Harry Potter Studio Tour Opens Today

The Harry Potter studio tour looks fascinating! Also, for those who haven’t already heard, the Harry Potter books are now available to download as ebooks from the Pottermore website. Has anyone bought any yet? Personally, I don’t see the point in buying them online because I’ve already read them. The whole collection of ebooks is £38.64 and the whole collection of audiobooks is £167.34.

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Awesome Adverts from the UK

I just saw this advert on TV, featuring Stephan Fry, Rupert Grint, Julie Walters and Michelle Dockery, and now have an urge to visit the Giant’s Causeway after seeing Michelle elegantly poised on the rough basalt columns of rock.  I loved Julie’s reference to Wordsworth, too (I’m reading his poetry so it made me feel clever).  So very British.

It’s definitely up there, rivalling California.

Also, check out this ad. celebrating the best of British comedy – it has a song!

Adverts with songs in them are always the best.  Especially if it’s legendary, like the 118 advert.

Epic.

Another one of my favourites is the Johnnie Walker ad. from a few years ago because I can’t imagine how many takes they must have done to film it perfectly.

STL.

10 Reasons Why J’adore Paris

Here are my top 10 favourite things which I discovered in Paris, in no particular order:

J’adore Paris parce que j’adore…

La cuisine // The cuisine

Macaroons

My new obsession - délicieux!

Although I’m not one for snails, generally speaking all Parisian food is pretty fantastic.  I’m talking in particular about things that you find in a pâtisserie – little cheesecakes, chocolate éclairs, MACAROONS…  In fact, all desserts!  Crème brûlée, chocolate mousse…  Yum!!

La librairie célèbre, qui s’appelle Shakespeare and Company // The famous bookshop, called Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co. - The door to paradise.

This little piece of heaven on 37, Rue de la Bûcherie is definitely one of the highlights of the city.  The bookshop, selling English-language books, was ranked as one of the 20 most beautiful bookshops in the world and just days after reading about it on a post by Flying by the Seat (re-blogged by The Book and Biscuit, which is where I saw it), I was thrilled to be able to put it at the top of my to-see list.  It truly is a magical and inspirational place which still retains the original ambiance of Sylvia Beach’s shop in the 1920s, which was popular with the ‘Lost Generation’ (Fitzgerald, Hemingway and friends).  It is a hub for English-speaking writers in Paris (hopefuls or already printed) and many volunteer, tumbleweed (stay the night) or read and write there.  George Whitmore, who opened the shop which stands opposite the Notre Dame today, passed away in December, 2011 and the shop is now run by his daughter, Sylvia Whitmore. Rest in peace, George Whitmore, who died at the age of 98.

Les magasins // The shops

Strolling down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées

I loved the Avenue des Champs Élysées, the little boutiques down side streets and the fact that everyone is Paris looked so well presented!  Almost everyone I saw looked smart, sophisticated and ‘chic.’

L’architecture et la Seine // The architecture and the Seine

Notre Dame

The Notre Dame when the sun was hiding

The Seine

The Seine

The lavish Renaissance buildings create rather dramatic scenery, as well as making city walks much more appealing. You can absorb so much simply by walking around and admiring what is before your eyes. The Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica are notable places to see.

La métro (et on peut aller partout à pied) // The metro (and you can go anywhere by foot)

I loved how easy it was to go from place to place!  I met someone who was from the south of the USA and they agreed – you certainly don’t need a four-wheeled drive to get around.  Top up your card, pick your direction, hop on and away you go!  As long as you are wearing a comfortable pair of shoes, your carbon footprint can stay minimal.  The accordion players busking on the metro were also greatly admired by all.

Les marchés // The markets

Market

The market

France is famous for its markets which sell all sorts of little bits and bobs, from wonderfully smelly soaps to hand-woven bags.  It was just my luck that I found a quaint, little market selling only old French books.  The books were so interesting as I had never heard of most of the titles – they were all in French!

L’histoire de la ville // The history of the city

Versailles

Versailles

The façade of Versailles

Versailles

Looking out at the gardens of Versailles

Versailles4

Marie Antoinette's bed

One of Versailles' many marble corridors with statues on either side

Versailles is an exquisite place to see and it did not fall short of my expectations.  The grandeur which was shown in the Marie Antoinette film from 2006 (starring Kirsten Dunst) shows Versailles in its full splendour.  Although the château is now lacking furniture which was lost during the revolution (which they are trying to retrace), some rooms have been fully renovated; for instance, the Queen’s bedroom which has been redone to match Marie Antoinette’s era.  I would definitely recommend taking a day trip there if you are visiting Paris!

Les musées // The museums

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre, the Rodin Museum, the Orangerie Museum and the Pompidou Centre are just a few examples of the fascinating museums to visit in Paris.  You can visit the Louvre for €10 and under 18s are free.

La langue et les gens qui le parlent // The language and the people who speak it

French is a deeply beautiful language and what I noticed in particular was how friendly everyone was.  Whether it was a waiter who smiled and bounced up to your table to kiss the ladies’ hands, or a friendly old lady asking for directions, almost everyone was always smiling and seemed approachable.

L’environnement multiculturel // The multicultural environment

Obviously, if you’re in a modern city, it’s going to have an international feel.  However, Paris stood out to me as being especially so. Maybe it was because I was a tourist and therefore surrounded by other tourists; however, everywhere I went I would hear a different language being spoken.  One of the beauties of Europe (the ‘continent’) is that everyone speaks multiple languages which means that from walking around, you are exposed to dozens of assorted languages which are beautiful to listen to.

I loved every second of my stay in Paris and wish that I could go back again.  Fortunately, many of the tourist hot-spots were relatively vacant as it was off-season and the February weather was rather cold; however, this was great as it meant that the queues were minimal, it was less tiring and I could see everything.  In front of the Mona Lisa, people would just step aside to let you take a photo since there were so few people visiting!  I can imagine in the summer that it must be completely chaotic…

What do you love about your favourite destination or the place where you live?  I’d love to hear from you.

STL.

P.S.  Sincere apologies to native Parisians for the tourist-ness of this post; please feel free to share the more ‘authentic’ things to see and do in your city, if you feel that way inclined!

Belle the Blind Alpaca – Devon

Courtesy of Tara Wray Photography (Regrettably, I didn't have time to take a picture of Belle; however, this baby alpaca is just as charming!)

Whilst visiting friends in Devon, I spent a portion of my weekend on a remote farm, feeding alpacas.  I met Belle, a blind alpaca who is so sweet and passive, she wouldn’t even scare a baby.  She began losing her sight a few years ago and now has to be led to her food.  Sadly, this means that she can no longer watch the serene sunrise of Devon in the morning.  Out of the four alpacas in the field, only one stood to the side, munching on a different patch of grass.  Poor Belle…

If you’ve never seen any, you’re missing out!  Alpacas are beautiful creatures which are larger than sheep, but smaller than horses and cows.  These inspirational animals originate from South America where wild herds roam the picturesque Andes.

Although I wasn’t in Devon for long and unfortunately the weather was rather miserable, I could see that the writers of Devon such as Agatha Christie, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Kingsley  must have had a wonderful childhood there.  The hilly landscape is beautiful and the tranquil atmosphere is certainly enough to awaken one’s inner creative spirit.

Below are some pictures, including one of a quintessential pub with a thatched-roof which I spotted, but found that it was closed.  Please excuse the bad quality – by the time I got my camera out, it was almost too dark and misty.  I’ve fiddled with the exposure so that you can see everything, but the quality is rather dismal.

STL.