Tara Doody, the winner of Style at Home’s 15th anniversary Eat, Shop, Decorate contest, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the ultimate three-city European vacation and shares her top three moments from the trip.
Read on to find out Tara’s favourite memories from Rome, Paris and London!
Guest post by Eat, Shop, Decorate winner Tara Doody
As our incredible Walks of Italy food tour was winding down, Simona (our guide), Erin McLaughlin (Style at Home editor-in-chief), Caroline Andrews (publisher), Shae and I enjoyed an espresso while we discussed our plans for the remainder of the day. I mentioned to Erin that I was looking for artwork and she suggested we go to the antique paper market, which wasn’t too far from where we were. Armed with vague directions and an Italian vocabulary that consisted of the word “grazie”, Shae and I started walking.
Overdressed for the warm Roman weather, we anticipated to be walking for 15 minutes. Over four hours later (and countless wrong turns), we stumbled upon a piazza filled with dozens of vendors selling their antique prints. It was exactly what I had imagined. Determined not to leave empty handed, we began searching. We looked through dozens of folders filled with beautiful art, each organized by subject. Just as the vendors were beginning to pack up for the day, we had narrowed down our choices.
I left with two gorgeous, muted architectural prints from the late 1800s that are so old and brittle they tear every time I touch them. I plan on framing the prints and mounting them on top of the mats – torn edges and all!
Excited for our private tour of the Pierre Frey showroom, Caroline, Erin, Kirsten Korhani (of Korhani home), Shae and I left our charming hotel (Hotel Therese) and took a short cab ride to the showroom. Situated on a quintessential Parisian street, Pierre Frey greeted us at the door. He welcomed us into his exquisite space, offering us cookies and coffee. We immediately felt as if we were in the company of an old friend.
He began the tour by giving us a brief history of the company his grandfather, Pierre Frey, established in 1935. It was fascinating listening to Pierre share the stories behind some of the most famous fabric in the world – some of which was simply inspired by a photo his father took of a downtown skyline. He also showed us a few other products they have been working on, including a Pierre Frey handbag – we all left wanting one!
After we oohed and aahed over everything in the showroom (and maybe a little over Pierre!), it was time to eat. We took a short stroll down the street and entered Le Grand Colbert. Pierre treated us to the most amazing lunch – incredible food, great wine and fantastic company. To top it off, we found out that Le Grand Colbert is the famous French restaurant that was seen in my favourite movie, Something’s Gotta Give. I couldn’t have planned a more perfect day!
Another highlight was our experience traveling on Rail Europe. The train stations are situated in central locations and getting on and off the train was very efficient (unlike an airport). Our seats were luxurious and very roomy, while the bathrooms reminded me of a Star Wars theme! We all agreed that Rail Europe was the best way to travel within Europe, where possible. Particularly when we went from Paris to London, the train was no doubt the smoothest, quickest and most enjoyable way to get there!
With one day left in London, we realized we didn’t have time to see everything on our “Top 10 list”. Instead, we decided to choose one thing and to take our time and enjoy it.
We agreed on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and so our morning began at Gail’s Cafe with an amazing breakfast – we were not expecting the food in London to be so good! We spent hours strolling in and out of all the funky little shops lining Portobello Road. We bought spices (including the most flavourful tumeric) at the world famous The Spice Shop, wool newsboy caps for the men in our lives, oil paintings by local art students, and once it started raining, we had to buy some Hunter boots! We finally stepped foot in the famous Cath Kidston store we had been hearing so much about – and we were not disappointed, leaving with quite a few items and tons of inspiration.
As we headed back up Portobello Road, we stopped several times to admire all the perfectly kept row houses with their brightly painted doors. Just as we were leaving Notting Hill, we happily stumbled upon something else on our Top 10 list – Jamie Oliver’s new store/restaurant, Recipease. We couldn’t leave without tasting the food so we shared a plate of Jamie’s delicious flat bread while soaking up the eclectic decor. After a few more shops (and a few more purchases), we headed back to our hotel on a red double decker, completely satisfied with our little dose of London.
I want to say “Thank You” again to the whole Style at Home team for organizing this incredible contest. I still can’t believe I won. Being given the opportunity to take 10 days out of my everyday life to spend with my sister, Erin and Caroline is something I will be forever grateful for. The memories created on this trip are ones that will last a lifetime and getting to know Erin and Caroline was a blast – we enjoyed many great experiences and shared many laughs. I can now, personally, see why Style at Home is Canada’s #1 decorating magazine!