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Month: February 2019

Ooh la la

Occasionally, very, very, occasionally, when travelling abroad on business I might manage to take some time out to experience the local culture. A trip to Paris earlier this week was indeed one of those very rare occasions when my schedule allowed me sufficient time to wander the streets of this fabulous city. Ooh la la.

I stepped out into the early morning sunshine after alighting the Eurostar at the rather grand Gare du Nord. After a brisk 30 minute walk criss-crossing the city I arrived at the Royal Palace Gardens.

Avenues of trees in the Royal Palace Gardens

Here I was struck by the perfect symmetry of the avenues of trees. Bereft of leaves or blossom they looked particularly stark against the bright blue sky but perhaps even more regal because of the contrast.

Considered to be the most beautiful gardens in Paris I marvelled at the stunning architecture which enclosed the grounds. These striped black and white cylindrical plinths which rose from the ground like sticks of Brighton rock added a touch of informality to these paved areas.

Striding out towards the river I marvelled at this stunning arch with the horses and chariots atop galloping out into the wild blue yonder.

River Seine

My next port of call was La Louvre gallery situated on the Right Bank of the Seine. Prior to this visit I had only ever been able to marvel at this magnificent structure from the back seat of a moving vehicle.

The controversial pyramid entrance was part of an overall modernisation that took shape in the mid-1980’s. It’s design was the brainchild of Chinese architect I.M. Pei who was appointed by former French president, François Mitterrand.

The gallery, one of the largest in the world, houses one of the finest collections of art including the infamous Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa

She wasn’t the only beauty on display. Another that caught my eye was this portrait by Goya.

Portrait de la comtesse del Carpio, marquise de la Solana, née Maria Rita Barrenechea

Monolithic statues stood on gigantic plinths creating focal points on a grand scale.

It was only as I was leaving the Louvre that I learned that it had been built on the ruins of Louvre Castle which was eventually demolished in stages to make way for the palace.

Louvre castle ruins

Leaving this cultural hub behind me I hailed a cab to take me to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. Here I took in this incredible panoramic view of the city of Paris.

Paris panoramic

In and around the immediate vicinity there are a host of coffee shops, bars, restaurants and shops, all vying for the tourists’ trade.

Inside this chocolate coloured facade was a whole host of colourful cookies in beautifully illustrated gift boxes.

Pastel coloured macaroons

This tower of pastel coloured macaroons took the biscuit!

A little further on the competition was selling a selection of freshly baked bread whilst street artists were busy plying their trade.

As the afternoon drew to a close a walk to the bottom of the hill took me past the much talked about Moulin Rouge. Sadly there wasn’t sufficient time to take in a show as my exploration was coming to an end.

An early evening stroll back to the Gard du Nord was all that there was between me and my return train journey home.

Sitting aboard the train it is apparent why this city draws so many visitors. Its colour, scale, spatial planning, and a respect for the past makes it a joy to visit.

Au revoir mes amis.


When trying to save space or create sleek lines benches might well be a good option.

Whether used for informal, formal, or alfresco dining, benches not only save space but add an air of sociability. When not in use the backless ones can be stowed away beneath a table thus providing easier circulation. Even those with backs look more neat and tidy than a row of single seats.

My research revealed that benches come in all shapes and sizes and in a vast range of finishes. They might be quite basic or beautifully upholstered in luxurious fabrics. Even the wooden ones can be made more comfortable with the addition of a purpose made seat pad, cushions or a sheepskin rug.

My recent visit to Top Drawer underlined how popular and versatile this type of seating can be. It is a style that I particularly favour as it conjures up cosy “elbows on the table” type suppers with friends or family, or perhaps both..

Particularly practical for children as they like to hop up and down from the table, but perhaps less so for people with restricted mobility. To cater for both a mix of individual chairs and a bench might be the answer.

Something to bear in mind is that backless benches may prove less practical for leisurely lunches as they are likely to become less comfortable as the meal progresses. Even the ones with backs may be not be a winner as guests might feel confined and restricted.

Choosing the perfect bench

When choosing a bench the same considerations should apply as when choosing any dining seating. Dimensions are critical, particularly seat height in relation to the table height.

Width should also be taken into account when deciding how many seats can be accommodated.

Overall height is important with regards to sight lines and of course quality should be checked to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Whilst looking at various options I particularly liked the contemporary style of the Arundel oak bench and matching dining table at Neptune.

For a more luxurious finish I discovered an extraordinary selection of upholstered dining benches and chairs at Angel & Boho all of which are fully customisable.

For more information click on this link to read OKA’s guide to choosing a dining chair

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