Sunday, 23 September 2012

a working holiday

Well, I'm back. Have been for a week, but have been to busy this week to even think about my poor neglected blog. Our short, but very sweet, trip was amazing. I've had a few readers ask for tips and without boring you all senseless, I'll try to keep it succinct.

We had only 4 days, one of which was the wedding we attended (at the Montague on the Gardens Hotel - super cute, very small rooms, but served a great afternoon tea!).  

Hyde Park on a lovely sunny day

Some of our favorite eats were:

Daylesford Organics, Notting Hill - We had breakfast here, our first meal in London. A great way to start the trip. Everything about this place is inspiring, and a concept that is sadly lacking in Hong Kong. We bought a lot of preserves here to bring back with us.

Granger & Co. Notting Hill - possibly a silly choice as Australians to patronise the establishment of another aussie whilst in London, but it was highly recommended by a few people. We met an old friend for lunch and enjoyed the food immensely.  Our friends whose wedding we attended ate there a week later and sat next to Stella McCartney and her husband. Great food, great interior, both with a very relaxed Australian vibe.

Somewhere we didn't make it was Ottolenghi, in the same neighbourhood as these two. Also was highly recommended, and the deli style food I saw in the window when we walked past between breakfast and lunch looked amazing. I actually asked my husband at 10am if it was too early for another coffee and some cake. Needless to say it will be high on my list for next time, as will the sister establishment, Nopi in Soho.

Fortnum & Mason - the new Diamond Jubilee Tea Rooms designed by none other than David Collins are stunning. The afternoon tea set, which regrettably I did not have with the champagne that was available. Nor did I have the appetite to make the most of the endless refills of the delicious scones (best ever, which I can only say now that my Grandmother has passed away) or the cake trolley. Slightly wasted on us as we were so full from the previous 2 amazing meals we'd had that day, but amazing none the less.  I recommend you go with an empty stomach though.

Borough Markets - we wandered around for hours, on what was only our second trip here.  I would quite like the time to spend an entire day here and have 3 or more meals.  So much to taste and tempt you. We bought many varieties of saucisson, cheese and potted meats to take with us to eat on our travels, some of which actually lasted til we got home.

St.John - We had dinner here with the bride and groom to be, and I was  not disappointed. I love the space and the ambiance.  I thought the food quality, the serving sizes and quality of service was amazingly good value in a city with a reputation for being expensive.  It outclassed anything I've had in Hong Kong (although I have to say, most of our meals in London did). I was slightly underwhelmed by the main I ordered, but all in all I loved it and would definitely go back again.

Massimo - in the recently refurbished Corinthia Hotel, also designed by David Collins. We enjoyed  a very well priced set menu with the good friends we were staying with.  I enjoyed my meal, and the interior was captivating.  So many beautiful details, that Mr Collins is known for, that we could have sat for much longer and still picked up on something new. 

The Serpentine Pavillion by Ai Wei Wei and Herzog & De Meuron 

Other highlights: 

Tate Modern - Getting to see the Munch exhibit at the Tate was definitely a highlight, as I have admired his work greatly for many years.  I own a book of his work so was familiar with much of it (and was not disappointed at all that none of the versions of the famous "Scream" paintings were included), but was still pleasantly surprised by just how vivid his use of colour was. So inspiring.

Potterton Books - Definitely one of the best design bookshops anywhere handsdown, with outposts in New York and LA. I bought a couple of books, and could have spent a fortune on more had my credit card and weight limit as an economy passenger not restricted me...

The Orangery at Kensington Palace


We were fortunate enough to here to celebrate our 11 year anniversary whilst in Paris.  Bofinger was recommended by a few people to us, and was fortunately a short walk from our charming hotel in Le Marais. We were taken to a table upstairs, which the waitress described as 'très jolie', and it was. However, the photos of the downstairs dining room with the lovely Art Nouveau detailed ceiling was what sucked me in, and I kinda wished we'd been able to sit there.  Despite this, the food was lovely, very rich in a traditional French sense, but very enjoyable.

L' oulette - this was probably the best meal of the trip, if not at least in Paris.  A charming little bistro, also a short walk from our hotel, which has a great menu of French classics.  I had Duck confit (amazing), and my husband had Cassoulet (also equally amazing). 

Our last night we dined at Chez Julien (from the stable of the Costes brothers, of Hotel Costes fame), also recommended by a friend.  The food was more of a modern French style, which I enjoyed, and the interior is also quite charming.  Luckily also walking distance from our hotel, which took us along the Seine.

Parisians enjoying a sunny Sunday in the Place des Vosges

Other highlights:

I finally made it to the Decorative Arts Museum, a place I had been dreaming about ever since I discovered its existance, shortly after my last trip to Paris six years ago.  The collection is small, but amazing.  Pieces by Royère, Arbus, Prouvé - just to name a few. The bookshop attached is also a jaw dropper if you are into rare and out of print books on French design.

A rainy Paris day, as seen from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

And of course, Maison & Objet.  My first trip, and somehow I manage to cover most of it in a day.  A pretty mean feat, anyone who has been will tell you.  Not sure where to even start, which was pretty much my feeling when I arrived there.  The vast range and quality of product on show is overwhelming. I don't know that I will list off my faves in this post, but if I ever get around to perusing my fair catalogue I might do it in another one, another time.  Needless to say, if you're in the industry its a must see.  Now that I've checked that off, I am now aiming for Milan next year.

A good day to be inside, the Louvre in Paris

Brittany / Normandy:

We stayed at Maison Violette, a lovely 300yr old cottage in a tiny but very cute town named Bazouges la Perouse. The town itself is definitely one of the prettiest in the area, and is only a 45 min drive from Rennes, the capital city of Brittany.  We took a train down from Paris (about 2 hrs), and then hired a car and drove for the rest of the time.

Maison Violette, in Bazouges la Perouse.

Making Bazouges our base, we did a lot of driving over the next few days...and without going into excessive detail, these were the highlights of that part of the trip...

The stunning Mont St Michel, only a 30 min drive from where we were staying

 Stunning seaside walled town of St. Malo, about 40 mins from Bazouges

Coastal town, Cancale, home to the best Oysters ever!, very close to St. Malo, we did both in a day

the Château de Combourg, about 20 mins drive away

and last, but not least, the crumbling ruins in Fougères, the largest medieval castle in Europe
(only 30 mins away from Bazouges)

all photos taken by moi!

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