Speedos, Scorpians and other tasty bites around lake Hou Hai

Speedos, Scorpians and other tasty bites around lake Hou Hai

I was jet lagged and quite exhausted from the mammoth journey, but today was my first day in Beijing and I was determined to see some cool stuff! Shirwa arrived, looking similarly traumatized as I had done. He had taken a taxi from the airport so had avoided the car ride with the random stranger, but our hostel had been located in such a little alleyway that the taxi driver had refused to enter the Hutong, possibly through fear and so had bundled Shirwa out of the car on some nearby main road. After a few panicked calls (my phone was on silent and in my bag), I rushed out of the Slum Hutong to greet my weary friend.

We got all our valuables put into the safe, eyed up suspiciously and gave menacing glares of DON’T TOUCH MY STUFF to our dorm room mates and set off for Hou Hai. Hou Hai is a lake around which there are bars, restaurants, night markets and more Hutongs. This time we did as Lonely Planet recommended us to do and got pretty lost in the Hutongs and surrounding lake area.¬† I can’t exactly tell you therefore where all the photos were taken, but lets just say in Old Beijing, by a lake and at a night market.

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On the way to the Lake and the night market – remember to always look both ways when crossing the roads ūüėČ

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Weeping willows dropped lazily into the still water whilst Chinese men swam and dived in wearing their Speedos. The restaurants’ terraces looked out over a sea of giant lilies. It was idyllic. Well, except for the customers who were eating their food who got an extra helping of sausage.

 

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We came face to face with the legendary fried scorpions, starfish and sea horses. Octopus balls and corn blown up and moulded into the shapes of crazy animals. We bought some smoking drink called ? Perhaps someone could help me out? Anyway it was¬† our first taste of China.¬† It was excitting, I was daring and adventurous. The moment didn’t last too long though as after one sip we realized that it was cold steaming tea, so it hadn’t been boiled – tried to ask about the state of the water, failed miserably, saw some dodgy looking metal container, smiled sweetly, nodding our heads whilst walking increasingly quickly backwards, before dashing away and throwing the contents away once behind a corner. Clearly we had just avoided days of unnecessary leakages!

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We went to a little local restaurant and browsed the exotic menu. We avoided any real internal parts of animals and in doing so had a sumptuous dinner of rice, vegetables and chicken. It was all so cheap, we ordered enough food for 20.

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Shirwa was greeted by an America who insisted on buying me and him a drink. Shirwa he claimed was”the only other black man in Beijing”. The whole night was really fun!

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Everything down there was truly an assault on the senses. Don’t take health and safety lightly and don’t forget your gas mask when going to the toilet in one of the many public ones available. At least that is what I think the sign says although I can’t be sure:

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Smells of food were mixed with the smells of the drains which had overflowed in the really heavy rain, which had not stopped for 7 days before our arrival. Lovers sang ballads on the Karaoke machines, whilst tuk-tuks whizzed passed us. The football was on, but then we checked…we would have had to stay up until 3am to see the kick off.

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Colored flags lit up the night sky, as did red lanterns. In a secluded part, we stumbled upon beautiful classical Chinese music being played by older locals. Their families and friends gathered round to listen to the soft tunes, melodious against the scenic backdrop of the lake. There were temples too, and gates which we passed and I bought a beautifully hand painted parasol which really came in handy when we climbed the Great Wall!

When in Rome…

When in Rome…

¬†Strange as it may seem now, a few years ago, after having flown around the world all my life, I developed a massive fear of flying. I don’t know if any of you reading this have ever felt such irrational fears? It got to the point where I would embark and with every turn, bump or even sound I thought the plane was going down. Anyone who got up to the toilet I would scrutinize as I thought they were a terrorist. If someone had said put a gun to your head and play Russian roulette or board and fly on a plane, I would have felt safer to pull the trigger. Enclosed, trapped, no way out, no control. Horrible. So, I made a stand and said no more flying. For the next THREE years I traveled everywhere by coach, train or car. My family would set off and I would join them, sometimes thousands of miles away a few days later.

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For those who haven’t experienced them, coach journeys are long, smelly and worst of all you meet and can’t escape from weirdos. This wasn’t quite life in the fast lane.¬† So, I decided it was time, time to fight to the fear. After 3 years of remaining Earth bound, I booked two flights to somewhere not too far, but somewhere where I had always wanted to go – Rome. It took a lot for me to make that first journey, but facing my fears is what I had to do. The city was so wonderful, the sites so interesting. It was then that I vowed never to let fear hamper my life again.

I would greatly recommend going inside the Colosseum and and buying the Colosseum Tour. We did ours through SP.Q.R tours, which gave us a free tour of the Palatine Hill and the Forum Panorama. Really I felt that this day was the highlight of our trip. Just a short walk away, up a large boulevard is the majestic Victor Emmanuel monument. In the evening I would recommend Plaza di Fiori, where we had wine and listened to beautiful music. Another must see is the Pantheon, an architectural marvel, which is close to the Fontana di Trevi and Piazza Navona where I had the best Capuccino ever! Just walking round the little streets and finding a pretty cafe is really romantic in this city. We had a week, so we also went to see the Circus Maximus and the abandoned Roman Baths, which are further out. The weather that day was stormy, so we got some great atmospheric shots. It was incredible how the murals were just left to the rain and it was even possible to walk on them. This city just has so much culture and history. In most cities this would be the main attraction! Plaza del Popolo was lively and this was the best place for shopping! Villa Burghesa offered great views over the city. I would recommend hiring an electric tuk tuk to pedal round the grounds.

Finally, the Vatican, a whole country in itself, with nuns and gigantic religious statues galor. Vatican City, one of the most sacred places in Christendom, attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter’s Basilica, with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world, the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno. We did the tour, but apart from enabling us to jump the queue (which was massive), I wouldn’t really recommend it. A great way to bypass this is to read to Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (one of my favorite books) and look out for all the places referred to and discussed in that. When you go to the Vatican don’t forget to bring some food and water with you, as your day will be long and there are no places to buy anything once inside. Don’t forget to see Castle Sant’ Angelo on your way back to the city.

Hippies and Flower Power

Hippies and Flower Power

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For the past few days the sun has been coming out and life has been just that much more fun and love that much more beautiful. All the hipsters are sunbathing in the park, with short skirts, shorts and shades. To top things off I’ve just bought my tickets to the Holi Festival of Colours for this summer. Festival season is on the horizon, I’m super excitted. All the flowers are in full bloom. So it feels right, to celebrate all of this with some hippy chic.

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I’ve combined my tasseled¬† suede jacket and a handmade artisan bracelet from Tierra, with a white floral crochet dress. Quick, someone find me a tree to hug.

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Wearing

AX PARIS DRESS
FOREVER 21 SUEDE JACQUET
TIERRA MADRID HANDMADE BRACELET
GUESS SHOES
TRUSSARDI SUNGLASSES

Peace and Love x

Get the London Look – Vintage Shopping on Brick Lane

Get the London Look – Vintage Shopping on Brick Lane

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Adjacent to trendy Shoreditch, Brick Lane has become the Mecca of Vintage Fashion. London hipsters flock here in their droves. Used clothes, some designer others more like museum pieces can be used creatively to give your outfit a more retro look. Clothing is quirky, military jackets, jump suits, bowler hats and sequin dresses. This is the ultimate test for the fashion victim – to pick out and use these once discarded clothes and turn them into a vintage chic look.

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This is the vintage jumper designed by Eleonora Scarmucci Milano that I bought. It has shoulder pads and I loved that it was ribbed. Here I have combined it with my killer heels from Aldo and hand-made Italian glasses from Trussardi for a chic stylish look.

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For a more Revolutionary look

CUSTOMISED H&M JEANS
OASIS SHOES
MASSIMO DUTTI BLACK ROLL NECK

TRUSSARDI SUNGLASSES

ELEONORA SCARMUCCI MILANO JUMPER

Gaudi, Picasso…in Barcelona we all become ledgends

Gaudi, Picasso…in Barcelona we all become ledgends

It is strange, seldom when you live in a city do you fully appreciate it for the things which the tourist fly thousands of miles to see. How many times do you venture to Westminster to admire the Houses of Parliament? Or do you make the trip up the hill to see the Sacre Coeur and the great vistas of Paris which the Cathedral enjoys? As a New Yorker do you venture up the Empire State Building often? Or make your way to the Great Wall if you live in Beijing?Playing, shopping,competing, partying, sleeping. Dramas and laughter. Sometimes a city is just a frame for the bigger picture,friends, networks and communities- invisible to the world and to Google.We engulf ourselves in humanity and the everyday. Are we mistaken to do this and do we lack culture and appreciation? Indeed, home is where the heart is, so I will start off with what made my heart beat stronger and what fueled my passions and my rages in this city of sun, dust and wine.

Barcelona. Countless parties, countless faces and memories. Some fade and yet others never will. I miss it and yet as it is part of me I will take it wherever I go. I remember the Hard Rock Cafe and the flocks of people when leaving the Nou Camp. Godo, Barcelona’s tennis open where a famous tennis player asked me out. Chupito, the shot bar, where we would order the “Monica Lewinsky” for the most extroverted ones of our group.The face of the tennis academy owner when he walked into the nightclub Shoko and saw 28 of his underage pupils dancing on the bar and

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Our beach parties, the Starbucks in Plaza Catalunya and the L95, the bus which we would wait hours for and curse when we had missed the last one after a night out. Port Olympic and its tiny English cinema – the only place to watch a film for the first 6 months for lack of language. El Bosc de les Fades, the fairytale wood, a bar decorated to look like an enchanted forest.

La Obeja Negra, the black sheep – sangria and pop corn, a fantastic mix. I remember the blue of the sky and the red of the Earth, the heat and the dry palm trees. The leathers and the dark browns, the dark hair. The loudness of the voices and the smells of the drains. Las Ramblas, magical, alive with birds, portraits and grotesque statues.

My firs trip to the magnificent mind blowing Parc Guele designed by Gaudi, when we raced each other up the stairs to the top. When we almost got run over crossing the boulevard Paseig de Gracia and the Ronaldinho look alikes who played tricks with a football along las Ramblas.

Late nights and excruciating hangovers. The Gothic quarter, and the beautiful woman who sang or maybe still sings in the square. The courtyards, and the great tapas restaurant which we found when we got lost trying to find the Picasso Museum.

Four years, and not once inside the Sagrada Familia and not once to Montjuic. Once to Plaza Espana, on a date to see the sun set and the waterfalls change color. What I would give now to see inside that Cathedral, now that I am more than 1,000 miles away. We have returned now, to see what we have missed.