Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Secrets of Paris, Part 3

For those who are heading to Paris soon and planning their itinerary, here are a few ideas and suggestions for memorable places to visit. I'm currently working on the next Paris guide and have included these in the 24-hours-in-Paris section. They're a little different from the usual Seine-to-St.Germain-to-Eiffel Tower stroll. I don't know about you but I like getting off the beaten (Parisian) track and seeing the city from new perspectives. These places will show you the City of Light in, well, a new light!

Finally, thank you all for your kind emails about the book offer. I've received more than 60 requests so far and have now run out of books! It was really a gesture of thanks to those who have kindly left comments on the blog or emailed me directly to say hello. However, I'll see what I can do to accommodate those more-private souls who prefer not to leave comments but would like a book anyway.

Thank you, too, for those wonderful stories. I wish I could post them but they're clearly private. I'm now emailing individual thank-you notes to everyone.

La Terrasse at the Hotel Raphael
A lovely place for a special meal, this rooftop restaurant has spectacular views over Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, plus all the charming rooftops in between.
17 avenue Kleber, 75016 (16th), Paris.

From high atop the top level of the Trocadéro gardens. If you head for the City of Architecture and Heritage (Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine), you'll see a parallel line of gold statues. It's here, particularly at sunrise or sunset, where the best photos of the Eiffel Tower can often be taken.

The Radisson Blu Le Dokhan's Hotel
A former 18th-century residence, this charming boutique hotel is beloved by fashion designers (Armani books it out each Fashion Week), and the Louis Vuitton trunk-lined lift will make your ascent to the top-floor suites even more magical. The suites themselves are sublime (ask for the Eiffel Suite, with some of the best views in Paris), but if you can't afford to splurge, go to the exquisite Champagne Bar for a little bubbly instead. It's one of the prettiest bars in Paris.
117 rue Lauriston, 75116 (16th), Paris.

Newhotel Roblin
It's sometimes difficult to find style at an affordable price in Paris, but this cutie delivers. The foyer is fabulous, the rooms are elegant without being frou-fou or over-the-top, and the other spaces, such as the sitting room (above) are dignified, quite and completely welcoming after an exhausting day traipsing around town.
6 rue Chauveau-Lagarde, 75008 (8th), Paris

The Hotel Meurice
Most people wander straight past this place without realising the architectural riches that are inside. It's one of the most beautiful hotels in Paris, and the best way to see it (if you're on a budget) is to book a table for lunch. There's a fancy restaurant or the (slightly more casual) bistro. Alain Ducasse heads the kitchens so you can be sure the food is top-notch. But it's the people watching you should be going for. That, and the interior design.
228 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 (1st), Paris.

I'd never heard of this place until recently, and I imagine others will be just as surprised to learn of it. It's a lovely place for a sunny day; a whimsical, slightly quirky museum that's an homage to gardens around the world.
Albert Kahn Musee et Jardins
14, rue du Port, 92100, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Paris: A Thank You

It occurred to me tonight that not everybody is as enamoured with New York as our family is. (I would happily move to Manhattan tomorrow if it were not for my partner's job, our little dogs, our families, our mortgage, our friends and lives, and the other logistical difficulties.)

New York certainly isn't for everyone (and probably not for poor authors). So I thought I'd extend the book offer from the last post to Paris lovers too.

If you've kindly left a message on this blog over the past 6 months, I'd like to thank you. I know sometimes I don't get time to reply straight away – there are lots of 2am nights here and often I'm so weary I get very behind in admin – but I'm deeply grateful and I'd like to send you a small gift in return. If you've taken the time to leave a message, either on the blog or by direct email, and you'd like either of the Paris/Provence books on the sidebar to the left, please email me, at 

I will be more than happy to pay for costs and postage, in gratitude.

(Of course, you may not want one of my Paris books, and I'd understand that, too. It's just that... I can only get an author discount on those ones.)

And if you're heading to Paris soon (or Provence or the French Riviera), and would like some tips and ideas on where to stay, what to do, and where to kiss your beloved in a suitably romantic spot, please just email me. I will happily reply.

As always, thank you for reading. I love every email and kind note you send, short or long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NEW YORK: A Tour and a Book


Such wonderful news this week!  The brand new NEW YORK IN STYLE book (published Oct 1 – link) has been so well-received by bookstores that the first print run has almost gone and a second print run is being considered before Christmas, all before the book is even out. Thank you to book and home stores everywhere.

As a treat for readers, if you've kindly left a comment in the past 6 months, I'd like to send you a copy. Just email me.

More good news comes from Chronicle Books in San Francisco, which has just bought my Provence and the Côte d'Azur guide (the southern companion to the bestselling Creative Paris guide) for distribution in the US. I hope that US readers find as much inspiration in it for your next Provence and Riviera vacations as you've done for your Paris sojourns.

Now. On the back of all this delightful bookish bacchanalia comes another fantastic announcement...

For the first time ever – and mostly as a result of the hugely successful England Garden Tour – a small group of ex-Garden Tour women have come together to create 4 fantastic Garden and Design Tours, beginning with the US East Coast. 

April 26 – May 6, 2015.
A magnificent 10-day tour of New York, the Hamptons, and Charleston in the South.

May 12 – 22, 2015.
An 11-day tour of Newport's Gilded Age mansions, Nantucket's island beauty, Boston's elegance, Bunny Williams' famous garden, Edith Wharton's grand estate, the Trade Secrets Garden Fair, the Brimfield Antiques Fair and several sublime private gardens plus loads of scenic villages and idyllic island hideaways (including Martha's Vineyard).

I've relegated myself to the back office as the 'admin assistant', planning the itineraries and pulling in favours from my beloved book contacts! (We've asked some gorgeous 'day guides' to give our groups talks, from a famous NY author to a renowned interior designer, plus Martha Stewart and Hilary Clinton's favourite milliner). Rather than manage the day-to-day logistics of these tours while there, I'm going to tag along at the back, to offer what insights I can into these beautiful places and ensure everyone's happy.

There will be 4 Garden Tours for 2015 (possibly 5), include the US East Coast, England's gorgeous gardens in June, plus an amazing Paris/Provence tour (dates TBC).

The hotels have been upgraded to sumptuously designed hideaways, the new agency is a gun at organising (Indira Naidoo recommended the agency, which she uses), and the itineraries are packed with magnificent pleasures.

Together, we've created what we think are a couple of amazing trips. See what you think.
(Details at very bottom.)

April 26 – May 6, 2015

This magnificent tour has been timed to take in New York at its spring best, when the cherry blossoms and bulbs are blooming and the parks are erupting in colour and scent.

It features 5 glorious days exploring New York's most beautiful, most memorable, and often little-known corners, from the secrets gardens of Central Park and Fifth Avenue, to the sublime stores and historic architecture of the Upper East Side, the most elegant floors of New York's department stores, the hidden parts of Bryant Park, and a special, behind-the-scenes architecture tour of The Plaza Hotel, with its stories of Truman Capote, F Scott Fitzgerald and the legendary Black and White Balls. 

We'll have a wonderful local guide in the form of a famous NY author, who's worked for Ralph Lauren among others and has incredible insights in Manhattan society and life. We're really lucky to have her. I adore her (and slightly in awe of her too!).

As well, we'll visit the fabulous fabric stores of the Garment District, the scented pleasures of the Flower District, the design stores and markets of the Flatiron Quarter (including great places to buy vintage Chanel and Dior jewellery), the quiet elegance of the Gramercy neighbourhood, the elevated landscaping of the High Line, and the whimsical charm of the West Village, plus SoHo and more. (Everyone will also receive a copy of the new New York in Style book to take.)

Then it's off to the Hamptons for a weekend of touring back roads, cycling charming lanes and walking the sandy beaches, past all the grand Hamptons mansions. We'll have some surprises here, too.

Then, because one of the most glamorous cities in the US is Charleston (especially in spring), we've tacked on a few days in the South, seeing Charleston's extraordinarily beautiful architecture and gardens – again with a local guide or two to tell us about gardening and living in the Deep South. You won't want to miss Charleston – recently voted No. 1 City in the US and No. 1 City in the World by Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazines.

May 12 – 22, 2015

Bookending the New York / Charleston Garden and Design Tour is The GREAT ESTATES, GARDENS, ANTIQUES AND ISLAND HIDEAWAYS TOUR. This tour's carefully planned itinerary begins with beautiful Boston (including the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum, with its gorgeous gardens), then winds its way to Brimfield for the Antiques Fair, then the gardeners' 'mecca of the Trade Secrets Garden Fair (we may see Martha Stewart, Carolyne Roehm and Oscar de la Renta, who usually attend), plus Bunny Williams' famous garden (she's usually there to say hello), and several other private gardens and picturesque Litchfield villages.

We'll also visit Edith Wharton's grand estate (above), Newport's gilded mansions,  and the idyllc islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard (top images). (You won't want to miss Nantucket!)

Early to mid June 2015

Our England tour of glorious gardens – including some of the most beautiful rose gardens you'll ever see – is being planned for June, and an itinerary will be posted soon. 

We've decided to push it ahead of most garden tours, because May is traditionally wet and most gardens in southern England are not yet in full bloom. The Chelsea Flower Show is wonderful, but I've always thought that it falls on an awkward date in the garden season. (For those who really want to see Chelsea, we're going to organise a special 'add-on' – a few days in London before the tour begins.)

The Paris and Provence Tour – an amazing itinerary – is also coming. I may have found some amazing special guests to be 'day guides' for this, too.

One of the nicest things about last year's Garden Tour was seeing so many new friendships develop. So many of those who went to England still write not only to me but also to each other, and in fact many try and meet up whenever they can. That's one of the wonderful things about such tours. They can forge friendships that last long after you've taken that final travel photo.

Last year's Garden Tour took an enormous amount of organising, and for a while I couldn't imagine the idea of doing it again. But then, one by one, the thank-you letters started filtering in, as well as many beautiful, hand-made gifts. They were all so rewarding, but by far the most rewarding thing about the 2013 tour was seeing the friendships that developed between everyone. Look at what's come of the 2013 tour – an entire new business!

We would really love to meet you and share your company. We think you'll have a wonderful time! And who knows – you could be inspired to do something new, too.


The GLAMOUR AND GRANDEUR TOUR April 26 – May 6, 2015 – New York, Hamptons and Charleston (land content only).
Twin share AU$7870 (approx same in US $). (Single AU$9970)  **
$1000 deposit by September 26, 2014. Remainder payable by February 20, 2015.
** This tour is filling quickly!

May 12 – 22, 2015 – Gardens and islands of New England.
Twin share AU$6650 (approx same in US$) (Single AUD $8370) **
$1000 deposit by September 26, 2014. Remainder payable by February 20, 2015.

(Details of Europe tours to come.)

** The tour price has been designed to cover the most beautiful boutique hotels we've found in New York, Boston, Nantucket and Charleston, as well as a selection of wonderful 'local guides' and a jam-packed itinerary, while still coming under the price of most top-tier garden tours.This tour will be limited to approx 15 passengers in order to create a small, intimate group and encourage easy conversation and friendships.

CONTACT:  These tours will be run by one of Australia's best travel agencies. Please contact me for further details, on I'll be happy to email you a brochure, booking form and the agency's details for further (legal and professional) information.



Thank you for organising the most wonderful tour, really it was one of the very best holidays that I have ever had in my life. Paula

Our garden tour was beyond expectations. I can't believe the gardens we were able to visit, the guides that made them even more special. I wish I had the words to fully express my appreciation for all that you did to make our trip to London and England the wonderful experience that we  will remember forever. Thank you.  Linda

I am now back home and have had time to reflect on all the lovely gardens we visited and the huge enjoyment that I had with such a wonderful group of people.  Upon arrival it all fell into place and all your hard work in organising and sourcing the tour was much much appreciated.  Such great memories of vibrant and fun people.  It was the tour of a lifetime and I do hope you will consider doing further tours, if so please count me in. Thank you. Christine

I have done a quick  look at my photos that I downloaded yesterday and it amazes me how much we did and how much we saw and of course more importantly all of the fantastic people that I met.In unpacking my suitcase I came across all of the wonderful travel notes and the itinerary that you put together and also would like to thank you for the time you spent putting it together for us.  It truly was a wonderful time. Rose

Not a day goes by when I don't think fondly about the garden tour - it really was a fantasy tour and I feel so lucky that I went on it.  To me it was a complete success - everything I imagined and more. Victoria.

When I reflect on 2013, our ‘little jaunt' to London and Paris were without question the highlight of my year!  A day barely passes when we don’t mention a tidbit about something we experienced during our wonderful garden tour. Leslie

I just want to thankyou and let you know how much I appreciated the tour.  I will be forever grateful for giving us a trip of a lifetime and being able to do and see some of those things on my bucket list! Trina 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Books and Bookshops

Bookshops are beautiful places. Before it closed earlier this year, New York's Rizzoli bookstore was one of the most elegant interiors in Manhattan; second only to The Plaza, the New York Public Library, the NoMad Hotel, Ralph Lauren's flagship stores, and my favourite dining hideaway, Caffe Storico.

Heywood Hill in London's Mayfair would have to be the quintessential antiquarian bookshop: cute black-and-white facade; creaking floorboards, and bookshelves heaving with history and titles – many of them saved from great old English estates whose libraries have been sold to pay for death taxes.

(Heywood Hill is also a fascinating place to see who's still reading books. There are always piles of brown paper parcels addressed to names like 'Devonshire', as in Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, who co-owns the bookstore, and Hugh Grant. Last time I was there, I saw a girl wrapping up some books for Hugh. You'd be surprised if you knew what he was reading. It was impressive.)

Other wonderful bookshops include the elegant Galignani in Paris (above), and the very pretty Potterton Books in Chelsea, London, which specialises in new, antique, out-of-print and unusual books in gardens, architecture, design, interior decoration, antiques and the decorative arts.

(Potterton's owner also has an enormous book barn full of books in Thirsk, North Yorkshire – The Old Rectory, Sessay, Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Contact: tel: +44 1845 501218.)

In London's South Kensington (Gloucester Road), Slightly Foxed Bookshop is another charming bookshop with 100-year-old windows and a wonderful basement of great secondhand titles, including design, gardening, architecture and many other books, such as intriguing biographies.

The shop used to be owned by Graham Greene's nephew Nick Dennys, who ran it along eccentric lines, leaving a key under the mat for regular customers when he wasn’t in the shop.

Don't you love bookshops like that?

This Saturday, August 9th is National Bookshop Day.

It's the day when we should all support our favourite bookstores. I know many of us buy a lot of our books online but it's more important than ever to buy books from stores too, especially considering the very real danger that Amazon may become a monopoly distribution channel. (Imagine one company having control over all the books in the world? Imagine if they hiked prices sky high, which they're already starting to do?)

Many of us do continue to buy books in stores. Avenue Bookstore (my favourite Australian bookstore) told me that last Christmas was the busiest sales period it's had in decades. (I know: I saw the queues.) The Strand in New York (another great bookstore) said last Christmas was the busiest it's ever had, in its entire 87-year history. There's nothing like a bookstore to browse in, whether sunny or wet, morning or night, alone or with book-loving company.

I can't imagine a world without bookstores. Let's hope there's enough people who think that, and continue to split their book purchases between online and in-store.

Buy a book from a bookstore this weekend. Here are a few lovely ideas from our library to inspire you...

[All books from our home. Please excuse the poor quality photographs.}

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