most famous medieval Catholic Churches in the world and one of the best examples of the French Gothic architecture. It is also well known from the Disney classic move 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame'.  We visited the church on our last day in Paris and sadly ran out of time to go inside. Admission is free however once again the line is very long.





Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles has to be my favourite place in all of Paris! The Palace is situated in a small town called Versailles about 1 hour out of the centre of Paris. The best way to get there is by train. The nearest station is: Versailles-Chateau-RG but it is also walking distance from Gare de Versailles Chantiers station. The Palace itself originally housed King Louis XIV in the 17th century. The inside is absolutely breathtaking but also very busy. The walls are lines with gold, crystal chandeliers, and paintings dating back to the 1600s. The gardens cover over 800 hectares of land, and was designed by André Le Nôtre. Each area is dedicated to a different god. Spend the day there soaking up the historic rooms of the palace, walking amongst the beautifully sculpted gardens, watching the musical fountain shows and taking in the atmosphere. Cafes are hidden throughout the gardens too when you are in need of a refreshment. 










The Food and Wine

If the sites of Paris aren't enough to sway you to visit, then the food and wine might just do the trick! Paris is one of the best cities in Europe for food so naturally I was going to be excited! I don't know about you but when I think of French food I think of croissants, baguettes, cheese, snails (although they were not on my list, feel free to add them to yours), frogs legs and lots of wine. Cafes and restaurants line the streets meaning you will never be short of places to go. Set your taste buds on an diverse range of French cuisine and make sure to try something new!




Before we knew it, it was Sunday afternoon and we were packed up and ready to fly back to London. 
I am extremely grateful that I was able to experience Paris with my best friend and being able to show her all of my favourite places in London was so special to me as well.

Heres to many more trips and memories!

Tips

  • Get to the Louvre 1st thing in the morning as the lines get longer and longer as the day goes on. There is also a secret entrance which is a lot less busy. It is located in the building to the left of the pyramid when you arrive from Place du Carrousel. The entrance is called: Passage Richelieu.
  • I would recommend that you get an audio guide at the Louvre as the signs on each exhibition are not only in French but the descriptions are very minimal.
  • Pre-book the Eiffel Tower tickets (which we didn't do) in advance as once again the lines can get VERY long! We waited for just over an hour to get in. 
  • The line to get into the Palace of Versailles is very long no matter whether you have tickets pre-booked or not. Make sure you have a bottle of water to get you through the wait time - especially in summer!
  • The Metro is the easiest way to get around Paris and see all the sites. Buying a day pass is the cheapest option.

Thanks for reading!

God bless 

Amber x

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

2017 Favourites | LIFESTYLE

For many, 2017 was a year full of many of highs and definitely plenty of lows. For me, last year was incredible and one of my favourites yet. 2018 has a lot to live up to! The good times absolutely outweighed the bad (and believe me there were loads of those too) but I am grateful for the hardships that I went through because I have grown and become a stronger woman because of it.
In 2017 myself and Aaron were able to travel to countries we dreamed of going to, I learnt to say yes to any opportunity even if it scared me, I surrounded myself with the best friends any girl could want and I got to see my family again after living 2 years abroad. There is so much to be thankful for.

Let's begin 2018 on a good note and focus on the best of 2017! Here are some of my favourites:

Beauty:

Charlotte Tilbury Lipstick

Anything by Charlotte Tilbury is absolutely gorgeous but for me there is one product stands above all and that is her lipsticks! I decided to treat myself and add a few of her shades to my lipstick collection and they did not disappoint. The creamy consistency applies beautifully to your lips, is long lasting, very pigmented and leaves your lips feeling smooth and moisturised. Not to mention the stunning rose gold packaging that any lipstick lover is drawn to!



Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara

I am not one to get hung up on high end brands especially if a similar product at half the price will do the same job but the Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara is another story. The mascara darkens, thickens and adds volume to your lashes whilst not clumping them together like a lot of other brands do. It also does not smudge or create panda eyes throughout the day which no one likes. It is more of a pricey item but is worth it for the best of the best! 



NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

This has been a favourite of mine for a few years now but once again NARS has pulled through to becoming a favourite again in 2017! I have honestly never found a foundation like this. It gives my skin natural glowing dewy finish with a buildable coverage. It leaves my skin looking soft and smooth while covering any imperfections I may have, and it lasts all day. NARS Sheer Glow is perfect for those with dry skin whereas the NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation gives a more matt finish for those with oily skin.



Collection Fast Stroke Eyeliner

For the last few years I have been looking for a liquid eyeliner that doesn't smudge and lasts throughout the day, as everything I had been using in the past tends to rub off after a few hours of applying. After trying drugstore and high end brands I finally found one that does the trick! The Collection Fast Stroke Eyeliner stays on throughout the day, is easy to apply, super pigmented and best of all is affordable! In fact, it is so good and reasonably priced that I bought 5 before leaving the UK incase I couldn't find the brand anywhere else!



Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

I came across the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser in a goodie bag I was gifted from an event I attended last year. I had never heard of the brand before but I have to admit I have been pleasantly surprised. I am very cautious of what I use on my skin as it can be quite sensitive but one day I thought I would give it a go. It is an extra gentle cleanser that I use I for removing makeup (even waterproof mascara) at the end of the day and my skin feels better for using it. The calming cucumber extracts soothes the skin and adds moisture. I will definitely be re-purchasing this!


The White Company Day Perfume

The White Company is a store full of the most beautiful candles, diffusers and linen which means I can never resist leaving without making a purchase. One of my favourite scents is their 'Day' perfume which I have mentioned before in a previous post. It has a refreshing sweet scent and is light and subtle. It is perfect for work and brings a hint of spring to your wardrobe. 




Health and Fitness:

Kayla Itsines 

I don't know how I only came across Kayla Itsines last year but this woman is incredible and a huge health and fitness inspiration. Her app SWEAT consists of 28 minute HIIT home workouts and meal plans including recipes which she has incorporated into her new book; The Bikini Body and Motivation & Habits Guide. Although it only came out in November, it quickly became a favourite of mine. It has great tips on how to keep motivated and change your habits which is exactly what I am looking to do in 2018. The best part of this book is the tasty recipes which are simple, easy and realistic for everyday use. If you follow Kayla on Instagram you will be able to see the amazing transformations from those that follow her training program. 




Kew Gardens 10k Run

Never in a million years would I have thought I would ever have a running/sports event on my favourites list... but nevertheless here we are! In the beginning on 2017 I found myself becoming lazier and gaining a bit of weight so I decided to sign up for the Kew Gardens 10k run so I would have a fitness goal to work towards. If you are not careful the busy city life can take over meaning you have less time to focus on your health and fitness. Most of my family are runners but it seems I did not get that gene pool, so running 1km let alone 10km was going to be a huge achievement. After 6 months of training I DID IT!! It is such a great feeling completing your goals and this one has health and weight loss benefits too! If you are looking to hit some of those fitness goals in 2018 I'd suggest entering an event - they are fun and help you stick to your training. Plus what better place to run than the stunning Kew Gardens! 




Travel:

Dubrovnik, Croatia 

Croatia had never been a country that I had on my radar - that was until the I got to London in 2016. Many friends of ours had mentioned Dubrovnik as being an amazing summer destination and one to add to our bucket list. By the beginning of 2017 we had given in and booked flights and let me tell you, Croatia lived up to our expectations and more! From the Old Town, to the beach days, to the food, Dubrovnik did not disappoint and is now one of my favourite places in the world! For those who are Game of Thrones fans this is a MUST!





Amalfi Coast, Italy

Since first visiting in 2013, Italy has become one of my favourite countries in the world, so much so that we keep going back! In July 2017 Aaron and I flew into Naples Italy and began our road trip to the Amalfi Coast - not before stopping in Pompeii first! 
We continued on towards the coast and stayed in one of the most beautiful B&Bs just outside of Amalfi called World Center Resort which I would 100% recommend. We spent the few days we had there driving along the coastal roads (slowly and with caution) and stopping in some of the most picturesque towns and villages I have ever seen including Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Minori.  
Driving Tips: Hiring a car on the Amalfi Coast is very stressful, especially as the roads are incredibly narrow and the drivers can be quite unpredictable. Other forms of public transport between the towns are available for example; buses and boats can be more convenient as finding a car park is difficult and can be expensive. 






Israel

Israel is a country I have always wanted to travel to but never imagined I would actually go due to the conflict surrounding the area but we cannot live our lives in fear! So when the opportunity came up for us to visit we took it and I am so glad we did! Tel Aviv is a lively and vibrant city with plenty of nightlife, restaurants and the most beautiful beach. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and with the most incredible history. The Old Town in Jerusalem was one of the most moving and peaceful places I have ever been to and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of its biblical background. More highlights of Israel included Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Ein Gedi, Masada and the Dead Sea. 
Israel will, and I believe will always, remain my favourite country in the world! Look out for a blog post coming up where I explain why.





The Best for Last...

London

It is no secret that London is my all time favourite place in the entire world! Over the last 2 years London has become my home more so than the town I grew up in. Of course there are downsides to living in one of the biggest cities in the world but the pros outway the cons in a big way. I fell in love with London in 2013 when we visited for a holiday and I knew I had to come back. Some of my favourite days were spent biking around on Boris bikes, exploring new parts of the city, having picnics in some of the many parks, drinking in pubs along the river with my friends and walking around and exploring the little side streets that you wouldn't think to look down.
But let's not ignore the fact that it's the people you surround yourself with that make a place a home and I hit the jackpot! I am so grateful for meeting the people I have and I hope those friendships will last a lifetime.





Thanks for reading!

God Bless,

Amber x

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