Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

October 30, 2013

Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of those countries which never makes it to anyone's must-do list and I'm the first to admit that I would never have entertained the thought of visiting this place had my sister not pushed me to join in for 4 days of her trip with her husband. And as we often say, never be too quick to judge.

I conjured up images of crime and danger and a generally backward city before I left but once I arrived in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, it only took a few hours to realise how horribly wrong I was. True, the remnants of the Soviet Union were still present in the grey buildings and the general reticence of the older population but Sofia is a cosmopolitan city emerging from the shadows of the past and I was so glad to have visited it when it was still generally uncommercialised. 

Sofia is generally safe and modern comforts are aplenty. Tap water comes from the mountains and is safe to drink. The metro stations are clean and spacious, a far cry from those in Paris. The younger generation speak good English and are so friendly and warm, offering help whenever they see someone looking lost. The prices were also very affordable; hotels and food cost less than half of those in Paris. We got decent restaurant meals for less than 10 euros each.

Sofia is nestled at the foot of the Vitosha mountains and it provided a spectacular landscape for our city walks.

The Alexander Nevsky cathedral - built in memory of Russian soldiers who liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.

We also drove out of Sofia to visit the Rila monastery, one of many monasteries dotting the nearby mountains. The view of the mountains and small villages along the mountain roads were something I never expected of Bulgaria.

Nestled at 1147 metres amongst coniferous forests, the Eastern Orthodox monastery is a sight to behold with intricately painted frescoes and courtyards with mountain views. 

After this, I had to return to Paris (rather unwillingly at this point) while my sister & her husband continued on east to Plovdiv, a more authentic Bulgarian city and then on to the Black Sea coast.
Definitely going to put this country on my list of places to revisit!

October 29, 2013

Weekend in Essaouira

Sorry for the lack of updates... my autumn has been filled with weekend trips either around France or to nearby cities. I am happy to be home enjoying some quiet time at last!

We had the chance to discover Essaouira, a coastal city in Morocco where we spent a weekend doing some thalassotherapy and eating lots of Moroccan food. Thalassotherapy uses seawater to massage the body either with jets of water or in massage baths; it also involves the use of algae and mud wraps. It was simply a very relaxing experience as we've been unbelievably busy with renovation works in the apartment.

We stayed at the L'Heure Bleue Palais, a hotel built over 3 years from an abandoned orphanage and which stood regally at the corner of the old medina. 

The medina was a complex labyrinth of shops selling silver jewellery, wooden crockery, fried fish, kilim rugs and sweet cakes. I was not a big fan of the medina but had to admit that the energy on a Saturday night was addictive. There were vendors selling fresh almond milk and families milling around, enjoying the sea breeze. It was perfectly normal to see sheep being wheeled in barrows to the abbatoir, alongside giggly schoolgirls, sinister-looking men and the odd Caucasian tourist.

And of course the coast lived up to its reputation as a kite-surfing paradise... for us, it was enough to just sit on a rock with our well-massaged bodies and watch the seagulls fly over our heads. x

September 2, 2013

La Jasoupe

We were in Burgundy to attend a friend's wedding & thought to extend the stay over a long weekend because, quite frankly, we love any excuse for a holiday.

So we did some research online & found this charming holiday cottage called La Jasoupe near Beaune, the wine capital of the region. After a 4-hour drive from Paris, we were greeted by a huge shaggy dog and the owners who had just come back from holiday. They were kind enough to make dinner reservations on our behalf so we were not left stranded in Beaune on a Friday night. Which we quickly realised could have been our fate, as tourists and locals love dining out.

We were so pleased with our room that we didnt want to leave it ever! Well except to go to the pool which looked so inviting in the morning AND evening sun.

They even had chickens, rabbits and horses on the compound! 

I love the place so much. Every single detail was well thought of and perfect. Furnishings were vintage looking but modern. The breakfasts served were delicious. 

On the last day, we took a walk around the pond and felt so sad to leave!! Being Bordeaux fans, we tried to justify a trip to Burgundy the next time just to stay at this hotel again. Luckily Beaune is just nearby; it was breathtakingly beautiful. The unity in architecture was intact and well-preserved. Here we are at the Hospices de Beaune which was built by a chancellor in 1443 as a hospital for the poor.

June 8, 2013


Today we are going to Madrid for the first Communion of my husband's god-daughter.

A very short trip but enough to go see Dali at the museum and overdose on tapas!

February 27, 2013

As authentic as it gets. 
I miss the south of Spain!

November 20, 2012

November 17, 2012


The next place on my travel list - Bolivia.
The Uyuni salt flats have amazed me for years... but I still have doubts about travelling to South America with regards to safety issues. 
However, each picture of this beautiful continent, be it of the Amazon rainforest or Macchu Picchu ignites a new wave of wanderlust.


On another note, I haven't been updating as often as I'm revamping the blog. 
Have definitely grown out of champagnepout - chose this name 8 years ago! - but havent had the time to sit down properly and design a new header or name. 
Have a good weekend y'all xx

November 10, 2012

that special place

After a hectic work week, I miss the quiet villages of Cinque Terre, especially when most of the tourists have returned and all that's left - the sea, the colorful houses where real residents live in, the vineyards - still stand untouched in the lingering sunshine, as though the summer season never quite happened.

Sometimes, when we say we love certain places and want to live there forever, like Capri or Portofino or Santorini, I wonder if we still like them hors saison, when the sun no longer lights up those beautiful cliffs, when a perpetual grey gloom is cast over the villages.

I often catch myself thinking what it is like to live in a place like this... and that the year-long residents, those who proclaim their love thru all the seasons.. those people must surely lament the arrival of summer tourists like me, who come to profiter and use their beaches when the villages look their best and everything is bathed in a warm shimmery glow.

I believe, that when you find that special place on earth, you would love it when the sun is shining or when the leaves have fallen off the trees; a sense of solidarity binds you to that place. 
Have you found your special place yet?

September 3, 2012

Favorite cafe in Siem Reap

Just next door to my hotel, I discovered a little gem of a cafe, the Upstairs Cafe.

Opened by a french lady, its sunny countryside interiors, coupled with free wifi, really good coffee and cakes, have made it very successful among the local & expat community.

Sarah, the owner, came to Siem Reap, fell in love with a Japanese man, & decided to leave her hometown of Strasbourg to come & set up a cafe here.

Listening to her stories was humbling & gratifying: how many of us join the corporate rat race, each wanting to climb higher, go faster, earn more... But her goal was to employ & train Cambodian women, while giving people a nice place to relax in.

Needless to say, I skipped the average hotel breakfast everyday & hopped over to the cafe for good Illy coffee, fluffy omelettes & freshly toasted bread! It was heaven.

Besides all-day breakfast, she also bakes really good cakes - the chocolate fondant cake with english cream and lemon sponge cake were the two cakes I tried over & over again.

September 2, 2012


Even though it was extremely hot & humid, the Angkor ruins of Cambodia still managed to take my breath away. 

The 10th century ruins of Hindu temple Banteay Srei, one of my 2 favorites. The carvings on the red sandstone were still clearly visible, unlike its bigger counterparts like Angkor Wat or the Baphuon. 

Doesnt it look like a dollhouse?

At the recommendation of a friend, I stopped also at Banteay Samre, another Hindu temple often empty but just as beautiful as Banteay Srei. I was sweaty, dirty, barefoot & wearing pants 2 sizes too big for me! But the grandeur of this temple and its courtyards make it the most memorable for me.

At before I left, the smiles of street children captured my heart.

August 27, 2012


Visited Angkor Wat & a few other temples today... Magnificent. The sheer size & intricate carvings & their location in the jungle attract tourists from all over the world; we brave the intense heat & humidity, the punishing sun and narrow stairs to witness works of the Angkor empire.

Ta Keo temple

Ta Prohm, where tree roots have totally ate the temple. 

Amazing Angkor Wat. 

August 26, 2012

Siem Reap

Coolest boutique hotel I've been to... I've been to the owner's other hotel in Bangkok & this did not disappoint... Friendly staff & great design aside, my room even had a private jacuzzi :)