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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Exploring Paris with Small Luxury Hotels of The World - PART 1

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In April, I spent 4 glorious days exploring some of the best boutique hotels that Paris has to offer, with Small Luxury Hotels of The World.

Our first stop and the hotel we spent our first night in, was Pavillon de la Reine. Hidden within a courtyard in the heart of the Marais district, Pavillon de la Reine is a stunning 17th century building covered in cascading ivy that changes colour with the seasons. 

The beautiful Place des Vosges is right outside the hotel's courtyard and is lined with restaurants, pretty cafes, shops, art galleries and even an ice cream parlour. The hotel also provides bikes free of charge for it's guests if you feel in the mood to explore the local area on wheels!

Pavillon de la Reine has 56 rooms and suites, all decorated in their own individual way. The rooms are luxurious and full of personality - filled with period furniture, geometric patterns and exposed beams. Upon arrival to my suite, I was greeted with a handwritten note and a box of colourful Carette macarons - a patisserie conveniently located in the adjoining square if you develop a taste for them! I had my own beautifully furnished sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and separate toilet (which is always convenient if there's more than one person staying in the room!) joined together by a beautiful corridor lined with windows - all featuring the original, dark wooden beams. 

The next morning, I was greeted with breakfast in bed and blue skies. I opted for freshly baked pastries, juice and a cappuccino. Many more options were available, including hot food, but this truly was my idea of a perfect Parisian breakfast. We had such beautiful weather for our trip, so I opened all of the windows and enjoyed my breakfast in my giant bed, accompanied by a pleasant morning breeze and the sounds of Paris waking.

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Next, we visited Paris' smallest 5 star hotel - L'Hotel. This hidden gem, located in St-Germain-des-Prés on a small, quiet street, was the former and final home of Oscar Wilde. The architectural crown of this hotel is surely it's stunning, circular atrium; almost as soon as you walk through the hotel's doors you can look up and see its corridors winding high above you. The outside of L'Hotel is relatively unassuming, which makes it's dramatic and flamboyant interior all the more of an intriguing surprise.

L'Hotel also boasts a Michelin starred restaurant specialising in french cuisine, headed by chef Julien Montbabut, as well as a bar, spa and traditional Turkish Hammam pool. As a guest here, there's almost no need to leave. 

The 20 rooms at L'Hotel echo the property's colourful history. The rooms are stylishly decorated - all individually themed, with baroque prints, fabric covered walls and dramatic, tasseled drapes.
Some of the rooms even have their own private terrace, so you can take breakfast in bed to an entirely new level; breakfast on balcony.

So, if you're a lover of decadent decor, attentive service and fine dining, french cuisine, L'Hotel can deliver it all - right on your doorstep.

Later that evening, we drove through the Parisian golden hour for a sumptuous dinner at Hotel de Vendôme, located in the famous and architectural masterpiece that is Place Vendome - one of my favourite locations in Paris because of it's stunning buildings and huge, colourful doors. The mansion that is now the hotel started life in 1723, as the private residence of The Duke of Vendome. After this, it was purchased by Louis XIV to create the Place Vendome we know today.

Place Vendôme is not only a beautiful location, but a well-placed location surrounded by art, culture, antiques and high-end shops, with the Opera and the Louvre both within walking distance.

The mansion hotel has 29 lavishly decorated rooms and suites, within which you can expect to find anything from decadent antique chandeliers to art deco themes. Hotel de Vendome also hides a very stylish and recently renovated restaurant headed by up and coming new chef, Josselin Marie, with haute couture decor inspired by Chanel and Dior. 

Hotel du Vendome is another Parisian gem, with all of the luxuries one could possibly hope for.

Have you visited any of these hotels? Let me know!

Hotels mentioned:
Pavillon de la Reine - http://www.pavillon-de-la-reine.com/fr/
L'Hotel - http://www.l-hotel.com
Hotel du Vendome - http://www.hoteldevendome.com/fr/

Thank you to Small Luxury Hotels of The World for inviting me on this wonderful trip. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tom Ford - Signature Colour collection

*Tom Ford Black Orchid: here.
*Tom Ford Lipstick: here.
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Today, I am thrilled to present to you; two icons from Tom Ford's beauty repertoire - both from the Signature Colour Collection. They are inarguable classics. 

The first, Tom Ford's Black Orchid. Encased in black glass and adorned with classically Tom Ford gold accents, this is a dark, luxurious and sensual blend of florals and warm spices that sits atop the dressing tables of stylish women everywhere. I can't begin to recall the number of times I've caught this beautiful, recognisable scent on a friend, at an event or in a meeting and asked the wearer 'which perfume do you have on?' and they always answer 'Tom Ford, Black Orchid'.

"A luxurious and sensual fragrance of rich, dark accords and an alluring potion of black orchids, and spice, Tom Ford's Black orchid is both modern and timeless. Bottled in fluted, black-glass, black orchid makes an unforgettable statement of iconic style and worldly glamour."

The top notes are french jasmine, black truffle, ylang-ylang, blackcurrant and citrus, the middle notes feature spice, fruity notes, orchid, lotus, gardenia and jasmine whilst the base notes are made up of patchouli, sandalwood, dark chocolate, incense, amber, vetiver, vanilla and balsam.

Next, what must surely be Tom Ford's most iconic and beloved beauty item; the lipstick, which comes in a rainbow of shades from classic reds to wearable nudes and more experimental colours like purple and fuchsia. I already have about 8 of these, and so can say with absolute sincerity that in my opinion, they stand out as the best lipsticks I've ever used - in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. For my every day shade, I opt for Casablanca (as does my mother!) and if you ever see me wearing a red lip, I can assure you it's Cherry Lush

"To Tom Ford, there is no more dramatic accessory than a perfect lip. It is the focus of the face and it has the power to define a woman's whole look. Each lip colour is Tom Ford's modern ideal of an essential makeup shade. Rare and exotic ingredient including Soja Seed extract, Brazilian Murmuru butter and Chamomilla Flower oil create an ultra-creamy texture with an incredibly smooth application. Specially treated colour pigments are blended to deliver pure colour with just the right balance of luminosity."

For this feature, Tom Ford and Harrods kindly sent me a new shade to add to my collection; Scarlet Rouge. When compared to my much used, classic, postbox red Cherry Lush, Scarlet Rouge is a slightly darker, slightly more brown-toned and sexy red. It's utterly perfect for evening wear, with just the right amount of shine. As expected, Scarlet Rouge has that same velvety but pigmented texture and the same deliciously appealing smell. I swear I could recognise a Tom Ford lipstick from the scent alone.

As I mentioned above, I find these lipsticks to be incredibly comfortable to wear, but they also perform well in terms of colour payoff and lasting power. A rather taboo subject to discuss when it comes to lipsticks is how 'well' they wear off. No one ever mentions how lipsticks do, inevitably, wear off. Of course, I look for long lasting power but I don't expect earth-moving miracles. As an every day wearer of Tom Ford's lipsticks I can tell you that when they do eventually wear off, they wear off well. In the sense that the colour fades evenly, not patchily or only in the centre, creating that clown-eqsue look. You can apply a Tom Ford lipstick in the morning, accidentally leave it at home and go about your day without fear. 

Have you ever tried Tom Ford products? If so, what are your favourites? Let me know below!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Chateau la Cheneviere, Normandy, France

Standing proudly at the end of a long, tree lined drive, nestled in almost 30 acres of lush green lawns and sheltered by an array of magnificent cedar trees, lies the beautiful Chateau la Cheneviere. A magnificent 18th century property that feels more like something out of a painting or a film set, than real life. Think Downton Abbey, in France, but less stiff and miserable. Perfectly located between the little fishing village of Port-en-Bessin and the historic town of Bayeaux (famous for its tapestry and close to Normandy's D Day Landing Beaches) this bubble of rural tranquility is close enough to civilisation that you can cycle into town for dinner or walk down to the seafront, but if you leave your bedroom window open, the only thing you'll hear will be the sound of singing birds (and maybe the odd seagull squawk). 

Despite feeling worlds away from any kind of city life, this grand country house is only a 2 hour train journey from Paris, making it my idea of a perfect country retreat. I must admit that for me, as someone who has a limited attention span and enjoys constant stimulation, anything less than an activity-packed city break was a hard sell... but I'm utterly converted. I felt almost as if I'd been pleasantly sedated - like a part of my brain had been put on pause. Take me back at once. 

Chateau la Cheneviere is part of the 'Small Luxury Hotels of The World' group - who boast a 520 strong portfolio of boutique hotels and resorts, and the amenities at la Cheneviere rival that of many much larger hotels. There are both laundry and room services, as well as parking, two restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness centre, a 36 hole golf course, tennis court, a spa, bikes, free wifi (essential in order to brag to everyone about how amazing your holiday is so far) and if that all wasn't enough, the hotel has its very own speakeasy cellar bar - Zanzibar, complete with a calvados based cocktail menu and decorated with fascinating souvenirs picked up by the Chateau's owner on his travels.

The bedrooms are spacious, elegant and airy. They're decorated in a charming (but certainly not stuffy) traditional manner with all of the modern accessories you could possibly need. In fact the shower in my bathroom made my shower at home look like a sponge bath.

The staff were delightful, endlessly helpful and seemed genuinely happy to be there. The atmosphere of the house is like nowhere I've ever visited; it felt like coming home to somewhere I'd never been. This is a place that is loved, and you can tell.

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For dinner, we ate in what is surely one of Chateau la Cheneviere's shining attractions, Le Botaniste restaurant. The restaurant itself seems opulent, yet intimate. It's grand and impressive but feels as if you and the other tables are all part of a friend's lavish dinner party. The chef, Didier Robin creates his regionally inspired, contemporary dishes based on local produce, with many ingredients being grown in the chateau's very own vegetable garden (I particularly enjoyed the fresh rhubarb!). The sommelier is also on hand to help select wines from the cellar, to compliment the culinary delights of Le Botaniste. 

For our dinner at Le Botaniste, we started with a Chenevière cocktail which consists of pommeau, peach cream and champagne on ice (which I have since recreated at home and sipped in bed like a grand old lady of the manor). Then, I had scallops with Shiitake mushrooms, wild garlic, kale soup and roasted linseed, followed by 'Le Trou Normand'; an apple sorbet with Calvados and Pommeau foam on top to give it a little something extra. For my main course, I had the whiting fish with black pearl caviar served with spinach and celeriac tagliatelles, followed by what is referred to as 'The Chariot of Cheese'. I am a fan of cheese at the best of times but when it's presented to me on a chariot, I am in ecstasy. From the marvellous chariot (as seen above) we selected an array of cheese accompanied by a delicious sweet chilli jam. For dessert, I had the caramelised apple tart tatin with pommeau and farmhouse butter, vanilla crumble, tonka beans and  caramel ice cream with salted butter. I have to tell you, from the moment I ate the amuse-bouche (and the amuse-bouche of my neighbouring friend, there is no stopping me) I announced that the food already rivalled that of my family's beloved favourite Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and its two-Michelin starred restaurant. By the end of the meal, I was even more sure of it. The food at Le Botaniste was absolutely spectacular and in my opinion, easily equalled, if not surpassed many Michelin starred venues I've dined in across the world. 

I could go on and on, but in summary - would I recommend Chateau la Cheneviere? Absolutely. Aggressively!! Would I return? Absolutely, and I will make sure of it. 

You can see more of everything seen here including a room tour and dinner at Chateau La Cheneviere's restaurant Le Botaniste.