Finding Italy in London

Amalfi Coast Cookbook in London

Look … there’s a cookbook about the Amalfi Coast in the Anthropologie on King’s Road in Chelsea!

I’m in London this week enjoying a very a very different landscape than what I’m used to seeing each day. From stone steps and trains of donkeys hauling supplies I’ve come to the urban setting of one of my favorite cities in the world – London. It makes a nice change of pace, and always surprises me that it’s just a couple hours flight from Naples. While the two locations couldn’t possible be more different, I’ve loved finding little reminders of Italy while out and about. Walking by an outdoor pub and overhearing a young Italian guy making a dinner date on his phone, hearing a mother scolding her young daughter in Italian for running too fast in a tiny stationary store or even spotting an Amalfi Coast cookbook by Kate & Giancarlo Caldesi from La Cucina Caldesi Cooking School in London at the Anthropologie on King’s Road. Now there’s a view that looks familiar!

Amalfi Coast Travel Pasta di Gragnano

Pasta from the Sorrento Peninsula

I walked by La Bottega di San Lorenzo on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge and spotted pasta di Gragnano, made in a town near Sorrento that is famous for its pasta. I love thinking of the journey this pasta made from the mountains above Sorrento all the way to super chic Knightsbridge. A world away in so many ways!

Amalfi Coast Travel London Italian Restaurants

Italian restaurant Ca’puccino on King’s Road in Chelsea

Of course there are tons of Italian restaurants, coffee shops and gelaterias in London as well. I walked past one called Ca’ppucino on King’s Road this evening and it was full and looked very inviting inside. Although I’m fully immersed in the London lifestyle, I can’t help noticing these little things that remind me of home and bring a smile to my face.

Smitten with Mayfair!

Mayfair in London Fortumn and Mason

Fortnum & Mason in Mayfair ... it really is the Best Thing Ever!

A trip to London isn’t complete for me without a visit … or two or three … to Mayfair. I just love exploring this neighborhood’s elegant streets so full of London history, going for tea and shopping at Fortnum & Mason, window shopping in the beautiful Burlington Arcade, walking through Hyde Park to the Serpentine or across Green Park to Buckingham Palace or stopping in the Royal Academy of Arts to see a special exhibition or the marvelous permanent collections. It’s a fabulous little area in London that is literally surrounded by all my favorite things to do just walking distance or a short bus ride away.

Burlington Arcade Shopping in London

Shopping in Burlington Arcade at Penhaligon's ... founded in 1870!

Mayfair is one of London’s most fashionable areas, and its location tucked away between Hyde Park and Green Park on two sides and the fabulous shopping areas of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly on the other sides means you’re really surrounded by the best of London – shopping, iconic sights and beautiful parks.

Liberty in London

Loved being able to walk to Liberty - one of my favorite shopping spots in London!

On my most recent trip to London I had the chance to not only visit Mayfair but also to call it home. Once you’ve rented an apartment while traveling it’s hard to imagine going back to staying in hotels. For a week I got to call call Mayfair “home” and to discover one of London’s most exclusive neighborboods like a local. Sweet! While shopping in Mayfair is always on the top of my list in London, I discovered an area new to me during my stay at the Mayfair apartment – Shepherd Market. And what a find!

Fabulous Restaurants and Pubs in Shepherd Market

Fabulous Restaurants and Pubs in Shepherd Market

Shepherd Market promotes itself as one of London’s best kept secrets, and I’d have to agree! This area takes its name from a man named Edward Shepherd who developed the square and shopping area from 1735-46. It has always been an ultra fashionable area, especially in the 20s, with an artistic touch. James Boswell lived in Shepherd Market, all the while keeping his famous journals. Just around the corner on Half Moon Street was the stylish flat of Wooster and his faithful valet Jeeves in the stories of P.G. Wodehouse. I couldn’t help but smile every time I walked by Half Moon Street thinking of all the messes that Jeeves managed to get Wooster out of!

Fish and Chips in Shepherd Market

How about fish and chips in Shepherd Market?

But Shepherd Market is more than just historic charm. The area is full of restaurants, pubs, cute little cafes and beautiful stops. It’s a very lively spot for Londoners at night, too! I’ve even read about restaurants and clubs in the area that have hosted Pippa Middleton and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on many ocassions … if you feel like a bit of royal spotting!

Beautiful Pubs in Shepherd Market

Just one of the lovely pubs in Shepherd Market

I loved returning in the evenings to see the crowds at the local pubs spilling out onto the street with Londoners enjoying a pint after work or meeting up with friends before dinner in Shepherd Market. There was a vibrant atmosphere and very local feel that I enjoyed experiencing, especially compared to some more touristy parts of London.

Great Restaurants in Mayfair

There are all kinds of restaurants in Shepherd Market ... even some types you wouldn't expect!

The Mayfair apartment was perfectly located at the end of a quiet street, but just around the corner from the lively heart of Shepherd Market. There’s not a lot of traffic in Shepherd Market to begin with and many of the streets are pedestrian only. Love that! The apartment I stayed in is set in a charming red brick building on a street that wasn’t even a through street so it was a nice and quiet setting. Once I stepped inside the apartment the bustle of Piccadilly and the energy of Shepherd Market seemed worlds away even though they were literally just around the corner!

Cool Modern Wallpaper in Living Room

Very modern decor with cool wallpaper in the living room

This apartment had a modern and fun decor with a striking wallpaper in the living room and dining area. I really enjoyed the contemporary vibe that seemed just right for the lively feel of Shepherd Market and the location in the stylish Mayfair neighborhood.

Mayfair Gorgeous Living Room Details

Loved all the gorgeous little details in the living room

The design details were lovely, including a whimsical piece of artwork that contrasted nicely with the Victorian fireplace in the dining area. It was a very comfortable apartment in every detail – especially the under floor heating. Oh how lovely that was! It sure made a delightful change from the freezing cold tile floors at home in Italy. When the super nice greeter showed me how the under floor heating worked when I arrived, I joked that I might never leave again. (I liked this apartment so much that I wasn’t really joking!)

Mayfair Dining Table

Glass table and modern chairs ... and warm floors!!!

I always look for a beautiful kitchen when picking out an apartment to rent for vacation, because I love enjoying the comforts of home while traveling. I’m also a bit of an intensive sightseer … meaning I walk and walk and walk and walk all day long since it’s my favorite way to discover cities like London. At the end of the day I often feel like coming home to a comfortable apartment, preparing something to eat at home and just relaxing!

Modern Kitchen in London Apartment

Lovely modern kitchen with fab appliances!

The kitchen at the Mayfair was perfect – completely modern with all new appliances, very clean and with beautiful dishes, too. Some evenings I stopped off on the way home at the great Marks & Spencer Simply Food store nearby or one of the other little food shops in the neighborhood to pick up something fresh and easy to prepare. Other nights I couldn’t resist heading out to try some of the restaurants and pubs in Shepherd Market. It was great that they were just a few steps away! However, after a busy day there’s nothing quite like relaxing, staying in and … Downton Abbey!

Watching Downton Abbey in London

Watching Downton Abbey in London ... how perfect is that?

The TV in the living room was massive! It angled out just right so I could relax on the sofa and enjoy an episode of Downton Abbey in the evenings with a DVD I picked up at the airport. There was also a TV in the bedroom just opposite the bed. Oh, the bedroom …

Peaceful Bedroom in Mayfair

Ahhh ... it felt so good to sink into bed at night!

The bedroom was beautifully designed and decorated with pale shades of beige and off white. I really enjoyed the inset lighting above the bed and the small reading lamps on each side of the bed. The windows are double paned and were frosted part of the way up for privacy, which was a great feature. There was a ton of storage so I could unpack when I arrived and store away my suitcase. I really like doing that when I travel so I don’t have to think about leaving until it’s time to pack again!

Comfortable Bedroom with Great Features

Great storage in the bedroom plus reading lights, a TV and stereo with iPod dock

Before staying in Mayfair I hadn’t realized just how well connected it is for public transport in London. The Green Park tube station was just a few minute’s walk away, and that station is conveniently on the Piccadilly, Victoria and Jubilee lines. It was just one stop to Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, Victoria and just a few stops to go direct to Harrods in Knightsbridge, Museum Row in South Kensington, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, the British Museum and so much more.

Taking the Bus in London

On the bus zipping around Duke of Wellington Place

While the Tube is fabulous, my favorite way to get around London is on the bus. It’s so easy to use (and I used to be scared to use buses while traveling!) and you get to actually see London on the way.

Easy to Take the Bus in London

It's easy to take the bus in London - you can see the name of the upcoming stops and whether or not the bus is stopping to tell when to press the stop request button. Simple!

There were lots of great bus lines that passed by the Green Park Tube station and other stops nearby. One day I took the #9 bus straight to Kensington High Street for shopping and to visit Kensington Palace while another day I hopped on a bus and enjoyed the ride through Knightsbridge and South Kensington to King’s Road in Chelsea for another fun shopping expedition. The rest of the time I usually just walked everywhere I wanted to go since Mayfair is so centrally located.

Take the Tube to Harrods

Take the Tube or bus to Harrods

London is full of surprises and mine on this trip was the discovery of Shepherd Market and the Mayfair apartment. It’s such a quaint and intimate neighborhood right in the heart of Mayfair. It’s an ideal central location yet with tons of London charm … I’ve become smitten with Mayfair!

Paris in the Snow

This year was a rainy Christmas on the Amalfi Coast, but a few wet days are nothing compared to the snowstorms and cold weather that have hit northern Europe. The news has been full of stories of flights cancelled and even the Eiffel Tower in Paris closed because of the heavy snow. I feel sorry for the many families that were not able to be together for the holidays this year because of the bad weather.

As I see the snowy pictures from Paris, however, I’m reminded of a very special travel memory from when I visited Paris last January with my boyfriend. It was my first time in Paris, and our first time traveling together. Our sweet studio apartment that we called home for a week was just a couple of blocks from the Champ de Mars park and the Eiffel Tower. It was a dream! We arrived after dark and immediately went out for a walk around the neighborhood. It was a quiet January night, and it seemed like we were alone in the Champ de Mars park under the warm golden glow of the Eiffel Tower. The first delicate flakes of snow were starting to fall. Magical doesn’t even begin to describe what it felt like to see the Eiffel Tower surrounded by snowflakes glistening in the cold night air!

Eiffel Tower in the Snow

The next morning we woke to find Paris covered with a light dusting of snow. Wrapping a warm scarf around my neck, I hurried to the windows and threw them open to see the view – the Eiffel Tower against the somber grey sky and the Champ de Mars garden completely white. Down below in the street parents were hurrying their children, bundled up from heat to toe, into the school nearby.

Champ de Mars Snow

Looking toward the Champ de Mars Gardens

It wasn’t long before we were out exploring the white city. The crisp, cool air felt so good as we walked along the Seine, listening to the crunch of the snow under our steps. We made our way toward the Musée d’Orsay and spent the morning exploring the museum. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Gustave Caillebotte’s Vue de toits (Effet de neige), an impressionistic rendering of the rooftops of Paris covered in snow. It looked wonderfully familiar!

Seine River Snow

Snowy riverbanks of the Seine

That afternoon, as the snow melted away, we walked along the Boulevard St-Germain. We stopped at a quaint café looking out toward the Paris’ oldest church, St-Germain-des-Prés. Sitting there, sipping vin chaud with the person I love and watching the hustle and bustle on the white sidewalks, I realized that the dusting of snow had made our first day in Paris even more romantic than I could have possibly imagined. Head over to this post to see the rest of my photos from Paris last January.

Paris is always a good idea.

I know you movie fans will remember that scene in Sabrina where she says “Paris is always a good idea.” (Or at least you will if you’ve seen it as many times as I have!) Well, last week I went to Paris for the first time, and now I can agree with Sabrina. Paris is always a good idea. Here’s what I’ve been up to while I’ve been away from the blog:

January in Paris is wonderful! We even had a light dusting of snow, which only added to the romance. I will share more stories here in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the slide show of photos from my trip above, and please do leave a comment with your favorite Paris memories. I would love to hear them!

À bientôt!