Loire Valley photo diary

The Loire Valley is an area in central France replete with French Renaissance magnificence. Whilst some people come for the wine, I came for the châteaux which dominate the region. Every castle and every landscape looks as though it belongs in a postcard. It seems funny that I’ve lived in Paris for so long yet haven’t travelled very extensively around the rest of France but as of now, I endeavour to change that. High on my list are the lavender fields of Provence, the medieval villages of the Dordogne and the sun-soacked Côte d’Azur. For now here are a few photos of my trip with a guide to the region coming soon.

 

Photos by Faye Bullock

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau is undeniably the most beautiful of all the castles I visited. It’s something of a dream seeing this castle sitting on the river Cher in all its French romantic splendour. I canoed down the river at sunset which provided unbeatable views over the castle and floating underneath the arches was by far the most serene moment of my time in the Loire Valley.  I was too scared to bring my camera and phone along for fear of them falling in the water but fortunately the moment will be etched into my memory for a long time. I would highly recommend waiting at the gates at the opening time to be the first one in here to beat the swarms of tourists, that way you’ll have the chequered and marble grande salle all to yourself and get some iconic shots of the castle without people in the way. Make sure to spend a whole day here basking in the glorious rose gardens and later picnicking along the water.

Photos by Faye Bullock

Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry, one of the castles that I was most excited about visiting prior to my trip. I had heard wonderful things about the gardens and was impatient to see them. A friend had told me that they are among the most beautiful gardens in Europe and as her parents are both landscape architects, hers is a recommendation I can trust. Needless to say she was right. Whilst the castle is undoubtedly beautiful, the real attraction is the gardens. Often referred to as a tapestry of gardens and it’s not difficult to see why. The intricacy of the landscape design is astonishing and best seen from the elevated platform which provides aerial views over the gardens.

Cœur Vue

When I was last in Paris, I had the chance to stay in the most gorgeous Parisian apartment courtesy of Habitat Parisien. It was the kind of apartment that I dream of one day owning so I was pinching myself just staying in it for the short time that I did. As you enter the apartment, the most breathtaking view of Sacré Cœur greets you and standing on the balcony you almost feel close enough to touch the dome. It was the perfect place to rest our weary heads after long days of exploring. Waking up in the the comfiest double bed with the Sacré Cœur peeping through the french windows bathed in a pink, sunlit hue was one of the most surreal moments of the trip. Come breakfast time we would stroll down Rue des Martyrs and pick up our morning croissants from Sébastien Guardard and a baguette from the local boulangerie which we would savour at the breakfast table. We would get out our map and plan the busy day ahead, reassured at the thought of our little abode awaiting us at the end of the day.

Just a few of the reasons I loved the apartment so much:-

The amenities: the apartment was fully equipped with all of the necessities which made our lives so much easier especially upon arrival. There is a landline and a television installed, which admittedly didn’t get used much but it was still great knowing that they were there. Chilled water in the fridge and travel sized samples in the bathroom made our stay feel more like a hotel.

The view:  Perhaps the reason that I feel so deeply in love with this apartment. Having such an iconic monument constantly in sight makes you appreciate every minute of being in Paris.

The métro: The apartment was located a 2 minute walk from the métro which was not only extremely convenient but also very assuring when returning late at night.

The location: The location was superb, there are so many hotspots on the doorstep that we needn’t have ever left the neighbourhood. You can walk to KB cafe shop for your morning coffee run, Rose Bakery for brunch, Hotel Amour for the leafy terrace and the Musée de la Vie Romantique for a quiet escape. The fact that you can fill your days with endless activities all discovered by foot without the need for public transport is a godsend.

The atmosphere: Standing at the veranda and watching everybody stare in awe at the Sacré Cœur is a wonderful feeling. Seeing other people with smiles on their faces makes me inexplicably happy.

The buzz: Come nightfall the area comes to life. There are dozens of hip eateries, mixologist cocktail bars and night clubs which will keep you dancing into the early hours of the morning. The best part is that they are all located on your doorstep. For a night to remember head to l’Artisan for a bite to eat, Glass for a killer cocktail, followed by the tiki bar Dirty Dick and lastly Carmen where you can dance until dawn. Top the night off by watching the sunrise over the whole of Paris from the foot of the Sacré Cœur basilica. The best part: you can quite literally see your bed waiting for you a couple of strides away.

Habitat Parisien offer a wide selection of rental apartments to make your stay in Paris as memorable as possible. If you’re interested in staying in the beautiful Cœur Vue apartment or any of the others, feel free to take a look at their website.

Château d’Ussé

It’s astounding to think just how many châteaux there are in one region of France and impossible to even contemplate tackling them all. All of them have their own charms but there is something distinctively enchanting about the privately owned ones. A favourite among these was the breathtaking Château d’Ussé otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty’s castle as Charles Perrault was inspired to write his famous fairytale after setting eyes on this château. You can climb the bell tower where Sleeping Beauty was kept for years for beautiful views of the manicured gardens flowing into the natural landscape of field after field of greenery. For some reason this château seems to escape the hordes of tourists so why don’t we just keep it between ourselves in the hope of keeping it that way?

Sticker Stack

I could spend hours choosing pretty stationary and quite often I do. A well organised life is the best sort and pretty stationary always helps with this. I love coming across new stationery brands and a recent discovery of mine is Sticker Stack who sell everything you could need to keep organised. How adorable are these travel inspired notebooks  with the memo ‘révivre le souvenir’ on the front? A few of my other favourite brands at the minute are Kate Spade for everything gold polka-dot, Garance Doré for her beautifully illustrated cards and Rifle Paper for colourful and bold prints.

Below stationery from Sticker Stack

In collaboration with Sticker Stack

Daniel Wellington

I’m always in search of those timeless pieces which stay in my wardrobe for a lifetime and remain just as loved as when I first selected them. Lately I’m of the attitude that I will only buy something if I truly love it and could see myself wearing it years down the line, otherwise it will simply be another piece of junk in an already overly cluttered world. This watch from Daniel Wellington is one of those items and has long been a true staple in my accessory wardrobe. It instantly makes any outfit look chicer and goes with everything from chunky knits to silk blouses so it’s no wonder that it’s always high on rotation.

If you’re as smitten as I am, Daniel Wellington are offering 15% off until 30th June with the discount code farfelueparis

In collaboration with Daniel Wellington watches

Reykjavík guide

Reykjavík is the ideal base for discovering the rest of Iceland due to its prime location in the south of the island. Make sure to organise plenty of day trips but don’t overlook Reykjavík as it is also a great city in its own right. It’s a wonderfully quirky place with funky coloured cafes and and concept stores aplenty. It’s the kind of city that you feel as though you’ve conquered in a day due to it’s tiny size but that’s what makes it the safest and cosiest capital I have ever been to. Walk the streets and get your bearings quickly making sure to snuggle indoors in fur lined wood cabins for a hot cup of cocoa and lobster soup.

REYKJAVIK ROASTERS best for coffee

One of Reykjavik’s few speciality coffee shops. The coffee is superb as proven by the herds of Icelanders queuing outside for their morning brew. They offer a simple breakfast menu of salted porridge and rye bread with jam. A lovely and welcoming space where the electric blue grinder takes centre stage.

Kárastígur 1, Reykjavík – Open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm

BERGSSON MATHUS best for breakfast

For a traditional Icelandic breakfast this is the best spot to come. For a reasonable price you’ll get a plate with rye bread still warm out of the oven served with cheese, jams and cold meats as well as skyr yoghurt and granola. This hearty little breakfast will keep you going all day.

Templarasund 3, 101 Reykjavík |  Open every day 7am-7pm

HALLGÍMKIRKJA best for view

The quirky little city of Reykvjik is best viewed from this vantage point. Catch the lift to the top of the church and take in the city’s panorama which is rather cheery thanks to the pop-coloured, corrugated iron roofs.

Skólavörðustígur 101, Reykjavík | Open everyday 9am-8pm

HARPA architectural gem

Icelanders are very proud of this building which is as aesthetically beautiful as it is practical; the hexagonal glass panels provide light throughout the dark winter days.

Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík | Open every day 8am-12am

HALLGÍMKIRKJA astounding church

This church was said to have been inspired by basalt lava flows which is perhaps why it is entirely unlike any other place of worship. It’s modern design and clean interior of white and grey tones inspire design enthusiasts the world over.

Skólavörðustígur 101, Reykjavík | Open everyday 9am-8pm

ICELANDIC FISH AND CHIPS best for fish and chips

The best fish and chips in town, the freshly caught fish is battered in organic spelt flour, the chips fried in olive oil and garlic and the selection of skyronnaise in assorted flavours is so good. Thank goodness the english introduced fish and chips to Iceland because they do it even better than us. Not just offering cod but a variety of different fish such as pollock and red fish.

Tryggvagata 11, 101 Reykjavík | Open everyday 11.30am-9.30pm

SEABARON best for grilled fish

Famous for the lobster bisque soup but also specialising in grilled fish. This cute little restaurant has the feeling of a harbourside shack with shared tables and plastic barrel stools but the relaxed atmosphere only adds to its charm. Serving scallops, salmon and whale which you choose raw and they then cook on the grill for you.

Tryggvagata, 101 Reykjavík | Open everyday 11.30am-10pm

STOFAN best for cosiness

A lovely wood cabin decorated with throws and cushions aplenty which will have you as relaxed as if you were in your grandma’s living room.

Aðalstræti, 101 Reykjavík | Open everyday 10am-11pm

Other addresses to add to your list:-

Laundromat – only in Iceland would you find a cafe which doubles as a laundromat. This unique spot is a hit for a reason.

Perlan – best for an extraordinary dining experience with a view. The glass dome of this rotating restaurant can be seen from all over the city.

C Is For Cookie – chase away the cold in this cosy cafe with one of their generous, steaming hot lattes and slouchy sofas.

 

Iceland bucket list

The land of fire and ice where volcanoes and glaciers stand side by side, Iceland is a country abundant in outstanding beauty and natural phenomenons. Below I’ve curated a list of Iceland’s top picks to add to your bucket list and hopefully inspire your trip there.

1. Bathe in the Blue Lagoon | 2. Marvel at the biggest waterfall in Europe | 3. Eat Skyr yoghurt | 4. Climb atop Hallgrímskirkja church | 5. Boat ride over a glacial lagoon | 6. Listen to an orchestra at the Harpa | 7. The Great Geysir | 8. Eat Arctic char | 9.Climb a glacier | 10. Be mesmerised by the Northern lights | 11. Try salted fish | 12. Spot a puffin

1. BATHE IN THE BLUE LAGOON

One of the wonders of the world according to National Geographic, so how could you go to Iceland and not visit the Blue Lagoon? Bathing in the naturally warm geothermal water of the milky blue pools is an extraordinary experience and one that will leave your skin feeling nourished and soft.

2. MARVEL AT THE BIGGEST WATERFALL IN EUROPE

Pictured below is Gullfoss which is the second largest waterfall in Iceland. Standing above watching the water hurry down is a belittling experience which will put what’s important back into perspective. The power of the water is extraordinary as is the power of the wind whipping your hair, I can’t imagine what it would be like to stand at the top of Godafoss which is indeed the largest waterfall in Europe and aptly named the waterfall of the Gods.

3. EAT SKYR YOGHURT

Over the centuries skyr yoghurt has become a staple in the Icelandic diet. It’s thick and creamy in consistency high in protein and yet very low in fat. No yoghurt is as creamy and as nutritious. The Icelanders eat it as it comes or with salted porridge and jam for breakfast.

4. CLIMB ATOP HALLGRIMSKIRKJA CHURCH

Reykjavík is a beautiful city as its set amongst the dark navy sea and snow capped mountains, the best views over the city can be enjoyed from Hallgrímskirkja church. The church itself has become an icon of the city with its unusual spaceship-like design.

5. BOAT RIDE OVER A GLACIAL LAGOON

Riding over Jökulsárlon, the world famous glacial lagoon is the most surreal experience and feels as though you’ve stepped into an episode of David Attenborough’s frozen planet. The best way to get close to the icebergs is on a boat tour however they do not run if there is too much ice. No amount of photos will ever do this place justice.

6. LISTEN TO AN ORCHESTRA AT THE HARPA

A stay in Reykjavík is not complete without a trip to this astounding concert hall. See a concert, watch a musical or listen to an orchestra but make sure you experience it for yourself.

7. THE GREAT GEYSIR

Every 5-7 minutes hot water comes shooting out of this Geysir and no matter how much you are waiting for it to erupt, it still makes you jump inside. It’s such fun standing and waiting for it to erupt time after time.

8. EAT ARCTIC CHAR

Arctic Char isn’t too dissimilar from salmon, only it tastes fresher and wilder but that might be down to the source of the fresh Arctic waters. I also tried it with celeriac, honey mustard and dandelion as seen below which was so good.

9. CLIMB A GLACIER

Iceland is famous for its beautiful glaciers so getting to climb one is a once in a life time opportunity. There are lots of different tours that they offer but the most popular is the crawling glacier tour which allows you to climb in between circular caves of ice and marvel at the incredible frozen formations.

10. BE MESMERISED BY THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

The Aurora Borealis should be on every one’s bucket list. Seeing the vibrant colours swirl in the pitch black sky above is a mesmerising sight. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them in Finland but if you’re in Iceland at the right time of year then you absolutely must try your luck.

11. TRY SALTED FISH

When in Iceland, eat like the Icelanders – as should be your attitude in every country you go to. And trust you me the Icelanders are very passionate about their dried salted fish. Eaten as it is or smothered in butter. It’s very unusual but has to be tried

12. SPOT A PUFFIN

Alas, the one thing on this bucket list that I haven’t managed to tick off but hopefully you’ll manage to. Apparently the puffins were still travelling from Scotland when I was in Iceland but I would imagine watching these gorgeous birds in their natural habitat would be pretty incredible.

Iceland photo diary

Iceland is an outstandingly beautiful country which took my breath away on multiple occasions. I’d dreamt for so long about visiting that I couldn’t quite believe it when I had finally arrived, I kept pinching myself and squealing inwardly asking myself whether I was really in Iceland. A country so unlike any other that I’d been to before, so different from my home country and one that I’d seen so many photos of that I could barely believe I was now seeing it with my own eyes. A mythical place where elves and fairies still exist, where the mesmerising Northern lights light up the winter’s sky and where the midnight sun lights up the summer days for 24 hours. A few of my highlights included marvelling at the Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon, bathing in the Blue Lagoon until my skin looked like prunes, standing in two continents at once and the belittling experience of taking in the waterfalls. I left in the knowledge that I would one day return and road trip around the whole country.
If you’re going soon I would highly recommend hiring a car and travelling the whole country, you could easily drive the ring road in a week and its the only way to really do Iceland justice. Make an Icelandic playlist with Sigur Rós, Sóley and Of Monsters and Men and fill the car with the ridiculously expensive but ridiculously delicious Omnom chocolate, the liquorice one being the Icelanders favourite. Stop along the way for fresh fish especially Arctic char which is so good and local Einstök beer. Watch the mesmerising scenery change from mountainous volcanoes to icy glaciers. Live and breath every sight and be enchanted as I was by this crazy beautiful country.