Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sometimes I just need to escape my busy life in London, so when I had a visiting cousin recently I took him out to see Hampton Court.
Less than an hour train ride from our apartment, Hampton Court was the home of King Henry VIII, King William II and III and other English royalty. While this was my second visit inside the castle, the spring gardens is where I wanted to explore the most. April is a perfect month to visit to see cherry blossoms, daffodils, pansies, tulips, hyacinths and other spring flowers.
Back in Henry VIII’s time, the renaissance garden was established in the 1530s as a private garden designed to outshine the French Fontainbleau. Then, under King William III (1689-1702), the gardens were designed with “parterres a l’Anglaise” (English-style beds) with intricate patterns cut into the turf and filled with colorful gravel. These are framed with narrow borders displaying topiary, bulbs and annual plants. Using detailed accounts, the Privy Gardens, as they are called, have been restored to their former glory as they were in the 18th century.

“The Privy Garden represents a formal style of gardening which fell out of fashion soon after the garden was originally made. Its geometry is not to everyone’s taste but many find it extremely pleasing to the eye.” Account by Susanne Groom, curator of the Gardens Exhibition.

The gardens are gorgeous! Next time, I’d remember to bring a picnic lunch as plenty of people were enjoying the lovely spring day we had with temperatures nearly 20C degrees in April! That’s short-sleeve weather in England people!

Hope you enjoy this photo post from our spring day out to Hampton Court!
In the 1690s, the sheltered, south-facing pond yards were transformed by Mary II to display her rare and exotic plant collection. This garden became known as the Orange Quarter. Mary displayed her citrus fruit trees here in the summer. In the winter months, the plants were sheltered from the weather in nearby heated glass cases made by the Dutch carpenter Hendrick Floris. The Pond Gardens originally were used to hold freshwater fish for the royal courts.
Horse-drawn charabanc, based on the late 19th- century charabancs that brought visitors to Hampton Court, can be hired for a short (and expensive) ride around the grounds.
The canal, inspired by Versailles and runs 1.6 km long at a 90-degree axis of Henry VIII’s original garden. 
My Traveling Joys

Monday, April 24, 2017

Yes, to quote Audrey Hepburn, Paris is always a good idea!

Last year, I had two utterly delicious trips to Paris. I was even thinking about taking the train from London to go grocery shopping in Paris for the day, but then I started working full-time in the autumn. Now, I barely have time to do laundry, write a blog post or plan any new trips, but we finally do have a few spring trips starting to take shape.

Read on to find out my latest foodie recommendations for Paris.

Foodies at Frenchie’s
One Parisien favorite that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time is Frenchie’s – a popular restaurant for foodies and food critics alike. On my July trip with a girlfriend, we scored a table at Frenchie’s wine bar (Bar a Vins) after queuing up before dinner service. We only ordered a few small plates because we had dinner reservations elsewhere that night. Frenchie’s is worth the hype if you don’t mind waiting. I’d also love to try the main restaurant across the street as it features a foodie-lovers’ tasting menu – all ingredients are locally farmed or sourced.
Fromage and charcuterie
You can never go wrong when there’s cheese, boards of sliced meats and glasses of wine involved. Well, at least that’s my motto! Looking back, I think my girlfriend and I literally had three meals or snacks that involved cheese and wine. Well, we were in Paris after all!

Afternoon “snacks” at Café Richer, 2 Rue Richer, not too far from Gare du Nord. We had two glasses of wine, a burrata entrée and a plate of charcuterie which all cost 32.50 euros.

Late night truffled cheese platter and wine at a cool wine bar called O’Chateau, 68 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in the Les Halles district. Cost 33 euros.
Cheese and wine with a view of the Eiffel Tower to the left and Sacre Couér from our Airbnb flat on another stay.

Foie and More
If you love foie gras, then you must make dinner reservations at Comptoir de la Gastronomie, 34 Rue Montmartre! While the foie gras ravioli sounded appealing, I was still doing a gluten-free diet so avoided those temptations. Instead, we ordered a beautiful tomato and burrata salad, one assiette de foie gras, a planche mixte of cheese and charcuterie, a to-die-for salted caramel mousse for dessert and 1 bottle of Cote du Rhone red wine. All in, our bill was a reasonable 76.50 euros.

Another fun wine bar that we loved was L’avant Comptoir that we both had heard about from travel blogger and Instagrammer extrodinaire – A Taste of Travel. This small bar, located in the Saint Germain district, is adorned with pig memorabilia and the menu cards hang from the ceiling. We popped by in the afternoon for some wine, foie gras and one more small plate. After perhaps too many glasses of rosé and singing along to all the words to “Shoop” by Salt n’ Pepa, we made our grand exit. 
Breton Favorites in Paris
While the reviews are hit or miss for LaPointe de Grouin, 8 Rue de Belzunce, our group of friends had a fun, chill experience here. Named after a rocky northern coast in Brittany, this four-year-old, lively wine bar and restaurant by Chef Thierry Breton is an experience worth having if you’re near Gare du Nord.

What’s different is that you must pay for your dishes and drinks with grouins or coins. The coin system makes it easier for the staff, but perhaps the customer might lose out on a coin or two. Honestly, we didn’t find the payment system a problem. The dishes came out quickly and we had a fun tim here! If you love wine, you can’t miss the wine cave here!
Deliciously Good Duck Confit
While we explored the 11th arrondissement east of the Bastille and the endangered Marché d’Aligre, our stomachs started grumbling again. Using social media, we found a local bistro called Le Chat Bossu and grabbed a table for our group. We either ordered the duck confit or the roasted rabbit lunch special.

The French have the most amazing way of preparing duck by slowly cooking it in rendered duck fat. I mean, how can you resist? I’ve made this dish once or twice at home, but generally, I’d rather leave this dish to the experts. If you ever see duck confit on a menu, do yourself a favor, order it ASAP and enjoy! Oh, and you must have a glass of French red wine to pair with the duck.
Mad for Macarons
No trip to Paris would be complete, at least for me, if I didn’t stop at Pierre Hermé for some freshly-made French macarons. I love the pastry chef’s use of interesting flavor combinations such as lychee, raspberry and rose, but salted caramel will always be one of my favs.
Look at all those delicious desserts too!
As you can tell from this post, I had a difficult time eating my way around Paris. Tough life, but someone has to do it!

My Traveling Joys

Saturday, April 22, 2017

W is for Wrocław's Market Square 

Of all the cities we visited while we lived in Poland, I think that Wrocław is one of the prettiest.

Fortunately, my solo road trip in Lower Silesia in 2015 meant that I got to spend some extra time in Wrocław, which is Poland’s fourth largest city.

Known under dozens of different names as it was passed repeatedly between four countries (there’s a strong German influence here), Wrocław is an architecturally diverse city, which was largely rebuilt after World War II. Ranging from Gothic to Art Nouveau, I can’t resist the marvelously-restored facades of the townhouses surrounding the Market Square. The square is the city’s heart and the maze of cobbled streets, canals, bridges and church spires seem to spin off from here. The market square and the urban grid around it was designed by city planners all the way back in the 13th century.
In the middle of the square, you’ll find a medieval structure known as the Town Hall (Ratusz) which also dates back to the 13th century and (surprisingly) was barely damaged during WWII. There’s a large clock on the front and the interesting architecture makes the building look like it’s been pieced together like a puzzle.

Today, Wrocław can be easily reached from most European destinations and is certainly worth exploring for a few days like I did.

I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “W.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

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My Traveling Joys