Tag Archives: bakery

Boutique hotels on a budget in Paris

Christmas time in London is always magical, with ice skating at Somerset House, German markets in Hyde Park and Covent Garden’s piazza all lit up, but after what feels like a lifetime since the last summer beach holiday, I’m just dying to get away for a few days.

Next month I’m going to Paris (my ‘third home’) for a few nights and now is the time when I obsessively search for the prettiest hotels in the area I want to stay in and then trawl the net for the best deals.  For most people may sound like a pain worse than death, not a secret indulgence, so if you’re planning a winter city break, I’ve done some of the leg work so you can pick the best affordable boutique hotels – I’ve stayed in all of them and would definitely visit again.

A while ago, I went to Paris with my mum and as we planned a night at the Opéra Bastille and particularly love the Marais, we booked to stay three nights the affordable design hotel Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg, an affordable design hotel in the 12e arondissement.

le quartier reception

The hotel is sleek and contemporary with retro features like curved leather seats, fringing and glass orbs in the reception/lounge.  When you arrive, you’re hit with the kind of seductive, wood and musk aroma that you’d expect from Hôtel Costes.

Neutral tones with bold statement colours are the order for the bedrooms and they have cool design touches like perspex chairs, a flatscreen TV and a very touchable fibre optic light feature.  The beds are so comfortable that you just can’t wait to curl up in the crisp, cotton linen and catch some zzzs after a long day walking in the city.  They also place delicious Granny Smith apples on your pillows each morning to help you get your five a day amid the steak and fromage overload.

le quartier hotel

The best feature of the hotel is its beautiful outside terrace with wooden decking and red tables, beautiful plants and flowers and gardening can watering features. Paris is full of secret courtyards and Paris fashionistas flock to them for brunch or drink with a bit of secluded people-watching.

le quartier hotel

We didn’t have breakfast at the hotel (although it looked delicious), but we found an adorable bakery on the Rue du Faubourg St-Antoine where you could sit and have a café crème and pastries.

Le Quartier are a small hotel group that used to own a property near République and now also run Le Quartier Bercy-Square on the nearby Boulevard de Reuilly.  The staff were friendly and talkative and there are plenty of coffee table books and magazines like Madame Figaro to keep you amused.

Rates seem to start at 110 Euros a night for a double classic room in November and December, but check around the web for the best deals (we paid 95 Euros when we stayed).

Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg is best suited to second-timers in Paris who are familiar with getting around on the metro.  The location doesn’t have the grandeur of the Louvre area or the Left Bank, but you get a boutique hotel with individual design touches without the sky-high prices of more central hotels.  It’s one of the best places to sleep in style and still have enough Euros left for late-night aperitifs.

Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg, 9 Rue De Reuilly, 75012 Paris

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London’s best cupcakes?

London is literally flooded with cupcakes and the flavours of the month are becoming more and more elaborate, but Hummingbird Bakery is the original and, in my opinion, the best.

Hummingbird Bakery is more of a cupcake boutique than a mere bakery, bringing American home-baked goodness to Portobello Road and South Kensington.  Cupcakes are kept simple in either vanilla or chocolate with a variety of frosting and sprinkles and of course, the famous Red Velvet – a deep red vanilla sponge with cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird Bakery

If you’re after an even bigger sugar high, go for a slice of  devil’s food cake, a frosted brownie or order a mississippi mud pie to take home.

You can be assured of the Hummingbird’s amazingness by the permanent queue outside of the Notting Hill store.  My most memorable visit was arriving at 5.15pm, being honoured as ‘the last customer’, which almost caused a riot behind me, and then having my box filled with a few extra complimentary cupcakes – magic or what!

Hummingbird cakes

I was recently given the Hummingbird Bakery cook book and while my first attempt at cupcakes resembled oversized sugary rocks, my mum’s efforts were pretty close to the mark. So, the recipies are admittedly spot on and my rather bohemian disregard of measurements needs to be reconsidered!  Note to self: become a master baker by the end of the year.

Hummingbird Bakery, 47 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 3JP
133 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2DY