Travelling with…IBS

Ah the glamour.

No, it’s not a made up disease which you can deep breathe away. Unfortunately it’s a very real, very debilitating issue which can ruin days of your holiday. From my calculations I’d say I’ve been dealing with IBS for around 17 years now. While it’s definitely not completely under control, I have far fewer ‘episodes’ (episodes: hospital trips, x-rays, cramping to the point where I can’t stand up, breathing hurts, lower back ache, nausea, fatigue, multiple trips to the bathroom) than I used to have when I was less aware of the food I was putting in to my body. I’ve read so many books and blog-posts on this topic now, taken so much advice from every. single. person I know (really something I don’t love to share about myself!). I’ve taken stock of what happens when I eat certain things and I thought if this could help somebody else then I should share. I’ve just put together some tips I use both at home and when travelling and although every individual is different, hopefully this helps somebody out there 🙂

IBS is more common in women and from my experience there does seem to be a link between IBS and the menstrual cycle. Here’s some of the most useful information I’ve come across on the gut, menstrual cycle and hormones:

Giulia Enders: Gut – the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ

I picked up this book and basically swallowed it whole. Logical and relatable, Giulia, a German microbiologist, provides a detailed look at the gut, the brain-gut axis, and the world of gut bacteria. We went to see speak at the Sydney Opera House a couple of years ago and she just seems like the nicest person in the world too! There are plenty of videos out there of Giulia talking about her work but I like this one.

Alissa Vitti: WomanCode – Perfect your cycle, amplify your fertility, supercharge your sex drive, and become a power source

The first I heard about WomanCode was from health blogger, Lee from America, on her post about Cycle Syncing. Honestly, it’s like the penny dropped for me. Lee explains the theory behind Cycle Syncing very well so I’d advise having a look at that post (or this one) but the piece that resonates with me is incorporating particular foods during each given week of your cycle which can help your body function optimally by getting it the right micronutrients at the right time. My copy of WomanCode is highlighted, pages cornered and looks about a million years old but the information in there is so helpful. I’ve posted a copy of the foods Alissa suggests incorporating in each week of my cycle on my fridge so it’s easy to refer to when I’m whipping up a meal 🙂

Belinda Kirkpatrick & Ainsley Johnstone: Healthy Hormones: A practical guide to balancing your hormones

This one is a recent addition to my collection. It’s an odd feeling, but I don’t think I know quite enough about my hormones. They say PMS doesn’t actually have to happen – I WISH! This book, from naturopath and nutritionist Belinda, and food stylist and recipe developer, Ainsley, walks us through the menstrual cycle, offers practical advice for dealing with common symptoms, provides a huge selection of recipes and a section on supplements – what they’re used for, how much to take and usefully, where you can get these naturally in the food that you eat.

Steps I take which seem to help:

  • Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Elevated stress and anxiety levels definitely don’t help IBS. Actually deep, controlled breathing can help if you’re stressed or anxious and want to just slow your body and mind down.
  • It’s especially difficult when travelling but the thing that works most for me is a food routine. Rain, hail or shine at home I have porridge/oatmeal (made with water and oat milk) with chia seeds (soaked overnight), cinnamon and turmeric warmed up in the morning. I top this with different nuts/seeds/nut butters (desiccated coconut, almond butter, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts or pecans) depending on what’s on the cycle syncing list that week or what I’m feeling. I don’t tend to top with fruit as I rather fruit on it’s own. If we’re staying in a hostel or airbnb it’s pretty easy to make porridge but if we’re out and about I’ll try to order something along these lines from a cafe. I love using Instagram to find new foodie spots to try.
  • Water, water, water. That age-old trick that helps with everything. Drink way more than you think you need. If you’re thirsty it’s already too late and you’re dehydrated. I wouldn’t recommend drinking local tap water and I do. I only drink the tap water at home. If we’re abroad we’ll pick up a huge bottle of water and fill up our S’well bottles for days out and about exploring. I won’t drink ice-cold water if possible though as it’s a little too harsh.
  • Very little dairy. No cow’s milk. I usually drink oat milk (Oatly), but I’ll also have almond milk or coconut milk. It’s pretty rare that I’d have yoghurt. I do like butter though. I love ice-cream but have it on very rare occasions as it really is an aggravator. Also, no soya milk – it’s a known hormone disruptor.
  • No coffee. Very difficult for most of the world I know, but it just instantly upsets my tummy. I ADORE the smell but I just cannot deal with the taste. My husband on the other hand travels with his Aeropress, grinder and weighing scales 🙂
  • Tea. I’ve cut way down on black tea – it’s quite caffeinated so if I fancy some I will still have it but I’ll make it very light. I tend to stick with herbal teas now – Spearmint is my absolute favourite and it really seems to help with hormonal (cystic) acne. Peppermint tea is good for cramps and  Ginger tea can help with nausea. Chamomile tea is supposed to be good to help relax you in the evenings but I haven’t really taken to the taste of it. I like light Earl Grey or Chai tea. I always pack tea-bags in my suitcase. Must be an Irish thing as most people I think bring a box of tea-bags even if they’re just going to Spain for a week’s holiday!
  • Hot Cacao – I warm up oat milk and then add raw cacao, cinnamon, turmeric, a little black pepper and a little maple syrup if I need something chocolatey. I’ll often add spirulina to this for a little green kick too. Such a cosy, hyggelig drink.
  • Fizzy drinks – I don’t drink them – too much sugar. Also, 0range juice – it’s very acidic so if I wasn’t feeling well I’d steer clear.
  • Greens – baby spinach is my holy grail. I love, love, love it and would eat it for every meal given half a chance. Lambs lettuce is a close second. I think greens play a huge part in keeping IBS at bay so I try to incorporate some with both lunch and dinner.
  • I don’t eat white bread. Yes, I eat brown/wholemeal bread – love it. I’d been missing Irish Brown Soda Bread in Australia but now that we’re back living in Dublin I’m really getting back in to it!
  • I also don’t eat most breakfast cereals. Cornflakes are like mini blades in my tummy.
  • No potatoes. So sad for an Irish girl and I don’t know what it is about them but I’ll eat one and instantly look about 6 months pregnant. Sweet potatoes all the way for me. Pop one in the microwave for c. 3 minutes, top with anything (butter, salt and pepper or shredded chicken with spinach,  sweet pointed red peppers and an egg. Perfection!)
  • Probiotics. I always travel with a probiotic. Digestive enzymes before a meal also help. I’ve tried out a lot of different brands and not all of them had an effect so I think this is a very individual decision.
  • I try not to eat on the aeroplane. Easy when the flight is under 5/6 hours but obviously I’ll eat if it’s long-haul. If we go on long-haul flights we always request the vegetarian meals – you’re given your meal first so you have time to go to the bathroom and brush your teeth or change or whatever before everybody else finishes their meals and starts queueing. You’re nestled back in ready for your movie or sleep. Pre-ordering vegetarian meals for the flight is my number 1 travel tip!
  • No packet food – none of those sauces from packets or those ready-made frozen meals.
  • No smoking. Zero interest.
  • Red meat – there’s a huge amount in the media about red meat all the time. I choose not to eat red meat but I will eat poultry – chicken and turkey are staples for me.
  • Fish – I eat most fish – salmon topped with chia seeds and popped into the oven – so delicious. There’s always a fish dish on a menu!
  • No big meals – yes, we go for dinner when we’re travelling but we never order 3+ courses as it’s just too much food. Little and often 🙂
  • Exercise – it’s actually easier for me to get exercise in when we’re travelling. John and I love to walk and rarely take public transport in a new city. We love to get lost and luckily, we always happen upon a must visit site! Some airlines have seated yoga sequences in the on-board entertainment system so I highly recommend doing those!

Foods I don’t touch (no matter what):

  • Onions, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale – that brassica family and I just do not get along.
  • Carrots. I’m sure some people are fine but nope, can’t even.
  • Popcorn 😦
  • Chinese or Indian cuisine – from takeaways. We were only in China for a short amount of time but I ate rice (white rice. Brown rice has too much fibre for me) with vegetables and no sauces and I was fine. I’m honestly put off going to India because of the food. It’s supposed to be a must-visit destination but it is one that scares me a little…
  • Fast Food – McDonalds, Burger King, Hungry Jacks etc. Not worth it!
  • Risotto – the actual devil.

I don’t think any of the drugs out there do much to alleviate this condition. I keep Buscopan in my wallet all the time just in case of cramps but it’s really a last resort – I’d much rather deal with my symptoms with food. Also, if you’re packing a suitcase – add a hot water bottle 😉

What it boils down to for me, is hydration, movement and 90% good decisions.

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Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and Zaandam, The Netherlands

So the very first thing we noticed when we arrived in The Netherlands is just how flat it is compared to Ireland – no wonder everybody is on bicycles! We started our trip in Zaandam (a little town about 15 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam) and then we moved in to the city for a few night after that. I had seen the Inntel Hotel Zaandam on Instagram a few years ago and decided to make it my mission to stay there someday. Mission accomplished!

Zaandam

Zaandam is a lovely little town; there was a fun-fair on during our visit so obviously John and I went on the rollercoaster. Pre-that though we had the most amazing pizza at de Pizza Bakkers in the main square in Zaandam – the staff were fabulous and it was the best pizza I’ve had in aaaaaages!!

Inntel Hotel Zaandam

You know it!

Zaanse Schans

We took a morning trip to an area called Zaanse Schans in the Zaandam region too. It’s a very relaxing area and the perfect spot for a wander after a huge breakfast – it’s a little village with a grouping of historic windmills. De Kat Colour Mill is the last working colour mill in the world – they’ve been producing natural dyes and pigments in this mill since 1782. You can take a self-guided tour for €4.50 (€2 for 6-12 year olds).

Zaanse Schans – so pretty!

Zaanse Schans area

Zaanse Schans

SO green!

De Kat Colour Mill

De Kat Colour Mill

Old school charm

Inner workings of De Kat

Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM!!

On arrival to Amsterdam (we did take a couple of trips in and out from Zaandam as it’s so close) the first thing we all noticed was the architecture – the buildings are quite quirky. Tall, tiny, crooked, cramped, palatial – they have it all! Camera click bait! We had a jam-packed few days in the city but managed to arrive on a morning when there was a market on – first stop: cheese, please! The market was the Biologische Noordermarkt, an Organic Farmers Market held every Saturday from 9am – 4pm. It’s 100% worth a stop. Right across the street from the market you’ll find Amsterdam’s famous apple pie spot, Winkel 43. There was a major queue for this so we didn’t check it out on this trip but it’s on the list for next time! We happened upon a tiny little Puglian/Italian cafe, Rigoletto, so we stopped here for a lovely breakfast. Amsterdam is a very walkable city, you could get a lot of it seen in 1 or 2 days. After the market we wandered in to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. This one’s a shop at the front and a tulip museum at the back. Mum and I got lost perusing this spot for about an hour. We bought SO many tulips – Spring is going to be colourful! They have tulip bulbs here that you can send all over the world. The staff are very helpful. There’s a cheese museum next door too that’s worth a little perusing. There are cheese stores on every street corner – they’re the Starbucks of Amsterdam!

Touristy Things

We took a trip to the Heineken Brewery. I booked online around 2 hours beforehand. You take a self-guided tour which takes a couple of hours. Tickets are €18 and you get a couple of tokens to have two beers at the end of the tour. It’s an interactive tour and definitely worth a visit. We walked down here after a visit to the Flower Market/Bloemenmarkt. The market is a row of floating barges awash with an assortment of tulips. Bulbs, slippers, fridge magnets, knick knacks – any item you can put a tulip in or on 😉

I’d been following the Avocado Show on Instagram for a few years so HAD to have lunch there. It’s very close to the Heineken Brewery (address:Daniël Stalpertstraat 61 HS, 1072 XB Amsterdam) and if you like avocado then this is the place to have some lunch. The food is oh so colourful so I’m taking that as it’s oh so nutritious too!

We visited the Anne Frank Museum/Anne Frank Huis – I also booked this one online the night before we visited. We visited on the last booking slot of the evening. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold or rainy buy you so have to queue outside for your allocated time slot. Once inside you’ll receive headphones which you use for a self-guided tour. Tickets are €10 online plus a booking fee. It’s a small museum and the stairs are pretty small. You’re basically standing in a queue of people listening to your headphones. There’s a sombre vibe here, obviously, but it’s a must visit destination in Amsterdam.

My favourite part of our whole trip to Amsterdam was our visit to the Moco Museum. We only had time for one museum and there was a Banksy exhibition, Laugh Now, on at the Moco Museum so that was an easy decision (Moco Museum are open about the fact that Banksy did not collaborate with them on this exhibition nor did he consent to it. They sourced his work from collectors). I think my Dad is a Banksy convert now so that’s a great result!

 

Mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms

This is one GIGANTIC mushroom!

Cheese, please!

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

So much cheese!

Just need some vino…

So pretty!

Unicorn Doughnuts!!

Unicorn Doughnuts!!

Just a typical Amsterdam street

Aw 🙂

Flower Market

Tulips and more tulips and more tulips

Moco Museum

Banksy

Two Days in London

Celebration time!

We made an impromptu 1 year anniversary trip from Dublin to London on our way to a family wedding. Oh gosh I LOVE LONDON!! It’s such a bustling city, the weather was perfect and our hotel stay was just perfect. We just had a one night stay in the newly refurbished ‘The Principal‘ hotel right on the Piccadilly tube line at Russell Square, overlooking Russell Park. The location is excellent. And the bathrooms! Brass, marble and a roll-top bath and I’m 100% set. It’s currently in the midst of a soft opening so everything looks quite fresh and the staff are fabulous. I’ve never stayed anywhere with such lovely staff. There’s a nice coffee shop attached too, Burr & Co.

Welcome welcome welcome!

A welcome coffee

After checking in our first port of call was straight back on to the tube and off to London Bridge station to check out Borough Market. More specifically it was a coffee pitstop, to the Gentleman Baristas just outside the market to help himself get through the day. 4 out of 5 rating on this one. There was a queue for a little gelato spot called Gelateria 3Bis so obviously this was pitstop number 2. This one is worth a small queue so again, 4 out of 5. Pretty good start to the day! We ended up wandering around Covent Garden a few times so we popped back here after our gelato stop and went to check out the Deciem/Abnormal Beauty company little store. J’adore!

Ooh London!

Quintessentially London

Charing Cross

Oh what you come across…

DRURY LANE!!!!

The Ivy

What a beautiful day!

Guiding us towards the Gentleman Baristas

We had a 3pm booking for the Art Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood Hotel just off the Holborn tube stop. Afternoon Tea is served in the Mirror Room, a copper-hued beaut of a location. Again, epic bathrooms. That’s really how I judge a place!! We just missed the Rodin art tea by one day so we got in on the new Cubism/Pop Art theme. It was delicious and they gave us their signature Banksy concoction with a little candle to celebrate our anniversary; so lovely. It’s an exceptionally sweet afternoon tea so prepare for a major sugar rush!

Here we go!

Round 2!

Inside the signature dessert

Some more sugar was called for on our second day so we got ourselves to Belgravia to check out the Dominique Ansel Bakery and to see the queues for the Peggy Porschen Cakes. Holy crap that cookie shot with Tahitian vanilla milk is the tastiest morsel I’ve come across. Probably devoured it in 10 seconds flat. By probably I mean actually… I also tried their frozen s’more – also absolutely delicious. John got a Cuban sandwich (mainly because we had recently watched that Chef movie) and he loved it too. He was super impressed that a bakery actually sold something savoury. Yes, he’s the person that orders a cheese board as dessert. Opposites attract!!

So, this is a thing…

Peggy Porschen

Getting excited!

Current special: Strawberry Fields

Decisions, decisions!

Paris-London

Kinda talented

I’ve been waiting for this!

SO GOOD!

We also made a quick stop at the Victoria & Albert Museum, for a quick mooch around. The jewellery collection is astounding – Beyonce gifted her Papillon ring which I’m sure is worth a gazillion pounds so that’s definitely worth a look. We didn’t get too much of the museum done, more of a drive-by but I cannot wait to get back!

V&A

Stairs to nowhere

So ornate!

Hitchin, England

Just 1.5 hours outside of London (only 1 hour by train) lies the cutest little English village, Hitchin. We tripped up to Hitchin from London to see the lavender fields in full bloom at Hitchin Lavender. We stopped off in the actual village of Hitchin for a scrumptious lunch at The Groundworks cafe, situation just next to St. Mary’s Church. There’s such a lovely village vibe here, it would be a lovely place to stop over for a night.

Hitchin Lavender is just a 5 minute drive outside of Hitchin, just after Ickleford village. It costs £6 per person and you receive a little brown bag (and some scissors) which you can fill with as much lavender as you can squish in. Hitchin Lavender is a working farm and there’s a little tea-room where you can stop off for a quick cuppa. They have 25 miles of lavender here so plenty of space to get a picture with just you in it! Currently, they also have sunflower fields right next to the lavender and they look so, so beautiful. You can cut sunflowers too and it’s 50 pence per stem. There was a bridal party taking their photos (how amazing are those pictures going to look?!) and if you need to do something along those lines then there’s a £50 professional photography charge.

Well worth a visit!

All the options!

Miles and miles…

So happy!

Bee-metropolis

Gorgeous!

My haul

Sunflower Alley

The happiest flower

AND relax!

Our Wedding

So, 13 years in we thought we’d get this thing done!! We married in the countryside of the Dordogne region of southwest France last August. Yep, like nearly a whole year in 🙂 It’s definitely different being married – I love the feeling of having John as a husband. It’s really special. So I won’t go in to too much detail, I’ll just pop some photos below but here’s a little information just in case it’s of interest to anybody out there in the blogosphere.

As we’re not residents in France we had to have a civil ceremony back home in Ireland before our religious ceremony in France. It wasn’t that easy to organise from Australia to be honest but my Mum was a superstar helping out with SO much stuff.

Ireland

To get married in Ireland you need to provide 3 months notice. Here’s some information on the technical side of things. After our ceremony we took some photographs at Muckross House and Gardens (my Mum and Dad took photos here on their wedding day so it was something I really wanted to do hail or shine). We then had a small family lunch in the Europe Hotel in Killarney. We stayed here before flying to Paris the following day. Oh ya, John decided to go mountain climbing whilst feeling a little under the weather a couple of days before and ended up with full blown tonsillitis. He could barely speak for this ceremony and his doctor told him he shouldn’t fly to France. What the actual…

At Muckross House – my dress is by Rachel Gilbert from Australia

France

Anyhoo!! We celebrated our wedding at Eglise Saint Thomas in Excideuil and we had our reception at the Chateau La Durantie. Most of the wedding party stayed on the grounds with us for the weekend which was fantastic. We booked the chateau from Thursday afternoon to Monday morning and this was our itinerary:

  • Thursday: Everybody does their own thing. John and I frantically chase around the countryside buying alcohol and food. Also, Ciara has to visit the GP as John passes on his disease and I end up with a blocked ear!! NOOOOO – antibiotics for both of us on our wedding day!!
  • Friday: Our guests had the day to themselves to lounge by the pool or wander to the local village. In the evening we organised welcome drinks and lasagne at the Chateau.
  • Saturday: Wedding Day!!! Ceremony: 3pm. Reception back at the Chateau.
  • Sunday: Poolside BBQ and chill.
  • Monday: Guests loaded up on the bus and John and Ciara hit the road! Honeymoon time!

Starting the day with my girls

Getting dolled up! My dress is Bliss by Monique Lhuillier

Getting help!

Had to make sure I was in these babies correctly

As did this munchkin

Coz twirling’s the best!

Here we go!

Getting hitched

Deed done!

She did so well 🙂

Our Wedding Party

Little lavender lovely

Some us time

Coz obviously

Gentleman’s Lounge Area

Guest Book/Postcards

Simple dessert table

Our Cake Topper

Evening shenanigans

The perfect sunset

Oh ya, I had pockets…

 

Honeymooning in…PARIS!

We chose to finish off our honeymoon in très romantique Paris. We stayed in the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg which is in a fantastic location, right around the corner from Concorde metro station and the Hotel de Crillon (side note: that’s one amaaaaaaazing hotel). The Sofitel is on the same street as the American embassy and there were police on each end of the street blocking vehicular access…just a little odd. The Sofitel has Hermès toiletries so let’s just say we now have quite a collection 😉 We didn’t really hang around the hotel at all (there’s not really that much to it), instead we spent as much time as possible traipsing the cobblestone streets. The hotel is just across the road from the Jardin des Tuileries so it’s really a wonderful location if you like pottering about.

We had cocktails at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crilllon just around the corner one evening. One should be overdressed for this activity!! Luckily, I had my wedding shoes (read: rent) to ‘spruce up’ my holey jeans. HA!

Said shoes/babies…

We bought some tickets to the Moulin Rouge one afternoon for that evening. There are a few sittings most nights; we chose the 9pm with a bottle of champagne. The seating in there is super tight but the cabaret show is worth seeing. They do have live animals as part of the show which we were not expecting; not really necessary to be honest but something to bear in mind…

Moulin Rouge

Visiting the Louvre

We purchased tickets online a couple of days before visiting the Louvre. It was our first visit and hopefully not our last so we just decided to do a little of the museum, check out the Mona Lisa, good ol Venus di Milo and just a little bit more. We need to leave some stuff for future trips to Paris so we only went in for about 3 hours – I think you could spend a month just getting meandering the halls here.

Lots of people queue outside the Pyramid but if you go downstairs in to the shopping centre, Le Carrousel du Louvre, you can pick up tickets in the tobacco shop, La Civette du Louvre if you fancy skipping any queues 🙂

Carrousel Arc de Triomphe

The Louvre Pyramid

Pavillon Richelieu

You can pick up Louvre Tickets here

We used this entrance – in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre

Already lost

Getting all artsy

Beautiful inside, beautiful outside

Venus di Milo

View from inside the Louvre

She’s beautiful at night too

Visiting Musée de l’Orangerie

After a trip to the Louvre it only makes sense to walk down the beautifully manicured Jardin des Tuileries to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Although we’ve been before it’s going to be forever on my list to do in Paris since Monet is without question the greatest artist that ever did live. For sure next visit we’ll do Monet’s garden in Giverny.

Jardin des Tuileries

Oh to look at this Renoir every day…

Renoir

Miles of Monet

Getting a closer look

Water Lillies

 

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

We took an evening trip to visit the Eiffel Tower after pizza and a wander by the Seine one evening. It was a last minute decision (like most experiences when we’re travelling) but when there’s no queue you just seize the day!

Sunsets

Pont Alexandre III

The perfect evening

Eiffel Tower

In all her splendour

I don’t even know how to explain this chap!

What can I see!!

View from the Eiffel Tower

Oh so pretty!

Rue Gustave Eiffel

 

Parisian Wanderings

Are there any ugly buildings in Paris?

Strolling the Seine

Coffee stop!

Shop fronts

Petite street strolls

Les Deux Magots, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés

A stroll through Chateau de Versailles

We took a taxi (c.€50) from Paris to Versailles because we just could not be faffed getting on public transport PLUS it was before 9am AND we were on honeymoon. Easy decision!

Tickets (Versailles is not open on Mondays)

We didn’t purchase a ticket in advance as visiting was a last minute decisions for us; even though we arrived quite early we still had to queue for a good hour. I’d definitely recommend picking up a ticket in advance. It was worth the queue though!

On admission we high-tailed it upstairs to get a hot chocolate from Angelina, sustenance for the hours we knew we’d be walking around the gardens! We checked out the Hall of Mirrors first, actually we ended up inadvertently skipping the queue (which starts outside in the main entrance courtyard – to your right if you’re looking in the entrance gate), by going in the opposite direction to everyone else! After we checked out bedrooms, hallways, ceilings and floors we wandered out to the stunning gardens and spent most of our visit out there. During the summer months, there are musical fountain shows; basically there’s classical music playing and the fountains are ‘dancing’ to the rhythm. We meandered through the gardens for a couple of hours and after we exited the Chateau de Versailles we crossed the road and visited the Coach Gallery. It only opens in the afternoon and is quite small but houses the most ornate horsey paraphernalia you could possibly imagine! It’s free so worth a little trip in. We caught the train back (RER C) in to Paris after lunch in a local spot. Such a lovely morning and afternoon!

Kind of an ornate entrance

What an entrance gate!

Queuing…

I could wake up here!

Beautiful ceiling

You know what this place needs more of? Gold.

A bust at Versailles

And another…

Welcome to the Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Pretty epic first impression!!

Garden Arches

Those colours!!

Latona Fountain

The Coach Gallery

The Coach Gallery

Sleds!

Monaco, Èze and Avignon, the French Riviera

Monaco

We left Genoa/Genova in Italy for the 2 hour jaunt across the French border in to the stunning French Riveria, stopping off at Monaco for a quick coffee on the way. I had been to Monaco on a girls trip a few years ago so had done the Prince’s Palace and seen all about Princess Grace, not exactly something John was too into visiting but from last trip, I recommend taking a tour of the palace if you can fit it in. As we wandered Monaco’s waterside, I thought I’d give a cappuccino a go, randomly at the Wine Palace Monte-Carlo, it was AMAZING. John just goes for a long black but that was apparently awesome too. At a wine shop.Who knew?!

Prince's Palace of Monaco up on the hill

Prince’s Palace of Monaco up on the hill

Views for everyone!

Views for everyone!

Yep, that's a yacht in a yacht

Yep, that’s a yacht in a yacht

Back of the Casino Monte Carlo

Back of the Casino Monte Carlo

Botero's Adam et Eve

Botero’s Adam et Eve

Èze, France

If you’re looking for the most beautiful village in the universe, get yourself to Èze. It’s just a 15 minute drive uphill from Monaco. We spent a few hours meandering this little medieval spot (mostly looking for a parking spot – haha – this is like 40% accurate – it did take us ages and we ended up parking quite a bit away and walking in to the village – or you could just park at the Fragonard factory/perfumerie right at the base of the village). There are lots of little cafes, shops and art galleries to check out in Èze. The scent of lavender emanates from even the stones here – you can pick up soaps, pillows, post-cards, lotions, candles…whatever you can think of that you could possibly put a drop of lavender in here. We stopped for lunch at Deli’ and it was delicious. The staff were very helpful too. We brought home some flavoured olive oils here from A L’Olivier and I’m now planning our next trip to Èze…which is looking likely to revolve around olive oil. Rightly so.

Village map

Village map

Èze

Èze

Taking in the surroundings

Taking in the surroundings

Bougainvillea, gets me every time

Bougainvillea, gets me every time

Craving the ancient

Craving the ancient

Lavande

Lavande

Inspo!

Inspo!

Who wouldn't like a French escape pad?

Who wouldn’t like a French escape pad?

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

The Church of Èze

The Church of Èze

Garden of Èze

Garden of Èze

I'll take them all!

I’ll take them all!

Teas, herbs and spices

Teas, herbs and spices

 

Avignon, France

We continued on our journey for about another 3 hours from Èze to Avignon, and spent the night at La Mirande. You really need to follow the hotel’s directions to find yourself at their door – it’s not easy to drive around Avignon; all one-way and closed off minuscule streets. We just had an evening in Avignon, a UNESCO listed site, so took a wander around and had dinner at the hotel’s garden restaurant and a morning courtyard breakfast before leaving for the drive to PARIS!! Avignon is a lovely town to spend some time. There are lots of shops here for souvenir hunting but also plenty of history. The Palace of the Popes/Palais des Papes was built in the 14th century as Avignon was the seat of the papacy back then. It sits right in front of La Mirande; there’s even a passageway from the downstairs kitchen/cooking school across to the palace.

The Pont Saint-Bénézet/Pont d’Avignon bridge houses the church of St. Nicholas and is a must visit on a trip to Avignon.  Four of the original 22 arches still stand.

Le Mirande

La Mirande

Cosy rooms at La Mirande

Cosy rooms at La Mirande

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Pont Saint-Bénézet/Pont d'Avignon

Pont Saint-Bénézet/Pont d’Avignon

Options, options!!

Options, options!!

Opera Theatre d'Avignon

Opera Theatre d’Avignon

Strolling in Avignon

Strolling in Avignon

Soaps all around

Soaps all around

Mmm tea!

Mmm tea!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Our time at the Cinque Terre, or five villages on the Italian coast was really more of a whistle-stop tour. We were in the area and couldn’t just pass by without checking it out. Obviously. We drove from Rome up the coast as we needed to spend one night in Genoa before hopping back over the border in to France. It’s actually a much easier trip from Florence – just about 2 hours drive. The Cinque Terre was a necessary stop on our route as we just had to get some vitamin sea 🙂 It’s hard to pick just one village to stop off at so we settled on checking out a few, research for a possible future longer trip I guess! Honestly, the parking situation isn’t great but it’s also not as much of a nightmare as the internet makes out. If you can, forego bringing the car but there are parking spots if you’re patient. Leave space for gelato 😉

Here’s a little photo essay of our afternoon drive-by:

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

That there is vino growing land

That there is vino growing land

Those views

Those views

Corniglia

Corniglia

The colours here - just beautiful

The colours here – just beautiful

Talk about an enticing entrance

Talk about an enticing entrance

Vernazza; flood damage from 2011

Vernazza; flood damage from 2011

Vernazza's streets

Vernazza’s streets

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza's beach

Vernazza’s beach

Fishing time!

Fishing time!

Perfect lunch spot

Perfect lunch spot!

Rome, Italy

We drove from Florence down to Rome, stopping in beautiful Siena and then the Abbey of San Galgano (a gothic roof-less church – great pit stop!) en-route. It’s a nice leisurely drive with stunning scenery if you get off the main roads.

Olive Groves

Olive Groves

Abbey of San Galgano

Abbey of San Galgano

We stayed in a lovely AirBnB just off the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna; it was a wonderful location – walking distance to everything!! We headed straight for cocktails on our first evening in Rome. The Hassler Hotel has a great garden bar called the Palm Court. It was very quiet so we just had some cocktails and played our first game of backgammon. Hooked…

Babingtons Tea Rooms (so English in the middle of Rome) sits right next to the Spanish Steps and is a great (albeit with a saucy price tag) place for afternoon tea or a light lunch. I opted to go all Audrey Hepburn and chose their Vacanze Romane tea…all about those little roses.

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Babington's tea choice

Babington’s tea choice

Babingtons

Babingtons

Just down the street, on Via Condotti, is Antico Caffe Greco, Roma’s oldest cafe – established in 1760. Wowsers! Make like a local and grap a cappuccino in the morning standing at the bar. Apparently it was quite the spot for the literary crowd back in the day. It’s dark, with red walls adorned with art, absolutely worth a look. There’s plenty of shopping around this area. & Other Stories was hit up 😉

Caffe Grecco

Caffe Grecco

We did a lot of meandering around Rome’s streets; taking in many, many gelato spots. We happened upon the Trevvi Fountain on numerous occasions, a nice little treat. It’s jammed packed with people 100% of the time – coins are flying left, right and centre and there are police screaming at tourists not to touch anything. Not a relaxing spot but beautiful all the same.

Trevvi Fountain

Trevvi Fountain

This car needs to be in my life

This car needs to be in my life

We happened upon the Pantheon a few times – it’s absolutely worth a wander in – it’s beautiful (and free). The doors are amazing – they’re bronze and mega #doorsoftheworld. It’s a good stop en-route to La Gelateria Frigidarium. Must visit. We tried a few but I’m a stracciatella lady all the way. Dipped in chocolate. Oh yeah. There’s a stunning square called Piazza Navona just around the corner from here, it’s probably the world’s most beautiful square. The perfect location for a romantic evening stroll (with gelato dripping down your arms)…

Pantheon

Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

Pantheon entrance

Pantheon entrance

Those doors!

Those doors!

You can’t go to Rome and not visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum area. The queues and heat there are INSANE. Pre-book so you don’t have to queue and definitely bring water. Sorted!

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Surprises around every corner

Surprises around every corner

Walking away from the Colosseum we came across a Botero exhibition at Museo Central del Risorgimento, on Piazza Venezia. We first came across Botero in Colombia so we’ve been admirers ever since.

Botero's bronze horse

Botero’s bronze horse

Forgotten Rome

Forgotten Rome…beauty

 

The Vatican

We got up bright and early to go visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel on our last day in Rome. Got there and turns out the Sistine Chapel was closed!! There are a few odd dates in the whole year when it’s closed and pretty typically we picked one of these dates haha. I had seen it on a school tour a while back but it sucks that John didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel. Guess we’ll have to go back!

This way!

This way!

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

Siena, Italy

Well, Siena’s rather pretty!! We only had a couple of hours here as we were travelling to Rome but we got a great vibe and can’t wait to return! We were really lucky with our timing as the whole city was decorated beautifully for the Palio di Siena, a horse-race held twice a year (July and August) with 10 horses racing from the city’s 17 contrade/districts. Each contrade has a unique colourful flag and they’re hung with pride out of the buildings in the city. We were in Siena a few days before the August race and all of the main square, Piazza del Campo, is encircled with a grandstand. There’s lots of restaurants underneath which were open – the heat was ridiculous there so we sat in for a drink in a cafe that had misting machines over the tables – look out for them – my favourite invention EVER!! Siena’s Palio features in James Bond – Quantum of Solace. There’s a great article on the event here.

Arriving in Siena

Arriving in Siena

Siena's contrade

Siena’s contrade

I think this should be my team!

I think this should be my team!

We started our morning at Caffe Fiorella Torrefazione for cappuccinos standing at the bar. How very Italiano of us!! As we meandered around the cobblestoned streets, sidestepping the crowds and visiting little shops. We came across a little deli called Pizzicheria De Miccoli which is an attraction in itself. It’s brimming with charcuterie, cheeses and paninis out the door! The exterior is insta-worthy for sure. It’s worth a trip in for a takeaway panini for a picnic later in the day…unless you’re vegetarian.

Morning!

Morning!

Piazza del Camp

Piazza del Camp

I'll take it all!

I’ll take it all!

Siena has one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen. There’s so much pink!! It’s stunning. The queues start early and there’s no shade so I’d recommend going as early as possible if you want to get inside.

Siena's beautiful Cathedral

Siena’s beautiful Cathedral

Up close

Up close

Getting ready...

Getting ready…

Florence, Italy

Well, I may have a new favourite city. Gosh Florence/Firenze is beautiful! We stayed for a few nights, in a little place called La Scaletta next to the Ponte Vecchio bridge (THE sunset catching spot of Florence). Honestly, we probably wouldn’t have picked this place to stay if we’d bothered to spend ANY time planning our honeymoon but it’s a really quaint spot with a fantastic location. The rooftop view is simply amazing and it was within walking distance of everything we wanted to see.

From the very first second you set eyes upon Florence it’s just art, architecture, colour – SO much to see. Although it’s a compact city, you’ll need to be prepared for walking. Luckily, there are leather sandal shops on every corner!

Olive groves en route to Florence

Ah Florence!!!

Florence’s rooftops

Sunset from the Ponte Vecchio

Hands down Florence’s number one can’t miss (because even if you tried you couldn’t) sight is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. THAT DOME. I must have 1000 pictures of just that. Haha, worth it.

There was a classical concert on our first night in Florence and as we’d just had Canon in D (Johann Pachelbel) as our ‘walking up the aisle song’ (wedding entrance song?) we thought it was a little sign that we should go. It was just over an hour and there was this little girl in front of us (I think probably about 3 years old and learning the violin) who was really into like the first 15 minutes and then kept nodding off – head bobbing to the left and right for the entire concert. So cute. The concert was in the Santo Stefano al Ponte church/auditorium – which was STUNNING. So glad we went.

That dome!

Florence’s Cathedral

Perfection

Last one!

Michelangelo’s David. Go see him! He’s in the Accademia Gallery. Don’t queue. Why do people queue?! You can either pre-purchase your tickets online or you can buy them at 105-107 Via Ricasoli – right across the road from where the queue starts. I think there was a 4 euro difference in ticket price between queuing (for hours, honestly) and just going to the counter on the left hand side of the entrance to the Accademia Libreria. We bought them on a Sunday morning about 9am (as they were all sold out online) and walked straight across the street past the queue. Quick security check and you’re in. There are also guides and touts around the place selling tickets for there are then entry.

David

Kinda want one for each of my necklaces…

So apparently the cafe at the Gucci Museo is worth a visit…we wouldn’t know as it was closed. Sob.

As we were in Italy we thought it was our duty to sample every gelato offering around. Generally in Italia you pay first and then bring your receipt over to the gelato counter and they’ll tear it and serve you. Vivoli was my favourite spot. It was quiet here after dinner one night so we sat in a cosy corner nattering away. We also tried La Strega Nocciola on Via Ricasoli (right behind Eataly) one afternoon. This is a tiny place with the loveliest chap behind the counter. You can try whatever you want here before committing (you can do that everywhere in Australia really but it doesn’t seem to be the done thing in Italy. I guess they’re afraid of wasting gelato!). Grom – John ordered lemon gelato here. I tried it and my cheeks are still wincing. Crikey. Venchi – not sure what’s with the queues coming out of these outlets. It’s like the McDonalds of gelato. Meh.

We adore Eataly and pretty much every time we see one we’ll go in. One afternoon we got some picnic supplies and bought tickets for the Giardino di Boboli/the Boboli Gardens. We had to queue for tickets, maybe for about 20 minutes (7 euro per person) but it was the perfect place for a city picnic – it wasn’t too easy to find a spot to picnic initially…you know when you’re just looking for somewhere that’s just perfection? We found the spot eventually – under the shade of a tree, overlooking the Fountain of Neptune with the city in the background.

There are specialty paper shops called Il Papiro all over Italy, and there was one right next to our hotel where we came across them hand decorating their paper – a technique called peacock feathering! It would be beautiful for wrapping paper. If you fancied spending 20 euro to wrap like an A5 sized book. Ahhem 🙂

Our picture perfect picnic spot

Boboli Gardens

Sculpture in the Boboli Gardens

Those colours

Street market stalls

Street graffiti

Haha

There’s art EVERYWHERE in Florence!