The Town by the Lake, Aix-Les-Bains

For the last couple of years I have spent my holidays seeing Europe by train and trekking to gorgeous little towns around France and Italy. One of my particular favourites has had to be the town of Aix-Les-Bains, nestled quietly next to the towering Alps and the beautiful Lac Du Bourget in France.

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The weather here can be changeable and on the couple of occasions I have visited it has been prone to some quite fantastic thunderstorms! More specifically after our arrival it seemed to pour with rain as soon as we’d walked into the hotel lobby! We also had a bbq one evening which resulted in a quick dash inside when the first spots of a heavy shower started to plop onto our plates.

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For those who are keen cyclists the location is perfect and the nearby Chambery is the finishing point for Stage 9 of the 2017 Tour De France. Routes close to Aix-Les-Bains include Col Du Chat and the renowned Mont Du Chat, for those who would like more of a challenge and is also to be featured on the 2017 Tour de France.

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For those who like to explore on two feet, I recommend taking a trip down to Lac Du Bourget and what better way to get there than by miniature train which leaves the Hotel De Ville throughout the day. This is a perfect way to see the town – the commentary is mostly in French – but it is still wonderful to see the beautiful scenery on the way down to the lakeside. Once by the lake you have the opportunity to walk for miles, there are lovely areas to sit and relax as well as wonderful bars and restaurants which I’m sure would be open in an evening to watch the world go by.

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Although there are not many chain stores here, it is a beautiful town to stroll around at a leisurely pace, visiting the various independent stores. I bought some stunning shoes in one of the stores – a gorgeous pair of pastel coloured wedges. I had a wonderful morning enjoying some retail therapy and planning my dream French maison!

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If you are looking for a fabulous hotel in which to base yourself for the duration of your stay then definitely take a look at the Golden Tulip. With recently refurbished spa facilities it is the perfect place to relax and rest those aching feet from all that retail therapy. The large bar and reception area is perfect for chilling out – reading a book or catching up with the latest on the Tour De France on their widescreen TVs.

If you are looking for a town where you can truly practice your French. This is the place to go. I had quite an experience in a French lingerie shop where as it happened I had a brief lapse in remembering any French bar the words ‘tres chaud’ and manically trying to mime how hot the weather was outside.. fortunately the two French ladies were extremely excited about the fact that I was even attempting to speak their language – a very amusing experience by both parties involved!

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Becky

Pretty & Petit

 

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Dubai – A Dream Come True (Part 1)

Ten years ago I came across the city of Dubai whilst creating mood boards for a school project. At this time, many of the architectural masterpieces that reside there today were dreams of what the future of this international hub of trading, business and technology could become. Today, many of these structures have been created, from skyscrapers reaching towards the stars, the city sprawling and stretching out into the desert, and fresh land being reclaimed to form spectacular man made islands.

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My fascination with this city began with the beautiful imagery that was born out of this luxurious destination. As a gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia; it is formed of a magical, multicultural combination of Arabian and international cultures to form a destination that is wealthy, prosperous and unique.

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When an opportunity arose for entering a competition to win a 3 night trip to this dream destination I had to go for it! I wrote how I would spend three days in the city, combining my interests of exploring the more traditional side of Dubai to indulging in its modern counterpart of more recent developments, along with my pure fascination in the architectural wonders it holds. You can read my post here if it is of interest! After a few days of anxiously waiting I received the most amazing news via Twitter that I had won! It took a while for the news to sink in as it truly was a dream come true.

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Travelbag, who the competition was in conjunction with, made the booking process so easy. Our trip was handled smoothly and efficiently by all involved, particularly Ashley in the Brighton office and the lovely ladies in the Kensington office who ensured that all of our flights, hotel and transfers were confirmed. I ensured an itinerary was planned, with limited time in Dubai and so much to see, I really wanted to ensure we made the most of our time there. I booked our trip up the Burj Khalifa prior to going which was so easy to do online. It also enabled you to pre-book a time slot which meant no time was wasted by queueing. Click here to book your tickets!

Although we didn’t have enough time to do any specific excursions, they are definitely worth considering when going to Dubai. For our transfers to and from the hotel to the airport we had excellent guides who talked about the area, the various buildings en-route etc. This was amazing considering it was my first time in Dubai and there was so much to see. To see the city and learn about it when first stepping off the plane was incredible and I am so pleased we had such an excellent driver. He was part of Arabian Adventures, a company that offer a whole range of fantastic excursions, from city tours through to a desert safari, definitely worth taking a look prior to heading to Dubai to see if there is anything you would like to see in particular!

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On Thursday 12th May we had an early start off to London’s Heathrow airport. We headed over to a (quiet!) Paddington station to catch our Heathrow Express train to Terminal 3. Being located in West London the trip to Heathrow would have been fairly quick by underground (the Piccadilly line goes straight to the airports terminals) however we opted for the Heathrow Express for the accessibility (most notably the lack of stairs to drag a heavy suitcase up and down!) and comfort, the leg room is excellent and there is ample room for suitcases and other luggage. If you are looking for a cheaper option, I would highly advise the underground as there are very frequent services to all terminals. The journey to Heathrow was extremely quick and we arrived at our departing terminal within 15 minutes! The terminal was easy to navigate and after finding no queue at the check in desk we were able to promptly drop off our bags and head up to departures. After experiencing the new, efficient, full body scanner, some security gates seem more sensitive over the metal plate in my foot than others! We headed through duty free into the departure lounge. I was feeling both slightly apprehensive but also fairly excited about my impending flight. It was the furthest I have ever travelled but I was so looking forward to flying with Emirates.

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It was a smooth six hour (approx.) journey which was made comfortable through the wonderful ICE entertainment system with access to film, tv shows, radio and music along with the option to view the plane’s journey with three onboard cameras! Our plane had a smooth landing in Dubai as the sun set over the city and we headed into the largest airport terminal I have ever seen in my life! To top it off there was the largest fountain to welcome us, along with a wonderful lady from Emirates to direct us to our transfer through the airport arrivals, which helped to make everything so efficient for us.

Our journey to the hotel was unforgettable. I still remember every second now. The awe of seeing the row of skyscrapers dominating Dubai’s skyline, through to the Sheikh Zayed Road – six lanes across in some places – it was a marvel in itself! The most priceless moment however, was the journey across onto the palm, turning the corner to see the fantastic Atlantis hotel standing grand against the horizon, it was stunning, an architectural wonder.

Heading onto the palm was surreal, although I had seen pictures, these were often from the air, to be actually on the island it felt as though we hadn’t really left the mainland at all. It was only when we got to the far end of the palm to our hotel, the Sofitel Palm, that we realised how far out to sea we actually were. It was pitch black, besides the lights from the hotel. When looking back to the shore it was a beautiful sight to see all the twinkling lights in the distance. We headed down to a beautiful steak dinner at the Porterhouse restaurant as part of our half board package. This was quite beneficial as there were not too many restaurants nearby on the palm so we were secluded to our hotel. It didn’t matter, there was a wonderful range of restaurants to choose from!

Stepping out onto the balcony was a bit of a shock in the morning. The warm air engulfing me as I stood looking out over the Arabian Gulf. I could only stand out for a few minutes before heading back into the fridge of the hotel room!

By 11am the pool and beach were looking super busy. Fortunately, we were able to ask the hotel staff to find us some loungers on the beach (a free service that they provide) along with an umbrella for some shade. They also provided towels too meaning we didn’t need to bring our own. It was so nice to set up camp for the morning – sipping on an ice cold frappucino from the local shop, overlooking the view of Dubai in the distance!

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Friday was family brunch day in the Porterhouse restaurant. Not sure what to expect, we took our seats overlooking the beautiful gardens of the Sofitel. We were handed two menus and explained that they would be bringing ALL the dishes on the menu so we could choose – buffet style, what we would like to eat.

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After brunch we headed over to Deira in our gleaming white, beautifully air conditioned Lexus (oh yes, we only travel in style in Dubai!) to head to the souks. Upon arrival we were immediately approached by several men all asking if we would like to buy designer handbags, watches and jewellery – although I cannot say for certain how legitimate these items were! We politely declined and headed off to the gold souk.

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We must have been spoken to by every shop owner in the souks that day – each asking if we would like to see what they had for sale and saying hello in a multitude of different languages. It was a beautiful sight to see all the beautiful gold sparking in the windows, and the spices of spice souk all piled up producing such delicious scents. Although I have visited these types of markets in previous years I felt bit overwhelmed and so did not go into any of the shops on this occasion. Now I know what to expect I would definitely go back on my next visit to try out my bartering skills and I’m sure would get some wonderful bargains!

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After heading through the spice souk we reached the sparking Dubai Creek. The fresh breeze from the water was truly welcome at this point, a soothing break from the dry heat of the city. We came across the Abra (water taxi) who explained that we could either have a trip up and down the Creek for AED 14 (£2.63) or we could make the quick trip across for AED 1 (0.18p!) We went for that option.

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After an eventful ride on the Abra, testing my balance with getting on and off the boat! We took a walk through the back streets of Dubai exploring little alleyways and witnessing everyday life. Piles of shoes outside houses and Dubai’s local community going about their daily routine. We headed past a Sikh temple before getting back to the waters edge of the Dubai Creek. Following it along we noticed the juxtaposition of the beautiful yachts moored against the bank, to the wooden abras ferrying travellers from shore to shore. We headed back inland and stumbled across the Dubai Museum, quite accidentally! It was late afternoon by this point and wanting to get out of the heat so we headed inside.

The Dubai Museum has a wealth of treasures. You start your journey in a courtyard area, there are wooden boats and examples of bedouin life. You head inside and into the fortress, following a spiral ramp down to the galleries. The galleries explored the history of Dubai, an in depth look into the rich history of the city and its culture. It looked at the importance of the sea to the city and then the recent development of the city – the desire of the city to be home to the tallest, the widest, at the forefront of architectual design. It was an extremely insightful introduction to the city.

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On leaving the Dubai Museum we took a walk through the city, a mixture of the residential and industrial parts of the city. We followed a group of young men for a while who had a kitten walking beside them, much like a dog would, after a while one of the young men scooped it up and carried it. We eventually returned to the coastline and came across an old friend, the QE2, which had reached her final destination of Dubai before being turned into a beautiful hotel. I remembered saying goodbye whilst living in Southampton from my bedroom window, watching her sail down Southampton Water and into the Channel on to her final destination.

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Heading back to the hotel we decided on dinner at the Hong Loong restaurant, a gorgeous Chinese restaurant hidden away in a corner of the hotel – you had to get a lift to find it! We had such delicious Chinese cuisine, including Beef in Black Bean Sauce with Strawberry crushed ice for dessert accompanied by the most gorgeous Oriental Cosmopolitan I have ever tasted! I am so looking forward to recreating that at home – but I’m not sure it will match up to the same standard!

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Make sure you keep an eye out for part 2 of my Dubai adventure – coming soon!!!

Becky at Pretty & Petit

 

A View from The Shard

On a warm September evening, we travelled over to London Bridge to visit The Shard, the tallest building in Europe. Watching this gradually being constructed over the last few years, it was amazing to be able to visit this amazing building. Especially as so many of the tallest buildings in London are predominantly housing or office blocks.

The View from The Shard

               The View from The Shard

We paid for our tickets, went through some security and had our photo taken. After being provided with an audio guide we were guided over to the lift. I felt a bit apprehensive prior to going to The Shard as I am afraid of heights but once in the lift this seemed to disappear.

To get to the top you are required to get in two lifts, travelling at 6m per second. They are ultra smooth and it doesn’t feel like you are travelling anywhere at all! The first stops at floor 33 where you head to a second lift to go up to floor 68. This was definitely one of the tallest buildings I’ve ever been in. I don’t think I’ve ever been higher than 8 floors!

Stepping out on the 68th floor (and walking up the stairs to the 69th) we were absolutely mesmorised by the sight before us. Every single part of London, North, South, East and West was laid out before us in a criss-crossing pattern of multi-coloured lights and beautifully lit architecture.

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We enjoyed some champagne and took so many photos of the different views available from the floor to ceiling windows in each angle of the building. Although a sprawling city, it looked so small from that height. The railways snaked across the city like rivers and the Thames itself was adorned by bridges spanning its width as far as the eye could see. It was truly spectacular.

Champagne on the 69th floor!

Champagne on the 69th floor! (It was dark up there!)

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Looking up into the night. Towards the spire of The Shard

If you’re thinking of visiting The Shard on a trip to London it’s an absolutely amazing thing to do! Certainly you pay a price for a view like that (concessions are available for students, senior citizens etc.) and there are some wonderful packages available too. However they have an affordable boutique at the end which is good value for money so handy for souvenirs on your way home.

Some key facts about The Shard!

The Shard is approximately 309 metres high.

The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe.

A fox was found living on the 72nd floor during construction which staff nicknamed ‘Romeo’.

The Shard is home to Shangri-La Hotel, as well as multiple bars and restaurants and office space.

It takes 3 months to clean the windows of The Shard by some very brave window cleaners!

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Becky at Pretty & Petit

#BigBloggerConference

Yesterday I attended the #BigBloggerConference! The event was organised by @LDNMeetUp and was held in Hotel Russell, a beautiful hotel in Russell Square, London. Chandeliers adorned the hallways with beautiful decorative mirrors and gorgeous hanging baskets lined the fence to the grand entrance of the hotel.

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Front of the Hotel Russell, London

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The beautiful chandeliers throughout the building.

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Desperate for one of these mirrors for the hallway!

We were provided with some cute gifts from Ohh Deer and Jelly Belly and started the day with a number of really insightful workshops, starting with ‘Pinterest 101’ in which Elizabeth Sellers, Pinterest UK Ambassador gave loads of fantastic tips on how to use Pinterest with blogging. This was great as I have been using my personal Pinterest account more and more lately. I love looking through the beautiful pictures, gaining inspiration and creating wishlists! It’s fantastic for my blog too as it features a lot of smaller businesses and Etsy shops which I have not come across yet. I’m always excited about what I may find on there. So make sure you keep an eye out for Pretty & Petit on Pinterest soon!

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Check out these cute gifts from Ohh Deer and Jelly Belly!

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The lovely Elizabeth navigating us through Pinterest.

Next up we had a workshop from Jasmin Charlotte, Lifestyle Blogger in SEO. I have to admit, whenever I hear ‘SEO’ I seem to cower a little. I absolutely love social media and marketing – I do it as my full time job! but when it comes to SEO something about it makes me want to run into a corner and hide. It’s just not an area that I have an interest in. Jasmin however changed that yesterday. Through providing fantastic tips and advice she informed us of the best ways in which to aid SEO through our blogs. She noted that content is key and provided useful stats about the optimum number of words to include in blog posts and so on. It was very insightful and it was a fun approach to looking at SEO from a bloggers perspective.

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The lovely Jasmin providing us with an insight into the world of SEO.

Finally we had a workshop with Sarah Moody of The Prosecco Diaries in how to monetize our blogs. It was so nice to hear a bloggers perspective on how to do this. It is rare to hear of how much a blogger may be earning but with the rise in blogger and vlogger ‘celebrities’ it just goes to show that if you can put the hard work in you will definitely reep the rewards. I’m excited to take on board some of her advice through consultancy and developing my blog brand. It’ll be exciting to see what the future holds for my little blog!

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The lovely Sarah sharing her top tips on monetizing our blogs!

We headed out to have some (really delicious) cake! before heading out for lunch in the park opposite the hotel. As you might recall it was a beautiful 29 degrees in London yesterday and it was so nice to see everyone enjoying the hot weather. I definitely recommend heading over to Russell Square if you are ever in London. It’s close to the British Museum and is such a lovely place to stop and have a picnic. They also have a cute little cafe there that sells sandwiches, cake, ice cream and even prosecco!

We headed back to the hotel for the second part of the day which incorporated an exhibition. This interactive exhibition provided us with the opportunity to meet with brands and see their products first hand! I handed out my lovely new business cards and collated information of the amazing brands that were exhibiting. Brands included:

  • Shoeaholics
  • Scoliosis UK
  • Made by Jade
  • The Gifting Lounge
  • Look Fantastic, Beauty Expert and HQ Hair
  • Designed by Henna
  • The Parlour
  • Comb
  • Beau Bronze
  • Suti Skincare
  • SASS
  • House of Fraser
  • Heaven
  • Jewellerybox.co.uk
  • My Protein
  • Bee Good

(Sorry if I have missed anyone!)

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The amazing Shoeaholics stand. I absolutely loved their cute cupcakes and check out the leopard shoes on the right! Stunning!

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Made By Jade stand. Loved the cute leather bracelets!

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The Gifting Lounge stand. So bright and colourful! Such a cute range.

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The Look Fantastic stand, full of beautiful boxes of beauty gifts.

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Beautiful packaging on the SASS stand.

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A sneak A/W preview from House of Fraser!

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JewelleryBox.co.uk has the cutest range of jewellery. So many dinosaurs!

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The Heaven skincare stand. Loved the packaging of their gorgeous products.

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Bee Good with their bee inspired products and cute sweet and savoury biscuits!

There were also ‘tweeting’ challenges throughout the afternoon in which we had to provide tips and our favourite products to the brands we had come across throughout the afternoon. Make sure you look out for some reviews of these fantastic brands in the coming weeks!

The Parlour were offering cute braiding on their stand and how could I resist? These cute braids literally lasted all day and I really didn’t want to take it out at the end of the day. Their salon isn’t too far from me so I’m so excited to go and try them out – especially after reading all the amazing reviews they have received!

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Beautiful braids from The Parlour

At the end of the day a raffle was held with proceeds going to the Scoliosis UK charity. I never say no to a raffle and was absolutely delighted when I didn’t only win one prize but two! The first was a lovely gift set from Paul Mitchell and the second was an amazing beauty bundle from W7. I couldn’t wait to get home and try everything out so be prepared for some upcoming reviews soon!

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My beauty bundle from W7

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Collection of goodies from Paul Mitchell

Overall it was a fantastic day and I wish I could do it all over again! Thank you so much to the organisers from @LDNmeetup, including  and . You put in so much hard work for us all and it truly paid off. I can’t wait until the next event!

Becky at Pretty & Petit