…or not as the blisters on my heels will attest to.
I think in terms amazing/ amazingly daft things I’ve bought in the sales these complete and utter beauties have to be up there with the best of them. Since Hedi Slimane took over at YSL, or Saint Laurent Paris as it’s now known, I’ve been a massive, massive fan of the collections he’s produced. Possibly the underlying reason for this is his ability to create luxe versions of the contents of my late teenage/ early twenties wardrobe (which, let’s be honest, is still pretty much the main bulk of my current wardrobe) and, if I had the money, my wardrobe would consist entirely of Saint Laurent ‘upgraded’ versions of my previous loves. Sadly for me, my budget (or common sense) simply won’t stretch to shelling out nearly £1000 for a pair of boots or the best part of the deposit for a house on a dress, however OMGFHAVEYOUSEENHOWAWSOMETHISIS! they happen to be.
As a result of my fantasy lifestyle being faaaaaaaaaaar outweighed by the financial reality of the one I do lead (Oh hello electricity bill! And water bill! AND rent!), I’ve had to become adept at sale stalking and making sacrifices to the Fashion Gods in the hope that the planets may align to send me some wonderous bargain. Which brings me to the boots. Oh the boots. Look at their shiny, glittery wonderfulness.
*takes a moment to simply stare at the boots*
So, the boots. They’re pretty much identical to a pair I saw in Office about 5 years ago which I’m still kicking myself I never bought. My reluctance at the time was whether I could pull off a pair of 60s patent knee high boots without looking like I’d just stepped out of Austin Powers. I’m still not *entirely* convinced I can but it’s an awful lot easier to find the confidence to dip your toe into the water when something you’ve toyed with suddenly becomes the height of fashion (see also dressing like my mum in the 70s). Most of the footwear in Saint Laurent’s AW14 collection made it onto my lust list but out of all the styles (still holding out for the glitter Mary Janes btw if anyone wants to hook a gal up), the patent knee high ‘Babies’ seemed the most wearable. Sadly with a £900ish price tag, to justify a cost per wear it would have meant wearing them until the day I retired and so the sales stalking began.
Sales stalking mainly consists of me perusing various fashion retail websites sighing longingly at the sale items that, although 50% reduced, still cost more than my entire share of the rent for that month and silently cursing when something sells out in my size. On very rare occasions when I’ve been quick off the mark after final reductions have been announced I’ve managed to bag one or two lust items but in general, and especially with Saint Laurent, my size has sold out quicker than the winner of The Voice’s career. In Manchester however, there’s the added advantage of having branches of both Selfridges and Harvey Nics in the city centre and it was during a Selfridges lunchtime browse that I stumbled across THE BOOTS. AT 75% OFF. IN MY SIZE. Reader, I bought them.
I’ve still not worn them as much as I’d like as they still need breaking in and, as I feared, it’s tricky trying to find an outfit to go with them which doesn’t scream 60s fancy dress but, styling issues and blisters aside, I’m completely in love with them. Whilst £199 is a lot to spend on a pair of leather boots, it’s still probably cheaper than buying a full price, well made pair from a decent high street retailer. And they probably wouldn’t have glitter heels.
Following on from my *slightly* photo-heavy last post, no trip to New York would be complete without a spot of shopping. Despite the majority of my holiday budget being reserved for food, sightseeing and rather a lot of craft ale, I still indulged in a bit of retail therapy and whilst I managed to avoid any extravagant splurges (I’m not counting the skirt I bought from Orla Kiely as it was in the sample sale so, erm, technically a bargain it would be rude not to have bought…), I still came away with a few bits and pieces to serve as mementos of my trip.
As a massive fan of a good red lip, I’d heard people banging on about the wonders of Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain in Always Red for ages but, as they don’t have any UK stores, my New York trip was the first chance I had to get my hands on it. It dries to a bold, matte finish and whilst its classic red shade is darker than my beloved MAC ‘Lady Danger’ and therefore better for a more dramatic evening look, I can’t fault its staying power as it managed to survive an afternoon of burgers and beer in The Dead Rabbit without visibly shifting. The application can be a tad imprecise though so I’d definitely recommend using a lip liner to keep it neat and prevent feathering.
One of the joys of blogging is being able to bring designers I love to a wider audience and over the last year or so, I’ve written about a few of the jewellery brands I just can’t get enough of. Another name to add to the list is Virginie Millefiori who creates enameled pieces in brass, sterling silver and gold vermeil. I first stumbled across Virginie’s work at her stall in Chelsea Market on my second day in NYC but, as I was trying to be good and not blow all my spending money at the start of my holiday, resolved to return at the end of my trip and treat myself. Good plan had the stall not been part of a pop-up and therefore gone when I returned! Cue some frantic Googling (as I’d failed to actually write down her name!) and a dash across town on my last day to find a street market she had a stall at. Thankfully my quest wasn’t in vain and I managed to purchase this necklace (which reminds me more of a fox than a cat) which I’ve been wearing to death ever since. Next on my wishlist is this NYC necklace to go with the Peter Jensen Central Park print dress I picked up in the ASOS sale.
Every stylish girl needs a stylish boy to accompany her and thankfully I’ve found one who fits the bill perfectly. As a girl, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to fashion but my other half bemoans the lack of decent, independent retailers selling affordable accessories for men and resents having to wait until Topman delcare dapper men ‘on trend’ in order to pick up the odd pocket square. New York however proved to be a treasure trove for the discerning gent with Chelsea Market offering cufflinks from Churoncalla as well as lapel pins and multicoloured shoe laces from Curated Basics. We also made pilgrimage to Fine And Dandy in Hell’s Kitchen, an Aladdin’s cave of stylish offerings where we picked up this cocktail inspired pocket square based on an original 1960s design.
New York shopping certainly caters for all budgets and is brimming full of big name department stores (I had a brief trip to Bloomingdales to pick up a NYC themed Christmas decoration as a gift), high street staples, pop-ups and quirky independents to suit all tastes. Sadly I didn’t get enough time to explore the vintage shops I’m told the East Village is brimming with but hey, a girl needs to leave something to do on her next visit doesn’t she?!
If you love Virginie’s designs as much as I do, she’s kindly given me a code to get 15% off her e-shop until the end of 2015. Simply enter ‘HOLLY’ at the checkout to be the envy of all your friends…
One of the reasons I love my annual trip to Edinburgh so much is that once you’re done with wandering the New and Old Town streets (although I’m not sure you can ever be ‘done’ with that!), it’s a brilliant base should you want to venture slightly further afield and sample the Scottish seaside. On previous holidays I’ve taken day trips to Burntisland (which includes a train journey across the iconic Forth Bridge), South Queensferry (a pretty little town located almost underneath the bridge and location of The Hawes Inn for fans of Stevenson’s Kidnapped), Cramond and Portobello (for amazing chips and ice cream). This year, I decided to visit North Berwick, a seaside town 40 minutes north-east of Edinburgh.
As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I’m a bit of a bookworm with a particular love of Scottish literature so whilst a day trip to North Berwick is worth it simply for its prettiness alone (and the Italian ice cream from Gelateria Alandas on Quality Street), for fans of Robert Louis Stevenson, it’s also the place where he spent his childhood holidays and provided inspiration for Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Catriona (for those with sea legs there are even daily boat trips out to the Bass Rock where the hero of the novel is imprisoned).
For those after a retail fix the main street of the town is packed with charity shops, independent retailers and quirky boutiques and plenty of tea shops to provide refreshment. The town is also home to the Scottish Seabird Centre which has a cafe giving fantastic views across to the Bass Rock (and is somewhere lovely and warm to thaw out should the weather for your trip combine glorious sunshine with the coldest, windiest wind imaginable as mine did!).
A few weeks ago I headed down to Cambridge for a long weekend of enjoying the sunshine and pretending I’m in Harry Potter (yes, I’m well aware that they filmed at Oxford but shh! Plus in order to get to Cambridge I had to go via Kings Cross, passing Platform 9 3/4 in the process!). Since the majority of my holiday budget for this year is going on a trip to New York in October for a friend’s wedding, the remainder of my holiday choices for this year needed to be on the cheap side and, despite its grand nature, Cambridge turned out to be a surprisingly budget friendly option. One advantage of visiting university cities out of term time is that it gives you the chance to stay in halls of residence which if you’re visiting somewhere like Cambridge or Oxford (where I’ve previously had a long weekend staying in halls) usually means staying somewhere pretty posh looking! I booked a double en-suite room at Downing College via University Rooms (which I’d previously used to booked my Oxford accommodation) which worked out at only £5 more expensive a night than a Travelodge AND included breakfast as well as being set in 20 acres of beautiful grounds (you know you’re in Cambridge when you have to walk past a production of Shakespeare to get to your room!).
With so many beautiful buildings and colleges to explore, the majority of my first full day was spent just wandering around the city, taking in the sites and getting my bearings (as well as trying to avoid the masses and masses of tour groups!). With so much to take in and so many little streets to explore, deciding what to do first can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully Cambridge has a plethora of excellent pubs to offer decision making refreshment including The Eagle (where the discovery of DNA was announced) and The Mill which not only offers a great view of the punting on the river but also fantastic food.
On the second day I decided to explore some of the colleges in more detail and made an early start in order to avoid the queues and mass of people at the iconic King’s College. Founded in 1441 by Henry VI, the college and its Chapel are emblematic of Cambridge and although the entry fee might be somewhat steep compared to the other colleges, the access to the iconic chapel and beautiful grounds that it gives you are well worth the money. After King’s, I then stumbled across Clare College which has the most beautiful gardens backing onto the river Cam and is where I spent several hours enjoying the sunshine and watching people punt along the river.
Aside from the colleges, Cambridge has a plethora of museums to visit (including the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum) as well as a great selection of high street shops, quirky boutiques and, every blogger’s mecca, The Cambridge Satchel Company shop! If all the college wandering, museum visiting and retail therapy leaves you feeling wiped out, you can always recover with a relaxing punt tour along the river followed by lunch and people watching at The Cambridge Chop House.
I found Cambridge to be the perfect place for a long, sunny, summer weekend and whilst I’m not sure I would ever have had the mentality to hack student life there (although I can completely understand why some who study there end up with a certain sense of entitlement), I’m more than happy to wander through the perfectly manicured college grounds dreaming of Hogwarts…
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder What you’re at!’
Two things that I’ve always felt go hand in hand are books and tea. For me, there’s nothing better than losing an afternoon curled up with a good book and a mug of Yorkshire’s finest and so anything that can combine the two is definitely up my street. Whittard’s Alice In Wonderland range which features John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations has been around for a little while but they’ve recently added some new designs as well as an amazing teapot which depicts the Mad Hatter’s tea party in all its crazed glory.
Despite trying my hardest, the new mug designs and teapot were just too pretty not to add to my ‘Alice’ collection (although it has raised the question ‘how many mugs is too many mugs?’) but I’m now fully equipped should any unexpected visitors drop by in need of a mad tea party of their own…
‘Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.
Taking full advantage of the brief spell of sunshine we had recently (my legs are still very confused by my lack of tights), me and my sister hopped on a train to spend the afternoon in one of my favourite cities to wander around, York! Growing up in Sheffield, day trips to York were always a staple of summer holidays as the mix of tourist attractions, impressive buildings and outdoor spaces to picnic/ run about pretending you’re a Viking in meant that it had enough to keep even those on the tightest budget amused. Day trips now that our school days are quite a bit behind us still seem to follow a familiar pattern of museum visiting, debating if we’re *really* too old to visit Jorvik and sneaky visits to Maccy D’s but now have the added element of shopping thrown into the mix as the city has a great selection of high street, high end (hello Mulberry discount shop!) and quirky boutiques.
York Minster is a breathtakingly beautiful building that towers over the rest of the city. Its newly refurbished Undercroft charts the history of the city and its inhabitants and for those with a head for heights, I’d also recommend climbing the Minster’s Central Tower to take in the spectacular views.
York has an abundance of tea rooms (aside from the famous Bettys) and on our latest visit we stumbled across Crumbs Cupcakery which is just round the corner from the Minster on College Street (an area which you might recognise from its numerous appearance on TV and film). It not only has fantastic cakes and refreshments but also great windows and outside space for people watching!
One of my favourite things to do in York if the weather’s good is to walk the City Walls which, if walked completely, give a great overview of the city as well as the chance to nosey in on some spectacular gardens and houses. Two of the walls’ four ‘Bars’ which acted as gateways into the city also house museums dedicated to Richard III and Henry VII should your history quota need upping even more.
Aside from the previously mentioned abundance of tea rooms, York also has some great places to eat and one of our recent discoveries is ‘Mr Chippy’ which does amazing fish and chips. With a takeaway branch on Church Street as well as a sit in restaurant round the corner on Swinegate, our York trips now feel incomplete if we don’t end up gorging on salt and vinegary fried goodness!
Hopefully now that we’re in June, summer is just around the corner to give us even more opportunities for trips to this spectacular city. Who knows, maybe next time we will brave Jorvik…
In celebration of World Book Day, I thought I’d bring you a guide to one of my favourite literary cities (in fact one of my favourite cities full stop), Edinburgh! Aside from being obsessed with all things fashion, I’m also a massive bookworm and both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are in English Literature (hence why I’m always paranoid about spelling and grammar mistakes in my blog posts!).
As my mother’s Glaswegian, a lot of my childhood summer holidays were spent north of the border but visits to Edinburgh tended to be daytrips across to the festival which whilst memorable, never gave a proper chance to explore the city. In the last few years however, largely thanks to deciding to write my MA dissertation on the city and some of its writers, I’ve managed to rectify that and I’m now so in love with the city that I could see myself happily relocating there.
Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature (as well as its Old and New Towns being UNESCO World Heritage sites) and nods to Scottish writers permeate every inch of the city (there’s even a dedicated Writers’ Museum). Exploring the Old Town with its maze of narrow wynds and closes feels like stepping back in time and helps to bring to life the city written about by Hogg, Scott and Stevenson. The New Town also has its share of literary landmarks from Stevenson’s childhood home on Heriot Row to the more modern pilgrimage site (and fantastic place for a pint) of The Oxford Bar, watering hole of choice for Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus.
Aside from its literary heritage, the city is also bursting at the seams with museums and art galleries to while away any rainy afternoons with my top recommendations being the National Museum of Scotland and the newly refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Edinburgh’s castle is also a fantastic place to get to grips with both the city and country’s history and for a better understanding of its present (and future), a tour of the Parliament is a must.
One of my favourite ways to spend a day in the Edinburgh is to simply wander around and enjoy the city’s green spaces and amazing scenery. Calton Hill gives spectacular views across both the city and Firth of Forth whilst there can be few things better than looking across the city on a clear day from the top of Arthur’s Seat (it’s honestly not as much of a climb as you might think!). For those who prefer something a bit less strenuous, Princess Street Gardens in the city centre and the Royal Botanic Garden in Inverleith are both lovely places to relax and get lost in a good book whilst The Water of Leith walk weaves through some of the smaller villages which make up the northwest of the city.
If you fancy journeying a bit further afield, South Queensferry (the setting for a lot of Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped and a spectacular views of the Forth Rail Bridge), North Berwick and Edinburgh’s seaside, Portobello, are only short train and bus journeys away.
Whilst I do try to be as cultured as possible, its impossible to visit Edinburgh without indulging in a bit of retail therapy! The area around Princess Street and George Street is the go to destination for high street shops whilst for something a bit more quirky, Cockburn Street and the area around The Grassmarket in the Old Town are packed with quirky independents. For charity shop lovers, Queensferry Street and Stockbridge are the places to head for some bargain treasure and vintage hunting.
If you’ve tired yourself out from all the walking/ museum visiting/ shopping, thankfully Edinburgh is jam packed with some great places to eat and drink. Aside from the aforementioned Oxford Bar, The Stockbridge Tap in, surprisingly, Stockbridge, has a great range of ales whilst the hard to find but utterly amazing Bramble Bar on Queen Street serves some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. For foodies, Howies (Victoria Street and Waterloo Place) offers seasonal Scottish dishes at prices that won’t break the bank whilst Mother India’s Cafe on Infirmary Street bring a tapas twist to Indian cuisine.
This post only scratches the surface of why the city is so fantastic and each trip always brings a new discovery which makes my heart grow even fonder. For lovers of literature and history, parts of the city are like stepping back in time and it’s impossible to not be affected by the deep regard that the city holds for its cultural heritage and those it inspired. Rather than resting on its laurels however, Edinburgh continues to move forward, promoting both new ideas and the diverse range of writers and historical figures connected to it. It’s a city I love and I hope if you ever visit, you will too!
*Holly’s Edinburgh Reading List Recommendations*
For those of you wanting a place to start when it comes to Edinburgh’s literature, I’d suggest the following books…
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
‘Justified Sinner’ explores the duality of both Edinburgh and the Scottish psyche and whilst Hogg may not be the best known of Scottish writers, his influence can clearly be seen in the work of Stevenson and Rankin.
Waverley – Walter Scott
With a train station and monument named in his honour, no Edinburgh reading list would be complete without the man who also helped turn Edinburgh into the tartaned tourist destination it remains today.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
Although this novel is set in London, many have argued that this is merely a thin disguise for Edinburgh and certainly to me, the cramped mix of streets and populace combined again with the strong themes of personal and geographical duality seem more in keeping with Scotland’s capital.
Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
You’ve probably all seen the film but the original novel is well worth a read (once you get used to its use of thick dialect) and shows life in the city lived by its underclass.
Set In Darkness – Ian Rankin
Although this is the 11th novel in Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series (and I would urge you to read them all), its focus on the imminent return of the Scottish parliament and the discovery of a corpse bricked up in a fire place at Queensbury House highlights the importance of Scotland’s past in shaping its future and the anxieties of a country not only on the cusp of a new Millennium but also on a new political dawn.