Travel

Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc – Our Fairytale wedding venue in South West France

Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc is located just 35 minutes south of Toulouse in Southwestern France; 3km from the typically French town of Pamiers. The Castle of Riveneuve du Bosc is a 17th-century manor, surrounded by a 2.5 hectare park with old trees and a private swimming pool, accommodating 30 people in 14 bedrooms. Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc, Pamiers France Wedding Venue Hire We hired the chateau for five days early September to host our wedding for immediate family and friends. I didn’t want an extravagant wedding venue but somewhere we could relax in an informal setting, have fun and hold a ceremony.

Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc far exceeded our expectations; an elegant and charming castle where we created truly magical memories. We filmed our guests as they arrived to gasps of amazement and squeals of excitement.

From the sweeping driveway to the large front gates, quintessentially French wooden shutters and the picturesque courtyard, Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc is visually stunning and really quite an impressive wedding venue.

Standing at the front door you can see right through to the swimming pool in the back garden – an entrance way that reminds me of Game of Thrones. The chateau feels lived in and it is this that made it so comfortable for the kids to run around, explore the magnificent grounds and do as they wish. French Shabby Chic Dining Hall Room Interiors Inspiration Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers France Wedding Venue Castle Hire Downstairs there is a small kitchen adjacent to a traditional dining hall filled with candelabras and complete dining sets. To the left of the entrance hall sits the formal sitting room, reminiscent of Downton Abbey. A piano in the corner, books piled high on the walls, ornate detailing, luxurious fabrics and grandeur furnishings made this room fit for a princess. We also used this room for wedding portraits!

The house has three floors with 14 spacious bedrooms, all tastefully decorated and named with the charm of the romantic era. Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers Shabby Chic French Interiors Bedroom Inspiration The floral wallpaper, white mannequin dressed in a pretty lace and the adorable vintage style desk made this my favourite bedroom; the epitome of French shabby chic.Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc South France Wedding Venue Hire We stayed in the stylishly furnished master bedroom, located on the third floor with a view of the front courtyard. It was particularly spacious with a delightful seating area, a wonderful large fireplace, a canopy over the bed and more storage than I needed. Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc South France Pamiers Wedding Venue Hire Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers France Wedding Venue Bath tub bathroom interiors french chic style   Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers France Wedding Venue 150 people Attached to the house is this beautiful cool and airy stone-brick reception hall that we used for our wedding dinner and dancing. It can sit up to 150 people, ideal for a party or wedding celebration, and the doors open out to the front courtyard. Just above the hall is a mezzanine level with a chill out area and extra beds. This was the perfect place for the guys to relax and enjoy a few drinks the evening before our wedding. Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pergola - wedding ceremony option Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers France Wedding Venue A canopy provides a welcome shaded area in the courtyard and this is where we held our ceremony. The chateau is full of hidden rooms where you will find tables, chairs, candle holders, vases, linen and everything that you could possibly need to host a party. Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc Pamiers France Castle Wedding Venue The chateau includes an outdoor swimming pool, BBQ, ping-pong, table football, board games, children’s games, ‘pétanque’ and a library. We made great use of the swimming pool with the children jumping in and out all day.

As we rented the chateau we had to organise and coordinate the whole wedding, from booking a Pastor to the Chef and Photographer and even setting up on the day. We didn’t mind this as I had full control on what vendors to book but for some it could definitely be far too much work, especially with setting up the ceremony and tidying up the following day!

We left Chateau Riveneuve du Bosc with happy hearts – it felt like our ‘wedding’ home with big family feasts at the table, splashing about in the pool and BBQ’s on the lawn. The perfect place to host our wedding.

A little history…

The property was formerly the owner of the Baron d’Ornolac and was extended and decorated by Jules de Lahondès painter, student of Joseph Latour, and historien and archaeologist. Jules de Lahondès painted the murals that decorate the main lounge on his return from a visit to Rome and Venice.

He ordered the sculpture of his coat of arms on the chimney-breast for the mairiage of his son Joseph with the Marquise d’Exea. He also painted his dog Linda in front of the chateau and the hollyhocks from his garden.

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La Ferme de Maurel Review – A peaceful and relaxing chateau in South West France

We stayed at La Ferme de Maurel for three nights prior to our wedding in September and it was simply wonderful. Before we go away I normally research the local area and *over-analyse* reviews but in this instance, I just didn’t have the time, therefore it was a pleasant surprise.

La Ferme de Maurel is situated a 5-10 minute drive from Le Fossat, a village halfway between Toulouse and Foix in the Ariege, part of the Midi-Pyrenees in South West France. A fully-renovated authentic farmhouse dating back to the 18th century forms the main house where the hotel rooms are located and just behind sits the rentable gite.

As we drove through the rolling countryside to the hilltop location, I must admit I was a little hesitant and concerned about the location. It felt quite remote and out of the way which is something we are not used to but what we came to appreciate.

Our room on the first floor was tastefully decorated and the epitome of chic French style. Think rustic furniture and quaint features combined with duck egg, white and grey hues; a boutique-style hotel room in an authentic farmhouse.

I think that there is only around 4 or 5 rooms in the main house and we were the only occupants, which meant I had the pool to myself all day. There is also a rentable gite to the back of the property which can sleep up to 9 and has the added bonus of a kitchen, private outdoor eating area and two bathrooms.

La Ferme de Maural Chateau Review South West France Gite Rental

The pool is kept clean and the grounds well-maintained with the open barn offering a welcome shaded area, perfect for picnics in the late afternoon sun. There is an outdoor kitchen with a fridge and an honest book, which is ideal if you fancy a glass of wine in the evening.

We ventured into Le Fossat for dinner a few nights, which is about a 5-10 minute drive. There is a Carrefoure so you can stock up on essentials and a lovely Vietnamese restaurant open all year, serving food made from fresh produce.

While I was not too conformable with the location at first, within a few hours I fully appreciated the remoteness of the property. It was so peaceful that I really had no option other than to relax. And this is something we all occasionally need. Much to my delight I even managed to read a book in two days, what with the endless hours relaxing in the hammock and on the sun lounger.

La Ferme de Maurel Review Boutique Hotel Chateau Gite Rental Toulouse Foix Pamiers France

What makes this place so special is the personable service from the owners, Ann and Jef, who went out of their way to help us when our hire car wouldn’t start one evening and made us feel welcome and comfortable in what is essentially their family home.

As it is only a 40 minute drive from Toulouse airport, it is the perfect place to stay for a long weekend and at approximately £55 per night for a double room, it is incredibly affordable.

www.lafermedemaurel.fr

Le P’tit Troquet Review – Bistro Restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Foie-grois, duck confit and creme brûlée are just a few of the highlights on the menu at Le P’tit Troquet. If you are looking for a cosy, traditional restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower (10 minutes walk) with authentic French cuisine, then I highly recommend this bistro.

Le P’tit Troquet is a very small bistro restaurant situated on a side street, close to the Eiffel Tower. It is not a restaurant you would walk past and think to go in which is probably worthwhile as you must book a reservation. Quite a few people were turned away while we ate.

Le P'tit Troquet Paris Restaurant near Eiffel Tower

We were seated at a table by the window by a waitress who spoke better English than my French! We went for the 33 Euro menu, which had a good variety of choices for a three course meal.

Le P'tit Troquet Review Romantic Paris Restaurant Bistro near Eiffel Tower

Jon went for the Salmon Tarter with Apple and crispy Fennel as a starter. It was beautifully presented and he loved it. I skipped the starter and settled for a glass of red wine, Sancerre, my fave.

Le P'tit Troquet Romantic Bistro Restaurant near Eiffel Tower Paris

For the main, I went for the Roasted Lamb Shank with Rosemary. It was beautiful. The lamb fell of the bone and the mashed potato was delicious. Whenever we eat mashed potato, Jon and I always remember a dinner we had at a place called KiKi’s in El Gouna, Egypt, in 2005. We still talk about that mash and this one was just as good. I am a fussy mashed potato eater. As you can probably tell!

Le P'tit Troquet Romantic Bistro Restaurant Paris Close to Eiffel Tower

Le P'tit Troquet Romantic Bistro Restaurant Paris Close to Eiffel Tower

For dessert I had the Very Mellow Chocolate Cake with Pistachio Cream Sauce. How amazing does this look? The cake was lovely and the pistachio sauce complemented it perfectly.

Le P'tit Troquet Romantic Bistro Restaurant Paris Close to Eiffel Tower

Jon went for the Pear and Almond Tartlet served with Almond Oil Ice Cream and once again, the presentation was impeccable.

We had a wonderfully romantic dinner at Le P’tit Troquet. The food was incredible yet quite simple and not fussy at all.

Jon proposed that night, so this restaurant holds special memories in my heart. We will certainly return.

French Riviera Sparkle – Cannes and The Carte Isabelle

Our holiday this year was somewhere close to home but full of sparkle; Cannes in the South of France. As one can expect it’s fun and frivolous but not too flamboyant. OTT? Yes, slightly, but that is what makes Cannes so fun.

Cannes in South of France Things to do and see

We loved walking along the Promenade de la Croisette, which is a stretch of road that runs along the coast. At night this area comes alive and is the perfect spot to people watch.

For drinks and dancing we loved the Palais Club – which hosts a lot of the top Ibiza artists from Calvin Harris and 50 Cent to Jason Derulo and DJ Afrojack. It has a pretty cool terrace overlooking the beach where you can have drinks before going into the huge nightclub. I spotted a lamborghini, ferrari and aston martin in the car park so I expected the club to be quite pretentious but it’s a mixed crowd and everyone is there to have a good time.

We also loved to walk through the old town in the evening. There are some lovely restaurants there, perfect for a romantic meal and cocktails.

Unfortunately the beach in Cannes was a disappointment. So, armed with my previous internet research we snapped up a Carte Isabelle (£10 unlimited & 24 hour train ticket to use along the French Riviera up to Northern Italy) and we set off for a day train hopping. Our first stop was Eze.

Eze is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Cannes. It’s an ancient village situated between Nice and Monaco with a very quiet and peaceful beach. This is a place I will definitely go back to in the future.

Monaco Things to do Train fron Cannes South of France

We then stopped off in Monaco, which doesn’t really need a description – it’s simply a millionaires playground. However, it’s definitely worth stopping here and walking around just to see what Monaco is all about.

Roqueerberne cap Martin Carte Isabelle Train from Cannes South of France

My next and favourite stop was Roquebrune Cap Martin. As you can see from the above photo, the beach was absolutely incredible with crystal clear waters, white pebbles and so peaceful. Although it was the middle of August, in high season, it felt like we were the only ones on the beach it was that quiet. We also noticed a little boat sieving the sea water to keep it clean and clear.

As we left the beach I noticed a ‘Grazia Loves’ article proudly pinned to the beach cafe door and I can understand why. Magical.

After a lovely afternoon relaxing on the beach, we jumped back on the train and used our Carte Isabelle pass to go to Ventimiglia in Northern Italy. I wasn’t particularly impressed with this city and we struggled to find somewhere good to eat.

After a very long day in the heat we were tired and hungry and had to settle for a cafe. And they served me microwaved lasagne. In Italy. Yes, really. Suffice to say, we headed back to Cannes ASAP.

I highly recommend the Carte Isabelle train pass as you can visit some absolutely stunning places up and down the French riviera very easily and for only £10.

City Break: Milan – A Fashion Capital

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I visited Milan for a short city break. When going on a city break there are a few things we love to do: eat as much good food as possible, spend a lot of some time shopping and really take in the local culture.

Milan delivered.

Milan Fashion Piazza del Duomo Square

Firstly, I have to mention how stylish this city really is. The men sure know how to dress! From young guys to middle-aged men and older men – they all dressed impeccably.

The fit of Italian suits is just incredible; it was as if the street was a catwalk.

Milan Short City Break

The food, naturally, was delicious.  We ate heaps of lasagne, pasta, pizza and tiramisu. Actually I could quite easily live of the happy hour antipasti buffets.

Milan City Break Food Desserts Sweet Treats

Interestingly, after a night of partying in Milan’s hottest clubs, you can head back to the same spot you were sipping on cocktails the night before, for brunch- yes a ‘happy hour’ version of brunch. In nightclubs. Only in Milan, surely?

Fast Food Milan Italy Short City Break

I also loved seeing the fast food stands in the town centre, which seemed to be healthy sandwiches of various cold meats. Much more appetising than Mc Donalds.

Lake Como Day Train Trip from Milan Short City Break

I had read online that Lake Como is quite close to Milan so we took a 40 minute train and went there for the day. I am so pleased we did. Despite it being quite a horrible rainy and windy day in November, Lake Como was breathtakingly beautiful.

The pretty houses situated on the cliff tops (which although look tiny, I am sure are actually million pound mansions), the lake, the lovely little coffee shops – just heaven.  I truly believe visiting places like this are good for the soul. We got a little lost walking from the station down to the lake so definitely take a taxi.

Once back in Milan to keep my boyfriend entertained we went to the San Siro stadium to watch Inter-Milan play football. He loved it. I kind of liked it. One thing to remember is that as a foreigner, you need either a driving licence or passport as identity to buy tickets at the stadium. Also, once leaving the stadium it is very easily to get lost so I highly recommend you have a map or take a taxi to the nearest metro.

Milan Fashion Short City Break

The majority of our time was spent wandering around the Piazza del Duomo which is the main square right by the famous Duomo (cathedral to you and me). I found some cute little vintage shops and boutiques among the more well-known European stores, which is where I found my new white Winter coat that I’m wearing above!

Duomo Cathedral Milan Square Things to Do and See

We did also visit other touristy haunts like the Castle and the extraordinary Duomo. We paid a small fee to walk up to the top of the Duomo which had some amazing views. However, it was a rainy day and walking on a slippery surface so high up in the sky, was quite scary to say the least.

Overall, Milan was a lovely Winter city break and I highly recommend visiting for a long weekend.

A few tips:
– The metro is really easy to navigate so you don’t necessarily need to stay in the town centre.
– Do try some of the Italian makeup brands in the department stores, I found a few fab pieces!
– Venture out of the city and visit Lake Como, it’s only 40 minutes on the train!
– If you’re into football, go to a game at San Siro as it really is an amazing experience.
– For real authentic Italian food, walk away from the Duomo square as there are some lovely little gems hidden away where the locals eat.

Dubai, the Arabian Delight – Editorial Review

As I am going on holiday next week, I thought I would share a travel review I wrote last year on Dubai…

Dubai is putting its place on the world map as the ultimate dream holiday destination, and it’s easy to see why. Deep within the heart of the Middle East lays an Arabian delight, a stylish blend of Islamic culture, opulence and glamour.

Dubai’s beautiful unspoiled beaches are perfect for lounging and relaxing by the crystal clear waters of the Arabian Gulf. Boasting an array of luxury, top-end resorts, like the famous Burj Al Arab or the  Atlantis to mid-ranged hotels, Dubai has something for all budgets.

In a tax-free environment consumerism is a top attraction to the city, so grab a taxi and head for the Mall of Emirates; you will literally be in shopper’s heaven. The Mall of Emirates takes the term’ shopping’ to a whole new level, from designer boutiques, department stores, restaurants, cinemas, magic planet and the most impressive, largest indoor ski resort in the world, surely this can only be found in Dubai? Mall hop and delight in all the shopping pleasures Dubai has to offer and remember your credit card!

In order to experience the traditional concept of shopping, trawl through the bustling Spice Souk and haggle for bargains at the world famous Gold Souk. While in the Deira area, discover the Dubai Creek courtesy of the comfort of a local abras, a traditional water taxi unique to Dubai. A boat made from wood, the abras transports people from Deira to the other side of the Creek, a perfect way to observe the Creeks charming atmosphere in a romantic setting away from the hustle and bustle of modern Dubai.

After a long day shopping, site-seeing and sunbathing discover Dubai’s fabulous nightlife with a cocktail overlooking the marina or dance the night away in one of the many nightclubs. A must is a visit to the glittering and glamorous Cavalli Club where you really will feel like a celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the beautiful and rich.

If culture is what you are looking for then take a trip to The Dubai Museum and witness how this city has emerged triumphantly and almost proudly from its humble beginnings of a small fishing village into a world wide sensation. Be enveloped in the sheer beauty of the world’s largest mosque, the Grand Mosque. Capture the real Arabian experience with a dessert safari trip of exhilarating sand bashing, a trip to a camel farm, ride a camel before watching the sunset from high dunes. Gently followed by a barbecue dinner served at a Bedouin tent, entertained by the extravagant belly dancers and magicians, this is one evening you will not forget.

Dubai has emerged into a sophisticated growing metropolis with the values, customs and traditions embedded in the heart of the city. Literally a huge –albeit glamorous- building site, Dubai is expanding upwards and outwards but always with the biggest, the best and justifiably the most beautiful avant-garde architectural designs. The magnificent Burj Al Arab sits proudly on its own man made island and being the tallest hotel in the world is a definite attraction along with a visit to the Palm, even if it’s just for a photo opportunity! With a host of other activities from horse riding, water parks, swimming with dolphins, to afternoon tea at the Burj, all tastes are catered for in this city.

Dubai is an out of this world destination you must experience for yourself to fully appreciate and understand, a breathtaking spectacle even for the most seasoned traveller.