As those who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will have seen, a little while ago I was invited to New York to join Michael Bublé to mark the launch of his debut fragrance, By Invitation, and new album. And when Michael Bublé calls, you definitely answer(and jump on the next trans-Atlantic flight). Regular readers will know my that New York is one of my true loves (I’ve been every year for the past 7 years), but this was definitely one for the books.
After spending our first day ticking off as many of our favourite New York things as we could, on the second day we were treated to a fragrance masterclass with renowned perfumer Karine Dubreuil-Sereni, who worked alongside Bublé to create By Invitation. I’m a bit of a fragrance obsessive, so it was so wonderful to learn about the complexity of the fragrance notes (from precious white musk to cassis and red roses) and the process that goes into creating a perfume. Truthfully, I normally avoid ‘celebrity’ fragrances at all costs so was worried I wouldn’t like this one, but it is honestly gorgeous; feminine but not saccharine, classic and yet modern. Mr Bublé summed it up by saying that if he were to pass a gorgeous woman on the street, this is the smell he would want to catch as he passed. I’ve been wearing it constantly since autumn (I especially love it spritzed into my hair or on a scarf so that it lingers all day), and am always getting asked what I’m wearing.
My friend Hayley and I were lucky enough to get to spend time with the man himself in the afternoon, and he is quite probably the most charming man I have ever met (lovely, kind, handsome and hilarious in equal measure). Needless to say, my long-standing Bublé crush went up a few notches (sorry, fiancé!). Afterwards, we hopped to DryBar for a blowout (when in New York…) before headed back to the iconic Hotel Edison to get ready for the evening.
Downstairs, the ballroom had been transformed into an intimate jazz club (scented with By Invitation, of course), where we were serenaded by Mr Bublé and that voice. I grew up idolising the glamour of the stage and the old jazz crooners, so getting all dressed up and running through a glittering Times Square to hear Bublé perform at the iconic Edison Ballroom will definitely go down as one of my favourite New York moments to date.
Thank you, Mr Bublé for the most magical evening in New York City!
Love, Miss B xx
Any fellow Bublé fans out there? I’m giving away a bottle of the gorgeous new ‘By Invitation’ fragrance signed by Mr Bublé himself, just in time for Christmas! Just comment below letting me know why you should win and I’ll choose and announce the winner on the 2nd December.
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I was flown to New York courtesy of Michael Bublé and ‘By Invitation’. Photos of me by Bang on Style (thank you, Debs!)
If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that we’re recently back from a weekend city break in Vienna. As my fiancé and I had both been travelling separately a lot for work, we had barely seen each other and were in need of some quality time together. As we both love exploring more than anything, a quick flight to another European city seemed like the perfect answer. Although we had been to Vienna once before, it poured with rain our entire time there so we had been longing to return.
We took an early flight from Heathrow on Friday morning, and by lunch we were walking through the park in the sunshine in Vienna. We packed in plenty of museums, coffee shops and sights before our Sunday evening flight home, but still felt like we had enough relaxing downtime that we could head to the office refreshed by Monday morning. If you haven’t been to Vienna before, I recommend it for it’s beautiful architecture, history and grand old coffeehouses; it is a city just made for romance and cultural enlightenment. Next time we’ll come back in December for the famous Christmas markets and a night at the opera (the weather was perfect so we didn’t take in any of the renowned music halls this time, but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a cold winter evening in Vienna).
These were the best things we covered during our stay:
Do // If you’re a culture addict, then Vienna is quite simply one of the best cities in the world. Grand architecture, rich history, breathtaking palaces and wonderful museums are yours to be explored. You’ll see many of the renowned ‘sights’ – the State Opera House, the Homburg Palace (above), St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Spanish Riding School – just walking around the old town and between the museums. On this trip we visited and loved the Belvedere Palace (the largest collection of Klimt and other masters housed in a baroque palace where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand once lived) and the grand Kunsthistorisches Museum, and on our last visit we loved the Albertina Museum and spectacular Schonbrunn Palace (which I posted here).
On both visits, we loved pottering around the fresh food market and eateries at the Naschmarkt (below), and on Saturdays there is a flea market at one end that is worth a visit if, like me, you love an antique treasure-hunt. If the weather is fine, take a stroll through the beautiful Volksgarten in the Museums Quartier, or find a chair beside the roses for a spot of people-watching.
For us, the highlight of the weekend was a sunset carriage ride through the old town. A white carriage drawn by two gorgeous white horses arrived at the entrance to our hotel looking like something straight out of an Austrian fairytale, took us on a tour of the town and then delivered us to Prater, a nostalgic 250 year-old amusement park. There, in the middle of the park, awaited the most exquisite three-course dinner in our own candlelit carriage on a grand old FERRIS WHEEL (so marvellous it warrants capitals for emphasis). As the sun went down, we ate dinner on the Riesenrad twirling high above the lights of the funfair rides below as the Viennese skyline glittered off in the distance, and each time we reached the ground a waiter would pop in to top-up our champagne or bring new dishes. Definitely a date night for the books.
Eat // It’s a good thing Vienna is a city made for long walks, because diet-friendly it is not. Here’s it’s all about the three C’s: chocolate, cake and coffee. The Viennese are passionate about their kaffeehaus tradition, and there are dozens of grand old cafes in the city which are worth a visit as much for the political cultural and literary history (these are the places where the likes of Freud, Loos, Trotsky would loiter) as for the confection.
My favourite has to be Cafe Sperl – all marble tables and dark wood paneling – where after spending the morning at Naschtmarkt, we tucked ourselves into a corner booth and lingered a while over coffee and the best apple strudel I’ve ever had as a pianist played all my favourite jazz standards. The next day we found a table upstairs at the equally glorious (though a little more touristy) Demel for tea and apricot strudel, and later stopped for coffee at Cafe Central which serves up some excellent people-watching with a side of history beneath its magnificent marbled arches (the cafe was a favourite of both Trotsky and Hitler during their Vienna years).
Lastly, if the famous Wiener Schnitzel is what you’re after, go straight to Figlmuller. I don’t eat meat so only had a salad, but the boyfriend was exceedingly pleased with his schnitzel – albeit defeated by the vast size – and the original Wollzeile location was oozing with old Austrian charm.
Stay // We stayed at the beautiful InterContinental Vienna, located just opposite Stadtpark and just a few minutes walk from the MuseumQuartier, the Old Town, the Naschtmarkt and the Belvedere Palace. Our suite had views over the park and was possibly bigger than our apartment at home. The staff were utterly delightful and organised that magical carriage ride and candlelit dinner on the Riesenrad for us. If you have a special occasion to celebrate (perhaps an anniversary or birthday or part of a honeymoon), then I can’t recommend the ‘romance‘ package enough. No detail was spared, and they really did go the extra mile to make sure we felt pampered and welcomed.
Souvenir // You really can’t go to Vienna without trying a slice of the famous Sachertorte (a rich dark chocolate cake with layers of apricot jam inside and a bittersweet chocolate icing, invented in Vienna in 1832). Better yet, take one home to share. Only Hotel Sacher and Demel sell the real deal. If that doesn’t satisfy your sweet-tooth, pick up some longues du chat or a tablet of dark chocolate at Demel, or a box of Sissitaler or Mozartkugel (the city’s iconic marzipan chocolates). Yum!
Good to know // The city is compact enough that you can walk just about everywhere, but otherwise the subway is clean, easy to use and goes everywhere you’ll want to visit. Most Viennese speak excellent English, but will appreciate your efforts to try your best German (the official language).
Wearing: ASOS dress (I’m wearing the ‘tall‘ version for a slightly longer length) // Chanel bag // Dune sandals // Tom Ford sunglasses // Mimco bracelets (old)
Have you made it to beautiful Vienna yet? Let me know if you have any recommendations I can try on my next visit!
Love, Miss B xx
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Between all our recent European travels, I feel as though my feet have barely touched the ground the past few months. But one of my big New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 was to take more frequent small trips and explore Europe more (rather than eschewing the cities on our doorstep in favour of the extended long-haul trips we usually take).
Although I frequently travel to Brussels for work, I only ever get to see the Government district and the inside of the European Commission buildings while I’m there (with an occasional detour through the Grand Place on the way back to the Eurostar station if the weather is behaving). Given how easy it is to get there from England, I decided it was about time we properly explored all the city had to offer (which is so much more than just the seat of the European Union).
So when Alcatel asked if I’d like to put together a city guide in conjunction with their current promo (get return flights to one of eight European cities when you buy the new Pop4handset), it was the perfect excuse to finally explore this grand old city. It was my first time trying the handset, but I have to say it was the ideal phone for travelling; because of the dual-SIM function I could put both my UK and travel SIM in at the same time, and the camera and maps were excellent for navigating our way around town without getting lost (and snapping everything along the way, of course).
Brussels is the perfect size for a weekend city break; small enough that you feel you can cover a decent chunk of it in two days, large enough that you’ll have no shortage of things to do. These were the best things we covered during our stay:
Do // For a dose of culture, start with the magnificent Grand Place. A large cobbled square bordered by the opulent Town Hall and guildhalls which marks the centre of the old town; it is a Unesco World Heritage site and surely one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.
Afterwards, walk over to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (around €8) on Rue de la Régence for a morning with Rubens, van Dyck and all the Flemish greats. Afterwards, head to the Royal Palace next door; it is free to visit from July-September when the Royal Family go away, and the spectacular rooms are worthy of any Disney princess (I’m not sure I have ever seen quite so many chandeliers in once place). Afterwards, we bought an ice cream and happily lazed beneath the canopy of trees in the Parc du Bruxelles across the road.
Shop // Treasure hunt for antiques: We visited both the Sablon (every Saturday and Sunday at the Place du Grand Sablon) and Les Marolles (every day on the Place du Jeu de Balle) flea markets and the surrounding antique shops. On the first Sunday of every month there is also a vintage market at Halle Saint-Géry. I picked up vintage postcards from Paris and a set of 1960s cocktail glasses at the Sablon, and an antique bust of Marie Antoinette and a pair of golden pheasants for the dining room table at Les Marolles. During a sudden downpour at Les Marolles, we dashed into the Cafe La Brocante on the corner of the square for coffee, which was charmingly stuffed with locals and antiques in equal measure.
Grand arcades: Don’t miss the beautiful Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert near the Grand Place. Built in 1847, it is a beautiful glass-roofed passageway housing luxury shops and cafes. We loitered for nearly an hour in the magnificent Tropismes Libraires bookstore in the Galerie des Princes section.
Hip boutiques: For the best small, independent fashion, design and lifestyle boutiques, head to the Rue Dansaert / Rue des Chartreux district. We made the mistake of visiting on a Sunday morning when many stores were closed, so visit on a Saturday or weekday instead for the best range of options.
Eat // It would be positively remiss to go to Brussels and leave hungry. From the famous chocolate and waffles to the traditional carbonades flamandes (beef stew) and moules frites (mussels and fries), there is no shortage of gourmand delights on offer.
For brunch, head to Peck 47 on Rue du Marché aux Poulets for eggs + savoury waffles or the original Le Pain Quotidien on Rue Dansaert (both a short walk from the Grand Place).
For lunch or dinner, make for local-favourite Le Fin de Siecle on Rue des Chartreux. We had dinner there on Saturday night and the atmosphere was lively and cosy; the food a delicious offering of Italian and authentic Belgian dishes.
Craving something sweet? Head straight to haute chocolaterie Pierre Marcolini for the best chocolate the city has to offer (not to mention glorious macarons and ice cream pops dipped in the chocolate of your choice). For a snack on-the-go whilst sightseeing, the chocolate-dipped strawberries at Godiva and the cheap as frites nutella-topped waffles (find them beside the Manneken Pis fountain) both earn an honourable mention.
Souvenir // I’m sure it’s obligatory to return home with a stash of Belgian chocolates in your suitcase. Pick up a box from Pierre Marcolini, Mary or Elisabeth (all have several locations dotted around the city), and a few blocks of Dolfin from the convenience store (I’m especially taken with their Earl Grey-infused dark chocolate tablets). A tin of Belgian waffles or speculoos (traditional cinnamon-spiced biscuits) from Maison Dandoy will also make a marvelous gift for friends back home. For something more unique, hunt for a vintage copy of Tintin or an antique tchotchke from the Les Marolles or Sablon flea market.
Good to Know // Brussels is small enough that you can walk just about everywhere, but if the weather is bad or you want to save your feet, the subway is clean, easy and goes everywhere you need to go (aside from hopping on the subway to get to our hotel, we walked the entire weekend). Everyone speaks English perfectly, but otherwise it’s the perfect excuse to practice your French.
As those who follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat will know, last month my Fiancé and I headed to Italy for the most marvellous vacation (and some much-needed sunshine; England was in the throes of a very gloomy June). I thought I’d start with our day trip to the Venetian island of Burano; quite simply one of the lovelies places I have ever visited.
Whilst I had seen plenty of pictures and knew to look for the colourful houses, I hadn’t expected the entire island to be such a charming, brightly-hued rainbow. Traditionally, the houses were painted in bright colours so that the village fisherman could find their house in even the darkest storm when they returned each evening, and every single house really does look like that (or, as we say over on Instagram, #nofilterrequired). Nowadays the whole island is a UNESCO world heritage site so that the tradition is officially protected, and if homeowners wish to change the colour of their house, they have to apply to the government – who respond with a list of available colours to choose from so that no two neighbouring properties are the same.
As soon as you arrive at the dock, you’ll see what I mean. And it only gets prettier from there. We were lucky to have blazing sunshine and cornflower blue skies for our visit, and as we stepped off the main canal and explored the little alleyways, I couldn’t help but think how those sunbleached, cheery houses – with their laundry hanging from the windows, children playing happily in the streets, and contented cats lazing in the shade – looked exactly as they might have done a hundred years ago.
Given Burano’s small size, it hardly requires a ‘guide’ to what to do – instead the best thing is to simply walk down each canal and colourful side street, discovering your own secret corners and favourite spots yourself. But nonetheless, here are a few tips to make the most of your visit:
Good to Know // Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon and is a leisurely half-day trip from ‘mainland’ Venice. The easiest way to get there is to either take a private water taxi or the number 12 vaporetto (water bus) which runs frequently, takes the same time as a taxi – around 40 minutes – but only costs €7.50 each way. Go early or late afternoon to avoid the largest crowds if you can (but don’t be put off either way, as the crowds quickly disperse between each vaporetto arrival).
Do // Burano is really a tiny little island; there are no roads – only footpaths and canals for the fishing boats – but you can walk the entire island and all it’s side streets in a couple of hours (add in another couple of hours for lunch and pausing to take approximately 16,000 photos along the way). There aren’t many shops on the island – which helps retain the traditional charm – but if you like lace, then be sure to stop into one of the little lace shops for the authentic lace linens the island is famous for (I’m still regretting the fact I didn’t buy a lace parasol and a stack of beautiful handmade napkins).
Eat // We had heard great things about Trattoria al Gatto Nero(my friend Julia had gone there earlier in the year), and the name – which translates to The Black Cat – had us sold, but when we arrived there wasn’t a free table to found until fully three days later (moral of the story: book ahead). My friend Alex had also recommended Trattoria da Romano, but both the restaurant and street looked a little too crowded with tourists when we passed. So instead we simply followed our noses and ended up at the charming, pastel pink Riva Rosa Enoteca, which turned out to be the very best choice of all. We had big plates of spaghetti alla vongole (a local specialty, pictured below) outside at one of the tables overlooking the colourful canal, and it was quite simply one of the most delicious, memorable meals I’ve ever had.
There was just something so magical about Burano, and I couldn’t help falling a little in love more in love with each street we explored. I’m so glad that places like this – frozen in time and still retaining every ounce of charm and history – still exist in the world. I can’t wait to return one day.