Girls and the city

Fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn once said: “Paris is always a good idea”.  I couldn’t agree more, Paris, like New York is a city I never tire of as there are always new things to discover.

map of paris

Paris is chic personified, the city and fashion go together like strawberries and cream.  It is the home of Chanel and Dior as well as the birth place of Karl Lagerfeld, John-Paul Gaultier, not to mention some fabulous accessory brands, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier.  The allure of  French fashion for me began as a teenager when I discovered Kookai, a label founded in Paris in 1983.  Unfortunately Kookai no longer exists in England so you can imagine my joy on my recent visit to Paris on seeing the store.  Naturally I had to go in and purchase.

In September I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Paris with two of my closest friends from school.  We started the trip as we meant to go on with prosecco on the Eurostar while reminiscing about French lessons at school and visits to La Serronerie, the house near Normandy that the school owned.  I always adored the French language, despite it not coming naturally to me and so studied it right through to A Level.  I actually surprised myself on this trip at how much came back to me.  When travelling it’s important to be comfortable so I wore a black pleated midi skirt from Asos with a t-shirt embroidered with the Paris skyline from Topshop.


I first visited Paris aged about 13 with my Mum (see picture below) when her best friend lived on the outskirts and it was love at first sight.  I have returned many times since then, as well as introducing others to its wonderful charm.

cft paris

Anyone who reads my blog will know that Sex and the City is an obsession for me and therefore first on my list for this trip was to explore the sights of those 2004 epic finale episodes, guided by the website Set in Paris.  It made perfect sense that Carrie Bradshaw should visit the French capital as fictionally, she is one of the biggest fashionistas and as she puts it so eloquently, is “a person looking for love”.   My outfit for this occasion was carefully planned, a black cord pinafore dress over a mustard long-sleeved top, both from New Look, set off with a beautiful Victoria Beckham for Target silk scarf and Carrie Bradshaw herself would have been proud of the amount of ground I covered in my patent Oasis heels.

In these finale episodes, we first see Carrie in Paris as she arrives at Hotel Plaza Athenee and the hotel is even grander in the flesh than it looked on the screen.  The weather was wet, just as it was for most of Carrie’s trip but the hotel is simply striking in any weather with its beautiful balconies, adorned with red flowers and the Eiffel Tower just a stones throw away.

The hotel is on the most fashionable street in Paris, Avenue Montaigne which is home to all the haute culture brands.  Indeed the Dior store where Carrie slips over is on this street.

When Carrie finds herself alone in Paris again, vowing to “do French things and be very parisien” she visits Cador patisserie, where she shares cake with a large dog.  Cador is unfortunately no longer and instead there is Cojean – an organic cafe.

Kong, the restaurant where Carrie meets Aleksandr Petrovsky’s ex-wife and gets an insight into what he is really like is still there although we didn’t go inside.

There is no better people to explore a city like Paris with than your girlfriends and that is what Carrie is missing in Paris.  This hits home for her when she spies four girls having lunch in l’Avenue.

The last time we see Carrie and Aleksandr happy is when they are strolling through place du dauphine after Carrie has bumped into her French fan base.

When Aleksandr feels nervous about the opening of his light exhibition, Carrie ditches her dinner with her fans to attend the museum with him.

Carrie goes to Paris with a new man for a new life but returns with an ‘old’ man to her old life which is quite ironic but of course gave many fans the ending they craved of Carrie and Big finally getting it together for good.  We see Carrie hear the long awaiting declaration from Big on pont des arts “Carrie you’re the one”.

So that was my Sex and the City tour of Paris but of course we did plenty of the sights too.  We stayed in Montmartre which is one of my favourite parts of Paris.  Known as the art district, it has a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere than other areas of Paris.  The main square (place du tertre) has a carnival atmosphere with artists painting and sketching and selling their work.

Overlooking the main square, on the highest point of the city, is the beautiful white stone basilica of Sacre-Coeur.  This gives visitors a great view over the whole of Paris.  The building is awe-inspiring whether seen by night or day.  If the steps up are too much of a challenge, there is a small funicular that takes you to the top for a small fee.  The inside is just as beautiful with its stunning painted ceilings and carvings.

Having done the cultural bit, the shops in this area are well worth exploring, particularly the macaron stores.  A quirky find is the shop Belle du Jour which specialises in traditional, vintage perfume bottles.

On a couple of evenings we enjoyed dinner at L’ete en Pente Douce where delicious food can be enjoyed on the pavement terrace soaking up the Montmartre ambiance.  On the walk back to the hotel, we were tempted into a small creperie for a sweet treat on more than one occasion!

On one of the days while there, the rain became torrential and so we opted to duck out of the showers in some of the wonderful shops along the Champs-Elysees.  We walked the full length of the street to where it meets the Arc de Triomphe.  My friend had a fantastic make-over by the Urban Decay stand in Sephora and we queued for macarons in Laduree.  Laduree is a beautiful and regal store where you can eat in or simply buy some of the luxury sweet treats which the brand has been making since 1862.

I had never seen the famous painting, the Mona Lisa and so we paid to go in Louvre museum simply to see it.  The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world and the glass pyramid in the main courtyard of the museum is a work of art in itself.  The Mona Lisa however was somewhat of a disappointment.  It is much much smaller than one imagines and you have to fight your way through throngs of people in order to get a look at it behind glass.

On this day I wore a checked pleat mini skirt from Oasis with a Boohoo slogan t-shirt and a long grey cardigan from Oasis.  I finished the outfit with my red patent bow pumps which I bought in Milan.

my outfit

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower.  We visited at night when it is spectacularly lit and went right to the top, which while blustery and cold was worth it for the views and the champagne at the champagne bar.  When we came down, I indulged the child in me and had a ride on the traditional Victorian carousel.  It was a magical evening.

Our final day came round all too soon and we decided to begin with a boat trip along the Seine.  On this day I wore a Breton t-shirt dress from New Look, clinched in at the waist with a red belt, also from New Look which nicely tied in the red mac from Marks and Spencer.  We visited Notre Dame with its impressive stained glass windows and finished up with lunch at a cafe on the left bank which is linked to the Shakespeare and Company book store.  The book store sells English language books and is part shop and part library.  Many writers write here amongst the books, in exchange for helping in the shop.  It really is an Aladdin’s cave and a bohemian heaven, somewhere I would love to sit and write myself.  It totally inspired me and I’d love to come back.

Paris should be on every fashionistas bucket list and is a perfect break for friends or couples.  I will certainly be returning to one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world.  As Honore de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright said “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant”.



Fünfzig Schattierungen von Berlin (50 Shades of Berlin)

Life is full of contrasts and contradictions which is what makes it interesting.  As summer becomes a distant memory – grey has become en vogue.  By that I am not simply referring to the sky but the latest cult trilogy which has overshadowed Twilight – that is ‘50 Shades’.  Everywhere women are discussing it.  I have now finally read the first book, mainly to see what all the fuss has been about.  How can I sum it up?  Christian grey is a man of contradictions which is interesting as grey tends to be used to imply uncertainty or a mixture of good and bad.  Grey often symbolises boredom but paradoxically the book is very colourful despite the use of grey in the title.

On the subject of grey skies, this month saw the 25th anniversary of the hurricane in the UK or the great storm as many refer to it; when Michael Fish became a household name saying ‘there will not be a hurricane’.  Is anyone else finding it impossible to get up in the mornings now that it is dark and often drizzly?  Well the clocks went back this weekend so it should be a bit lighter in the mornings for a few weeks.

Before you all slip in to a grey depression, every cloud has a silver lining and there are some beautiful leaf colours at this time of year making a truly beautiful landscape, almost like a watercolour.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Fashion has certainly taken somewhat of a lead from nature.  Coloured denim is as big as it was in the summer but we move away from brights and pastels to more muted darks such as these burgundy jeans which I couldn’t resist from New Look.



Another transient trend has been birds but more specifically this season owls.  This top was a bargain purchase again from New Look.  I teamed it with a grey Oasis boucle mini and a light grey cardigan but it will look equally good with my burgundy jeans and my leather biker with knitted sleeves to give more of an edgy rock look.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANails have also gone back to nature with nude colours.  I love a Rimmel brown called ‘Beige Babe’.  Whilst on the subject of nails – Nails Inc have produced a couture range where you are able to design the bottle and personalise it and the box – what a great idea for Christmas presents and naturally I thought I would treat myself to one first.  Meet my new shade ‘cosmopolitan’.



I find the biggest fashion challenge of autumn/winter is finding the perfect pair of boots rather than the perfect coat as many fashion writers suggest.  I may well follow their suggestion however that the solution is not to try and nail it down to one but have a variety.  My favourite boots have seen better days; they were a cheap faux suede, black knee high pair from Primark.  I treated myself to these biker style boots but foresee myself also getting a pair of Uggs and some dainty high heeled ones too!



A few weeks back I went to Cheryl’s million lights tour at the O2 which was fantastic and I eagerly await the Girl’s Aloud reunion next year.  I have a very varied taste in music from Led Zeppelin and Stereophonics to current pop – another ambiguity.

Last weekend I surprised my other half for his birthday with a long weekend in Berlin.  Berlin is steeped in history – unfortunately most of it dark with WWII and the Berlin Wall.  They have acknowledged this past however as something to learn from and around it developed a modern, buzzing, cosmopolitan city especially at Potsdamer Platz which was the centre for the Festival of Light which took place whilst we were there.  Art and advertising was projected onto buildings and coloured lights are placed beneath the trees which create a magical feel.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most poignant place we visited for me was Gleis 17 at Grunewald station.  This is a disused platform nowadays but it was once where many Jews boarded trains to concentration camps during the war.  It is now a memorial to them.  Along the platform edge are the number of Jews deported each day and it really is horrifying.  1000 to Auschwitz, 1700 to Theresienstadt…..  Now it is peaceful and serene with only the sound of the wind in the trees to interrupt your thoughts and prayers.



Other sites we saw were the Topography of Terror which is the sight of the Gestapo and SS headquarters but is now a records centre for the atrocities and takes you through how Hitler got his hold on the German people.  Something I didn’t know however was that concentration camps existed long before the outbreak of the war as early as 1933, where people who opposed the Nazi political party were sent.  We also visited the site of Hitler’s bunker which now has flats built on it – not sure I would want to occupy one of those flats!!

In some ways the wall and its history had more of an impact on me because it was in my lifetime and therefore easier to identify with.  I knew very little of the history before the trip.  The wall was erected in 1961 by the GDR to separate East Berlin and the rest of East Germany from West Berlin as it was believed that the West had not been fully de-Nazified.  Families were separated and in the East there were strict communism rules imposed by the Soviets including censorship of media materials.  The West was being built up and saw great economic growth whilst the East lagged behind.  Many East German people tried to escape to West Germany (estimates suggest 3.5 million) either through border houses, over the wall or by tunnelling and many were killed.  There is a photo memorial to them by the strip in Bernauerstrasse and a further memorial by the Reichstag. On 9th November 1989 the GDR announced the border reopened and in 1990 the physical wall was removed.  There are two long stretches of the wall left, the first at Bernauerstrasse where they have also uncovered the foundations of the border houses and one by the topography of terrors on Niederkirchnerstrasse.  It is unbelievable that this occurred in recent history.  When the wall came down in 1990, many gathered at the Brandenburg gate.  This iconic structure was also lit up as part of the Festival of Light.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of Berlin’s more modern structures is the Fernsehturm or TV tower, built between 1965 and 1969 and the countries tallest building at 368 metres.  The lift reached the top in 40 seconds, making my ears pop.  At the top we were treated to 360 degree views of Berlin.  I enjoyed a cocktail appropriately named 360º whilst we were up there.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weekend we went happened to also be Oktoberfest and at Alexanderplatz there was a traditional German market and plenty of beer on offer.  We warmed ourselves with a Jagermeister shot too.  I’m not normally a beer drinker but I must confess I quite enjoyed a Berliner and the Rothaus brewery beer Tannenzäpfle or Fir Cone (a beer from the Black Forest).


Berlin had so much to offer, we could have done with a bit longer there but we crammed in the highlights and on the last day, as a bit of light relief from all the history, we visited Berlin Zoo.  This has the largest collection of animals due to the fact that when the city was divided, there were two zoos and they have now been combined into the one.  I can honestly say it is the best zoo I have ever visited because they have really given thought to the layout with low bars so you can get excellent photos.  Of course the elephants were the highlight for me!



On the way home, the sky looked beautiful as we approached Schőnefeld airport, with the sun just coming up.  At the airport my partner treated me to some perfume as a thank you – Daisy eau so fresh by Marc Jacobs.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

With X Factor live shows now well under way – the countdown to Christmas has truly begun – only 57 days until Christmas day!  Before that though we have Halloween approaching and make sure you visit the cinema to see the new Bond film – Skyfall, released this week – we went today and I must admit I have never been a great Bond fan but I thoroughly enjoyed it and now want to see all of them and   Adele has smashed the theme tune.  Can’t believe this film marks 50 years of Bond and it’s still as popular today as when the first film was released.

Have any of you got memories of Berlin you would like to share?  What are you doing to cheer yourself up on these grey days?

 Until next time………………………