Detour | Time Out in France

Countryside France

London life can be utterly exhausting.  And lately, I’d felt exactly that.  Exhausted.  Rushing between my various jobs, and keeping up with my personal commitments and projects had me feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I’d already said no to a wonderful invitation to spend four days in France at my friends country house, trying to be a financially responsible adult and all that.  Yet here I was, sat on a bus one afternoon feeling completely frazzled, and I suddenly thought ‘maybe I should go to France’.  Two hours later, I booked my flight, and four days after that I was standing in Pret at Heathrow Airport, ordering coffee because our flight was super early in the morning, and subsequently spilling half of it down my top as we saw the final boarding call for our plane, and had to make a dash towards our gate.

Less than two hours later, we were in our hire car and on our way to what has become to me, my own little rehab in the French countryside.  It’s my third visit to my friends gorgeous countryside home, 1.5 hours from Lyon, and it’s quickly becoming a place that I know I’ll arrive at and all the worries of the world will leave me.  My shoulders will feel lighter, and I will be able to do the unthinkable and re-laaaaax.

We spent four perfect days in France, and even though the weather didn’t play ball the whole time, we still managed to sunbathe, swim, drink rosé by the pool, and take walks in the countryside.  When the rain and thunder arrived, which it usually did in the afternoon, we’d take a drive to the supermarket, stocking up on every flavour of Lindt chocolate that doesn’t exist in the UK, and more rosé.  The evening was spent eating around the dining table together, sharing stories, and laughing a whole lot.  Other evenings we’d retreat to the upstairs snug, laying out in a total sloth like fashion on the huuuuuge sofa’s and watch comedy shows together.  There was no need to rush and sightsee, this perfect little piece of France was enough.

I was so glad I took the plunge and booked my ticket last minute, so I could forget about work, forget about everything on my to-do list, and just live happily in the moment with my darling friends.

Thank you to my wonderful friend for always welcoming me to your piece of perfection in France! x 

Eat | Frosé Recipe: How to make a frozen rosé cocktail

Frosé

Frosé

As I wrote this post last week, I remember glancing at the weather forecast for London on my BBC weather app, and it showed a high of 19c, with an even worse outcome the following day, a high of 17c!  It’s not exactly what you’d expect during summer.  What happened to those super hot June and July days where we kept hitting the 30’s and we all moaned about how hot and sweaty it was on the London Underground?  I remember uttering the words ‘I hate to say it, but I’m actually too hot’.  I take it back!  I want to be too hot again, and feel like I’m melting, so I can look back at summer 2017 and say ‘wasn’t it amazing!?’.  But let’s be honest, London’s summer hasn’t been amazing since around 2004, so I’m not holding out much hope for a sudden change in Mother Nature’s mood.

Nevertheless, I still insist on sitting outside in our courtyard for Sunday evening dinner, even if I do have to wrap a blanket around me.  I try to take long walks in the beautiful London parks, making sure not to wear white shoes in case I step in any muddy puddles, from the too constant rain.  And I make Frosé.  The frozen rosé cocktail that just screams summer.  It’s the adult equivalent of a slurpee/slushy/whatever you call your favourite childhood icy drink.  One sip and it tastes like the sun is shining (a few glasses in and you’ll likely not care what season it is!).

FroséFrosé takes a little bit of prep, but it’s all very straightforward and as long as you have some sort of blender or food processor (I use a Nutribullet), you’re good to go!  You’ll need to purchase a really full-bodied, dark coloured rosé, as it loses its flavour when it’s frozen.  You’ll also need some white sugar, strawberries and lemons, and that is it!  Oh except for the tortilla’s and guac that are essential to snack on whilst knocking back sipping on your Frosé cocktail.

Happy ‘Summer’ everyone x

Frosé

Eat | Frosé Recipe: How to make a frozen rosé cocktail
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 750 ml bottle rosé (such as a Pinot Noir or Merlot rosé - the darker the better
  • 112g caster sugar
  • 230g strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 70ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Pour the rosé into a 13x9 inch pan (or a bowl if you don't have a pan) and freeze for at least 6 hours, or until almost solid.
  2. Put the sugar and 120ml water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves
  3. Remove from the heat and add the strawberries to the saucepan, letting them sit for 30 minutes to infuse the syrup.
  4. Strain the syrup and strawberries through a sieve into a small bowl, making sure not to press on the strawberries. Cover and chill until cold.
  5. Scrape your frozen rosé into a blender. Add the lemon juice, 100ml of the strawberry syrup, and 1 cup of crushed ice, then blend until smooth.
  6. Transfer the blender jar to the freezer and freeze until the frosé has thickened to a milkshake consistency.
  7. Blend again until the frosé looks like a slushy/slurpee.
  8. Grab a straw and sip!

 

Frosé

Detour | Ciao I’m Off to Italy

Ciao Italy

Ciao Italy

Ciao Ragazzi!  I’m finally sat on a train in the direction of Gatwick Airport, hooray!  My flight to Italy leaves in a couple of hours and by 7pm this evening I will be walking the beautiful streets of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre.

I have been much less organised for this trip than I usually am for a summer vacation.  I’ve not bothered with a manicure, pedicure, or eyebrow and eyelash tinting.  My usual essential beauty treatments before I head abroad.  I’ve truly not had time.  My packing for a trip usually starts a good few days before departure, but not this time.  I found myself manically laying clothes out on our bed last night, and having to make some very quick decisions on what was going in my bag, and what was staying behind.

Ciao Italy

I have to say, I’m unbelievably proud at how light my bag feels compared to previous trips to Italy!  I tried my best to pick items from my wardrobe that are summery and light, therefore taking up minimal space.  I have just ONE cardigan to keep me warm in case the unthinkable happens and there’s an actual cool breeze in Italy (I’ve seen the weather forecast, and it’s highly unlikely!).

I packed a few new pieces, including these super cute Tobi shorts (pictured and direct link here), that can be dressed up or dress down.  Some favourite toiletries have been thrown in too – here’s looking at you Aesop and Jo Malone, and of course a Conde Nast Traveller mag to read on the plane and inspire me with more future travel ideas.

I cannot wait to touch down in Italy this afternoon, my favourite European country.  And of course, I will keep you up-to-date on my adventures over on Instagram whilst I’m there.

Have a good weekend everyone,

Arrivederci x

Ciao Italy

(Cos bikini and Accessorize sunglasses, flip flops in top picture by Adidas)

Detour | Four Days in Lake Como

Lake Como

2017 has definitely been a year of travelling to beautiful destinations so far.  It was a goal of mine this year, to take an opportunity when it arose.  So far I’m succeeding I think!  The Boy Next Door and I had planned to go to Morocco, but changed our mind at the last minute and settled on Lake Como.  Now some of you know, that I’ve been to Lake Como before, for a work trip, back in 2010, where I spent five days in disbelief at that famous villa on the lake, Villa Oleandra, sipping coffee with George Clooney.  No I’m not kidding, you can read about it here.

Whilst that trip was one of the most epic moments of my life, I felt I needed to return to Como, as I hadn’t seen anything of it, except George’s stunning villa, the pool, and a short boat trip to get gelato with Uma Thurman.  Yup.  True story.

I was desperate to return to Lake Como and see it through the eyes of a tourist.  Taking in the breathtaking scenery, and eating my weight in pizza and gelato.  So we booked, and found a lovely, affordable hotel right on the lake, Hotel Fioroni for those interested, which is a rarity as most lakeside accommodation is the type that would bankrupt you.

We landed in Milan on a Friday morning, collected our car and head towards Lake Como.  As we approached the mountains that surround the lake, I remember the scenery taking my breath away, even though I’d seen it before.  It is a place of true beauty.  It looks like a scene from Jurassic Park, and in that moment I was so happy that we’d decided to book this trip and really get to know the area.

The weather over the four days we were there was hot, sunny and utterly perfect.  The water temperature of the lake was above average for that time of year too.  We swam each day, right next to George’s villa, with absolutely no tourists, who knew no better than to drive past with their camera poised to get a shot of his villa’s wall.  And here I was glancing up at the window I’d once peered out of back in 2010, soaking in that memory whilst creating new ones as I paddled in the heavy, salt free lake.

We ate gelato once, if not twice a day, trying as many flavours as possible, but always coming back to our favourite, cherry for TBND, and Nutella for myself.  We visited Villa Carlotta which was unbelievably beautiful, and took a ferry over to Bellagio, navigating our way amongst the tourists.

Finding a grassy lido, recommended by our hotel, became a favourite spot to take in the afternoon sun, laying back on our beach towels, sipping an Aperol Spritz, and descending the stairs to the lake for a quick dip.

I have to be honest, Lake Como doesn’t compare to my absolute favourite place in Italy, Amalfi Coast.  I mean, nothing can beat that for me.  But did I enjoy my four days?  Absolutely.  Would I return?  Yes, probably with a group of friends, where I’d book a lakeside villa, stocking the kitchen with good food and Italian wine.

Lake Como is a truly magnificent place, one that everyone should put on their bucket list.  There’s the villa’s that will make you take a lottery ticket in the hopes you can purchase one, the caprese salads and the scenery that will blow your mind.  So book, go, I mean why not right?!

Detour | Lavender Fields at Castle Farm

lavender fields

lavender fields

Having seen a gazillion beautiful Instagram photos of lavender fields over the past year, I was super excited yesterday when I finally made it to one myself!

Whizzing out to Kent with my friend Cath on a slightly gloomy Wednesday afternoon, we manoeuvred the car past tractors and other vehicles on a tiny country lane, before pulling into the carpark at Castle Farm and booking into the final lavender fields tour of the day.

The tour costs £6 and lasts around 1.5 hours. In that time you’re taken on a walk around the farm, to see where the lavender is manufactured into oils and other things, and following a talk you’re let loose in a lavender field to take photos.

To be honest, I have never been the best listener when it comes to learning!  I’m one of those daydreaming types, so I’m definitely not here to fill you in on all the lavender facts I learnt.  I was too busy gazing out at the lavender fields wondering where was the best spot for photos. #instagramproblems

lavender fields

As it happens, we kinda messed up.  The tour guide let everyone into the fields after his talk, and we thought we could return later on to snap some pictures without tourists showing up in the background.  It turns out that was not the case, and by that stage we literally had two minutes to take a few shots.   So we took just a few, but on the bright side, I’ll be much more prepared next year when I plan to return!

There are a few different lavender fields outside of London, if you jump on Google you’ll find them!  They will be harvested within the next couple of weeks, so if you’re planning a trip, make it snappy, and jump around in the fields with your camera as soon as you get the chance.

Annmaree x

lavender fields

Eat | Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings

Bourne and Hollingsworth

Bourne and Hollingsworth

Happy Friday everyone!  By the time this post publishes, I’ll already be in France.  I am not looking forward to my alarm going off at 4am but that’s the price I’m willing to pay for four days in the French countryside with friends.

I hope you all have fun plans for the weekend too!  And if you’re still figuring out exactly what those plans are, then let me give you a foodie suggestion.  Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth in Farringdon.

Last weekend I took my friend Cath to brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth for her birthday.  We are both gluten intolerant so it actually works very well when we both dine out together.  And the good news is, B&H have sooooo many options for us GF lot.  Including pancakes.  Or ‘drop scones’ as they like to call them.  Oh my word, they were sooo good, topped with bacon and a side of maple syrup, Cath ordered some avocado to go with hers, and I ordered eggs.  Crispy on the edges, super fluffy in the middle, we were both in gluten free pancake heaven.

Everything on the brunch menu sounds delicious, and I can confirm their cocktails are also worth ordering!  The interior is gorgeous, light and bright, with hanging plants everywhere, it’s a really beautiful space to spend a weekend eating good food with friends.

Annmaree x

My 5 Favourite Instagram Accounts

5 favourite instagram accounts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with photography.  As a child, I could spend hours looking through the boxes of family photos my parents have stored in the hallway cupboard.  In fact, every time I go home to New Zealand, I pull those boxes out and flick through all the visual memories.

As a young teenager I would set up little fashion photo shoots in our living room, working out the perfect outfit for each shot, carefully framing the photo and then running onto my ‘set’ before my basic functioning camera would flash and capture the moment.  I’ve enrolled in distant learning photography courses, attended blogger photo workshops and taught myself what does and doesn’t work through taking photos for myself and for social media clients.

It probably comes as no surprise then, that my absolute favourite app ever is most definitely Instagram.  I’m well and truly addicted.  Instagram is the ultimate visual platform, a place that offers everything from inspiration and ideas to escapism.  I can spend hours quite a lengthy amount of time getting lost in the images of a traveller’s account, taking inspiration from a fashion blogger or looking for home decor items.

I constantly stumble across new Instagram account’s that inspire me to travel, cook, exercise, or discover a new home interior or fashion brand.  I thought I’d share 5 of my current favourite Instagrammer’s to give you guys some Insta inspiration and discover some beautifully presented accounts…

@alabasterfox
A lifestyle blogger based in Wroclaw with stunning home decor images.

@polabur
Described as a travel blogger, Amsterdam based Polabur also features incredible food, fashion and flat lay shots.

@_foodstories_
Two Berlin based woman, one a foodstylist, the other a photographer with the most unreal foodie images, I just want to make everything they photograph.

@newdarlings
An Arizona based husband & wife, sharing the most beautiful photos of their style, travels, and home.

@emelinaah
A very funny Australian traveller, with gorgeous photos from her global travels.

Detour | Sailing Away in the Greek Islands

sailing greek islands

When a friend messages and asks ‘Hey are you free to go sailing in the Greek Islands in a couple of weeks?’ you first think, really?  Like seriously?  Then you check your diary, spend a moment to consider that perhaps you should be a responsible adult, save your pennies, and all that.  And then you go online and book your flight.  

Well that’s what I did anyway.  I was sat on the sofa here in London one evening, watching something gripping and highly intellectual *coughKeepingUpWithTheKardashianscough, when my Facebook made a pinging sound.  My friend Mel asked ‘Hey do you want to go sailing in the Greek Islands in two weeks time?’.  There was an available cabin on the very luxurious 56ft yacht Velos, owned by Anko Yachting.

Back in 2008, myself, Mel and a group of friends exclusively hired Anko Yachting’s 50ft yacht Alexandros.  We sailed around the Ionian islands, whilst owners and life partners Thanos and Alicja, took care of the sailing and cooking for us.  I have taken many trips in my 38 years, and that week spent on the yacht in the Greek Islands still remains one of the most memorable and special vacations I’ve had.

It therefore comes as no surprise that when Mel asked me if I might be interested in going with her, I most definitely was.  It was a chance to indulge in a week of luxury, and experience the pure relaxation that staying aboard one of Anko Yachting’s boats provides.

After flying into Athens, I met Mel at the marina, and we located the yachts.  Velos and Alexandros were setting sail together that afternoon, both with their own agenda each day, based on the guests requests and preferences, but always pulling into the same harbour in the evening so we could all enjoy dinner (And cocktails. And gelato) together.

On this trip we were sailing around the Saronic Islands, which includes the well known vehicle-free island of Hydra.  A typical day onboard the yacht would go as follows.  Wake up in our private room at whatever time we pleased.  Saunter out in our pj’s to the galley where we’d be greeted with fresh pots of coffee to get the day started, alongside fruit platters, home made jams, bread and pastries, Greek yoghurt (of course!) and other delicious options.  After lazing around aboard the yacht or taking a morning stroll around the harbour, we’d all pull on swimwear and wait to sail towards a secluded bay, so we could take a dip in the crystal clear ocean, or pop on a mask and snorkel to discover all the fish below.

Lunch would be served around 1 pm.  This part of the day becomes a highlight of every single guests trip.  Alicja just happens to be one of the most talented cooks I’ve ever met.  She whips up a meal so delicious and so mind blowing, that it’s tempting to book repeat holidays onboard JUST for her food.  She caters to all requirements.  On our boat there was myself with gluten intolerance, Mel with dairy intolerance and a vegetarian.  But nothing was a problem, and no one missed out.  We’d sit at the back of the yacht each day, sharing the platters of food, whilst wine was free flowing, dessert always followed, and often digestif’s and cocktails became part of the daily ritual too.  Once lunch was finished, some of us would take an afternoon nap (guilty), others would sunbathe at the front of the yacht, or read their book.

By late afternoon/early evening we’d arrive at a new destination for the evening, where we’d all spruce ourselves up, perhaps have another cocktail or two, or take a stroll around the town, before all meeting up to enjoy an evening together at a local restaurant, with good food and lots of laughter.

 

There are four double sized guest rooms aboard the yacht, each with luggage space and private bathrooms.  The yachts are big, which means there’s plenty of space for ‘me’ time as well as socialising with the other guests onboard.

Speaking of guests, unless you’ve hired out the yacht exclusively, everyone aboard will start out as strangers.  By the end of the first day, you’ll likely know more or less the life story of each and every person onboard. There’s something about spending time in such close proximity to others that gives you the tendency to share and discover more about each other than perhaps someone you’ve known for years.  Mel and I were the youngest onboard, and we had an absolute blast with our fellow guests.

By no means do you need to be a keen sailor to spend a week aboard one of the yachts.  If you’re curious about sailing and want to give it a go, Thanos will guide and help you.  If like me, you want to sit there and chat to guests, followed by sunbathing on the deck, that’s perfectly okay too.  If you’ve not sailed on a yacht before and you’re not sure what to expect, the Anko Yachting fleet are the best place to start.  The waters are calm, so no stormy seas, and you’ll always be in sight of land.

 

The good news is there’s still availability for this season too.  So if you fancy the idea of amazing food, great company, sailing, swimming and sightseeing, do yourself a favour and book yourself on one of the boats.  You’re guaranteed a trip of a life time.

Bon Voyage! x

Making Lifelong Friends When Travelling

Lifelong friends when travelling

Lifelong friends when travelling

I hadn’t seen Alexandria for nine years.  We met in 2008, in Amalfi, Italy.  Alex was visiting from USA with her mum, I was travelling Italy on my own.   Tourists and travellers always congregated in the piazza on those hot evenings, and it was there, at a bar, that we first spoke.  

A few days later, we swapped Facebook details, and Alex went back to USA with her mum.  Since 2008, despite only meeting in person a handful of times on that trip to Italy, we have remained in contact.  We both have a deep love for travel, and a mutual obsession with the Amalfi Coast.

Alex and her husband travel A LOT, and despite visiting Europe multiple times each year, they’d not yet made it to London.  Until May this year.  We made plans for Sunday lunch, and met in a pub in North London, almost nine long years after our first meeting.

We had the best time over lunch, sharing travel and life stories and talking about Amalfi in a way that I could only do with someone who knows it as personally as me. We laughed so much and made plans to meet for a mid-week dinner before they left London.

In my experience the absolute best part of travelling has been the lifelong friends I’ve made.  I’ve been to towns, villages and cities all over the planet, but the most memorable part of every trip has been the people I’ve crossed paths with.

making lifelong friends when travelling

For some reason these friendships with fellow travellers are more instant than others.  In 2009 I stopped off in Miami on my way back from visiting friends in Colombia.  I booked a bed in a shared hostel room on South Beach, and a couple of days after arriving, a couple walked into my room, and we introduced ourselves.  Five minutes into our conversation, we discovered we were both planning to head to Orlando and stay in the same hotel.  I was planning on taking the bus.  That evening I went out for dinner with my new room mates Jane and Pat, and the next day I was sitting in the back seat of their rental car, bonding over our shared love of IHOP pancakes, as we sang along to songs on the radio, en route to Orlando. We visited Disneyworld the very next day together and fast forward one year later, we all went back to USA, visiting L.A and Vegas.  That was 2010.  I’m seeing Jane, Pat and their son Harris next Sunday for lunch.  I adore the friendship I have with them, and the travel memories we created.

Making lifelong friends when travelling is something I’m so grateful for.  I have friends in Japan, South America, Australia and Germany, to name a few places.   I look forward to more adventures around the globe, and meeting more Jane and Pat’s and Alexandria’s on my journey.

You can read Alexandria’s blog here.  She’s also a writer and you’ll want to purchase one of her fabulous novels!

Eat | Gluten Free in Paris

Gluten free in Paris

Gluten free in Paris

When I booked my trip to Paris, the very first thing I did was the same thing I do when I book any other vacation.  I Googled ‘Gluten Free in Paris’.   It makes life so much easier for me if I have a few gf food spots on my list, so I’m not wandering around aimlessly looking for something to eat.  I’m also not one of those people that just views food as fuel.  No.  I want really delicious food, and with Paris being so famous for their patisseries, I was hopeful that someone, somewhere would be baking some gluten free treats that I could indulge in.

I wasn’t disappointed.  It turns out there are quite a few French pastry chefs that suffer from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, which really isn’t so fun for them, but it means they’ve dedicated themselves to learning the art of gluten free baking, so that their creations taste as good as the gluten filled stuff.

If you’re walking the streets of Paris feeling sorry for yourself that everyone else is indulging in Canelé’s whilst you’re munching on something much less interesting, this list will save you from misery.  I promise even your gluten eating friends will be shocked at just how a-maz-ing these gluten free spots are…

Chambelland

Chambelland was the first stop on my ‘Gluten free in Paris’ tour, with my gluten eating friend Rachael from Made From Scratch.  Chambelland make everything from scratch, they even have their own gf flour mill.  What they manage to produce and sell in their bakery is the stuff dreams are made of.  We popped in for lunch, and it was agonising trying to narrow down our options.  We ordered an olive focaccia (one of the few things I miss dearly now gluten isn’t a part of my life), orange-chocolate sweet bread – described as a mix of bread, brioche and pastry, which turned out to be something that could only be described as heavenly.  We added a couple of cookies to our order too, and they were the melt in your mouth kind that make you want to order ten more immediately.  Chambelland was most definitely my favourite gluten free spot in Paris.  Do not miss this.

NoGlu

Opened in 2012, Noglu Restaurant now has three locations in Paris and one in New York.  Their daily changing menus also offer vegetarian and lactose free meals.  We popped in for dinner and I ordered the burger, which hand on heart was one of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating!  The bun didn’t have a hint of that usual gluten free dryness, it tasted like the real deal.  Rachael ordered the fish and risotto dish, and for someone who can eat gluten she was impressed with her meal too.  We skipped dessert having already stuffed ourselves silly earlier in the day with sweet treats, but the baked goods on display looked heavenly.  A really great spot for a fantastic gf meal.

Helmut Newcake

Opened in 2011, Helmut Newcake was the first pastry shop in Paris to offer 100% gluten free baked goods.  Alongside the option of the most delicate looking desserts, think lemon meringue pie, pretty fruit tarts and dainty eclairs, Helmut Newcake also offer brunch and lunch.  We visited for a late afternoon sweet treat where I finally got to indulge in a very French treat, a canelé.  It was perfection!  I also bought a loaf of chocolate-orange brioche which I admittedly nibbled the corner off before packing it in my bag, bringing it back to London and turning it into French toast.  A lovely little cafe with the most divine gf treats.

Happy Gluten Free Eating in Paris!  And not that you need any more reasons to head to Paris, but just in case, here’s a short video I put together of some Parisian highlights…