Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hôtel Hélios Opéra and A Little Bit of Paris

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Paris again for work. I'm making an effort lately to take photos of the hotels I stay in during my travels. Recently, I featured Bewley's Hotel Ballsbridge in Dublin.

This time, let's take a look at Hôtel Hélios Opéra.

The bird soft toy key fob was certainly more interesting than a standard hotel card slip

I had to stop myself from arranging the wonky frame in the middle. I convinced myself that only my brows should be aligned all the time.

The muted grey tone of the walls, bedspread, curtains, and furniture suited my taste for minimalist interior. The framed black and white photographs of musical instruments threw in a touch of one's local independent café. Speaking of café, my very own Nespresso machine was my favourite fixture. No more hotel room instant coffee.

Hôtel Hélios Opéra is strategically located in the 9th arrondisement of Paris, which is ideal for shopping, museums, and architecture spotting. The closest Metro station is Trinité – d'Estienne d'Orves which is on Line 12. Via taxi, it will only take you about 10 minutes for around €11 from Gare du Nord. 

Before a couple of hectic working days, I spent my first night back exploring my hotel neighbourhood. 

Just a three-minute walk away from Hôtel Hélios Opéra is Eglise de la Trinité, an ornate Roman Catholic church built in 1867. It's currently being refurbished, but still a sight to behold at night despite the on-going work. I chose to have dinner at Café du Mogador which was just opposite the church.

rue Chaussée d'Antin corner rue de Mogador, opposite Eglise de la Trinité. Café du Mogador is the brasserie in the corner right. Walk straight up and you'll reach Galeries Lafayette

Eglise de la Trinité looked miniature in the background

Quintessentially Parisian

Hôtel Hélios Opéra
75 Rue De La Victoire, 9th arr., 75009 
Paris, France

. . .and for more of Paris, click HERE.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Discover IRELAND: Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal

On our last leg of discovering Ireland, we drove to Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal. From there, we had magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, Sligo mountains, and Donegal Bay. It was an hour-and-a-half drive from County Sligo, and once again, the trip was blessed with fine weather. 

I've included some photos from my Instagram account, for which a camera phone is very handy for some shots that couldn't wait to be composed on my Canon. 

Stopped by the above scenery on the way to the cliffs. Everywhere in the country is pure calmness, it felt like bottling it up and taking it home with me.

Slieve League's highest point is at 1,998 feet, which can be reached via One Man's Pass. We'd scale that next time when we're more prepared.

On our way back to Sligo, we drove past these sheep and rams whose road crossing was interrupted by another vehicle before us, so we had to stop in the middle of the road until their shepherd has herded them to the right direction. It reminded me of my days as a little girl in a small coastal town in the Philippines where I would cycle next to goats, water buffaloes, cows, and chicken.

 I'm indeed a country girl at heart.

I hope you enjoyed travelling in Ireland with me via my photos and side stories! If you missed the first four of my Discover Ireland series, please click the following links:

Discover IRELAND: Dublin, Gateway to the West

Discover IRELAND: Kilkenny and Waterford

Discover IRELAND: County Sligo (Part I)

Discover IRELAND: County Sligo (Part II) 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Discover IRELAND: County Sligo (Part II)

The space, unhurried pace of life, the food, the unspoilt nature at one's doorstep: these are a few of my favourite things about County Sligo. 

I told a friend that one day, if I won't have any reason left to go back to the Philippines (where the most beautiful tropical beaches and scenery abound), County Sligo is the place for me to retire. 

W.B. Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, chose Sligo as his resting place even though he only spent occasional holidays here as a child and adult. The poem quoted on his epitaph was entitled "Under Ben Bulben", which was inspired by the above rock formation. 

The alternating sanguine and burnt yellow hues of the setting sun cascading the green and brown walls of the Benbulben, set against clear light blue skies on a salubrious day, make for a breathtaking site. We stopped off a dirt road to admire this beauty one afternoon.

Just a five-minute drive behind the Mr's family home is Lake Innisfree. Driving up from the main road, you will descend to the above sight. We always stop just at that point when we think we're at the right peak to view its entire magnificence. We take it as a playful challenge to catch the lake bathed in unrationed sunshine.

 To be honest, I don't remember where the below photo was taken. I just loved the stretch of stone wall leading down the lake. It reminds me of black and white war films despite the blues and greens.

A penny for your thoughts. . .

View from Classiebawn Castle, Lord Mountbatten's former holiday home

Like a spy, we drove back and forth to the road that offered the best view of Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, the former holiday home of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle. He was unfortunately assassinated by the IRA in 1979 while lobster-potting and tuna-fishing on his boat.

 Almost like children on an excursion, the Mr's mum sent us off with bottles of water and cakes just in case we end up famished while driving around. There's always Costa, but sitting in a cafe can't compare with sitting on a lone bench in an open field looking towards the ocean, mountains, and beyond while sharing a packed meal and a laugh.

If you would like to discover more of Ireland, please click on the previous posts:

Discover IRELAND: Dublin, Gateway to the West

Discover IRELAND: Kilkenny and Waterford

Discover IRELAND: County Sligo (Part I)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Discover IRELAND: County SLIGO (Part I)

From County Galway where we spent the night before driving further west and northwest, we finally reached County Sligo: a coastal seaport and the regional capital of the northwest of Ireland, and the Mr's hometown. 

As it wasn't my first time, I already have a few local favourite spots. One of our very first stops was Mullaghmore where you'll find Mullaghmore Head, discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way route.

Here, you can park, listen to the ocean, the water splashing against the rocks, or even lay a blanket and have a picnic when the sun is out, which is indeed a blessing in this part of the world. 

Above is Parke's Castle which is like a favourite relative that I never fail to visit when I'm in town.

Some may find it bizarre, but the peace and quiet in cemeteries and graveyards attract me. This one at St. Columba's Parish Church in Drumcliffe is extra special as the 1923 awardee of the Nobel Prize for Literature, W.B. Yeats, chose this as his resting place. 

Tiptoeing over the wall

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death
Horseman, pass by!
-"Under Ben Bulben", W.B. Yeats

Born and raised in County Dublin, W.B. Yeats only spent occasional holidays as a child and a few more as an adult in Sligo. But the beauty and magnificence of the county haven't escaped him. He died in France, was buried there, but according to his wife Georgie, his wish was to be buried quickly without a fuss in France, then for his remains to be moved to Sligo after a year when the newspapers have forgotten about him.  He and wife Georgie share this final resting place.

St. Columba's Church was built in 1809 from stones of the old monastery that Columba founded in 574. A 10th century High Cross carved with biblical scenes can be found by the entrance to the church. 

The church has a tiny door that opens into a compact worship area with pews, pillars and box in pine. The altar greets parishioners with a mural which reads, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty", and "Do this in Remembrance of Me".

The Irish have given the world some literary and musical geniuses. When in Ireland, one must come and see and hear  some live traditional Irish music. Accompanied by a sumptuous meal and Guinness at Austie's in Rosses Point, these young musicians played out some tunes, which, although I'm not familiar with, certainly warmed to my musical ears. 

Here's a short clip. Apologies for the constant movement of the waiting staff. It was buzzing that night.

If you missed the first two features of my Discover Ireland series, please click on these links:

Discover IRELAND: Dublin, Gateway to the West

Discover IRELAND: Kilkenny and Waterford

See you next time!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Discover IRELAND: Kilkenny and Waterford

Lonely Planet has listed Ireland as one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2015.  

I've been to the country a couple of times but have only ever spent weekends. This time around, the Mr. and I decided to take advantage of the Easter bank holidays to take a longer break and explore Ireland by car. 

From London, we drove roughly four hours to Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales, to take the Irish Ferries to Dublin, which was our first stop. Follow me on Instagram for some in-the-moment shots en route to various parts of Ireland.

From Dublin, we drove down south to Waterford to visit some family. On the way, we made an unplanned stop at Kilkenny upon seeing the entrance of one castle along the road, which inspired us to drive into town to take some photos of Kilkenny Castle.

Above is Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, the medieval capital of Ireland. It was built in 1195 and completed in 1213. One of its notable inhabitants was Lady Margaret, the Irish noblewoman daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. Born in the castle, she was the wife of Sir William Boleyn, and the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, and Queen of England from 1533 to 1536.

I always ask the Mr to capture my aura, but that's not one of his very many talents. I think he nailed it though in this photo. The trick is to take it from a distance with a majestic sight in the background. Well done to him! :)

Waterford, Ireland is home to Waterford Crystal which belongs to the same luxury goods company as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. As it was an overnight stay, we weren't able to book a guided tour in the factories. I love collecting crystal and it would have been such a wonderful experience. If you're in the area and have the time, click HERE to find out more about tour bookings.

Waterford is also home to the Mr's father's side of the family. From the kitchen, a stunning view of the coastline can be seen. After dinner, we went for a spin and ended up at Ballydowane Cove, one of the many dotted around the city.

On my Instagram account, I posted that much as I love tropical beaches (having spent my childhood in a coastal town in the Philippines), there's something soul-reviving with wintry ones that leave my occasional hedonism out of the picture. I also love that most beaches in Ireland are deserted. Every now and then, you'll bump into someone walking their dogs, running, or just breathing in the sea mist.

Down the path in the previous photo, we were greeted by the tranquility of the ocean. It was surprisingly warmer by the sea than inland.

The beauty of this country lies in its rich medieval history, unspoilt nature, and stunning coastline that are easily accessible but haven't been turned into tourist traps. At least not yet.

2015 is the year of the Wild Atlantic Way: Ireland's answer to California's Pacific Coast Highway and Australia's Great Ocean Road. The 2500km scenic drive snakes through much of the West, and is the world's longest defined coastal route. Next post, I'll take you to the roads, mountains, shores, and cliffs of the West Coast. You'll also be in for some live Irish country music for a treat!

See yah!

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