Wednesday, 22 May 2013

29 months of the Eiffel Tower ©

The Eiffel Tower through my eyes during my 29 months in Paris:

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Noisy Neighbour Survival Guide: My Top Five Guitar Solos ©

I am currently suffering from the number one Paris curse: a noisy neighbour.  And whether it's heavy-footed elephant-like stalking across the flat at all hours of the day, blasting her food mixer at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings, clip-clopping around in stilettos at 6 a.m. or dropping heavy items from height, i'm at the end of my tether.

At times like this, there is only one solution: noisy neighbourly behaviour of my own. I am a firm believer that some songs were simply made to be played at full blast and if they have rockin' guitar music in them, all the better! So this afternoon, I am waging war with My Top Five Guitar Solos of all time...

5) Eric Clapton - My Father's Eyes (Live)

4) Bob Dylan with Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison - My Back Pages (Live)

3) John Mayer - Slow Dancing in a Burning Room (Live)

2) Pink Floyd - High Hopes (Live)

1) Dire Straits - Tunnel of Love

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Ciel de Paris ©

Ciel de Paris is pure enchantment as you sit resplendent amid the stars, bathed in views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

Enter through the main doors of the Montparnasse Tower and head for one of the lifts travelling to the 56th floor. Speed up in the space of seconds, disembark onto a landing and turn right to be greeted by the maĆ®tre d’.

Take a seat and revel in the surroundings which exude the privileged glamour of a clandestine world. Let your imagination run away with you as you take in the clientele: the who’s who of Paris blending in with sumptuous beauties sipping champagne. What are their stories? Where did they come from and where are they headed?

Abandon your reverie as a debonair waiter presents you with a menu, tempting you with an array of decadent cocktails; what will you order? A bellini or maybe a champagne Pimm’s cocktail?
Sip and cast your eye over the room – at diners tucking into fine cuisine or practising the art of seduction, as others sit mesmerised, gazing unblinkingly over the City of Lights. Let the champagne bubbles transport you into their world and emerge hours later with stars in your eyes.
Restaurant Le Ciel de Paris
Tour Maine Montparnasse
56th floor
33 Avenue du Maine
75015 Paris

Tel.: +33 1 40 64 77 64
Open every day from 7.30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Champagne bar stays open until 1 a.m.

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ten Reasons You Should Visit Liverpool ©

I was walking along in the Parisian rain last week and for no reason at all I felt that familiar pang of... Liverpool. That's the only way I can describe it. It comes over me from time to time and without warning and brings a lump my throat. It's not homesickness exactly but it makes me pine for the immense character of the city, the lovely, charismatic people and that something in the air. Why everyone is not clambering onto planes to visit is a mystery to me. There are at least ten good reasons you should!

1) History. I remember reading Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island (highly recommended), published in 1992, and being surprised when the acid-tongued American named Liverpool as his favourite UK city. In the aftermath of the 80s, Liverpool was in the midst of recession and living in the shadow of the Hillsborough disaster yet Bryson nonetheless commented that, "in Liverpool you really feel that you're somewhere".

 Once the second city of the British Empire and the maritime capital of the world, Liverpool was a world power. And sailing across the Mersey to the Albert Dock in the wake of seafarers through history, the Royal Liver Buildings and the famous waterfront loom on the horizon offering a first glimpse of the city. Welcome to Liverpool, they say, majestic and proud.

2) Pubs. Nowhere does an alehouse like Liverpool and step into a Scouse watering hole and nostalgia wraps you in its warm, musty embrace. Take your pick from the extensive selection in town but don't miss the Philharmonic on Hope Street; one of the fanciest pubs in England!

The Beehive and the Grapes are also worth a look for your old-style drinking session:

3) The Liverpool girls. Sassy, individual and glamorous, they have a style all of their own. No jeans and flats for these women on a Saturday night! And don't expect heads to turn if you walk down the street in a leopard-print leotard. In Liverpool, anything goes.

4) Regeneration. Since being awarded the title of European Capital of Culture for 2008, the city has been given a new lease of life. From the buzzing Liverpool One shopping and leisure space linking the city centre to the Docks and the Echo concert arena, to the renovations taking place throughout the city, there is a real feeling of rejuvenation in the air. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Liverpool is back on form and there's no better time to visit!

5) Football. Whether it's Red or Blue running through your veins, football is a religion in Liverpool and no trip to the city is complete without a football match.

As a die-hard Liverpool fan it's impossible for me to be unbiased on this topic but I can honestly say that when I have attended big games at Anfield, there is nowhere else I would have rather been in the world for those 90 minutes. Listening to the roar of the crowd and the endless repertoire of songs is an experience for anyone (football fan or otherwise) and the one-liners from members of the crowd will keep you amused throughout the game. 

But mention must also go to our blue-nosed friends over the park (Everton) who are also up there with the most successful teams in the country.

Tickets for matches at Anfield can be difficult to come by but contrary to popular opinion, it is possible if you organise well in advance! And if you have friends in high places, get your mitts on a ticket for the Merseyside Derby or Liverpool - Manchester Utd to see the fans on top form! If you do miss out, Goodison Park tends to have more availability and both teams have museums and offer stadium tours. But whatever you do, don't leave Liverpool without diving into the football heritage of the city.

6) Culture. With more listed buildings and museums than anywhere outside of London, a rich maritime history, two cathedrals, the biggest horse race in the world, two successful football teams and a world-famous musical heritage, Liverpool is a culture vulture’s paradise. Don’t miss the Albert Dock, a Unesco World Heritage Site, St. George’s Hall, a colossal pillared building reminiscent of Ancient Rome, or the numerous free museums throughout the city, including the Tate Liverpool.

7) Language. Scousers often claim that Liverpool is not a city but a Republic and you could be forgiven for believing them if the accent is anything to go by. Unlike any other in the country or indeed the world, the colourful Liverpudlian dialect is also home to numerous words and phrases unique to the city.

8) Music. After Liverpool Football Club, the Beatles are the biggest tourist attraction in the city and no list of reasons to visit Liverpool is complete without music. The Beatles Story at the Albert Dock offers an interactive insight into the history of the band and the Magical Mystery Tour visits key Beatles locations in the city such as Penny Lane and the houses of the band members. Other Beatles-related sites are scattered around the city such as a statue of Eleanor Rigby and the Cavern Pub and Cavern Club bars on Mathew Street aim to recreate the atmosphere of the original Cavern which has been demolished.

But if the Beatles are not your thing, Liverpool still has an enviable musical heritage, having achieved more number ones than any other city. It hosts the yearly Summer Pops and Mathew Street festivals and international acts at the recently-built Echo Arena.

9) Value for money. Like many cities in northern England, Liverpool offers great value for money with pints to be had for £1, free museums galore (The Tate, Walker Art Gallery, World Museum,...), free entry to the cathedrals and affordable tickets for the football. Good, cheap food can be found in many of the pubs and even high-end restaurants will not break the bank. For a swish, affordable night out, eat at Il Forno, followed by drinks and dancing at Alma de Cuba. This converted church oozes with class and character and while more expensive than many of the bars in Liverpool, it is still considerably kinder on the wallet than most other cities in the country. Good deals can also be found in the boutique hotels in the city (Hard Day's Night Hotel, Hope Street Hotel, etc.) so be sure to check their websites for details.

 Alma de Cuba
The John Lennon suite at the Hard Day's Night Hotel

10) Humour. Last but not least, the famous Liverpudlian humour. Scousers are said by many to be born comedians and their dry sarcastic wit is legendary. Be on your guard though. Liverpudlians are never off duty and a razor-sharp one liner can come your way when you least expect it!

Typical Liverpool wit on a Liverpool FC fan banner during the 1976/77 season.

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