Tuscany

I wanted to visit Tuscany for our honeymoon. We had researched a stunning resort in the Tuscan countryside but we never ended up booking it because my husband wanted to complete a short course in luxury marketing in Paris so Paris it was! Nine years and two kids later, we got the time to visit our dream destination. And I was not going to let go of this once more.

We had just 5 days off so we had to use them wisely. Of course we had to see Florence for all its history and fashion. We spent 3 days in Florence and 2 in the countryside. It was one of the most memorable holidays for me. The tiled roofs and yellow houses is how I remember Tuscany. Florence is a big city full of tourists any time of the year. Hence, it is better not to visit Florence in the summers when there is a sea of tourists. We went there during Easter and it was perfect. The weather was also superb-not too hot to be sweating in those beautiful dresses and not too cold to enjoy an ice cream! We were walking with our two young kids for 5 to 6 hours everyday and they hardly complained. The children were high on gelatos, my husband on espresso and I just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful clothes!

Florence-Best streets to shop

Florence is a type of city where one can always find clothes to your taste. Two of the streets I particularly enjoyed were Via dei Calzaiuoli and Via del Corso. They both had lovely boutiques ranging from high end to modern styles. You are sure to find something of your choice.

Florence-Must visit places

I did not visit any of the museums because the queues were a little too long for children but if you are travelling on your own, you will find a plethora of museums to visit. We took a walk around the Ponte Vecchio. It’s the stoned arch bridge built over the River Arno. It’s a beautiful walk with street artists painting sketches of people and sights all over. As you keep walking you will end up at the Piazza della Signoria which has always been considered as the political hub of the city. This Piazza also houses the ostentatious Gucci garden, which comprises of the Gucci store, Gucci museum and the Gucci café. I loved the store and the museum but the café failed to impress me too much. We continued walking down from there and ended up at the Duomo, which stands out in terms of its architecture. It is a must visit when in Florence. The next morning we thought of visiting a beautiful Renaissance garden, opened recently to the public. It’s called the Giardino Bardini. It is a lovely walk up a small hill. You have one of the most amazing views of the entire city from up there. The children really enjoyed the garden and the lavender flowers blooming everywhere. You can do an amazing photo shoot up there!

Florence-Where to eat

My list would be incomplete if I do not mention about the coffee scene in the city. To be honest I expected it to be bustling with interesting cafes. On the contrary, it was bustling with coffee but not many new ‘3rd wave’ cafes. The one that my husband had researched on was called Ditta Artigianale and it had very good coffee and a great selection of food including many vegan options. There are two outlets of this cafe in the city and we spent a good amount of time in both of these on our short 3-day visit here.

The countryside

This is the part I was most looking forward to! Usually when you are coming from a different country, you don’t always think of visiting the countryside. You do the big cities with all the famous places and go back home. However, I have always wanted to see the vineyards and the quaint little towns of Tuscany. So we hired a car for two days and started our drive from Florence to a beautiful resort tucked away somewhere in the vineyards. On our way we visited many remarkable little towns but one of the more beautiful ones was certainly Siena. It has an exquisite piazza. This is the same piazza that holds the much-loved Palio horse race twice a year! I can’t believe how lucky the people living there are. The town had everything from Michelin star restaurants to amazing high end fashion stores. I was totally in love with this place. We had planned on spending a couple of hours here but ended up spending more than double the time. 

We headed towards our resort right after. Instead of taking the highway, we took the country roads and it was one of the most memorable drives for me till date. The vineyards go on till the horizon. There were hardly any other cars in sight. I think we chose the right time of the year to be here. We did not get traffic at all apart from the high on adrenaline bikers zooming past. We drove through the Chianti region and it was magnificent. I wanted to stop in so many towns on the way but we would have never reached our resort had I been driving! Finally, we reached our hotel and I was in heaven. Its called Hotel Villa La Palagina.  Vineyards and the gorgeous Tuscan hills surrounded us and the hotel itself has absolutely 5 star service. We tried out all the beautiful house wines and even got them packed to bring along for our friends in Switzerland. We swam in the large infinity pool followed by a meal in their outdoor restaurant next to the fountain. In the morning we had breakfast in the indoor restaurant with complete glass walls all around us so that it feels like you are a part of the nature even on a cold windy day. It was really an experience. I did not want to leave that place but as they say, all good things come to an end and so we drove straight back to Florence to catch our flight! One thing I know for sure is that we just have to go back to Tuscany.

I will come back soon with my next adventure. Till then keep exploring and bon voyage!

Colmar and The Little Prince Park

Colmar

If you think south of France is the most beautiful part of France, think again. It certainly is glamorous but there are so many other quaint little towns that are quintessentially French. Colmar is one of those. It’s a town in the North East of France, bordering Germany. And I can tell you that it’s definitely in the top 10 places to visit for me.

If you don’t live in this part of the world, I doubt that you would have heard of the town. Unless of course you are a big travel enthusiast like I am! Every time I think of this place it brings a smile to my face and how I long to go back once again maybe just to explore the many museums it holds. The last time we went we just had a weekend and it wasn’t enough because we also combined a theme park for the children. We definitely need to return to this place…maybe for the lovely Easter markets during spring or one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the wintertime spread over the old town. We as a family love to explore a city on foot. I think that is the best way to get a feel of the culture, the food, the architecture, the people, the language, the shops and so much more. As I was walking down the cobbled streets of Colmar it sort of felt unreal. Like I was in a storybook. The houses in the old part of the town were nothing like the houses we live in. There were hearts hanging from the windows, hearts on the doors, cuddly teddies looking out from inside the houses, colourful little flowers there to ornate the wonderful cosy homes and big huge flowers screaming out to catch your attention. I still can’t believe that real people live in those houses. Those houses felt more like dolls houses. How I would love to go inside and explore one of the homes. Maybe the next time I make a friend there who just might invite me for a cup of coffee! The adornment is not just limited to the homes. We found a brasserie that reminded me of a house from one of the German fairytales, perhaps Hansel and Gretel but instead of candies it was all hearts outside.

There is a little canal flowing through the town making the region famous as little Venice. It is a real sight. I could spend hours taking pictures and it would still not do justice to the ambience of the place. It is a treat to go boating in the canal gorging on the beautiful yet surreal houses lined up on the sides.  The architecture dates back to early renaissance and the old town is extremely well preserved. You wont miss the St. Martin church, which stands tall in one of the main squares, surrounded by delightful cafes and restaurants.

The Little Prince Park

It took us one whole day to just walk around the old part of Colmar and we could not visit any of the museums. There are some amazing art museums and a toy museum for children. We would definitely need to go back to do justice to the city. However, we did plan something really special for the children. Just about 20 minutes drive from Colmar is the Little Prince Park. I am sure you would have heard the story of Le Petit Prince by the French writer, aristocrat, poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery. My daughter is in love with this book and so we just had to take her to the only theme park in the world based on this wonderful story. It had amazing rides that make you feel like you’re a part of the story. In addition, there are theatrical performances, which is such a unique concept for a theme park. It is unlike any other theme park that I have been to and it was perfect for my 3 year old and 5 year old. Generally the children are too little to do most of the rides in the theme parks but I am happy to say that they did each and every ride in this park in a day’s time. This was by far their favourite them park if I don’t count Disneyland! So if you plan to visit Colmar and you have little kids, this is a must do!

If you haven’t visited Colmar yet, put this one on your list. And the Little Prince Park will be a big hit with young children.

I will come back soon with my next adventure. Till then keep exploring and bon voyage!

Gstaad, Switzerland

Switzerland is full of untouched natural beauty. However, once in a while when I get an overdose of the simplicity and the nature, I rush to Gstaad for my quarterly dose of glitz and glamour. It is undoubtedly my favourite town in this lovely country.

Every time I visit Gstaad I feel like I’ve been transported to another time period. It has this old world charm which stays with me the whole day, even when I’m back home. I am a very dreamy person so this place is the perfect place for me to romanticize about. It is typical Switzerland in terms of its beautiful chalets, a lovely little train station and the gorgeous mountain range. However, unlike the rest of Switzerland, which is so simple and natural, Gstaad is really very chic and glamorous. It is like a timeless piece that never goes out of fashion. Name a fashion brand and you will find a store hidden in one of the lovely little chalets. I was particularly struck by the Dolce and Gabbana window display. It was really so dramatic and glittery that I felt everything that shines in Switzerland was all in here! But the store was housed in a typical Swiss chalet. Nothing fancy about the exterior of the store. Here’s what I love about this place. It is so refreshingly modern and fashionable but still in touch with its roots and tradition. It is still so Swiss!

The tourists on the streets certainly outnumber the locals living there. However, it is never overcrowded. Maybe because not a lot of people know about it. It is still in a way a hidden gem.

Where to eat

As I have mentioned in my earlier blog, with children, food is a key part of our every travel. In Gstaad we have this one bakery that we always visit. It’s called the Early Beck café and it has a good selection of chocolates, pastries, sandwiches and cakes. It even has a little play corner inside. It’s the ideal place for us to take a break with the kids. I love my desserts so I mention the bakery first. However, there are two lovely options for the main course. You have the choice of authentic Swiss cheese fondue and other Swiss delicacies at the Posthotel Russli café or delicious Indian food at the Mango restaurant. There are of course many other restaurants in the town but we always tend to go to one of the fore mentioned. Personally, I love the ambience inside the Posthotel Rossli café. It is a very charming little restaurant and oh so Swiss! Mango restaurant, on the other hand, has the option of vegetarian, vegan, gluten and lactose free food. My husband being a vegetarian particularly enjoys his food here. My market research on restaurants of Gstaad cannot be complete without mentioning the Gstaad Palace hotel. The 5 star luxury hotel frequented by celebrities from all around the world. Be it movie stars or sports stars, they have all at some point visited or stayed in the Gstaad palace. So if you are in a mood to splurge, you head to the Le Grand restaurant for a cup of tea and some nibbles. The restaurant’s terrace is really so picturesque. You do not need to be formally dressed for the afternoons but evenings (7pm onwards) the men need to be in a jacket. In case you need some pampering, you must visit!

Things to do

There is just so much to do in Gstaad that I am sure I cannot possibly cover it all. In the winters, it looks stunning with the snow all over and the chalets beautifully lit up in the dusk of evening. A lot of people go to Gstaad for the skiing and the snow sports. And in the summers there is loads to look forward to. I remember watching the Swiss tennis open last summer and it was the first time my kids watched live tennis. It was quite an experience. Then there are the beach volleyball and polo matches. You must check the Gstaad website before you visit because there is always something happening in the summers.

How to reach

Before I forget I must mention how to reach Gstaad. We don’t live very far from the place so we always take our car. I find taking the car most convenient when it comes to travelling with kids. Also, the route to Gstaad is so breathtaking that I want the freedom of stopping and taking pictures. However, if you don’t want to drive, there is the option of taking the beautiful Golden Pass panoramic train, which starts in Lucerne. It is indeed a very scenic trip.

Hope I have given you enough reasons to travel to this beautiful town. I promise it won’t disappoint you.

I will come back soon with my next adventure. Till then keep exploring and bon voyage