Summer In Paris: 4 Pop-Up Terraces In Beautiful Locations

Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities; I will be the first to admit it. But being French, we always have to complain about something: and during summer, the city can become somewhat insufferable. The capital is swarming with tourists, and with every degree (Celsius) over 30, the air gets stuffier and the Parisians grumpier. Thankfully, the city is ready this year and offers wonderful opportunities to deeply enjoy Paris in style, while taking a break in one of the following beautiful terraces.

L’été de Saint-Germain

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Nestled behind the famous Saint-Germain des Prés Abbey, L’Été de Saint-Germain is a perfect place to rest after a visit to the historical location. The bar is located in the Palais Abbatial, built in 1586 for the Cardinal de Bourbon. The terrace and its majestic trees offer a peaceful location to enjoy an afternoon tea or an evening cocktail. With concerts of a wide variety – ranging from French pop to rock and jazz –, this historical hangout will be filled with both locals and well-informed tourists for the whole summer.

Summer House at the Mona Bismarck American Center

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Head up the Seine from the Champs Élysées to reach the Mona Bismarck American Center. This cultural centre has everything planned for the season with its bustling summerhouse! Concerts and open-air cinema sessions will be hosted there (Singin’ in the Rain is on the calendar!), with delicious food offered by different guest chefs. If you want a calm evening, visit the summerhouse during the week when chill music with food and wine tasting are offered. The location itself is very unique – a 400 square metre beautiful terrace in the dreamy scenery of a 19th hotêl particulier, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. You can enjoy this terrace until 30th September.

Les Nocturnes du Café Renoir at the Musée Montmartre

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In the bustling quartier of Montmartre, a bucolic and peaceful café opens its doors to visitors everyday, and exceptionally this summer on Thursday nights. Situated inside the Musée Montmartre, discover the romantic scenery where the illustrious painter Renoir lived for a while. A much-needed secret haven to relax from Montmartre’s busy streets, the garden is best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a cake, or indeed on Thursday nights for the Nocturnes, where cocktails and wines are served under the stars.

Le Bar à Ciel Ouvert by Krug

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In terms of luxurious summer Parisian experiences, nothing can beat a glass of champagne with a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. This is what Le Bar à Ciel Ouvert by Krug offers until August 26th. The bar is the result of a collaboration between the Hotel Shangri-La and Krug, the world’s best-rated House of Champagne. The hotel itself was built in the 19th century, and is part of the Historical Monuments of Paris since 2009. One of the most beautiful rooms of the hotel has been remodelled for the occasion, and the magic happens on the terrace. Open from 6 pm to 11 pm, at Le Bar à Ciel Ouvert, you can enjoy the sun setting behind the Eiffel tower while tasting prestigious champagnes of the illustrious house.

Brussels: Decorating Buildings With Our Favourite Comics

Belgium, the country that has the highest rate of comic book authors per square mile. From the Adventures of Tintin by Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi) to the Smurfs by Peyo (Pierre Culliford), most of our favourite childhood comic book characters came from the small country of Belgium.

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Ric Hochet in Rue du Bon-Secours

The city of Brussels has for numerous years honoured the tradition of Franco-Belgian comic books by displaying its famous characters on building facades in the city. This initiative started in the 90s when the city decided to minimise the amount of publicity billboards that hung on buildings, disfiguring the old city center. Once these billboards were taken down, they uncovered dilapidated walls and facades that needed restoring. Thus was born the first comic fresque depicting Broussaile by Frank Pé.

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Broussaille fresque by Frank Pé

What started as a creative way of crossing renovation with art soon turned into an intricate parcours that tourists could follow through the city of Brussels. Other authors from Belgium soon joined the project as well as foreign authors like Hugo Pratt, Zep and Uderzo.

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Corto Maltese Fresque by Hugo Pratt
A building in Brussels with a comic book character
Le Scorpion by Marini and Dresberg situated at 14 Treurenberg street

Today more than sixty comic fresques can be found in Brussels as well as the comic book museum (Musée de la BD) and the special Tintin boutique next to the Grand Place.

A map can be found on the Brussels Tourism website.

EUROPEA Residences has many apartments in Brussels.

Where to find comic book buildings?

London: The Unexpected Approaches To Public Transport

Tubes, buses and black cabs are all perfect choices for getting from A to B, but transport doesn’t always have to be about practicality. It can also be luxurious, nostalgic and even awe-inspiring. Read on to discover some innovative and unexpected approaches to London transport.

Fine dining on a luxury steam-hauled Pullman Train

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For an unforgettable train travel and fine dining experience dripping with 1920s luxury, take a round-trip journey aboard the Belmond British Pullman. Over the course of the five-hour trip through delightful Kentish countryside, indulge in a silver-service five-course lunch of sumptuous seasonal dishes, all in the most exquisite art deco carriages.

The Pullman departs from London Victoria station, a short distance from our Ebury and Cliveden Place residences.

Attend a gourmet supper club in an old London Underground carriage

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A 1967 decommissioned tube carriage has been given a second lease of life in Walthamstow, where it forms a unique setting for gourmet supper club events hosted by Basement Galley. Choose between social seating (the ‘Luggage Rack Special’) or a private VIP booth for two at any of the club events. At present these include:

  • The Underground Supper Club Spring/Summer Edition: a three-course Brasserie/Grillhouse style dinner, which runs weekly from June 2017
  • The Underground Brunch Club: fine dining brunch, which runs three times per month

Take in stunning aerial views of London on a helicopter tour

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Perhaps the most exhilarating and unique way to acquaint yourself with a new city is from the air. Take to the skies high above London landmarks like the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace and admire spectacular views across the Thames and beyond.

There are a few companies that run helicopter tours of London, but The London Helicopter are the only ones operating from a heliport in the city. Based in Battersea, the company offer three different routes at varying durations, and you can join a shared flight or pay more for private use (max. 6 people). They also offer discounts for holders of the London Pass.

Relax on the water with a canal or river cruise

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If gliding across the water is more your style, escape the crowds with a river or canal tour. There are a whole host of companies and styles to choose from including:

  • A full dining experience with live band entertainment aboard one of Bateaux London’s Thames cruises (choose from a Dinner Cruise or Sunday Lunch Jazz)
  • Taking in Tudor history and Turner landscapes alike on a historic Turks boat a little outside of central London, from Hampton Court to Richmond
  • Exploring London’s charming canals on a long boat between Little Venice and Camden (the Jenny Wren departs from Camden for a round trip, while The London Waterbus Company and Jason’s depart from Little Venice. Note that Jason’s is included in the London Pass, if you’re planning to buy one.)

Europea’s Maida Vale or Notting Hill residences are both wonderful choices if you’d like to stay near the Little Venice area.

Visit a charming vintage underground-themed bar

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Blending nostalgia for the London Underground with the revelry of a 1940s speakeasy, Cahoots bar in Soho really is one of a kind. Following a greeting (and a ticket) from a train guard at the door, you descend via a subway-tiled escalator to the bar itself. From there, grab a cocktail, marvel at the fabulously detailed vintage tube carriage décor and tap your toes to the jazz and swing music. The bar is popular, so book to avoid disappointment.

Barcelona: Explore These Less Touristic Sites

Barcelona’s hidden spots

Barcelona is well-known for the Sagrada Familia, the Ramblas, and other sites that are mostly found in the centre of the city. But there is more to Barcelona than these famous sights. Here are some less touristic places to enjoy.

Turó de la Rovira

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View of Barcelona from the Turó de la Rovira.

As one of the highest places in Barcelona, standing at 262 metres, it has an interesting history. The city was founded by the Romans in 1 BC in an area already populated by the local Iberians (Hence the reason for naming the area encompassing Spain and Portugal as the Iberian Peninsula). An ancient Iberian village was located on the Turó de la Rovira.

This place is also famous because it became the main air defence point of the city during the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, when the Republican army defended the city from the German and Italian planes (Franco’s allies), striking the city from the sky. Today, visitors can check out this defence station. In fact, the whole complex has been transformed as a museum, where it is possible to visit all the rooms that were operational during the war. You can also enjoy a 360 degree view of the city.

Not far from here, you can stay in Europea’s luxury Modern Residence.

Poble Nou

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Mar Bella beach in Poble Nou

Barcelona became an industrial city at the beginning of the 20th century. Some areas became more developed and factories soon appeared in places like Poble Nou. During this time, the neighbourhood was called the Manchester of Catalonia. This title remained until the end of last century, when the city put forward an ambitious ‘improvement plan’. The Barcelona 1992 Olympic Summer Games was a big turning point.

Today, Poble Nou is one of the neighbourhoods that has changed the most in the last 30 years, where the old factories have been replaced by business centres and company headquarters. This transformation is still ongoing today.

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Rambla in Poble Nou

Poble Nou is famous for its beaches, its gardens and its Rambla. The Rambla is the main street of Poble Nou, where one can enjoy shopping or having a drink with “tapas” on one of the several terraces that this street offers.

It is also close to Europea’s Babel Penthouse Residence with sea views.

Poble Sec

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El Molino in Poble Sec

Much like Poble Nou, Poble Sec was one of the industrial areas of Barcelona. This neighbourhood is still one of the quietest areas of Barcelona, but its closeness to Montjuic (famous for its castle and the Olympic rings) is bringing some changes to the neighbourhood and is becoming more touristic.

Poble Sec is famous because it hosts the most popular cabaret theatre, called “El Molino”. This place was opened in 1898, and has since then become one of the most popular cabarets of Europe.

Barcelona gin tonic

But there is more to Poble Sec than cabarets. In the last couple of years, this area has become one of the most trendy hang outs of Barcelona as multiple bars serve the best gin & tonics the city has to offer. The area also hosts one of the best clubs and concert hall, the “Sala Apolo”. It is not far from Europea’s Plaza Espana Residence.

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Sala Apolo in Poble Sec

Barcelona: The Two Festivals Not To Miss This Summer

The image of Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without its festivals. While some locals decide to leave the city and go on holiday, others stay to celebrate the hot summer days, decorating the streets and eating and drinking outside. If you are in Barcelona in August, don’t miss Festes de Gràcia and Festes de Sants.

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Gracia Festival Japan themed

The 2017 Festes de Gràcia will take place between the 15th and the 21st of August. This year will be a special edition because it is the 200th anniversary of the event. This festival is considered the best, the nicest, and the most festive and welcoming street festival of Barcelona. It takes place in the Gràcia neighborhood which is 20 minutes away on foot from the city center.

Around 20 streets and squares are decorated in different themes (in previous editions some streets were decorated with Toy Story, The Walking Dead and Star Wars themes). At the end of the festivities, judges decide which street or square is decorated the best.

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Correfocs (A Catalan culture tradition)

The festival is not only about decoration. During these days, you can enjoy some of the Catalan cultural traditions like Sardanes (a group dance), Castells (human castles), and Correfocs (some people dressed as demons throw fireworks and firecrackers). During the night most of the streets host concerts of all kinds of music until the early morning.

The best time to visit is in the evening from 8pm when it starts to get dark. The lights on most streets are switched on at around 8:30pm and the decorations look nicer when they are illuminated. The first two days of Festes de Gràcia are always very crowded, so have patience and be careful with the street decorations which are handmade and often fragile.

Europea’s Terrace Charming Residence is in the middle of Gràcia district.

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Festes de Sants, held between the 19th and the 27th of August, is a small version of Festes de Gràcia. The festival is celebrated in Sants district which is located 15 minutes away from the center by metro.

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Children’s activities at the Festes de Sants

As Gracia’s Festival, some streets and squares are decorated in different themes and the residents organize activities that go from the morning to the late in the night. During the day, the streets are filled with workshops and activities for the little ones, while at night music takes over every corner and people dance until they are exhausted.

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The best time to visit is in the evening, but be prepared for the crowds. Although it is not as famous as the Festes de Gràcia, the fun is also assured.

Europea’s Botadura Residence is just a few minutes walking from Sants district.

Brussels: 5 Places To Have Dinner Near The Grand Place

When it comes to diverse cuisine, Brussels has a very wide range of restaurants. The only problem is knowing where to go! As a tourist, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the restaurants on Rue des Bouchers will be great (Stay away!). As Belgian locals, we become creatures of routine and end up going to the same place every Friday night and eating exactly the same food for years.

So here’s to changing habits and giving adventure a shot! Here’s to being a good local and telling tourists where to eat! (*Raises a Tripel Karmeliet bier glass*).

Fin de Siècle (Rue des Chartreux 9)

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Meat, potatoes and beer. You really can’t get any more Belgian than that. This authentic little restaurant has a very rustic atmosphere. Your chair will mismatch the one the person you’re with is sitting in, the place is loud and you’ll wonder if this was a good choice. You’ll question the art selection that changes every couple of months and seems to get stranger and stranger, until you taste anything that comes out of that kitchen.  This is where you’ll try real Stoemp (mashed potatoes and veggies with sausage in creamy beer sauce) and sumptuous carbonnade flamande (Beef stew also served in dark beer sauce). My personal recommendation: Agneau en papillotte (veal stew with potatoes and vegetables).

Bia Mara (Rue du Marché aux Poulets 41)

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This small low-key restaurant is the perfect place for a last minute late night snack. They have a variety of fish types to pick from as well as a range of sauces. Try the classic panko fish with seaweed salted chips and homemade garlic truffle sauce, it’s to die for!

It might not be comparable to authentic British fish and chips but it’s worth a try!

Kokob (Rue des Grands Carmes 10)

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Ever found yourself in the situation where you wanted to try new food but didn’t feel adventurous enough to actually go for it?

Kokob is a great restaurant with delicious Ethiopian food. You will experience the culture by eating with your hands and sharing food with your friends and/or family by eating from the same plate! Don’t worry, if this doesn’t make you feel comfortable, the kind staff will be more than happy to give cutlery and a plate.

Ricotta et Parmesan (Rue de L’Ecuyer 31)

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This Italian restaurant serves such good Italian food. With a wide range of dishes, oven baked pizza and endless combinations of pastas and sauces, this place will suit every person’s taste. The staff is dedicated to maintaining the classic standards of Italian cuisine. My personal recommendation: the combination panzerotti pasta stuffed with cèpes mushrooms and covered with truffle sauce. Mmmm!

Amadeo (Rue Sainte-Catherine 28)

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Five words: All You Can Eat Ribs. Bring your full appetite to this place! The portions are quite big and the servers will keep bringing you ribs until you beg them to stop. For those who aren’t fond of ribs, the restaurant also offers other meat or fish dishes.

 

Bon appétit!

London: 6 Secret Things To Do This Summer

Summertime opens up a whole host of fresh opportunities in the city. Outdoor strolls around London’s parks, gardens and markets are de rigueur throughout the season, but summer also brings with it plenty of exceptional but short-lived events. Catch the ones below before they’re gone!

Visit Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms

22 July to 1 October

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State Rooms at Buckingham Palace (credit: 2OnTheWing)

Year round, crowds flock to admire Buckingham Palace’s beautiful façade, but it’s only in late summer that you can explore some of its exquisite interior too. The State Rooms – those rooms designated for the Queen to receive and entertain subjects and visiting dignitaries – are open from July to October, and with a Royal Day Out ticket you can gain access to the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews too.

The Throne Room is a particular highlight; in recent times it’s perhaps most famous as the setting of several official photographs from the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Europea’s Westminster Residence is a short walk from Buckingham Palace.

Make DIY Ice Cream At Pierre Marcolini

1 June to end of August

Pierre-Marcolini

Give summer ice cream a gourmet, personalised twist over at the Esquimau Choc Ice Bar at the Pierre Marcolini boutique on Marylebone High Street. Select from four ice cream (or two sorbet) flavours and then choose from six luxurious chocolate toppings to round it off (including smoked dark chocolate, milk chocolate with toasted hazelnut and fleur de sel or white chocolate and toasted coconut).

Experience Movie Magic At The Outdoor Cinema In Hyde Park

3, 4, 5 and 7 July

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Outdoor Cinema London (credit: London The Inside)

Hyde Park’s British Summer Time festival comes with more than just musical performances. They’re also hosting four free movie nights in July on a huge open air screen, and the line-up is a spectacular combination of family fun (a sing-along of The Lion King and two of Disney’s sensational live-action remakes – 2016’s The Jungle Book and this year’s Beauty and the Beast) and grown-up modern classics (including Dirty Dancing and Back to the Future). See the schedule here – entry is on a first-come-first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early!

Europea’s Kinnerton and Kensington residences both border Hyde Park.

Channel Your Inner Patissier At The Big London Bake

Until 1 October

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(credit: Immy May)

The Great British Bake Off has practically become a national institution since first gracing British TVs back in 2010. (These days it’s even gaining in popularity across the pond as The Great British Baking Show.) Whether you have a penchant for cake, pastry and all things baking or are just a fan of the series, snap up the opportunity to take on a baking challenge yourself at The Big London Bake. Set in a marquee kitchen, contestants take part in the competition in 10 teams of 2 with all ingredients provided and a professional baker on hand. No experience required!

Go On A Sensory Journey At Somerset House’s Perfume Exhibition

21 June to 17 September

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(credit: Peter MacDiarmid)

If you’re a connoisseur of scent, you won’t want to miss Somerset House’s intriguing Perfume exhibition, which examines its perfumers’ modern and accessible approach to perfumery and celebrates their inspirations through visual, auditory and tactile displays. Visit one of the Perfume Lab Residencies (9 and 23 July) for a unique chance to learn more about the art and science of crafting a fragrance from an expert perfumer.

Europea’s Covent Garden residence is only a short distance from Somerset House.

Experience Theatre Anew At The Open Air Theatre At Regent’s Park And Immersive Ensemble’s The Great Gatsby

Open Theatre: schedule varies by production till September

The Great Gatsby runs till September

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The Sound Of Music Performance 2013 (credit: David Jensen)

Swap the West End for Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre this summer, with productions including A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and the return of their 2016 sell-out (and award-winning) Jesus Christ Superstar.

For an alternative, but equally extraordinary, theatre experience, check out the Immersive Ensemble’s ‘heart-racing, immersive’ version of The Great Gatsby, held at a secret location. Don’t forget those dancing shoes!

Europea’s Primrose Hill residence is very close to Regent’s Park.

La Coulée Verte: An Oasis In The Heart Of Paris

City life can be tiring, and a day might come when you’ll feel like taking a rest from Paris. Here’s a secret place you can go to enjoy the soothing powers of nature, all this without even leaving Paris. This place is nearly a secret because it was created fairly recently, in the 80’s and 90’s. To make it even more secret, the maps and signs you’ll see in Paris don’t all call it by it’s official name, which is La Coulée Verte Réné Dumont, but call it by the two names that were first used, Viaduc des Arts for a section and Promenade Plantée for another.

La Coulée Verte replaced the tracks of a railway line which ceased to be used in 1969. It is now a pleasant 4,7 kilometers long promenade (2,9 miles), where you feel very far away from Paris.

It is not at all a monotonous strip. As a matter of fact, it is made of very diverse sections:

The first one, also known as Viaduc des Arts starts close to the Opéra Bastille (situated close to our residences Bastille and Marjorelle), on rue de Lyon. In order to reach it, you’ll have to go up the stairs of what looks like a building with Viaduc des Arts written in large letters. And there it is, like a long, endless terrace, covered with numerous bushes and trees. You can observe people taking a stroll, jogging, or just relaxing on the many benches. Soon, you’ll reach basins surrounded by bushes and flowers. Ducks use them to take a wash, sparrows to take a drink. But above all, the  viaduct is an ideal observation point to study  the architecture of Parisian buildings. The path is elevated to the height of the third floor of the surrounding buildings and therefore you can easily see details of the elaborate roofs of the Haussmannien buildings, with their strange decorations, roof accesses and walkways for the chimney sweeps.

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La Coulée Verte (Credit: James Neidert)

Next, you’ll cross a park named Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin. It is an amazing collection of little gardens built around different themes. You might choose to go over it using a modern bridge that bounces a little. But should you choose to visit the parc, you must take a look at La Pétillante, which is a fountain where you can fill a recipient with Parisian water, either at room temperature, or cool or as fizzy water. This treat being free, many locals come to fill their bottles, as if were spring water.

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Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin (Credit: James Neidert)

Next, you’ll reach the section of Allée Vivaldi. It is at street level and has a more classical look, as it is a long park in the middle of a sreet. However, should you want to have a meal, Allée Vivaldi offers a fantastic choice of restaurants: Ristorante Bella Tavola, Jodhpur Palace, Le Village Corse, Les Jardins de Manchourie and Le Janissaire, the latter being specialized in Turkish gastronomy.

Now, you are ready for the last and most extravagant section, the part which was first baptized La Promenade Plantée. It is a paradise for nature lovers, with a large variety of plants, carefully arranged in an organized mess. Bikers and joggers haven’t been forgotten and the track is divided in two partitions, one side is paved, the other covered in compacted clay. Should you want to watch a game of boules (a very French specialty) you might catch a group of “boulistes” playing on the dedicated “terrain de boulistes”. Or you could try one of the exercise machines to work out, thus entertaining the groups of people relaxing on the nearby benches.

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La Promenade Plantée (Credit: James Neidert)

La coulée Verte ends with another park named Square Charles Péguy. Should you not feel like walking back to Bastille, the nearest metro station is Porte Dorée.

Whatever you do, don’t get locked in as La Coulée Verte is closed at night! Check the closure times indicated on the boards as they range from 5.45 p.m. in winter to 9.30 p.m. in summer.

Bonne promenade!

All photo credits to James Neidert.

Spires And Shards: London’s 10 Greatest Buildings

London is a veritable smorgasbord of architectural styles. 21st century skyscrapers dominate the skyline today, but nestled among them are Roman and medieval structures, Wren masterpieces from the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666 and a whole host of elaborate architectural gems from subsequent centuries. Get inspired for your next trip our wonderful residences as we explore 10 of the greatest buildings in the city.

London icons

Westminster Abbey

The site of every coronation since 1066 and the burial place of a plethora of British royalty and intellectuals, to say that Westminster Abbey is steeped in history is rather an understatement. Originally a small 10th century Benedictine monastery, over the centuries it has been transformed by a series of monarchs including Edward the Confessor and Henry III (who rebuilt the abbey in its current Gothic style). Read more here.

Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)

Edward the Confessor established his royal palace on this site in the 1040s, but a fire destroyed much of the original structure in 1512. Thereafter its primary function shifted to housing Parliament. The palace has since been heavily reconstructed – its iconic Gothic Revival architecture is the work of architect Charles Barry following further fire damage in 1834. Read more here.

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Waters and Westminster (credit: lemerg.com)

St Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral has existed in several incarnations dating back to 604 AD, but the current Baroque building is the magnum opus of Britain’s most illustrious architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Built from the ashes of the Great Fire of London and remarkable for its survival during the London Blitz, the cathedral is a truly stalwart London icon. Read more here.

Fit for a Queen

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has undergone considerable remodelling over its three-century lifespan. Following Victoria’s accession in 1837 it was enlarged and remodelled several times, acquiring its current neo-classical appearance with a redesign by Sir Aston Webb 1913. Read more here. If you’re looking to stay somewhere nearby, we would recommend our Westminster residence.

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Sneak peek inside Buckingham Palace (credit: Peter MacDiarmid/Getty Images)

Kensington Palace

Not far from our Kensington residence, you will find Kensington Palace. It has been a royal residence since its acquisition by William and Mary in 1689, at which point it was expanded and renovated ready for royal use by Sir Christopher Wren. The palace is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Queen Victoria – it was her affection for her childhood home that ensured its survival when the palace fell into disrepair in the mid 19th century. Today, the palace is both public museum and royal residence. Read more here.

Industry and transport

Westminster Underground Station

A futuristic mesh of concrete and metal take centre stage as you descend the escalators into Westminster Underground station. The architects’ vision is poetic – they speak of weaving escalators with lateral beams and of the geological texture of the walls – but perhaps The Guardian hit the nail on the head when it vividly described the interior as ‘Blade Runneresque’. While there are a whole host of remarkable tube stations in London, this might just be the stand out. Read more here.

Battersea Power Station

This 1930s built former coal-fired power station is both a monumental symbol of London’s industry and a prominent pop cultural image thanks in large part to its appearance on Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover. Constructed in brick-cathedral style, it owes its imposing riverside presence to architects J. Theo Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The building is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment with plans promising luxury accommodation and leisure facilities.

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Battersea Power Station

Modern classics

London Aquatics Centre

Form follows function with the harmonious lines and texture of the London Aquatics Centre. Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid in 2004, the concept was ‘inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion…[reflecting] the riverside landscapes of the Olympic Park’. As of 2014, the pools are open to the public for a small admission fee. Read more here.

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Water was the inspiration for this building (credit: Zaha Hadid Architects – Domus)

The Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe)

It took 7,429 panes of glass and 35km of steel to build 30 St. Mary Axe, designed by Sir Norman Foster in 2004. Gherkin-shaped in order to minimise wind turbulence, the towering commercial skyscraper is also very environmentally friendly with gaps in each floor creating six shafts that function as the building’s ventilation system. As well as admiring The Gherkin from afar, during special ‘Open Nights’ visitors can take in a panoramic view from Searcys restaurant and bar. Read more here.

The Shard

The fourth-tallest building in Europe (and, with the top three all in Moscow, the tallest building in Western Europe) formed an elegant, gleaming addition to the London skyline when it was finished in 2013. Renzo Piano’s striking design takes inspiration from the spires of London’s churches and the masts of tall ships in Canaletto paintings. Read more here.

Architecture tours and access

When it comes to appreciating London’s architecture, the Open House Festival cannot be beaten. Taking place annually over a single weekend in September, the festival offers a rare chance to visit hundreds of London’s buildings that are not usually open to the public – all for free. In the past, these have included 10 Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Senate House as well as The Gherkin and The Shard. The guide for 2017’s Open House will be available in mid-August. A copy can be obtained for free in participating London libraries or pre-ordered online for a charge.

There are plenty of year-round architecture touring opportunities, too. Venture forth by boat, bike or on foot with the charity behind the Open House festival, Open-City, who run around eight tours per month. Insider London also run a couple of architecture-focussed tours, including tours on the London Underground, Modern Architecture and Sustainable Architecture.

Paris: Discover The French Impressionists

Interested in a stay in this cultural hotspot? Check out our latest apartments.

In the 1860s, when Impressionism first made its appearance on the Parisian art scene, Impressionist paintings were considered scandalous. The painters captured modernity by choosing subjects that represented modern life, and by using different painting styles from the ones traditionally taught in Parisian schools. Impressionists also symbolised a Bohemian life that many were opposed to. Let us take a little Parisian tour of the museums where you can admire Impressionist collections, and cafés where Impressionists used to « refaire le monde », in other words, think the world anew.

Many wonderful museums have extensive Impressionist collections in Paris, and I cannot imagine a visit to the city without going to at least one.

The Musée Marmottan Monet has 300 Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Among them, Impression Soleil Levant, the piece that gave the movement its final name. Interesting fact: the term “Impressionists” was first used by art critics as an insult!

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Monet’s “Soleil Levant”

At the Musée d’Orsay, the whole 5th floor is dedicated to Impressionism, with paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Manet, and many others. Even though many museums place paintings by Manet in the same room as Impressionists, it is interesting to note that Manet refused to associate with these new painters, and refused to exhibit with them in their time. The Musée d’Orsay currently hosts a wonderful exhibition. You can visit Beyond the Stars, The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kadinsky which will run until 25th June. Even if you are only visiting the regular collection, make sure to buy your tickets in advance as queues to the museum get extremely long.

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Eduard Manet’s “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe”

Across the Seine from the Musée d’Orsay, in the Jardin des Tuileries, is the Musée de l’Orangerie, where the impressive Nympheas, Monet’s masterpieces, are kept in two dedicated rooms. Sit in the centre and surround yourself in this river of colours, of greens and blues. I could stay there for hours! On the bottom floor, 144 Impressionist and post-Impressionist pieces are also waiting to be admired.

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Have a sit down and enjoy Nympheas by Monet

Cafés were an important social place for Impressionists. There, they painted their modern subjects, discussed techniques with other painters, and discussed art with other artists: writers, poets, musicians…  Unfortunately, time and the requirements of urbanism have transformed almost all the cafés, but I still like to walk through the streets often frequented by Monet, Baudelaire or Renoir.

At the Café Guerbois, Emile Zola was a regular, and Manet started coming in 1866, when his studio was at 34 boulevard des Batignolles. Today, a shoe shop at 9 Rue De Clichy has replaced it. It is a known fact that, in 1870, Manet slapped his friend and art critic Edmond Duranty in the Café Guerbois because of an article the latter had written. They had a duel, but thankfully no one got seriously injured, and the two eventually made up.

The Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes at the Place Pigalle was a meeting-place for artists like Manet and Degas around the end of the 1870s. It was destroyed in 2004.

Last but not least, the Brasserie des Martyrs. It is the only place that has not been destroyed, and is in fact still a place where art is discussed. It is now called the Divan du Monde (the world’s sofa) and is a cabaret-restaurant at 75 Rue des Martyrs and is just a short walk from our Sacré-Coeur Charme Residence.

Enjoy your time in Paris, the city that witnessed and contributed to the development of French Impressionism!