Parisian fog and sunshine – Part 2

Our second full day in Paris was much sunnier, with none of the fog we’d had the day before. Although we tend to avoid the tourist traps, this visit we tried to embrace it a bit more, so headed up to Montmartre to see another view of Paris and visit the Sacre-Cœur.

I have to be honest, having visited the Arc the day before and the Eiffel tower on a previous visit, I was unprepared for just how touristy this place would be. There were people everywhere, the majority either taking selfies or trying to force something on the tourists. Going up the steps to the church at one point about 6  guys tried to funnel us into a literal tourist trap (not saying it was anything nefarious, they were likely just trying to flog us something). Luckily we managed to manoeuvre past them pretty sharpish and got to the top.

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Were the views worth it? Maybe. But I wouldn’t even consider going back at anything like peak-season.

After that, we idled our way back down through the artists’ square and independent shops of Montmartre. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon – we even found a gallery selling Shepard Fairey, Pure Evil and some other artists, which was a nice surprise.

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After the rather intense tourist hit, we decided to spend the last day in Neuilly-sur-Seine where things were reassuringly French and laid back. We sat in the sun drinking beer, wandered about the incredibly good looking streets, and ate good food.

That’s what Paris is really all about.

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Parisian fog and sunshine – Part 1

A month ago we were in Paris for Jen’s 30th (and my 29th, though that was secondary).

As always, it was stunning.

We were staying in the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine; a picturesque and posh area that had lots of great restaurants, bars and patisseries and some impressive views of the skyscrapers of the financial district. As the main road in Neuilly is Avenue Charles de Gaulle, which is one big long straight road that eventually reaches the Arc de Triomphe, we decided that was a must visit.

It was a foggy day when we set out, but that’s ok, as it added atmosphere to the views we received when we got to the top.

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The tunnel under the insanely busy Place Charles de Gaulle roundabout was one of my favourite features. Watching the cars from the top made me thankful I hadn’t decided to drive for the trip.

Whilst up the Arc, the sun slowly started to emerge, and after that first morning we were lucky with the weather – bright, crisp winter sunshine for the rest of the trip.

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On the way back to the apartment that afternoon we stopped at a market which was buzzing with local activity.

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After a day of walking we had a nap. I’m not ashamed to admit it. When we woke it was nighttime, which meant there was only one course of action – find a trendy little burger bar that brews its own beer and settle in. We found Frog Burger, and it was good.

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A Gaiman-esque birthday

Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author; certainly my favourite living author. Even so, I was surprised (and very pleased) with quite how much Gaiman featured on my 29th birthday yesterday.

Jen got me Norse Mythology, which hadn’t really been on my radar, despite being released this month. I was delighted with the present, of course, but didn’t know what to expect – in just over 24 hours I’m now 3/4s of the way through and thoroughly enjoying it. Essentially a series of short stories, light-weight and a bit mad, they are none-the-less engaging and a fun read.

Then my parents went and got me two Coraline prints, both signed by Chris Riddell. They are from the 10th-anniversary edition – which I have signed by both illustrator and author, and which I consider an important part of my book collection – so I’m chuffed to bits with them. They framed one, the other will have to stay unframed for now.

All this Neil Gaiman talk made me think about American Gods. When I think about American Gods, I have to read American Gods. I consider it my favourite book ever, and this time around I decided to listen to the audiobook. It is very well done. Shadow has just been busted out of train-prison by his dead wife – if that doesn’t make sense to you, do yourself a favour and read the book.

Then, to end the birthday-day, we watched the film version of Coraline – one of the few films which I consider to be better than the book (only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Shutter Island, but I’m sure there are others) whilst eating homemade red Thai curry and dumplings by Jen.

On a non-Gaiman front, I also got the final Tribe Called Quest album, which is fantastic. 

Not a bad birthday all-round.

Libratone Q Adapt Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Before saying anything else, I’ll say that I’ve never before seen such an incredibly good-looking set of headphones. The Libratone Q Adapt are sleek, stylish and constructed with excellent materials. The leather is soft, the plastic and metals are smooth, the cloth is textured – combined with thought and care into something truly special to see and feel.

And that’s just first thoughts on taking them out of the box. When using them – because form without function is pointless – they show what they are really made of. Sound quality is excellent, with rich bass and nicely balanced treble. My writing today is being accompanied by The Juan MacLean’s In A Dream and it is immersive, but even when I switch to something more aggressive – Run The Jewels III, anyone? – the headphones keep up magnificently.

I’ve been using the Libratone Q for about 2 months now and I’ve only just downloaded the app. This has brought with it some helpful firmware updates that have fixed some of the issues I had with the touch controls – yes touch controls, some space-age stroking of the bird on the right side unit allows for changing tracks, volume control, phone answering and more – and has also introduced me to the impressive CityMix noise control.

I fell in love with these headphones as soon as I held them in my hands. Combine that with rich sound and advanced controls, I never want to take them off – a shame, seeing as Jen nabbed them for her commute within seconds of them arriving…

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These headphones were sent to me by Amazon for review, but my thoughts are my own and entirely honest. There are also affiliate links in this review.

Lewes with the Canon EFS 24mm

I work in Lewes, a very picturesque little town between Eastbourne and Brighton. At lunch I’ll often have a walk around (and up and down – it’s a hilly place), so when I got my new Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 prime lens a spate of amazing winter sun gave me the perfect opportunity to give it a test run.

I’m not going into detail about vignetting,  chromatic aberrations or technical stuff, this is just a chance for me to share my feelings on it.

My feelings are good. I like this lens a lot. It’s a pancake lens (very small) so is discreet and lightweight, making the Canon 500d I use feel more like a bridge camera than a DSLR. I should mention that as an EF-S lens, it is specifically designed for crop sensor Canons (eg 500d, 1000d, 70d) and won’t work on full-frame cameras (eg 5d).

f/2.8 is fairly fast for such a low-cost lens, so you can get some really nice bokeh when you want it, much more than a typical zoom lens in the same price bracket.

Like with the 50mm prime I got last year, I was immediately impressed by the clarity the lens offers, it’s a great piece of glass for the price (look to pay about £130). There’s something about prime lenses that I don’t think you get with a zoom, a sense that you’re seeing a unique perspective through your camera.

Here’s my perspective on Lewes…

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Please note there are a couple of affiliate links in this post, but my thoughts on the lenses are genuine and this post has not been sponsored in any way.

Winter sun & ice cream…

Yesterday was how Sundays should be. 

We headed out into some incredible winter sunshine for a walk down Eastbourne seafront to the world-famous Fusciardi’s Ice Cream Parlour. I went for a single scoop of Ginger in a cone – a controversial choice, I realise, but I wasn’t disappointed. The rest of the squad went for Strawberry (x2), Honeycomb, and Rum & Raisin.

To those of you that suggest that January in England is the wrong time and place for ice cream, all I can do is shake my head slowly and pity your naivety.

I didn’t take my camera out, as we’d originally only been going for a fry-up, so was frustrated when we decided to go for a walk and I missed an opportunity. Instead I ended up taking snaps on my trusty old iPhone 5s and editing them with Enlight to give them a retro feel – perfect for an old fashioned day at the beach.

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The Brighton Beard Company – Balm and Oil Review

I don’t do clean-shaven. It makes me look podgy and child-like. So I’ve had stubble for years, but over the last couple it has developed into a fully-fledged beard, which is getting bigger by the minute.

I’ve never been one to go in for toiletries and the like, I’ve got my Bulldog moisturiser and that’s always been enough. But with the beard has arrived a new problem – scratchy bristles!

Eventually thatbeastjen had enough and bought me a Beard Balm and a Beard Oil from Brighton Beard Co..

They’ve got the branding spot on, with a mix of modern style and sailor-themed nostalgia. Combine that with odd little stories to go with each of their products (such as the tale of Creampot Tom, a lawless son of a gun) and you’ve got a compelling brand. I always like finding creative companies that are local to me, too.

At first it was the Jasmine and Lemon Beard Balm that was my go to. It is easy to apply and smells great, but now I’m leaning towards the Blackpepper and Grapefruit Beard Oil as my favourite, as it has a great aroma and for me seems to have a real impact on softening and conditioning my face fuzz.

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Brighton Beard Company - Creampot Tom's Beard Balm

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