Breakfast at Tiffa…Abi’s

               One of my favorite things of being at home is sitting down and having breakfast. On holiday, it isn’t my alarm that wakes me up, but either the sun streaking through the window or else classical music that my parents play down in the kitchen. On hot days we tend to go up to the terrace to have breakfast, to the “bistro” as my Dad calls it and my brother and I fight over who gets the pain au chocolat 😉 Our house faces the Castellane valley and looks straight at one of the regions most sacred and the Pyrenees’s most tallest mountain, Mount Canigou. Canigou is a rich in iron and unlike the surrounding mountains it is bare of trees and looks blue.

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This mountain has symbolical significance for Catalan people. On its summit there is a cross that is often decorated with the Catalan flag. Every year on 23 June, the night before St. John’s day (nit de Sant Joan), there is a ceremony called Flama del Canigó (Canigou Flame), where a fire is lit at the mountaintop. People keep a vigil during the night and take torches lit on that fire in a spectacular torch relay to light bonfires somewhere else. Some estimates conclude that about 30,000 bonfires are lit in this way all over Catalonia on that night.

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Here I am wearing cream silk trousers and a white crochet top. As it was still breakfast

, I decided to wear my oriental mint green dressing gown as a Kimono. I have found that silk gowns tend to have beautiful patterns and are lovely to wear in the house but also look great for a chic geisha style look.

WEARING

Silk Cream Trousers – NEXT

White Crochet Top – H&M

Geisha Kimono/Dressing Gown – Charity Shop

Purple Studded Flip Flops- Primark

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Barrel of Laughs at the Edinburgh Fringe

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So after my mini Euro Trip, we decided to go for a quick weekend up to Edinburgh, to see if some quick wit and sharp one liners, would help beat the post-holiday blues… Going up by train was super convenient and very fast.Edinburgh’s train station is right at its center, and so when we stepped off the train, we were overwhelmed by the amount of people and in this way it really felt as if we were at the heart of all the action .  The journey was really pleasant. We had a lovely views of the sea that I enjoyed whilst I listened to the people behind me talk. At first their voices were just background noise and then as the story progressed, my ears pricked up and I followed with closer attention. It turned out that one of the men was a descendent of Fabergé’s partners, who fled the Russian Revolution and had come to live in England. Now Fabergé’s jewel encrusted eggs are some of the most precious and most valuable objects in the world. The man admitted to having some small ones at home, including one that his mother used to wear around her neck on a gold chain. The story which ensued really felt as if it had been taken from someone’s worst nightmare. One day, on her way to work,  his mother noticed that the necklace and million pound egg had come off. In a panic she retraced her steps and found nothing. In a last desperate attempt to recover this priceless heirloom, she went to the bus depot and asked to look at the bus in which she had gone to work. After patiently waiting for it to return to the parking, she ran inside to where she had been sat. There, wedged in between the two seats, was a crumpled little gold chain and little golden egg. I didn’t know who to feel more sorry for, the stupid egg woman, who thought that the egg would be safer with her than in a vault…or the person who was sitting next to her and decided not to pick it up or take it home, because it could have been a bomb…

OR ME…Because now I realize that all I have ever wanted is a jewel encrusted egg…and it seems that I am the only person on this train that doesn’t have one…

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Here are some of the pictures that I took with my parents. I loved walking around the center. There were so many people and the crowds spilled out from bars and open air comedy shows. Pubs and clubs all had signs with the daily comedy schedules. Men in kilts played bagpipes outside of some of the nicest hotels and I loved the Harris Tweed shops, such as Walker Slater, that sold beautiful jackets and tartan blankets. Each clan has their own one and it was fun trying to find my family’s own, being that I am a quarter Scottish. One of Edinburgh’s most imposing landmarks is the Scott Monument and is the largest in the world to a writer. It is made out of sandstone and stands in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, opposite the Jenners department store on Princes Street and near to Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, which is named for one of Walter Scott’s novels. The tower  has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. The highest platform is reached by a total of 287 steps and those who climb the steps can obtain a certificate commemorating their achievement.

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For me one of the best things that we did that weekend was to go for a walk up Carlton Hill to the Royal Observatory. From there you can get a great view of the city and also of the Queen’s Castle and Royal Residence, Balmoral. You can also get up and personal with the Nelson Monument and its dropping ball. I had been there a few times before, once for New Year’s Eve, as its a great place to watch the fireworks and also once for a sunrise whiskey when my brother got married. We didn’t have time to do  everything this time so hopefully we will be able to go back soon!DSC_1032

In the meantime here are some of my favorite jokes from this year’s fringe:

1. “I’ve decided to sell my hoover…well, it was just collecting dust.” – Tim Vine

2. ” I did a gig at a fertility clinic. I got a standing ovulation” – Tim Vine

3. “Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief.” – Mark Watson

4. “I wanted to do a show about feminism. But my husband wouldn’t let me.”  – Ria Lina

5. “Miley Cyrus. You know when she was born? 1992. I’ve got condiments in my cupboard older than that.” – Lucy Beaumont

6. “You have to be careful in my country because we have bad cars and good wine, a dangerous combination.” – Francesco De Carlo

Laugh???? Eeek… I am almost pissed myself!!!! ;P

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Sunny Sunday in Brighton

We woke up late and after some deliberation, we decided that a great thing to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon was to get the car and go on a day trip to the seaside town of Brighton.Apparently we weren’t the only other ones who had decided to do that…in fact we must have crossed or met half of London on the short narrow lanes which then finally turned into the motorway leading to the South. Brighton was packed. It was getting quite late by now (2pm), we hadn’t arrived and hadn’t had our fill of Sunday brunch yet as anticipated. We hadn’t even stopped for morning coffee or water and I was starting to feel a bit sick as a consequence. We circled the double yellow lines like bees around honey and we  eventually squeezed into a tiny space behind some warehouse at a parking with a maximum 2 hour stay. Desperate times called for desperate measures, we would just have to return to the car when our time was up. For 2 hours, £2. Seemed simple enough…but alas no change. After turning out all the coats, looking under every seat, in every glove compartment, unzipping and pulling out the contents of every bag pocket, we just couldn’t muster up more than 75p in loose change. The machine wouldn’t take anything less than £1, so I waited in the car like roasting dog waiting to be saved by the RSPCA whilst my boyfriend went off on a Bear Grills mission into Brighton to find a cash machine or else a shop where he could buy something with a note and get change. Easier said than done on a Sunday, but luckily for me, he had cracked a window so it was all good.

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Once the drama was over and the ticket paid for, we set off down to the sea front. The sea was blue, and the pier was bustling with people. I loved seeing the bravest of the brave swim in the freezing water with smiles on their faces. We hobbled along the cobbled beach and ate ice creams under the hot sun. A great thing to do is to walk right to the end of the Pier for a great view of Brighton and the water.

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A large fairest wheel spun lazily in the soft warm breeze and multicolored wind turbines fluttered. The lights of the pier shone brightly and the Union Jack bobbed proudly. Large seagulls and plastic buckets and spades, candy floss and slush puppies. I enjoyed the view from a blue and white stripped deck chair and starred out at the charred remains of the old pier.

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After some fish and chips, we walked along the promenade, past the many surfing shops and terrace bars. There was live music and the atmosphere was great. Were we really in Britain still, or had we been transported to Promenade des Anglais in Nice?

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There was a mini convention, which was pretty much the icing on the Great British Bake-Off Blancmange. My favourite was a hot pink number, which had had the frame cut in half to reduce the mini in size. It was all kitted out despite its age and even had a bottle of nitrous oxide on the back.

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We had gone clubbing the night before and I had stayed at my boyfriends house. Not wanting to do the walk of shame or look too much like Coyote Ugly, I decided to wear one of his smallest shirts over my dress. Had I had a belt I would have worn a slightly longer one as a dress and just got rid of my party attire altogether. I combined it with my espadrilles and sun glasses for an effortless look. So next time, forget the boyfriend jeans and go for the boyfriend shirt 😉

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WEARING

Le Pliage Handbag – LONGCHAMPS

Bandage dress- FRENCH CONNECTION (sold out)

Espadrilles – ZARA (sold out)

Sunglasses – TRUSSARDI (sold out)

Boyfriend shirt

Formal Dinner at St Hughs College Oxford

I am really excited as I have just been invited by one of my most loveliest friends (if you are reading, then you know who you are 😉 to the 700th Exeter commemoration ball at the university of Oxford. So I thought it would be right to tell you all about the wonderful time that I had visiting Oxford university and attending a formal dinner at St Hughs College Oxford earlier this year with my friends.

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Oxford university is one of the best in the country, if not in the world. While having no known date of foundation, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096,making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the world’s second-oldest surviving university. Oxford has educated many notable alumni, including 27 Nobel laureates, 26 British Prime Ministers (most recently David Cameron) and many foreign heads of state. It was such a joy wandering around and visiting all the beautiful grounds and Colleges. Christchurch, where the Harry Potter banquet scene is filmed and the beautiful large grounds of Trinity College. I went to Balliol to see the name on the alumni war memorial of my Great Great Uncle and loved going into the Chapel at Jesus College.

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Wearing:

Floor length sequin gown from AX PARIS

For dinner we went to St Hughs College, founded in 1886 as a women’s college and considered one of the most attractive colleges because of its extensive, pleasant gardens. We dressed in gowns or cocktail dresses and the boys in suits or black tie. There is a formal like this at the College once every week (if I am not mistaken) and a black tie event twice a month. We queued up outside and then were let in to a beautiful sumptuous room, with long brown tables laid for a three course meal. We sat at the senior table and as such were given wine with our meal too! When the fellows of the College walked in, we all had to stand in silence and the meal began after the Head of the College finished a quick speech in Latin. The tradition of this place was awesome and an experience which I will never forget. The food was really good too! Afterwards we all went for Whiskey tasting back at St Hughes College. A really magical evening! Thank you Stella 🙂

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Champagne Lunch at Le Procope

I went to Paris for a brief reunion with my God parents who had come over from the US. After a lovely walk along the Seine and a visit to Notre Dame, we decided to go for lunch at France and the World’s oldest restaurants, Le Procope.

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Opened in 1686, started as a café where gentlemen of fashion might drink the exotic beverage coffee, or eat a sorbet, served up in porcelain cups by waiters in exotic “Armenian” garb. In 1689 the Comédie française was established across the street and the Procope became known as the “theatrical” café, and remained so. The world’s first literary café was born and, for over two centuries, everyone with a name, or who hoped to have one, in the world of letters, arts and politics was a regular to the Café Le Procope. From La Fontaine to Voltaire, Rousseau, Beaumarchais, Balzac, Hugo, Verlaine to mention but a few, the list of Procope’s « regulars » varies little from that of the great names of French literature. In the 18th century, it was a seedbed for liberal ideas and the history of the Encyclopædia is intimately linked to that of Procope where Diderot, d’Alembert, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin could be seen. During the Revolution, Robespierre, Danton and Marat met here and Lieutenant Bonaparte left his hat here as a pledge.

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As soon as you walk in you get knocked for six by the history of this place and the close ties that it had with the leaders of the revolution, which changed the course of French Society. The walls are yellow with wall paper inscribed with the french revolution moto “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternity. Citoyens, Citoyennes (The male and female translation of Citizen) adorn the men and women’s toilet doors. Indeed during the Revolution, the Phrygian cap, soon to be the symbol of Liberty, was first displayed here. Crystal chandeliers and oval paintings of the Cafes most famous patrons adorn the walls, and walk passed open books written by some of France’s most famous writers who ate in the same place as you are now eating.

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 The service was great and it wasn’t only the setting in the heart of Paris that was great. The culinary feast which we ate was marvelous. We started off the meal with a glass of champagne with cassis. My godfather ordered house foie gras with toasted Panettone for starters and my Godmother and I had the traditional onion soup with gratinee cheese. It was probably the best soup I had ever eaten, with a massive tick layer of melted cheese which made up almost a third of the plate. Just fabulous. For the main course I chose the duck and had to order thin chips separately as no sides are included with the meat. My Godmother chose the steak tartar, which I must say isn’t for the faint hearted. Essentially raw mince with herbs and mustard, this is a very famous dish and it tasted surprisingly good. It was however quite rich. My Godfather had the Calf’s Head stew casserole 1686 style, which sounds disgusting but actually looked amazing. The whole experience was wonderful and a great thing to do if only in Paris for a short time.

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We went to a Musee de Cluny, an incredible museum dedicated to medieval art which is set in a 15th-century abbot’s mansion with ruins of ancient Roman baths.  I particularly liked the Lady and the Union, the modern title given to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders of wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris around 1500. They were so rich in color, incredibly large and beautiful in detail. It is no wonder it is considered the best piece of art from the Middle Ages.

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Tropical Palm prints and Stone Nude Heels

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Sometimes I get stuck in a rut when it comes to my clothes and my fashion sense. I can go from phases of wearing just casual clothes, where wearing heels hurts not only my feet but also slightly dents my will- power to leave the confines of my house, to simply living in shorts, skirts and dresses in the summer.  I find then that when it gets colder my trousers always seem too tight and too restrictive, my boots too clunky and my heels not high enough. Do you find this too? Then, when after months of layering up and wearing woolies and jeans, the sun finally comes out and I really want to be feminine and girlie and wear skirts and heels again, I realize that not only am I about 100 kilos heavier than I was in September, but also my legs after months under wraps, look like some shriveled up, dry old cactus. Cracking, extremely pasty with some sexy patchy stubble to go with.

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However, there is no escaping the fact that you will have to get them out soon and so the other day  I took the plunge and ordered some skimpies. This is what I wore for “Legs” *The Comeback Tour* and now that they have seen the light of day, with a few more quick sessions in the sun , a large box of plasters (for the heels) and a large bottle of moisturizer, there isn’t anything I can’t do!

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I decided on nude heels or stone, as I felt that this color would blend in quite well with my lighter skin color but would also look great as I tanned. The great thing about these shoes is that they do not attract too much attention away from the outfit and are more discreet than either black or white, the other colors which go best with virtually any color. They are very easy to combine and also wear as the heels is not too high and I think I will be wearing these over and over again.

image I thought I would wear my white embroidered blouse again. This is very light and tucks in easily into the high wrap skirt. I have worn this one over and over again and was a big part of my outfit in my most recent fashion post Taupe Blazer and Skull Candy.

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I wore a fun Charm Bracelet with exotic pendants, including an elephant, a blue gem stone and Buddha. As well as this I added a Diamond Bangle to make the bracelets a strong part of the outfit.

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What I am really pleased about however, is the tropical palm print skirt.The colors are bold but are interspersed with white which breaks up the fabric and makes it look much more than just a skirt for a fancy dress Hawaiian luau. It is a wrap skirt and so it longer in the front, which gives it a nice shape and makes it feel less short.

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WEARING

White Embroidered top: H & M

Stone Pointed Court Heels : NEW LOOK

Slanted Jungle Print Wrap Skirt: AX PARIS

Charm Bracelet: THOMAS SABO

Diamond Bangle: MACY’S NEW YORK

Paris

Growing up in a small mountain village in the South of France, a trip to Paris always feels like a big deal. Whenever I  walk around the grand boulevards, amongst the elegant people, I feel that the little girl who used to run around forests and sing La Marseillaise on the 14th July with the other urchins with a flickering flame in her hand, has finally made it to the big city.

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The grey buildings of Paris, like stark Plane trees are dwarfed by the cold winter sky. Little flecks of color, little children’s balloons pepper the skyline. These love necklaces, chained to the bridges, a homage to the City of Amour and to the people who make it so special. The bells are there and all I am missing is Esmeralda as we cross over the waters to Notre Dame’s twin turrets. So many gargoyles, their mouths salivating as the rain stains the facade. Inside the darkness we look up to blue light, red light, flowers and rainbows. Orange glows  from Virgin Maries lined up row on row.

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An ornate Royal Palace stands side by side with the world’s most modern creations. A pyramid of glass, the only window into a modern world which Paris has stayed so aloof from. The vaults are detailed and made of intricate stone masonry but the entrance is guarded by steel and technology. A maze of treasures awaits us. Things only whispered about and stuff of legends, all found here side by side, each one more marvelous than the next. The Winged Victory of Samothace, one of the great surviving masterpieces of sculpture from the Hellenistic period, and from the entire Greco-Roman era. The statue shows a mastery of form and movement which has impressed critics and artists since its discovery. It is considered one of the Louvre’s greatest treasures, and since the late 19th century it has been displayed in the most dramatic fashion, at the head of the sweeping Daru staircase. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, a woman with a God like gaze. There are dozens crowded round, and everyone’s stares are returned like a mirror. But perhaps she isn’t starring at me or the gaggle of tourists in front of her, taking her picture and marvelling at her beauty. Perhaps she is gazing behind us all, at the guests of the wedding which adorns the entire back wall. Perhaps the curators felt they should do this for her, give her a room with a view, just in case she were actually alive. A masterpiece fit for a masterpiece.

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The water of the Seine is green but verging on silver. It is still, but as the water hits the banks, I can see that underneath the calm there is a strong force at work. The streets are gridded. Waiters in la tenue de soiree de rigeur. Monsieur, Madame. The French will stand and talk around a table of drink and nibbles for hours. Strong coffee, black and cigarettes. The speeches are done and dusted.Blink and you will think you are in a different room – bottles are popped, chin chin. Handfuls of food, laughter and a great time. Don’t hesitate or be polite, the time for that is over and everything now is fare game. Lunch at the oldest restaurant in the world, Le Procope a place of literature, thought and revolution. Through arcades and colourful shops.

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Down from the depths of Pigalle, with its red lights and blacked out facades. Wind up, up the hill, passed the XXXs and the high walls which keep so many secrets. This is the place where…apparently the swingers were…Le Moulin Rouge, like a bright red rose,  grows like a forbidden flower in a forest of grey stone. We wind up, the streets are narrow and the house slant. A square of artists, wooden easels and berets. A cliche and one which I have spent good money to see. Colourful umbrellas and plastic protects the masterpieces from the little droplets of rain which could each turn into full blown rivers of colours. Then we emerge and the prize for our uphill journey is priceless. A 360 view over the whole city enjoyed night and day by a domed Cathedral, which shins bright white in spite of the lack of sun. The King of the Castle and what a privilege to share his seat of power for this moment.

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Down the step steps, passed the Couroussel. The metros are rancid and smell. Do not sit down and don’t touch anything. Again from the dark corridors we emerge into a grand boulevard. The famous Champs Elysee. Beautiful restaurants, Gallerie La Fallette, shops galore. This time it is the roundabout which is the focus. An arch inscribed with names, to mark victory but also to remember the sacrifice and price that it cost. A flame burns and will always burn there and when the young no longer know or remember, the inquisitive will ask “What is that flame” and the question alone be enough to rekindle the past. The Tricolor, she shouts out and has never been prouder.

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Passed Chocolatiers and Hippos made from chocolate and Patisseries with flutes full of cream, we make our way to the tower of iron, the backbone of the Republic itself. Built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, this centre piece of the World’s Fair was built according Mr Eiffel himself “not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.” Now off to bed, for tomorrow Versailles and hopefully the sun!  🙂

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5* Hotel De L’Europe – Amsterdam

On our tour we stayed at a number of places: Zeewolde, Den Hague, Rotterdam. After having played and lost quite a few tournaments around Holland, our group decided it was time to go for a few days to Amsterdam. We took a train and arrived at Central Station. The plan was that the girls would wait with all the bags, whilst the guys went off in search of a cheap hotel or hostel close to the center. After more than hour my friends returned. The bad news was that all the hotels were fully booked. The good news was that a 5* Hotel a short taxi ride away still had some rooms available.

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Hotel De L’Europe loomed up ahead. This is the one place where sneaking an extra guest for free into your room will be impossible. We were going to have to book two rooms and it was going to be expensive.The porter opened the door for us in a green tail coat, top hat and white gloves. It was really grand and the reception desk spanned the whole crescent of the beautiful entrance hall.

De L’Europe is acknowledged as Amsterdam’s legendary hotel and is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World for over 25 years. With its location on the banks of the Amstel River in the heart of historic Amsterdam, it’s impossible to escape the city’s rich history while staying at this iconic 19th century treasure. Expect timeless design, intimate ambience and genuine service.

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The rooms were very beautiful. I particularly liked the yellow and white striped walls and the beds were extremely comfortable. De L’Europe boasts a distinctive décor, enhancing each room and suite with a replicated Dutch Master painting, handpicked in exclusive partnership with the nearby Rijksmuseum. Choose for gracious and timeless elegance in the historic Rondeel Building or for art and design in the contemporary Dutch Masters Wing.The room service breakfasts were amazing, with lashings of scrambled egg, bacon, juice and fruit served in silver dishes. The pictures below show our group in one of the rooms before heading out.

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De L’Europe is a hub of haute cuisine, boasting a selection of the city’s finest restaurants overseen by Executive Chef Richard van Oostenbrugge. Bord’Eau has redefined Amsterdam’s fine dining scene. Hoofdstad Brasserie is perfect for a sophisticated yet casual riverside bite. With its plush interior, Freddy’s remains the city’s iconic bar, while Hèt Terras offers a contemporary take on café classics, and the city’s most authentic Afternoon Tea is served in the Promenade.

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The location of Europe de l’Europe was wonderful and the staff so friendly. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for the ultimate luxurious stay in the heart of Holland’s most vibrant city.

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