Dreaming of a Ski Holiday

'The one thing I need to make this holiday perfect is my Rimmel London no. 107, my Gucci shades and my Oakley ski goggles'

Lola, the Piste Princess had always dreamed of a ski holiday. She awoke that day not knowing what a surprise her fiancée Tom had put in place for her. She showered, dressed herself and went to grab her briefcase for another day of office meetings. Only, when she got to the door Tom stopped her, and said “you’re not going to work today”. Lola was confused, she laughed and said “I’ll see you later Tom”. Tom again stopped her and said “go into the living room” with a little smirk on his face. Lola found a brochure from Crystal Ski Holidays open on a page SELVA VAL GARDENA. She’d never heard of this place nor had she ever been on a skiing holiday before. Her face turned into a giant beam, she turned to Tom and threw her arms around him.

She went to carefully pack her bag, including her Dior make-up, fur trimmed headbands, large chunky knit scarf’s and snow boots she had picked up from a charity shop with the hope to one day use them on real snow. Then they were off to the airport! Tom had given her a leaflet that explained Selva Val Gardena was the largest ski area in Europe, and that their hotel Gran Baita Sport & Wellness Hotel had a hot tub she was hoping to soak in after their flight to Verona.

After a quick transfer she arrived at the hotel, and stepped onto the snow and as the fresh crisp air entered her lungs she immediately felt cleaner. This would be the refreshing break she was in need of. Upon arrival in reception they allowed her to wander a little before she was taken to her room. She found both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a beautiful restaurant to serve their half board basis and a gym to exercise (as if the skiing wouldn’t be enough!)

She was eager to see more so went to view her room a ‘Savinela Private Spa Suite’. She immediately saw the balcony and lurched towards it. WOW, the brochure was right- you really do ‘enjoy the legendary panoramic view of the Dolomites’ but no one could explain the beauty of this place. UNESCO has declared to be a World Heritage Site and Lola could immediately see why. She was exhausted after her trip and after a quick hot tub she retired to bed ready for the day ahead.

The next day Lola awoke with Tom preparing to get ready for the skiing lessons they had booked. She put on layer after layer and zipped up her final jacket after swiping some suntan lotion across her face. She was ready.

Lola wasn’t quite as natural at picking up the skiing as Tom, and developed quite a talent for falling on her backside. Nevertheless she continuously laughed throughout the lesson and could see why people became ‘addicted’ to skiing.

Her morning consisted of perfecting the V shape to stop the skis, any avid ski lover will understand the confusion she felt as as she picked up more speed she found it more difficult to comprehend the movement. She spent most of the morning sat on her bum, which luckily was padded thanks to the Bogner Bogner ski Jacket she had picked up in the sale. 


For the afternoon she decided to sit by the open fire in the hotel and sip on her ice chilled champagne whilst Tom tried out all the slopes. Naturally, she opted for a Hot chocolate in mornings, but preferred to sip on her champagne in the evenings. She booked in for a massage to enjoy the finer things in life(at least, whilst they could on holiday). For their evening meal she had booked to have all of her hair and make-up done and enjoyed a luxury meal in their hotel. Lola and Tom were determined to make this into a yearly occurrence as both thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of relaxing and the fun of skiing.


“Paris is always a good idea” – Audrey Hepburn

Apologies for the lack of posts- I’ve been undergoing some changes in my life (including changing job and moving house!) This has meant I’ve had little time for blogging or collating ideas for my little online space! Not to worry- I’m back to write another post on my most recent trip to Paris!

I visited Paris on May 17th for 3 nights for my fiancée’s birthday. The weather was gorgeous and perfect for us as very sunny but with a nice breeze during the day (only a little drizzle of rain one evening). The only time I would have appreciated a few more clouds was when I was climbing the stairs up the Eiffel tower- there was no way I was queuing for the lift- too much to see in the 3 days!

TIP: On arrival in Paris, I had pre-booked and paid for transfers into the city and on my return. This was totally worth it (cost about £50 for a private car) as saved us so much time and meant less to worry about! 

Where to Stay:

Paris is HUGE- there are so many central hubs across the city it really does depend on where you would like to be! This time, I chose to stay a little further away from the major tourist attractions to explore a bit more of the purer Paris. This obviously isn’t for everyone as it means a 5-10 tube ride to key sites, for me, however, it was spot on!

Grand Hotel Francais

Prices around £130 for two people per night based on a standard double room (with breakfast included). A bargain for those wanting to save a little money on their accommodation, and honestly there was nothing the staff wouldn’t do for us. We were given a list upon arrival of all local restaurants to try and a map of the city (which became my bible!) As it was Joe’s birthday they had left a bottle of wine in the room with a message to enjoy our stay (very sweet touch). The room was smallish, but nothing compared to other hotels I have stayed in (New York Pod comes to mind.) All in all I enjoyed my stay at Grand Hotel and would stay there again!

For those wanting something a little more luxurious I would absolutely LOVE to stay in Four Seasons George V. Just off the Champs Elysees, this stunning hotel offers pure glamour for anyone wanting it on their stay in Paris. From marble floors to painted ceilings you will feel like royalty from the moment you walk in.

lobby ge

What to do:

I’ve read so many wonderful blogs on all of the key sites in Paris (and some more unusual) so thought I’d cover three not so mentioned places.

Notre Dame:

Ahhh Notre Dame. We visited Notre Dame on our first day in Paris for a little wander. There was no queue and inside was quiet and pretty empty (a blessing for a major tourist spot). As we went in May the stained glass looked beautiful with the sun peeking through to make the vibrant colours really come to life. My poor Joe had to wander with me as I began my love affair with these pieces of glass having done my dissertation on the same study. I am not necessarily religious, but this is an extremely holy place, you can feel it as you walk in, and you therefore respect it. Please visit next time you’re there to view some of the greatest masterpieces of Stained glass depicting stories of Christianity.

Palace of Versailles:

Ok, a little out of Paris. But we easily picked up the RER train to Versailles from D’Orsay and spent a full day wandering around the gorgeous Palace and gardens. I won’t lie, this place is a total tourist nightmare- I’ve never seen anything like it. Queues were about 4 hours long when we left and there was NO room to move inside the palace exploring the rooms. I was stood looking at one of Veronese’s least famous paintings ‘Feast in the House of Simon’ when about several backpacks were thrusted into my sides disabling any movement on my end. This would have ruined it for me if it weren’t for the beautiful gardens.

Taking a cheeky picture in front of Versailles

Taking a cheeky picture in front of Versailles

TIP: Don’t be fooled by the little train that is just before the garden entrance- many tourists thought this was a tour for around the gardens (who can blame them) but it actually takes you to Versailles Park and can be quite a long wait to return to Versailles. Instead pay for entry to the garden and eye up the hot statues… see below.



TIP: Entrance to the palace Versailles is free for EU citizens under the age of 26. Don’t lose your place in the queue by heading to the ticket stalls- join the queue and simply show your passport or driving licence at the front of the queue to enter. (please note- accurate at time of writing).

Montparnasse Tower:

Yep. The ugliest building in Paris. Yet I’m recommending it? Why I hear you ask? Well if you go up the tower you get the most beautiful view of Paris (minus the ugly building as you’re stood on it!) It really is a beautiful undisturbed view and has both in inside viewing area as well as an outside terrace (take a jacket as it can be windy!)

TIP: If you buy the Paris Pass like I did, save this event for one of the evenings as it is open till 10:30pm (11pm on Saturdays) meaning you can get the most out of your pass!

Where to eat:

My most favourite spot to find food (that wasn’t ridiculously priced) was Rue de la Huchette. They have every type of food here from traditional French cuisine to chips! You can visit in the morning for coffee or later for a meal, it is good any time of day. This street is extremely focussed towards tourist trade so in no way am I saying that this is the place to get an authentic French experience, because it’s not. If you are however looking for somewhere to eat, a little more relaxed with extremely competitive prices then you should try here!

Like Paris and want to read more on this city and its great art? Then please visit Lizzie’s post on the Louvre

Ciao for now,

Violet x


As you can see from my previous post I’ve been planning a wedding for myself! I should have probably disclosed that this wedding will not be until July 2016- giving me a full year to get all plans into action. I think planning ahead for big things can be the best way to make the most out of your travelling. I’ve already booked part of our Honeymoon for us! We won flights from a competition with Thomas Cook (yay!) through my work so we thought it would be the perfect time to use them. Seen as though we loved Miami so much we thought we would return to celebrate our marriage! Now before anyone says it- I’ve been to Miami before in August and had no weather issues- in fact it was boiling and sunny. However, this time we’re going to do a cruise around the Caribbean (yes yes I know what you’re thinking- uh oh- hurricane season) I panicked myself at first- but then did a bit of research that eased my mind. I’ll be keeping all my fingers crossed that like the past few days the first few weeks of August have been pretty good in the Caribbean with little rain fall!

Anyway back to the cruise- we were really struggling to decide which cruise line/which cruise route to do. As Miami is cruise capital of the world we were completely spoilt for choice! Now Royal Caribbean had a few 3 night Bahama cruises that initially took our fancy- but after discovering we could get a 6 night Carnival for LESS then we thought why not! I’d heard they’re called the ‘fun’ ships and some people had said they can be a little cheesy- but the routing of this was so good we couldn’t miss it!

Courtesy of Carnival

                   Courtesy of Carnival

It goes from Miami to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, then to Grand Cayman Islands and finally to Cozumel, Mexico. I have been to none of these places. This is probably a good thing as it can be somewhere me and Joe can explore together totally new!

The Carnival Breeze (the ship we’re going on) is one of the newer ships in Carnivals fleet. It has a lot of onboard activities and plenty of places to eat for those foodie lovers!

The cabins onboard vary from Interior cabin to Suite! We’ve gone for a Balcony Cabin (I don’t think I’d like an interior for 6 days!) The rooms look like this:

Courtesy of Avid Cruiser

              Courtesy of Avid Cruiser

On top of your bed you have a sofa bed, which acts as your living area whilst inside your cabin. There is a balcony with two chairs on to sit outside on and watch whilst docking into each port. The rooms also all have their own bathrooms- so if you don’t sharing you don’t need to worry! – a tip is to get a cabin higher (away from the noise and the engines!)

Onboard activities include a full size Basketball court, miniature golf, shows on at the theatre, swimming, spa, adults only retreat, kids clubs, guys burger joint, a rum bar, a tequila bar, shops, an art gallery etc etc!


Now if any of you have been on Carnival before- I’d appreciate the tips- I’ll give you my thoughts after I’ve been on it!

Ciao for now,


Planning for the next big thing…. Malcesine Wedding

So I haven’t posted for a long time, I’ve been a pretty busy gal. Working and recently bought a house! Funnily enough on top of this I’ve been planning a wedding! (although there is little I can do this far in advance)!

My blog readers will know how much I love Italy, my boss knows, and all my colleagues enough that we set up ItalyByDesign.co.uk (for specialist travel to Italy). So when my fiance asked me where I would like to get married there was only one place I could think of- Italy! I’m sure you’re all aware just how different parts of Italy can be- so would it be a wedding in Sorrento along the gorgeous Amalfi Coast? Or Tuscany in a stunning wine vineyard? Or even Venice to travel on a gondola to the church?!

Well I finally settled on Malcesine in Lake Garda after speaking to a colleague at work. It’s an absolutely beautiful Castle, where you can get married either inside or on the outside terrace- I of course chose the terrace for the panoramic views of the Lake.

lake garda terrace

Courtesy of Lake Garda Weddings

The wedding itself will be performed in Italian with a translator, so if you’re not fluent in Italian you need not worry- you will be just fine! The wedding will also be as I’ve said in Malcesine castle- at the top of a hill in the little town. Now they have a package that includes a rather amusing tuc tuc ride to the top which I am definitely doing (I don’t want to be walking too far in a big dress).

In terms of guests/hotels- we’re going to have a small group- but as I work for a holiday company it should be pretty straight forward to organise hotels/flights.

For all brides to be- be aware though that some hotels do not like wedding parties staying so just make sure you check before booking anyone in! Just keep an eye on your guest number also should you be choosing to prebook any excursions (they obviously go up with each person added on).

Now it’s all well and good me going through these things but you may ask how can I book this? Well I used Lake Garda Weddings: http://www.lakegardaweddings.com

Malcesine Castle

Malcesine Castle

These girls love organising the perfect weddings, they’ve been so helpful! I popped them emailing stating I was interested and they said to give me some dates I was thinking of. I got my perfect date by laying a deposit down and thus confirming my wedding! Easy as that! They also send across loads of things to help- such as transfer advice, hotel advice, local restaurants, prebookable trips, bridesmaid hair styling, makeup for the bride, nails/tan- You can prebook it all!!

All of these suggestions just prove how you can combine your love of travelling with your love for your other half. Not only can you get married all over Italy, but France is also extremely popular as is the Maldives. I suppose it’s specific to each bride- so if you’re wondering grab a few travel magazines or take a quick google at the top wedding locations- you’ll also find many weddings are held in Mexico- STUNNING!

As always, any comments pop a note below :)


“I think Miami is a beautiful, sexy, gorgeous place”- Minka Kelly

Why Miami?:

After a week of patrolling the Disney/Universal parks in Orlando, Miami was a total breeze. From the first day of arriving there, things already felt much more chilled. The weather was sunny with a gentle wind that just cooled you off when things got a little too much (and this was December/January!!) We’d chosen to stop off in Miami for a few nights as we’d been before and loved it. It was also a spot some of my family wanted to visit who hadn’t been previously. It didn’t disappoint and I’m really glad we took the drive from Orlando to Miami.


How to get about: 

So I suppose I’ll start with the journey there. There is of course a much easier way to get into Miami (fly into MIA)! However, we hadn’t initially planned on visiting so the drive was quite welcome. It was about 3 and a half hours, and flew by with a short stop on the way. The only problem with driving to Miami is the charges of parking a car. It cost $30 dollars a day to park the car across the road from our hotel, and this was low to other places! It also cost $20 to park in a parking lot near Ocean Drive for up to 5 hours (what a rip off!)

For all future visitors, may I suggest using local transport? There were frequent buses constantly running around Miami and these ran until the wee hours. There were also loads of taxis which meant you could enjoy a drink without worrying about driving!


Excursions: Star Island

Elizabeth Taylor, Ricky Martin, P Diddy… I’m sure you never thought those three people would be put in the same sentence, let alone have/used to have homes on the same island!

We booked a trip around Star Island and were picked up from our hotel and driven to the port of Miami to depart. The trip lasted about 3 hours and cost $35 per person. Definitely worth the money as you were taken on the boat around Star Island and all of the rich and famous houses were pointed out for you. (My camera is full of snaps!) This also broke up the days from laying on the beach/by the pool and brought a little culture to the holiday (even if mainly media). I would recommend this to all! But if you do suffer from sea sickness (like my sister) take some tablets to compensate as the waters can be rocky!


Where to Eat: Fi Fi’s (Seafood Restaurant) off Collin’s Ave

As we were all pretty fed up of Wendys, Arbys, Dennys, Sonnys… all the ys, we were looking for something fresh. Now Miami (being famous for it’s Ocean) is bound to have some of the best fish right?! Yes! We went to Fi Fi’s seafood restaurant off Collin’s Ave at 67th Street and sampled some of the most delicious seafood ever! Scallops, Lobster, Scampi, Calimari, mmm! All sorts! It was cooked to perfection. The price for wine was even pretty good! If you’re looking for something scrumptious, go here!

Where to Stay: Deauville (not the most popular but really cool!)

Although we accidentally ended up staying here- we all really liked it. I was apprehensive as the reviews don’t seem to be good for this hotel but we had an amazing stay. The hotel was clean, spacious and very modern. Each floor was decorated in famous music stars themes (i.e. Beatles/Supremes). There was a gym for all of the guests to use that was filled with all the equipment you could want. The best thing of all about this hotel was that it backed onto the beach. They held daily sessions of “full moon yoga” and you could go join in whenever you liked! There was also a great little cocktail bar that served/or created anything you could imagine!


Overall my return to Miami was great, I of course visited Ocean Drive one evening. I walked up and down it to view famous film sets of Dexter, Scarface etc etc. There is also the famous Versace house were unfortunately Gianni Versace was shot. What remains of his legacy is this beautiful, stylish, extremely Italian themed house. Beautiful.


I’ll write some more posts of my recent trip to America when I get round to it, work is a little crazy at the moment!


Ciao for now,



La Dolce Vita!- Italy

As I’ve had quite a few people pop into the shop recently asking me about Italy, and how my love for this magnificent place started I thought I’d do a post on this. I first visited Rome when I was 16, and I immediately fell in love. If Jet2 had gone bust there and then I wouldn’t have cared, as far as I’d be concerned I’d be stuck in a little heaven on earth.

I first remember walking down Piazza Navona with a lovely Italian man and his guitar singing ‘como e’ bella ce’ la luna brille e’ strette, strette como e’ tutta bella a passeggiare, sotto il cielo di Roma’ (yes I even know the Italian words for this song). This set the tone for what would become a lifelong love of the Serenissima. I turned the corner and was greeted by this:

Oh Bernini, you are a wonder of Italy. This was probably the moment I realised I wanted to study Classical Civilisation, Art and all things Italian. I was mesmerised by the craftsmanship of this, so you can imagine my reaction to Michelangelo later. Very quickly I had learnt Rome had two wonderful aspects to it: Handsome Italian men singing and beautiful works of art. What a perfect combination.

As I visited Rome again and again, my love grew more for Italy, and I wanted to explore other areas.


Venice and Florence were next to be ticked off my list. I was again impressed by the architecture in Florence by Brunelleschi and the quirky, small streets of Venice that seemed to reveal Palladian secrets on every corner. The 3 big cities of Italy were all unique in their own ways, and I couldn’t get enough of them. If I wasn’t searching for the cheapest Ryanair flight (being a student) I was constantly reading up on Titian’s, Veronese’s, Michelangelo’s works. I took up Italian in my spare time, and even took to the kitchen to practice Italian cooking. Nothing tastes quite as sweet as the real deal though, but I have got pretty close!

After these cities, I took to Naples and Genoa, two generally overlooked places in Italy. I would say go to Naples if you’d like the most amazing pizza of your life (this being where Pizza was invented). Genoa has a beautiful historic centre that contrasts with it’s port which is often a stopping point for cruises.

I suppose there were so many places in Italy to visit I couldn’t even think where to continue. Luckily for me, my family chose for me and took me to Lucca in Tuscany. We stayed in an Italian villa just outside of Torres meaning we could only communicate with locals as very few tourists were in the area. This was itself a challenge with only speaking ‘un poco italiano’. But this was a beautiful base to explore lovely Lucca and also Pisa from Italy’s great rail links. As we drove through the Tuscan countryside a lot on this trip the next time we visited we hoped to return to a similar region.

Indeed we did, staying just outside Greve in Chianti. Again I awoke to the singing hills of Tuscany with a smile on my face everyday. I got to taste many Chianti wines this trip which gave me a little taste of a rich, warm culture I was dying to always return to. I also visited my first hot springs in Monticiano and Sovicille which were amazingly well hid from tourists with only this sign to help us:


These amazing little gems were everywhere in Italy, and I felt lucky to be uncovering them one place after another…


Ahhhh ‘il dolce far niente’ was the phrase I was taught during my stay in Sorrento. ‘The sweetness of doing nothing’ and gazing out into the beautiful bay of Naples. Bella bella bella!!! Capri is gorgeous and so was Massa Lubrense were I made a fool of myself trying to park a rented boat and got called ‘STUPIDO’ by lots of locals. Oh well, all the fun of travelling, and I was beaming ear to ear having just steered the Amalfi Coast and the world around me that I couldn’t have cared less for being a ‘Stupido’. I was in bliss!

I suppose this has told you a little/or a lot about why I have fallen in love with Italy and so many places over the years. I love the culture of this place, their love and respect for their own families… by this I mean their families are everything and it’s so important to them to cherish each other. The food is obviously amazing I don’t need to tell you that. Other than that, the wonderful art this place has produced has changed the world, and I mean that sincerely, as has it’s architecture. It was once the centre for law and philosophy with Cicero being well established in Rome. Home to some of the greatest military men of history- aye aye Pompey the great! OH yes I love this place.

There are so many places I have fallen in love with over the years with my affair with Italy. I couldn’t possibly mention them all in one post!

If you have any questions about Italy, please comment below and thank you for reading!

Ciao Bella!!


(here is a token photo of me happy on a swing in Tuscany after 1 or 2 glasses of chianti!)



Using the very helpful notes provided by my family I am aiming to do a post on Portofino today. Portofino is located in Italy, in the province of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. The place itself is a small fishing town, but now a main holiday spot for celebrity visitors. If you just take a moment to google this place you can instantly see how beautiful it is, and this is what my parents were first met with after a long tiresome journey driving around the Italian loopey roads (bet it was worth it). 

view of Portofino - beautiful town of Ligurian coast, Italy

Where to Stay:

Domina Home Piccolo:

Prices are around £269 per night for a Classic double or Twin room and this allows you to use the great facilities of the hotel which includes the private beach (as there is no beach around this area). i’ll base this review on the room my parents stayed in which was room 208, as my mum described ‘it had a fantastic sea view, with views of yachts and the blue ocean’. On top of the pleasant views, they also described the sounds of grasshoppers rubbing their legs together which both woke them up and sent them to sleep! 

The breakfast here is also good. With a vast range of options- continental breakfast of course, then scrambled eggs, bacon, yoghurts, cakes, biscuits, fruits, juices and good coffee. They also had fresh croissants with jams!  It’s worth adding this into your cost to save money if visiting. 


What to do:

Visit S. Fruttuoso on the ferry for 11.50 return and visit the quaint little cove with a Benedictine Monastery built by the Doria family in the 1200s. There is also an octagon bell tower with a cloister and mausoleum of the Doria family. Well worth a visit as you can only see this via the boat journey and is a nice day out (slightly cheaper food here as well than Portofino). 

Visit S. Margherita for a cost of 1.80 each way on bus- which rooms approximately every 15 minutes from Portofino. It takes about 25 minutes for the journey and once there you can visit the beaches or settle for something to eat. This place seems to have a few more options than Portofino on restaurants and activities for families. From a little online research it seems the churches here are also extremely beautiful and well worth a visit. (Chiesa Di San Giacomo Di Corte + Chiesa di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia – Santuario di Nostra Signora della Rosa) Click for more info!

Visit Genoa by taking the bus to S. Margherita which goes all the way to the train station then swap there for the Train for 8 euros. Here there are more cultural excursions such as Galleries and Museums to visit. For example: the Museo di Palazzo Reale in Via Balbi (Royal Palace) costs 4 euros each and has a beautiful mirrored gallery in there. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 20.50.08


Where to Eat:

Wine Bar Jolly:

The nice thing about Portofino is that every time you sit for a drink you seem to be offered food! I don’t mean like a full course meal but more like snacks and nibbles to keep you going (although the portion size is enough to fill you all day). Wine Bar Jolly brought out a tray of crisps, carrots, olives, tomatoes and breads before evening ordering a main meal! This place is great value for money in the area as it offers shrimp and salami skewers for 28 euros.. much cheaper then other places in the area. 



El Portico:

Probably not as reasonable as Jolly but not bad again for the area. A skewer of Prawns is 30 euros along with a litre of house wine for 12 euros. This restaurant is pretty interested in where and how its placed. It’s up the slope from the harbour side. The tables are covered in red check and it’s opposite the Ristorante da Nichola Pizzeria.  Seems to have more of a buzz then other places in the area and a few more families. 


Trattoria Baicin: 

Down Via Algeria in S. Margherita. Here you can get the classic Turistica Menus- 3 courses for 23 euros! No more I need to say on that! 

Anything else?

Well, the weather is stunning. Beautifully hot.

You’ll find there seems to be a bit more of an interest in self-appearance here with the Italians being fond of the ‘Bella Figura’- that is ‘first impression’. So these Italians look particularly elegant in order to create a great first impression. On top of this the verb Promenggio applies here- to walk or parade. Italians like to dress up early evening and parade their best clothes up and down the street- in a way this is nice. It has an elegance to it. 


Ciao for now!