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August 05, 2011

Monthly Recap: July 2011

July I headed off on my first European adventure and absolutely loved every part of it.  It was only a two week holiday where we packed in six different locations taking eight different flights all done without a glitch!  My eyes have never witnessed such beauty between pristine manicured gardens, old historic buildings and churches, beautiful monuments (that I'd only seen in romance movies) and white sand beaches leading into vibrant turquoise ocean.  Can I turn around and go back now please?

LONDON
We started our travels in London where we attended a family wedding followed by the most stunning place for lunch, Cliveden Hotel. Time was limited here but since both myself and my boyfriend have family in the London area we know we will be back soon to continue exploring this beautiful city

Shopping was not a priority on this holiday unfortunately BUT one stop I did have to make was Topshop.  In Canada we just got our first dose of this store in June 2011 and at that it's only a section in our department store 'The Bay'.  What I do have to admit is the fact that I'm not someone that will spend a lot of time sifting through clothes and this store was so MASSIVE that I actually lost all patience and ended up doing a quick walk through then leaving.  I am a shopper who likes organized stores that don't have massive quantities of the same item overflowing a rack.  This way I can do a quick scan and easily find a piece that will catch my eye.  In conclusion I would like to say I am very content with the fact that our Topshop is NOT an entire store and just a section in our department store. I think this way allows for the only the best pieces to be selected and brought in making my shopping at this store much more enjoyable   
This is Thomas Waldo Story's Fountain of Love located at the entrance of Cliveden where we had the pleasure of eating lunch after the wedding ceremony

It was much to my surprise that all the beauty at Cliveden did NOT end at the entrance to the mansion.  I must share with you that the feeling I experienced stepping out onto this back terrace to be faced with this spectacular view (that isn't given any justice to in this photograph) was so overwhelming that I was quickly consumed with teary emotions.  Of course we have all heard of this expression before but my breath was literally taken away for the first time in my life to the point where I was so choked up I had to hide from my guests.  It was a feeling that I will never forget!
The one place that I had to see while I was there was of course the Buckingham Palace.  It's insane to think of the number of people surrounding this area at the time of the Royal Wedding.  What an experience that would have been
The gates of Buckingham Palace were HUGE!
How can you not love these outfits? 
Not only is the detailing mesmerizing but I want one of those fluffy hats!
So I went out to souvenir shops until I found one for myself!
One little detailing that I LOVE about London are the red telephone booths that still exist throughout the city

PARIS

Paris: City of Romance
The Eiffel tower to me was almost this superficial monument that only existed in fairytale love stories.  It's almost as if I felt the need to go in order to turn this whole idea into a more realistic understanding.  Before I arrived, I actually prepared myself into thinking it wasn't going to be as spectacular as all the media made it out to be.  Fortunately, we had an evening flight that landed at about 10:30pm.  Due to this and our hotel literally being steps from the tower it was as if our car was going to drive right into this magnificent lite up masterpiece!  For those of you who haven't yet experienced Paris I need to warn you - it actually is as stunning as that picture you have in your head.  I easily snapped 100 pictures of the thing and what I loved so much about Paris was that pretty much anywhere you stand you will always see the Eiffel tower or any of the major constructions of the city.  It almost hypnotizes you in a way because every time I would catch a glimpse of it I wouldn't want to take my eyes off it until it disappeared out of site 

As much as the shopping in Paris is VERY tempting with major labels popping up on storefronts everywhere, we continued to resist.  However since Paris is the home to Louis Vuitton we had to quickly pop in to admire their flagship store
The beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral

The Massive Arc de Triomphe that is just as magnificent during the day as it is lite up at night
Something that I also enjoyed about Paris was that you could turn down a street and unexpectedly be faced with an amazing historic sight at the end of it
If I lived in Paris I would always be hanging out on the grounds of the Luxembourg Palace.  It's such a peaceful place full of beauty
When I was studying French in University the Luxembourg Palace was used frequently in examples and because of this I knew when I finally made my way to Paris that I had to visit it.  So before the trip when I was doing my research of my top must sees I came across this hidden treasure, the Medici Fountain, that was located on the Luxembourg property.  It was mentioned that many tourists fail to come across this site of tranquility which turned this hunt into a priority that I am so thankful to have succeeded at
On our final day in Paris we headed over to the Four Seasons Hotel to witness their floral arrangements that we were told they spent about one million euros on a year!  Rich purple flowers in shiny black vases appeared to be this years theme
Dinner on our final night was at a restaurant called Pershing Hall.  When it comes to atmosphere of a place this one had me dazzled.  As you can see the entire back wall was living with many different plants all lite up with green spotlights to enhance the focal point that much more.  The roof was all glass that would open up for enjoyable warm evenings and a second level that had private little tables placed on extended balconies overlooking the main level of the restaurant. 
Oh and the food was to die for!

FAYENCE

Our visit to Fayence was a nice break in between our more touristy locations of our holiday.  The few days we spent here was shear relaxation with more quality family time.  We had our own driver, chefs and look at this infinity pool and its view that we were able to enjoy during our stay!

This was at a little store that carried a huge variety of local wines, jams, honey and so much more

Look at the size of these Aloe plants!!!
 
I loved how old these little towns in the mountains were and how romantic they would turn by night

MONACO
On our trip we had the luxury of staying in Monaco for a night.  The City full of wealth had my head turning at just about anything.  Between the cars, the boats, architecture of residences, the palace, the beach and the mountainous backdrop of Monaco there was always something that you were 'Ohhh-ing' and 'Awww-ing' about.  While we were there we did a tour of the City, had a delicious dinner on the beach, went to a nightclub on the beach called Sea Lounge, walked around by the marina to admire the MASSIVE yachts, hung out by the pool then ended the journey off by taking a 6 minute helicopter ride from Monaco to the Nice Airport



BARCELONA

Barcelona had my eyes mesmerized by the creativity infused in each of Gaudi's masterpieces.  Since my time was limited in Barcelona a quick hop on a tour bus allowed me to visit each of the key locations on my to do list.  The tour began at the beautiful Barceloneta Beach where we ate lunch admiring the view, then hopped on the bus passing the Agbar Tower on our way to our first stop being the famous Sagrada Familia.  This intricate and slightly eerie cathedral is so captivating at every angle you visit.  And did you know Sagrada Familia began its construction in 1882?! The expected completion date has been said to be 2026 - crazy!  Our next stop was another creation by Gaudi; Park Guell. This site was actually my favourite part of Barcelona.  First off I didn't even know about it and secondly it was such a surprise coming around the corner to be faced with the entrance and the surprises were endless as you explore the whole park.  There were fascinating architectural elements that reminded me of a Dr. Seuss playground, a massive terrace offering an amazing panoramic view of the City and finally a peaceful stroll through twisty paths and manicured surprise elements along the way.  Back on the bus we toured through the City admiring more of Gaudi's work including Casa Batllo that looked like the exterior was put together by skulls and bones then across the way La Pedrara that had seaweed-like balconies and chimneys disguised as sculptures.  I think it's obvious that I'm very much intrigued by Gaudi's work but my admiration did also extend to other impressive architecture located throughout the City.  One of the elements I enjoyed about Barcelona was being captivated by the constant mix of old versus modern versus artistic buildings and residences.  After we hopped off the bus we wandered to a patio of a hotel with the view being the Barcelona Cathedral about 40 feet away and enjoyed a couple mimosas.  From there we took a stroll through La Rambla being entertained by street dancers, did a quick pop in at Zara since it originated in Spain then landed on the rooftop of a hotel at a restaurant called La Terraza Del Claris.  This fun cool vibe had great food, amazing service and as the sun set the mood turned into a chic romantic hang out for a few drinks to end of the visit


The entrance to the playful Park Guell

The Sagrada Familia that is still under construction.  If our time wasn't limited here and the line-up to get in didn't look like a days wait I would have loved to see the inside.  Something to look forward to the next time I visit I suppose


Casa Batllo

La Pedrara
Agbar Tower

La Terraza Del Claris


IBIZA

Oh Ibiza!  We were so exhausted by the time we hit our final destination but all the more reason why it was perfect to end this trip at such a serene, relaxing oasis.  To be honest between the flight landing and the drive to our hotel I wasn't sure what all the hype about Ibiza was.  It wasn't until after we got settled in and found a place to rent a scooter for our stay that we discovered the beauty of this island in the Mediterranean Sea.  We scooted over to Sant Antoni to relax at the beach while enjoying house music in the distance until the sun was about to set.  We headed back to Ibiza Town where we were staying and got ready to enjoy a nice dinner on the harbour front followed by a night of dancing away to amazing house music at Pacha.  The following day started out very cloudy but as soon as they disappeared and the sun came beating down by early afternoon we hopped on a ferry that took us to Formentara Island.  This island was even more beautiful than Ibiza.  This remote island had white sand beaches and turquoise water that was a perfect peaceful ending to our European holiday.


Hanging out on the beaches at Sant Antoni

Pacha Hotel across the road from the Nightclub

The view from our side of the island where we stayed in Ibiza Town

Formentara Island.  A place where everyone who heads to Ibiza MUST visit

Sad to see the holiday come to an end but eager to plan the next incredible trip