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  1. Discovering the difference a break makes

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    After many hectic months with the wedding, business growth, getting pregnant, moving house, unpacking etc, we decided to take ourselves off for a little ‘babymoon’. We went to Tenerife for a week to chill out by the pool and enjoy some glorious sunshine, in the knowledge that with a little one on the way we probably won’t be able to do this again for a while. It was such a good thing to do.

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    Sometimes you don’t realise just how knackered you are until you properly stop and switch off. The first couple of days we just slept on sun loungers for hours, reading, taking a dip in the pool every now and then, or wandering down to the rocks by the sea. But then, come half way through, we started to feel that our brains were clearing, our minds were opening up, and new ideas were emerging. By the end of the week (six novels and a catamaran sail with dolphins, whales and turtles later!) we were buzzing with new ideas, plans, ways to do things differently and a new enthusiasm for everything on the horizon.

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    Why don’t you treat yourself to a short break this month to rediscover what fires you up, and clear your mind for new ideas and plans?

  2. Papier + (= papery heaven)

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    I couldn’t share my recent trip to Paris without giving you a peek into my new favourite paper shop… Papier Plus, on Rue du pont Louis-Philippe, is a stationery lover’s dream if you have a thing for sleek, brightly coloured, exquisitely made paper products.

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    I walked out with quite a few less Euros than I went in with – but it’s all research for when I have my own paper shop one day… The same road is also home to two other lovely paper shops: Calligrane (which I blogged about here last time I went to Paris) and Melodies Graphiques.

    Where is your favourite paper shop? I would LOVE it if you could share a link in the comments below so I can check it out and dream from afar…

     

  3. Discovering new places… Paris

    There is nothing like a bit of travel to shake it all up, blow out the cobwebs and reinspire you. Sometimes – even when you are doing what you love – you get caught up in the details of making things happen, and the days can sometimes start to merge into one another. Heading out to discover news things, people, places, food and adventures, with your phone off and your exploring hat on can be brilliant.

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    It was my fourth trip to Paris but the first time I have actually seen the Eiffel Tower up close – wow, what a triumph of engineering. It is so strong but beautiful

    And so to Paris… we just spent a long weekend in the French capital – feel so fortunate that is is just over an hour away by plane – and after four days of walking, croissants, practicing bad French and chats in romantic cafes we feel refreshed and ready to roll! I thought you’d like to see a few pics from the windy lanes and dreamy architecture we discovered along the way…

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    Doesn’t this guy look like he is about to burst into song?!

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    The most enormous millefeuille I have ever seen

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    How about you? Have you taken yourself on a little discovery adventure recently? Where did you go? What did you discover? We’d love to hear about it!

  4. Honeymoon (7): London

    Honeymoons tend to be very private, but we ended ours with a huge group of people – two of our very favourite Japanese people, along with half of their company workers!

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    On the London Eye with Kyoko and Adachi

    Kyoko and Adachi are like second family to me, having let me stay in their house rent free for a year when I lived in the northern Japanese city of Yamagata back in my twenties. They are jazz musicians who love a good party, and frequently opened their doors to the various waifs and strays I brought home (i.e. most of the foreigners who lived in Yamagata) – their house became known as the ‘Adachi Hospital for Homesick Foreigners’ as there was always a cold beer and warm welcome for anyone who visited. (You can read about the crazy way I met them in this post). They also looked after us in the first couple of weeks of our sabbatical in Japan last year.

    Adachi travelled the world in his youth and lived in Notting Hill way before it was hip, and Kyoko has been heavily inspired by western music as a Jazz singer, but they had never been to England together. I always promised that of course I would look after them if they ever came to visit, so when they decided to take their team to Europe to celebrate a pivotal birthday for their company, I pursuaded them to give up their idea of going to Italy and come to England instead. But that was before we got engaged. The irony was, they then booked their flights, and it ended up being a week after our wedding (which we would have loved them to come to), and WE were in Italy for our honeymoon! So we decided to spent the last couple of days of our holiday in a lovely London hotel exploring with them instead, and it was such fun.

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    Charlotte Street Hotel

    We booked ourselves into the gorgeous Charlotte Street Hotel in Soho. It is really expensive so we had just taken a simple room, but when we got their they said that as a honeymoon gift they had upgraded us to their loft suite – an apartment overlooking London charged out at £1000 a night! It was so fabulous we didn’t want to leave, but headed out onto the streets of London to see the sights with our visiting friends.

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    The living room of our loft apartment (complete with our own private lift!)

    We have both been to London countless times, but usually to see friends or for work – rarely as a tourist. It was so much fun to see London through the eyes of our friends – the London Eye, live music on the banks of the Thames, the British Museum, Big Ben, afternoon tea in a posh hotel, sunday lunch in an old English pub etc. We also surprised them with three of our English friends who had stayed at their house over the years turning up for lunch and dinner!

    Here are a few happy snapshots:

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    This time with old friends was actually the perfect way to end our honeymoon and start the rest of our married lives. Thank you so much to our friends and families who contributed to our honeymoon and make it so special.

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

  5. Honeymoon (6): Pisa and home

    As our honeymoon drew to a close we reflected on the perfect week of Italian food, wine and hospitality, long walks and longer chats, and a lifetime of adventures ahead of us. It was wonderful to have that time to also reflect on our brilliant wedding and think about how grateful we are for the family and friends who made it so special. (All the wedding details coming very soon!)

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    Before we left Italy we had one last stop. Our flight left from Pisa, so we couldn’t not see the Leaning Tower. Excuse the cheesy touristy posed picture – it couldn’t be helped!

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    It really is quite an extraordinary sight, and we found it sat alongside a beautiful church with grassy grounds covered in lazy picnickers soaking up the sun. There was nothing for it but to get a delicious Italian ice cream and join them…

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

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    Author Christina Rosalie is giving away a signed copy of her beautiful book ‘A Field Guide To Now: Notes on Mindfulness and Life in the Present Tense’. If you missed our interview with Christina you can find it along with details of how to enter the giveaway here.

  6. Honeymoon (5): Pasta masterclass!

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    And the honeymoon story continues… While at Borgo Santo Pietro we couldn’t help but indulge ourselves in a private pasta cookery class with the hotel’s Executive Chef. It was amaaaaazing. I just felt so happy in that kitchen, and one of the things that we made (the fresh tortellini stuffed with caramelised pear on a tarragon pesto) was possibly the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. Must buy a pasta machine…

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    Heaven on a plate – fresh tortellini stuffed with caramelised pear on a tarragon pesto

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

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    Author Christina Rosalie is giving away a signed copy of her beautiful book ‘A Field Guide To Now: Notes on Mindfulness and Life in the Present Tense’. If you missed our interview with Christina you can find it along with details of how to enter the giveaway here.

  7. Honeymoon (4): Borgo Santo Pietro

    Continuing the story of our dreamy honeymoon (which seems like a long time ago now, even though it was only in April)…

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    We spent three blissful days at Borgo Santo Pietro, a stunning Italian villa in the Tuscan countryside, which turns out to have been awarded ‘Best Boutique Hotel in the World’ in 2012! I am not surprised – it felt like you were staying at a rich friend’s gorgeous country home. It is hard to find words to describe this place, so I will let the pictures do the talking.

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    This chandelier was in the toilet!

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    One night the kitchen was doing a special Tuscan dinner, but we had already sampled so much rich food we decided to opt for something more simple in their outdoor bar (in the picture above). And as everyone else was at the dinner, we ended up with the whole place to ourselves, with our own personal barman, a roaring log fire and deep comfy sofas to chill in as we sampled the best the local vineyard had to offer. We talked long into the night about the shared life we have ahead of us, and I think it was actually my favourite night of the whole honeymoon.

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    Although the days were warm, the nights were chilly, so we spent a fair bit of time by the log fires inside the house too – so cosy.

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    Such a special place…

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    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

  8. Honeymoon (3): Winetasting in Tuscany… yum!

    We couldn’t spend a week in Tuscany without doing a whole lot of wine tasting! The first vineyard we visited was deep in the countryside, and produced not only wine and aged meats, but the most incredible balsamic vinegar – some of it 30 years old!

    It was a wonderful experience to hear all about the wines and other products direct from the owner, who used to have a corporate job many years ago and gave it all up to do what he loves! We were fed delicious food matched with each kind of wine we tasted, which helped slow down the onset of drunkenness just a little (good job as it was only 10am…)

    Have you ever tried 30-year aged balsamic vinegar on vanilla icecream? Neither had we but it was A-MA-ZING! It was so unexpected – alone on a spoon it just tasted like very good balsamic, but with the icecream it became like something more akin to chocolate sauce. Needless to say we got some shipped back home!

    The second vineyard we visited was perched high on a hill overlooking miles of fields, olive groves and poplar trees.

    We were fed yet more delicious cheese and cold meats, with fresh bread and a selection of different wines. By the end I had no idea which was which but had a brilliant day.

    Last time we went winetasting it was in Napa Valley in California. We joined a tour bus (which is very unlike us) and although it was a lot of fun, we felt a little herded from place to place. This time we were lucky enough to have our own driver and interpreter which made all the difference. We could go at our own pace, soak everything up and linger a while by the open fire when we felt like chatting longer. Ahh that’s what honeymoons are all about…

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

  9. Honeymoon (2): Castel Monastero in Tuscany

    After Florence we headed off into the Tuscan countryside for some chill out time in a beautiful old converted monastery. I had read about Castel Monastero in several ‘luxury spa’ and ‘best hotels’ books – the name kept popping up again and again so we decided to try it out. The place was perfect for us after the manic few weeks that precede a wedding. It was so peaceful and relaxed, giving us plenty of time to reflect on the brilliant time we had at our wedding, as well as talk about the kind of marriage and life we want to share in the years ahead.

    We borrowed the hotel’s bikes and cycled past the olive groves surrounding the estate, soaked in the spa (which we had completely to ourselves, complete with strange dead sea salt bath) and then came back to the stunning hotel bar for very welcome cocktails!

    One of my favourite parts of this section of our honeymoon was the stunning Gordon Ramsay restaurant in the basement of the hotel. ‘Cantina’ is built inside a vaulted wine cellar, reached down a narrow set of uneven stone steps lit only with candles.

    These photos don’t really do the place justice. It was so atmospheric and the food was divine, paired with delicious wines from the hotel’s own vineyard. They happily made things to order if what you fancied wasn’t on the menu, and nothing was rushed. We ended up eating here three times!

    We discovered the best creme brulee in the world…

    While at Castel Monastero we also hired a driver and went on a long tour of the local vineyards. Such fun! More on that in my next honeymoon post…

    Every day of our honeymoon felt like a precious gift of time to relax, soak up the beauty of the Italian countryside, and spend time together. We are grateful to our families and wedding guests who contributed to our honeymoon as our wedding present. The gift of travel was the perfect gift for us.

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home

  10. Honeymoon part 1 – Florence

    And so to the honeymoon story… After our brilliant wedding (pictures of which are coming soon), we headed off to Italy for our honeymoon. I don’t know what it is about the word ‘honeymoon’ but it has a dreaminess about it which perfectly describes how you feel when you are on one.

    We flew into Pisa and took a train through the Italian countryside to Florence, a beautiful city packed with history and art at every turn.

    We only had one night in the city, so spent many hours walking the cobbled streets, strolling through the Boboli Gardens, basking in the sunshine and eating gelato.


    Borgo San Jacopo inside Salvatore Ferragamo’s beautiful Hotel Lungarno where we stayed

    We had promised ourselves that we would eat and drink whatever delicious feasts we fancied while away, so we started with dinner at Borgo San Jacopo, a fine dining restaurant I had visited on my own a few weeks before Mr K and I first met.

    Back then, as I sat by the window overlooking the River Arno shortly after my 30th birthday I made a promise to myself that when I met the love of my life I would bring him here – so it was the perfect place to start out Italian honeymoon.

    You should have seen Mr K’s face when the ‘amuse bouche’ appeared as a gift from the chef. I think he thought this was the world’s tiniest starter (or some kind of culinary joke – but it tasted delicious!)…

    Pop back soon for Honeymoon part 2, when we venture into the Italian countryside for a taste of Tuscany…

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    PS – There is still time to enter our GIVEAWAY and win a free place on J Klima’s upcoming course ‘Your Darling Blog’ (including 1-1 feedback, worth around USD $280) – starts on Monday. If you want to make your blog more beautiful, and more effective, this is absolutely the course for you. You have until 5pm GMT today to enter – check it out here.

    You can read my other honeymoon posts here: (1) Florence / (2) Castel Monastero / (3) Winetasting in Tuscany / (4) Borgo Santo Pietro / (5) Pasta masterclass / (6) Pisa and home