Tag Archive | Topshop

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

 

 

A magical time of year

When it comes to Christmas, I am like a kid in a sweet shop! Every December I am counting down the days and itching to put the decorations up.  Putting up the decorations this year was extra special as it was snowing outside.  We followed our usual tradition of enjoying a different kind of snowball as well!  Throughout the year I have collected some great new tree decorations including a golden Paddington bear and a glittering cinderella carriage.  We couldn’t leave Rufus out either and decorated his hutch with paper chains, as well as getting him to wear his Santa hat!

Every December I also like to do something special to get in the Christmas spirit.  Previous years have seen us going to Winter Wonderland, but we decided to give that a miss this year, in favour of a festive meal on a Pullman carriage, hauled by a steam engine on the Bluebell railway.

The Golden Arrow dining train as it is known, is a cheaper version of the Orient Express but just as special.  For the evening I wore a royal blue maxi dress from Coast along with my Zara, tile pattern coat, which was a cult buy last year, that I snapped up as a sale bargain this year.  In keeping with the time of year, I wore silver glitter sandals from New Look and finished the look with a silver scalloped clutch from Asos.

There really was a hint of magic in the air when we arrived at Sheffield Park station.  Christmas lights lit the way to the booking hall and there was a marquee, decorated with fake snow, Christmas trees and lit reindeer that led out on to the platform where our train awaited its passengers.

We were given mulled wine, which was very welcome on such a cold December evening and then boarded our carriage, Fingal.  Each carriage had the luggage racks decorated with Christmas foliage and the perfectly set tables were complete with crackers.

We ordered a bottle of Bluebell Prosecco which was delicious and then the attentive staff proceeded to serve a delicious 4 course meal to us.  I started with a smoked fish medley tartlet followed by a traditional Christmas dinner, the most ornate peach bellini cheesecake you have ever seen and finished off with cheese, coffee, mince pies and a Baileys.

During the journey we stopped for carol singers which further added to the festive mood – you could even join in if you felt so inclined!

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It was a wonderful evening and certainly put me in the Christmas spirit.

The day before Christmas eve was spent with my brother and his family and in the evening my two best friends, their partners and us went for a meal.  Christmas eve we had my parents and my in-laws over for tea.  I wore my Christmas jumper from Oasis.  We opened each others presents.  Rufus is now inside and while we were busy unwrapping we suddenly heard him trying to join in and unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree!  That evening we went for prosecco at a neighbour’s before going to midnight mass.

This year, we decided to spend Christmas day just the two of us which was lovely.  We started with a smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast, washed down with bucks fizz.  We opened each others presents, cooked Christmas dinner and enjoyed Christmas TV.  For the day, I wore a grey jumper from Oasis and a cord pinafore dress from Topshop.  Rufus also enjoyed his own Christmas dinner and present!

Boxing day was spent in Norfolk with my Mum’s brothers and their families which was most enjoyable.  We were truly stuffed after a fantastic lunch there and I was delighted that they set light to the Christmas pudding, as I had never seen it done before.  For this day, I wore a dress from Zara with knee-high black boots from New Look and accessorised with my Stella&Dot clutch.  We saw my husband’s family a few days later.

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One of my most treasured presents this year was a Kikki K leather, monogrammed notebook that I had been lusting over for some time.  That will come in very handy for my blog notes.

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All too soon, New Years Eve came around.  We went to my husband’s friends house for curry and prosecco.  I wore a glitter, navy knitted dress from Warehouse.  As midnight struck, that marked the end to my drinking alcohol, for I had put myself up for dry January.

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2017 certainly had its ups and downs, with one of the main downs being nearly losing our beloved Rufus – luckily though the emergency vet saved him and we might be over £300 lighter but it was worth every penny to see him pull through.  As for the highs, I end the year in a job far more suited to me than anything previously, in internal communications.  Other highlights include visiting the Manolo Blahnik exhibition in Milan, our wedding anniversary in Scotland, visiting Kefalonia, seeing Stereophonics in Margate, a friend’s wedding and a number of friends having babies, a visit to Newcastle, my husband’s surprise 40th bash and many more.  Here’s to a great 2018!

Stylist Live

As a London commuter, every morning I leave the station to be greeted by a barrage of people handing out leaflets, magazines, newspapers and free samples as well as the odd one collecting for charity,  Sometimes it is an impossible task to walk at any pace due to this, lost tourists and people who cannot be parted for a second from their phone screens and thus get slower and slower.

Having said all this, by chance a few years back I did pick up the weekly free copy of Stylist magazine and was instantly hooked.  I now actively look out for it each Wednesday and feel rather cheated if I miss out on it.

The magazine launched in October 2009 and is now the leading UK weekly fashion and lifestyle magazine. It’s target audience is women aged 20-40, who commute, and it is distributed in major UK cities as well as some major French cities (since April 2013).

In November, a friend and I attended the Stylist Live event which was held at Olympia London for the first time.  This was the third of these festivals but the first in a new location and the first one I had ever been to.

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For the day I wore a floral dress from Topshop with a pink shearling jacket from Zara, boots from Miss Selfridge and a tan bag from Accessorise.  Now black tights wouldn’t have worked so I searched high and low to find some adult cream tights and finally managed to track some down.  Unfortunately they were huge and I ended up looking much like Nora Batty for most of the day!  Since, my friend has advised me to buy M&S age 13-14 ones and they are much better – great life hack Nina!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the day, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  There were all manner of stalls to indulge the shopaholic in you.  Among these were my favourite Swedish fashion brand – Kikki K, Lucy Love This, the Benefit Brow bar, Solely Original and Stella&Dot.

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Lucy Loves this makes lovely prints based around different areas in London and I purchased my Mum the Putney one.

Solely Original allows you not only to design your own shoes online, but also ensure they are a bespoke size to fit your foot and they are a fraction of the price you might expect for something that is so customised.  I had my foot measured so it can be kept on file for future indulgence!

A walk around the stalls called for some light refreshment.  Now this was my only slight disappointment of the day, in that the only alcohol on offer was gin which I am not a big fan of.  I did give the fruity, pink special a try as it was included in the price of the ticket and whilst I wasn’t a great lover, it was surprisingly refreshing and the bar and stand were fab.

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Also included in the cost of the ticket was a manicure at the perfect 10 nail bar.  I felt suitably pampered and chose a natural pinky Essie shade so as to not highlight the shortness of my nails.

It was then time for a bite to eat and I tried The Cheese Wheel, which is freshly rolled pasta, dunked into a wheel of cheese.  This first came to the UK in March this year at Kerb in Camden Market and has really taken off.  It was delicious and very filling.

The highlight of the day has to have been the fashion show.  It was unfortunate that we were quite near the back but what I loved about it was it was all available on the high street and you were given a sheet, telling you where each item on each look was from.  Shearling jackets featured quite heavily as did sparkle and stars.

More than just a day of leisure, my friend made the first step to a new career and signed up as a Stella & Dot rep.  Launched to empower women to be their own boss, the reps sell accessories online and face to face at parties.  The key is the flexibility which the company offers.  I couldn’t resist this gorgeous clutch with the mantra every woman should aspire to, ‘I am strong’ printed inside.

Finally, we had the opportunity to mock up a cover of Stylist, featuring our good selves.

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It was a fantastic day and I would highly recommend it to any fashion lover.  2018’s dates are yet to be confirmed, but it is looking likely to be 9-11 November at Olympia.  Book early to avoid disappointment!  I fancy a VIP ticket next year which includes a lounge,  a bar and access to certain exclusive talks.  See you there!

A birthday washout

July saw my birthday come around again – they are coming around far too quickly lately for my liking. However, not one to miss an opportunity to celebrate, I arranged numerous events as has become customary.

The first of these was a family BBQ. Now it seems you only need to think about a BBQ in this country and it rains. The BBQ had just heated up when the heavens opened. It wasn’t just a shower either, it was torrential so plan b had to come into play and the burgers went in the oven. It was nice to have the family around to celebrate though and my sister in law made a fantastic cake and got me the best present – a framed drawing of my Manolo Blahnik wedding shoes.

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Sex and the City cupcakes that I made

My actual birthday started fabulously, with Kelly Jones of Stereophonics fame guest staring on the radio, with the first play of their new single, All in one Night. I can’t believe I have been a fan for the last 18 years. They are still just as fab as they were then.

I met my Mum in London and we went up the Sky Garden. It wasn’t long before the rain clouds moved in and they closed the outside viewing platform. Thankfully they eventually opened it again. The view was amazing, although it was probably one of the most expensive glasses of prosecco I had ever had. We then went for lunch and browsed the shops on Oxford Street before my husband met us later in the day.

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T-shirt Topshop, Skirt Asos, ballerina pumps from Italy and heart bag by Floozie

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We then headed to an open air cinema screening in association with Stylist magazine and M&S. Picking up the free Stylist magazine on a Wednesday is the highlight of my working week and it seemed like it was meant to be when they had one of these screenings on my birthday and showing Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, very apt as I went to Kefalonia this year.  It was an absolute bargain of an event, with tickets only costing £20. That included an M&S bbq, three free drinks, popcorn and a goodie bag which of course included the famous Percy Pigs! It was a wonderful evening until it started to rain and then it really rained. They handed out ponchos and we managed to get an umbrella up but it wasn’t pleasant. Many people left but I was determined to see the end of the film. By the time we got up to leave it felt much like I had wet myself as the water had run down my back and into the deckchair!

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The following day I went for a picnic in the park with two of my best friends and you’ve guessed it – it rained again, not long after we arrived.

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Celebration muffin

Surely I would have better luck with my final planned celebration? My husband and I headed up town for cocktails in the city with friends. Luck was definitely not on my side as yet again it tipped it down. I wore flip flops so ended up with very muddy feet. It was a fun afternoon none the less. It’s the second time I have attended this event and I highly recommend it.  Some of London’s best cocktail bars have pop ups and there is music and fun games to take part in, including giant draughts, coconut shy and darts.  The welcome drink was called The Cointreau Fizz which consisted of Cointreau, lime, soda and pomegranate and was served in a cute bottle.

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T-shirt Topshop

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Channelling art deco at Fontaine’s whilst enjoying Moet

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Photo booth at Fontaine’s

So my birthday was what you might call a wash out and as the song says ‘it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!’ I did feel the love though; everyone was very generous and thoughtful. It just goes to show that a summer birthday doesn’t guarantee good weather, perhaps next year I should plan indoor celebrations!

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Presents including iconic coat from Zara