Maldives

I’d been to the Maldives in my teenage years but I had long wanted to return to appreciate the islands fully and properly as an adult. One of the things I was most looking forward to was catching a seaplane for the first time and taking in the islands from bird’s eye view. The Maldives are made up of a staggering 1,192 islands, only 200 of which are inhabited and seeing them from above is really the only way to comprehend the multitude of the islands and the vastness of their geographical spread in the Indian ocean. We descended the seaplane wide eyed and astounded by such natural beauty. The sight that welcomed us was one of endless blues only truncated by thatched coconut palm villas, which looked to be floating in the sea. The days that ensued were a hazy bliss of sunshine, sea and strawberry daiquiris. Much of the magic of the Maldives comes from the ocean, both above and below surface. Swimming in the crystal clear waters is paradisiacal as is snorkeling and diving among the coral reefs and colourful fish.

Beautiful hand-engraved luggage tags and gold jewellery from Maria Allen Boutique

We were fortunate enough to stay on the idyllic Coco Palm resort which I would highly recommend. The service was impeccable; the staff went above and beyond to accommodate all guests and always doing so with a smile and a willing eagerness. The island retained a sense of its rugged wilderness; it was immaculately looked after yet not so preened to take away from its authenticity. The beach villas lead directly to the sea and with barely a single person swimming in the water at the same time, it felt as though we had access to our own private beach. There are more than double the number of staff to guests so the whole stay feels very private and secluded which is exactly what we wanted from an island holiday such as the Maldives.

Reflecting on 2015

2015 has been a year rooted in hard work and determination. I have worked more hours than I, and those around me thought humanly possible. I remember one of my resolutions being to utilize every hour of every day effectively and I can leave the year behind feeling satisfied in this goal. It has been a challenging, frustrating and overwhelming year but there have been many highs amongst all the hard work. I’ve been fortunate enough to take a lot of trips abroad and truthfully speaking those have really kept me going. A lot of wonderful things have come out of this year and it’s those that I am most thankful for. I feel so fortunate for many things and recognize just how blessed I am to be surrounded by such supportive people. Here’s an overview of the highs that 2015 brought with it:

January – I saw the New Year in with one of my best friends in London. We spent a wonderful weekend together sourcing out healthy cafes, shopping and spending time with her family.

February – I went to Edinburgh in February for a long weekend and spent many early mornings cycling around the freezing city at dawn. Later in the month I went on a girls trip to Morocco where we spent the most wonderful week perusing the souks, uncovering the overwhelming city of Marrakech and eating tagine. The most pinch me moment of the trip was riding camelback into the Sahara desert under a starlit sky.

March – I ended up exploring a lot more of Bath in March, a city which still remains my favourite in England. It was also the month when I celebrated my birthday and for the first year of my life had to spend it working.

April – By the time April came around, my mind and body were in need of respite so a week in the African sun couldn’t come soon enough. I flew to Cape Verde with family to do little other than sunbathe and swim and returned to work with my batteries completely recharged.

May – Both Iceland and the tulip fields in the Netherlands had long dominated my bucket list so I felt more than fortunate to have experienced them both in one month. In Iceland I marveled at the mythical nature of the country, its glacier lagoons, hot springs and powerful waterfalls. The tulip fields brought so much happiness to my soul with their brightly coloured petals and proud stances. I spent a day cycling and frolicking among them with a friend who I went to visit. I also spent a few days in Amsterdam and left hoping to one day live there for a short period of my life.

June & July – In June and July I returned to my beloved Paris, which was both blissful and painful in equal measures. It was wonderful returning to my favourite city and catching up with old friends but it was hurtful knowing that I would only be staying for a little while. I stayed in a beautiful apartment at the foot of the Sacré Cœur and made sure to make the most of every second. I also spent a week in the Loire Valley, visiting renaissance castles, charming villages and wine cellars. July also marks the month when I turned vegan. It’s a lifestyle choice I had always wanted to try for a year or two of my life so I thought it time to embrace the challenge.

August – In August my family and I headed for Mallorca in search of sunshine, sea and quality time together. We rented out a villa where we enjoyed lazy days by the pool and barbeques in the evening Spanish heat. One of the highlights of the holiday was hiring a moped and touring around the island feeling carefree and content.

September – I made a couple of trips to London in September to visit old friends as well as new ones. On the first visit I stayed with one of my best friends who had just moved back to England from Paris, needless to say I was over the moon to have her back in the same country as me again. The second time, I went to meet Brooke for the first time at Langhams hotel where we talked all things travel over afternoon tea. September also marked the first month at my new job working for a much larger and faster paced law firm.

 

October – The first week of October was spent road tripping along the Italian Riviera. The first stop was pristine Portofino which is an exquisite harbour town with buckets of Italian charm. The highlight of our stay was an evening at the Belmond Splendido, a hotel nestled in the verdant hills above where we sipped on Aperol Spritz, gorged on homemade pesto and listened to live music on the bougainvillea covered terrace. We then travelled to Cinque Terre, a place that had been at the top of my bucket list ever since I first saw a photo of the multi-coloured houses on the rugged cliff face. We finished our trip by travelling to medieval Lucca and later Pisa. Later in the month I spent a long weekend in Switzerland staying on Lake Geneva and travelling through the ski towns in the Alps.

November & December – November passed by in a flurry of work, Christmas shopping and dining out in an attempt to explore more of Bristol’s restaurant scene. In December I went on a dream holiday to the Maldives. It was the first year that I’ve spent Christmas away from my family and outside of England. It was nothing short of surreal swimming in the Indian Ocean on Christmas Day, watching the sunset on the beach and eating salad instead of a traditional roast for dinner.

London Mini Guide

One of the things I love most about cities is that they are ever changing. No matter how long you live in a city, it is impossible to ever completely conquer it. No matter how avidly you frequent every new opening, there will always be one you miss. The vast and ever changing nature of cities can be overwhelming but it is also exciting. It means each time you revisit, you’ll uncover a different facet and your experiences will be entirely different to the last. On my most recent trip to London, I went in search of superfood eateries and pastel-hued houses and was wonderfully surprised with what I found. Below are just a few addresses I would recommend adding to your list on your next trip to London:

Juicebaby

The best health bar I have frequented in London thus far. Juicebaby offers a vast selection of organic, cold pressed juices and the tastiest acai bowl outside of Australia.

Sushi Samba

Incredible sushi and creative Asian-inspired cocktails 38 floors high.

Liberty’s

Buckets of flowers from the renowned florist Wild at Heart decorate the storefront at Liberty’s and are among the prettiest and the most Instagrammable bouquets in London. The Tudor designed department store will keep any shopper content for hours with floor after floor of high-end clothing and beauty brands.

Nama Foods

Everything served at Nama Raw is not only 100% raw and vegan, it’s also entirely scrumptious. If you’re even slightly intrigued by healthy eating or veganism, this place is sure to win you over.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is everyone’s favourite area to aimlessly wander with its endless rows of pastel hued buildings.

Granger & Co.

This café is one of the chicest hangouts in Notting Hill. I will forever return for their homemade granola served with coconut yoghurt and berry compote.

Raw Press

With the popularity surrounding cold pressed juices quickly rising in London, Raw Press is leading the way in encouraging these vitamin-packed juices all over the city.

London Eye

A trip to London isn’t complete without going on the London Eye and enjoying the incredible panoramic views it offers.

No.11 Pimlico Road

Open all day and evening, this establishment has it all: freshly prepared food, seasonal menus, carefully concocted drinks and everything in between.

Switzerland

Switzerland is a beautifully serene country with spectacular scenery and breathtaking landscapes. I recently took a trip there but had limited time to explore. Two days is never enough to spend in any country yet it provides a good enough insight to let you know whether you’d want to return. I flew in and out of Geneva yet saw nothing of the city. Instead I stayed in the neighbouring city, Lausanne which sits on the prettier side of the lake with the alps painting a beautiful background. One of the highlights was a visit to the iconic Château de Chillon, which is an island castle that juts out onto the still waters. Whilst there, I took a train trip venturing up through the mountains into the alps passing all the ski towns en route, a favourite being the luxury ski resort Gstaad, often referred to as the St Tropez of Switzerland. I would highly recommend travelling around this country by train, not only for the scenic views out the window but also for ease of getting around on one of the most reliable rail systems in the world.

Cinque Terre guide

My initial feelings towards Cinque Terre were that it did not live up to my expectations. We arrived straight from pristine Portofino to the rugged looking town of Vernazza which felt overwhelmed with tourists flocking in from the train station and I couldn’t help but compare the two places. On our final evening, I climbed the beginning of the hiking path and caught the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The whole town of Vernazza was bathed in a purple hue, as the sun slowly sunk into the horizon opposite, lighting up the sky with intense shades of pink and orange. It was in that moment that I understood the beauty of Cinque Terre, and realized that beauty comes not in comparing somewhere to a previous destination, but in appreciating each place in its own right. I watched the sea lap against the rocks beneath, listened to the gentle engine of the boats pulling into the harbour and watched the lights of the town come on one by one. It felt as though I had the whole town to myself and I let myself get completely and utterly lost in the moment, reminding me once again why I love travelling so much.

Vernazza

We stayed in Vernazza and I am so glad we did as it is my by far my favourite town. It’s relatively small but has oodles of rustic charm with a few boats in the marina, lots of authentic Italian eateries and plenty of cobbled back streets to get lost in. The hiking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is very scenic and offers beautiful views over the town of Vernazza particularly at sunrise and sunset.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the first of the villages that make up the five towns of Cinque Terre. The best photo opportunity is to be had at the foot of the valley, with a perfect view of the harbour in the foreground and multi-coloured houses built into the rocks in the background.

Manarola

Manarola is probably the most picturesque of the towns. It’s where the famous hiking trail Via dell’Amore commences which is the most walked of all the trails due to its ease and scenic views.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village that isn’t directly on the coast; it’s set amongst rolling hills and vineyards making it the most verdant one.

Monterosso

Visitors flock to Monterosso for the long, sandy beach as it’s the only one close-by. For me Monterosso was the least authentic of all the villages but it does have the attraction of swimming in the glistening sea.

Gelateria Vernazza

The most authentic gelato in Cinque Terre.

Il Baretto

For authentic Ligurian cooking I would highly recommend this restaurant. You’ll find lots of seafood on the menu, a few favourite dishes are the whole sea bass baked in rock salt and the black squid linguine with pesto and pine nuts.

Bar Enoteca

The owner of this bar could not be any more Italian or any more relaxed. The bar has seating for only six people on the terrace yet despite the small amount of customers to look after the bartender takes an excruciatingly long time to serve them. If you’re not in a hurry and are happy to wait for him to finish his cigarette then this is the most authentic bar serving excellent Italian wines right on the marina. And after all the slow approach to life is the Italian way.

Belforte ristorante

The typical dish originating from Cinque Terre is trofie pasta with pesto and the Belforte restaurant boasts the best recipe in the area. The homemade pasta comes generously smothered in freshly made, creamy, garlicky and basil pesto and truthfully it is the best I’ve ever eaten. The location of the restaurant is idyllic overlooking the sea with the waves crashing against the rocks beneath.

Pizza on the rocks

For a more relaxed evening with a convivial atmosphere, grab a pizza and a couple of beers and watch the sunset on the rocks.

Lunch Box

Lunch Box is a great little spot for a health kick if the carb-heavy diet gets a little too much. You can get your hands on tailor made juices with every fruit imaginable and punnets of fresh berries.

Nessun Dorma

The views from this restaurant cannot be beaten. The food is homemade and hearty offering classics such as bruschetta and focaccia sandwiches but the best part is the pretty view overlooking Manarola.

Porto Roca

This hotel is located on the sheer cliffs of Monterosso and spoils guests with endless beautiful views. The swimming pool is among the most beautiful I’ve seen mirroring an infinity pool where clear turquoise waters seemingly merge into the blue sea.

L’Ancora della Tortuga

The setting of this restaurant is very romantic as it teeters on the cliff face and overlooks the sea. The menu offers Italian classics such as pesto lasagna and a wide selection of fish dishes.

Lucca & Pisa

Lucca a medieval city built within an ancient wall and surrounded by the rolling Tuscan hills and it’s a place which stole my heart. It reminded me of a smaller Rome, only with much more charm. Walking the winding streets you’ll stumble across quiet squares, Romanesque churches and beautiful arched doorways. It’s the ideal base for exploring Tuscany and taking day trips to the sunflower fields, vineyards and neighbouring cities of Pisa and Florence.

I enjoyed  a couple of blissful days meandering the cobbled streets at leisure, admiring the antiquated signs which sit above the shop fronts and drinking a few too many glasses of white wine. One evening we walked around the fortified city walls at dusk and caught the most remarkable sunset where the sky was painted with intense hues of pink and purple and a rainbow appeared over the hills just opposite. We stumbled across a bar where the extensive selection of gin on the shelf caught our attention, later learning that gin is the only spirit served there and the owner had built his collection from travelling all over the world. This suited us perfectly as we are huge gin lovers and found great pleasure in his passion for serving the perfect gin and tonic, each one carefully matched with a different herb or spice. The speciality on the menu was the antipasti and charcuterie boards made with locally cured hams and freshly sliced bread. I don’t feel as though my photos do Lucca justice as I put my camera down quite a bit to enjoy the city for myself and make the most of my final days in Italy. On the aeroplane back home I immediately started planning a return trip to this beautiful country which remains one of my favourite European destinations.

Portofino guide

This week I’ve had the pleasure of road tripping through the Italian Riviera, the first stop on our map was Portofino. We took the scenic route and passed picturesque towns indented into the coast along the way. The sight of clear blue skies in October and the feeling of fresh air rushing in through the car windows only heightened our excitement to arrive at our destination. Portofino lived up to every hope we had for it. It’s a beautiful fishing port with brightly coloured houses, a cobbled square lined with restaurants and a marina overflowing with luxury yachts. But its appeal comes not only from its beauty but also from the peace and tranquility which the town seems to radiate. Maybe we went in the quieter season when visitors had already packed up and left, but we enjoyed it all the more. Whilst eating out one evening, we asked the owner for his recommendations, to which he replied, “castle, church, lighthouse and you’ve seen all of it”. He wasn’t far off, Portofino is charmingly tiny but it still helps to have a few addresses up your sleeve, so below I’ve curated a few of our favourite places to help you uncover the best of this little harbour town.

Belmond Splendido

The Belmond Splendido is the epitome of luxury. It’s located in the verdant hills and overlooks the bay of Portofino with its deep turquoise waters and extravagent boats docked in the marina. You needn’t stay overnight but can enjoy the glamour of the hotel with drinks and dinner on the flower covered terrace followed by a romantic evening of live piano music.

Hotel Eden

The very pretty Hotel Eden is only a couple of footsteps away from the harbour and could not be any more conveniently located. It has a very Italian ambience due to the laidback owner, the interior décor and the romantic verandas.

San Fruttuoso

San Fruttuoso is the neighbouring fishing village and is much more modest but equally as charming as Portofino. You can hike there in a couple of hours, grab lunch by the sea and catch a water taxi back.

Ristorante Puny

Ristorante Puny has received rave reviews and with good reason. Come here for authentic Ligurian cuisine in the heart of the harbour.

I Gemelli

This restaurant has been in the family for eight generations and you can tell it’s held close to the heart due to the passion and care that goes into the cuisine. We enjoyed a faultless meal and swore that we ate the best pesto and best lemon gelatohere.

Castello Brown

Whilst the castle itself is rather pretty, the real reason to visit is the picture perfect views over Portofino which can be enjoyed from the terrace.

San Giorgio Church

This sunshine yellow church can be seen from meandering around the town but its worthwhile venturing up the slight hill to enter inside.

The lighthouse

Follow the footpath from the aforementioned castle to the lighthouse for beautiful views out to the open Mediterranean sea. At the top lies a little bar with the cheeriest owner so you can cool down and take in the scenery.

Mallorca guide

Mallorca makes up one of the Balearic islands off of Spain. It’s gained quite the reputation as a Brits-on-Tour holiday destination but away from Palma and the buzzing nightlife, there are rugged coves, rocky beaches and incredible viewpoints to be uncovered. There are endless beaches bordering the coastline, some little frequented by tourists due to the difficulty in reaching them. To my mind, Mallorca is a prime example of the best things in life not coming easy as all of Mallorca’s gems aren’t easy to reach. You’ll have to hike over mountains, descend rocky paths and sweat in the summer heat if you want to discover the best of the island. Reaching the secluded coves with their crystal clear waters makes all of the hard work worthwhile though. I would advise heading to the North of the island or along the East coast as those are the less spoilt areas, below is a guide to Northern Mallorca inclusive of the best beaches and bars.

Cala Boquer 

 Cala Boquer is a beautiful secluded beach with crystal like waters and very few people in sight. However it isn’t easy to reach; it entails a long walk over part of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range before you even get a glimpse of the sea but the beautiful beach which awaits is worth the rocky hike.

Cala Figuera 

Cala Figuera is an idyllic cove where the turquoise waters lap against the pebbled shore. You’ll have to descend a steep, rocky path to reach it but the enticing sea below will keep you motivated on your descent. Set up base on one of the flatter rocks with breathtaking views overlooking the sea and the few boats which are anchored a little further out.

Cala Sant Vicenç – Cala Cabro

This area of northern Mallorca is a haven for secluded coves. Each beach is only a couple of minutes from the next but my favourite among them is Cala Cabro which is the furthest one away. It’s the most tranquil and by far the prettiest with its clear blue waters which is probably why its the most popular spot for scuba divers and kayakers.

3/65 Restaurante

This luxury hotel is nestled atop the hill of a vineyard and has all the charm of rural Spain. Luxurious four poster beds border the swimming pool where guests are relaxing with an iced beverage. A sense of calm surrounds the pool where everyone talks in hushed tones afraid of disrupting the beauty that the peace brings. The bar and restaurant are open to non-guests and the tucked away terrace is the ideal shady spot to enjoy a glass of wine from their extensive wine list.

La Moraleja

La Moraleja is a private mansion turned hotel in the aforementioned Sant Vicenç region and is as opulent as hotels come in Mallorca. It has beautiful rococo and neoclassical elements through the hotel and into the secluded gardens. The perfect place to enjoy a flawless frozen daiquiris lounging by the pool.

Cap de Formentor

The lighthouse stop Cap Formentor landmarks the most northerly point on the island. It’s a pretty scary ride to get there and its hair pin bends and terrifying cliff faces ensure you concentrate on nothing but the road ahead. The views make it all worthwhile: a mass of blue as far as the eye can see.

Paris photo diary

My most recent trip to Paris was truly wonderful. It always feels so great returning to familiar places although admittedly it does feel strange to no longer call Paris my permanent home. It was a trip full of emotions as I was overjoyed to be back yet slightly heartbroken to leave again after only a couple of short days. I returned to familiar haunts as well as testing out a couple of new ones. I had the pleasure of staying in one of Habitat Parisien‘s beautiful apartments which made my stay even more magical. Waking up to the the view of the Sacré Cœur bathed in a soft orange glow was the best way my days could have started and going to bed with it glowing in the dark sky filled my dreams and inspired me for the busy days ahead. Below is a photo diary of a few of the photos I took whilst there that didn’t make it into the other posts.

Hôtel Raphael

Rooftop terraces aren’t the easiest to come by in Paris therefore the few that the city has to offer tend to either have very long queues or be an addition to luxury hotels sometimes exclusive to hotel guests. Luckily the terrace atop the 5* Hôtel Raphael welcomes non-guests as well as guests and offers views too pretty to miss. Located between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe the panoramic terrace boasts a spectacular view of both of these iconic monuments. Come here to catch the last rays of sun softly flickering behind the Parisian rooftops and stay until late to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the distance.

17 Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris | Métro Kléber