A Visit to Jo Malone boutique in Paris – Rue Saint Honoré

Last Saturday I popped in to the flagship Jo Malone store in Paris for a hand and arm massage as well as a bit of retail therapy. Situated on the luxury shopping street of Rue Saint Honoré, the store enjoys a prime piece of real estate directly opposite the trendy Colette store.

Like all Jo Malone boutiques, the store was bright, airy, exceptionally clean and smelled heavenly.

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

Gorgeous, minimaliste decor

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

Wish my collection looked like this!

The quintessential British brand has become a luxe cult favorite. Oprah reportedly adores their bath oils, while Kate Middleton ensured that Jo Malone candles burned their sweet smell in Westminster Abbey for her wedding to Prince William. Princess Kate apparently loves the brand so much; she handed out Jo Malone party favors at her baby shower!

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

Gorgeous collaboration with Michael Angove

Seeing as Jo Malone now sell five categories of fragrances, I arrived at the store with a list –an actual printed list – of scents I was interested in. The lovely store assistant, Celine, was ever professional and took the time explain the key notes of each fragrance and the concept behind their creation.

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

Jo Malone’s London Rain Collection

It was very difficult to narrow down the extensive list of choices, but in the end I was left with two very different scents. We decided to use one scent on each arm during the massage… supposedly to help with my final decision.

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

The Tasting Bar

Celine started by a warm towel wipe followed by a gentle lathering of Nectarine Blossom and Honey hand and body wash. For my left arm I chose the Blue Agava and Cacao body cream followed by a generous spritz of the fragrance. On the other arm I went with the classic English Pear and Freesia body cream, again followed by a spritzing of the same scent.

The massage was meant to help me decide on my favorite of the two, but in the end, unable to choose one over the other, I purchased both! (Reviews coming shorty!)

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

I could not resist!

Wrapping purchases at the Jo Malone store is a joy in itself. Each item is lovingly nestled on black tissue paper, placed in a luxurious Jo Malone cream and black signature box tied with an elegant ribbon. The stylist will then liberally spray another sheet of tissue paper in your chosen scent and place this inside a thick, creamy Jo Malone paper bag, again finished off with their signature black ribbon. It’s very hard to resist a purchase when the packaging is this special!

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

Dreamy Wrapping

Jo Malone Paris Saint HonoreJo Malone is renowned for their Art of Fragrance Combining or ‘layering’, which helps one create their own bespoke scent by liberally mixing and matching any of their fragrances. This concept was very new to me and I was quite intrigued by it. So before I left, Celine gave me a crash course in Fragrance Combining.

I must admit, I have stumbled onto two solid winners:

Blue Agava and Cacao layered with Rose Water and Vanilla

and

English Pear and Freesia layered with Wild Bluebell.

Jo Malone Paris Saint Honore

My collection is growing!

I absolutely loved these combinations, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the Wild Bluebell fragrance at my next visit.

For a complimentary hand and arm massage and the aid of a professional Fragrance stylist to walk you through the art of fragrance combining, visit the Jo Malone boutique on Rue Saint Honoré.

326 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris 01 47 03 01 66

The Louvre Museum Express Tour

Navigating Paris’ most famous museum may be a bit overwhelming, even for the most avid museum enthusiast.

The Louvre houses over 35,000 pieces of art, displayed across an area that covers 60,600 square meters. Add to the fact that the museum receives around 10 million visitors each year, it’s easy to understand why navigating the Louvre’s treasures can be more than a little daunting.

Louvre Express Tour Paris

(Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Blieusong)

Whether you’re looking for a basic introduction to the museum, or stopping by on a whirlwind tour of the city, an ‘Express Tour’ might be just what you’re looking for, especially if time and interest may not allow for a full-fledged visit.

For my friends and family who come to visit in Paris, I often take them on a short tour of the museum incorporating the Louvre’s three famous ladies: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Greek statue of Venus de Milo, and the winged Nike of Samothrace.

Mona Lisa:

The eyebrow-less, enigmatic subject of Italian master Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous and recognizable works of art is often the beeline towards which most visitors to the Louvre will dash. Perhaps the first and most obvious cry form their lips will be “It’s so small!”

Mona Lisa Louvre Express Tour ParisThe Mona Lisa can be found in the Denon wing of the Louvre’s first floor.

Venus de Milo:

Also known as the Aphrodite of Milos, as it is said to be a depiction of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. No one really knows when or how here arms were amputated but this just leads to the enigma of the statue.

Venus de Milo Louvre Express Tour ParisLocated on the ground floor of the Denon wing, along with two of my favorite pieces: Michelangelo’s Dying Slave and Canova’s depiction of Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.

Nike of Samothrace:

Another famous Greek goddess graces the halls of the Louvre, this time Nike, the goddess of victory. It is apt then, that this beautiful statue is referred to as the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’.

Victory Nike of Samothrace Louvre Express Tour Paris

Occupying its prime spot on the landing of the central Daru staircase in the Louvre, it is quite hard to miss this masterpiece, even on the shortest of visits.

Victory Nike of Samothrace Louvre Express Tour Paris

 

Whilst many tour operators can offer you this short guided visit, the Louvre map (handed to you when your purchase your ticket) will suffice for a self-guided tour, as these three important works of art are well signed.

Hopefully your visit to Paris will allow the opportunity to visit this wonderful museum in detail, but if not, catching a glimpse of these beauties should leave you feeling culturally satisfied.

PS: Tour not complete without prerequisite tourist picture: ‘touching’ the point of the Louvre pyramid ;)

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A New Direction

The title of this post might make you think ‘Glee’ or even those 1D boys…but I assure you, it’s none of that.

So… this blog has been a little quiet lately and to my loyal readers, I apologize for that. Having a full time job and various life happenings (like a big cross continental move soon) will do that to even the most dedicated bloggers!

Anyway, in an effort to keep my joy of writing… and my sanity, I’ve decided to move the direction of this blog a wee bit: I plan to introduce a few more lifestyle posts in the future.

Whilst travel and reviews of hotels, restaurants and spas will remain my first love and the focus of this blog, I feel it a pity that I’ve lived in this fascinating city of Paris for more than five years now, and have not shared much about the life and happenings in the City of Lights.

So without further ado, look out for new lifestyle posts including museums, exhibitions, luxe products and such…but I promise, no recipes. NOT EVER!

The heavy cost of Love

Paris is literally being weighed down by Love !

Last week, a portion of the city’s famous love-lock bridge, the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of the multitude of love-locks attached to the railings along the bridge. The collapsed portion has been removed, and for safety reasons, has been temporarily replaced by a piece of wood.

Paris Pont des Arts love lock bridge collapses

The collapsed section of rail on the Pont des Arts (source: nbcnews.com)

The city council has been at a loss about what to do with the increasing number of love-locks attached to the numerous bridges of Paris, starting from the Notre Dame region, all the way down to the Louvre. Parisians themselves, have come to dislike the practice, claiming it makes the bridges unsafe.

I for one, have to wonder about the gazillion keys on the Seine riverbed, rusting away, leeching chemicals into the water. But apparently not worried enough, as Mr Wolf and I have already staked our claim to a piece of railing on the Pont des Arts.

pont des arts love locks  Paris

The bridge’s rails have amassed thousands of love-locks (Source: aol.com)

If you’re unfamiliar with the urban legend behind the love-locks… here it is: In order to ensure a lasting love, a couple inscribes their names/initials onto a lock and fastens it to the bridge’s rail. Then, together they throw the key into the River Seine. It has been said that as long as the lock remains fastened – its keys lost forever in the depths of the Seine- they are forever ‘locked’ in love, never to be parted.

pont des arts love locks 2

For ever. And ever. And ever. (Source: washington.cbslocal.com)

Makes me wonder about the thousands of locks that were removed and disposed of from the portion of the bridge that collapsed last week. Broken hearts around the world???

 

Top 5 Unmissable Durban Experiences

Durban is the South African city where I was born and raised. I’m so proud to call this friendly, permanently-sunny place my home. More laid-back that Johannesburg, and perhaps not as vibey as Cape Town, Durban has its own beach culture going on and is the perfect place to grab some rays on the golden mile.

With various attractions and must see museums on the Durban must-see list, here are the top five experiences that shouldn’t be overlooked when in the city.

1. Get a bird’s eye view at the Moses Mabhida Stadium

The gorgeous (yes, I said gorgeous when referring to a piece of architecture) Durban stadium, built for the memorable 2010 Football World Cup offers a series of activities regardless of your age, or interest in physical activity for that matter. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can try the Big Swing; which allows only the very, very brave to bungee jump from the centre of the stadium’s impressive arch. If you prefer something a little tamer, that will still get your heart racing, why not give the Adventure Walk a try? Tackling the zillion (it must be, right?) steps up the arch isn’t for the fainthearted.

Then, if you’re like me and breaking a sweat isn’t really your thing, why not get the same incredible panoramic views by opting for the Skycar. A two-minute journey in the Skycar takes you to the very top of the arch where you’re presented with unparalleled 360° views over the city.

durban stadium Top 5 Durban

(Source: e-architect.co.uk)

For more information and pricing: http://www.mmstadium.com/

2. View an eyeful of birds at the Umgeni River Bird Park

Situated, as the name suggests, along the banks of the Umgeni River, the Bird Park is an ideal family activity that is fun as well as educational. From bird feedings, to interactions with friendly Lorikeets, there are a variety of activities arranged on a daily basis. With a collection of over 800 birds from more than 200 species, the bird park is a must do when in Durban.

umgeni river bird park Top 5 Durban

(Source: umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za)

For more info: http://www.umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za/

3. Get your shopping on at Gateway Theatre of Shopping

With an abundance of stores ranging from quirky boutiques to designer labels, from monstrous supermarkets to jewellery outlets, Gateway is the perfect place to shop when in Durban. But it is so much more than just a mall. Having coined the term “shoppertainment” for good reason, the centre provides fun-fill activity choices including one of the largest indoor climbing mountains, a videogame arcade, a Wavehouse and a skate park. The centre offers 18 movie theatres and a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. Prefect way to spend a Sunday (or any day, in my humble opinion).

gateway durban Top 5

(Source: southafrica.net)

http://gatewayworld.sourcecloud.co.za/

 4. Bike the Golden Mile

The golden mile (actually longer than your typical mile) is a paved stretch of promenade along the golden sandy beaches of Durban.  Craft markets, fisherman, surfers and beachgoers line the coast and make for an interesting ride along this route. Numerous bike rental companies offer fantastic rates, so there is no excuse not to enjoy a leisurely ride along this track with the sun on your back and the warm Indian Ocean breeze in your face.

durban bike Top 5

(Source: south-african-hotels.com)

 5. Spice things up at the Victoria Street Market

There aren’t too many places in this world where you can buy a sari, get a henna tattoo and scoff down a deliciously hot curry in a day. Not outside of Asia anyway. So with one of the largest Indian populations outside of India; Durban is by far one of the Rainbow Nation’s most multicultural cities. The Victoria Street Market is a homage to Indian culture, with almost 200 stalls bustling with oriental products. From spices to clothing, from souvenirs to fresh fish, the lively market is one stop that shouldn’t be overlooked when in Durban.

victoria street market Durban Top 5

(Source: snapflycook.wordpress.com)

The Great Torte Debate

In Vienna, there is a cake so celebrated that for decades, a legal war has been waged between two well-established bakeries about who gets to call their version the ‘Original’.

I am of course speaking about the Sacher Torte, created by a humble kitchen helper in 1832 when he, at the last minute, became charged with making a dessert fit for the prince.

The son of said kitchen helper, Eduard Sacher, perfected his father’s recipe while working at the bakery Demel. Legal battles ensued when the Hotel Sacher trademarked the name ‘The Original Sacher Torte’.

Hotel Sacher Torte Cafe

Both Demel and Hotel Sacher laid claim to the original torte, so on a blustery day in Vienna, I set about on a quest I like to call ‘The Great Sacher Torte Debate’. Never mind whose torte was the ‘original’, I wanted to know whose torte was the tastiest.

I started off at Hotel Sacher, and was not surprised to join the line of tourists outside the door. Thankfully, the queue moved steadily along, and about 15 minutes later, we found ourselves seated at a cramped little table inside the famed Sacher Café.

Hotel Sacher Torte CafePictures of celebrities who had, in their heyday frequented the Sacher Hotel, lined the walls. We ordered: two slices of original Sacher torte with whipped cream and Sacher hot chocolates to wash it down. (All in the name of research, of course!).

Hotel Sacher Torte Cafe

The cakes and drinks arrived within minutes (to assist a speedy turnover rate, I presume). It was beautifully presented with the famous Sacher chocolate medallion on top. The first bite, my introduction to Sacher torte, was good. Not excellent, but good.

Hotel Sacher Torte CafeHotel Sacher Torte Cafe

The cake was not as rich as I expected. The middle part – which was soaked in marmalade – was delicious, but the cake itself was a little dry to be honest, and the whipped cream was certainly a good idea. The icing was lovely, and the quality of chocolate used was of course of highest standards. Yet, I could not see what the decades of fuss were about.

Hotel Sacher Torte CafeSacher Hotel cafte Torte

Afterwards, we bundled up in our coats and scarves and walked the 10 or 15 minutes it took to get to Demel. Also full of tourists I immediately noticed the glass paneling opened into the bakery at the back of the shop where we could actually see the Sacher tortes being made.

Demel Sacher TorteDemel Sacher TorteDemel Sacher Torte

The line to be seated in Demel was absurdly long; we waited well over 30 minutes. The seating areas upstairs are wonderfully decorated with pastel paints and large chandeliers. The ambience though, like in the Sacher Café, is ruined by harried waiters and waitresses, aiming to turn over the tables as quickly as possible.

Demel Sacher TorteDemel Sacher Torte

Demel’s torte did not have the marmalade layer in the centre, yet the cake was deliciously moist and silky. Demel’s answer to Hotel Sacher’s chocolate medallion is a triangular chocolate seal on top of each slice.

Demel Sacher TorteDemel Sacher Torte

We left, buzzing on a chocolate high, pondering the question of the day. Who does Sacher torte better?

I would say that at Hotel Sacher, the tortes are presented much better, and boxed to perfection if you’d like to take them away as gifs.

Sacher Torte Hotel CafeAlthough it was at Demel, that the taste won hands down. Sacher Torte DemelBut since I like to play fair, I’m going to give Hotel Sacher a chance to change my mind – which only means a trip back to Vienna in the very near future.

7 Things Travel Has Thought Me

It’s that time of the year again when everyone’s reflecting on the twelve months gone by – the highs and lows; and are earnestly making resolutions that they fully intend to keep.

I’ve been looking back at the past year, thinking about my travels and making my dream ‘bucket list’ for 2014. However, I feel hesitant to close the book on 2013 just yet because my travels in the year, have brought me so much joy.

My birthday trip to Mexico was one of the best vacations I ever experienced. Sunshine in February? What’s not to love!?

A memorable trip to Vienna, staying at the incredible Sofitel Stephansdom is another cherished memory.

I enjoyed gallivanting in Berlin for a couple of days in August; and setting foot in Hungary for the first time just before Christmas.

But above all, I managed to squeeze in not one but TWO month-long trips to South Africa this year (not an easy feat with a full time job!), and I loved every moment spent with family and friends back home.

There have been so many highs and lows I’ve experienced while travelling, but my love for getting on a plane/ boat/ car in a quest to discover a new place will never diminish.

So, while I’m reflecting on this year and feeling all philosophical, here are 7 things my travels in 2013 have thought me.

1. Getting lost can help you find yourself

Whether it be missing the bus on an organized tour, or straying from the well-signed path to find the perfect gelato…getting lost in a foreign country can be a frightening experience. First, think cloud. Then, think silver lining and let yourself discover what would have never been if you hadn’t strayed.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: iwantcovers.com)

2. Attitude is everything

It’s been said a thousand times, but the attitude in which you approach any situation can spell the difference between a great day or a bad one. This is especially true when travelling.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: engineerleader.com)

3. Language barriers are just an excuse

Yes, no one there speaks English. Yes, Mandarin may very well be the world’s most difficult language. But you know what? People will find a way to communicate when they need to. Be it wild hand gestures or good ‘ol Google translate – language barriers should never be the reason not to travel.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: izta.org)

7 things travel taught me

(Source: bestworldtraveldestinations.com)

4. My <insert issue here> problem is really insignificant

Travel opens our eyes to the real issues of this world. Typically if you’re fortunate enough to be able to travel, you’re probably better off than a vast majority of the world’s population. Complaints about the weather or traffic somehow get put into perspective once you’ve spent some time outside your comfort zone.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: loveparkhs.blogspot.com)

5. People are inherently good

Sure I’ve been a victim of crime – I’ve had my bag snatched right in the middle of a bustling Champs-Élysées. I’ve seen more than my fair share of tourist traps and scams aimed at unsuspecting travelers. And yet, I know that generally speaking, most people are inherently good. Maybe it was that stranger in Berlin who took a full ten minutes to give me directions to the East Side Gallery, and then went on to mark all the appropriate metro stops on my map. All I know is, I’ve stumbled across far more good people on my travels than bad, and at the core, we all just want the same thing: to live and let live.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: fentonreport.com)

6. Patience is a virtue

You’ve heard the old adage before, and as a traveler the words should be etched onto the cover of your passport. Waiting for planes, waiting for buses, trains or boats, waiting in line at the temples or museums…put a smile on your face and live in the moment.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: affirmyourlife.blogspot.com)

7. Plan, plan, plan – and then leave room for the unexpected

I’m a control freak. There – I said it. I like to plan everything down to the last detail, and rarely leave anything to chance.  And while most of the time I do enjoy the fruits of my planning labor, I am all too aware that even the best laid plans can go awry, and the unexpected can be just around the corner.

7 things travel taught me

(Source: mentalpilote.com)

So armed with these 7 travel life lessons, I’m ready to conquer 2014, and all it has to bring!

7 Things travel taught me

See you here in 2014?

Happy New Year and Bon Voyage!

7 Things travel taught me

(Source: thlvacations.wordpress.com)