A Taste of Tuscania, Italy (not to be confused with Tuscany)

During our Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, one of our stops was Civitavecchia, Rome. Originally we had booked an excursion to tour Rome for the day but once we found out about the “Taste of Tuscania” excursion, we changed our mind. I had been to Rome before and convinced Amit we would go another time and so we decided to visit this lesser known Italian town and I am so glad we did. We also got to go with new friends Karen and Amanda, who are also bloggers, and it was such a great day out.

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Not only were there less tourists, it had so much history as well as included a visit to an agri-tourism farm, which was a memorable experience. Agri tourism is an agricultural based activity, in this case farming, where tourists are able to visit and see the operations of the place or try the produce, for instance. These are quite popular in Italy with some places even offering farm stays so you can fully immerse yourself.

Tuscania is often confused with Tuscany and although it has lovely green rolling fields, it is actually located in Lazio.

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We started our day touring the town of Tuscania. It was so pretty with rustic charm, amazing food ( we nipped into a shop to try some savouries), and just had perfect instagram worthy spots everywhere you looked! I love Italy and I especially love the Italian way of life.

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Tuscania is located about an hour’s drive from Rome and is like the other end of the spectrum as its so tranquil, laid back and idyllic. It is such a romantic town and I loved walking the cobbled streets and marvelling at the pastel coloured walls with pretty flowers adorning them. We would find the occasional chair with Lavender on it or colourful bikes stood against walls, and it was the perfect photographers dream.

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If it hadn’t been for the cruise, I would probably not even have known about Tuscania so I am so glad it opened my eyes to a part of Italy off the beaten track which I may have overlooked normally. In fact, we fell so in love with Italy that we have vowed to visit more of the lesser known parts over the next couple of years.

After strolling around we headed to the farm, where we were going to try the produce, try some wine and enjoy an Italian anti pasti spread. I was in heaven with the cheese, olive oil tapenade, home made bread, cold meats and omelettes. It was all so delicious. The wine was gorgeous too and I preferred the red wine.

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The farm is particularly proud of its olive oil production and they were selling these in these gorgeous tins. We got to try some with the bread and it is astonishing how different it tastes to shop bought mass produced olive oil. Sometimes it is worth spending that little bit extra.

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The grounds of the farm were just how I imagined an Italian farm to look like with produce growing, pretty fields and that clean crisp air which makes you wish you owned a cottage in the countryside.

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After a wonderful meal and wander around the farm, we headed back towards the port. Karen, Amanda and I asked to be dropped off half way towards the port so we could explore a little bit before heading back to the ship.

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We also couldn’t resist a cheeky gelato. When in Italy! It was lush 🙂

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We had a wonderful day and I am so pleased we decided to try something new rather than visiting the usual spots in Rome.

Have you been on a cruise and chosen an excursion you wouldn’t normally have done? Would love to know in the comments below.

To read more about my cruise click here.

Binny xx

 

Hotel review: Le Dokhan’s Paris

Le Dokhan’s Paris, located between Trocadero and Champs Elysees, is part of the Starwood Group of Hotels, under the Tribute Portfolio collection. A five star hotel, originally built as a residence in the 18th century, it was our choice mainly due to its wonderful location (walking distance to the Eiffel Tower), but also as we are SPG members. SPG is the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. Our closest station was Trocadero.

When I first read about the hotel, what caught my attention was that it houses Paris’s first and oldest champagne bar, which has also featured in the World’s Best Bars list as well as the World’s Best Champagne Bars. The dream!

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Le Dokhan’s has 45 chic guest rooms, including four suites, across six floors that are accessed by a famous Louis Vuitton elevator.

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To our delight, when we checked in we were upgraded to the Ming Suite, which was on the 6th floor of the hotel. We took the Louis Vuitton elevator (YES CAN YOU BELIEVE IT) up to the 6th floor and were in awe of how pretty the décor was. From the large windows we had a view of the Eiffel Tower which was an extra bonus.

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The room was decked out with lots of amenities and we had a Nespresso machine for that all important morning coffee, a hairdryer, toiletries from Korres, a lovely mini lounge area, a TV and a desk. Wifi is complimentary which is always a plus!

 

The bathroom was spacious and bright and had a tub with an overhead shower. Everything had a modern feel and was luxurious.

My favourite aspect though wasthat they had left a Samsung Smart phone with data on it in the room for us to use when we went out exploring which was incredibly handy for navigating around. I thought this was a really nice touch. You could even make free calls from it and use it to order cabs.

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While we were settling in the room after check in, there was a knock on the door and we were given an invitation for 2 Complimentary glasses of Champagne of our choice as well as 2 Macarons to indulge in. This is the type of service from the Starwood Group of Hotels that keeps me loyal!

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The Champagne bar is the venue for breakfast at the hotel in the morning. The bar itself opens at 6pm and we headed there later that evening to relax and enjoy a glass. I had a glass of Champagne in a gorgeous coupe glass whilst Amit changed his option for a classic Gin and Tonic instead. What was lovely was that the bartender came over with a tray of different Champagne glasses and asked me to pick one. Some were truly fancy and I had never seen glasses like that before!

Although we didn’t have breakfast at the hotel as we had our heart set on going to get fresh bread and pastries from a Boulangerie in the morning, I can imagine that it was really good as when we walked past in the morning there were a lot of happy faces in the restaurant/bar area and a lovely aroma.

In terms of the room, the bed was so comfortable! I had a really good night’s sleep after a day of exploring and walking around the City of Light. The size of the room wasn’t the biggest for a suite but Parisians sure know how to meticulously decor and fit everything in that we had everything we could have possibly wanted.

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Downstairs near the reception, is a comfortable lounge area complete with a roaring fireplace. It was the perfect spot to come and sit with a book to unwind. It was rather difficult to get up once we had made ourselves comfortable!

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I loved my stay at Le Dokhan’s. Whilst more a boutique hotel, its location is absolutely perfect, prices are so reasonable for a 5 star hotel and the service was exemplary. Plus you are super close to a global award winning Champagne Bar! C’est parfait!

There were so many restaurants in close proximity to the hotel and our favourite was literally across the road, a French Bistro called  Ducale Café on 110 rue Lauriston. I highly recommend the French Onion Soup there!

Disclaimer: We received an upgrade. We had pre-paid for a room however all views and photos are my own.

Paris is always a good idea! What to do in a weekend in the City of Lights

Paris is always a good idea! This quote rings so true as every time we visit the City of Lights we come back utterly refreshed and happy. This was our fourth visit to Paris and we decided to go for a cheeky weekend break and left London on Saturday morning  and returned Sunday evening.

If you check in advance you can get some pretty decent deals on the Eurostar and you just have to live once and book those tickets! I always favour going on the Eurostar over flying as you get the scenic route as well as arrive at Gare Du Nord which is so convenient. For the amount of time you save it is worth it.

In terms of location, we decided to stay centrally so that we could walk around and lucky for us the weather forecast was pretty positive and we had some decent sunshine and blue skies. We had a fantastic time revisiting the main sites we had been to on our previous visits as well as trying out different Bistros.  I would recommend getting a metro ticket as it is so easy to use!

Based on our weekend in Paris, here are my suggestions of what to do.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is always so magnificent to look at no matter how many times you visit Paris. There are 3 places I love observing it from. On the ground at its base, from a viewpoint at Trocadero station, and from the Jardin des Tuileries.

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Jardin des Tuileries

The Jardin des Tuileries are so beautiful and strolling through them is a real pleasure. I would recommend purchasing some French treats such as Macarons or pastries and sitting down and people watching whilst indulging. There are different spaces where there are chairs available too so you could just settle down with a good book and relax.

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The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum is the most well-known Parisian museum and is the city’s heart. It is a must visit whether you are an art lover or not as it is full of treasures and even looks beautiful from the outside!

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Arc De Triomphe 

If you are feeling fit enough you can actually go to the top of the Arc De Triomphe for panoramic views of the city. It is equally as nice observing from the various avenues leading up to it.

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The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

My favourite shopping avenue in Paris is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées which houses some amazing shops, restaurants and definitely the place to be if you want to splurge or treat yourself. You can make a pit stop at Laduree for some Macarons and tea too.

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Eat at a French Bistro

Our favourite places to eat are in French Bistros, and we had a really good one called Ducale Café on 110 rue Lauriston which had the most immense French Onion Soup ever. The rest of the food was equally as good and our second favourite was Camembert with Honey and Thyme. When in France you have got to make the most of all that amazing cheese.

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Eat Macarons

When in Paris you have got to treat yourself to some Macarons. My personal Favourites are Laduree, Carette and Pierre Hermes.

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Visit Les Deux Plateaux at Palais royale

Les Deux Plateaux, more commonly known as the Colonnes de Buren, is a highly controversial art installation created by the French artist Daniel Buren in the 80’s and is located in the inner courtyard (Cour d’Honneur) of the Palais Royal. It is also very instagrammable and perfect for photos.

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Have a glass of bubbly at Paris’s first champagne bar at Le Dokhan

Le Dokhan was Paris’s first and is still the oldest Champagne bar and can be found in a prime location, between the avenue des Champs-Élysées and Trocadéro. It has also won accolades in the World’s Best Bars list and is definitely worth a visit.

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Have fresh bread and pastries from a Boulangerie 

Our favourite thing to do when in Paris is wake up early and buy bread from a Boulangerie. On this trip we had one within walking distance  of our hotel and it was so good! We bought a baguette, as well as some cheesy pastries followed by a selection of mini cakes. The choice inside the Boulangerie was unbelievably good and we literally were finding everything irresistible. There is always one within walking distance so definitely go exploring the day before so you have one to go to in the morning.

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Bonus tip: If you have longer than a weekend you can also visit Disneyland Paris by taking a train from Gare Du Nord. It is such fun and it doesn’t matter how old you are!

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What are your favourite things to do in Paris? I would love to know in the comments below xx

Top 10 things to do in Athens

Athens is so perfect for a city break and we spent 4 days in this eclectic, vibrant and cultural city which boasts ancient monuments that I promise will leave you in awe. It is also an European city you can visit all year round – we visited in January and had fabulous blue skies throughout our trip!

Here are a list of my top 7 suggestions to do in Athens based on our trip.

1. The Parthenon

You cannot visit Athens and not go to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, one of the wonders of the ancient world. This site was dedicated to the goddess Athena and was completed in 436 BC and is generally considered to be the most important remaining building of Classical Greece as well as a symbol of western civilization.

It was top on my list of sites to visit, part of the reason we chose Athens as a destination, and it is truly spectacular to see. We spent a couple of hours here and it is a great place to kick off your sightseeing in Athens.

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2. Erechtheion

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On the north side of the Acropolis, on a slope, lies an ancient Greek temple which is made entirely of marble with stunning carvings. This is called there the Erechtheion, and was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. The views from here are absolutely breathtaking.

3. Acropolis Museum

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We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the Acropolis museum, but we spent some time going through the various floors of this impressive museum.

It enables you to delve deeper into the history sounding Greece as well as the Acropolis and you can see various artefacts which paint a picture of what life in that era was like.

4. Plaka


Close to the Acropolis is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens which is fantastic to walk through. You will find a plethora of shops ranging from touristy ones to some superb artisan ones. There are also restaurants where you can sit alfresco and enjoy a variety of cuisines. You will come across ancient Greek and Roman ruins amongst your wanders as well as some beautiful old buildings with stunning architecture.

5. Eat Traditional Greek Food

Whilst in Athens, there is no excuse not to try some classic traditional Greek dishes such as the Greek Salad, Moussaka and Spinach pie. The feta cheese I tried was unlike no other I had had before and was just sensational. The olive oil is worth purchasing and taking home too once you have tasted it! You will never buy it from the supermarkets back home again.

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6. Enjoy Athens at night

At night, Athens sparkles with its various lights and lit up view of the Acropolis, no matter what side of the city you are in. There are various roof top bars and restaurants where you can relax while taking in the night views. Pictured below is the Galaxy Bar and Restaurant at the Hilton Athens, located in central Athens.

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7. Eat Greek Street Food – Koulouri

Whilst wandering the streets, you will find several stalls selling different food. Be sure to try some out! My personal favourite was Koulouri, which is a popular breakfast snack for Greeks to grab and eat on the go as they are not traditional breakfast eaters. It is a bread ring covered in toasted sesame seeds. Relatively simple but so good!

We came across this stand outside Zara on Ermou Street in Syntagma and the Koulouri was divine!

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8. Athens Central Market

A visit to the hectic,  lively and buzzing Central market on Athinas Street is a must to see the variety of fish, meat and vegetables on offer. This is a historical market and plays an important role in supplying homes and restaurants in Athens. What we learned was that the Greek favour fish over meat and have an incredibly healthy lifestyle.

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9. The Temple Of Poseidon at Sounion

On a hill overlooking the Aegean sea at the very tip of the Attiki Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from central Athens, lies the spectacular Temple of Poseidon. Whilst exploring, try and find the graffiti by Lord Byron too!


The views from here were superb and we visited on a breezy day in January, and were lucky to have had a lovely bright day. It can get chilly there so do take some warm clothing just in case! It is so worth it and there is a lovely coffee shop where you can chill after visiting the site.

10. Shopping and lunch in Glyfada

Get your shopping fix in Glyfada, where you can wander the streets and shop at places like Sephora (much to my excitement) and other high street and designer brands. Only around a 40 minute drive from central Athens and close to the seaside.

There are so many lovely cafes and restaurants in the area, and we ate at a lovely Greek restaurant called Mezze.

Have you visited Athens? What were your favourite things to do? I would love to know in the comments section below.

 

Hotel review: Hilton Athens

The 5 star Hilton Athens, is located in central Athens, close to main tourist sites and the Plaka District, as well as being in close proximity to the metro lines.

We stayed at the Hilton Athens for three nights, with breakfast provided, during our trip to Athens. It was our first time visiting Greece and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality.  As we were staying in an executive room, our check in was done in the executive lounge, by a lovely lady called Efi. She was so brilliant at recommending restaurants and tours, that we ended up booking everything through her, as they also provided concierge services in the executive lounge.

Room

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The room, which was on the 12th floor,  was really spacious and we had a view of the Acropolis in the distance. It is more of a business hotel so the interiors were minimalist with a focus more on practicality with a long desk and mini lounge area.

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There was a balcony, which if I had visited in a warmer month, would definitely have spent some time blogging in as even when I went outside in January, the cool crisp fresh air was so lovely.

The bathroom was beautiful and had both a bathtub and a shower and was large compared to other hotel bathrooms. I loved the grey and white marble design and did manage to have a lovely soak in the tub after a long day of sightseeing.

Restaurants/Breakfast

The breakfast spread at the Hilton was magnificent. It was a massive buffet choice ranging from fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, cold meats, cheeses to hot dishes which included breakfast classics as well as Greek specialities, such as their spinach pie, which I have to say is amazing. I was totally down with eating feta cheese for breakfast too. The feta cheese in Athens compared to the one you buy in the supermarket back home are so different in taste!

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They also had amazing croissants so I was very happy!

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I also ordered in room service on one day and was so impressed by the way it was presented! I had opted for french toast with maple syrup and strawberries as well as a coffee, but look at this spread that arrived!

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For lunch, we had amazing food at the Byzantino restaurant too. Our dishes were presented beautifully and the service was on point. We had gone for a Greek salad with quinoa and a baked goats cheese roll in kataifi dough with spicy tomato marmalade.

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There are 4 other restaurants but unfortunately we didn’t get to try them.

We did, however, try the cocktails at the Galaxy Bar and Restaurant, which is on the rooftop with a spectacular view. At night it is so magical!

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They had heaters on so it was perfect sitting outside in the evenings. They have a beautiful bar and lounge area inside too. It is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink or a catch up and has a lovely ambience and vibe. The cocktails are really delicious too!

If you are staying on the Executive floor, you also have complimentary meals at the Executive lounge and it is a great place to relax with a coffee or tea too.

Amenities

The hotel has a beautiful spa which I am so gutted I didn’t get a chance to use, especially as access to the indoor heated pool, sauna and other aspects are included for those guests staying on the executive floor. The pool looked amazing!

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They also have a gym, which Amit used each day and was really happy with the equipment that they had and said it was all top of the range.

They also have an outdoor pool, which we could see from our room, but it is open during the summer months and as we went in January, we could not use it.

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All in all we were so happy with the hotel and especially the location, as a taxi ride to anywhere cost under 10 euros!

The service was excellent and the staff were always willing to help. They always gave us such fantastic tips on what we should do to get the most out of our trip and always had a warm friendly smile.

The hotel was busy during our stay as there was a conference going  on, but we really didn’t feel it as it was a large hotel and with so many restaurants, it was easy to get a table at breakfast, for example.

If you are thinking of visiting Athens and are looking for a convenient and lovely hotel to stay at in the central part, the Hilton Athens ticked all the boxes for us.

Thank you Hilton Athens for a memorable stay and for looking after us s0 well.

For more information click here.

5 things to do in a day in Monaco

Whenever I thought of Monaco I imagined it to be all glitz and glamour with high rollers, luxury cars and well dressed people decked out in designer apparel. James Bond came to mind as it was one of the locations for Goldeneye and Never Say Never Again, where the  Casino Monte Carlo was featured.

I visited Monaco and Monte Carlo as part of a day trip shore excursion whilst on my Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, and we arrived via sea. You can, however, if you want a totally luxe experience, arrive in a private helicopter or alternatively for a more affordable option, take a bus from Nice, if you are vacationing there.

Monaco is such an ideal destination for a day trip if you want a taster of it, and here were our highlights. I would like to go back and experience it for a night or two though and check out the food scene and the night life.

An amazing view from the Rock

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With a view of the Mediterranean sea and the port, the Rock is a fantastic vantage point for photo opportunities as well as marvel at the various yachts lined up below at the port. It has a breathtaking view and is worth a visit. It is located in Monaco-Ville, which is also where the Old town is. Close to the Prince’s palace and you can wait here while you wait for the time slot for the changing of the guards at the palace.

The Place du Casino

All things luxurious at the Place du Casino, the epicentre of all things haute in Monte Carlo.

 

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It is also home to the Casino Monte Carlo, which opens its doors to the public at 2pm and it is worth going inside to have a look. There is no dress code and if you are feeling lucky you can try your hand at roulette.

For an extra glamourous stay, there is also the Hotel De Paris 😉

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The Café de Paris Monte-Carlo

This totally instagrammable  Café de Paris Monte-Carlo, also on the Place du Casino, has been legendary since 1868 and is a fabulous spot for people watching, lunch, dessert or mojitos 😉

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The Cathedral

Located in the old town of Monaco, the Neoclassical Cathedral, where the much-loved Princess Grace of Monaco lies at rest, is one not to miss. This 19th century cathedral is gorgeous both on the outside and in and is made from white La Turbie stone. It is really lovely to see inside.

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Changing of the guard

It is so worth watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, where the royal family still resides today.

It happens daily at 11:55 a.m. and is really fun to see. As it is located near the rock, the old town, and other sites, it is worth spending time in the area.

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Have you been to Monaco? What were your highlights? Would love to know in the comments below.