Breakfasting in Amsterdam: Pluk

If you thought that my last post looked suspiciously unlike London, you were right. Just last weekend Tiarnan and I hopped over to Amsterdam for the marathon. I refuse to allow our marathon weekends to only be about limbering up and eating shedloads of pasta, though. We had Saturday for exploring, and explore we did.

After some minimal research I decided that I most wanted to visit The Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes, area. Just outside the centre and the very heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, it is a beautiful place to wander with plenty of independent shops and small cafes along the 17th century canals. It was here that we discovered Pluk.

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I challenge you to leave Pluk with just a full stomach. It is the most gorgeous café meets gift, stationary and interiors shop and not picking up an entirely unnecessary treat to self is almost impossible. From wooden platter boards, travel mugs, notebooks, photo frames and an enormous selection of fresh fruit and veg, it is only a small shop but you are completely spoilt for choice.

The café is on a mezzanine level overlooking the shop. The girls in there are absolutely lovely and as it was full when we arrived, while we were browsing the shop one of them hovered by the door looking for any leavers whose table we could take. Pluk’s menu is all about healthy and fresh food, with a huge selection of breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. We opted for breakfast and ordered a generous selection from the acai bowl to yoghurt to homemade banana bread – all delicious.

It’s only small and incredibly popular, so expect a little wait but the shop will keep you more than occupied. It is the perfect place to fuel up before a morning of wandering the canals. It was my favourite place that we visited over the weekend and the best introduction to Amsterdam.

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Memories from Paris

Do you ever find that life can get so busy and crazy things completely pass you by? That’s exactly what happened to me last month with our little weekend away in Paris.

Tiarnan and I went two weeks before Christmas and it was wonderful while we were there, but the second we got back we were drawn into celebrating Tiarnan’s birthday, finishing the Christmas shopping and then all of the Christmas and New Year festivities. Now, looking back on it, I feel as though I instantly forgot about our trip. I didn’t even look through the pictures.

On a rainy evening wishing I was planning a trip, I finally got round to flicking through our Paris snaps, and I instantly wanted to share them all with you. I did give you a glimpse into our visit with Teatime in Paris, but today is going to have a more relaxed vibe and just document our wanderings. Paris is such a beautiful, wonderful place, it seemed such a shame not to!

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This was not our first time in the city of lights. We visited as part of our interrailing trip in summer 2013, and then again in April 2014 for Tiarnan to run the Paris marathon. Both trips were done at lightning speed and completely crazy. This time we wanted to wander, not plan too much and just see what we stumbled across.

We also tried Air BnB for the first time which was a resounding success. If you haven’t done it yet, definitely consider it for your next trip. We found the cutest little apartment on Île Saint-Louis, just above Berthillon ice cream parlour. It really was tiny, but being tucked into a little mouse hole is all part of the Parisian experience!

Having our own apartment was amazing because we could cook for ourselves and come and go as we pleased, with no strict check in and out times. It was also in such an incredible location, everything was on our doorstep. Every morning we took full advantage of this and popped into our local boulangerie to pick up pastries and coffee to enjoy by the river for breakfast, before setting off on the day’s adventures!

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One of our first stops was the Louvre, as it was our favourite spot when we visited a couple of summers ago. The glass pyramid is surrounded by water fountains, so after a particuarly busy day we had sat outside and dipped our weary feet into the water. Of course, we were absolutely not repeating that this time but to just admire the grandeur and take silly tourist photos was definitely worth the visit. We didn’t venture inside as we had plenty more to see, but it’s something that will remain on our Parisian ‘to do’ list.

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You already know about our visit to Angelina’s from my last post, but it is one of the best things to do in Paris in winter! They are famous for their hot chocolates for a very obvious reason, they are so thick and creamy. Angelina’s also have a gorgeous little shop so you can buy the mix and recreate your own version at home.

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We spent the rest of that afternoon wandering through the Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées. We found the enormous Christmas market and most of the afternoon was spent perusing the stands, choosing the best crepe for lunch and singing along to the Christmas tunes while watching the world go by. I picked out some gingerbread to take home and agonised over choosing a beautiful bauble for the Christmas tree (which smashed on the way home! Sad, sad times). There are a few markets but if you are in Paris at Christmas time, I would definitely recommend the one on the Champs-Élysées. There’s a huge variety of stands, plenty of places to sit, eat and be merry and even an ice rink.

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We walked back along the river to our apartment, and stopped off at the love locks bridge which is always a sight to behold. We put one on a couple of years ago but failed to find it, concluding it has probably been cut off. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have had any negative consequences…! We decided to not risk any future severing of our love and passed on putting another one on, instead browsing through all the others and wondering if the couples were still as in love.

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The next day, we wandered further up the river to see all of the sights we’d missed. It’s a fairly long walk, but by far the best way to get around and soak up the city. It was very quiet on Sunday morning and we were mainly joined by early morning runners. On our way to the Eiffel Tower we stopped off in a little cafe by the river for breakfast, and guiltily ate pain au chocolats while counting the runners.

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You don’t need me to tell you that the Eiffel Tower is a must, but do make sure you visit! I would highly recommend whizzing up to the top, whether you opt for the lifts or are a little more hardy and take on the stairs. Get there early to beat the queues and the panaromic view is definitely worth the climb! This time we passed on going up, as we had in the summer and when we arrived the top was shrouded in a pretty atmospheric mist.

We finished the trip by walking through the fancier shopping districts admiring the stores (and the high end shoppers), even though we could feel our bank accounts screaming whenever we got too close… We spent the rest of the morning in Ladurée taste testing the iconic macaroons before reluctantly getting back on the Eurostar to London.

I really hoped you enjoyed this little recap of Paris – it turned into rather an epic! If you have any suggestions for Paris then I would love to hear them. There is still plenty on my list, including an Alice in Wonderland tearoom, the department stores, actually going into one of the museums and cocktails at Hotel Costes! Now just to plan the next trip…

Teatime in Paris

This weekend, Tiarnan and I popped on the Eurostar over to Paris. They say “the best thing about London is Paris” and while I can’t entirely agree, we are certainly very lucky to be able to visit so easily.

Christmas meant that our budget had taken a hit, so we decided to skip the restaurants and soak up the cafe culture instead. What is more French than sitting out on the pavement drinking coffee? Here is a little round-up of my favourite places we stumbled into when it got too chilly outside.

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*Angelina: Paris’ most famous hot chocolate. As it’s just behind the Jardin des Tuileries on Rue de Rivoli, it is the perfect pit-stop after a morning in the Louvre or some shopping on the Champs-Élysées. They are known for their signature Chocolate L’Africain, and we didn’t even hesitate in ordering it. It is the thickest, creamiest hot chocolate I have ever had. It is made from four different cocoa beans to make it really rich and sweet but be warned, finishing one is no easy feat.

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*Ladurée: A towering force of all things sweet on the Champs-Élysées, we felt we couldn’t leave Paris without a quick visit. As the best known maker of macarons in the world, we left Sunday afternoon open to sample some, just before we got back on the Eurostar. Inside, the decor is wonderfully decadent, with queues stretching through the boutique with everyone desperate to get their hands on the iconic green box filled with pastries. We were settled on a table in the corner, where we could watch the hustle and bustle and compare macaron flavours. Our verdict: don’t miss the pistachio.

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*Berthillon: This is one of my stranger suggestions for deep midwinter, but bear with me. We tried Air BnB for the first time on this trip, and got a really cute little apartment on Île Saint-Louis, just above Paris’ most famous ice-cream parlour. It seemed rude to not try some! We skipped the queues by going late in the evening as an after dinner sweet treat. If you are there around Christmas, try the gingerbread ice cream. With little pieces of gingerbread mixed into the deliciously smooth ice cream, you won’t regret feeling a bit cold after eating it!

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These are Paris’ most celebrated stops for coffee and pastries (or ice cream), but we also spent the weekend grabbing breakfast from boulangeries and stopping at cafes by the river to warm up. And we are already planning a return trip to try more … a weekend in Paris is just not enough.