21 December 2014

bright yellow jumper casual outfit

Looking back at these photos from my trip to Paris proves a stark contrast to my life now, wrapped up in a blanket after cleaning the kitchen.  Back when things were a little more exciting on our Parisian Xmas trip, a spot of shopping and visiting a chocolate factory were our main aims.  Merci was just as I'd remembered it, with the much-Instagrammed red Fiat 500 out in front and a covetable lifestyle sold within.  It was tricky for me to buy Christmas presents there because they would have all been for myself, there were travel journals, maps that you coloured in yourself and the perfect edit of pared down basics.  Even the more sensible basement floor manages to make things like hardware and lightbulbs seem desirable.  How do they do it?  I can't imagine getting this excited in Wilkinsons! 

Bastille sign Paris
Merci concept store in Paris red fiat 500
Merci concept store in Paris
winter outfit ideas
Alaine Ducasse chocolate factory Paris
Nike flyknit trainers and polka dot paige jeans
uk travel bloggers

Jumper - COS
Jeans - Paige
Trainers - Nike

Isn't it crazy to think that I barely wore trainers a few years ago and now I have enough pairs to almost rival my chunky heel collection?  I spotted a fair few Nike wearers in Paris too, almost a sort of default uniform especially in Le Marais.  That's probably where the similarities stopped, in terms of my outfit it was less Isabel Marant and more Wonderwoman.  I rediscovered this bright yellow jumper when I popped home, I think I avoided wearing it for a while because it seemed so crazy but now it seems perfectly cosy.  Sometimes it's nice to have some distance from some bits of your wardrobe so they seem new again, who knows what I'll be bringing back after the Christmas break!

Alain Ducasse chocolate factory Paris
Merci concept store in Paris
Merci concept store in Paris
galeries lafayette food hall
galeries lafayette food hall
galeries lafayette

After a morning wandering around Bastille, it was time to head west to the more hectic Boulevard Haussmann for lunch at Galeries Lafayette.  I like their thinking here, there's a whole department store that's pretty much dedicated to food, so if your designer budget is lacking then there's always cake.  It was worth popping to the main store though to see the ridiculously opulent upside-down Christmas tree, my 35mm didn't quite do it justice but hopefully you get the idea.  Oh, to have a full frame camera! 

How To Win At City Breaks #1: Amsterdam

19 December 2014

Best places to visit in Amsterdam
I feel like I have city guides coming out of my ears at the moment!  Before I share all of my Parisian discoveries, it's only fair that I show you some of my favourite finds from Amsterdam.  Although I do love a press trip, the best thing about #FiveFlyKLM was setting our own schedule and the unpredictable nature.  Sure there may have been a few delays, but I like to believe that everything happens for a reason, whether it's positive or negative.  The light going at 4pm did irk me a bit, but it meant that I explored a few new streets and discovered the most amazing stationery shop.  Sometimes you don't get time to do every thing you want but I find that any new sightings even things out.  It's just the luck of the draw! 

Cafe Bern Amsterdam fondue
Cafe Bern Amsterdam fondue

Cheese is always the answer

It was probably a bit random to have my first fondue experience in Amsterdam.  I always try and eat a bit of the traditional fare whenever I go away but when you're not quite sure what it is, then you may have to admit defeat.  Trip Advisor can be relied upon most of the time, we spotted some great reviews for Café Bern and managed to get one of the hotel staff to make a much-needed booking.  You can't go wrong with cheese really, fondue is the perfect sociable dish and we had plenty of steak, bread and salad to accompany it.  There's a strong taste of wine in their secret recipe, which can seem a bit rich after a while but we persevered anyway and ended up waddling back to our hotel.

Café Bern Nieuwe Hoogstraat 29

Shopping in Amsterdam
Shopping in Amsterdam
Like Stationery cool Amsterdam shops
Like Stationery cool Amsterdam shops
Like Stationery cool Amsterdam shops

Establish the creative areas

I knew that I needed to head to the Nine Streets area and I had a few places on my list to find, but there's only so much a website or guide book can tell you.  I wandered into Like Stationery and found a treasure trove of hard-to-find organisational brands.  This is the place to get your 2015 diary, it started off as an online store, before morphing into a pop-up and then finding a permanent space last year.  I bought my first ever 14-month planner and I'm hoping that the larger size means that I'll actually use it as it's a bit more of a calendar/book and I can see a month easily at a glance.  I also popped into Margriet Nannings, a lovely boutique with the likes of Orla Kiely and Marni.  I've only just realised that I missed an outlet on the same street, don't make the same mistake I did!     

LikeStationery, Prinsenstraat 24

Margriet Nannings, Prinsenstraat 8

Places for lunch in Nine Streets 
Places for lunch in Nine Streets 

Trust Your Instincts

It's hard work being a blogger sometimes.  You're hungry and want a decent meal, but also somewhere that will photograph well and has that unique quality that you want to share.  Well, our bellies got the better of us and we walked into Ree7 on a whim.  Little did I know that you can do this pretty much anywhere in Amsterdam and end up being happily full, a lot of places just give off an inviting sort of vibe.  It's somewhere I'm quite happy to recommend for a spot of lunch, sometimes having a sandwich can bore me a little but when there's truffle mayo involved then I'm quite happy to make an exception.  I did regret not ordering Lucy's crispy chicken sandwich but then again my beef carpaccio was a chance to try something a little different.

Ree7, Reestraat 7

Anna & Nina Amsterdam concept store
Anna & Nina Amsterdam concept store
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam
Droog Concept Store Amsterdam

If In Doubt, Head To A Concept Store

Concept stores really seem to be having a moment right now and even though I've noticed some of the same brands popping up in them, there does always seem to be an individual point of view.  Anna and Nina would definitely be considered a little more whimsical, say like Carrie or Olivia in shop form.  They had a lovely assortment of prints, plates and even golden pineapples.  Definitely leave enough room in your suitcase (and budget) if you want to pick up little homeware items.  Droog is a far larger, more contemporary and multi-faceted affair.  You can shop (for lifestyle or clothing), eat, wander around the many installations and even stay at the hotel.  It's a nice way to experience the brand even if you don't plan to buy a colourblock sofa.   

Anna & Nina, Kloveniersburgwal 44 or Gerard Doustraat 94

Droog, Staalstraat 7B

Marbles Vintage Shops in Amsterdam
Marbles Vintage Shops in Amsterdam

Sift For Some Vintage

My vintage obsession tends to come and go.  Sure I can be lucky every so often and find amazing pieces like these culottes or pair of dungarees but a lot of the time it can just be overwhelming.  I don't want a kilo store, I just want a tight edit.  I spotted a few branches of Marbles Vintage around the city and saw a great selection of coats, knitwear and shoes.  I find these are the pieces that stand out less as 'second hand' and can play into current trends pretty well.  I wish I'd enquired about a green, plush coat I'd seen in the window, but then again it wouldn't have fit in my tiny case!  I'll be back in Summer. 

Marbles Vintage, Haarlemmerdijk 64

Geflipt best burgers in Amsterdam
Geflipt best burgers in Amsterdam
Geflipt best burgers in Amsterdam

Head to Burger-Ville

One thing about De Pijp is that there's a lot of burger places.  There's The Butcher, Burgermeester and Thrill Grill but thanks to an Instagram suggestion we ended up in Geflipt.  One day it might be worth planning a trip based solely on the comments people leave for some extra spontaneity, the burgers are all organic and the pear compote was a nice sweet touch.  This is making me extremely hungry whilst writing this...  

Geflipt, Van Woustraat 15

Blond Amsterdam cute stationery and gifts
Blond Amsterdam cute stationery and gifts
Blond Amsterdam cute stationery and gifts
Blond Amsterdam cute stationery and gifts
Blond Amsterdam cute stationery and gifts

Discover a National Treasure

Blond Amsterdam is probably the Dutch equivalent to Cath Kidston.  It's a lifestyle brand with a distinct handwriting, thanks to the two friends Femque and Janneke who started creating their cheerful pottery and paintings thirteen years ago.  I guess all of the colours and cheekiness appealed to me, as much as I'd like a modern, slightly Scandinavian home I'll always be drawn to the odd bit of novelty.  Perfect for gifts and they can even make custom items!

Blond, Gerard Doustraat 69 

Cafe Winkel Amsterdam
Cafe Winkel Amsterdam best apple pie

Indulge your love of apples

Random fact, I'm a bit of an apple obsessive, so The Dam was a logical destination with it's numerous cake shops all featuring my favourite fruit.  After an afternoon of wandering and in need of wifi, I spotted Winkel which was on my list as the place to try apple pie.  I definitely wasn't disappointed, there was just the right amount of crust and filling and the whipped cream was the perfect indulgent addition.  I devoured every last bit! 

Winkel, Noordermarkt 43

Amsterdam City Guide

So that's the bulk of my recommendations, a nice mix of the researched and spontaneous finds.  A handy thing I realised was that you can save offline Google Maps on the app (handy if you forget to activate your roaming), so click on the locations to save any of my destinations for yourself.   Thanks again to KLM for providing our flights and The Albus for a super central (and friendly) hotel location on our second night.  I'm crossing my fingers that there'll be another Amsterdam visit in 2015! 

My Christmas Shopping Secrets

17 December 2014

As promised, this year I've decided to put together my first gift guide but as per usual there's a twist.  I'm not one to tell people exactly what to get their nearest and dearest but what I can share is my thought process behind presents, to help any of you shopping at the last minute.  In an ideal world we'd all consult our secret Pinterest boards featuring things we've seen for people throughout the year, but sometimes you can still be confuzzled on the 22nd and end up overwhelmed in a busy shopping centre.  My key is to assess what people have, need and want to improve about their lives.  If all else fails then anything personalised works a treat! 

What to wear to a Christmas party

Things I Accidentally Bought For Myself

OK, forgive me because I have sinned.  Technically anything bought pre-December-ish is okay so I thought I'd share some of the bits I've treated myself to recently.   You may have seen my ASOS dress and velvety shoes already but I also finally treated myself to the Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita palette after seeing it on a few blogs.  In terms of presents I can be quite tricky to buy for and it's hard for people to anticipate what I want when it depends on the mood I'm in and what I already have.  I'm happy to have multiples of some things (initial mugs) but not others and people really need to be five steps ahead of me.  I try to be philosophical about it all though, I can be quite fortunate all year round so it doesn't matter if I don't get everything I want.  I'm probably not the kind of girl who can relate to those 'What I got for Christmas videos' as I tend to get a couple of things (once there was once money in envelopes on the tree), but I'm fine with that.  I'll work hard to buy whatever I want all year round and look forward to treating others at Christmas.

Ella Masters Print - ASOS Dress - Stach Chocolate - Sephora Lip Stain - Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita Palette - ASOS Heels

Things to put my Christmas money towards:

Gift Guide: What to buy your Mum for Christmas

For A Mum With A Lot Of Stuff

This is basically where I get my magpie-like nature from, my Mum has a lorra lorra stuff so I try to buy her things that she can experience.  Of course I still needed some visuals for the post, so there are lots of things that have to be in a specific place, will be used daily and therefore don't take up much room.  I know that she's a fan of the original Opium perfume, but I know she'd love Black Opium as it's unashamedly floral with notes of black coffee.  The pillow spray would be the perfect thing to get her relaxed before bed and I know she'd appreciate the cashmere gloves and the Casio Sheen watch with a bit of subtle bling.  Anyway, back to the whole experience thing.  My Mum expressed some wistfulness when I mentioned that I was going to Paris so my Dad and I actually got her some Eurostar vouchers for her birthday, which was yesterday (you have to call their helpline to order them).  This is a slightly cheeky way of having another trip there myself but since I've been a few times, I thought it would be perfect to show her around.  Colette wont know what's hit it!   

Take Your Mama Out All Night: 

Gift Guide: What to buy your Dad for Christmas

When your Dad doesn't have Pinterest, or even know what it is

Does anyone else's Dad appear to be perfectly content?  Every year I wrack my brains as to what to get Papa P and most of the time I don't stray from Thermals, Tech and Alcohol.  Luckily a passing comment from my Mum about the gym brought on a trendy new trainer purchase.  You really do have to keep an ear out in the months leading up towards Christmas, I also know that he loves to watch TV on his laptop (don't ask) so some new headphones would be appreciated.  Everything else is part of the tried and tested formula, a cosy new jumper, coffee from Paris and some good old champers.

Dad Stuff (it all happens to be black):

Gift Guide: What to buy your brother for Christmas

The Trendy Bro Who Goes to CSM

So the brother I actually asked for at age five is now a 6ft super cool Fashion Journalism student with an occasional beard.  The fashion gene only really kicked in a few years ago, I realised this when I bought him a One-Direction style Topman hoody and he asked for the receipt.  Basically he's now the male version of me, he likes Kenzo, A.P.C and anything else you can buy in Shoreditch.  I tend to buy him t-shirts and jumpers, so interesting prints and logos from places like Weekday, Hype and Carhartt are a safe bet.  This Eastpak x Courrèges backpack is an exclusive collaboration, so brings me instant Brownie points plus you can't go wrong with some Pumas.  I also saw these geometric desk bits whilst in Paris, which would be great for organisation when he's writing about.  Try Smug in Angel for a U.K alternative.  I know these Daniel Wellington watches are knocking about everywhere but you can't fault their simplicity, I bet he'd love this leather one.

For the hipster in your life:

christmas gift guide: what to buy your 13 year old sister

Attempting to be down with the kids

(what do 13-year-old girls even like these days?)

Now for another sibling who's taller than me.  My sister is used to a lot of my hand-me-downs, so pretty much anything goes but I've noticed that she likes to have fun with what she wears.  Think novelty brands like Skinny Dip London for tech and any sort of onesie (this Text Santa number also helps charity, win).  She's not really into things like make-up yet (phew) so some smellies from Lush will suit her nicely for any super-long baths she takes.  The personalised Nutella from Selfridges is such a good idea, though be sure to get there early as I had to queue for about half an hour.  Maybe bring some cards to write?  

Please stop growing up now, k thanks bye:


Gift Guide: What to buy your Nan for Christmas

Stuff Nans Like

I'm probably guilty of not phoning my Nan enough but until I can teach her the ways of Whatsapp, I need to pledge to keep in contact with her more.  These gifts are just an inkling of what's to come, I need to spend more time with her and I can't think of anything better than catching up over a cup of tea (fruit & herbal in my case).  I know she loves gardening, but until the weather is more inviting then these Bloom & Wild flowers would work a treat.  They actually come through the letterbox, so it's a great surprise when you're expecting a load of bills.  Everyone is pretty surprised when I share the fact that my Nan goes to the gym a few times a week but I'm glad she's found something she loves doing and has more resolve than I do!  The Boden range would be perfect for her workouts.  Since her hair is a little bit purple, I joke that she should try out the Bleach London colours for a change.  Chloe Norgaard eat your heart out, the Nans were onto the colourful hair trend first!

For fitness and cosy nights in:

Gift Guide: What to buy your friend for Christmas

Stuff for your friend who's just moved or even (shudder) bought a house

A lot of my friends have made the switch from loving garments to things like trendy pie dishes recently.  It's probably best, home-related items tend to be easier to buy as there's no sizing to worry about and you can choose exciting mugs and bowls to jazz up the basics they already have.  If you're still in doubt, then get something printed and framed.  It may be too late for Printic depending on what you order but bear it in mind for birthdays and if you're seeing people after Christmas.  You can always head to your local Snappy Snaps, get a nice photo of you and your chum printed and stick it in an Oliver Bonas frame.  For extra thoughtful points, a personalised Krisatomic portrait is the perfect gift for the selfie-obsessed and you also get a high-res scan for use on social media.  The last date for U.K shipping is today though, so best to get a move on!  How has December gone so quickly?     

Stuff to make a house a home:

I'd love to know the situations you have to buy for this year and any strategies you have!  You'll have to be quick when ordering some of these bits as Lisa Edoff is a Swedish brand and some of the last dates for free delivery are today.  If you get really stuck then use this guide as inspiration when out and about, plus check out some of my favourite one stop shops!