Off the Beaten Track in Paris: An Insider’s Guide to Seeing the Real City

[This article was first published four years ago in the now-defunct online lifestyle magazine Zarwil].

Anyone lucky enough to be preparing for a trip to the French capital will probably plan to tick off a few tourist boxes whilst they’re there.  Some monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, are classic tourist haunts.  If it’s your first time in Paris, by all means visit the must-see attractions. It’s difficult to have a bad time in the City of Light and Love.  If you have a bit more time, though, there are plenty of hidden gems and new places to discover.

Having lived in Paris for a year and exhausted all of the main tourist traps, I had the luxury of time to walk around, explore and stumble upon new areas of the city, which is in fact really made up of multiple small villages (‘Arrondissements’), each with a Continue reading


Paris and Venice This Autumn: What’s on, Where to Stay and How to Travel and Dine in Style

[This article was originally published in Zarwil Magazine (now defunct) in 2014. Although the specific exhibitions are no longer running,  other information remains relevant.]

It would seem that the UK has now been irrevocably plunged into instant autumn.  Whilst the change in season can be beautiful to behold, the period bridging the gap between now and the festive season often seems like one long, bleak three month slog stretching out before us, with the weather getting steadily colder and the days getting shorter.

It therefore goes without saying that autumn is the perfect time for a city break.  What better way to escape the daily grind than to get a bit of culture, see some beautiful architecture and eat (and drink) like a king. Here are a few suggestions for things to see and do in two European cities this autumn, handily collated for your reading pleasure. Continue reading

Musica a Palazzo: A Venetian Opera Review

I’ve only ever been to a handful operas over the course of my life and I have to say, I’m not mad keen. I’ve tried to understand why so many people are moved to tears by the great tragedies but, opera philistine that I am, I just don’t get it.

I couldn’t wait for Mimi to hurry up and die at the end of La Bohème just so it could be over. I nearly walked out of The Marriage of Figaro in the interval due to the cringe factor of this ‘comic’ opera, highlights of which included some crossdressing and lots of hiding in cupboards. Maybe it was funny in 1786. I almost enjoyed Verdi’s Nabucco and an opera adaptation of Il Postino, but the extended periods of ‘recitative style’ (singing with the rhythms of ordinary speech) made me want to claw my own ears off. I’m all for the arias, the duets and the big choruses, but speech which is sung instead of spoken cuts right through me. I’m not into it. Take me to the ballet over the opera any day. Or so I thought. Continue reading