How To Spend: 48 Hours In Hong Kong

4 December 2018

The first stop of our nine-month long trip was Hong Kong, the vibrant southeastern city in China known for its neon night sky and for being a melting pot of oriental and western cultures. One of my good friends Rachel - check out her Instagram, her Glossier-pink aesthetic's a dream - is from there and sent us off with her ultimate guide to Hong Kong (as well as some eye masks for the plane, thanks Rach) so shoutout to her for being the source of most of these fantastic recommendations!

We booked an Airbnb in a district of Kowloon called Tsim Sha Tsui and were so happy with it! We've had nothing but positive experiences using Airbnb and the location on Granville Road was ideal, with great transport links and tons of personality. One of those places that you can stroll around and know your way home within a few hours! Tsim Sha Tsui is great for fancier shopping (e.g. the malls on Canton Road) but is also packed with cheaper little independent stores and really casual eateries.

The journey was pretty tiring as (after a nine-hour flight) we had a long stopover in Mumbai (before another six-hour flight) so we were dragging our little feet off the plane, but Hong Kong airport is wonderful and the tube-esque Airport Express makes arriving such a breeze, especially if you're disabled or have heavy luggage that makes stairs or platforms difficult. We decided to treat ourselves to a taxi to our Airbnb as we were so sleepy, and it couldn't have been clearer which way to go and which one to get - there are even boards before you get to the taxi ranks explaining how much you should expect to pay. Our driver was as eccentric and hilarious as they come, serenading us with a rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer before dropping us off outside our door.

Slightly delirious from travelling for thirty hours with no sleep and with a further three to kill until we could get into our Airbnb, we wandered down Granville Road and ducked into a place called Hungry Pug. I think we assumed we were hallucinating from lack of sleep and food as everything was pug-related: the crockery, the cups, the artwork - pugs as far as the eye can see! We ordered two beers (served in 'pug mugs', obviously) as well as the soup and salad of the day each with a Thai red curry to share (the rice was in the shape of a dog's bone, props for the attention to detail) and tea afterwards which came to about £30. The owner was super friendly and the place was packed by lunchtime.

After a five-hour nap at our Airbnb we headed out in search of noodles, ending up at Mak's on Wellington Street - they specialise in wonton noodles so Will had the beef and tomato and I had the spring onion with ginger and garlic. It came with a vegetable broth (so soothing on my post-flight throat) and we also shared a side of oyster sauce kale, which seemed like tenderstem broccoli to us. If you’re looking for a simple and traditional plate of food with attentive service, you won’t go far wrong with Mak’s!

One of the coolest (or I guess, warmest!) things restaurant-wise about Hong Kong was the tea experience, as we were given hot green/jasmine tea as soon as we sat down in every place we ate in. An evening favourite was HAKU for the coldest glass of white wine I've ever had in my life, served with a side of edamame in gorgeous puffer-fish pottery.

Make sure you stroll down to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade on Victoria Harbour in the evening for a stunning view of the vibrant skyline (you’ll literally say ‘wow’ out loud when you turn the corner and see it for the first time) and take time to sit and watch the ferries coming and going.

We weren’t sure what the breakfast situation would be like and wondered whether we’d be slurping up ramen at 7am, but we found a great little joint called N1 with an interior that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Hoxton or Shoreditch. Our pot of tea came in the most beautiful tea-set adorned with golden birds for the handles! The breakfast menu was extensive and everything sounded amazing (especially the filled bagels) but we both went for the crushed avo on toast, and I ordered mine sans poached eggs. When they arrived Will’s was this mouthwatering feast with artisanal sourdough and a hefty rocket/tomato/balsamic side salad, whereas mine was plain sliced avocado on one piece of untoasted wholemeal - so maybe don’t go off-piste when it comes to the blackboard!

Central Hong Kong is well worth a visit, especially if you’re staying in Tsim Sha Tsui as you get the pleasure of riding the Star Ferry - the views as you cross the harbour are stunning, it’s also the cheapest option compared to a taxi or the subway and you can also book to see a laser show. If you’re not using Octopus (pretty much Hong Kong’s answer to an Oyster card) make sure you take out some change to buy your Star Ferry token with, then enjoy five minutes of bliss taking in the sights.

The vibe in central felt way more corporate - think lots of expensive cars, groups of men in suits having after-work drinks and a ginormous glowing Apple Store. If you’re a fan of busy city centres filled with skyscrapers and modern wine bars, you’ll love central! 

Craving the laidback feel of Tsim Sha Tsui amongst the hustle and bustle we headed down a quieter side street and decided to eat at Hungry Korean on Wo On Lane, a chain restaurant promising “food that has been prepared with a little bit of love and integrity with no MSG or artificial ingredients”. As a vegetarian I’d been finding some places tricky, so we asked before entering and were assured by the friendly waitress that the vermicelli dish would be one of the best meals I’d have on the trip - and she was so right! It was absolutely delicious, as was Will’s pork bi bim bap which is their most popular dish. The waitress told him that the trick with bi bim bap is to keep stirring so you get all the taste and crispness of the well-cooked rice at the bottom. The panko breadcrumbing on the  shrimp was extremely light, and the laver rolls made a great seaweed-based vegetarian alternative with a slightly spicy soy dipping sauce. It’s happy hour after 5pm there too, so our mugs of beer were 2-for-1!

Lan Kwai Fong is a lively neighbourhood in central know for its nightlife - think the strips of bars you get in places like Tenerife! - with lots of people on the street enticing you into their joint with the promise of lurid green jelly shots. There's a more cultural side of it too however, like Tai Kwun which is a restored colonial prison dating back to the mid-19th century that's now the Centre For Heritage & Arts. Here you can see the original 16 buildings and read about the history of the prison as you explore, and visit a host of restaurants and bars. 

You definitely don’t want to miss out on seeing the skyline from an extreme height whilst you’re in central Hong Kong. We headed to Cé La Vi for a cocktail - it's not cheap (think £15+ per drink, so London prices basically!) but it is 11,000 feet high and a really special place to enjoy the stunning skyline with a tipple. When you come back down to earth in the elevator you'll find yourself on Lan Kwai Fong again where you can choose from the variety on offer. We went for a nicer (read: quieter) wine bar over the club vibes but found it pretty expensive at £50+ for a bottle of wine, so we bought one for £10 from a 7-Eleven and headed back to our Airbnb to watch a movie instead.

On our final day before heading to the Philippines we spontaneously jumped up on a bus and hopped off to Kowloon City in search of a nice breakfast, ideally somewhere with wifi so we could plan our next steps, In reality we landed slap-bang in the middle of the early morning market which in all honesty wasn't very pleasant, with lots of butchering going on and a really heavy stench of drains and fish. I think we might've gone to the wrong place and, with my wine hangover and a downpour of rain zapping my usually pretty endless stream of patience, we dolefully got a bus back to Tsim Sha Tsui. After the hugest portions of noodles at a Chinese eatery on Granville Road, we picked up our big bags from the Best Western opposite our Airbnb (they safely hold them there for a small fee) before getting the bus to the airport.

Now we've voyaged further (to Chang Mai in Thailand where I'm writing this, which funnily enough reminds me of Hong Kong!) and whenever I mention to anyone that this was our first stop, their reply is always "so expensive though!" I guess that comes from a backpacking standpoint, however even if you're on a budget I'd highly recommend visiting Hong Kong for a couple of days at least - you can cut costs by eating and shopping locally, finding free tourist spots etc - as you're guaranteed to leave emotionally richer than when you arrived, and who cares about the whole financial side of it then, right?

5 Things I Learnt From Reducing My Plastic Use

30 June 2018

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Our planet's need for us, its inhabitants, to reduce our plastic use is something that's been on my radar for a while but (being totally honest) it isn't something I'd actively looked into until April of this year. I was staying at my boyfriend's house and it struck me how different the recycling facilities where we live are - his family compost coffee grounds, get their milk delivered in glass bottles and recycle everything from teabags to potato peelings and we... well, we've got a black bin and a green bin! It made me wonder why our area of the UK isn't as well-equipped to deal with our waste as his, and after emailing my local council about the issue I started researching other ways I could help and do my bit.

The following month, I received an email from BRITA asking if I'd like to take part in a challenge where I ditched single-use plastic for a week/weekend. I'm so glad they did as it was an eye-opening experience, and I thought I'd share my #SwapForGood findings with you (in classic Meg Says style, so get ready for some verbs!)

The initial step is to evaluate: how much single-use plastic do you consume in a week? I kept an eye on how much I was getting through and was really surprised at just how prevalent plastic is. It's everywhere which can feel quite overwhelming, but a good tip is to remember that every little helps - starting to make changes and educate yourself is far better than staying the same. I found that a lot of the single-use plastic I use is actually down to convenience rather than necessity (for example, buying coffee in takeaway cups) and I was excited to see where I could improve and how to change my ways for the better.

When it comes to food shopping, I usually order online. Living in the countryside (an hour's round trip from the nearest store) and being chronically ill means that it's the easiest option for me, but I have noticed the large amount of unnecessary packaging that comes along with it - even bananas, a food that literally comes pre-packaged by nature, are in an unrecyclable bag. I went to the shop in the search of single-use plastic free food, and my findings were interesting! The first thing that struck me was that it isn't the easiest thing to do a single-use plastic free food shop in a supermarket but there are ways around it, like picking loose fruit and vegetables (without putting them in one of those little plastic bags) over pre-packaged and opting for food in brown paper bags where possible. 

After walking round on my own and seeing which foods were harder (meat, fish, snacks) and which were easier (fruit, veg, fresh bread) I asked an employee for advice, and they were really helpful! She told me that if you're purchasing food from the deli counter you can bring your own Tupperware containers to fill up, and also informed me that a lot of teabags contain plastic. I had no idea and it made me think of the food bin in my boyfriend's kitchen - even though the teabags in there get recycled, the polypropylene in them can lead to plastic pollution. As a result, I bought biodegradable Teapigs Everyday Brew.

I know my journey with consuming less plastic will be a lifelong one where I'll constantly be learning new things, but after my first foray into more environmentally friendly shopping I'd say: go local where possible (we buy our eggs and lots of our vegetables from farmers), ask your supermarket whether they have any re-filling schemes (e.g. olive oil on tap), always take your own hessian bag and buy in bulk to save packaging as well as money.

Now that I know the basics of a single-use plastic free food shop I'm all good when I'm working from home - I've got my Teapigs cuppa that tastes even better because I've used filtered water, more on that later - and I need to be more eco-conscious when I'm out and about. I didn't go to London for events as planned over the weekend as I had a to-do list as long as my arm, but if I had I can tell you how it would've gone plastic-wise: a meal deal at the train station and maybe a coffee on the way to Will's. That's a sandwich wrapper, crisp packet, water bottle and takeaway cup - all are single-use and get 'thrown away', which makes me feel really uneasy now that I'm learning about plastic pollution.

From now on I won't be purchasing any food or drink on the go packaged in single-use plastic wherever possible and instead, I'll be planning ahead by taking my own reusable bottle and packing lunch or snacks too. My BRITA Fill & Go Vital Bottle fits perfectly in my handbag (video demonstration here) and has a high-tech filtration system which means cleaner, fresher water that saves a. you money and b. the planet. My London-dwelling best friend only buys bottled water as he doesn't like the taste of tap, so I'll be introducing him to this innovative bottle ASAP. It comes in cute colours too - anyone surprised mine's pink?

The most important thing I've learnt from taking part in BRITA's challenge is that things need to change. It gave me the push I needed to actually do some research, and the reality is that the way we're currently producing and consuming plastic is damaging and unsustainable. It doesn't seem like a 'big deal' to buy some water, but the process of producing it creates greenhouse gases which contribute towards climate change and the actual bottle itself will remain on Earth for hundreds if not thousands of years. 

The BRITA Style Jug is a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to bottled water, and as we've already covered my love for a good cup of tea in this post I need to tell you about my new discovery - this makes a GREAT cup of tea! Tap water in the UK comes on a scale from soft, moderately soft, slightly hard, moderately hard, hard and very hard, and I live in a 'very hard' area - this means our kettle is full of limescale and my brews, as a result, often have scales on top. My mate Josh calls it 'tea scum' and if that doesn't tell you that it's not the most pleasant thing then I don't know what does, so I'm delighted be able to fill my kettle with beautiful filtered water from my BRITA jug and eliminate that issue. As well as being more budget-friendly and ideal for cooking thanks to the way it reduces impurities that affect your water's taste, it also releases the full flavour of tea and coffee. 

I've got a lot more to learn, and that excites me - I think it's common amongst online creators to worry that you don't know enough about a subject or that you'll be criticised for not being 'perfect', but that shouldn't put us off sharing our experiences. It's also easy to think 'I'm only one person, it won't make any difference', but the truth is that it can and it will. When you buy an item you're contributing towards a demand for more of that item to be produced, and this week has taught me that consuming comes with a responsibility and the smallest changes can create positive ripple effects. We got this!

Learn more about BRITA and their work with the Marine Conservation Society here, and do let me know if you've tried any of their products for yourself. I'd also highly recommend checking out my friend Zanna, as she's a great example of someone who discusses the effects of plastic on our world in a really honest and welcoming way.

This post is sponsored by BRITA. All opinions and words are 100% my own and honest. Affiliate links have not been used. For more information, please see my disclaimer here

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

How To Spend: One Day In Rome

28 June 2018

Two days in Rome: one down (spent in the Travestere district, guide here) and one to go.

With a limited amount of time in one of the most ancient and beautiful cities on the planet, Will and I knew we wanted to tick a few of the 'bigguns' off our list. First up was the Colosseum, and our host Angelo at the B&B we stayed (called Il Boom, full review here) explained that it'd take 45 minutes to walk there or 15 via bus. If your day in Rome is looking like an early morning to late evening affair like ours was, it's probably best to go for the public transport option. Head to any local tobacco shop to purchase a day travel-card - these are valid for 24 hours, cost just €7 each and cover buses, trams and the metro. You can find lots of helpful information on Rome transport here.

We bought our Colosseum tickets online from Coop Culture and would highly recommend this as it's literally the difference between waiting in extremely long queues or nipping into the pre-booked lane. These tickets are valid for two consecutive days and also offer entrance to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Various discounted rates are available, for example our tickets were €7,50 rather than €12 as we're EU residents under 25 years old - just make sure you take your passport or driving license etc with you as the person who checks your ticket will ask for ID. 

Whilst booking our tickets on Coop Culture we also booked a guided tour which was an absolute bargain at only €5 extra - click here to order. It only lasted for 45 minutes (you're guaranteed to walk around for this length of time anyway) and was incredibly engaging and informative. If you've studied the history of the Flavian Amphitheatre in detail then you might enjoy soaking it all in by yourself, but if there are gaps in your knowledge then it's really beneficial as you really do learn so much in a short space of time.

As for getting to the Colosseum, we were told to get the number 75 bus which is meant to come every 20 minutes - it didn't however, and we actually ended up missing our slot for the guided tour because we waited for almost an hour with no sign of the 75! Rome's bus routes are amongst some of the most complex in Europe and timetables can be confusing, so an app like Citymapper is well worth downloading. It makes your life a lot easier if you don't speak Italian, and when a 75 eventually came it took us directly to the Colosseum. 

In all honesty, arriving is rather confusing - there are crowds everywhere and it's not entirely clear where you're meant to go, but your best bet is to tell someone selling tickets outside that you've pre-booked yours and need to pick them up. They'll point you in the right direction, there's a short queue for the kiosk then you show your reference and ID to get them printed which takes all of five minutes. We explained that we missed our slot because of the buses and were told that we could just jump on the next tour, wahey!

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, and we went for the snack bar next to the Metro entrance - it's a little pricey, but they do a good range (pizzas, salads, sandwiches etc) and for table service literally right next to the Colosseum, you can't complain.

For such a popular and famous tourist destination the organisation of the Colosseum could definitely do with a rethink - we had no idea where we meant to go for our tour (no staff member we asked seemed to know either!) and it seemed like a few helpful signs would've cleared up a whole lot of confusion. The one person who gave us a proper answer sent us to a Japanese meeting point, we spent ages rushing around trying to find the English one and when we eventually got there we still weren't 100% sure if it was the right place. There was then a delay of at least 30 minutes whilst the audio equipment was handed out in the most inefficient way ever (being from the UK aka The Land Of The Queue the whole thing seemed mega longwinded) but as previously mentioned, once we actually got going the tour was faultless and one of our highlights of the entire trip. 

After our fabulous guided tour and a spot of roaming around (love a Dad pun) by ourselves for an hour, we left in search of lunch. As it's so busy, the crowds of humans turn into crowds of sheep and everyone seems to walk the same way in the same direction. We followed the hoards before wondering "where are we actually going?" and instead, we took a route off the beaten track (the beaten track being the Piazza del Colosseo) through a brick arc. No less than five minutes later we found a charming little ristorante called Iari The Vino which couldn't have been more perfect. We shared a jug of beer (which came with chilled glasses, much to Will's delight), a Four Seasons pizza and the mixed salad. The pizza was the best we had in Italy and came with chilli flakes (much to my delight!) and I'd love to taste more of their menu. The service and atmosphere was very sweet and it was a pleasure to find such a cosy spot in a busy capital city centre.

The Palatine Hill, our next destination, is one of the Seven Hills and was the home of aristocrats and emperors during Ancient Rome. I knew next to little about it so was pleased to find that it's a real 'learn as you go' place - there are placards everywhere so it's easy to pick up snippets of history as you walk around, and we spotted lots of groups with tour guides that you can book here. We spent an hour there before the heavens opened, and without an umbrella or any cash to buy one we thought we'd get the 75 bus home.

Back in the haven that is Il Boom, we showered and had a glass of red wine on the rooftop terrace (this became quite the mini tradition during our trip!) before deciding on a dinner location. I asked for recommendations on Instagram and got an overwhelming amount of people saying "you must go to Piazza Navona!", so we put on our gladrags and figured out which tram we needed to get.

I'm going to echo my lovely Instagram followers here - you must go to Piazza Navona! Built in the first century AD, it's the most beautiful square (especially in the evening when the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is all lit up) which has a plethora of lovely places to eat and drink. The amount of choice is actually rather overwhelming and the smell of wood-fired pizza, creamy carbonara and general homemade Italian goodness floats out of every eatery which makes walking around the wide cobbled streets a pretty mouthwatering experience.

Wanting to enjoy sitting in pretty Piazza Navona (and with the luxury of restaurants serving food much later than they do in England) we nipped into a restaurant on the right hand side of the square for a cocktail. I had a variation of my usual Negroni, a Negroni Sbagliato, which I have no idea how to pronounce but will definitely order again - they replace the gin with Prosecco which makes for a lighter drink and it was de-lish!

A quick look on Trip Advisor at Il Boom gave us the invaluable information that Cantina e Cucina is one of the best restaurants in Rome, and after being told on the phone that they didn't take bookings we decided to walk there and suss out the situation. Upon arrival there was a queue that snaked all the way around the back of the building (the most positive of signs that the food is gonna be amazing) and we were told it'd be around twenty minutes for a table. The weather was gorgeous and we didn't mind waiting - even less so when an extremely cheerful man came out, popped a bottle of sparkling wine and gave everyone a glass! He must've returned to refill the entire queue's cups at least three times. It was such a personal gesture and made the difference between potentially walking away to find somewhere without a wait and being more than happy to.

Once inside, you're immediately hit with the most welcoming of vibes - the servers (ours was called Gianluca) are endlessly helpful and smiley, and the ancient decor has been given a modern twist. It's rather 'busy' in the sense that there's not much free space (even on the ceiling which is filled with hanging plants and bottles) which gives it a snug tavern-style feel. The tables are closely spaced and quickly turned around - we had three different dining 'neighbours' during our meal - but if you'd like to take your time like we did, there's no hurry and you never feel rushed. The menu is extensive with antipasti, tasting plates, pizza, pasta and salads etc, and the rosé wine was so divine that I took a photo so we'd be able to find it again - de Tarczal by the way, you're welcome!

Will had the meatballs and I had the porcini mushroom risotto, and both made us do that "oh, you HAVE to taste this" thing, and we also shared a side of garlic and chilli chicory. We could see why Cantina e Cucina is so popular and the dining experience (from the first free glass of sparkling wine to the last free shot of limoncello) was thoroughly enjoyed. 

The good thing about the Citymapper app is that you can easily see when public transport runs to, and after paying our bill we saw that we had about an hour before we needed to get on the last bus home to our B&B - just enough time to see the Trevi Fountain! It's a 15 minute walk from Cantina e Cucina (we use Google Maps on our phones to get everywhere) so we set off, and I wasn't quite prepared for the beauty! It's absolutely huge and looks so stunning in the evening, making the ideal spot to sit and bask in Rome's glory for our final few hours there before moving on to another part of Italy called Cassino. 

How To Spend: A Weekend In Paris

7 June 2018

Oh Paris, Audrey Hepburn really did say it best - you're always a good idea! And an extremely good idea that my boyfriend had late last year was to whisk me off to France's capital City Of Lights for my birthday as a surprise... such a keeper! The Airbnb he'd booked fell through which meant that our trip was rearranged for December, and visiting in the most festive month of the year was truly magical!

We had such a wonderful, whirlwind time and I wanted to share some highlights with you in case you're planning on visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world for a few days.

First up, props to the Eurostar service from London St Pancras to the Gard du Nord for being the most easy and seamless transition from England to France ever - it's actually quicker than the journey from my house to Will's, would you believe! Upon arrival at midday we jumped in an Uber and headed straight to our Airbnb which was the most perfect 'base camp' for a weekend's stay - unfortunately I don't have the details but I remember that the address was Rue Chénier (I just checked that and my little yellow Google Maps street view guy was plonked right outside of our red front door, so that's definitely it!) and it had everything we needed as well as the most minimalistic Instagram-worthy decor.

We added another layer of clothing on under our coats to go for a stroll and ended up on a gorgeous parade of shops, bars and cafés. One of the things I love most about Paris and something that you should definitely experience whilst you're there is their café culture - all of the chairs face outwards from the buildings which makes for total people-watching heaven and everywhere has outdoor heating, so even though the air was frosty we were completely toasty and happy to sit for a while enjoying a coffee and a plate of French fries.

After having a little mosey around some antique furniture and clothing shops we started walking home to our apartment, and Will suggested that we stop to pick up some food (he has this brilliant ability to make a cooked breakfast every morning no matter where we're staying in the world, I once woke up in an Airbnb in Budapest that had an empty fridge and cupboards the night before to a complete breakfast buffet!) so we stopped off at the local boulangerie to pick up some freshly baked ciabatta. The haul continued in another little shop where we got some essentials: eggs, tomatoes and spinach to go on top of our toast for breakfast, and garlic and chilled stuffed olives, tapenade and red wine for the evenings.

Back at the apartment we had a little mini-feast (you can't go wrong with the old trusty classic of crusty bread dipped in oil with garlicky olives on side and a couple of glasses of vino, so good) whilst we got ready for the evening. I must mention that we discovered that there was a new series of one of our favourite tv shows 'People Just Do Nothing', but we couldn't watch it on BBC iPlayer as we were out of the country! Instead we put the Baby Driver soundtrack through the speakers whilst we drank and danced to American soul, which looking back was way, WAY more romantic than Kurupt FM - sorry, MC Grindah.

With an Instagram DM inbox packed to the brim with Paris suggestions (thanks guys, we really appreciated it!) we decided to head to Popolare which is a very trendy pizzeria, but they may want to change that 'o' to a 'u' and get rid of that 'e' as this restaurant was POPULAR, all caps! The queue of young people waiting to get in seemingly snaked around the whole city and wasn't moving anywhere fast, so we dove into a warm and welcoming wine bar next door for a drink whilst we chatted and planned our next move. We were intrigued by Popolare but didn't fancy waiting, and therefore found ourselves walking along the parade we'd discovered earlier in the day. Not feeling too hungry thanks to our mini-feast earlier, we enjoyed simply strolling around and being spoilt for restaurant choices. 

Every place we passed looked super inviting, but the menu outside Little Italy Caffe caught our eye and as soon as we opened the door we were hit with this real palpable buzz. It's not a spacious restaurant by any means, but that only added to the charm and we were more than happy to wait by the bar 'cheers'-ing with a glass of wine until a table (that you need to be physically 'tucked into' because of the narrowness of the building, no joke!) became available. Will did that classic thing where you see someone else in the restaurant being served something that looks amazing and you have a 'I'll have what he's having!' moment so he had a seafood pasta dish, and I had 'pappardelle al porcini' which was delicious. I'm a spicy food fiend and have copious amount of chilli flakes on everything, and we discovered that night that chilli in French is 'chili'... good to know!

If you're a serious pasta person then Little Italy Caffe is well worth a visit - it's reasonably priced, the portions were very generous without lacking in flavour (quantity and quality, not always easy to find!) and the staff did a beautiful job of navigating the restaurant and making the smaller space seem cosy rather than cramped. You really feel like you're in an authentic Italian family restaurant!

The following day we decided to do some sightseeing so we bundled up in lots of warm layers and called an Uber to the Louvre. We saw the Eiffel Tower and thought about going up, but a famous French singer named Johnny Hallyday had sadly passed away and we'd been advised by my viewers to avoid some of the larger Paris monuments as lots of people would be paying tribute.

It was one of those 'heaven help you if you forget a hat and gloves' types of days and it was beginning to rain, so we got in the queue for the Louvre which moved fairly quickly. Entry was free as we're within the 18-25 year old EU resident bracket, and once inside that glorious pyramid we set off exploring. As you can imagine there's an endless amount of history to be seen and you can get lost for hours looking at whatever takes your fancy, and of course there's Da Vinci's Mona Lisa - a lot of people comment that it's far smaller than you might expect, but I don't think that detracts from the pleasure and honour of seeing the real thing in real life (albeit over the heads of lots of people and their selfie sticks!)

After getting our fill of art for the day, we left the Louvre and walked along the Seine, passing a sign that read "we serve beer colder than your ex's heart!" which made us laugh enough that we wanted to investigate further. At first I couldn't see where this quirky place was, but we realised that the sign was pointing down some stone steps where a lovely little bistro called Maison Maison sat on the river's edge. It seemed closed, but it turns out that the door just needs a very large and firm push! My immediate thoughts were that it was a sweet and humble establishment - there was a metal bucket underneath a leak in the roof towards the far end of the restaurant and fresh flowers on every table. We were greeted by a lovely lady called Deborah who spoke fantastic English, which was really helpful as despite the menu being small I would've needed to Google Translate almost everything!

Will and I both had oricchiette with 'courge et trévise' which is pumpkin and radicchio (the dish also came with sardines which they were able to take out for me as I'm a vegetarian) and I kid you not - this was one of the best meals of my whole entire life! Every bite was to die for; the pasta was fresh, the chicory was cooked to absolute perfection and the sauce was so exquisitely creamy yet delicate and downright heavenly that I savoured each mouthful. It was, quite honestly, heaven on a plate. The location couldn't be more perfect either, as you look out of the window and the Seine is eye-level which just made me want to break out into a rendition 'Audition (The Fools Who Dream)' from La La Land - it's truly magical. Maison Maison will be one of the sole reasons I return to Paris, and Will can confirm that the beer was icy cold!

Full and happy, we climbed the stone steps again feeling extremely thankful that we'd discovered such a hidden gem and crossed the bridge, stopping to look at all of the 'love locks' on our way. Our afternoon was one of wandering - we took some photos for my Instagram, had lemon and sugar crêpes with mulled wine and saw Notre Dame before Uber-ing back to our cosy base camp to shower and go to town on the bread and olives.

The lovely waitress Deborah from Maison Maison had been really friendly and chatted to us about our evening plans, which were to head across Paris to see if we could find a rooftop restaurant so we could have a nice romantic meal, ideally with views of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœre. She wrote us a little list of her favourite places that weren't too far from our Airbnb, one of which was called Benichat. The walk was longer than we'd anticipated and we arrived ready to shrug off our coats and tuck into some hot food. We were expecting a restaurant and instead found a very small bar, so maybe they only serve food early - always Google before you go, kids! - but seeing as we'd walked all that way we decided to stay for a drink that turned into two, three, four...

The guy behind the bar at Benichat served us a generous bowl of olives whilst we sampled their gin selection, our favourite being Monkey 47. It was the perfect place to chill and chat with a proper G&T and we spent most of our evening there, before realising that it had gone 11.30pm and the chance of a proper meal might've passed us by. Undeterred (and with our gin jackets on) we left the bar in search of a late-night food joint that might offer up a burger or a wrap with chips - hopeful, but safe in the knowledge that we had enough 'nibbly bits' back at our Airbnb to make a banging antipasti board.

Paris was kind to us on this night as we stumbled upon an Irish pub, which I'm pretty sure was called Corcoran's. We were greeted by the smiliest host who ushered us in and told us, to our absolute delight, that the kitchen was still fully open and we could have what we liked. After a quick glance over the menu (we were ravenous by this point) we both swiftly chose pizzas which were kind of average, but when it's bordering on midnight and you thought you'd be having a tapenade toastie for dinner - who's complaining?

On our final day in Paris the heavens opened, but it didn't stop us from having the best day ever! After packing and locking up our trusty, faithful Airbnb and telling it "its been real", we wheeled our suitcases along in the drizzle until we found a cute café (it doesn't take long in Paris, let's face it!) for petit déjeuner as there's nothing like good coffee and good croissants to get you ready for the day ahead.

Montmartre was the last stop of our trip, and driving through the winding hill of the 18th arrondissement is a pleasure in itself. Amélie, one of my all-time favourite films, was set in Montmartre so it was a dream come true to walk around and spot different landmarks from the movie. It really is like something out of a film there - the smell of homemade French onion soup wafts out of the blue painted wooden shutters of rustic restaurants, elderly men walk the streets with paintbrush in hand and the view both inside the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœre and outside it are completely idyllic. Even the blustery winds couldn't dampen our spirits as we simply ducked into a family-run place to sample some of that French onion soup we'd been craving, and once the rain had died down we continued our stroll again.

Will spotted a sign for a Salvador Dalí exhibition and in the spirit of enjoying our final day, being spontaneous and adding a little more culture to our trip, we bought two tickets and went to the exhibition. I can't tell you how fascinating it was! I was unfamiliar with Dalí's work before (I recognised the melting clocks, but that was it) and I really did fall in love with his imagination - he was a true genius and both of us were totally absorbed in his work. Barely ten minutes went by where Will or I didn't hurry to find each other and show them this-piece-they-absolutely-HAD-to-see, and I'm so glad we went. It was run by Espace Dalí and I couldn't recommend it more - I've always been way more into literature than art and sometimes feel as though things go over my head, but this exhibition was perfectly accessible and I left feeling like I could talk about the experience all day.

Whilst looking for somewhere nice to enjoy our last meal we found Roberta, and boy were we glad we did! The staff were all smiles and the decor was really modern with a relaxed feel. We ordered a Negroni each which were delicious, these pack a punch but are perfect for sipping on whilst you chat and peruse the menu. We asked to order but were a couple of hours early for the dinner service, so instead we helped ourselves to the deli counter which had every cheese, meat and pickle you could possibly wish for!

Our original idea was to sip our cocktails and carry on nibbling until dinnertime, but as the clock ticked we agreed it was best to head to the Gard du Nord and eat somewhere closer by, as there's nothing worse than being far away from the airport/station etc when your travel time is approaching. If anything happens like your meal takes ages to arrive or there are no taxis, you can't even enjoy your food or remaining time with the panic of possibly missing your journey home looming - it's best to get to where you need to be first.

A quick trip to the toilets in Roberta was necessary but tinged with sadness as we had to walk past their fresh pasta section - we were practically drooling over the homemade gnocchi, but knew it was more sensible to head off so we paid our bill and jumped in an Uber. We ate at Le Zinc Du Nord which was exactly what we needed, our food arrived promptly (Will had a burger and fries, I had risotto) and we didn't have to rush as we were already opposite the Gard du Nord with plenty of time before our Eurostar back to London. It was the perfect place to clink one final G&T and cheers to such a wonderful trip!

Big thanks to Will for organising this, he made it such a special birthday for me and planned everything beautifully. I hope this post gives you some ideas if you're visiting Paris, and please feel free to leave recommendations below in the comments for others. Au revoir!