Things to do Palm Springs

When I arrived in Palm Springs for a weekend I was ready for a few days lounging by the pool… but I soon discovered there was plenty to see and do in this hot desert town from adventure jeep tours to date farming.

To stay

Stay at the hip Ace Hotel and Swim Club where the rooms are decorated in a fitting rustic beach style with Rudy’s Barbershop toiletries and memorable design features (like the matchstick bedside lights!) When the sun goes down visit the Amigo Room bar for tasty pork shoulder tacos and a ‘Desert Facial’ cocktail. I was lucky to be there on a Tuesday evening when ‘Terry’s Karaoke’ was in full swing.

To eat

I wasn’t overly impressed by the food options in Palm Springs, but was delighted to discover Smoke Tree BBQ, thanks to a recommendation from a fellow foodie in London. Don’t let the unlikely location put you off, this friendly local eatery serves delicious BBQ meat. I tried the amazing slow cooked beef brisket and baby back ribs, super soft meat with a huge depth of flavour. The creamed corn was the perfect accompaniment.

To drink

Whether its morning or afternoon, Ernest Coffee is the best place to get your iced coffee fix, serving the popular Stumptown brand of roasted beans.

To do

Desert Adventures offer manageable tours of this areas top sights and attractions. I joined them for the popular sunset tour of San Andreas Fault Line. Six of us loaded into an open air red jeep with our lovely tour guide Dick and headed off into in the sandy horizon. We learnt a huge amount about the history of the Californian desert, the culture of the native Cahuilla Indians and the unique wildlife and geology of the area. We stopped at a natural palm oasis and spotted three wild rattlesnakes, before heading to famous fault line to stand between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.

For a dose of culture, head to the Palm Springs Art Museum. We enjoyed the Killer Heels temporary exhibition, which showcases some of the most impressive designer shoes from through the ages. Upstairs there is a collection of contemporary works and outside a colourful sculpture garden is particularly striking against the palm tree backdrop.

Palm Springs is well known for its dates and the Shields Date Garden is a great place to learn about the fruit as well as tasting the sweet delicacy. The farm has been around since 1924, and now offers a contemporary cafe, garden walk and a short video about the sex life of a date! Don’t leave without trying the famous date milkshake.

When you need a city escape the dry and deserted Joshua Tree National Park is unique place to explore. Entry for a car costs $20 and you are then able to spend as long as you like enjoying the various natural wonders. Don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden and Keys View.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the number one attraction in Palm Springs offering unrivalled views of the valley and Mount San Jacinto. The world’s largest rotating tram will take you up 8516 feet above sea level, where the temperature is a staggering 20 degrees less than ground level. When at the top there are numerous trails and hikes to enjoy, or simply admire the amazing views.

Things to do in Brussels

Brussels has garnered a reputation as a boring business destination, but I discovered a range of shops, restaurants and cafes that illustrated a creative and exciting side to the city. Just two hours from London on the Eurostar, Belgian is accessible and easy to get to.  As the capital city Brussels is home to many of the flagship stores and important sights. We particularly enjoyed the chocolate, beer and chip tasting!

To stay

The Dominican – this hotel has a focus on design, art and history and is set on the site of what used to be a 15th century Dominican abbey. Located in the centre of Brussels, this accommodation is part of the Design Hotel group featuring the designs of the renowned Amsterdam brand FGStijl. The interior is a modern renovation and revitalisation of the old cloisters and original architecture.

To eat

WY Brussels – this is the newest project from star chef Bart De Pooter, and was prompted awarded a Michelin star. It is a very special and unusual eatery, concealed within Mercedes House, the posh car showroom. We enjoyed a delicious lunch here trying their specialities like the innovative Bacon and cabbage dish.

La Boule D’Or – those searching for traditional Belgian cuisine should head to La Boule D’Or. Most often crammed with hungry locals, this characterful corner café serves favourites like meatballs and steak with chips. Prices are reasonable and the service is friendly.

To drink

Hortense – we were delighted to discover this spirits and cocktail bar, hidden in a tiny cave along Place du Sablon. The little candlelit bar is very atmospheric and serves up tasty inventive drinks. We enjoyed short flavoured cocktails accompanied with the house salt and pepper popcorn.

Chez Franz – this local and atmospheric venue is easy-going and trendy. The perfect stop for a hearty weekend brunch or an evening pint of Belgian blond beer.

OR Espresso Bar – a micro roaster, coffee training centre and coffee bar this little venue was recommended to me several times as the best place to get my morning caffeine fix. Small and characterful I was pleased with my strong but creamy takeaway flat white.

To do

Marolles Flea Market – This street market is open every day all year round and is the place to find a bargain. Rare antiques and vintage trinkets are found amongst the modern tat, you just need the patience to rummage through.

Museum of Musical Instruments – housed in a magnificent Art Nouveau building this impressive collection of instruments from across the ages is presented here in an informative and fun way. As you walk around the audio guide will play you the authentic sounds of the instruments in front of you.

Manneken Pis – “Little man Pee” in Dutch and le Petit Julien in French) is a bizarre landmark in Brussels. The small bronze sculpture depicts a naked little boy urinating into a fountain’s basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618 or 1619.

To shop

Maison Dandoy – we stumbled across this charming little biscuit shop. A sweet institution established in 1829, Dandoy produces irresistable oven-fresh biscuits. Coincidentally the original shop is found in Brussels on rue au Beurre (Butter street).

L’Antichambre – an unmissable boutique on the Brussels shopping scene. Owner Anne Pascale has created a sensual shop with the highest quality scents from Grasse, and will work with clients to create their very own bespoke fragrance. I was lucky enough to make my own, which I named Resolument Moderne including Chocolate, Spicy Pepper and Fig ingredients. L’Antichambre also produce a range of beautiful scented candles, try the unique flavour Le tomate verte.

Mary – this pretty feminine shop has packaging that is just as lovely as the chocolates. There are now a few branches of this artisan brand, all stocking the signature illustrated boxes filled with seriously delicious treats. My favourite chocolate shop in Brussels, a box of Mary chocolates would be a memorable gift for someone special.

Hunting and Collecting – this spacious, cleanly arranged shop stocks a range of labels, which are rotated regularly, so you are bound to find a new gem every time you visit. The basement hosts art exhibitions whilst upstairs you can browse the tailored clothes, and lust after the design objects and striking accessories.

Pierre Marcolini – when you ask the locals in Belgium for the best chocolate, most will point towards the haute chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini. The shop is more like a museum with immaculately presented chocolates everywhere you look. I loved the coloured heart collection, which are almost too pretty to demolish!

La Fabrika – Opened by Kelly Claessens in 2010 this design haven stocks a beautifully curated collection of classic furniture, unusual books and chic accessories that would complement any home. La Fabrika is a trendsetter in Brussels and is popular with the stylish Bohemian locals.

Le Typographe – I have been excited about my trip to this stationery emporium for months, so entering the doors of the perfectly ordered shop was a joy. Alongside the carefully hand-picked pens, pencils and other writing paraphernalia Le Typographe stock their own brand, often neon, cards, envelopes and notebooks. An atelier of the finest stationery, I wanted it all.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with Eurostar.

·         Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels with return fares from £69.

·         Tickets to any Belgium station start from £79.

·         Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hours.

·         Tickets are available from or 03432 186 186.

Hot on the Highstreet Week 244

Fragonard is one of France’s most famous perfumery houses, located in Grasse in the south of France, an area known for its perfume making history. Fragonard makes its products in its own factory, which is one of the most interesting sights in the town of Grasse. Whilst in Provence this weekend I visited the wonderful historic museum and shop, a fragrant homage to the brand.

The house was founded by Eugene Fuchs in 1926 in Grasse. He named the company in honour of the French rococo painter Jean-Honore Fragonard who lived ion the town. Over time there have been hundreds of scents from this old perfume house. The earliest edition was created in 1928 and the newest is from 2015. The nose who worked on the fragrances most recently belongs to Jean Guichard, a true expert in the field.

The Museum offers free entry to all visitors, and is a lovely place to learn about this special company. With magnificent views over the Cote D’Azur and nearby cafes for lunch, Grasse is the perfect Provencal town to spend the day.

You can now buy a range of the Fragonard products at Marks & Spencer, one of the most familiar chains on the British highstreet. I particularly loved the Brioche-scented candle, which would make your home smell like a French bakery!

More information on Fragonard here, and buy the products from M&S here.