A Day in Paris (& A Night at The Hoxton Hotel)

I emerged from Gare du Nord, into the rain. The sky was grey. The pink blossom glow faded second by second as I walked to my hotel; umbrella resting on my shoulder, bounding over puddles, eyes on everything.

The Hoxton, Paris. Although not particularly welcoming in layout (you have to walk through the bar and sitting rooms to get to the reception area) it was, from all I could see, a most beautifully decorated hotel.


I didn’t see the restaurant. When I asked if I should book a table, the receptionist said, ‘You are on your own, you should eat in your room!’ At first I was slightly offended by this, but by the time I’d met my bed (which was super squishy and smelt like Play-Doh), I felt it was the right advice.

I put the tele on and ordered room service. I couldn’t work out why there was so much stabbing. It seems that in between me selecting La Vie en Rose and my cheese burger arriving, I accidently missed the bit where I started watching Zodiac.

In the morning I packed up my bag and readied myself for a day of exploring. No real plans, destination Eiffel Tower.

I must give a massive shout out to Sarah for lending me one of her amazing Riut Bags. It’s the most comfortable and versatile back pack I have ever carried. It’s a multi-pocketed genius thing. All the zips are hidden against your back for security, and in this new design the bag is convertible from an everyday bag to a full-on travel pack, with just a few clips and adjustments. No backache.  I didn’t even feel like I was carrying a bag.


I walked to Le Louvre, via the gardens of the Royal Palace where pigeons posed amongst pink magnolia trees. At Le  Louvre people queued to pose on small pillars and pretend to touch the pyramid top. It was fascinating to watch.

Through Tuileries Gardens where I found crows and starlings, and across the River Seine. Down passed Bourbon Palace (didn’t look like a biscuit, disappointed) and along Rue de l’Universite to the Eiffel Tower.


What a beautiful and remarkable feat of engineering. So many times you see a landmark in reality and it doesn’t match what you’ve seen in photos (Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid anyone?) but I really did like the Eiffel Tower.

I sat and watched people buying the little monkey-metal towers that men were jingling on big wire rings, like bunches of keys chiming together. Occasionally a tiny tower would drop off into the dirt and be pecked by a pigeon or hidden by someone’s shoe.

It was quite muddy at the Eiffel Tower, people short-cutting across what was once grass, multiple children falling face first whilst parents posed for selfies.

The weather had been forecast as light rain, there were a couple of light ‘mistings’ (not worthy of being called showers) but other than that it was a cool crisp day, perfect for exploring.

I took the long walk back along Rue Pierre Charron and the Champs Elysees, window shopping and car spotting.

22.2 Kilometres. Not one cat.

People kept asking me for directions in bad French. I’ve been mistaken for Indian, Pakistani, Latvian and Irish before, but never French.

One man even stopped to ask (in French) where my bag was from, and once I’d ascertained that he wasn’t a mugger (and remembered that I was carrying a bag!) I told him. He said it looked Parisian.

I spoke French to people. I ate a baguette.

I got the RER to Charles de Gaulle airport. There was a rainbow coming out of the rear of an Easyjet plane (maybe that explains the delays). I sat and drank Orangina next to a family who were eating beef crisps.

On the night flight home I tuned in to a conversation between the flight attendant and a French passenger. ‘Anything from the trolley?’ asked the attendant. ‘L’eau’ said the man. ‘Sorry, I don’t speak French,’ she said and carried on, wheeling her way into every elbow and knee in her path.

The Hoxton Paris 30-32 Rue du Sentier, 75002 Paris, France

I was a guest of The Hoxton Paris and my stay was complimentary. As always, my opinions are my own.

These Recent Things (Go, Go, Snow, Stop)

I was about to leave the house for the train station, but then a snowflake fluttered by. That busy day of meetings turned into a tea and email fest at home. Snow day. The chickens wouldn’t come out of their house for fear that the sky was falling. I had to take porridge and sweetcorn to their door. I didn’t have to wear socks and sandals, (like a total dude) but I did anyway, and I learnt my lesson.

I’m finding it hard to believe we’re already two months into the year, but I imagine we’re all feeling the same. I think that’s why I like to write this to you, to share stories, to document memories to reaffirm that I’ve been using my time for good things.

So, here are my recent oddments of joy and wonder.

The Artificial Things exhibition closed at Cambridge University, our BORDERS exhibition opened at St Bride Foundation in Fleet Street with an amazing response, and then we travelled to Tel Aviv Israel to launch our Girl Town exhibition.

I wrote about our trip to Tel Aviv – staying in a hovel box, meeting a cross eyed cat, sharing our exhibition, being featured in a national Israeli newspaper, eating weird snacks that made my lip swell up all pouty, hanging out with friends and seeing the sights and the sea.

When we got home I was interviewed by i24NEWS. Want to see me say ‘boobies’ in front of an international audience of millions? Of course you do!


Our dear Sandra chicken (RIP) was featured on the front cover of Practical Poultry, and some of my photographs of Kettles Yard were used in an educational publication based around nature in the house.

A Huff Post article that I wrote has been nominated for a Holland Press Award.

This blog has been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards Best Travel Blog 2018.

And I got invited to visit a dog food factory and sample their food. Weird that they thought the offer might tempt me. I don’t even have a dog. (Or want to drive to Wales and eat dog food).


I ate a great meal at TOZI. I wrote about my great meal at TOZI.

I gave blood, Adam gave blood. I ate an orange Club biscuit and tried to sing Dub Be Good to Me to an old man. I wrote about it all here.

I went to the Embassy of the Netherlands and ate breakfast.

I ripped the front bumper off my car. 75% accident, 25% intent. (Two men came to tell me my bumper was hanging off, I was already out of the car and loading it into the back seat).


I went to Leigh on Sea. I saw the sea. I went to the Francesca Maffeo Gallery, recorded an interview, gave some portfolio reviews and saw some books with pigeons in.

And, in Southend, I saw a woman at the pedestrian crossing, standing in the middle of the road. She dropped something from under her arm, it bounced and rolled back into the road. It was a small dog in a little blue coat!


The end… for now.

FAQ: What Did You Do For Valentine’s Day?


I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked the question:

What did you do for Valentine’s day? Erm

Did you give a gift? Err, I’d say so, yes.
Did you go anywhere special? I guess!
What did you wear? Loose clothing.
Did you get a card? Does a donor card count?


I don’t do Valentine’s Day. I can’t help you when it comes to giving heart shaped gifts, I’ve not sent a Valentine’s card in years, and I’m not going to judge you on how many cuddly toys/red roses/boxes of chocolates/marriage proposals (delete as appropriate) you received on February 14th. Half dead petrol station flowers aren’t just for Valentine’s day, crap gifts are for life, and dogs aren’t just for Christmas (I saw someone on Instagram got a Jack Russell puppy as a Valentine’s gift. I like Jack Russells).

This year Adam and I decided to do something, by fluke it happened to coincide with Valentine’s day. We made a ‘#date2donate’ and gave some blood to a stranger. In a totally legit way, I must add.

If you’re like me and have been putting off giving blood for years, don’t. Just get on and do it. Signing up online was such a simple process, finding somewhere local to donate was easy, and I was able to book a time slot, so I knew I wouldn’t be waiting long.

The NHS needs around 200,000 new donors each year. That’s a lot of Iife changing/life saving blood. Between us we can actually make a difference.


Radar Love played on the radio as I was lowered back into my seat. I hide my veins well and often get poked about a lot by nurses, but this was fine, pin prick, easy and in. What with clenching my bum cheeks at intervals and squeezing my hand to help keep the circulation going, I didn’t have much time to think about what was happening. My lap time was 10 minutes 3 seconds. Winner! Such a harmless experience. Also, fascinating.

Afterwards I drank lemon squash and ate an orange Club biscuit. Dub Be Good To Me came on the radio, I turned to the man next to me, ‘I love this song!’ He looked at me, smiled, and got up to leave. ‘Aren’t you going to stay and listen to me do the rap?’ I called after him. He didn’t look back.

It’s quick and easy to register to become a blood donor. Visit www.blood.co.uk call the Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or download the app by searching ‘NHSGiveBlood’ in the app store. 

In the pictures:

Portable charger: Juice Powerstation (gift).
Notebook: Moleskine Classic (gift).
Felt tip pens: Pentel.
Laptop: Macbook Pro.
Watch: Nisshoku Eclipse (gift).
Rich Tea biscuits: Lidl’s.

This is not a sponsored post. 

Foodie Finds: TOZI Italian Restaurant, London

You might already know, I like my dinners. I like flavours and colours and thoughtfulness. I like chips with condiments. I also like biscuits. I don’t like peas. Every month I write a feature called Foodie Finds for Surf4. It’s a mixture of all things food, that I’ve found… genius.

I try to share a bit of everything – eating out, new products, old favourites,  cookware, tableware, kitchen gadgets and anything else that takes my fancy (ideally chocolates, every month). I thought it was about time I shared some of these delights with you, here, starting with this lovely Italian find from February.

Off the beaten track, but only moments away from London’s Victoria Station, is TOZI. A Venetian Italian restaurant, offering comfort, good service, and delicious cicchetti (tapas-style) food.

Make sure you’ve got enough time to settle in and enjoy each dish as it comes. The menu is quite large, and there’s something for every taste. Our waitress recommended we choose 3-4 dishes each, and that was more than enough for a long lunch.

Favourites from the menu include the coated cauliflower with truffle mayo (most probably the best thing to happen to a cauliflower), Buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle, and the 31 day aged rib of beef with rosemary and garlic.

I couldn’t fault a thing. The food was absolutely delicious and the service was spot on – friendly and helpful, but not too intrusive.

I’m looking forward to going back and treating the menu like an i-SPY book – ticking each item off as I go!

TOZI 8 Gillingham Street, London, SW1V 1HJ

We were guests of TOZI and lunch was complimentary.  As always my opinions and ability to eat are my own.

Tel Aviv – 5 Nights In The 24/7 City (GIRL TOWN Launch Edition)

“Are you sure this is it?” the driver asked, as he hesitantly dropped us off in the street outside our Airbnb. It was it, but it was not what I’d expected.

Up four flights of stairs, through a steel door, and into a dank dark misery hole/apartment. I wasn’t sure what to say. I watched the small lady wrestle Rachel’s duvet into its cover, leaving it twisted and bulbous, like a mangled pork product from a malfunctioning sausage extruder. She patted it down, told us to leave the key outside in the cupboard when we left, and shot off on her push along scooter.

I didn’t notice at first the words ‘Putas Israelianos’ (Israeli whores) scrawled across the front door. Turns out the last Airbnb Rachel booked was an outbuilding in someone’s back yard. She’s not been allowed to book one since!

We sat, ate hummus and crisps that we’d bought from the corner shop, listened to Pat Benatar on my phone, and waited as darkness fell. Then we got lost for an hour whilst trying to find the gallery (where later that week we’d be launching the GIRL TOWN* exhibition).

We wandered back alleys, back and forth, the waft of weed on the air. I asked for directions from a man who was eating noodles off the boot of his car. I started counting cats, I lost count quite quickly and spotted a dog wearing a shell necklace. We realised we were back where we’d started when I spotted the same cat twice. Turns out he was the gallery cat.

There are thousands of cats patrolling the streets of Tel Aviv, posing for photographs, all looking vaguely related, occasionally letting our high-pitched screams and rubbing round legs.

The gallery was a fascinating place. It was, back in the day, a print works producing communist publications, and since then many things, but I felt it had come almost full circle to now being such a socialist space. We ate dinner with some of the team, 11pm at A’la rampa, under the shadow of a multi-storey building, it’s side wall painted with a large black horse.

Back in the hovel box/apartment it got noisier as the night went on. Car alarms, sirens, shouting, revving engines, doors banging, stereos pumping out Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, until gone 4am. I had a feeling of despair, a fear that I had just signed up for five nights of sleep deprivation and shit music.

We were up and out of the pit of doom/apartment fairly early. It was hanging day at the gallery. I looked like I was hanging. My face was swollen, eyes puffed up like prawn crackers. Listening to Justin Bieber and breathing in damp, mouldy air for hours will do that to you.

The exhibition hang went well, it was relatively simple and we had free rein. Later in the afternoon we were able to meet up with my friend Moran and she toured us round Jaffa. The sea front, the wishing bridge, to Victory for ice cream (where I was able to put into use my only word of Hebrew, ‘fistuk’) up past the mosque and the catholic church, through the flea market, and back again.

We met another friend, Gali (who I’ve known for 12 years now) up at Habima Square and ate mushroom quiche at Lachmanina, probably the most expensive quiche I’ve ever eaten.


Notes from Thursday: Day off to explore. Cockroach in the hallway. Lunch omelette. Chocolate cake wedge. Cat with crossed eyes. Cat attempting to teleport whilst also attempting telepathy. Statue of the Predator in a shopping mall. Cemetery. Walked to the sea. Sent Rachel into the sea. Found a tiny plastic spanner and a piece of sea glass. Walked back through Carmel Market. Met a little dog in a cute jacket. Drank pomegranate juice (that tasted like beetroot soup). Generally explored.


When I woke up I felt less like I was wearing an inflatable mask, slightly more human. I think I had been revitalised by all those cats and their cat power, or maybe the damp was going because we’d breathed most of the moisture into our lungs.

We wondered if anyone would come to the exhibition launch, but we needn’t have worried. The exhibition had been featured in the Haaretz newspaper. There was a buzz about it, lots of people came – not only because they’d seen it in the national news but they’d also heard about the exhibition from friends all over the world.


Someone told me that my name meant ‘horn’ in Hebrew. Someone else told me it meant ‘ray of light’.

It was a relief to get the exhibition launched, and for it to go so well. On Saturday morning we stayed in bed late then wandered down to Rothschild Boulevard, to Benedict, and ate celebratory brunch.

Moran took us to the port, to the park, to Sarona market. Malls and gardens. Then to dinner. We walked back across the city and came across a protest against the government – thousands of people, flags and banners, police.


We’d been encouraged to try two Israeli snack favourites – Bissli, a kind of crispy crunchy baked pasta-like corn snack, and Bamba, a peanut butter flavoured Wotsit.

I liked the Bamba. The Bamba didn’t like me. After eating a couple of handfuls and marvelling at their amazing peanuttyness (50% peanut apparently) I started to feel sick, and dizzy, my head hurt and my neck started to swell up. I had to go and lie down. I wasn’t sure what would happen. My top lip swelled up. My sleep was filled with nightmares, punctuated by cold sweats and shakes. Then I was woken by the neighbours music at 4am. I listened, a tune that sounded so familiar to me, but one that I’d not heard for years. I concentrated, tuned in to the rhythm  and waited for the chorus.  It was La Bamba. The irony.

Favourite things from Tel Aviv: Our exhibition. Meeting lovely artists. Seeing friends. Every day sunshine. Cats everywhere. Clementines growing on trees in the street. That little dog in a jacket. The beach. Finding a piece of sea glass. The Bauhaus architecture. Seeing the Predator in a shopping mall. My new pouty top lip which, although much smaller, is still refusing to go back to normal. That Ripndip Lord Nermal shop window (top image). Why didn’t I go in and buy these slides?


*Find out more about GIRL TOWN, see  launch event photos, and read why we took the exhibition  from London Photomonth to Tel Aviv, here.

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!