Places in Paris: Pink Mamma

You guys, I have been on a hunt for really good pizza in Paris. I know I won’t find any deep dish, extra cheesy and greasy pepperoni like my beloved Round Table Pizza so I needed to compromise with a decent Italian pizza. I heard about a beautiful restaurant called Pink Mamma in Pigalle, a popular spot on Instagram so we headed out on a late Saturday afternoon. We took the bus to Pigalle which took longer than we expected so we arrive a little after 7pm (just after opening). I was surprised to find a long line ahead of us. Then I realized there were no reservations so when we made it inside the hostess told us to return at dix, Liv translated to us that she meant come back at TEN PM!! Holy Cow, there was no way I was going to wait three hours to eat. We were starving. Since we were already there I decided to hang out and take photos of the four story gorgeous interior. The decor is different on every floor and I tried to capture what my eyes saw however, it was awkward taking photos of strangers eating so I had to be discreet about it. Luckily, the light was at golden hour so Antz took these incredible photos of me feeling like an Italian Goddess. I never looked so fancy riding a public bus before.

 

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The four story staircase was bananas. It was like being inside of an art gallery. We spent a lot of time checking out the paintings.

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Was hoping to snag this table on the top floor but it was reserved for a party of five.

 

I mean, could I ask for better light. My kind hubby was playing paparazzi while the diners were looking at me like I was an alien. Whatever, I was feeling myself!

 

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Liv and I headed to the loo, which was in the basement.

 

I have never seen a meatlocker look so chic. I mean, I was looking for a mirror and instead we got a view of all of the meat.

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Just as we were about to leave, the hostess saw we were still there and she said if we wanted to eat now, she could get us a table. I was disappointed that we couldn’t dine on the top floor (which looked like the best spot) however, we were so hungry we happily took whatever we could get.

 

I didn’t have any high expectations for the food (I have been so disappointed by food in Paris before) so I was pleasantly surprised by the menu. I hadn’t had any delicious bruschetta since our goodbye dinner with Leslie and Stephen last February at my favorite Colombo’s Italian restaurant in Eagle Rock. I do wish they used balsamic vinegar but I really liked the fresh apricot that was added in place of tomatos, very rustic. Antz ordered a steak and potatoes dish that he loved and Liv had kids pasta. I had pretty yummy pizza. I enjoyed it but I not a big fan of the burnt thin crust, Margherita style pizza. Sorry, I still miss American food terribly. The good news was our bill was reasonable for such a fancy place. Around €60 with wine.

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So, Pink Mamma definitely lived up to all the hype. Be sure to go well before they open to get a good table. We ended up walking around lower Pigalle neighborhood after our meal and popped into the trendy Hotel Amour for dessert on their patio. The weather was lovely, Antz and I shared a delightful strawberry tart. Liv had ice cream. Then we took an Uber home.

 

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Pink Mamma
6:45 – 11 pm
20bis Rue de Douai
75009 Paris

Hotel Amour
8 Rue de Navarin
75009 Paris

Summer in Paris: BFF Visit

My bestie Aimee came to visit us for ten days in July! The last time we were together in Paris was March 2015.

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Since it was the middle of summer and unbearably hot in Paris, we took a road trip to the seaside towns of Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur. Lucky for us, the weather was much cooler. We stayed at a beautiful, historic bed and breakfast in Deauville. I finally struck gold with my car rental skills. Not only did I get the actual car I reserved, a sweet ass brand new Volvo, but it was white which they never have (so sick of driving silver and beige cars!) If we ever buy a car in Paris, I am seriously considering a Volvo. I mean, if I can’t find a vintage Fiat Pop 500 with an automatic transmission or my dream car this light blue beauty. I guess Liv would have to sit on the hood.

It was a quick two hour drive west so we stopped in the village of Buorneville which is in the Normandy region. We needed to stretch our legs and I had to take a pic in front of this adorable Mairie. Little did we know that we stopped right in the middle of an insect horde and we were covered with hundreds of tiny black bugs. It was awful. Liv noticed them first and next thing we knew they were all over us. I have many things I cannot tolerate and bugs is high on the list. They were in my braids, all over the rental car, in our clothes. I was miserable during the rest of the drive. I planned to take photos of the picturesque village of Pont-Audemer but we just drove through without stopping. We felt like there should be warning signs saying watch out for tiny almost microscopic bugs that don’t bite but crawl all over you! Has that ever happened to anyone else? I still itch just thinking about it.

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When we arrived in Deauville at our hotel Villa L’Augeval thirty minutes later we immediately jumped into the shower and changed.

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Our room was quaint. Aimee, Liv and Lulu had their own tiny room to share.

The view from our window was more impressive than the room. This lovely church bells chimed every hour. Liv was stoked because our hotel had a pool.

We headed to a restaurant in Trouville-Sur-Mer for dinner which was highly recommended by our French friends.

 

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Trouville-sur-mer is a 15 minute drive from Deauville and it’s so cute. Most of the houses have a Art-Deco Victorian style. We drove around picking which mansion would be our future beachside vacation house.

I am no fan of onions, as many of you may already know, however I have always been enticed by the smell of French onion soup in the past. I saw it on the menu and decided that I would be brave and give it a try. Aimee was excited to order seafood and oysters. Antz got a steak and Liv ordered something simple from the kids menu. Lulu just ate bread.

Well my dears, the onion soup was a big disappointment! I was excited to see the raclette of cheese covering the top and it smelled yummy but beneath the bland cheese was a bowl of warm water and big, almost raw onions. I was hoping for the creamy broth of soft onions I have seen at restaurants in LA but this was Normandy style which seems to translate to no seasoning. The plate of shrimp I ordered were served cold to my dismay and Aimee didn’t enjoy her food either. Yet another expensive meal we wish we just went to McDonalds. I swear I am trying my best to open my palette to French cuisine but no luck so far!

Liv got an ice cream cone for dessert. Antz took these lovely photos by the Trouville harbor, I love my new Modcloth dress which was giving me 1950s vibes and it has POCKETS!!

We dropped Aimee off at the hotel so she could take a nap and sleep off her horrible dinner and we drove to the beach to catch the sunset.

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The Deauville American Film Festival has taken place since 1975. The Promenade des Planches was built in 1923 and now has the names of popular American actors and directors. I was surprised by some of the names we saw but happy to find my imaginary lover Jeffrey Goldblum. Olivia only knew Jessica Tandy from her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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The next day happened to be July 14th which is Bastille day in France! We began the day with a refreshing swim at our hotel.

She still loves to bellyflop!

We checked out of our room and headed to the beach for breakfast. But first, Liv challenged us to a game of table tennis. I beat them both!

I found the OG actors on the planches further down the boardwalk. Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and my girl Grace Kelly.

After promising Liv we would return so she could spend a day playing in the sand. We headed to Honfleur to spend the rest of the day before driving back into Paris.

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Somehow there is an unspoken rule that when we see a Ferris Wheel, Liv must ride it, no questions.

It appears carousels follow this same rule as well.

Being weird with my best friend 21 years later.

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The Honfleur harbor is giving me Copenhagen vibes.

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Aimee was super stoked to finally get a delicious bowl of mussels! I don’t know how she eats them.

We listened to a French band play while we dined. There was a World Cup game playing so the entire town was distracted. I drove through Versailles to see if we could watch the Bastille day fireworks on our way back to the city but it was so crowded we couldn’t find parking and we were tired, so we zapped a few Invaders (how cool is this beheaded Louis the XVI?) and like the old, lame folks we are, we went home to bed.

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Bonjournee!

Road Trip: Cherbourg & Beaches of Normandy

June is always a busy but special month for me. Liv’s birthday is at the beginning of the month, then Father’s Day and ends with Antz birthday. I rented a car and we drove to Cherbourg for a weekend trip for Antz birthday. I have wanted to visit Cherbourg ever since I saw the French musical “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” Since Cherbourg is near the beaches of Normandy, we spent the day visiting Sainte-Mère-Église village, the Omaha Beach Memorial and the American Cemetery. The drive was over five hours and even though I normally would be able to drive longer than that in LA (I drove for eleven hours for our road trip to Portland) something about the French highways seems to lull me to sleep. I drove the first three hours and then Antz took over for the last two.

 

There were many tolls heading west towards Cherbourg. We also noticed livestock on the sides of the highway. At first we thought we were looking at sheep but with a closer look, they were golden cows! They were so pretty we pulled over and tried to snap a photo with some of the cows. The countryside is insanely pretty.

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I was surprised at how small Cherbourg was. Our hotel was just across the street from the harbor.

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We went for a walk around the town looking for a place to eat for lunch. Of course it was after 3 so we missed lunch and nothing was open until after 7pm.

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We found this gorgeous fish market but they didn’t cook the food. Liv bought a bag of apricots, Antz and I got crepes to tide us over.

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Les parapluies were everywhere. I only recently saw the French musical in the last few years although I have always been a big Catherine Deneuve fan. I also discovered that the guy who directed The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of Liv’s friend’s from school grandfather! How rad is that?!!

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We walked around for an hour then hung out in our hotel room. By 7pm, we were starving so we went to the first restaurant we found that was open. We ordered a plateau de fruits de mer for Antz birthday dinner. To our surprise, shellfish is served cold and there’s no melted butter to dip. Sadly, no matter how many times we have tried, we don’t like oysters. As fancy as the meal looked, we really missed our annual seafood meal from Duke’s in Malibu.

We drove around town looking for the Cherbourg sign. Oddly, we could find it’s location on Google Maps so I relied on photos from Pinterest and my intuition. Finally, just as I was about to give up I drove right past it on a steep hill! Since the sign was so big, one of us had to run into the street to get a photo. We waited forever for someone to get a photo of all of us but it’s an isolated area. This selfie has made me want to travel with a reliable tripod. I just don’t see where we could have set one up since there were cars passing in the street.

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The next day we grabbed breakfast at our hotel and headed out early.

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I had to take a photo with my umbrella by the harbor before we left. Our first stop was Sainte-Mere-Eglise. We learned the heroic story of Private John Marvin Steele. As the 82nd Airborne soldiers parachuted into the village, they were under heavy attack by Germans. John survived the jump but his parachute got caught in the spinnet of the church. He hung there limp, playing dead for two hours before he was taken prisoner. He later escaped and captured 30 Germans. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his valor. He is featured in the classic film The Longest Day.

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Miraculously, it didn’t rain. The sun actually came out as we headed towards the American cemetery. I spent hours explaining the D-day invasion to Liv and she listened intently. I was surprised to see how interested in history an eight year old was. I think it hit her the most when I told her how many men were drafted into the war and how her Dad would have most likely been sent to fight if we were alive during that time. During the summer of 1944 over 100,000 total men died.

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This was the most incredible experience for our family. France has always been a romantic place for us but visiting these sites where close to 10,000 people lost their lives felt very somber. We visited the memorial and watched a short film about World War II.
Below is Omaha beach.

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Our last stop wasn’t planned but Liv was asking what happened to the German soldiers so we stopped at La Cambe German war cemetery. It definitely had a different vibe to it. There were very few people there. Over 21,000 German soldiers are buried there. The cemetery has 1,200 maple trees as a gift of peace.

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If you are a history buff, I strongly recommend making this trip. Normandy Discovery Tours offers a tour by French locals. We saw a group of school children at the Omaha beach memorial. I really think that the difference between American children and European is our approach to the past. I feel like Americans shield their kids from the dark side of history but I believe that is doing them a disservice. They lack empathy and may grow up to make the same mistakes of bigotry and complacency. I talk to Olivia about everything, not to frighten her but to open her eyes to the world she lives in. She is a multiracial child so she doesn’t have the privilege to ignore the past suffering of her ancestors. Every accomplishment she makes in her life, she has many generations of proud Mexican and Black people cheering her on.

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The Hoxton Hotel Paris

Bonjour from the most comfy, freaking awesome hotel I’ve ever stayed at. The Hoxton hotels are popping up in all major cities and they are my new favorite place to stay. Last month we stayed at the Hoxton in Shoreditch. I liked the hipster vibes in the lobby spaces (they had a photo booth and DJ) and the location was perfect but the room wasn’t blowing me away. It was tiny, borderline cramped and there wasn’t a view of anything special. Other than an enormous wall-to-wall bed, and great shower water pressure, I was quite underwhelmed. Or maybe I was bitter from banging my knee in that stupid drawer that wouldn’t close!

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We were scheduled to move out of the apartment we were exchanging on May 1st so I booked one night at the Hoxton hotel, Paris. We found out that May 1st is Labor day in France so that meant we couldn’t move into our new apartment until May 2nd due to the holiday. Then we extended the dates of our exchange with our swappers so we had access to their apartment until May 15th. This gave us a staycation overnight in the 2nd arrondissement. It’s an area close to our new apartment but not a part of Paris I have hung out in much. We packed light and took the Metro in the rain of course! I didn’t have anything planned to do other than order room service and sleep. Poor Antz had to work so we just hung out in the hotel which felt like a mansion. It’s located in a beautifully restored 18th century building. The hotel is stunning. I would do a poor job at trying to describe how beautifully they combined old with new. I took all the photos I could. There were so many people in the common areas I had to wake up at 6 am to have the place all to myself. It was the most fun hotel I’ve stayed at for less than 24 hours!

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Look at this insane lobby!

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You guys! This lobby blew me away. I can’t get over that staircase, the furniture, the atrium windows, the bar. The reception was in a different part of the lobby through a sitting area with a living wall. The Hoxton Paris is not here to be mediocre!

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At first glance I was sure the plants were fake but upon closer inspection, they are indeed real, growing plants.

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I booked a roomy size room so I requested the least boring room that was available. The guy said “I’ve never had that request before.” I’m not sure if mentioning this helped us score a better room but it never hurts to ask. I have gotten many free upgrades just by asking.

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So this ensuite is RAD! Antz and I want to build a bathroom addition to our house and this is what we want! The industrial metal and glass windows, the tile, the copper fixtures, those sconces…  I WANT IT ALL!

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Liv finds landline telephones so fascinating. They are like ancient relics to her, she enjoys ordering room service for us in French.

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Of course the kid wants a mirror like this in her room so she can practice ballet.

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After lunch we explored the rest of the hotel. We found this beautiful library.

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Hands up if this hotel blows your mind?!

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Liv and I went downstairs to hang out and drink spa water while Antz worked.

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Every space has gorgeous floors! I am obsessed with herringbone hardwood floors. I can’t wait to get a quote on installing them in our living room in our house in LA.

 

The staff told me to check out the Jacques Bar which is a speakeasy hidden away in the hotel.

The lovely bartender made me a special grapefruit concoction. This guy was a serious mixologist and watching him work was like watching an artist. He hand carved the ice from that giant block. He added edible flowers and his frothing technique was impressive. The drink was perfection. I am a lightweight so any drink that isn’t overpowering with alcohol is for me. I had two of these!!

I called Antz to come down for a break and he ordered a whiskey drink. Such an adult.

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Imbibed by the spirits!

The next morning appeared in about 15 minutes. This place had the fastest speed wifi we had since arriving in France. It was very hard to leave.

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After uploading all these photos, I finally got out of bed and showered in that lovely spacious bathroom with time for breakfast downstairs.

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OMG! Just when I fallen into a daily croissant rut, they made the yummiest avocado toast and poached eggs. The Hoxton Paris is so legit, I was living my best life!

 

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Still can’t get over this staircase and the light!

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Au revoir, I hope to return again soon.

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The Hoxton Paris
30-32 Rue du Sentier
75002 Paris, France

The hotel gave me a discount code if anyone is interested in booking a room, let me know! I highly recommend booking a night if you come to Paris, it’s a five star joint with impeccable service.

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Shoreditch, London

Bonjour,

Liv gets two whole weeks of spring break here, Yay! We took a three day trip to London (my second favorite city). Antz job has an office there so he spent a day at work. We stayed at The Hoxton Shoreditch. It’s almost identical to The Ace Shoreditch. The room was much smaller but it had the same hipster vibe and Shoreditch is such a fun area to stay in. We promised to take Olivia to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour which was amazing. I advise you to purchase tickets well in advance. I procrastinated and they were sold out a few weeks before our trip so I had to pay a lot more for Golden Tours package but it included tickets and roundtrip coach to Leavesden which was convenient. While Antz was visiting his work office, Liv and I went to The Sanderson hotel for a girls Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party. We also had the best cake ever from the pretty Peggy Porschen which is an Instagrammer’s dream. We met up with our friend Melissa for an authentic Indian dinner in White Chapel. She gave us a tour of her neighborhood and showed us two amazing Basquiat-inspired Banksy art! I had no idea he has been putting up new art.

I was concerned about taking the Eurostar train due to France’s SNCF on-going strike but luckily it seemed every train except ours was canceled. We arrived about 40 minutes before our train departure time and it turned out to be the perfect timing. We breezed through the long customs line and we made it to the waiting lounge just as our train began to board.

You guys, I did something I have never done before, traveled in heels! Granted, they are the most comfortable wedges on the planet. I bought these Kork Ease wedges (similar ones here) from my favorite store in Highland Park, Dotter. Of course after weeks with no rain, it drizzled all morning.

This was the emptiest I have ever seen Gare Nord. Oh! Can I say how much I love my Away Carry-on bag. At first I wasn’t sold on the price and how small it is but for weekend trips it’s worth every penny! We arrived at San Pancras station to a lovely day in London.

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After a few months of daily Metro commuting in Paris, I was surprised at how different taking the Tube is in London. There are less stairs than Paris, which is a plus, however the stations have escalators that are as steep as Mt. Everest. I totally get vertigo and wearing heels, holding my luggage along with Olivia’s hand was a balancing act because I don’t ever touch the hand rail (I saw a travel show about how much fecal matter is found on them). The Tube trains are also smaller and arrive in the station at the speed of a roller coaster.

Liv spotted our first Invader right away! Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Tube station.

Guess what? I had a harder time understanding people in London than in Paris! Very cool accents but they talk faaaaaast. To be honest, the room we ended up with wasn’t my fave. It was small and there wasn’t a closet for our bags but the bed was very comfy and I had a throne-esque chair to rest my tired feet.

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It’s always hard to get out of a comfy hotel bed but we had to explore the town before our dinner plans. You know I can’t resist a photobooth.

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The lobby was very cool but it was so packed with people, I couldn’t get any good photos. There was an art show featuring twins that looks rad and a dreamy communal kitchen space with a bright red Smeg!

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As much as I love French croissants, I missed good old doughnuts! We passed Doughnut Time on our walk in so we had to get a snack.

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I forgot they don’t accept euros in London so off to the ATM for some quid! Liv still wants to know why America is the only nation without women on the currency.

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This little piggy had a Notorious P.I.G. doughnut.

We took a double decker bus to Whitechapel to meet our friend for dinner and we passed the old London Hospital. Our friend Melissa who was our tour guide for the evening, told us that Joseph Merrick lived in that hospital. I am a huge fan of the film The Elephant Man. I saw it when I was a kid and I still remember weeping buckets of tears over the horrific abuse he suffered. I asked her what was the city planning to do with the old building and she said probably tear it down and build condos. Lame!

She took us to an Indian part of Whitechapel for some authentic Indian cuisine. Now, I am fairly new to the Indian food game. It took me years to figure out what I liked and unfortunately, what I don’t. I am good with chicken Tikka Masala, white rice and garlic naan. I couldn’t tell you what I ordered at this place. The food was good, but I didn’t order correctly. You know when you are having such a great time you forget to take any pictures of the evening? That happened. I am infamous for delaying a meal in order to get that perfect dish shot but I only managed to take one picture at the restaurant.

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Yup, those are raw white onions (my kryptonite) but I ate all that chicken! Yummy meal and bonus, we brought our own wine. After getting some ice cream for dessert we headed to the Barbican Centre to see the Banksy art.

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I am so glad Melissa was our guide because we would have never found them. Thanks for a bloody wicked night m’dear!

The next morning we woke up to cute little breakfast bags on our door and we got all dolled up for our second breakfast of the day Peggy Porchsen’s Cakes! Besides, my motto is Eat Cake for Breakfast.

This pink palace is in Westminster so it took us quite awhile to find it but OMG this place is Disneyland for bloggers and Instagrammers. I was super bummed that I couldn’t get all the people waiting out front out of my photo but what can you do? Funny thing is I did politely ask that group of girls to move over so I could take a photo and they moved one inch. Okay, I see you!

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Coincidental it’s on Elizabeth Street wouldn’t you say?

You guys, my iPhone camera do not do these beautiful cakes justice! I am wishing there was a cake shop like this in Paris.

It’s in her genes, what can I say?

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She’s getting pretty good at taking our photos. After a stroll through beautiful West London, we headed to Victoria Station to catch our bus to Warner Bros. Studios.

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IMG_1082DSC_0720They play Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone during the 35 – 40 minute drive to the studio. It’s lovely because I haven’t seen it in ages and it sets the mood for some Wizardry.

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I won’t show everything because I want you to experience it for yourself but there are some really awesome props, costumes and special effects to see.

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The best part of the tour is you get a passport book that has a scavenger hunt and riddles to solve as you walkthrough. Ev