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!