Valencia

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Christmas is coming and we are having such a fun time. On the first we set off to Ikea to buy our Christmas tree and then by the second we had found enough ball-balls and tinsel to decorate it. As I am writing our living room is filled with lights and Christmas cheer and as the days are getting shorter I am loving snuggling at home in the warm and watching films, going to winter markets and seeing all the beautiful lights in the center of London. Have you got your decorations up yet? What do you like to do in the build  up to Christmas?

We have been shooting, going to brand launches and store openings and tomorrow we have the most amazing event ever, Tie Break Tens, a day of tennis featuring some of the world’s top players. I have a massive surprise coming for all your tennis lovers and I can’t wait to reveal everything to you tomorrow!

But before I tell all, I first wanted to share some pictures from my last trip to Spain, one of the places where I played a lot of ITF and WTA tournaments when I was playing tennis on the world tour. My parents and I did a bit of a road trip through Spain and one of our final destinations was Valencia. Valencia is a beautiful city, filled with grand buildings, large squares and orange trees. It is not only the birthplace of Paella, but it is also home to the most amazing science park, the location for my outfit shoot. I have written about Valencia and the traditional festival Las Fallas, where massive caricature sculptures are burnt after weeks of fireworks, bangers and the beautiful flower procession – where women from all over Spain, dressed in traditional costumes, come to offer their flowers to the Virgin. It truly is a special place and the science park, designed in the shape of whales and fish bones is mesmerising!

Spain has so many beautiful cities, if you could visit one where would you go? If you have been, which one is your favourite?

Abi xxx

Wearing

White Crochet Dress- AX PARIS

Kimono – VINTAGE

Beaded Sandals – ACCESSORIZE

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Alice’s Pig

Alice’s Pig

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Happy Monday everybody! The mist here in London has been rolling in, turning this weekend into the perfect creepy Halloween! This time of year, with all the pumpkins, sweets and costumes really make me feel like a like a kid, and soon it will be Christmas…OUUUU the excitement (yes it is almost too much to bear!).  So, with that in mind, I thought that it would be the perfect occasion to talk about one of my Alice in Wonderland moments that I had in Avila this summer and one of my favourite original new brands, Alice’s Pig, inspired by vintage style and one of the best Walt Disney films ever, Alice in Wonderland!

Ever since I was a kid I was obsessed with the cartoon – I loved the flamingo croquet, the bread and butter butterflies, the “Eat Me” sweets and of course Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee… Probably living close to the Alice Bar, a pub that is entirely themed, when I was at uni, didn’t help with my obsession, but it’s hard for anyone to shake off the impact of such a fun, brightly coloured film about a white rabbit in a waist coat, a stoned Caterpillar and painted red roses.

When I went to Avila this summer, I had my own Alice moment when I walked through the massive gates of the incredible walled fortifications of the city and there, right in front of us were these huge giant papier mâché figurines, looming above us, twirling around people, tall and bright against the sandstone walls of the castle. I really felt as if I had taken a sip from Alice’s magic shrinking potion, it was such a magical feeling, the whole city was just incredible, with beautiful Cathedrals and lovely old streets, they all dwarfed me. We ate traditional “llemas de Santa Teresa” made with egg yolks and sugar, we had the most incredible food with Gustavo’s and his family in a restaurant opposite the wall and walks around, gazing upwards for hours. It was crazy, but it was normal.

Crazy but Normal, that is what is great about Alice’s Pig‘s vintage style that is so perfect for London life right now. The name of course really drew me to this brand, reminding whoever should choose to venture down the rabbit hole that colliding styles and cultures can produce something interesting and that there can be beauty and surprise in anything; even in a pig. So this summer, right after coming back from the incredible UNESCO world heritage city of Avila, I decided to style one of their original gridded skirt and crop top with an orchid printed scarf and long flowy blouse. Alice’s Pig’s designs are so bright and funky, with stripes, stars, floral patterns and feminine cuts, they are the perfect pieces for a cool street style look or for a more elegant, 60’s retro look.

Have you had any Alice in Wonderland moments recently?

Abi xxx

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WEARING

Two piece combination of a pleated maxi skirt and a cute top – GINA’S GRID by ALICE”S PIG

Orchid Print Neck Scarf- SILKANDY

White Chiffon Blouse – Stradivarius

Glasses – Stradivarius

The Devil Wears Prado

The Devil Wears Prado

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Wow! We have had such an exciting week with so many great meetings and we have been working on some super exciting projects that I can’t wait to share with you, but first I wanted to share with you the last day of our Madrid trip!

Our time in Madrid was truly fantastic, we followed in footsteps of Naomi Campbell, Penelop Cruz and Jimmy Carter and ate churros with hot chocolate at the most famous Chocolateria, Chocolateria San Gines. We played golf, had Tapas and enjoyed evenings with our family and friends.  Probably one of the highlights of our trip, or at least the one that would impact my day to life forevermore, was getting my first pair of prescription glasses, because I hadn’t realised but after doing an eye test, I was and still am, actually pretty blind. Now that I have my glasses, I’ve realised that things far away ( TV, paintings in a museum, people) were a bit of a blur, like in those Specsaver adverts where people kiss strangers on the train platform…Yes that was me…but NO MORE! * Victory Fist Pump! Thanks to Gustavo and his parents who bought me the glasses, I can now see the world and Madrid in HD! Hurray for Specs!

So, now that I had been given the gift of sight, there were so many great shops and beautiful streets left to explore, but my parent’s voices kept resounding in my head ” Abi…Make sure you go to El Prado to see the Vilazquezs and the Goyas”…  I had put it off for too long and now on our last day I could ignore it no longer… So in true good girl fashion, on our last day, we set off in search of some serious culture. We took the train to Sol and walked passed the Jamon and the Wine Shops and made our way passed the impressive Congress towards a beautiful tree lined boulevard. We went first to the famous Reina Sofia National Museum to admire Picasso’s impressive and most powerful painting Guernica and the most amazing collection of Salvador Dali paintings. I could have stayed here for days admiring the all the modern art but, after a quick stop off in the shaded museum garden, we walked back towards the beast…towards El Prado.

 We waited until 6pm to go to El Prado, because it is free to get in after 6pm and although the queues was pretty long to start with, they soon died down. El Prado is Spain’s national museum of art and features one of the world’s finest collections of European Art. The building itself was very beautiful, it had large columns, vaulted ceilings and incredibly wide corridors. We got to see the Goya’s and the Velazquez’s in all their glory, my favourite being of course Las Meninas by Velazquez… it was an incredible experience and definitely a must if you visit Madrid!

Whilst we waited we enjoyed the incredible views of the Ritz Hotel and took pictures of the most beautiful church tucked away behind the museum.  It was still pretty hot, so I wore a lace French Connection Top with Spanish floral espadrilles, Zara jean shorts and a Louis Vuitton Clutch Purse and I of course took with my Affelou glasses so that I could admire the masterpieces! Don’t forget the Macaroon Phone-Cover from I-Paint Store! 🙂

I hope you like my new specs! 🙂 Happy Sunday Everybody xxx

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NERD ALERT! FUN FACTS! 🙂

  • El Prado features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture in 1819, it also contains important collections of other types of works. El Prado is one of the most visited sites in the world, and is considered one the greatest museums of art in the world. The numerous works byFrancisco de Goya, the single most extensively represented artist, as well as by Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch are some of the highlights of the collection.
  • The collection currently comprises around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents.
  • The best-known work on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Velázquez. Velázquez and his keen eye and sensibility were also responsible for bringing much of the museum’s fine collection of Italian masters to Spain, now the largest outside of Italy.

Summer with Smorodina Fashion

Summer with Smorodina Fashion

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I always love discovering a city’s culture and taking in the sites, but in true fashionista spirit, on our third day after a lunch of prawns, calamari and beers, we hit the beautiful boutiques and designer stores along Calle Serano, for some serious retail therapy.  Everyone here looked very stylish and it is a great place for fashion inspiration and chic looks. Some of my favourite stores included Caramelo and Loewe one of Spain’s best-known labels, which dominated the street with two boutiques, including one on the corner of Calle Goya. The stores boasted ready-to-wear pieces from Paris Fashion Week and pop-up exhibitions, so Loewe enthusiasts like myself were really spoilt for choice. I also really enjoyed Agatha Ruiz de la Prada as it ‘s colourful collections, which had incredible energy, with vibrant patterns and eclectic accessories. Of course I also stocked up on some incredibly stylish pieces from Zara and Massimo Dutti and had to hit Bershka and Stradivarius for some great street style looks.

We decided to go drinks with our friends in the evening to the Roof at ME at Plaza de Santa Ana, on one of Madrid’s most beautiful squares, opposite the Teatro Real. The lighting there was amazing and so were the cocktails! The American Diner that we went to the day before really inspired today’s Grease Lightning outfit. I wore a bright yellow 1970’s style skirt by Russian Fashion House Smorodina Fashion that I have recently discovered, with a green halter neck top, high heeled black shoes from Dune and a black leather jacket from Zara, for a relaxed yet chic look.

Smorodina Fashion have the most incredible, unique skirts, which are really high up on my MUST HAVE LIST not only for this summer but for Fall. Each skirt is made out of incredible material, I particularly loved the mesh texture of this one  and the shape of it really made it look like an haute couture design. I wore it a number of times over this summer including to Islantilla. It was really easy to style and it looked great both dressed up with heels or dressed down with flats. The yellow was really perfect for an eye-catching chic look that was appropriate for so many occasions!

Let me know what you think!

Abi xxx

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WEARING

Yellow Mesh Skirt – SMORODINA FASHION

Black HIgh Heels Shoes – DUNE

Leather Jacket – ZARAS

All Star Girl in Madrid

All Star Girl in Madrid

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I am sure you will agree that a day that starts off well is one that starts off with Strawberry Milkshakes and Chocolate Sunday’s! 😉 So I bet you could imagine my excitement when we decided to go to the most amazing “All American Diner” right in the heart of Madrid for breakfast. Tony & Mel’s has everything from the black and white tiled floors to the neon lights and duke box and really all that was missing really was Hillary Duff on roller skates. I had to restrain myself from completely filling my phone memory with pics and also from ordering an extra slice of cheesecake to go with my milkshake…OK, fine! I admit it, I failed on both accounts, but still it was super fun at least it meant we had energy for the day’s adventures!

 After eating the equivalent of breakfast, lunch and dinner in one sitting, we made our way to El Retiro, a massive park in the center of Madrid, filled with trees (one of which is the oldest in Madrid), beautiful gardens, a lake and impressive moments, such as the one to King Alfonse XII. We walked around, took some pictures and enjoyed the sun. You could see why people refer to it as the lungs of Madrid, it was so great being surrounded by nature whilst being so close to the heart of the city.

After some serious relaxation time, we drove around Plaza de Colon to admire the many monuments built to commemorate the explorer Christopher Columbus and saw Cibeles, the important fountain in front of the Town Hall of Madrid where Real Madrid celebrate their victories. The whole square was simply stunning, with marble sculptures, the fountain and the impressive neo-gothic hall looming above us! 

In the morning I wore ripped blue jeans with high top black and white Vans shoes and a street style t-shirt that worked well with the American vibe of the diner and then in the afternoon, because it was really hot I changed into white jean shorts and a grey top with lace detail that I wore with high top converse All Stars. I also wore a light crochet jumper to wear inside when the air-con was on. I took with me some of travel essentials, like my Nikon Camera, I-Phone and of course my Passport, because in Spain you have to have identification on you at all times. I showered my look with my some of my summer essentials including my Pull & Bear triangle purse that was perfect for keeping my euro coins in, my Deluxe Store Bahrain jewel encrusted bangles and last but by no means least, my customised, specially made sterling silver ‘Abi” sunglasses from Epitome, that I loved wearing all summer because they were specially made to my taste and had my initials put on the arm. The perfect touch of bling to make any outfit unique!

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WEARING

High Top Black & White Sneakers – VANS

Ripped Jeans – PRIMARK

Street Style Top – PILAR PRIETO

Customized Sterling Silver Glasses – EPITOME

Triangle Wallet – PULL & BEAR

Jewel Bangles – DELUXE STORE BAHRAIN

White Jean Shorts –  H&M

Grey Top with Black Lace – MANGO

High Top Sneakers – CONVERSE

Satchel – QUICKSILVER

MADRID MANIA

MADRID MANIA

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We had such a great time in Motril, it was really sad to say goodbye to the sea, but I was pretty excited when we set off on the next leg of our road trip – MADRID! We set off on convoy early in the morning, driving through the mountainous region of Granada, the olive groves of Jaen and then up through the sun scorched fields of Castilla de La Mancha – the land where petrol stations stock hunting knives and massive cheeses and where I saw my first ball of tumble weed. TUMBLE WEED :)))! Wouawouawoua (Wild Wild West Music)…Indeed, the motorway stops and motels of Castilla de la Mancha look like they have come straight out of Tarentino’s film “From Dusk Till Dawn”- Creepy vibes from the knife window displays, stares from men with eyes in weird places and the motels look like you would need to sleep with one eye open or you could wake up without a kidney… Needless to say we stopped and had the most amazing Spanish Tortilla and Strong Coffee and we left without a scratch, but with all the knives on show, the imagination does go wild…

The traffic intensified as came into the capital. We drove past sky scrapper’s and along grand boulevards to reach the city centre. It was really nice and sunny and so, after dropping our things off, we went to explore the city straight away. Our first port of call was Puerta del Sol, the centre of the radial network of Spanish Roads. It was super fun standing at the Kilometre 0 point, taking pictures of the iconic billboard signs of Tio Pepe and the even more famous symbol of Madrid El Oso y El Madroño, a giant statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree, the symbol of the city.

Puerta del Sol was pretty busy but we sat for a few moments by the large fountain in the centre of the square and enjoyed the sun. All of a sudden, a gaggle of giant foam cartoon characters appeared and started mingling amongst the crowds in the aim of getting tourists to take their photo. Mr Bean, the Minions, they were all there. I really wish now that I had take my picture with them because they were hilarious, especially when Mr Bean and Bart Simpson started engaging in some sort of photo turf war, which after some comical gestures, required a hot flustered Bob Square Pants to intervene.  Was I in Madrid, or was I actually dreaming?

The cartoon action was getting intense and so we decided to move off in search of some shade and the old quarters of Madrid. The narrow streets were cool  and lined with orange trees. The houses were brightly coloured and in between the old fashioned barbers and coin collectors there were flamenco taverns and tapas bars. This place seemed to embody everything Spanish, from the food to the sounds, it was all there. A must see if you are ever in the area is the Arco de Cuchilleros, the Barber’s Arch, that leads to the grand Plaza Mayor, which has beautifully painted walls, corner turrets and balconied three-story residential buildings –  starring up at those houses was most definitely a “life goals” moment if ever there was one…

Although the open air terraces of Plaza Mayor looked appealing we decided to have lunch at the famous restaurant, Casa Lucio’s, who’s signature dish “huevos rotos”, Spanish Ham, Eggs and Chips has been enjoyed by all sorts of celebrities, from Leonardo Di Caprio to the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. For pudding, because there is always room for pudding, we waddled over to the Mercado St Miguel, an incredible place, full of counters and stands with dried hams, cheeses, olives, wine, coffee, fruit smoothies, exotic fruits and of course my favourite, macaroons and cakes. Not too dissimilar to La Boqueria in Barcelona, along the counters there were stools to sit and it would have been a great place to have a more informal lunch surrounded by locals and definitely the right place if you are looking for some seriously photogenic food! After some amazing pistachio and raspberry macarons, we rounded off our first day at the symmetrical French design Sebatini Gardens and incredible Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, who unfortunately forgot our invite for afternoon tea..

So here are the pictures from this glorious day, some of you may have seen some of them already in my Madrid Trip post featured in Mess Magazine, but for those who haven’t here they are!

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WEARING

Reflective Glasses – LEFTIES

Blue Faux- Leather Jacket – ZARAS

Blue Jeans – RIVER ISLAND

Shoes – CONVERSE

White Shirt – STRADIVARIUS

White Floral Jumper – LEFTIES

Motril Photo Diary

Motril Photo Diary

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Travelling on an AVE in Spain is always a pleasurable experience. Arriving just 30 minutes before departure means that you are well on time, if not early, there is hardly any wait, you can take as much luggage as you can carry and the carriages are kept at the perfect temperature, which in the Spanish summer, is prettyyy darn important if you ask me! 😉 I watched the countryside turn from orange groves to olive trees, from red earth to scorched yellow grass in between chapters of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, which tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a Republican guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. I mean if you are going to go to a foreign country then you might as well immerse yourself completely in it’s culture, right? 😉

It was pretty hot in Barcelona but down South was something else. I couldn’t have prepared myself for the wave of hot air that hit me as I stepped out of the train, even at 9 o’clock the air still hadn’t cooled down. We were met at Alicante station by my boyfriend Gustavo’s lovely parents, whom we were visiting and with whom we would be staying the week with. We had gone to Motril the year before and the great thing about the place is that it is very close to Granada and Gustavo and his family have been going there on holiday for years, so they know all the great things to do, the places to eat great food and have loads of really nice friends. Our time spent here is always super fun, the perfect type of summer holiday, spent in the presence of perfect company.

This week was all about relaxing, enjoying the beach and the pool. The apartment that we stayed at was really lovely and right on the sea front and a short drive to the golf course. A real home away from home! Are days were spent playing gold, going to the numerous chirringitos or beach bars, drinking summer wine and eating sea food on the terrace and of course meeting our friends down at the beach.

Because of the position of Motril on the coast, the sea water is a mix of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and depending on the tide and the wind, sometimes is very warm, other times ice cold and sometimes just the perfect temperature. Everyday when we walked down the water’s edge we would wonder what it would be like and the topic of conversation first thing would invariably turn to that. We had days when the temperature of the water would change by a whole 10 degrees, days when our feet would virtually turn to ice, days when the water was warm and like a millpond and others where it was super hot but we couldn’t swim because of tiny little purple jelly fish that the kids hunted around the shore and prodded with sticks. The action was undoubtedly down at the beach, but we always had our back up plan, the clear warm pool of the apartment, surrounded by soft grass and palm trees.

On Tuesday night the most amazing market that appears along the promenade, between the palm trees and the sea, where people sell all sorts of things including locally grown mangos, bananas and peaches. Motril is on what is called the Tropical Coast and Spaniards have named it such due to the micro-climate and warm weather that is so typical of the area. The winters are so mild that sugar cane grows there and rhum is even made locally! At the market Gustavo’s family bought me a really pretty bikini, some cute floral espadrilles and some lovely earrings that I couldn’t take off. Those little stands were just full of treasures and the perfect place for anyone looking for good value pretty pieces. In fact I am wearing some of my purchases in the pictures below…

Last year when we stayed here on our Andalusian Road Trip we went to visit Granada and the Alhambra which is a must see if you ever travel to Spain or if you love UNESCO heritage sites, because it was one of the most magnificent sites that I have ever been to. This time though we stayed locally, going for walks to a nature park close to the house, playing beach tennis and making great new friends.  One night we even went to the local fisherman’s village fair complete with children’s rides, candy floss machines and shooting range, where singers performed until the early hours of the morning and salsa dancers danced next to streets of low lying white washed houses decorated with colourful bunting. It felt like I was back in Cuba for the night!

I couldn’t get used to walking past the most incredible flowers and tropical plants. Large bushes covered in massive Hawaiian type flowers, some red, some white and some pink were growing everywhere. I absolutely love palm trees, the rustling noise that they make in the wind and the fan shape of the leaves and being surrounded by so many of them really made me feel as if I was a a lot further away, maybe even the Caribbean!

So here is the photo diary of my time in Motril, I hope you like it!

Abi xxx

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Hola Barcelona!

Hola Barcelona!

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I thought that I would start my Spanish summer travel adventures with our trip down to Motril, Granada, in the very South of Spain, the place that we returned from shortly before the start of fashion week.

After spending a week at my parent’s house in the South of France, going to the beach, walking in the mountains and eating amazing seafood, we took crossed the boarder into Northern Catalunya and took the train from Figueres, home to the amazing Salvador Dali Museum, to Barcelona, a trip that I usted to do it fairly regularly when I played professional tennis at the Sanchez Casal Academy. It is a pretty easy journey and one that I would recommend to any travellers wanting to go from the South of France into Spain. It is so much easier, quicker and cheaper to cross the boarder by car and then join the local train network at either Girona or Figueres, which will then take you directly into the heart of Barcelona, rather than attempt to go directly from Perpignan.

The giant white eggs of the Dali Museum loomed above the rusty red mosaic towers that jutted into the sky. The air was already hot even though it was quite early in the morning. We bought out train tickets and then had some strong Spanish coffee, croissants and chocolate pastries in the small little station cafe. The timing was perfect, we were just finishing when the train was announced in Catalan and before we knew it, we were speeding off into the dust and sun, towards the big city, towards Barcelona.

Barcelona is one of my favourite places in the whole world, I have so many great memories there and whenever I return they all just come flooding back. I remember when I was just 14 having finished tennis practice, racing my friends up the steps at the Park Guel and wondering the Gothic quarters in search of tapas and earrings. Every weekend we would take the bus into town, we would walk down the Ramblas, go shopping along the Diagonal, have coffee at Starbucks and go then go on to Port Olimpic.  Indeed simply arriving at Sants and walking passed the McDonald’s where my friend Federica and I had been stranded at 1.30am and seeing the vending machine that we had searched when we arrived at the station another time only to realise that we had no money to get home because we had spent all of our money shopping, was a real trip down memory lane. It all felt like yesterday that we were all on tour together!

We had some time to wait before taking out connecting AVE, Spain’s super fast train, that would take us down to Alicante in 5 only hours! So we left the train station and walked around the beautiful city, passed the first nightclub I ever went out to and onwards into the distance, to Plaza Catalunya, to the old streets and passed Gaudi’s Casa Battlo. We walked around el barrio Gotico and had smoothies at La Boqueria. It was all so magical and it was shame that our stay was so brief.

On our way back to the station after an exhausting day walking around admiring the mosaics and blue sky, we stopped off at a nice looking restaurant and had a great lunch, perfect for preparing us for our trip down to Alicante. One of the best things I learned while I living in Spain was to always go for the lunch menu because they are usually around 10-12 euros and include drinks (wine, coke…) three courses and coffee. If you find a standard decent place to eat then the food will be fresh and of really good standard.

I was sad to say Adios to Barcelona but excited for our next stop, Motril a sea side resort close to Alicante which was now only 5 1/2 hours away!

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