Thursday, 11 April 2019

The Best Power Bank, Portable Charger and USB Charger for Travel to the US - Travel Tech

There are ways to keep your travel tech and tech gadgets charged up in the USA that are better than others, as I’ve discovered on many visits. You know, of course that the USA doesn’t use the same plugs that we do in the UK (or in the EU for that matter) and you most likely also know that the voltage is different – so don’t try taking your UK hairdryer, because it won’t work unless it has dual voltage.  But if you’ve ever wondered how to easily keep your tech fully charged, not to mention why your US adaptors keep falling out of the wall, read on……

Where tech is concerned, your laptop or tablet, smartphone and portable charger, these will all work in the US and you can charge them using a US wall plug.  There are two types of US wall plug, 2 pin and grounded 3 pin.  I’ve found that the 3 pin wall plug is much more stable, particularly if you’re trying to charge a laptop with the charging block and plug in one unit.
Grounded USA Wall Plug with Double UK Plugs

This UK to grounded US wall plug and extender cable is much lighter than you’d expect, and is extremely useful if you have two items you want to charge/plug in at the same time.
Grounded 3 pin UK EU to US Adaptors
Both single UK and EU plugs will happily plug in to these and you’ll find the wall connection so much more stable than the usual 2 pin adapter.  Order these for your arrival in the US or have them shipped to you in the UK.  A pain I know but these are soooo much better than the normal adapters you can buy at the airport.

This one again you’ll need to either order from Amazon in the US, or ship it to yourself in the UK, or preferably have it shipped to wherever you’ll be first staying in the US.  With 2 USB ports plus a grounded wall connection this charger sits flat on the wall.  It’ll let you plug in 2 USB cables directly and it won’t fall out of the wall.
Anker 2 Port USB Car Charger

Renting a car in the US or anywhere else for that matter?  I never travel without one of these.  Make sure you buy one with 2 USB ports of you’ll be fighting to charge your phone first

Another obvious essential is a portable travel charger for when you're on the move - and not travelling by car - this one by Belkin comes in three levels of power.  Be aware that it may be attractive to buy the most powerful but the more power you go for the heavier your battery will be.  I take a 5K portable charger with me everywhere.

The 10K and 15K version of this Belkin portable charger also have dual USB ports.  Silver and black are also available if you don't fancy the rose gold.

Finally a multi use charging cable which will allow you to charge up your phone whichever make you have with lightening, micro usb and type C usb connectors.

One reminder - make sure when you're on the move that whatever you've plugged into the wall gets to go with you .......

Saturday, 6 April 2019

3 of the Best Seafood Restaurants in Paris

Having visited Paris every year, mostly several times, I have established the restaurants I like the best and tend to stick to them.  It seems such a waste to try something new, inevitably expensive, unless it has been recommended personally.  Even this trip has managed to fail miserably with two new restaurants I definitely won't be going back to.  So, back to my three favourites where you can be certain the food will be truly excellent.

Le Dome Montparnasse -  This is one of Paris's most famous Brasseries specialising in seafood and it has changed unbelievably in the past year, with the addition Japanese star Chef Yoshihiko Miura.  Whereas previously the food was traditional seafood dishes beautifully cooked, now it is positively inspired.  Out have gone the cream and the butter sauces, in are fresh and healthy ingredients and dishes such as seared salmon on an avocado base and Asian broth, or red mullet with white beans. I've eaten twice here since the new chef's arrived and can't wait to go back.

Don’t expect to save money here, this is a place for serious diners who are looking for the best, but if you’re having a celebration or you want a truly memorable meal you should pay a visit to this superb Paris restaurant, situated on the Boulevard Montparnasse.

Don’t try and visit Le Dome without booking, you almost certainly won’t get in.
Restaurant Le Dome - Address: 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris, France. Phone:+33 1 43 35 25 81

Le Vent d’Armor – A True Hidden Gem -This restaurant was recommended by friends who live in Paris and are always in the know. It’s small and intimate and has some of the best seafood I have ever had, anywhere.

Situated near the Odeon on the Quai de la Tournelle this may seem a bit out of the way but it is completely worth the journey.  Above, from their 'Discovery' menu, you have tuna carpaccio, and below langoustine with truffles.  Both were superb.

Le Vent d’Armor offers a very reasonably priced set menu, where you choose certain dishes off the a la Carte - or rather tell them what you don't like to eat and welcome the surprise dishes that arrive. Don’t expect to see the complete menu on the website – it changes regularly. The wines also are exceptional and exceptionally priced compared to what you would pay elsewhere.

Le Vent d’Armor, 25 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris, France +33 1 46 34 50 99

Le George - This is more of a Mediterranean restaurant, but as I have only eaten seafood here I am happy to include it.  One star in the Michelin Guide, and situated in the glamorous 5* Hotel George V in Paris you may be cringing at the thought of the bill, however most of the dishes are shareable and so you can come here for a celebration and leave relatively unscathed, totally depending on which wine you choose....

Start with one of their 'Crudo' or octopus cooked over a wood fire, which is one of my favourites.  Share a dish of their Spaghetti allo scoglio and caviale with shavings of dried caviar on top, and then finish with blue lobster salad, or as I did with roasted sole with basil and vinegar sauce.  The service is impeccable and all the food I have had there has been wonderful.

Dress up for this one as it is well beyond smart casual and make sure you've booked well in advance.  This is a really beautiful, buzzy and sophisticated restaurant - high heels mandatory.....

Restaurant Le George, 31 Ave George V, 75008 Paris, +33 (1) 49527209

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Where to Buy Wine in Paris No 1 - Duclot la Cave in Galleries Lafayette Gourmet

If you think of Galleries Lafayette as somewhere to buy your next Prada handbag and not as somewhere to find a bottle of fine Bordeaux, you probably haven't paid a visit to the 'Maison' store opposite the main building on Boulevard Haussmann Paris.

Lafayette Maison/Gourmet has always been one of my favourite places in Paris, to grab a quick lunch at Mavromatis, to check out the herbs and spices or find a box of macarons for a gift, then up the escalators to the homeware departments where you can find absolutely everything.

At the far end of the ground floor of Lafayette Maison sits a stone curving staircase, which, if you're a wine lover, particularly Bordeaux, will transport you to paradise.  Originally Les Caves des Vins of Galleries Lafayette this is now Duclot la CaveDuclot is a Bordeaux wine merchant with a stock of several million bottles,  1200 of which are offered here in Paris.  Oh and incidentally their holding company also owns Chateau Petrus - the most famous Pomerol of them all.

Along with a beautifully displayed fine wine section, famous wine bottles up to a 15L Nebuchadnezzar, a spectacular champagne area and the best of Burgundy, Rhone, Loire and Alsace there isn't much you can't find here, but if you are, as I said, a Bordeaux lover this is Bordeaux heaven

I took some friendly and helpful advice and bought a simple bottle of Medoc which I'll be posting on Instagram shortly.  My aim is to write about the best wine stores wherever I go from Dallas to Paris (next stop Beaune) and this is No 1 for Paris.

The 3 Best Apps for Wine Enthusiasts

For those who enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, or frequently, and would love to know more but either don’t want to ask or don’t have too much time, these are my three favourite apps for wine information, whether it’s the wine in your wine rack (or cellar), the wine you had at a friend’s house or that expensive wine you had in a restaurant.
There are a multitude of apps that will tell you about wine, so many that it can be confusing.  Here are my favourites.VivinoVivino is a free app which almost certainly has the best label scanner, which is very good at analysing any label you offer it (take a photo within the app and you’re done).  I recently tried numerous bottles including a difficult to read gold labelled Margaux and it succeeded with every one.  Wait for the ‘voila’, click on ‘use’ and then you’ll find out the average retail price of your wine and then you can click through to buy it from an online merchant if you want to.

You’ll also find a summary of basic information, including region, grape and food pairing.  Click on ‘winery’ for example, to learn about alternative wines and how to contact the wine maker direct.

Alternatively if there’s a wine you want to know more about, where you don’t have the bottle to hand, just use the search facility for information including the price and reviews.  These are user ratings rather than official ratings but you can see who has provided the rating and how many wines they have rated on Vivino.

You can also work out how much the mark-up is if you’re in a restaurant, which can be annoying if you’ve shelled out a large amount for a wine that doesn’t cost that much.  My advice?  Restaurant mark-ups are in many cases over the top but don’t let it spoil your dinner, nor your wine.  Look it up later……

Desktop, Android and iOs versions.  Create account and you can see everything on any device by logging in.

Wine-Searcher is an invaluable tool.  it’s a wine search engine and price comparison website with an incredibly easy search facility.  Put pretty much anything into the search engine from the winery to the name of the wine, and then narrow it down by vintage and country.  Once you locate your wine you’ll see where you can (or can’t) buy it and find out immediately the average price, the region, the producer, the grape variety, and what to pair it with.

Then click through to the Tasting Notes to see some major critics scores, notes and awards.  There’s a wealth of information here.

The free version doesn’t include all stockists.  If you want to see everyone on their database you need to sign up to the Pro Version so if you’re always looking for that wine you loved recently you should sign up although see below, as there are so many wine subscription sites.

Cellar Tracker

Cellar Tracker is another excellent wine information and cellar management website and app.  It has a very quick search facility.  Find the wine you’re searching for, then, if it’s one that you own you can add it into your virtual cellar.  You can also see how it was rated.  Cellar Tracker has one of the largest databases of community wine tasting notes.

Cellar Tracker is about what you have in your wine cellar.  So forget about listing wines in a book and use this instead.  Cellar Tracker was originally created in 2003 by Eric LeVine as a way to keep track of his own cellar.  At the time he was working at Microsoft.  This is most probably the best ‘cellar tracker ‘available.  And it’s free, although if you want more facilities such as some pro scores, and automatic cellar valuation, you need to donate.

Also consider:

Wine is a US wine store but, and it’s a big but here, if they have the wine you’re want to know more about, and they have an enormous – they call it the world’s largest – selection of wines, search for it and you can see all the pro ratings.

I searched for New Zealand Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and could immediately see that Robert Parker Wine Advocate gave the 2017 vintage 90 points, James Suckling and Wine Spectator both gave the 2016 vintage 90 points.

These are all, individually, subscription based websites so if you find your wine here on the free ratings are a bonus.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Best of the New Seasons City Chic Sneakers to Walk you Anywhere

Does it surprise you to know that you can spend upwards of £1000 on your new pair of sneakers?  Just about every designer has cottoned on to the fact that we're looking for a combination of comfort and style, and that we're definitely not going to be walking around town in 5" heels any more.  Well some do I'm told, but walk down any street in London or Paris (or New York, let alone LA) and you'll find the majority wearing sneakers, designer or otherwise.

So rather than invest hundreds of pounds in a new pair of heels, it makes sense to buy something you're going to want to put on your feet every day, to walk for miles in, and come home without blisters.  And designers have seriously gone to town on colours and decoration.


The trends right now are for metallics, animal prints, florals, stars and stripes, and with spring - hopefully - just round the corner what better time to add to your collection?

From designer brands such as Gucci and Christian Louboutin to modern chic from Golden Goose and Tods to comfort special brands such as Geox there's everything to choose from and every price range.


My advice if you're going to be walking a long way - your next Paris city break for example, is to choose leather as canvas and other fabrics are - yes less expensive - but more likely to rub.

Don't wait too long if you fall in love with a pair, some sizes and styles are already selling out.

The best choice of brands and styles online are to be found at John Lewis, and Selfridges and with everything on offer from Gucci to Dune these are a great place to start.

Monday, 18 March 2019

20 Sweet and Scented Gift Ideas for Mother's Day that won't Break the Bank - The Origins of Mother's Day

Mother’s Day this year is March 31st (just in case you needed reminding). If you’re looking for Mother’s Day ideas you don’t have to look far, you’ll find them in every store, every shop window, every other store newsletter. Mother’s Day ideas replaces Valentine’s Day ideas almost seamlessly.

Mother’s Day is always the fourth Sunday of Lent, and can be traced back as far as the 16th Century when servants and workers were given time off to visit the ‘Mother church’. It also became a tradition to bake a Simnel cake and take it home to mothers. Click through to Delia Smith’s Recipe for Simnel cake.

And by the way it should really be called Mothering Sunday, not Mother’s Day which is the more commercialised version. If you’d like to read a bit more about the origins of Mothering Sunday click through the article from the Telegraph.

Ok back to the day itself. Having had three kids myself, all pretty much grown up now (are they ever?) the only thing I would really appreciate on Mother’s Day is a message - And yes in this hyper-techo world a text will do. It’s about remembering, un-reminded. Two at least will be out of the country, and the only thing that matters to me is that they show they care.

However, many will be giving small pampering gifts to their mums and the best thing about online is of course that if you can’t be there you can send something out. Most popular are flowers, chocolates and fragrant gifts but anything small and pretty and beautifully presented will do.

Included here are my top 20 Mother’s Day ideas for gifts that won’t break the piggy bank but will be appreciated by most mothers everywhere.