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Las niñas hacen de Barcelona

May Day Bank Holiday arrived and it was time for my girly holiday with one of my closest friends. The last time I went away with friends was in 2009 so this break was well overdue. Every girl needs quality time with her BFF.

After enjoying the full Spanish splendour of Paella and Sangria in a cute restaurant in the Olympic area, the casualty of the first evening was not me but my red suede sandals from M&S. Having only ever worn them to the party and not fully comprehending the length of the walk between the transport hubs and the restaurant; by the time I boarded the metro my toe was bleeding profusely – much to the shock of an innocent passenger. The shoes were not salvageable. I knew I shouldn’t have listened to my husband when he told me only to pack one pair of going out shoes! Of course this did give me an excuse to go shoe shopping – not that I really need one!

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Love this mod style dress from M&S would you believe, as were the fated shoes!

The espadrille is of course Spain’s claim to fame in shoe terms. The shoe which originated in the Pyrenees dates back centuries with some suggesting they go as far back as the 14th century. The defining characteristic is the jute rope sole and the name originates from esparto, a tough, wiry Mediterranean grass used in making rope. Yves Saint Laurent popularised the wedge espadrille after meeting Castaner a Spanish manufacturer of espadrilles at a trade fair in Paris in 1970.

Whilst in Barcelona, I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity of visiting the first Castaner store which opened in 1994 and was aptly named Christina. Although the Castaner brand originated back in 1927, it only really began to flourish as fashion footwear in the 60’s when colour was added to the shoe. The meeting with Yves Saint Laurent no doubt also helped bring the brand to the forefront of fashion. The Castaner family still heads the company and its Mediterranean roots remain at its core. I purchased a stunning pair of navy wedge espadrilles.

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Naturally I went to Barcelona for reasons other than footwear but couldn’t visit without experiencing a true Spanish brand whose craftsmanship has stood the test of time.

We only had two full days in the city and like many other European cities; it is a city of contrasts with a vast amount to see. We joined the hop on, hop off open top tourist bus for the first day in order to get a general feel for all the city has to offer.

The Barrio Gotico gothic quarter is steeped in history and was built around an old Roman town. It is here that the wonders of medieval architecture can be enjoyed, not least with La Catedral. Sadly we couldn’t find the cloisters where geese roam free as it appeared to be closed off for maintenance.

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That evening having already sampled the paella – we opted for another Spanish culinary favourite; tapas.

The second day consisted of a jam packed itinerary. We wandered along Las Ramblas – the most famous street in Barcelona. The street stretches from Plaza Catalunya to Port Vell Harbour and the Christopher Columbus statue. The trees that line the pedestrianised part of the street provide a canopy from the Mediterranean sun whilst you explore the stalls selling everything from souvenirs to flowers to art work and take in the living statues.

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Making the most of the denim revival in a New Look dress

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A visit to La Sargarda Famillia was a must. The church designed by Gaudi is still being built today but the elegance and grandeur of the place can not be lost on even those most lacking in architectural appreciation. The foundation stone was laid in 1882 with Gaudi becoming involved a year later and current estimates suggest it may be complete in 2026 to celebrate 100 years since the death of Gaudi. The project is funded by tickets sold for the attraction and private donations. The sunlight streams through the many beautiful stained glass windows and bounces around the ornate web of angled columns thus creating a similar effect as when light seeps through a canopy of trees.  Lots of Gaudi’s work drew inspiration from nature.

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The next stop was Park Guell – another piece of lasting Gaudi heritage and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. Originally this was bought by a count to become an exclusive village of houses with landscaped gardens and he hired Gaudi but commercially it flopped and in 1922 the city bought the area to make it a public park which now gets an estimated 4 million visitors a year. It is a truly enchanting place. There are beautiful mosaic tiled areas and gate houses that resemble gingerbread houses. A much photographed mosaic lizard is a defining attraction of the park.

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Finally we rested our tired legs and got the cable car up Mountjuic, thought to once have been a pre Roman settlement, for some beautiful views of the entire city.

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Our final night was spent in Placa Reial, a pretty square just off of Las Ramblas with many restaurants and night spots set around a central fountain which is lit by unusual lamp posts which are Gaudi’s first known works in the city. We were entertained by the original Spanish art of Flamenco. Flamenco was first mentioned in literature in 1774. A flamenco show is extremely passionate and quite exciting to watch; some what of an assault on the senses. There is a guitar player and the dancers wear shoes like tap shoes. The women are dressed in beautiful dresses.

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Our final morning was passed with breakfast on the golden sands of Barcelona’s coast. It is easy to think of Barcelona as a city break and forget that it is also on the coast; giving you the best of both worlds.  I highly recommend Barcelona for a city break with a difference.

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Wearing a T-Shirt bought in Mango whilst away – a brand with Spanish origins

February Freeze

Being typically British my blog would not be complete without a good old discussion about the weather. It feels like a lot of the winter has been mild but windy and wet, however I did buy an exquisite umbrella, that almost, and I stress almost made me look forward to a wet day. It is by Lulu Guinness and has a birdcage design on it.

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One morning this week as I stepped out early to walk to the station, my breath visible in the air, morning was starting to light the street, which makes a pleasant change from going to work and coming home in the dark. The fingers of Jack Frost had lightly caressed everything, from the early daffodils to the wine bottles left out for recycling. That time of the morning is incredibly peaceful with just the sweet melodious chorus of the birds and the milkman going about his round. The winter sun eventually breaks through and burns away the frost after bathing everything in a beautiful golden glow when the frost twinkles like diamonds.

So February has brought winter with it which pleases me immensely as I can wear the rather expensive pompom hat, which I purchased from a stall in London’s Hayes Galleria the last time it got a bit cold; only for it to warm up again a few days later!

Bobble hat

Pompoms have been big this season, with a real peak at Christmas, although the trend has continued into 2016. Many fashion writers have said they represent the ‘fun’ element that has been missing from fashion. There are some lovely pompom shoes available, especially this pair by Aquazzura which are sadly way beyond my budget.

Aquazzura shoesI couldn’t resist the hat as well as getting a bag charm. Fendi was the first to showcase the pompom bag charm with its ‘bag bug’ which was a pompom with eyes; and other designers and retailers have been quick to follow suit. A pompom bag charm can instantly update any bag for the season, which saves our pockets when we are still paying for the expenses of Christmas.

This pompom I bought from Asos is designed to look like a rabbit rather than being made of rabbit fur as some pompoms and other clothes are.

Rabbit pompom

Fashion and Fur has had a long and turbulent history.  Back in the Stone Age furs were worn for warmth. In the middle ages, fur was generally used to line garments but the Victorians brought about the change of wearing it on the outside, with the fur coat as we know it. Fur has long been seen as a status symbol with the more exclusive furs being reserved for the upper classes. Fashion designers widely embraced fur in their collections and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that real opposition to it began. Activists would throw red paint at people in fur as seen in the Sex and the City movie when an activist throws paint at Samantha whilst shouting ‘fur is murder’.  PETA have done various prominent advertising campaigns against the use of fur in fashion including the 1991 campaign ‘rather go naked than wear fur’ which numerous celebrities took part in, including Kate Moss.

About a billion rabbits are slaughtered every year for their fur. This is an issue particularly close to my heart, mainly due to the fact I have kept rabbits as pets for most of my life.

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My wonderful rabbit Rufus

I would never eat rabbit and have even boycotted a restaurant because it is on their menu. I realise however that this is a small stand to make considering I still wear leather shoes and eat meat and other animal products, something Karl Lagerfeld was quick to come back with to the critics of Fendi’s use of fur.

I think the key is that animals should be treated humanely whether they are being used for food or fur and many so called fur farms just don’t do this and of course that is wrong. It seems abhorrent that an animal should suffer in the name of fashion; especially as faux fur has come on so much.  Some would argue against the use of the faux fur though as it is made from an oil base which is not a sustainable resource.

Britain and the USA have quite stringent rules on the treatment of the animals used to produce their fur but other countries are unfortunately not so scrupulous and many of their exports are not clearly labelled so you may well be buying their products unwittingly.

It is a shame that in recent years fur has become more popular in fashion again and even some of the models who opposed it in that 1991 PETA campaign have since been seen wearing it.

Everyone is of course entitled to their own views and as I say unless you are a vegan being against fur does have some sense of hypocrisy to it but in my mind, cruelty to animals is never ok and I am quite happy to wear faux fur.  I think that it should be law that things are explicitly labelled so that the consumer can make an informed choice about what they buy, whether it be food, clothes or cosmetics.

Political rant over, I shall get back to the weather and what I have been doing, whilst staying in the warm and the dry has appeared to be the better option.

I completed my first shabby chic project, following a course I did last year which you can read about here.  My husband inherited a rather ornate but very old fashioned cabinet in a dark wood from his Grandfather.  I must admit that it wasn’t something I was that keen on in its original state but was the perfect canvas for shabby chic.  I used Autentico Vanille paint for the base and then used Autentico Pitch Green to paint the panels on the doors and bring out the detail on the drawers.  I finished it off with Autentico clear wax and put new drawer pulls on.  I was quite pleased with the finished result in the end but I did learn a few lessons for the next project.

Shoe Cabinet

This weekend I braved the weather and headed up to London for the Vogue 100 – A Century of Style exhibition which you can read all about in my next blog.  In the meantime try and keep warm and dry and roll on summer!

 

 

Fashion through the decades

November began uncharacteristically mild and the first, saw my husband and I visit Whitstable; me with a vintage SLR camera given to me by my father to capture some shots. The first seaside town south of London, Whitstable is long known for its oysters; harvesting here dates back to Roman times. We visited the famous oyster fishery company house for a fish and chip lunch and sampled a local oyster each as a starter. Now how can I describe it? They were brought over on a tray of ice and to me resembled a slug curled up in a shell. I tentatively put a miniscule amount on my fork whilst my husband threw it down in one, thus setting the bar higher so that I had to do the same. They are very salty, almost like drinking seawater. Neither of us liked the texture and we will not be repeating the experience!  We then popped into the converted old Oxford cinema which is now a Wetherspoons for a pint of Whitstable Bay shandy.  The Art Deco style which the cinema reopened with in 1936 has been recreated in the pub.

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Inside Wetherspoons Whitstable

Inside Wetherspoons Whitstable

November of course is famous for Armistice Day. This year took on an extra poignant significance as it marked the centenary of WW1.   In order to mark the anniversary – volunteers installed 888,246 hand-made ceramic poppies by an artist from Derbyshire, in the moat around the Tower of London. Each poppy represented a British/commonwealth soldier killed in WW1. The poppies were then sold for £25 each. The installation proved such a massive tourist draw that parts of it remained open for the whole of November, instead of it finishing on 11th as originally planned. Sadly I didn’t get chance to visit it but on Remembrance Sunday my husband and I walked up to the local war memorial and observed the 2 minutes silence; my husband took with him some WW1 medals that belong to his family.

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The First World War greatly influenced fashion. When the war broke out, Britain was coming to the end of the Edwardian era and one of great opulence. More women began to work so fashion needed to become more practical. Skirts rose from floor length to above the ankle and waistlines dropped to the more natural waist rather than under the bust. Darker colours became the norm due to the number of people mourning lost soldiers and the general sobriety of the time. People had less ability to be extravagant, with funds being put towards the war effort and due to this, Chanel created costume jewellery.

Winter fashion this year is influenced by a number of decades with plaid miniskirts, polo neck fitted jumpers and pastel shades especially baby pink, which are a nod to the 60’s as well as a revival of 1990’s fashion influenced by the film Clueless which is 20 years old next year – I know the 90’s still feel like they were only yesterday – remember butterfly clips, Bon Bleu tracksuits, snap bracelets and tamagotchi’s! Match that plaid skirt with over the knee socks, white shirt and matching plaid jacket for a true Cher look. I purchased this plaid skirt and pale pink bow back jumper from Oasis and with its 60’s feel; it was great to wear to the musical Made in Dagenham which is all about the Ford Machinists strike in 1968 which was a precursor to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

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The 70’s have quite a strong influence in the fashion world at the moment with camel coloured suede, flares and A-line skirts. I loved this denim button through A line from Miss Selfridge which I paired with a festive snowflake jumper from Oasis.

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An iconic clutch from the 1970’s was the magazine clutch. I bought a Paparazzi version some time back and mentioned it in this blog after seeing the episode ‘The Big Time’ of Sex and the City where Carrie accessorises with one; but thanks to my Mum’s friend in New York I now have two genuine vintage ones which were her mother- in- law’s. I gave one of them its first outing at Afternoon tea and cocktails at Browns for my friend’s birthday. The outfit I wore was leather look leggings from New Look paired with this chiffon floral shirt and Jane Norman shoe boots.

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November finished much colder than it started and before we knew it Christmas was upon us – look out for my Christmas themed blog to follow shortly.

Bride and Hen

A few Saturdays ago, as the hairdresser straightened my locks I was much happier with the end result than I usually am as she went for more of a brown instead of a copper to contrast with the bleach highlights. Normally I wouldn’t indulge myself by having it blow dried and straightened but thought I would treat myself being that it was my brothers fiancés hen do that evening. Have you noticed how you tell your hairdresser more than you probably tell some of your friends? Going to the hairdresser’s is 2-3 hour gossip along with reading trashy magazines and being pampered – pure indulgence!

I carefully chose an outfit for the hen. 1950’s ‘A line’ midi skirts are making a comeback and this Harper skirt from Coast is stunning. I wore it with a plain black vest top to ensure the detail of the skirt was accentuated, some black suede heels and an old favourite – my black clutch with a butterfly embellishment from Faith.

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We began at the hen’s home where copious amounts of wine were consumed before we headed to the local Indian restaurant to her called Shampan. Here we furnished Jade with a ‘Bride to Be’ sash.

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Cocktails and wine flowed. My Mum tried her first curry and wasn’t overly keen I don’t think but we all had a fabulous night which was rounded off with the fateful shots. We walked or should I say stumbled back to hers, me clutching the half finished bottle of complimentary wine and managing to narrowly miss tottering over in my heels which was more luck than judgement. Once at hers we had more wine before my husband ushered a reluctant me out of the door.

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Sunday morning came round all too quickly and I think I woke still drunk! Nonetheless I set about trying to make myself look respectful for the wedding of my husband’s friend in Suffolk.

I wore this green butterfly dress from Oliver Bonas and accessorized with gold heels from Oasis and a gold bag also from Oasis. I opted for green (graffiti) Urban Decay eyeshadow to finish my look. I bought my husband a tie to co-ordinate.

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The wedding was held at Woodhall Manor – a grade II listed building near Woodbridge in Suffolk. The oldest parts of the manor date back to medieval times and it is simply stunning and set in vast beautiful gardens.

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The ceremony was in these enchanting gardens – I had never been to an alfresco wedding before and they were fortunate enough to have a beautiful day for it. The chairs were set out with white covers and purple organza ribbon and white rose petals were sprinkled on the grass aisle between the rows of seats. The groom waited checking his watch by the archway at the front that had bird coups above. The bridesmaids, dressed in purple, a flower girl and two pageboys made their way up the aisle before finally the bride appeared on the arm of her father. She looked stunning in a beaded halter neck dress, carrying a purple bouquet and was clearly very emotional. After they had taken their vows; a white dove flew out from above where they were standing which was very romantic. White doves tend to symbolise love due to them being associated in Greek mythology with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Doves also mate for life so are seen as symbols of monogamy and loyalty.

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Whilst the photos were being taken, we chatted in the gardens with a glass of Pimms and a selection of canapés which included chicken satay, potato wedges, duck, prawns and cream cheese and smoked salmon tarts. Before long we were ushered inside for the wedding breakfast. In keeping with the medieval roots of the house the tables were named after medieval royalty. We found ourselves sat on the table called Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey – the 1st Duke of Suffolk and great granddaughter of Henry VII. Edward VI nominated her to be queen on his death bed in July 1553, passing over his half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. Mary claimed the throne some 9 days later and Jane was executed after some delay in February 1554 for high treason. The table plan, table names and place cards all had a purple swirly pattern on them, akin to what had also been on the invitations, to fit in with the colour scheme as well as giving a medieval grandeur feel to them. I sat for the first time at a wedding table with a place card with my married name on it which I was quite excited by.

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The favours were small jars of hot chocolate, topped with white chocolate and marshmallows, which was different and they were decorated with a purple ribbon. As well as these they also had an old fashioned sweet table with little paper bags adorned with their names. The table was popular with both adults and children – you can’t beat a flying saucer or a fizzy cola bottle!

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sweet table

The meal was lovely and was followed by some very emotional speeches before we retired to the bar to start the evening do. They had a band which I thought was fantastic and quite unique these days. The band were called The Someones. The band formed in 2005 and have played over 700 gigs. They perform covers from 60’s up to the present day. They certainly made my day when they played Dakota by Stereophonics. The couple’s first dance was to Savage Garden’s ‘I knew I loved you’.

Much drinking and dancing ensued before we returned to our rooms in the manor. We woke in the early hours to find the light on so I guess we must have passed out when our heads hit the pillow. It was nice to wake naturally on a Monday rather than to the sound of the alarm. Breakfast was taken at the manor with all the guests and the bride and groom.

We wished them a happy honeymoon and then drove into Woodbridge to take coffee with a friend of mine and her partner who live nearby before driving home. Congratulations Adam and Esther – may you have a long and happy marriage.

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Look out for another wedding blog soon on my brothers wedding!

Heel Today, Gone Tomorrow!

The countdown to the wedding has truly begun – only just under 2 weeks to go! I won’t bore you with the hours, minutes and seconds from my countdown timer!

The 12th April was my hen party. A hen party is a party given in honour of the bride-to-be and therefore is not hosted by the bride herself although she may assist in the organisation. The hen party stems from the stag party and its modern form began in 1960s and is related to gender equality. Before it meant a pre wedding party; hen party was used to describe any all female gathering and is mentioned as far back as 1897.

I cannot thank my best friend and maid of honour, Catriona, enough for the effort she put into the event which really was one of the best days of my life. I enjoyed getting ready and chose to wear my thyme Allure dress from Coast which I wore as maid of honour at Catriona’s wedding. I matched it with some silver sandals and some big silver hoops.

The party began at Hyatt Regency – The Churchill – a hotel near Hyde Park corner, awarded the Tea Guild of Excellence in 2012. I was furnished with the usual regalia – a baby pink sash with bride to be on it and my Mum bought me a flashing tiara complete with veil.

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We took afternoon tea in the Montagu restaurant, named after Elizabeth Montagu – a writer who lived in Portman Square 1781-1800. We were ushered to our table by some lovely, impeccably dressed waiters and when I sat down and saw the menu – my eyes were drawn to the Sex and the City Par-tea without realising that that was exactly what was planned for me! The savoury treats were themed to New York with a mini hot dog and bagel. There was also a mini burger in honour of one of Carrie’s boyfriends in the series – ‘Jack Burger’.

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Carrie and 'Burger'

Carrie and ‘Burger’

The sweet offerings included a cosmopolitan jelly, a sickly sweet iced cupcake, a mini New York cheesecake and a biscuit shaped as a shoe! We began with a Flirtini (a champagne and pineapple cocktail) which was most refreshing and then could choose a tea, each named after one of the 4 girls. I’m not a lover of tea but went for the one named Carrie of course.

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After a most enjoyable catch up with friends and family alike – a few left and the remainder of us made our way to the tube to Liverpool Street.  We were so packed in, you couldn’t have fallen over if you had tried. We then had quite a trek to the mixology event but it was well worth it when we arrived plus we burnt off some of the afternoon tea calories!

We were welcomed with a ginger cocktail. 3 more friends joined and the hunky teacher showed us how to make 3 different cocktails. He looked like Enrique Iglesias and the more we drunk, the more he looked like him. As he explained the method of making the cocktails he frequently dropped in a double entendre or two and before long we were all in fits of hysterics. He also punished anyone who talked whilst he did, with a shot of his choice. The class finished with each team making a cocktail and I had to choose the one which I liked the most. It was a tough call but in the end I went for the one that was the easiest to drink. He also showed us a party trick with lighting a cocktail and alcohol on the bar and then sprinkling cinnamon to make sparks. All I can say is he must have good insurance to trust drunken women with matches!

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Hunky Teacher

Hunky Teacher

Selecting the winning cocktail

Selecting the winning cocktail

Playing with fire

Playing with fire

By the time we left we were all a bit worse for wear but although drunk I knew I wasn’t that drunk that I couldn’t walk properly – however I was struggling. Finally I realised that my shoe had in fact snapped and the heel was hanging off but it took me a little while to convince the others of that! The shoes were Ravel sandals which may explain why Ravel went into administration! Luckily Catriona had some flats with her so I changed into them.

We finally made it to Loop – a club near Oxford Street with a multi coloured rubix cube style dance floor. The girls treated us all to a mega large cocktail in a huge martini glass.

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They then did a Mr and Mrs Quiz with me where for every wrong answer I had to drink a shot – I got more wrong than I should have done as it was too loud to hear all the questions properly. 2 more friends arrived and we all partied the night away. My fiancé picked me and his two sisters up which I am very grateful to him for as he found himself lost in London!

A truly fabulous day/eve and I am so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family – thanks guys – you all mean the world to me.

Easter came and went, later than usual this year.  It was a real challenge to not over indulge but the final weigh in showed I won the competition, losing an impressive 1 stone and 8lbs so that helps with the motivation; although the mini eggs are calling.  I arranged an easter egg hunt for the kids which they greatly enjoyed complete with cute signs from Laura Ashley.  Needless to say it wasn’t as big as the largest egg hunt in Guiness Book of World Records which was 501000 eggs searched by 9753 kids in Florida in 2007 which makes for over 50 eggs each – they must have been seriously hyper on all that chocolate!  For more information on egg hunts and Easter bunnies please refer to my post ‘Loaded Spring’.

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My Easter egg hunt

Over Easter weekend, I indulged in another afternoon tea with a friend who couldn’t make the hen. This time it was the Prêt –à-Portea tea at the Berkeley Hotel – perfect for all you fashionista’s out there! This tea started in 2005 at the infamous Berkeley Hotel.  The Berkeley began as a coffee house in the 1700s on the corner of Berkely and Piccadilly, became known as a hotel 1897 and moved to its current location in Knightsbridge in 1972.  In 1920s it became the first London hotel to offer air conditioning.

The treats are inspired by current catwalk trends so we enjoyed munching our way through the spring/summer collection 2014 which included Christian Louboutin pigalle spike turquoise shoe biscuit – complete with the signature red sole, a Mui Mui chocolate handbag and a wonderful representation of Dsquared mini strapless  dress with hot pink lampshade hat which was essentially mango bavarois with blueberry compote. Also represented were Karla Colletto’s red swimsuit, Oscar De La Renta pistachio dress and many others. The tea was topped off with pink Laurent Perrier courture champagne. We were given a handbag shaped goodie bag when we left which included 2 of the sweet treats. A wonderful afternoon which made you feel just like an a list star at a catwalk show.

With our goodie bags in the Berkeley

With our goodie bags in the Berkeley

 

Karla Colletto swimsuit

Karla Colletto swimsuit

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Louboutin pigalle spike shoes

 

Model 2nd from right wears Dsquared dress with pink lampshade hat

Model 2nd from right wears Dsquared dress with pink lampshade hat

Designer sweet treats - Dsquared, Colletto and Louboutin

Designer sweet treats – Dsquared, Colletto and Louboutin

The other week, I waved goodbye to my beloved Beetle.  It was sad but for the best as it was just rusting away and I didn’t use it much anymore but it’s gone to a good home and I cheered myself up with these pair of LK Bennett shoes in similar colours to the car with some of the money.

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My beloved beetle

My beloved beetle

Right I am now going to continue adding to my honeymoon wardrobe – happy shopping!

Sparkling Sunset by the Whitby Coast

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis blog is my final entry before I turn the big 30 and begin a new chapter, leaving behind my twenties.  I am happy to announce that my boyfriend and I are now engaged – something I never thought I would get to experience and write about in a blog.

The other weekend my partner and I decided to go for a long weekend in Yorkshire and we happened to have some of the best weather so far this year – must be our weather magic.

We arrived on Friday in York and began by going on a haunted tour of the city.  The guide really made this tour as he took us round to the Minster, Guy Fawkes birth place and the shrine to Margaret Clitherow – the martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.  He involved different people including my other half in acting out being hung drawn and quartered.  I think even the tour guide jumped though as we stood in the historic street ‘The Shambles’ where he explained butchers would hang up their meat and people emptied chamber pots so blood etc would make a river down the street, when someone pulled loudly shut a window above us.

We then met up with my friend and her other half for dinner in the Mumbai Lounge.  Pregnancy is really suiting her.  I predict it will be a baby girl – watch this space!  That night we stayed at The Golden Fleece pub.  This is the oldest Inn in York – mentioned in archives as far back as 1503 and is believed to be haunted.  We stayed in Lady Peckett’s room.  Lady Peckett’s husband owned the Golden Fleece around 1702 and some guests have reported seeing her ghost.  The pub has great charm with its uneven floors – our bed had a block of wood under one leg to make it level.  Whilst we didn’t see the ghost of Lady Peckett the waiter at breakfast, we joked, seemed almost ghost like!

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We met up with my Mum and Dad the following day and visited York Railway museum for the 75th anniversary of Mallard doing the fastest speed of a steam train in the world at 125.88 on July 3rd 1938.  Little did I know that when my other half and my Dad went somewhere for a quiet chat it was for my now fiancé to ask my Dads permission for his daughters hand in marriage.

That evening the two of us travelled on to Whitby and had a most enjoyable fish and chip tea in the famous Magpie Cafe.  The building itself was built in around 1750 when it began a long association with fishing and shipping.  It opened as a cafe in approximately 1939 and is widely considered the best place to get fish and chips in Yorkshire.

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Full from our meal, my other half suggested a walk along the beach and then as the sun was setting, colouring the sky red, and the sea was rhythmically grazing the shore; he dropped down onto one knee and produced a stunning sapphire and diamond ring.

my ring

Engagement rings go back to the 13th century in the Western World and are worn on the second finger on the left hand as this is believed to be the shortest distance to the heart.  I was so stunned – the first thing I said was are you joking before giving an enthusiastic yes.  It couldn’t have been a more romantic proposal given that our first date had been fish and chips on the beach in Broadstairs.    We celebrated in Wetherspoons of all places with a bottle of champagne which the staff had to dust off!

Champagne was actually discovered by mistake when the cold winters halted the fermentation process only for it to start again in the spring creating a bi product of carbon dioxide which remained trapped in the wine.  It is now generally seen as the drink of choice for celebrations and in a book I am reading that I was kindly bought as an engagement present ‘How to Wear White’ it is said that the UK spends over £5million a week on champagne!  There is some suggestion however that the consumer trend this year is towards people buying Prosecco over champagne to celebrate with.

The following day was spent walking round the town, playing crazy golf (where I got a hole in one) and in arcades as well as going on a boat trip.  I’m sure those cuddly toy machines are rigged!  I couldn’t resist this gem of a satchel – so like the ones of the Cambridge Satchel Company but far cheaper, which I discovered on a market stall.

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 new bag

We had a fish and chip tea down on the beach again whilst the sun set and I dipped my toe into the cool sea.

We then finished our stay with a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and a visit to Goathland where Heartbeat was filmed.  On arrival back at Whitby, we grabbed some freshly baked doughnuts only to be dive bombed by seagulls!

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We returned home to break the good news to both sets of parents.  I still can not quite believe it has happened to me – the little girl who said no one would ever marry her.  I cannot stop admiring my ring and feel like I am on cloud nine.  This wonderful event also ticks another box on my bucket list, so I have achieved 4 out of 10 of the items – got engaged, been to India, done the Moonwalk and started riding lessons again.  The others will be carried over to my new bucket list to do before 40.

We now have around a year to plan our special day and I can’t wait to get started.  Look out for lots of wedding planning themed blogs over the next few months!

Horsing Around

Royal Ascot is Ascots most prestigious race meeting and was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne.  The British love affair with horses dates back far further than this with the first believed horse race to have been in Yorkshire in 200AD.  To this day horse racing remains the second most popular attended sport in Great Britain with Royal Ascot drawing around 300000.  On Saturday 22nd June myself and my Mum attended the last day of Royal Ascot.  On arrival at Waterloo station, there was a rainbow display of hats and fascinators and women and men dressed to impress clutching picnic baskets with bottles of Champagne.  We had our own bottle of wine but as we were in the main grandstand we were not allowed to take it in so we quickly downed it – hunched under an umbrella outside – so classy!  It was a blustery and rather showery day but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits.

Ascot is of course renowned for its fashion as much as, if not more than its horses.  I wore an Oasis dress and a red hat with nude stilettos and an oversized nude clutch.  My Mum and I enjoyed a Pimms in the fashion bar whilst checking out the outfits of others.  I was gutted to walk past someone in the same dress as me that I had thought quite unique – I am all for imitation being the most sincere form of flattery but at an event with such social standing it was rather gutting.

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In total I placed 4 bets each way costing me a total of £16.  I came away with £25.20 after Dandino romped in at 2nd place and an outsider in Krypton Factor came in 4th.  As it was my other half who suggested Krypton Factor as he perused the race supplement in the morning’s paper – I treated him to a silk tie.

The Royal procession was quite wonderful and grand even if the queen was hidden under an umbrella.  The procession takes place each day before races begin and the Royal Standard is raised.  People were even placing bets with the bookmakers on what colour hat the queen would be wearing.

Of course horses and fashion don’t only collide at Ascot; equestrian influences on fashion are often revisited with trends such as tweed, jodhpurs, blazers and of course riding boots as well as horses often being used as props in fashion shoots.  Autumn/Winter 2013 is no exception.  I love these Dune riding boots, but it seems wrong to be thinking of winter when summer has only just arrived.

dune riding bootOne of my bucket list items before hitting 30 was to take up horse riding lessons again.  I learnt as a child on a pony and on a holiday in Zante, when I was 18, I went on a horse trek so I felt sure that although it would be my first time back on a horse for more than ten years that it would all come flooding back to me.  How wrong I was.  I arrived at Callum Park riding school to be confronted with a large white horse of 16 hands 2 – much larger than I had ever ridden before.  After much struggle I got myself in the saddle.  Walking around the paddock seemed fairly nice and relaxing but I had forgotten how physically demanding rising trot is.  I managed a half hour lesson but ached like never before the following day, however I will be returning for a second lesson.

Did you also visit Ascot?  What did you wear? Please share photos of your outfit.  Until next time ……