The Uffizi Hunger Games

The Uffizi Hunger Games

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We had really soaked up the atmosphere of the city, had gone leather shopping and had drunk shots with a bald midget in some shisha bar after showing off our break dance moves. There was however, one last, very important thing left to do…

I always prefer seeing architecture and getting a feel of a city or a place through its people and learning through living history. So if I have a limited time in a place then I usually prefer spending it outside and taking in the atmosphere. However with one of Europe’s most famous museums and some of the world’s most famous works of art, here in Florence I was going to have to make an exception.

Florence is called the capital of arts; according to statistics produced by UNESCO, 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence. From the 13th to the 16th century it was a seemingly endless source of creative masterpieces and Italian genius. Both Dante and Michelangelo were born here. Boccaccio wrote his ‘Decameron’ in Florence. The Italian Renaissance, Europe’s richest cultural period, began in Florence when the artist Brunelleschi finished the Duomo, with the huge dome.

It was our last day in Florence. We walked past the bronze wild boar and rubbed its snout for luck. I had to do it twice because my coin bounced back and didn’t fall into the drain as it was supposed to…but the second time it did and so now I can safely tell you all that we will one day return to Florence*

*And also that I WILL now win the National Lottery…

Our first stop was to the the Galleria dell’ Accademia. We walked around the large rooms filled with religious paintings and iconography. Somehow in every room us art connoisseurs recognized the “famous painting” amongst all the others…Our conversations went something like this:

Abi: “I know that one…” “that’s that famous one”…

Stella: Ah yes, I think you’re right, who’s its by again”

Abi: “I can’t remember, but I’ve seen it before…. (Puzzled expression)*

*Move onto the next painting

My favorite things in the Galleria were the medieval religious flat paintings and the sculptures. There was an incredible room of plaster busts, but it was the majestic and spectacularly displayed, Michelangelo’s David, the most famous statue in the world, that was the star of the show. The stunning statue represents the Biblical hero David and because of the nature of the hero it represented, the statue soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Republic of Florence, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome.

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We took a short break from culture and went to watch some hot fitties run the marathon around the streets of Florence after which I ate Tuscan Stew served in a piece of hollowed out bread at the highly recommended II Cernacchino coffee shop.

Then it was on to the Uffizi, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in Europe, which is so popular we had to book tickets to go well in advance. We passed the Vasari Corridor and walked to the gallery where I was struck by its beautiful design and courtyard. Arches lead onto the river and shuttered windows looked down upon the quadrant and upon us. The art inside was incredible but the building with its ornate beams and halls decorated with frescos was stunning in itself. It was great seeing the Carravagios and the Rubens but I just adored the Botticelli’s. Their size, their fluidity and rich colors were celestial. The Birth of Venus was scandalous when it was first displayed and I could see why, but these paintings stood out because they represented the men of the renaissance, with references to ancient Rome instead of Christianity. The Allegory of Spring was my favorite, not just because we have a copy of it at home, but also because it looks like a Flemish Tapistry and contains over 130 specifically named plants.

The museum was fascinating and we walked on through rooms and rooms of masterpieces. After a couple of hours we started to get tiered but we had to keep going. This place was huge and it wouldn’t surprise me if people entered the Uffizi and died of old age before escaping. We were close to the exit when we passed a darkened room full of flopped out tourists, recovering on giant brown sofas and armchairs. Were they still breathing? Was this another version of the Hunger Games? Dehydrated and desperate, they knew, like us, that there were still at least 5 rooms to go…After cramping and blistering we finally crawled out of Florence’s culture maze! Was the Uffizi Hunger Games worth completing? See for yourselves 😉

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Gym Class Heroes

Gym Class Heroes

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It has been said that a person who stays long enough at Piccadilly Circus, will eventually bump into everyone they know. The junction, with all its buzzing people, neon lights and roaring red buses really feels like the absolute nerve center of London. To the right more lights radiate from the pulsating Theatre Land, to the left Regent Street ‘s beautiful crescent, old school British landmarks like the Ritz, behind me Arcades, La Duree, Fortnum & Mason’s and the Royal Academy and straight ahead the maze of lanterns, green dragons and tuk tuks of China Town.  Perhaps it is true, if I waited there I could end up meeting everyone that I knew, but really what lies beyond is far too tempting to stop there for too long… Anyway I am sure I don’t know enough people and even if I did they would probably all just pass under my nose whilst both they and I stared up at the iconic Coca-Cola, which has been there since 1954 and checked our Google Maps trying to avoid getting lost…

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Yesterday my friends and I decided to go for Japanese to one of my favorite restaurants in Soho, Sushi Eatery on 40 Frith Street and in going there we passed the iconic illuminated advertising. For our dinner and cocktail evening I decided to wear a long oversize sports top as a dress and to keep warm got out some old football socks. Why did I wear my old football socks, I hear you ask? Well, I was sorting out my wardrobe as part of my room redecoration and inevitably, after putting it off for quite some time, I had to deal with the horror of my sock draw. I managed to wrench it open and after doing so, stood there looking at its rather pathetic contents: my most useful white pop socks were all odd and limply swimming around the sock soup, caught only by a giant ball of last year’s tights. All of my best socks were the ones that I never wear but which take up the most space: old hockey protectors, gym and football socks, mountaineering wooly mitts – of these I had quite a few massive bundles and clearly they had been the cause of the jamming of the draw in the first place…If I didn’t wear them, I should throw them away…either that or keep them and move one step closer to officially becoming a horder…so I decided that instead of wearing trousers, I would use my thick hockey or gym socks in today’s outfit. Felt that they gave my outfit quite a cool urban edgy look and would mean that I wouldn’t have to  walk around trying to fish out warn out floppy socks from under my feet whilst I tried to look cool in Central.. So here are some pictures of my Gym Class Hero look! I hope you like them 😉

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Abi xxx

WEARING

Sweat Shirt with a Print- H&M

Black beenie – H &M

Black Football socks – SPORTS DIRECT

Metal toe slip-ons – STRADIVARIUS

You can now get closer to the action by following My Girls On Tour via social media, where I post outfits, looks and pics from our adventures in real time xxx

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 PS: Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the junction with Regent Street, which was then being built under the planning of John Nash on the site of a house and garden belonging to a Lady Hutton.It was surrounded by illuminated advertising hoardings on buildings, starting in the early 1900s. At the southwestern side of the Circus, moved after World War II from its original position in the centre, stands the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, who was a famous Victorian politician and philanthropist. The subject of the Memorial is the Greek God Anteros and is sometimes given the name The Angel of Christian Charity and is popularly mistaken for Eros.

There Was A Fire

There Was A Fire

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My Dad woke me up early because there was a fire. The next door neighbor had stoked her chimney and had gone to see some friends. The pipe hadn’t been swept yet as it was just the beginning of this year’s winter days and so the heat had not been able to escape properly and the metal got hotter and hotter until it had started to glow red in the darkness. This is often how small chimney fires start here in the mountain, but this one was different. Yellow insulation resting on the red hot tin caught fire and by the time anyone had realized what was going on, the flames coming out of the house were 30 ft high.

The village is far away from the fire brigade station and so has its own fire brigade, a little group of volunteers who until now have never really been called upon. People ran between the narrow streets trying to work out which house was ablaze, as unless you are outside of the village you can not see one house passed another. At first we thought that it was us.

Smoke billowed through cracks in the adjoining walls and stones were red hot to the touch. The air outside was foggy as if in cloud and my Mum in all her panic had to go back to let the cat and the dog out of the house after we had locked up and vacated the building. We huddled in the outdoor square and watched chains of people with buckets from the nearby fountain, their meager water like rain drops, insignificant against the roaring fire. The owner of the house still wasn’t back and no one was sure whether her children had been inside asleep. A member of the volunteer fire brigade, a local farmer, scaled the medieval walls and kicked in the window and went inside with a handkerchief around his nose. We heard explosions are more oxygen reached the flames. After an agonizing wait he emerged from the shell confirming that no one was inside.

The wind in Mosset either blows from the mountains and this is called La Tramontagne, or blows from the sea and brings the clouds. Tonight, for the first and probably the last time in my family’s memory, there was no wind and the air was calm and silent and the flames lept into the starry sky and the smoke engulfed the villagers. The house burnt right through, but the fire did not spread. Had there been a wind, the whole village would have also burnt right through, burnt back down to igneous. As twilight dawned, my Dad went up to our roof to offer the sleeping fire men some of our left over Quality Street Chocolates and some coffee. They couldn’t leave yet even though there was nothing left, just in case one little spark reignited the blaze.

So my Dad woke me up early to say there was a fire, but this time it wasn’t a real fire, not like the one 17 years ago, the famous village fire in the house next door. I went to the window and rather than seeing swirls of smoke and floating ash, I saw an incredible fire, a fire in the sky. My Autumn sunrise, Orange, pink, red and light blue, magical and a reminder of the awesome power of nature.

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Les Fauves at Collioure

Les Fauves at Collioure

     It was the summer of 1905. Matisse was joined by Derain at Collioure for a summer holiday. The rich blue of the sea, the pastel of the houses, the red and green of the boats and the yellow ocher of the sand inspired their works which displayed incredibly vibrant brush strokes and colors. The passion and energy of the paintings were visible for all to see and people started referring to the artist’s as “Les Fauves” or the wild beasts.

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  What I love about Collioure is that it is seems to have remained unchanged from the time when the Fauvists were here. You can walk around the town and follow a trail of replica paintings hung at the very spots where the artists painted their masterpieces. Stand where they once stood and gaze at their present and reflect on your own.  The medieval streets wind away from sandy bays where fishing boats are docked, flowers twist their way around old doors, the royal castle looks down upon a stone causeway against which the sea crashes and catches tourists unawares. Rock pools, fish, gulls and a rainbow of colored houses spilling off the mountainside. Just when you think it couldn’t get much prettier, you turn the corner and see the once lighthouse, now converted into the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, its large cross dark against the blue water and the yellow cliff and the town walls, built all the way up to the sea’s edge.

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I went there with my best friend Laura, whom I met when I was 9 years old at primary school and we have remained friends ever since.  We had a big seafood platter lunch, with lobster, crab and shellfish on the sea front at alovely french bistro and then walked around and did some shopping in the little boutique side streets. I bought a really nice white cotton top and some pottery. The shops here sell some great local produce, so its a great place to buy some super lovely souvenirs 😉

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Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for “the wild beasts”), a loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. Characteristics of Fauvism  include warm and cold colors  juxtaposed to add excitement and  left almost unblended, the emotional quality of color was emphasized,drawings were simplified, there was no attempt at 3D drawing as most areas of the canvas were left “flat” and a dark line can often be seen around some elements.

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La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque

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Rudyard Kipling , the British writer, poet and novelist sojourned four times at Vernet-Les-Bains. In his letters home, he talked about Canigou, the magician among mountains, comparing it to the peaks of the Himalayas and certain hills in South Africa, which evoked mystery and spirituality. He, like many Brits had come in search of the winter sun and it were these pioneering, adventurous Victorians who are credited with the emergence of French alpine tourism. It was during the 1830s, when three more sources of water rich in sulfur and natural health properties were discovered, that the Belle Époque buildings and spa were built, to cater for vast numbers of health tourists. The arrival of the son of the pacha of Egypt and Constantinople, prince Ibrahim Pacha in 1846 really gave Vernet-Les-Bains international notoriety.

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Now, many of the old grand buildings of the Belle Époque have gone, but there are two particularly impressive Art Deco buildings which remain, Le Grand Hotel Du Portugal and the Casino next door to it. They really are so beautiful and an impressive reminder of this golden age. The Grand Hotel is such a great representation of french architecture and I loved all the colors and the gardens. For our trip I wore glitzy sequin slip-ons and a very bold red jacket with big black buttons. I thought it fitting to add a black star to my lapel to bring me some luck for my game on the roulette and thought that the red of the jacket and my lipstick would be in sharp contrast to the black of the buttons and of the shoes. To really jazz up the look I decided to carry a hard mini case clutch made out of various tin cans and recycled metal.

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I never have enough money to bet on numbers, so on the rare occasions that I do go to the casino I tend to play black/red ;)… if things go badly I just leave feeling depressed for the next two hours and if things go well I turn into a crazy addict on a roll-

Red, red..it IS going to be RED next…Ermm, Abi how do you know? I just know, I know because I have a system OK?!, I must stick to the system, the patterns…The roulette gets me and I get the roulette. Red, it must be red….BLACK…!DAMN! F***! Abi watches with watering eyes as the croupier racks in her chips… It’s your fault, you broke my concentration…its over, our winning streak is finished and it is ALL YOUR FAULT… ????? Ok, maybe its not ALL your fault…I think your right, maybe its time to leave, I think I may have done enough gambling for one day…

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Abi xxx

WEARING

Red Jacket –  CHRISTIAN LACROIX

Ripped Jeans – PRIMARK

Fairtrade Recycled Can Hard Clutch Bag – PITT RIVERS MUSEUM

Black and Silver Sequin Slip-ons – TESCOS

Black Star Brooch – VINTAGE

Earrings – BULGARI

Diamond Bracelet – MACY’S

Silver Bangle – AFGHAN CONNECTION (Charity Supporting Girl’s Education in Afghanistan)

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Gold and Leopard Print for Pyrenean Oasis

Gold and Leopard Print for Pyrenean Oasis

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Staying in the foothills of the Pyrenees is like a detox for your whole body. You get Vitamin D from the sun, the air is so clean, you get fit because you are walking up and down hills all day, you can gorge on a really amazing Mediterranean diet of home grown produce…and last but not least you can pamper you skin and body at one of the many Thermal Spas dotted around the valleys as a result of tectonic activity below ground. Our nearest Thermal Baths are at Molitg Les Bains Les Termes, where a beautiful art deco hotel has been built around natural hot springs which bubble up from the ground. The water is rich in sulfur and has loads of great properties and a lovely thing to do is to go for a day at the spa. That is if you can get over the horrible stench of rotten egg…

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The Thermes are situated in a stunning natural location, in the gorge of the Castellane valley at the heart of a vaste exotic park. Promenades are shaded by tall palm and fur trees and peacocks roam freely on the lawns. A romanesque fortress looks down upon the hotel from a tall rocky mound and its just lovely walking around in such lovely surroundings. The art deco design really harps back to this hotel’s pre war glory days, when ladies lay under parasols and the men climbed down the white metal staircases into the river pool.

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For my trip here I decided to wear a black and gold plant embellished long blazer. The trees and plants are changing colors and so gold was a great rich Autumn choice to reflect the warm yellows and oranges in a sumptuous environment. I combined it with a Leopard print clutch purse and shoes. The leather trousers were a bit hot, because its so much warmer over here than in the UK, but the tight fitting cut really brought attention to the blazer.

Let me know what you think of the look 😉

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WEARING

Black and Gold Lead Embellished Blazer – RIVER ISLAND

Leopard Print Shoes – RUSSEL & BROMLEY

Leopard Clutch – TK MAXX

Gold Sunglasses – EBAY

Black Lace T-Shirt – H&M

Taupe Leather Biker’s Trousers – ZARA

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Mosset Through The Seasons

Mosset Through The Seasons

                So I am supper excited to be writing to you from the South of France! I arrived yesterday and can’t wait to show your my pictures and share my stories of my trip with you 🙂 The good news is that whereas in London it was super freezing, here people are still going swimming in the sea!

My base for my week in the sun is Mosset, which is 55km from Perpignan and is considered to be one of the most picturesque villages in France. The medieval town looks down upon the Castellane vallee from its rocky perch and a beautiful bunzzai pine tree grows from the roof of its church. In the foothills of the Pyrenees, the little cluster of red roofs and houses is surrounded by hundreds of hectares of forest and beautiful wild mountainside. This place is very special for me, as it is where I grew up and it is where my family home is. I learnt to speak french at the village school and the thick forests are where we went skiing every Tuesday afternoon. I don’t get to come back here as often as I would like, but when I do come it is the perfect place to relax and really see the beauty of nature.

Being so close to nature, you really get to experience and see all the seasons unfold in all their glory. The snow capped peaks in winter, the flowers and butterflies in the spring, the blue skies and swallows of the summer. But for me it is in Autumn when this place is the most spectacular, as the weather is usually great, the sky is really dark blue and the hills are ablaze with color. The leaves of the cherry trees turn bright red and orange, yellows and beautiful purples erupt all around the houses.

Everyone though has their favourite season, so I thought I would show you some pictures of Mosset through the seasons so that you could decide on yours! 🙂

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In 1258, Mosset became part of the Kingdom of Aragon after having been under Moor, French and Roman rule.  At this time the village was 3km away and the remnants of this part of the village still stands to this day. From the 10th until the 13th century, the population began gathering around the castle and it is this way that the village moved to its present site around 700 m in altitude which is higher up the valley.  Part of the Kindgom of Majorca until 1344, Mosset became an important boarder town and city walls and fortifications were built. On the route of the Kindgom of Aragon and France, it grew in wealth, population and economic importance. After 1344, Mosset once more became under Aragon rule and it was in this period that the castle was renovated. Only in 1649 is Mosset attached to France under the Pyrenees treaties. The village was little affected by the measure from the central government and the revolution and the inhabitants maintain their combative, unique and rugged personality.

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Fall Trends: Army Green and Cloche Hats

Fall Trends: Army Green and Cloche Hats

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The sun was shinning, the birds chirped…We walked around the city in our short skirts, shorts and shades, had lazy Sunday picnics in the park and faced severed dehydration riding the central line during rush hour. Nights were sweaty and we started resenting our double glazing and carpet upholstery as the house was just so hot. Summer here in London seemed to be eternal…but then two weeks ago…life as we knew it changed forever. It was a day like any other when my luck finally run out. I had dressed to go and meet some friends and left my house without a jumper or umbrella.  The wind blew and the heavens opened, the temperature dropped. I had played weather Russian roulette and I was going to get burned. From that day onwards, things have really gone from bad to worse and so it is actually quite hard not to want to skip Fall Trends and just go straight onto to winter coats , scarves and jumpers – really just to save myself from loosing my toes and fingers to frostbite…

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The only thing holding me is back from doing this are the lovely rich earthy autumn colors that are so in vogue at the moment:

yellow ochers, army greens, dark red burgundy and oranges-

And the fact that sometimes the sun does come out and then the snow boots feel a little excessive…Also the tube at rush hour is still really hot, so you don’t want to wear too many warm clothes…

So to outsmart the schizophrenic weather, I decided to wear a light blue dress with heels, but to keep warm I wore a thick wool long coat and a cloche hat. This way, if the sun did end up coming out, then I wouldn’t roast because I would be able to strip down to the dress and heels but then, if it suddenly got cold and rained, I would be protected by the hat. I decided to try an unusual combination of green and blue for an industry meeting and I loved how the coolness of the blue was really enriched by the army green. I really loved the tartan and the Harris Tweed that I had seen during my trip to Edinburgh and this outfit was really inspired by my trip up there and also a 1920s french chic style. I dressed the casual  trench coat up with the cloche hat and green lace up heels. The different tones of grey in the cloche hat really brought out a subtly in the block green and I draped the scarf over one shoulder as I had seen during one of the collections at the Emerging Trends Fashion at London Fashion Week.

Let me know what you think and how you deal with the changing weather 🙂

Abi xxx

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WEARING

Army Green Coat – COAST

Army Green Lace Up Heels – ZARA

Mixed Fabric Tunic – ZARA

Tonal Grossgain Cloche Hat – ACCESSORIZE

Green and Blue Knit Scarf – ZARA

Le Pliage Toile Bag- LONGCHAMP

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