The Creative Studio of Visual Story Teller Alejandra Sinclair

I can’t remember how long I’ve been following Alejandra on Instagram but she was definitely one of the first people whose images captured my imagination and after many years of online chat and commenting on each others images, we finally met when Ale came over to my studio one day and captured me at work. We instantly connected over our love of travel, antiques, work, me as an interiors stylist, Alejandra as a visual fashion stylist for a large High Street retailer.

When Ale sent me the images of our day together, I couldn’t believe how perfectly she’d captured me on her camera. I really dislike, ok then hate, having my photograph taken and I never think any of the images look like me somehow. “I know” I can hear you all saying, “that’s what I think too” but to truly capture the essence of someone is a very difficult thing to do and yet she did. To this day it is still my favourite, dare I say only photograph of myself that I’m happy with. She is a rare talent indeed and part of that talent is that I didn’t really even realise she was taking my photograph, so at ease did I feel as we chatted away.

So when she told me excitedly that she had moved to a new studio in a beautiful historic windmill and she wanted me to come and see it, I didn’t need to be asked twice. I knew it would be something special and romantic. Romance and beauty are at the core of Ale’s work and everything she looks for in her inspirations. It is a wonderful building in a lovely part of Lancashire and I wanted to share it and Ale’s work with you.

Originally from Argentina, Alejandra moved to the UK in 2017 after meeting her husband Phil who was in Argentina for work. As well as falling in love with her husband, Ale also fell in love with the UK and the beautiful country side around her new home. Nature has been a constant source of inspiration to her and is the very essence of her work as a photographer.

Having been gifted her first reflex camera whilst still living in Argentina, she took a short course to learn the very basics of how to use it and immediately became obsessed with the medium of photography and how she could express her romantic nature through it’s lens. She further developed and honed her style, influenced by her move to the UK and it’s changing seasons and rural landscapes, so different from her country of birth.

“My curiosity has been a really helpful tool to discover and learn more about photography” she says.

Further inspired by her love of the Dutch masters paintings, who used flowers and nature in their work, Ale has developed a style of photography which is formed in a similar way, using pockets of light and shade and a depth of colour which is both nostalgic and romantic.

Ale’s first small studio was located at Cedar Farm in Mawdesley Lancashire, where she was encouraged to exhibit her work in their gallery space and then in late 2023 she was given the opportunity of her own studio, in an disused part of a windmill, in Parbold Lancashire, which is also home to an art gallery. Bordering the Leeds/Liverpool canal the studio is as romantic as Ale’s work and the perfect space for her to create her story evoking photography and for her to meet and chat with new clients.

“The first time I saw the windmill, I knew it was the perfect place for me without even seeing the inside” says Ale. “I fell completely in love with the history of the building, the period windows and the surrounding bucolic views. What I love most about my studio is the light, everything starts from there and the seasons I see unfolding are always at the heart of the story I’m telling with my camera. The surroundings through the window of my studio and the inspiration I get from them are endless.”

The windmill was built in 1794, 20 years after the canal was first opened and was originally part of the flour industry in the area. Built from local sandstone and 5 storey’s tall, Ale’s studio is housed on the ground floor with sweeping views of the canal, which she likes to call her little Venice, and the perfect place to watch the changing seasons which inspire her styling.

The interior has been painted white to maximise the light and the deep window recess holds all the incidental props Ale needs to hand, with mother nature providing the rest.

“The props used are antique or vintage treasures sourced from charity shops, flea markets or online dealers. I love elements that have a story behind them and I am particularly drawn to objects that have texture and irregularities created from time passing and continued use over many years” The majority of the props Ale uses are flora or fauna, seashells and feathers gathered from her walks. “I always find something wherever I go.” She says.

To add further texture and interest to Ale’s shots, simple fabric backdrops are hung from a pole across a trestle table on which her expressive creations come to life. 

Since moving to the UK Ale has become a mother to her son Benjamin and although she works part time in retail her photography work has been gathering pace and she has a portfolio of both wedding and portrait photography, is awaiting the publication of a book she has been commissioned to take the images for and has held exhibitions and sold prints of her work to private customers.

As nature and flowers are such a huge inspiration Ale has worked on creating a photography and floral styling workshop with her friend Annabel of The Contented Mole which has informed Ale’s current exhibition at Cedar Farm, a series of framed pressed flowers layered on ephemera, combining all of her greatest passions, nature, beauty and nostalgia.

Memories of life growing up on a ranch in Argentina and the people she was surrounded by there who she holds dear, together with the new landscape of her adoptive country are woven throughout Alejandra’s evocative and expressive work.

You can see more of Alejandra’s work and contact her for commissions through her website below or via dm on her instagram

All above images are by Alejandra Sinclair.

 

Visiting malaga & Granada – Where to visit, Eat & Sleep

Last year we spent a week in Malaga and took a 48 hour road trip to Granada. I don’t know why it’s took me so long to write a blog post about our trip, as it was fantastic in every way and I can’t recommend the city of Malaga enough for a holiday. It has everything that, I personally, could certainly want from a city. A few friends who are visiting this year have asked for my recommendations and so this pushed me to write this post for them and anybody else that might be thinking of visiting this Andalusian city.

Malaga has a beautiful old city centre full of wonderful architecture, lots of museums and galleries, great and affordable food and a beach for that all important RnR.

This blog post will mainly focus on Malaga, as we only stayed overnight in Granada. But we did have a walk around the city, albeit in 42 degree heat, we visited the Alhambra Palace and we ate in a fantastic authentic established tapas bar, so I’ll share all that here with you too. Granada is easily accessed by public transport from Malaga and takes approx 2 hours. We took the bus which skirts the Sierra Nevada area of spain and so is a lovely scenic journey. You can also get the train and of course hire a car. The bus’s and trains are a couple of times a day and booking your tickets ahead of your trip is advisible and I’ll add a link below to how we booked ours.

Alsa bus’s run from malaga to Granada.

Stay.

So first things first where to stay in Malaga? I can’t recommend our hotel enough. H10 Croma Malaga was built in 2022, so everything was brand new & very stylish. Our bed in our room was the hugest bed I’ve ever slept in and so comfortable. The walk in shower and bathroom were beautifully designed and the balcony overlooking the city was a lovely place to sit after a day sight seeing, before going out for dinner. There was the added extra of a pool on the roof, which was small but adequate and just a lovely area to sit for an hour or two, have some lunch, or a drink, and relax. The only down side was that we were there in July, so the busy season, and there were only 10 sun longers for sunbathing, which we were never lucky enough to grab in time. In the evening there was often a DJ set and it was so nice to come back in after dinner in the city and relax on the roof with a drink and listen to some music. The breakfast was also fantastic. Around £20 per person but as much as you wanted to eat, all very well cooked and lots of choice.

The Tiled shaded balcony in a our room, with views over the city.

Walk.

The historic city centre is stunning. Plaza de la Constitution is surrounded by large colonial type old buildings, with weathered wooden shutters opening onto a large square,flanked by palm trees. Off this square run many charming pedestrian roads full of tapas bars and shops. You can spend hours wandering these streets.

You’ll find Malaga Cathedral or Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga as it’s correctly known,in this historic area. I can’t show you in my photographs how huge and ostentatiously decorated it is. You will have to see it for yourself but it is magnificent.

Playa La Malagueta beach is a short walk from the historic centre and although it’s not the prettiest beach I’ve been to, it is worth a visit. Hire a sun lounger and umbrella for around 10 euros a day and watch the locals, drink some sangria and have lunch or dinner in one of the many Chiringuito’s lining the beach. I’ll recommend a couple under the eating section which specialise in seafood and sardines cooked on a lartge charcoal BBQ.

Image via Agoda.com

On the walk from the centre of the city to the beach, you’ll approach the port of Malaga. This is a pleasant place to walk as it’s been covered with a concrete canopy which is both necessary to shade you from the sun but also lovely to look at. Along the promenade there are many places to stop and eat and as you get nearer to the beach, there is a stage erected where there’ll often be bands playing live music and a permanant market selling crafts and clothes. There are also a selection of more modern type restaurants such as a branch of The Hard Rock cafe.

If you want to see some ancient history there are some roman ruins in Malaga. The Teatro Romano de Malaga are small but worth a look and the area around it has been paved and pedestrianised and you’ll find lots of upmarket restaurants and bars around here, including El Pimpi a famous restaurant now owned by actor Antonio Banderas who was born in Malaga.

Visit.

As Malaga is the birth place of Picasso, there are quite a few art galleries in the city.

As you might expect, there is a gallery dedicated entirely to the work Malaga’s most famous son.https://www.museopicassomalaga.org/en

You can also visit the birthplace of Picasso and his home which is on 3 floors and houses some of his early works and that of his fathers and ceramics, with a research library on the third floor.

As it would have been Picasso’s 100 year birthday in 2023 and there were lots of smaller exhibitions of his work in the city. We visited one at the bullring near to Malagueta beach.The photography exhibition consisted of Picasso and his friends, various wives and lovers at the bullring which opened in 1876 and which he frequented regularly. Many of his works feature bulls. Surprisingly, the bull ring is still open and active & If you are interested in the culture of bull fighting and matadors, there is a permanent exhibtion dedicated to this at La Malagueta Bullring, which was dedicated a historic artistic site in 1976. It’s definitely not something I’m interested in or condone although the photography exhibition was excellent.

The Carmen Thyssenn Museum features a permanent collection of historic art housed in a beautiful renaissance 16th Century building. There are a series of regular changing exhibitions of more modern art. Recent exhibitons at the time of writing include Man Ray photography and emerging modern art in Spain before the civil war in 1936.

If modern art is your thing, there is a small Pompidou centre down by the port of Malaga. This summer’s exhibition is Breton and surrealism.

After all that sight seeing, culture and food, you might just need to relax? Book yourself into The Hammam Al Ándalus. These hammam baths are built on the site of an ancient 16th Century Roman baths and for 1.5 hours you can emerse yourself into the waters and have a deep or relaxing massage. Booking ahead during the busy summer season is advisable.

Shop.

The shops around the historic centre are a mix of traditional and modern. You’ll find shops dedicated to just hats, amazing food shops where you can choose the finest Iberico hams, or some very cool clothes & shoe shops. One of my favourite brands sold in independant shops in the UK is Paloma Nice Things but as it’s a Spanish label, there is a store in Malaga and it’s much cheaper to buy there than in the UK. We also visited Mosaico vintage shop and found a few bargains. there are several other vintage clothes shops if that’s your thing. Peninsula and Flamingo Vintage Kilo are two more and there are department stores and shopping centres further from the centre. As an antique dealer, I also try and find the local antique shops. Malaga has a couple but the best one,Antigüedades Los Remedios, was closed on my visit, even though it was supposed to be open, so I think opening hours are a bit hit and miss with the dealers here?

Eat.

I can honestly say we never ate a bad meal in Malaga. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Tapas particularly as competition is so fierce, they are all excellent and so reasonably priced. But some of the best meals we ate are below. Booking is highly recommended as these are very popular with locals and visitors to the city.

El Pimpi is currently owned by actor Antonio Banderas although is a very old establishment. Serving traditional tapas with some very unusual dishes which I’ve never tried before, the restaurant is large and bustling. There is a large terrace for alfresco dining at the front and diners who haven’t pre booked can queue at the front of the restaurant and wait for a table. We had to do this as we hadn’t pre booked and we got a table quite quickly inside as there were only 2 of us.

El mason de crevantes is very unassuming from the outside but this very popular local restaurant is much bigger inside than expected and the food is amazing. defintely the best we had in the week we were there, which is a huge statement as everything we ate was good. More expensive than most other restaurants, around £100 for two, but worth it.

Casa Lola has 3 establishments very close to each other in Malaga. Always busy, very hard to get into unless pre booked but great and very reasonably priced food.

If you can’t book any of these restaurants, just walk around the historic centre and choose any of the busy tapas restaurants and you will be very happy with what you get served.

Mercado Central de Atarazanas is the food market on the outskirts of the old town, very close to the hotel we were staying in. If you aim to get there around 11.00am you’ll be just in time for lunch to start being cooked by the various stall holders. Grab a seat outside and order freshly cooked seafood with a beer or sangria or the huevos rancheros which I ordered one day and was delicious. You can literally eat here for around 10-15 euros each with drinks!

chiringuitos are beach side restaurants and there are lots of them in Malaga. One of the best on Malagueta beach is El Tintero where the waiters walk around with large trays of ready cooked food and you just put up your hand if you fancy the look of the dish. The dishes you’ve had are then written on the paper table cloth and that’s your bill to pay at the end of your meal! Simple and delicious.

For other popular chiringuitos in Malaga I’ve added a link below.

Granada

Granada is a beautiful city, only 2 hours on public transport from Malaga. We got the bus from Malaga central bus depot and booked it in advance through Alsa.

We booked a hotel very close to The Alhambra palace as we were only staying for one night, with the sole purpose of our trip to visit the palace. We stayed at Hotel casa Morisca. Hotels in Granada are very cheap compared to other cities and this was around £80 for the night for two of us. It was an old thick stone walled building, keeping it naturally cool, very traditional with an inner courtyard and surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars in the old quarter. The bus stop up to The Alhambra was a short walk in the morning and they run regularly up and down the hill to the palace.

When we arrived in Granada it was July and Spain was in the grip of a heat wave. So the 42 degree temperatures really stopped us exploring the city as much as we’d have liked to. We dropped our bags at the hotel, went into the city centre to get some lunch and then took the bus up to The Alhambra Palace.

The Palace is stunning and everything I imagined it would be, but due to the intense heat we didn’t really explore the gardens as much as I would have liked to. A word of warning if you’re visiting, security is intense! You have to take your passport and we must have been asked 7 times by security if they could look at it. You are allocated a time slot for your visit when you book and pre booking is essential, and if you’re late for your slot, you are refused entry. I know this as the group in front of us in the queue to go through the final security check were refused entry and left in tears. Be warned!

You can pre book your tickets for entry here

The view of Granada from The Alhambra Palace.

Saying all of that, it is the most stunning building with views over Granada and beyond and the cratsmanship in the detailed carving of the stone, which is the full script of the Quran, has to be seen to be believed.

After our visit to The Alhambra we changed for dinner and then went to one of the oldest tapas bars in Granada,Bodegas Castaneda, recommended by a friend. Out of season,when she was there, you’re given free tapas for every drink you have, if you stand at the bar. Obviously as we were there in July we couldn’t do that as it was packed to the gills, but we managed to get a table and ordered the mixed platter of tapas and with 3 drinks each, still only paid 45 euros! Highly recommended, full of atmosphere and fantastic food.

Our plan was to spend the rest of the second day in Granada exploring the city but as it was so hot we changed our plans and got the early 10.00am bus back to Malaga where it was slightly cooler due to it being by the coast. The roof top pool was never more welcome when we returned back to our hotel.

Image via H10 Croma Malaga

If you’re staying in Granada I would recommend taking in a Flamenco show in the evening. In the old part of the city you’ll find lots of booking offices for the shows. Granada is the home of Flamenco and is a serious art there. There is even a museum dedicated to it and the lifestyle of the gypsies that created it. https://sacromontegranada.com

I’d also recommend a visit to an amazing perfume shop we visited which was on the road leading to our hotel in the historic part of the city. This historic renaissance 16th Century palace is now home to a perfume distillery, patio de los Perfumes, where you can buy off the shelf blended scents or have your own created. You can also buy incense and oils to burn and really good facial oils. It’s a beautiful environment to shop and the scents are stunning. We are still burning the heady incense sticks and myrrh we bought there.

Image via patio de los Perfumes

So in a nutshell Malaga is a city I’ll definitely be revisiting. there is much to offer, it’s a short flight from the UK, prices are still very reasonable compared to many other European cities and there is a beach for an added mix of relaxation in with sight seeing.

Cloakroom Design – Why The Smallest Room In The Home Can Still Be Full of Personality

When we bought our house 25 years ago, it was two rental flats and in a sorry state. We had, what we thought at the time, a healthy budget, but that was soon swallowed up by the basics of putting two flats back into a family home.

We prioritised the rooms that we would use the most, such as the childrens bedrooms, the lounge and the kitchen and slowly over the years, the rest of the house was given our attention as funds became available. The seperate toilet upstairs, next to the bathroom was always just an after thought though. It was decorated and given a newly tiled floor, but it was just for hygiene and functionality. With two small children there seemed little point, doing much else to it. To add personality we covered the painted walls with framed prints and posters and at one time we added a glittery toilet seat!! I know don’t judge, it was the early noughties and we were young!

Anyway jumping a few decades ahead, the children were grown and one had fled the nest and suddenly this sad little room didn’t seem to match the rest of our home, which we’d gradually been filling with all the things we’d always wanted but couldn’t previously afford, and it was time to give it some love. Also my instagram feed had been showing me so many lovely decorated cloakrooms, that I was inspired. I also spend a lot of my time designing bathrooms and cloakrooms for a high end tap brand and yet our own toilet at home was letting our whole house down so it was time I put my design skills to use in our own home.

Some of my designs for the client 

The first thing I knew I wanted was a chequerboard tiled floor. However, as I was seeing so many of them on instagram, I was concerned that this was the pattern du jour & would suddenly look dated and the last thing that anybody wants to do when they’ve tiled a floor, with a toilet plumbed in, sitting on top of said tiled floor, is change those tiles any time soon. I ruminated and pondered but kept coming back to this design and then in the summer my friend sent me a photograph of a beautiful classic hotel she was staying at in Remy in France and they had the exact same floor in the colours I wanted, in their hallway. Decision made. This was a classic design and my instincts were to go with it.

The hotel image my friend sent me in Remy

Once my mind was made up I started sourcing tiles in the colours of my choice, which were a rusty brick colour and an off white. There are many tile companies that offer this colour combination in encaustic tiles with their lovely soft chalky finish, but what I came to realise was that the standard size for these tiles is 20cm square and with a smallish room, this isn’t ideal as the chequerboard pattern becomes lost, as you obviously can’t fit that many tiles across the small width of the room. I needed around 10cm square for my floor and although some of my sourced tile companies offered a bespoke service for smaller tiles, this came at a huge cost and I’m talking £2,000 for one quote or a very long lead time of 3-4 months.

In the end I used quarry tiles, which are both suitable for floors, are anti slip as they aren’t glazed and came in the colours of my choice. They are as a side note, extremely cheap and the whole floor which was around 2.5 metres square cost £135.

I’ve since discovered a company called The Baked Tile Company, which I found whilst sourcing tiles for a client project. They have a lovely selection of matt unglazed tiles, suitable for walls or floors in 15cm square sizes, which would have been another option.

The other consideration whilst designing a cloakroom or seperate toilet area, is practicality and hygiene. It has to be easy to clean and maintain. So with this in mind I opted for MDF panelling in a wide Georgian style to replicate the architectural details of our Victorian house. The English Panelling Company make their panelling in a range of widths and also in green MDF, which is water resistant and suitable for rooms such as bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. The panels are routed to form the tongue and groove appearance and easily slot together and glue to the wall. They also provide a dado rail within their products, which is a suitable size for any of their panels. They were so easy to fit and went up in very little time.

I knew I wanted to use wallpaper and because we only needed half the amount to go above the panelling, it meant we could afford to use a more expensive design than if we were papering a whole room. I also knew I wanted to hang some of our artwork on the walls, so chose a small print design to enable us to showcase the art without the wallpaper fighting with it. The Cypress wallpaper design in Cocoa from Howe at 36 Bourne Street was the perfect colour to go with the tiles and the delicate paisley print wallpaper, printed in Leicestershire in the UK, was small enough for what I wanted, whilst still creating interest within the small room.

When it came to choosing a toilet, I knew I wanted a traditional design but with a close coupled cistern as the toilet is under the window, so this was the only design that would work. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent hours googling close coupled toilets but there is a staggering amount, almost all of them in fact, which have this awful (well to me awful) wide plastic slide that connects the cistern to the toilet. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I found the Victrion close coupled WC by BC Designs. It’s a small detail I know and I do realise as I’m typing this that I sound like a toilet snob and it’s probably not important to a lot of people, but to me it made all the difference. The toilet fits seamlessly close with the cistern, making it more visually attractive and easier to keep clean, it’s also pleasingly traditional in design with a choice of black or white seat and a choice of metal lever fittings. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but the smallest details like this make me very happy. As we know the devil is in the detail.

So finally to finish off this smallest room in the house, I made a roman blind with a small gingham black and white fabric, to harmonise with the black toilet seat and we kept our existing wicker pendant light, to add some texture to an otherwise untextural room. At some point an antique basket will be added to house the toilet rolls on the floor. I’ve got my eye on a Japanese antique basket next time I go sourcing for antiques for my online store.

The smallest thing which I think added the biggest design detail was using a scallop trim around the window frame. This was from Camilla Hampton who makes various MDF trim designs, in different widths. It’s a small detail but just makes the existing window frame, was was added in the 1970’s when the house was turned into flats, less austere and just quite pretty. A relatively cheap additon that made all the difference.

Existing art work was hung on the walls and some new prints from Ali Heath and Musee Home in frames from Glassette.

It’s exactly what I wanted and what I visualised. It feels warm and cosy, but clean and easy to maintain. The genius part of the whole reno which I claim was intentional but was actually just a happy accident, was moving the radiator from it’s original position by the door to the alcove next to the toilet. The toilet roll holder just above the radiator provides heated toilet paper, which is just the biggest luxury you can imagine. Forget leather heated seats in fancy expensive cars! This is the future of design! 🙂

If you want any of the details of the materials and products used in our toilet reno, I’ve attached my original mood board below with links to all the products.

8 Things to Do, See & Visit on a trip to Paris

I’d visited Paris a couple of times before last year but they have always been quite fleeting visits for a few days. However in 2022, my daughter secured an internship in Paris as part of her University studies. She was staying for 3 weeks assisting a very good fashion photographer and of course, it was only right as my duty as her mother, to go and settle her in to her apartment, this being her first trip to the city 🙂

We found her apartment through Air BNB, in a lovely suburb of Paris called Saint Mande, which made the 3 week booking slightly more economical than staying in the centre and it was well linked to the city, by the metro, to the studio where she would be working.

I’ve been asked a few times since my visit, for recommendations for places to eat, shop & stay in Paris and as I was there last year, for 9 days, I covered a lot of ground on my own, whilst Amber was busy working. So here are my 8 things that I think you might enjoy doing whilst in Paris. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list and it’s only what I enjoyed doing whilst I was there, but I guessed some of them might be useful?  I was there last March 2022 so if any of the places I recommend are no longer there I apologise, but I’m sure many of them will be.

Amber going to work in her typically Parisian studio

1.Stay

As I’ve said, I booked an Air bnb for Amber in a less central location due to the cost of staying for 3 weeks. Paris is, as you all know, expensive, but staying slightly out of the centre reduced the costs slightly. Saint Mande, the area where Amber stayed is a middle class residential suburb of Paris. There are plenty of restaurants & bars, a weekly brocante market and a metro station with around a 20 minute commute into Republique in the centre where Amber’s studio was located. Another similar area, and the next stop from Saint Mande, from the centre of Paris, is Vincennes which is another lovely small old town, safe & clean & perfect for a longer stay in Paris. Both these options are worth looking at on air bnb and there are plenty of choices.

In previous years I’ve also used a company called One Fine Stay who offer more luxury self catering accomodation.

Our apartment in Le Marais that we booked through One Fine Stay a few years ago

If you are looking to stay in a hotel, there are of course hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from. Some of my favourites are:

The Hoxton

I’ve not stayed at the Hoxton in Paris, but I have eaten there and I have stayed at their hotels in London & Amsterdam, so I know the standard they provide and it’s exceptionally good, whilst also being very cool. The food at the Hoxton is very traditional French bistro fayre, such as Croque Monsiour and esgarcots but there is also the usual Hoxton offerings of burger and steak. The building itself is grand & imposing when you enter and it’s in the 2nd Arrondisoment which is very central.

The Hoxton Paris

Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

For those of you that want to feel as though you have been transported back to the 18th Century and stay in the oldest part of Paris, Le Marias, then this is the hotel for you. It has the ambiance of a private house and and the rooms are decorated in the classical French style of the period with beautiful crystal chandeliers and antique furniture.

Photo credit Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

La Pigalle

For something completely different, modern, quirky and a little decadent, then locate yourself in South Pigalle or SoPi as the area has been renamed by the hipsters. A 5 minute walk from the Moulins Rouge and the red light area, this arrondissement of the city has been gentrified over the last few years and is now the place for great bars, food and live entertainment. The hotel has a restaurant open for breakfast until the early hours and a DJ set every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night from 10.00pm, as well as regular pop up events. Check their website for details. The area of SoPi is also home to a popular cocktail bar called Dirty Dick, it used to be a hostess bar and they kept the name. This gives you more of a description of the area as it was than any words I can say 🙂

Photo credit Hotel La Pigalle

2. Walk

Montmartre

My advice to anyone who only has a very short stay in Paris, maybe only one day, but wants to get a flavour for the city in a very traditional Parisian way, is go to Montmartre. Yes it’s touristy and yes it’s a bit of a pastiche of how Paris was, but to me it still feels authentically Parisian. Start at the bottom of the steps of the Sacre Couer, avoiding the tat tourist shops before you ascend the steps. Once you get to the top, there is a little park to the left where you can sit and gaze at the spectacular view of the city roof tops, without getting embroiled in the hoardes of tourists in front of the Sacre Coeur. As you walk around the back of the Sacre Couer you’ll eventually find yourself in the heart of Montmartre, the area made famous by the artists that flocked to the city. The main square is surrounded by typical French restaurants, but they are all mainly very good and some unchanged since the 35 years ago that I first visited. You can easily spend the best part of a day wandering up and down the steps, in and around the myriad of streets that surround the area, shopping for antiques, stopping for a galette or a coffee. It is still, to me, quite a magical place and there are surprisingly some very good antique shops there, that aren’t ridiculously expensive.

One of the typically Parisian restaurants in Montmartre

Le Marais

Le Marais is one of the oldest areas in Paris but fell into disrepair after the French Revolution. The area is now extremely fashionable and known for it’s designer shops, art galleries, such as The Picasso Museum and great restaurants and bars. It was once the cities Jewish Quarter and although Rue Des Rosiers is no longer lined with Jewish bakeries and Kosher butchers, you can still find some great Jewish food such as Miznon who serve delicious kebabs, chicken salads and dips from the Middle East. I ate there with my daughter for Just 35 euros for the two of us. Walking around Le Marias and the Place des Vosges, where the author Victor Hugo lived, who famously penned Les Miserables, you’ll get a real sense of history and the events that led to the French Revolution. If you’re lucky enough to be in Place des Vosges on a Sunday, you can wander the farmers and antique market stalls that surround the square and if the weather is good enough, buy some cheese and bread from one of the market stalls and sit on the grass and people watch, as the Parisians themselves do.

A boutique in Le Marais

One of the well known bars in Le Marais

Place Des Vosges on a Sunday photo Credit Tripsavvy.com

Canal Saint Martin

This area is Paris off the beaten track. The canal links to the Seine & is lovely to walk along with it’s series of bridges. It’s an area that’s attracted a lot of young Parisians to live there as the rents are cheaper, which has made it an emerging area for some cool shops, bars & restaurants and it feels much less touristy than other areas of the city. It’s another good area to stay as it’s safe and less expensive than the city centre.

3.See

Paris is full of green space and there are many beautiful gardens to explore or just sit and take in your surroundings. One of my favourites is Jardin Du Luxembourg which is known for it’s spectacular lawns and tree lined promenades. there is also a lake and glass house and it’s just a beautiful park, to take a macaron and coffee and watch the world go by. It’s also a short walk to Saint Germain Des Press where you can explore the many specialist antiquarian book shops and purchase that afore mentioned macaron, as it’s also, in this area where there is a branch of Laduree the famous French macarons.

Although Paris has some beautiful parks to explore, there is also a version of the New York Skyline which you can walk along. The Promenade Plantee is raised just 10 metres above street level & gives a lovely panoramic view of the city as you walk from Bastille where it starts, to Bois De Vincennes. There are various viewing points and seating areas, amongst the lush planting. It opened in 1993, so is well established and a perfect stroll through parts of the city on a different level.

As obvious and touristy as it sounds, I would definitely say if you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower then go and see it. It’s quite imposing as you approach it and see it towering above the other buildings in the distance. If you view it after nightfall, so much the better, as it’s lit up and twinkles like a huge diamond. Some of the best areas to see it from are Rue de L’Universitie a residential Street that ends at Champs de Mars. Also you can visit the Museum of Architecture & Patrimoine and get a great view of the tower from inside the building. It’s open some evenings after sunset for that all important twinkling view and they have a restaurant with a viewing platform, which you can book called Giraffe, although it is 4 star and expensive. Also the view from Place Du Trocadero is good as it’s directly across the river from the tower.

4. Visit

Musee D’Orsay

There are many wonderful art galleries & Museums in Paris & I will mention some of my favourites here, but if you love impressionist style paintings by the great French masters such as Monet, Renoir, Pissaro & Cezanne, there is only one gallery you need to visit & it’s Musee D’orsay. The grand entrance confirms that this was once a train station built in the Beaux arts period between 1898-1900 and the displays of French art are vast. You’ll find yourself here for a few hours at least, so if you have time, try and dedicate a morning or afternoon to it. 

The main gallery Musee D’Orsay

A Degas hung in Musee D’Orsay

Shakespeare & Company Book shop

One of the oldest English book shops in Paris, opened in 1951 and quickly becoming a centre for ex pat life in the city. Some literary greats such as Ginsberg and Anais Nin were frequent visitors to the shop and in recent years a cafe has been added serving their own blend of coffee and anglo inspired vegan and vegetarian food. Located just opposite Notre dame and on the edge of the Latin Quarter, it’s a perfect place to start or end your walk around this lovely quarter of Paris.

Shakespeare & Company

 

Musee Yves Saint Laurent

If you are a lover of fashion, then I would highly recommend a visit to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent. Housed in the former designers Atelier, the museum exhibits include original toiles of the designs from over the decades, sketches and polaroids of the models, a selection of the finished garments and accessories & finally Monsieur Laurents studio in which you can see his desk and work space where he created all the magic. 

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Picasso Museum

This large & beautiful historic building, located in Le Marais pays homage to the great artist and his many years spent living in Paris. At the time of my visit, there was also an exhibition dedicated to the collection by designer Yves Saint Laurent which was inspired by Picasso’s work. The views of the city from this beautiful museum are also pretty special. Also worth noting, if you are in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, all museums, such as The Picasso, Musee D’Orsay and The Louvre are free to enter.

Picasso Museum Paris

5. Shop

Merci

One of the most well known European concept stores for a reason. This beautiful store with it’s collections of,hard to find, and often exclusive brands, is one of the most impressively visually merchandised srtores I’ve visited anywhere. As well as clothes, homewares, books and cosmetics, there is also a lovely cafe for lunch or just a drink, which has been designed like a library in which you’re free to read any of the books on the shelves during your stay. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the iconic red Fiat 500 parked in the courtyard outside.

The cafe in Merci

 

Puces De Paris Saint Ouen Flea Market

There are many flea & brocante markets dotted all over Paris but the biggest & the best, probably in the whole of Europe, is at Saint Ouen. It’s a permanent fixture with many expensive shops as well as smaller, cheaper stalls and is open Saturday, Sunday & Monday.You will literally find anything & everything here and there are plenty of bars, cafes & restaurants within the antiques village for regular pit stops & people watching. A word of warning, the area isn’t the best in Paris so when you walk from the metro to the market, be vigilant and don’t take too much cash, valuables, such as expensive cameras or your passport. Look confident and you’ll be ok, just be aware.

Image of Saint Ouen Flea Market https://uk.hotels.com

Kilo Vintage Clothes Store

There are some fantastic vintage clothes stores In Paris, many in Le Marais where you have to ring a door bell and wait to enter. One of the best that we shopped at was Kiloshop.com. As it says on the tin, your clothes are paid for by weight and are also often priced according to quality and condition, but they are still very cheap and this store had an area at the back of the shop, which had been curated in the seasons colours and trending styles, to make your selection even easier.

https://www.kilo-shop.com/en/

 

Samaritaine

Paris, like any major European city, has many department stores. From Galerie Lafayette, Printemps to Le Bon Marche, I’ve visited them all but, by far the best, for me, is the newly restored Samaritaine. It’s got all the more unusual, harder to find, never heard of before, brands of clothes, make up & perfume. It’s reasonably compact compared to the others and is therefore less over whelming if you’re short on time.

Samaritaine

6.Eat 

There are so many great places to eat in Paris and of course often the best way to find somewhere cool is just by walking past and stumbling across it, but post Covid, it’s always often worth booking somewhere you particularly want to eat, as walk in’s are sometimes more problematic than pre Covid times? My last visit to Paris was also over a year ago & places that were then the place du jour change all the time in cities so there may be better options. I always look at Time Out guide before a trip to check where they are suggesting. At the time of my visit these are places I ate or would suggest.

Les Enfants Du Marche

This food market is located in Le Marais & as I’ve said one of the most historic areas in Paris. I’ve eaten here twice before and it’s always great. It’s a typical food market, with a selection of different cultural cuisines, but many are North African,as this area is where many of the early immigrants to Paris settled. There are many other fantastic North African restaurants in Le Marais. A lot of the food vendors don’t provide seating, so you will see people standing to eat or drink, but there are communal tables around the perimeter of the market. It’s open every day, except Monday and most days until 10.30pm.

Les Enfants Du Marche Image credit Wikipedia

Pink mamma 

It’s just pizza and there are lots of restaurants by the Big Mamma group in Paris, but this is the one that is the most instagram worthy and therefore the one that unless you book ahead, you probably won’t get into. Guess what I didn’t book ahead and we couldn’t get a reservation on the evening we were in South Pigalle, but in all honesty, there are some fantastic restaurants in the area since it’s been gentrified and we had one of our best there, 3 courses, for 2 of us, €80.

Image Credit Pink Mamma

Derriere

If you want an experience like no other ,then I would recommend Derriere, in Le Marais. The food is pretty good, but it’s the decor, ambience & atmosphere that draws people here. I ate here in 2014, when I went to celebrate my 50th birthday & if you want to know more about what makes this venue so different, you can read my blog from that time here. The restaurant is located in a run down small chateau style house with a courtyard garden and was created by the guys behind London’s Sketch restaurant and Momo. Even if your meal doesn’t blow you away, the atmosphere and sense of decadence & bohemia will.

 Derriere Image credit Office du Tourisme

Any Bakers in Paris

Part of the thrill of self catering in Paris, is queing for your freshly baked bread, baguette or croissants in the morning. However even if you’re staying in a hotel, a trip to any bakers in Paris, for a slice of quiche or a cake is a must.  From macaron, to chocolat eclairs, everything is delicious and a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. 

7.Ride

When you arrive in Paris, you might be tempted to take a taxi to your apartment or hotel, but I wouldn’t. They are both slow & expensive and many of the roads in Paris have the same names but in different arrondissements, as we found out to our surprise after being dropped off at the wrong apartment. We then had to walk another 25 minutes in the dark, through a red light area, truly a terrible experience, without going into too much detail, before we found our actual apartment.

Instead buy a ticket for the metro from the airport, for the amount of days you will be staying in the city and you’ll find the public transport, clean, fast & efficient. When you arrive at CDG airport the RER B train will take you into Paris Gare Du Nord station where you can then trasfer to the metro to your destination.

Taking a river cruise along the seine in the evening, is the best way to see the cities landmarks such as The eiffel tower lit up. It’s quite a magical experience. There are many options for cruises, some including dinner and they get busy at weekends, so booking in advance of your trip is recommended.

8. Watch

For a small traditional cabaret club, try Lapin Agile in Montmartre. This historic venue is largely unchanged since the 1800’s when it was frequented by the Demi-monde of Parisian society. Later struggling artists such as Picasso were the clientele, where they gathered to discuss art. Book in advance to hear classic French songs sung by the chanteuse of the day.

Lapin Agile Photo Credit Montmartre Addict

Madame Arthur

There are many cabaret and burlesque clubs in Paris, most famous, The Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse. However they are expensive. For something just as traditional to Paris but much cheaper, there is Madame Arthurs. First opened in 1946, it is the oldest transformist cabaret in Paris.It closed in 2010 but reopened it’s doors in 2015 and has become popular with the LBGTQ+ community. Expect a fun and fabulous show and a DJ set. Open from Thursday – Sunday. The show finishes at 11.00pm but the dancing continues until 6.00am.

Madame Arthur Image credit Tiqets

People Watching 

The universal pastime of many of us and no where better to do it. Watching the super stylish Parisians is one of my favourite things to do and it’s totally free!

I could tell you so much more but the real excitement of being in a city is finding your own thing, getting lost, being open to anything.The Joie de vivre of it 🙂

 

 

 

 

Second Hand September and I how I breath new life into reloved items in my home

So here we are again. It’s September and as well as the month that it’s back to school and the transition into Autumn, it’s also now known as second hand September amongst those of us that cherish second hand objects. That’ll be you and me right?

For most of us September isn’t the only month dedicated to second hand shopping, it’s a lifetime love affair, but’s it’s a great idea to dedicate a month to encourage others who have maybe shied away from charity shops, boot sales and antique fairs in the past, to give it a go.

I’ve been married for 33 years now and a home owner for 34 years and I’ve always bought second hand. It was partly a budget thing, I was 25 when I bought my first property, but it’s also always been a love thing. I’ve always been drawn to antiques and vintage and an item with a history. I find it romantic that an item I’ve acquired, found under a table at a car boot sale or spent maybe more money on at a brocante fair, has been in other homes, loved, painted or made by someone else from another era. What stories that item could tell?

As an interior designer and stylist, I’ve often been told by people that they love antique items but as their home isn’t a period property they wouldn’t know how to add something preloved into their space. They’re often not sure how an old item would work with their new products and I understand that apprehension, but by adding just a few small preloved items into the mix, that don’t necessarily grab attention in the way a larger item, such as an armchair or cupboard would, you can gradually start to build up that mix of old and new.

I’ve added a few images, taken in and around my home, of items that are old but have been been pimped up to make them blend in with other newer items we have and give them a new lease of life. I also believe artwork from any era, always looks great, adding colour, texture and interest to a blank wall in any space.

I always have a selection of original antique and vintage artwork for sale on my website & other dealers who have beautiful collections of art include:

  1. Collins & Green
  2. Medium Room
  3. Kate Price Interiors

If you don’t want a large statement piece of art, then vintage prints from art books or bought from gallery exhibitions and framed look lovely hung in a vertical row. I often sell vintage prints on my website or another source of beautiful art prints is The Musee Home.

So have a look at a few of my vintage finds and how I’ve used them and let me know by dm on my instagram which you can find here, if you too mix old and new to create an eclectic interior or if second hand September may have encouraged you to give it a go next time you’re at a boot sale or antique fair.

An old metal factory window has been repurposed into a mirror by adding some off cuts of mirror glass.

A large picture frame found at an antique fair has also been glazed to make an over mantle mirror.

A shelving unit found at kempton racecourse antique market is useful storage for magazines and objects and the original white paintwork would work in any room in the house.

If the original paintwork is past it’s best or doesn’t suit your interior decor, a few coats of paint will remedy that. This small Georgian table was quite battered when we found it but after a repaint with Summer Pudding by Atelier Ellis it’s got a new lease of life.

If you’re more of a minimalist and don’t want colourful artwork in your home, vintage large format photography works really well in a neutral scheme.

The small Victorian bobbin lamp was rewired and topped with a new shade from Pooky, another way to mix old and new.

Happy hunting xx