It’s amazing what you can fit into 24 hours. That’s exactly how long we had to experience Paris in celebration of Renaissance Hotel’s Global Day of Discovery. Just wait til you see everything we managed to squeeze in!

The day was jam packed full of sightseeing, fantastic food, fashion, dancing, limousines and experiencing a uniquely different side of Paris (no tourist traps on this itinerary). I don’t want to give away all the surprises just yet though.

Waking up bright and early, I reluctantly crawled out from under the covers and left the cosiness of my ridiculously comfy bed. Not having peeked the night before, I drew back the curtains to see what views were waiting behind my bedroom windows.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Restaurant

One side overlooked the Booking Office Bar & Restaurant where we had eaten the night before. I watched for a couple of minutes as a few early breakfast go-ers went about their leisurely morning routine.

St. Pancras Station London Paul Days The Meeting Place Statue

The other window looked out over St. Pancras station towards Paul Day’s well known sculpture, The Meeting Place. I enjoyed observing the peacefulness of the station – I’ve never seen it so quiet.

If you are catching a train into, or out of St. Pancras station, you certainly can’t get a more convenient hotel! The trains literally pull up to the door.

With our takeaway breakfasts in hand, the hotel’s VIP transfer service took our luggage through to customs for us where we boarded our early morning Eurostar bound for Paris.

Before we knew it, we arrived at Gare du Nord station to a hot summer’s morning, ready for our Day of Discovery in Paris to officially begin.

 

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV tour Lucy and Charly

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV tour

There were a few giggles and squeals as we laid eyes on our transport parked across the street. A row of brightly coloured convertible Citroën 2CV’s awaited to take us on a tour of the city.

Surprisingly, these little gems fit three passengers, plus a driver, so we divided ourselves among the cars and buckled up. Lucy and Charly opted for the bright orange number, while AngieDanielle and I went for the racing red model.

Our driver zipped around and weaved in and out of the midday traffic, which is no easy feat in Paris. The beauty of being in a 2CV was being able to dart around and sneak into small spaces (the traffic in Paris is CRAZY). There were a lot of laughs and the driver only gave us one rule: to smile.

These cars attract a lot of attention, so there is always someone taking a photo.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Montmartre

We made our way towards the cobbled streets of one of Paris’ most historic neighbourhoods, Montmartre. I would highly recommend adding it to your itinerary. It’s a beautiful area to explore with gorgeous buildings and cafes lining the narrow streets.

Many famous artists used to once live and work here; Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Vlamenck, Derain and Soutine to name a few.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Basilique Sacré-Coeur

As our convoy climbed to the highest point of the city in Montmare, we were dwarfed by the dominant landmark of Basilique Sacré-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) perched above us.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Views of Paris

This large Roman Catholic church certainly has the best views sweeping across the almost flat cityscape of Paris. Fantastic photo spot!

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Moulin Rouge

Moving on and winding our way down, our tour guide pointed out a few buildings of note before letting us get a quick snap outside the well-known cabaret, Moulin Rouge.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Roof Selfie

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Roof Selfie Portrait

At the end of the Champs-Elysées we had another pit stop in one of the major squares, Place de la Concorde for a few snaps (and selfies).

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Line Up

One of the perks about a city tour in a 2CV with Paris Authentic – the cars are extremely photogenic!

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Paris Authentic 2CV Tour Eiffel Tower

Even though we were experiencing a lesser-known side of Paris, I still got rather excited catching sight of the infamous Eiffel Tower as we whizzed past.

Parked at the lights, I very nearly missed seeing it altogether as I was looking down distracted by my phone. Just goes to show how important it is to look up and take in your surroundings as you might just miss something spectacular!

Lesson learnt.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero

For lunch, it was time to escape to a tranquil garden setting in the heart of the city at the Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero.

Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero Garden Lunch Setting

It was a welcome oasis nestled in-between buildings of the hotel, you wouldn’t have a clue of the outside bustle beyond the grounds, or that tourist hotspots Champs-Elysees and the Eiffel Tower were so near. Even the local French bloggers didn’t know this spot existed.

We lounged in the speckled sun on bean bags and outdoor chairs, dining al fresco sampling a selection of local flavours.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Lunch Salmon Pots

There were delicious pots of creamy avocado mousse mixed with herbs and topped with salmon and bean sprouts.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Lunch Gazpacho

Refreshing cold gazpacho (used to the cold-pressed juice craze here in the UK, I naively thought it was ginger and carrot juice and sucked up a large mouthful).

Still tasty nonetheless!

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Lunch

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Lunch Sandwich

Open sandwiches on toasted bread were topped with cured meat and fresh seasoned vegetables.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Champagne

Olivia and I soaked up the warmth in the garden and toasted to the day with a glass of chilled champagne.

Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero Garden Lunch Dessert

Everyone’s eyes lit up as shortbread biscuit bases topped with fresh berries and an outdoor frozen yoghurt machine were brought out for dessert. Very welcomed in the summer heat.

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Mirror Selfie

Renaissance Hotel Day Of Discovery Paris_Le Parc Trocadero Staircase

Finished eating, Charlie, Angie and I escaped the heat and had a quick nosy inside before being whisked off for the next of the day’s activities.

There’s still an afternoon and evening of action to come. Told you we managed to squeeze a lot in!

I was a guest of Renaissance Hotels, experiencing Paris for their annual Global Day of Discovery. All excursions were planned by the hotels’ Navigators who are experts in suggesting different local activities and booking exclusive events for guests.

Explore and discover,

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London exterior

For those who have been reading awhile, you’ll know I love trying new things. If you’re new here – I love trying new things *smile*. It’s what I enjoy most about London and what makes the city so special. There is always something to discover, whether it be a new food market, latest pop-up, show, or event.

Needless to say, when I was invited to experience London and Paris with Renaissance Hotels to celebrate their fourth annual Global Day of Discovery, I was pretty excited. Combine my love of travel and new experiences – I’m there.

The Global Day of Discovery is an initiative set up by Renaissance Hotels, to help inspire travellers to explore the local culture and quirks in different ways. They’re passionate about giving guests a truly authentic experience when visiting a destination.

Arriving at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, I stood outside and marvelled at the scale of the hotel and it’s beautiful, Victorian Gothic architecture. No doubt about it, this is one spectacular hotel that deserves every bit of awe and admiration.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London exterior clock tower

Originally opened as Midland Grand Hotel by Queen Victoria in 1873, it closed in 1935 before being used as railway offices for many years. In the 1960’s it was set for demolition, luckily it was petitioned and given a Grade 1 heritage status.

What a shame it would have been to lose such a striking landmark! The building has gone through years of restoration and refurbishment to become the luxury, 5-star hotel that stands today.

You’re right in thinking it looks like something out of Harry Potter – it was used in two of the films, as well as quite a few other well known movies and television series.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Foyer

Walking through the entrance, a sense of calm instantly came over me after the hustle and bustle of rush hour commuters at Kings Cross. Natural light streamed in along the length of the atrium through a high glass ceiling making me feel like I was still outdoors rather than in a hotel reception area.

I later learned that this was actually where the drivers of horse-drawn carriages used to pull up, dropping passengers off at the station. An interesting history fact that made sense of the indoor/outdoor feel.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Foyer Meetings

A beautiful sweet, floral and wooden scent filled the air, while guests scattered around tables in the foyer were busy typing away on their laptops and finishing up meetings for the day. No doubt hurrying to get to the adjourning hotel bar!

After checking in and being led to my room, the view on the other side of the door took me by pleasant surprise.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Chambers Suite

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Chambers Suite Bed

Awaiting was a spacious, open-plan suite with its own lounge area, fireplace, separate office space tucked around the corner and my favourite, a gigantic marshmallow bed. It was so big, it was nearly possible to get lost amongst the plush, squishy pillows.

There’s nothing I love more than melting into a comfortable, oversized bed with luxurious bedding at a hotel and the St. Pancras Renaissance certainly delivered and exceeded all expectations.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Bar Entrance

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Bar

After a quick freshen up, it was time to meet for canapés in the Booking Office Bar & Restaurant. Another impressive space in the hotel, it is actually what used to be the ticket hall of the original station. Behind the 29m-long bar, glass panes protect the detailed woodwork of the old ticket booth windows.

A very grand spot to perch for an evening cocktail, or two.

After all the introductions were made, we toasted to the evening while plate after plate of mouth watering food kept being brought out and placed in front of us.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Flat Bread

Flat bread topped with melted cheese, vine ripened tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, rocket and shaved parmesan.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Burger Sliders

Mini burger sliders with wagyu beef, crisp lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato and smoked bacon relish.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled chicken and garden leaf salad with mixed lettuce, shaved cucumber, carrot and pomegranate, but…

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Pulled Pork Croquettes

…The star of the show for me were the delicious confit pork croquettes served accompanied with an apple mayonnaise. Perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, the tender pulled pork inside was soft and flavourful.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch

While we were nibbling away, one of the barmen came over to make us our own sharing bowl of punch in the centre of the table.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch Making

While he went about mixing, he enthusiastically explained the history behind the opening of the original railway hotel, Midland Grand and the popular punch culture at the time during London’s Victorian era. Honouring the building’s past and flavours of that period, it’s a tradition that the St. Pancras Renaissance is reviving, right down to details like the hand-made copper bowls.

Old school becoming new school?

He certainly wasn’t shy with quantities as bottle after bottle of cherry liqueur, orange liqueur, brandy and champagne were poured in.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch Mixing

He mixed,

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch Pouring

And poured,

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch Last Drop

And made sure every last drop was added.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Booking Office Punch Cup

Ladled into our cups, it tasted delicious, but certainly did pack a punch!

With our bellies full and thirsts quenched, the evening still wasn’t quite over and there was one more event lined up for our group.

Feeling like I'm back in Thailand 🔆

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Waiting to be picked up to be taken to our next location for the evening, I couldn’t help myself and had to get a photo in the hotel’s brightly painted tuk-tuk. Fond memories of past holidays in Thailand came rushing back sitting at the entrance.

Ah, nostalgia.

Carousel London Sofar Sounds Music Gig

As we pulled up outside Carousel in Marylebone, the last surprise we discovered was a secret Sofar sounds music gig. Holding intimate gigs in over 100 cities worldwide, they’re hard to get tickets to due to limited ticket capacity because of venue size and popularity.

When you apply, you don’t find out if you have been lucky enough to secure a ticket until a week before the gig and you have no idea of venue, or who you will be seeing until a couple of days prior.

Performed in all sorts of spaces from bars to people’s living rooms, the aim is to bring the best new music to intimate and unusual venues to a dedicated audience.

Carousel London Sofar Sounds Music Gig Set Up

Following the staircase underground, we came to an open concrete room where film and light crews were setting up for the first act of the evening. The vibe was laid back and the crowd was varied, but everyone was there for the sole purpose of enjoying good music by talented musicians.

Carousel London Sofar Sounds Music Gig Ella Martini

The amazingly talented @andreyatriana at last night's underground @sofarsounds gig.

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We saw four acts, Ella Martini, Orlando Seale & the Swell, the energetic Andreya Triana, and Halfpenny Pass who each played a short set of several songs. If you’re passionate about music, sign up and get yourself along to one of these gigs.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Night Exterior

As we pulled back into the hotel’s entrance after our outing, the facade lit against the dark night sky welcomed us back and I happily retired to my suite, flopped into my marshmellow bed and spread like a starfish and drifted into a peaceful sleep ready for the following day’s trip to Paris.

I was a guest of Renaissance Hotels, the hotel brand helping people all over the world Live Life to Discover. All excursions were planned by the hotels’ Navigators, who are dedicated experts in suggesting different activities and booking exclusive events for guests.

Staycation discoveries,

Nicole and A Life Less Beige Mum

Living overseas has many fun advantages, but sometimes it means missing special occasions you wish you could be part of. Since leaving New Zealand a few milestone birthdays, weddings, births and other events have sadly been missed. Likewise, turning 30 and getting engaged have been times I wish family and friends were on this side of the world to share in the excitement.

While home in New Zealand Mike and I made the most of our visit by finally celebrating our engagement with loved ones. If you missed the post about his romantic proposal in Budapest, go have a read and come back.

I’m still impressed by Mike’s efforts and I think he’s still got a few brownie points up his sleeve (don’t tell him though).

Post wedding dress lunch and bubbles

Post wedding dress shopping lunch with the girls

The first exciting girl date while home, was wedding dress shopping with my Mum and two of my gorgeous besties, Stacey and Julia to try on my first ever wedding dress! So grateful to Julia who even flew all the way from Australia to be there. We’ve been friends since we were nine and have our fair share of memories (and shenanigans) together over the years.

LOVE these girls.

Nicole and A Life Less Beige Mum at lunch

It’s true what they say – the dress really does choose you (indicated by how many excited butterflies and teary eyes are present). I thought I had an idea of style, but it didn’t flatter my figure, or suit my look and I ended up finding a beautiful dress, that is the complete opposite to what I had in mind at the start of the day.

That is all I will say about the dress though. My lips are sealed!

Mum has been so supportive and helpful, but then again, she always is. I don’t know what I would do without this woman in my life. She’s always in my corner, cheering me on and is there whenever I need her.

HUGE love to all the Mum’s out there.

P.S. How great does she look!?

Celebrating with bubbles at Dux Dine Christchurch

Finding ‘the dress’ was certainly worth celebrating, so we stopped by Dux Dine to refuel our grumbling stomachs and toasted our success with some bubbles in the sunshine.

Trying on so many dresses was thirsty work!

Celebrating our engagement in Christchurch

The day of our engagement party, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a casual outdoor soiree. The sun shone bright without a cloud to be seen across the clear blue sky, while guests sheltered under marquees from the heat.

A very special thank you to Stacey and Paul for letting us host in the grounds of their beautiful home. It was the perfect setting for our get together.

Nicole and Mike celebrating their engagement

Ashleigh and Duncan engagement celebrations

And thank you to my gorgeous friend Ashleigh for doing my make-up on the day (she has come to my rescue on more than one occasion).

Girlfriends engagement celebrations

Renee Lucy and Mel engagement celebrations

The sun shone, old and new friends mingled, families came together, champagne corks popped and music drifted across the air with the sound of laughter. All the elements to make for a perfect afternoon outdoors.

Chocolate engagement cake with strawberries and chocolate curls

One of our friends made this deliciously rich chocolate mud cake topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate swirls. It was devoured in no time. Always a good sign that it was enjoyed!

Stacey and Nicole engagement celebrations

MIke Nicole and David Engagement Celebrations

With over 90 adults and a few children, the afternoon went by in a blur – I can see why some couples do opt for more intimate weddings. It’s hard to spend quality time with every guest.

Engagement celebrations friends by the lake

Engagement celebrations friends relaxing by the lake

As the sun started to go down, shoes came off and friends lounged by the lake, sharing stories in the last of the rays.

It made us feel so loved having all our family and friends come together to join in celebrating a special occassion. We really appreciated all those who made the effort to come and for spoiling us with thoughtful gifts. Sorry I couldn’t put a photo of everyone in this post! Miss you all.

Much love,

A Life Less Beige in Valencia

Hi! How are you? The age ‘ol line “It isn’t you, it’s me” seems fitting.

There’s been a lot of change and things happening behind the scenes here, which is why it’s been quiet. I wasn’t sure how to start, so I may as well launch into some of what’s been happening and catch you up on a few things.

Feeling burnt out last year, I’ve tried to consciously slow things down and be more present this year. Every day I see people rushing around, heads down looking at their phones getting from point a to point b, but not really taking in the journey.

Kind of symbolic of life I think.

Remember to enjoy all the small wonders and the journey as a whole, rather than constantly worrying about the next step and not enjoying the moment you have right now.

Deep.

Henna hand reading Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe

What do you think of the henna art? I had it done at a fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake appeal. It’s the first time I’ve ever had it done, but I think it’s intricate detailing is really pretty.

I had one of those moments last week when I looked down at my henna, holding a book on meditation wearing loose patterned trousers and laughed to myself. TOTAL stereotype.

I’m reading Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe at the moment and I recommend anyone to read it. I know meditation is a bit out there for a lot of people, but this book helps breaks the process down in an easy to understand way. It even has an app – now that’s modern meditation!

As little as ten minutes of mindfulness a day can help with all the thoughts we get busy chasing around, or getting tangled up in. Think of it as a workout for your mind. The brain is just as important to take care of as any other muscle and organ in the body. If you’re curious to know more, take a look at the fun Headspace website. It’s been making a massive difference for me with a feeling of general calmness.

 

The most exciting news – after 18 months of studying my other half, Mike qualified as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer before Christmas. I’m so proud of him and all his hard work. It’s what he was born to do and he’s a natural with clients.

Needless to say the theme for me this year has been focused around health, wellbeing and fitness. I’ve been learning loads from Mike who has been training me in the gym (secretly I think he enjoys being able to make me hurt) and has helped me make A LOT of positive changes in my diet.

Goodbye sweet tooth and refined sugars.

June 1st is when he’s all set to officially change his career and start working from a gym. He is also SUPER close to launching his website, so in the mean time, follow him on his social media and give him a virtual high five:

Urban Life Fuel Facebook  l  Urban Life Fuel Instagram  l  Urban Life Fuel Twitter

Girls that lift. Weight training in the gym.

The biggest shift so far for me this year has been exercise. Over the years I’ve dabbled with the gym – never really having set goals and doing the same exercises, at the same weight and the same amount of reps for months at a time. I’ve lost weight, but always just become a smaller version of myself. Getting more educated, I now understand the benefits and difference weight training can make – including how you can change the shape of the body.

I am loving the feeling of getting stronger physically. Myth buster – girls, you will not turn into the incredible hulk because you do weights.

1. You have to eat LOADS of food to build muscle.

2. Females don’t have as much testosterone in their bodies, so don’t get as bulky as our male counterparts, AND

3. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you don’t like how an area is progressing, you can maintain and change the way you train.

I’m a girl who loves balance in life, so along with weight training, I’ve also started yoga and man it feels good to stretch and open the body.

There is a great website, Do Yoga With Me, which has plenty of classes you can do for free from the comfort of your own home. Thanks Ché for the recommendation!

I’m super excited to start a six week intro to yoga course on Monday, taken by my friend Ché who has recently qualified as a yoga instructor. Check out her Instagram for some inspiring, fun and informative yoga posts.

I’ve followed SO many yogi babes and strong fitness girls on Instagram this year as a form of inspiration. It’s my new obsession (in a non-creepy way).

Ciao Positano 💛

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This month we also had a wonderful trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast (HELLO pizza and gelato), but I’ll fill you in on more of that later.

The rest of this year is looking exciting with Glastonbury nearing, a holiday to Greece, family and friends visiting from New Zealand, plus celebrating several friend’s weddings. The second half is going to go by in a flash.

Be present,

Looking at views of Lake Hayes, New Zealand

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet around these parts. With views like this, you can see why I’ve been a little distracted. For the first time in nearly three years, I ventured back to my homeland for a few weeks over Christmas and New Years. I felt called to just be present for awhile. To enjoy being in the moment with friends and family and not worry about taking photos, or being on social media.

And, it felt really good.

Sometimes we all need a break. To re-set, re-focus and unplug.

I absolutely love blogging, but by the end of last year I was feeling a little burnt out. Blogging really is a full-time job in itself, so trying to to balance the amount of time it requires with a full-time job, commuting, quality relationship time, having fun with friends, travel, enjoying London, eating well, exercise AND ensuring my family know I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth over here – plus now planning a wedding – it was all catching up on me.

Being back in New Zealand was so rejuvenating. Even though it was a busy trip filled with loads of catch ups, it was wonderful to see everyone and was nice to know that after so long I can just slot back in like I’ve never left.

Ashamedly I had forgotten how stunning New Zealand’s landscape is. It truly is a special place. With two weeks in Christchurch and one week in Wanaka (one of my favourite parts of the world), we got to see many rivers, flower filled paddocks, plains, rolling hills, breathtaking turquoise lakes and snow covered mountains.

Come back for my future posts to see for yourself. I promise it won’t be long.

Happy 2015!