Smell the roses: a trip to Amsterdam

Hey friends!
Let's take a moment and have a look back at the last smell the roses goal - visit a place that you've never been before.

What is SMELL THE ROSES?

Two weeks ago, I flew to Amsterdam for the first time.
And that was AMAZING.
Apart from our delayed baggage problem, it was definitely one of the best holidays we've ever had.
Majestic.

This 3-day stay was also the first holidays we had as a couple since we had our son, two years ago.
I felt a bit weird leaving him at his grandparents' for the first time.
We missed him so much!

On Monday 7th May, we took a flight from Nantes, France to Amsterdam.
It was unexpectedly hot during our stay. Around 28 degrees Celsius.
We enjoyed long strolls in the streets of beautiful Amsterdam - I'm sure we walked at least 20 km everyday.

We also visited:

• The Royal Palace ☆☆☆
You know that I love royals, so the Koninklijk Paleis was definitely on my list of places to visit in Amsterdam.
It was interesting but I expected to see more - don't get me wrong I knew I wasn't going to come across the king and queen!


• The Heineken Experience ☆☆☆☆
My husband wanted to do this one. I don't drink alcohol but thought the visit was fun and entertaining.

• The Canals ☆☆☆☆☆
What can I say? Great moment. We had the 1-hour cruise in the evening when it was still warm and absolutely loved it.
The captain was so much fun ad we learned a lot about the city and the canals.

• The Flower Market ☆☆☆☆
Maybe too many people but a great place to buy souvenirs and flower bulbs.

• Madame Tussauds ☆
We decided to visit Amsterdam's Tussauds museum but didn't like it. Especially after visiting London's Tussauds museum so many times. But I'm glad I took a picture with Ryan Gosling.

• The Rijksmuseum ☆☆☆☆☆
We started the visit when it opened at 9 in the morning. There weren't a lot of people so we could easily see all the art inside.
The Rijksmuseum is definitely a must-see. I love art museums - I feel so happy around paintings and artwork in general.
Saw The Milkmaid by Vermeer!

• The Moco Museum ☆☆☆☆☆
I was so, so excited when I passed the museum one morning and noticed that they were currently exhibiting some of Banksy's artwork - and Lichtenstein too.
The museum is such a cute little place and I really enjoyed walking in the different Banksy rooms.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit Anne Frank's house and the Van Gogh Museum because they were booked for weeks and weeks ahead. We will book earlier next time!
We thought Amsterdammers were so nice and warm. We never heard a local grumble or complain - erm... I'm French.
There were a lot of tourists and I was impressed by their positive and relaxed attitude.

One last thing...
We stayed at the Hotel City Garden on Hoofstraat, next to Vondelpark.
I can only praise this hotel - well situated, clean room and friendly staff.

In a nutshell, three words to describe our stay in Amsterdam - welcoming, chilled and unique.
I definitely recommend it. I loved it so much I've felt depressed since I left...

Be sure to follow me on Instagram for Amsterdam instastories!

Next smell the roses:
▲ Put your favourite photo in a frame ▲

I AMSTERDAM... DEFINITELY!

Reviewing the books I've read in March and April 2018

It's early May and this seems like a good time to review the books I've read in the past two months.
Don't you think so?

Today I'm going to review six books - one of which was really, really disappointing.

Here are the prompts I chose in March and April:
• A book made into a movie you've already seen
• A childhood classic you've never read
• A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to
• A book by a local author
• Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges: a book about an interesting woman
• A book about feminism

NEW MOON by Stephenie Meyer ☆☆☆☆☆
I read the first book of the Twilight series earlier this year and I completely fell in love with it.
And this second part was as good as the first in my opinion - read my review of TWILIGHT.
New Moon starts with Edward leaving Bella - for her own good.
Bella is devastated and depressed of course, and she'll need months to recover from it.
She will feel much better thanks to Jacob, with whom she has some kind of love/friendship.
As I've already mentioned in my first review, I love Stephenie Meyer's writing.
I think it's well written, told and described.
I literally suffered with Bella while Edward was gone but also fell in love with supportive friend Jacob.
I really enjoyed reading about the new characters, the werewolves and the fascinating Volturi.
After reading New Moon, I spent hours reading the back stories of these vampires and even watched short films about them.
The Twilight world is so interesting and fascinating - and I already can't wait to read book 3.

THE WITCHES by Roald Dahl ☆☆☆☆
I borrowed the book from the library and it was a really quick read - just a couple of hours one afternoon.
I am a huge fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda but had never had the pleasure to read this one.
I remember watching the film starring Anjelica Huston when I was little but had no idea it was originally a book by Roald Dahl.
I enjoyed following the adventures of this little boy, who finds out about witches.
The relationship with his grandmother is also so endearing and precious.
Reminds me of my badass grandma!

THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood ☆
Guys, I am so disappointed with this one...
I had so much high expectations and it left me completely unsatisfied.
Everybody around me loved it - and I feel like a total outsider.
The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel taking place in the Republic of Gilead.
In a nutshell, Offred is a Handmaid, whose role in this new society is to bear children for infertile couples.
I found this novel boring, but I don't like leaving a book unfinished so I continued reading even if it really annoyed me.
I just couldn't engage with any of the characters - not even the protagonist, and wasn't keen on the writing style either.
My last hope remains the Hulu TV show with Elizabeth Moss.
Is it any good?

L'ENSORCELÉE by Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly ☆☆
L'Ensorcelée, or Bewitched, is a novel by 19th-century French writer Barbey D'Aurevilly.
It tells the story of a young woman, married to a farmer ruined by the French Revolution, who falls in love with a priest.
One thing you should know is that I am not a fan of reading books in French.
It is my first language but I have been reading in English for years, and I feel more comfortable with it.
It sounds more flowing to me - and I secretly wish I was English!
The book was ok - I liked reading about familiar places since the story is set in Normandy, where I live.

ANNE BOLEYN: THE QUEEN OF CONTROVERSY by Lacey Baldwin Smith ☆☆☆
I have always been a huge history nerd - especially British history and royals.
I'm the proud owner of a Queen Elisabeth teacup and Duchess of Cambridge coasters.
I also have a beautiful Henry VIII's six wives mug which I love.
My favourite wife is definitely Anne Boleyn. Has always been.
She is fascinating in so many ways, and that's why I picked this book for the prompt "a book about an interesting woman".
When I got this book, I first thought it was historical fiction - like Philippa Gregory's books.
It's actually a biography with lots of historical and political references and footnotes.
I found it very interesting, even though I am not an expert in Tudor politics.
It's a good read and I recommend it if you like Tudor history.

SLUT!: GROWING UP FEMALE WITH A BAD REPUTATION by Leora Tanenbaum ☆☆☆☆
Slut! was a really interesting book on slut-bashing.
Along with her own experience, the author collected accounts of women who were called sluts, and either the subject of rumors, threatened, or harassed because of sexual double standard.
This book resonated with me because I experienced slut-bashing in my late teens.
It was a hurtful experience which really affected my already low self-esteem and trust in people.
Some accounts are heart-wrenching and brought back painful memories, but it also reminded me that I wasn't alone.
I like that the author not only blames teenage boys and men in general for slut-bashing, but also girls/women because they can be much worse to each other.
I think this is definitely a must-read, both for young boys and girls.

What did you recently read?

MARCH + APRIL READS

Smell the roses: a list of my favourite Ted Talks

Hello friends!
Sorry I've been MIA for the past few weeks - snowed in with work, personal matters and you know... the usual obligations.
It's Monday, which means it's also time to recap the last smell the roses goal - watch a TED Talk.

What is SMELL THE ROSES?

TED is a media organisation that holds conferences all around the world and posts them online for free.
The talks are short but very diverse - from scientific and cultural topics to personal experiences and economics.
You can really find whatever you're looking for.

I have been watching TED Talk presentations for years.
I'm very curious about people's lives & love hearing about personal experiences so I'm naturally drawn to that sort of Talks.
They are truly inspiring and thought-provoking - and I often rewatch my favourites.

Here is the list of my favourite TED Talks.
There are a lot of them - but these are just so powerful and inspiring!
I highly recommend you watch them and let me know what your favourites are!

WHY I MUST COME OUT | Geena Rocero
MY ESCAPE FROM NORTH KOREA | Hyeonseo Lee
LOOKS AREN'T EVERYTHING. BELIEVE ME, I'M A MODEL | Cameron Russell
WHY THINKING YOU'RE UGLY IS BAD FOR YOU | Meaghan Ramsey
HOW I WORK TO PROTECT WOMEN FROM HONOR KILLINGS | Khalida Brohi
MY YEAR READING A BOOK FROM EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD | Ann Morgan
I SURVIVED A TERRORIST ATTACK. HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED | Gill Hicks
WHAT I LEARNED AS A PRISONER IN NORTH KOREA | Euna Lee
WHAT I LEARNED SERVING TIME FOR A CRIME I DIDN'T COMMIT | Teresa Njoroge
MY SON WAS A COLUMBINE SHOOTER. THIS IS MY STORY | Sue Klebold

Notice they are all given by female speakers.
As a woman myself, I guess I'm just more concerned with women issues and stories - seen from a woman's perspective.

The last TED Talk I watched was Sue Klebold's, the mother of one of the Columbine shooters.
It was given in 2016 and I watched it just after reading Columbine by Dave Cullen.
Mrs Klebold really touched me. I admire her courage to stand up and speak about the tragedy.

Do you watch TED Talks?

Next smell the roses:
▲ Visit a place that you've never been before ▲

MY TED TALKS

Smell the roses: I'm no talker

I HATE talking on the phone.
It's a huge source of stress for me and I always try to avoid calling someone.

That's the reason why I did not complete last week's goal - call someone I don't get to see very often.
No big deal, really. I didn't want to do something that made me uncomfortable.

I'd decided to call my godmother earlier last week.
I haven't talked to her for a long, long time and I thought a little catch up would be great.
I scrolled my contacts and almost pressed her number but then I gave up and threw my phone on the sofa.
I did not even send her a text message because I knew she'd instantly call me.

Let me tell you what happens when I have to make or take phone calls.
First, there are very few chances I'll answer a phone call because my smartphone is always on silent mode.
I hate the sound of a telephone ringing - it scares me and puts me in full anxiety mode.
When I see an incoming call, I ignore it and never call back - most of the time.
I'd rather send a text or an email.

I think my fear of talking on the phone mainly has to do with me being an introvert.
Unexpected phone calls and unknown numbers are the worst & interacting with people can be so nerve-wracking for me.
Even when it comes to ordering pizza. Like, I need to rehearse "Hello, I'd like one Hawaiian pizza please" a thousand times.

This smell the roses was a good way to step out of my comfort zone - but I really didn't feel like being pressured.
Do you hate talking on the phone?

This week's smell the roses:
▲ Watch a TED Talk ▲

THE PHONE

A recap of my Postcrossing experience and sending/receiving postcards from around the world

This is NOT a sponsored post.

Mid-January, I set up the challenge to write messages to random strangers - so I subscribed to Postcrossing.
If you don't know what Postcrossing is and how it works, please check out my Travelling Postcards post!

Almost two months have passed since I sent my first card to a fellow Postcrosser in Germany.
Now I'm ready to share my experience.

Let's talk numbers and places first.

FIFTEEN POSTCARDS SENT:
Four to Germany - to Katharina, Klaus, Anke and Siegfried
Two to Finland - to Seija and Marja-Liisa
Two to Russia - to Maria and Arina
Two to Belarus - to Anastasia and Alexandr
One to Japan - to Mayumi
One to Singapore - to Jonathan
One to Czech Republic - to Ganna
One to the United States - to Rob
One to Turkey - to Atlastiko

ELEVEN POSTCARDS RECEIVED:
Six from Germany - from Lothar, Wolfgang, Edeltraut, Gabi, Daniela and Lisa
One from the USA - from Michelle 
One from Belarus - from Tatiana
One from The Netherlands - from Coks
One from Taiwan - from Tina
One from Canada - from Michael

Clicking on "request an address" is such an exciting moment.
You don't know who you're going to write to and where - it's totally random!
Once a recipient has been assigned, I read the profile carefully and always try to send a postcard that the person will like - I like to imagine their reaction when they receive my postcards.
Some Postcrossers suggest a list of themes: some collect animal cards while others like receiving famous monuments or landscapes.

I purchased a stock of really cute postcards with different themes - vintage ads, landscapes, words of affirmation... and went to the post office to buy beautiful stamps as well.

As far as I am concerned, I don't ask for any particular type or theme for my postcards.
I just want them to be handwritten and people can write about anything: who they are, what they like, things to do where they live, their favourite quote...

I am so happy when I see one in my letterbox.
All the messages I got were lovely and I really enjoyed getting to know these people a bit - even if I will never meet them or write to them again.

Now that I started a collection of poscards, I'm still wondering what I can do with them.
I can put them in an album or hang them on a huge cork board or metal grid panel.
What do you suggest?

If you're curious about the postcards I receive, follow me on Instagram and search the hashtag #franspostcards.

TWO MONTHS OF POSTCROSSING

Smell the roses: inspiring quotes to live by

Hello friends.
Smell the roses is back with a short recap of the last challenge - write down three inspirational quotes.

What is SMELL THE ROSES?

Last week was a great time to reflect on things.
I read a lot of inspiring quotes by great people and they really boosted my mood.
We all need inspiring words to lift our spirits, keep us motivated and improve the quality of our lives.

I have been a huge Oprah Winfrey fan for years - she's such a remarkable woman.
She delivers amazing speeches and is so supportive, she inspires us all and I would love to meet her in person.
Earlier last week, I picked three quotes by Oprah that I wrote on sticky notes and put on my entrance mirror.

"Turn your wounds into wisdom."

"Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you."

"The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance -
and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning."

The above quotes really speak to me.
I could see them every day when I entered or left the house, or just when I looked myself at the mirror.
I highly recommend you do the same - choose a few inspirational quotes and put them on a mirror, or somewhere else.
It will help you feel great, confident and motivated.

Did you stop and smell the roses last week?

Next smell the roses - drumroll:
▲ Call someone I don't get to see very often▲

INSPIRING QUOTES TO LIVE BY

Books I read in February.

I'm back with a monthly reads post!
But I must say February has not been a really good reading month.
I was so busy with watching films, as part of my highly-anticipated annual Oscar predictions.
Speaking of that, I will share them on Twitter next Sunday. I can't wait!

I read two books in February - and these were very good ones.

They correspond to the following reading challenge prompts:
• A book with your favourite colour in the title
• A book with a time of day in the title

▲ THE BLUEST EYE by Toni Morrison ☆☆☆☆
I just can't believe this is the first book that I've read by this author.
I knew Toni Morrison but hadn't had the opportunity to read one of her works yet. Shame.
The Bluest Eye is her first novel and was released in 1970.
Set in Ohio in the 40's, it mostly revolves around Pecola, an eleven-year old African American girl, who believes she's ugly and prays for blue eyes. She thinks this miracle could change everything, keep her brother at home, make her mother love her, make her classmates think she's pretty and prevent her father from abusing her.
First off, the fact that a little black girl fantasizes about looking like Shirley Temple so that everybody likes her broke my heart.
The effect of beauty standards on her made me angry and so sad.
The book also addresses harsh topics like racism, poverty, alcoholism & incest - which sometimes make the reading difficult.
But despite those heavy issues, I enjoyed the author's writing style and found it powerful.
When I finished the book, all I wanted to do was hug and reassure Pecola and the two MacTeer sisters.
I'm glad I picked The Bluest Eye for the reading challenge - and I can't wait to read more books by Morrison.

TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer ☆☆☆☆☆
Do I need to present this book?
Seventeen-year old Bella decides to leave sunny Arizona where she lived with her mother to settle with her father.
She thinks she'll give up everything she loves and that she'll never get used to rainy Forks.
Until she meets the disturbing and handsome Edward Cullen at her new high school...
I must admit - I watched all the films before reading the book.
I really enjoyed all of them and had even bought the book series but they just stayed right there, in my bookcase.
Let me tell you - I absolutely loved the first book.
If I hadn't been so busy, I would have finished it in a day because it's definitely a page turner.
I could have been bored since I already know the story - but Stephenie Meyer's writing style had me hooked.
From the beginning of the novel I was completely immersed in Twilight's atmosphere and really enjoyed the fluid narration.
I'm not a huge fan of vampires but found myself really attracted to them & even fall in love with Edward - as if I were Bella.
It was also very interesting to read about the vampires' human lives - especially Carlisle's.
If you haven't read Twilight yet, I highly recommend you do. Even if you have seen the films.
It's totally worth it.

What did you read in February?

I just finished The Witches by Roald Dahl and I'm about to dive into New Moon, which is Twilight's sequel. I'm addicted!

FEBRUARY READS

Smell the roses: showing blog love

Hello friends!
Let's take a look back on last week's smell the roses - read and leave comments on ten blog posts.

What is SMELL THE ROSES?

I have been reading blogs for years but have always been a very bad commenter.
Every time I read a post I want to leave a comment but I just don't know what to say.
I could leave a nice "Great post!" but it doesn't seem enough for me - so I just don't leave any.

I really wanted this smell the roses to be an everyday thing - but I couldn't find enough time for some blog reading last week.
I did scan a few posts, bookmarked some of them - but mostly read and left comments on Sunday.
My comments weren't very constructive but I enjoyed reading the blog posts.

That's why I'm going to share them - and invite you to read/comment and give these lovely bloggers some blog love!

Enjoy the reading ☺︎

SELF LOVIN' by Chloe | Chloe Louise

A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE AND BUILDING MYSELF BACK UP AGAIN by Amie | The Curvaceous Vegan

♡ MY BIPOLAR STORY PART 1 by Catherine | Working with Bipolar


♡ 5 THINGS I'M LOVING by Jemma | Dorkface

♡ 26 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED IN 26 YEARS by Lauren | Bournemouth Girl

♡ 7 WAYS TO SHOW LOVE ALL YEAR ROUND by Jordan | Hello Miss Jordan

♡ 7 PODCASTS YOU NEED TO HEAR by Ellie | Ellie K


♡ I HAVE OPENED AN ETSY SHOP by Bexa | Hello Bexa

ACHIEVING ORGANIC BLOG GROWTH by Charlotte | Charlotte Nicole

♡ THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD by Soffy | The Mum Affairs

♡ WHY YOU NEED A BLOGGING SCHEDULE TO KEEP YOUR BLOG ON POINT by Stephanie | Stephanie Vivienne

♡ HOW I USE PINTEREST TO DRIVE TRAFFIC TO MY BLOG by Maud | My Passion Projects

♡ MY TOP 5 MUST HAVE APPS FOR NEW BLOGGERS by Esther | Esther Wyse

MOVIES I WATCHED IN JANUARY by Zoe | Just Zoe

MY BULLET JOURNAL by Amy | Amy Edmonds

♡ OUR LOVE SONGS PLAYLIST by Melanie | Fraser's Fun House



Did you stop and smell the roses last week?

Next smell the roses:
▲ Write down three inspirational quotes ▲

SHOWING BLOG LOVE

A book review of the Actually book series by Ali McNamara

Hello friends!
With Valentine's Day around the corner, I couldn't wait to share my thoughts on one of the best book series I've read in years.
The ACTUALLY book series written by the lovely Ali McNamara.

 It includes three books:
FROM NOTTING HILL WITH LOVE... ACTUALLY
FROM NOTTING HILL TO NEW YORK... ACTUALLY
FROM NOTTING HILL WITH FOUR WEDDINGS... ACTUALLY

I'm sure it already makes you want to read them just by reading the titles!
That's what I first thought when I came across From Notting Hill with Love... Actually one day on Goodreads.
Not only did it draw my attention, but the cover illustration and the back cover blurb also attracted me.

From Goodreads -
She was just a girl, standing in front of a boy... wishing he looked more like Hugh Grant.
Scarlett loves the movies. But does she love sensible fiancé David just as much?
With a big white wedding on the horizon, Scarlett really should have decided by now...
When she has the chance to house-sit in Notting Hill - the setting of one of her favourite movies - Scarlett jumps at the chance.
But living life like a movie is trickier than it seems, especially when her new neighbour Sean is so irritating.
And so irritatingly handsome, too.
Scarlett soon finds herself starring in a romantic comedic of her very own: but who will end up as the leading man?

These books are page-turners for sure.
I am a fan of Ali McNamara's writing style and storytelling - and I just couldn't put the books down.
I love rom coms and the Actually story was so lovely, charming and very entertaining.

The heroine, named Scarlett, is adorable but also very clumsy, which lands her in some funny situations.
I could easily relate to her as she always daydreams and likes to compare her surroundings, the people she meets and situations to her favourite films - which annoys her relatives a lot... but certainly not me!
In fact, she originally decides to house-sit in London to show her dad & her fiancé that living like your life is a film can be done.
And then she unintentionally finds herself the heroine of her own romantic comedy.

I instantly fell in love with Scarlett, and with her new neighbour, Sean, too. What a man.
I found myself attracted to him very quickly and could easily picture him as a younger version of Simon Baker.
The minor characters are also very good - sometimes a bit too cliché - but they are definitely necessary to the story.

Also, as an avid movie fan, I really enjoyed all the romantic films references.
The Holiday, Love Actually, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary, Pretty Woman and many more. You will love it.
Scarlett even meets celebrities in real life, and there's even a weekend getaway to Disneyland Paris in the first book!
Did you know you could actually get married in Sleeping Beauty's castle?

I highly recommend all lovers of romantic comedies and chick lit in general read this book series.
It was a really good story that hooked me in and made me want to keep on reading.
From Notting Hill to New York... and From Notting Hill with Four Weddings... are just as lovely & entertaining.
I really hope the author will release another Actually novel because I want to read more of Scarlett's adventures.

Ali McNamara is an amazing author and also the queen of music and film references in books.
She has written seven books and her latest one, The Summer of Serendipity, came out last year.

THE ACTUALLY BOOK SERIES BY ALI MCNAMARA

@FRANSCOFFEEBRKS

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