I don’t know about you but sometimes you just fancy a chinese! What is it about electric orange sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice that is just so yummy? With Mr O in town I decided that we would have a chinese as a treat for our valentines date. In London there are so many places you could go and we both love China town in Soho but I decided that we would try somewhere a bit special so I booked a spot at Park Chinois in Berkeley Street in Mayfair.
My colleague and total right hand woman CGG at work had told me that this place is the place for chinese so I spent my week looking forward to indulging. The menu looked amazing as did the cocktail list! As soon as we arrived I knew we were in for a treat. I loved the lanterns at the entrance and the red velvet opulent reception area with an open fire. We arrived early but the Maitre D’ was happy to send us straight to the table. We were sat at a table near the cabaret which I was also excited to listen to. I adore listening to live music, particularly if it’s jazzy and there’s a piano. A piano playing away always take me back to my childhood when my parents used to take me to the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods. I would stare at the piano which would play itself when the pianist took their break.
Once we had settled into our surroundings at Park Chinois, the first difficult choice to make was which cocktail to have. I went for the Spritz Chinois. It was bubbly and had a hint of sweetness but it wasn’t sickly. It tasted botanical with bergamot and rosemary. It was so delicious and pink that I had to have another one. Mr O went for a Trois Garçon which was gin based. I’m not a huge fan of gin but I could quite have easily sipped on those!
Next choice was the food. I had to try the Dim Sum as I was told it was exceptional. I asked the waiter for his advice and he recommended the Waygu Beef Gyoza. Mr O went for the King Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. Both were delicious and we both tasted each other’s. For our main course we of course had to try the sweet and sour Iberico pork loin but it was like no other. The panko breadcrumbs were so light but crunchy and the sauce was tangy. I saw champagne sauce on the menu which happened to accompany the Cantonese duck à l’orange and I thought that was a bit of me so we went for that too. The duck fried rice which we had as a side along with some crunchy Pak Choi was equally as delicious.
Normally after chinese I’m full to bursting but seeing as Park Chinois is so spectacular I thought we really should give the dessert menu a peruse. Chocolate fondant and gold leaf it was….with two spoons of course! Which we all know really means it’s mostly mine and Mr O can take a few bites! Poor Mr O!
Before we left I had to pay a visit to the ladies. It really is such a beautiful bathroom. Think dark and mysterious, lots of mirrors and ornate gold taps. Now this place is spectacular but it does come with a price tag but for a treat it’s totally worth it. In order to get over the bill we decided to go for a drink. Off to the Rivoli Bar at The Ritz as it is within staggering distance of Park Chinois. We only stayed for one (I chose the cocktail of the month called Seduction in honour of Valentines Day) as if I had any more I think I’d topple over. This loosing weight thing makes me an awfully cheap date!! Although Mr O did remind me that my one post dinner drink was at The Ritz…..maybe not such a cheap one after all!
I’ve had an unusual day today. Firstly, I had a whole day to myself!! My schedule is usually jam packed so I took the opportunity to have a day, in my own company, in London. KB is at a conference, Mr O is having a boys weekend in Dublin and my parents are sunning themselves at the Belmond in Mexico. Secondly, something truly historic, monumental and epic happened. I’ve returned home from my saunter around central London with exactly what I went looking for. I need to retire my current black patent heels which I keep in the office. They’ve served me very well (and they are ideal for desk to dinner and everything in between) but they are starting to look a bit scruffy so a new pair was needed. I didn’t just find any old pair though, oh no! I have come home with THE shoes. Shoes with red soles…..the ones you have to just close your eyes and enter the pin number into the card machine because best not remember the price. Yes fellow slimmer’s in the city, I am the proud owner of a pair of Christian Louboutins!
So you may ask why this pair of red soled
shoes are so monumental for me? I suppose every woman will remember their first
pair of Loubs but for me it marks something so much more. Quite simply, my feet
would have never squeezed into such a pair of shoes two years ago. My feet were
so puffy and wide that if I had managed to stuff my feet into them I’d be spilling
over the sides and there’s no way I could have walked in them dealing with the
pressure. Plus the stiletto heel would have snapped under my immense weight.
Today however was a different story.
I started my search off in Selfridges. Previously Selfridges would have only catered for my perfume, makeup and handbag addiction but now it can all be mine….ok, let’s not get too carried away! I don’t want you thinking I’ve got a problem! Why is it that when you are looking for something you can’t find it?! I swear before Christmas all I could see were black patent heels but today I was struggling. Dior could have provided me with black patent sling backs but they had the white ribbon with J’adore Dior (never have more true words been spoken Christian Dior) but not suitable for the office or to wear with black tights. Yves Saint Laurent could provide sky high patent black pumps but the heel was made up of the silver or gold metal YSL. A bit too high fashion for trotting around the office and the lady at Louis Vuitton said they are so uncomfortable. I’m a bit like a magpie so I’m always drawn to the sparkly offerings of Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo but I thought I’d chance my luck in Christian Louboutin. I immediately feel for the block patent heels with a rounded toe. They were available in nude or black, they were just the right height and I thought they were the ones. They didn’t have my size but my hunting instinct kicked in and I was determined that these shoes would be mine. They phoned around and my shoes were available in the Mount Street boutique.
Two years ago, if I wanted to go the short distance from Selfridges to Mount Street, I would have needed a taxi. These days however, as Mr O would say my piston legs were going, in fact I left him a voice note as to what I was doing and confused him greatly. I literally sprinted down Duke Street, through Grosvenor Square and down towards The Connaught, turning right onto Mount Street. I walked into Louboutin and the gentleman who greeted me immediately sensed that I was on a mission. He said he liked a lady who knew exactly what she was after and he said I clearly had taste as I put down my cross body silver Diorama calfskin bag. He brought the shoes out and I was sat on a red velvet chaise. Unlike two years ago when it would have been like the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella trying to stuff their feet into the glass slipper, this time my feet glided into the pumps. I stood up and walked to the mirror. I mean, they were practically already in the bag and walking with me down the road the moment they were on my feet.
I walked back out onto Mount Street swinging
my bag feeling delighted. I could have just gone home but instead I decided to
go for a walk…..just because I can! I love exploring Mayfair with the red brick
buildings and Mount Street is one of my favourites as there are so many gems
within yards of each other. Think Hélène Derroze at The Connaught, Scott’s of
Mayfair and Sophia Webster who does the most beautiful shoes. I love my silver
satin bejewelled butterfly flats – I see them every morning on my shoe rack and
they give me such joy! Do you know what else gives me joy? I love the freedom
that walking has given me. I love to walk anywhere and everywhere whereas
before I wasn’t fit enough. My journey to wellness started with a bit of
ambling but now it’s a full on fast sprint, knocking out tourists kind of walk
when I need to be somewhere.
Why don’t you come and walk a mile in my shoes then (for today though, not in my new Loubs but instead in knee high black suede boots from Duo who cater for any calf size from narrow to wide). From Mount Street I went to Berkley Square and peered into Bentley and Rolls Royce and past Sexy Fish. Instead of walking up to Piccadilly I turned onto Dover Street and went past Victoria Beckham. I liked the door which slid open as I walked past. I zig-zagged my way through the streets until I hit Old Bond Street, the home of all the finest jewellers (see I told you I was a magpie). My absolute favourite is the oldest English jewellers, Boodles. I do own a few pieces, I love the ethos of the brand and that even 220 years on it’s still a family run business and the Wainwrights are very present.
The security guard noticed that I was wearing one of the Blossom collection tulip rings so we had a long chat outside whilst I finished my cappuccino. I’m never not wearing my tulip ring. My parents bought it for me when I passed my Bar exams. Before I received it I had also been admiring it as my Nanny had just passed away, she loved tulips and also grew them in her garden. I find it quite ironic that that my tulip means so much to me in honour of my Nanny and life has led me to the land of tulips to Mr O. I do feel that maybe Nanny had a plan all along.
I stopped chattering and walked past the Royal Academy, Burlington Arcade, Cecconis and Saville Row. Now if I was a man, I’d have to get my suits from Saville Row or Jermyn Street. It really disappoints me that the men I have worked with in city law firms have not tended to dress well. Where do I start but to summarise greying white shirts, dull ties and scuffed shoes! If you hadn’t guessed already, shoes are important along with tidy nails and good eyebrows. I paced up Regents Street and it was starting to rain so I thought I’d bob into a few shops whilst I was there. I went into Michael Kors and got chatting to one of the sales assistants as I was looking for a dress for my upcoming dinner out to Park Chinois for mine and Mr O’s valentines date. To be honest I think any new purchases in the next month need to honour the new Loubs and there was only one dress in there that would have matched. It was in the sale and even though it fitted I think a size up would have been more flattering – certainly do not want to look like I’m a sausage about to burst! I love a good sales assistant and this young woman is certainly going to go far and knows how to look after a customer.
As the rain was coming down I decided that it was home time. I looked at my phone and saw that I’d actually walked 8km…certainly more than just that mile in my shoes. Walking is a mundane thing for most people but for me it’s a constant reminder of how far I have walked in my shoes to get me to where I am today and that’s right here, tapping away about my day on my laptop and you guessed it wearing my new shoes! The name of the model of my Loubs is called Lady Gena so stay tuned because I predict that CWS and the Lady Genas are going to have some fun.
Paris has always had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. When I
was 5 my mum brought me back from Paris a sparkly Eiffel Tower snow globe and
from that moment I’ve been enchanted by this city. Since my first visit I’ve
been hooked by the sparkling Tour d’Eiffel and the chic shoulder shrugging,
baguette munching citoyens. I suppose my
connection with Paris is not just because it’s a truly spectacular place but
because I speak French and understand the culture having also lived and studied
in France so I can never let an opportunity to visit pass me by. I hold very
special memories of Paris….Rue de la Montaigne was where my first Chanel
handbag was purchased. He’s called George by the way (just in case you were
Mr O and I were approaching our anniversary and as we
watched a Six Nations rugby match for our first date, I thought it would be
fitting to mark our milestone watching another match. Just my luck that there
was the France v. England match on our anniversary weekend et voilà I informed
Mr O that we were going to the city of love and light.
When in Paris, do as the Parisians do – they know how to live well! Therefore we checked into the ultra-luxe Peninsula hotel ideally located on Avenue Kléber, a stone’s throw away from the key sights and designer shops! As soon as we whirled around in the revolving door operated by a young man dressed in white with gold embroidery and a pillar box hat we entered into the chicest of lobbies. Don’t you just love it when the oh so eloquent and polite person on check in mutters those magic words. Mademoiselle, we’ve upgraded you….to a room on the top floor with a terrace and a view of the Eiffel Tower. Quelle dommage indeed. Somehow I think I’ll cope!
The room itself was stylish and elegant, every little
detail had been thought of and was a generous size for Paris. Mr O loved that
everything was controlled by iPad whereas I was more wowed by the walk in
wardrobe and dressing area….oh and that the bathroom had mood lighting which
included a spa setting where the lights would be lowered and relaxing music
played. Did I not mention the gorgeous delicate scent of the Oscar de la Renta
toiletries? Mr O soon found out he could watch any movie for free on the
in-room entertainment system so he collapsed onto the bed to watch Cars. Didn’t
he realise I needed him to be my Instagram photographer, after all we had a
rooftop view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background!
One of the (many) things I love about a luxury hotel is
the decadent room service. No trays in sight at the Peninsula even if it is
just for a ‘let them eat brioche’ croque monsieur. You get a table on wheels
delivered to your room, the waiter serves you and you can dine au dressing
gown. There was another knock on the
door; had they forgotten something? Of course not! it was just a little
Peninsula welcome of freshly made and delicately flavoured macarons piled under
a glass cloche. Let’s just say they didn’t last long. C’était délicieux!
Mr O and I are mindful (most of the time) of what we eat
and like to keep active so after such indulgence we decided to pay a visit to
the spa. Who knew heaven could be waiting in the basement of a Paris hotel?
This spa is exquisite! If swimming is your exercise of choice you could get
some decent laps in here and when Mr O decides to dunk you under the water you
can enjoy the sub aqua music.
The gym called for us the following morning and we were
demonstrating what we get up to with our respective PT’s in London and
Amsterdam. Mr O went first and then it was my turn. Thought I’d show him some
slams with a 10kg ball. You slam it onto the floor from over your head and then
squat down to pick it up. It really gets your heart rate up. Top tip from me is
that you check to see if the ball bounces. Oh yes, I managed to bite through my
lip and almost knock my teeth out and break my nose by the ball bouncing back.
Instead of Nora Twatty having a meltdown I managed to stay totally calm
although in agony. Poor Mr O didn’t know what to do with himself and the other
gentleman in the gym just continued not doing a lot apart from posing on
different equipment in his immaculate Gucci tracksuit.
I decided, after the gym incident, that if I could fathom breakfast then I’d survive and to be honest, I don’t think much would have stopped me enjoying pétit déjeuner à la Peninsula. I’m fond of a breakfast buffet but you know you are somewhere top notch when breakfast is served to you and your newspaper or handbag has its own stool. One morning I had an omelette which was healthy and packed full of goodness but the second morning I decided to treat myself and asked the waiter what he recommended. His suggestion was the French toast. I actually think it was life changing as I never knew that eggy bread could taste so sublime. That dish alone is reason enough for my next visit to the Peninsula. I asked for the recipe and before I knew it the chef was in front of me penning his secret recipe.
They say you should breakfast like a King or a Queen (maybe not the best advice in Paris as we all know how it ended for Louis and Marie Antoinette) but it set us up for the day ahead, flaneuring around Paris. We sampled the cafe culture and I took Mr O to Fouquets the ultimate people watching spot. Don’t expect a cheap drink here but it’s worth soaking up the atmosphere whilst warming up with a chocolat chaud. Next stop was arty Montmartre where I sat Mr O down at a bar for a well-earned beer as he had put up with me dragging him into all of the shops and I went off to continue a family tradition of getting an artist to do a portrait as I had changed somewhat in the last couple of years.
Every visit to Paris should involve dinner at Chez Georges nestled on Rue du Mail in the financial arrondisement. If you want an intimate dinner then this is the place to go….by intimate I mean it’s a bit of a puzzle how everyone manages to squeeze in so don’t go thinking you’ll whisper sweet nothings into your lovers ear as the stockbroker next to you will be privy to it. Think ‘Allo ‘Allo with the staff (René and Madame Edith real life equivalents), the menu is handwritten and if something has run out it’s crossed out.
After feasting on foie gras do not mutter ‘je suis plein’ until you’ve sampled profiteroles like no others. Real vanilla pod ice cream encased in golden cups of Choux pastry drowned in dark chocolate sauce. Mr O doesn’t have such a sweet tooth as I do but he’s good for sharing desserts with….by that I mean that we have two spoons but we know it’s mine!
We came to Paris to watch a rugby match….shortly speaking, England lost, France won, and we met a man with a chicken on his head. Standard for Paris perhaps….
So how can you top off a weekend of pure decadence and indulgence with your loved one in Paris? We visited the L’Oiseau Blanc, the Peninsula’s rooftop bar named after a plane that went missing in the 1920’s trying to make the first trans-Atlantic flight to New York. Trust the French and their humour noir to name such a special place after a doomed plane. On the hour every hour during hours of darkness the Paris skyline glistens with the sparkling lights on the Eiffel Tower and you have the perfect view from the Peninsula rooftop.
It fills me with joy and takes me back to my five year old self enchanted with the magic of Paris in a snow globe. I was sad as I woke up the next morning in the comfiest marshmallowy bed that our dreamy weekend in Paris was over and Mr O had another sporting commitment in Amsterdam so was on the first train out. After waving him off I packed up Louis (my globetrotting four wheeled travel companion) stuffed with as many Oscar de la Renta toiletries as possible and took one last look on our terrace of Paris waking up. À bientôt….we will always have Paris and the Peninsula