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Travel | Under 48hrs In Rotterdam

7/25/17

So, how does one spend a whirlwind 48hrs (or less) in Rotterdam? Well, I somehow managed to pack in hiring a bike, gazing at architecture, eating cupcakes, window shopping and a lil bit more into my short stay in Amsterdam's underrated cooler sister (the Solange to Beyonce, if you will). Here's what I got up to!

Firstly, I was over to visit an old friend of mine, who I met yeaaars ago when I used to live in France - and she just so happens to come from the Netherlands, and decided to move back there to study. Rotterdam is said to be the up-and-coming version of Amsterdam, and in her opinion she prefers it because it's got everything she needs and it's not crazy busy with tourists like A'dam is...I agree and was definitely won over by it's rich urban cafe culture and Dutch charm...

I touched down in Schiphol airport on the Tuesday evening and got the train with my friend to Rotterdam Centraal (the extra a is deliberate) Station which takes about 40 minutes or so. My friend's flat was only a 10 minute walk from the station so proper handy and gave us enough time to have a gander and take in some of the architecture -  in particular the Delft Gate Building, just located beside the station. It's a twin building that mirror off of each other - against the blue sky and cloudy backdrop, it literally looked like something out of The Truman Show...

We went for a little drink at Holy Smoke once i'd dropped my things off where I got a 'Sloe Roses' gin 'longdrink' (cocktail=longdrink in dutch, I think). The al fresco vibe is very much the way to hang out with friends in Rotterdam with a cafe and terrace on nearly every street corner.  


The next morning we were up bright and early to make sure not to waste a minute and got some filling breakfast at GYS, a bio/vegan/vege cafe - basically the hipsterest place you can think of ticking all the hipster boxes - exposed bulbs, check - wooden tables with plants, check, avocado somewhere on the menu, check - aka, my. favourite. kind. of. place. Because I am basic. We both got capuccinos and the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and salad on toast - delicious, but the portion was way more filling than I expected and couldn't finish it (yep surprised me too).

Later, we rented out some bikes and explored the city from the famous cube houses, the white house, to the giant market hall and more. There was a real mixture of modern and old architecture going on which made it supaaa pleasing to the eyes. This was all fun and games till I realised pedalling backwards to break instead of using handle breaks proved quite difficult for me and nearly cycled in front of a tram........


Anyway! The market hall is a MUST VISIT - it had everything from savoury foods such as olives (so. many), meats and cheeses to sweet things like donuts (look. at. them) and cupcakes galooore. It reminded me of the Mercado san miguel in Madrid but in an even bigger building with a huuuge painted ceiling.


Later we parked up our bikes and explored some of the cute little street districts of Zwart and Witte, lined with shops and again, more outdoor cafes. It literally started pouring down with rain so we got some shelter inside Bazar, a Turkish bar/restaurant/hotel with another branch in Amsterdam. It was honestly stunning and I couldn't stop myself gazing around at the many coloured lanterns, fairy lights and colourful tiling - even the toilets and kitchenware were on point. 


If you're into gazing at some street art then wander far enough and you'll surely come across some weird and wonderful stuff in the side streets and around. They make for some good photo backdrops n all, not that I did that or anything...


That evening we hit Club Vibes - probably the sweatiest, cheesiest but funnest club in Rotterdam - it was 5 euros entry and we stayed right till 3am dancing to some cheesy spanish/french/dutch music and taking advantage of the cheap drinks. The next morning we felt a little delicate so just headed out for some tlc at UEB - urban espresso bar - for a refueling of coffee (I normally don't drink this much coffee and had 3 in the space of 2 days, LAXATIVE. OVERLOAD!) alongside a cheese/olive tapinade/sweet potatoe toastie with homemade ketchup. Love at first bite, ha.

And that's what I got up to in under 48hrs! I wish I could have stayed longer but me and my friend now being full-time adults, it was all we could manage for the time being with our bizzy bizzy lives. It was short and sweet and better than not going at all!

Be sure to give Rotterdam a try on your next trip to the land of the clog...

Travel | South Of Italy

7/12/17

It already feels like too long ago since I set foot on a plane to Naples with my best pal for an Italian, pizza-filled adventure. This was actually my first EVER time to set foot on the boot-shaped country and I was feeling prrretty excited about it. We booked a 5 night stay in the city centre with Emanuela's humble abode via Air b'n'b.  We could have paid cheaper but other places seemed to lack the character that Emanuela's home promised from its photos. However, it was really reasonable pricing for the room and the home felt so authentically Italian with beautiful high ceilings, art deco floored tiling and grand pieces of furniture. You can check out her place here.

Here are some of my top things to do, places to eat, places to relax and some what to and not to do when in Italy!


C H I L L   V I B E S

Naples is the perfect port of call to reach some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. Either a ferry or metro ride away and you can be on the sandiest coast and blue-iest of seas. Our first beach stop was at Bagno Elena, about 3 stops on the metro from Naples centre. Bagno Elena is lively especially on the sunniest of days but it's perfect for getting both a swim and few hours on the sun lounger. Bearing in mind, this beach had an entry fee of 12 euros and most beaches we went to in Italy had a similar fee. However, we both felt like paying this was worth it as you get a sun lounger with attached visor and if you're spending all day there you get your moneys worth. There's also a bar and outdoor showers too. The beach was truly stunning with views looking onto colourful townhouses and an ancient watch tower.


On the day of our graduation results, we celebrated on the coast of Sorrento which was TBH one of the most beautiful places i've seen. I couldn't stop saying " WOW, look how clear that water is". The mersey in Liverpool looks nothing like it, i'll have you know, so it was pretty excitin. We paid a fee for our sun loungers and entry to the beach but dang was it worth it! This time our loungers were out on a pier and you could dive into the beautiful water from the rocks. Oh and to top that off, nice Italian men at your beck and call for cocktails and food. Yup. Belissimo. Sorrento also had plenty of cute winding streets lined with restaurants. We went for pizza and I had ferrero rocher gelato too, naturally. The best places are Gelateria David and Bougainvella. We were told it also has amazing nightlife for al fresco dining too.






On our last day we were treated as a graduation present with tickets to Capri! Just when I thought it couldn't get more beautiful than Sorrento, it did. Capri is a stu-nning island just a 45 minute ferry ride away from Naples. The destination for towering cliffs, the blue grotto, even clearer blue water, pebbly beaches and narrow paths and coloured Italian villas. And fyi it was where the Dior perfume ad was filmed so, yeah it is that pretty. Luckily the beach on this island was free and it was blimmin beautiful with again the clearest of waters and little rock pools. We took my little donut inflatable for a spin and I honestly could have stayed there forever.


We went for some lunch then tried to get some vespas to discover the island however bear in mind for vespas not only do you need a license but you need some experience on a scooter too. Boat tours are also pretty expensive and you need to book these in advance as they sell out quite quickly. We settled on a boat trip out to the famous blue grotto which was such an amazing thing to experience. After a while waiting we were escorted onto little paddle boats by a wee Italian man which we shared with two other people. The duration of the tour inside the blue grotto felt like the shortest ten minutes of my life but it was a pretty special 10 minutes at that. The man told us about the history behind the grotto and how the water is so blue (like, electric cobalt blue) and then went on to serenade us in Italian opera - truly atmospheric. I'll put up a short vlog on Youtube soon where you can see just how blue the water was.

S U M M E R   W A R D R O B E



On the wardrobe front, I packed pretty light and aimed for versatile pieces that I could mix and match. I brought along some denim skirts, a denim dress (above), light crop tops, sandles and one pair of trainers. In all honesty though I probably wouldn't wear sandles again because my feet were so wrecked by blisters (no legit) so I was better off just wearing my Stan Smiths and socks. The majority of the time we were in our bikinis. I managed to nab some amazing two pieces and one pieces from Primark that could be mixed and matched. It was about 31c+ so shorts, skirts and tees were a must. 

Naples is a pretty cool city to discover in itself and has both an archeology museum and a contemporary art museum, Museo Madre. As for the city, it's a bit crazy, busy and messy...but at the same time it's what is most amusing about the city. There is plenty to see if you like people watching, taking photos or wandering through markets. Pointer: bring a bumbag. Naples is notorious for pickpocketers (as is any other big city) but we had absolutely no problem, but bumbags are always handy. Naples was also pretty good for shopping and we discovered a cute vintage fashion shop crossed with a record shop called Oblomova.


T H E   N I G H T L I F E

The nightlife in Naples is quite spread out and the Italian's prefer to sit in a bar or terrace over a few drinks, or just get drunk in the streets in the local 'plaza's', than go clubbing like us lot in Liverpool so if you're planning to go clubbing then you need to venture out a little further. We found a free event going on at nearby 'Riva club' which overall was a pretty amusing and fun night... the whole club had the vibe of the big brother house and everyone looked like they were from n dubz. The drinks were expensive (10 euros for a g&t anyone?) and the music eventually got better and we had a fun night dodging touchy feely Italian boys and dancing. However, from Naples you'll need a taxi to get here or you need to hitchhike with strangers...

M A M M A   M I A   P I Z Z A   P I Z Z A 

Whilst you might be spending a lot of your dolla on stupidly priced drinks (thanks riva club), you won't need much dolla to enjoy the delicacy of Naples that is... PIZZA. Afterall, Naples is the mother birthplace of the beautiful doughy/cheesy/tomatoe-y goodness. We ate pizza every single night - except our last night where we had pasta, just because it was getting a bit out of hand...top pizza places are without a doubt L'antica pizzeria da michele which have two pizzas on the menu and four drinks because, they don't need anything else to prove how good they are. A pizza at 4€ and without a doubt the best tasting pizza i've had (above). It's a huge hit with tourists so get there earlier to avoid waiting - they give you a ticket number and call you when there's a table free - and Julia Roberts ate there too, fo real. Other places to hit up are La Campagnola who honestly pretty much trumped L'antica with their crushed pistachio and pesto pizza, and complimentary doughnuts, ugh. La Margherita was also amazing and the waiters were super nice and gave us a bit too many shots of melonchello afterwards.

My 10 top tips for surviving Naples:

1. Bring plasters, if like me, your feet turn into a giant blister
2. Be prepared to travel on public transport, unless you're Beyoncé
3. Forget the stereotypes and the bad reputation because we felt perfectly safe and didn't witness any crime!
4. Learn some basic Italian because some Italian guys might approach you on the beach and you will then sit in awkward silence for 5 minutes trying to use sign language (this happened)
5. Explore the cuisine and try different things other than margherita pizza (but try that too, obviously)
6. When your mum says watch out for the Italian boys, she meant it
7. Always leave in plenty of time for the ferry's, or you arrive extra sweaty and that's just not fun
8. Ask for a 'espresso con panna' and thank me later
9. Buy metro tickets in advance at local newsagents because you can't buy them at the metro station for some weird reason (get it sorted, Naples)
10. Watch out for those vespas because they literally come out of nowhere around every street corner and I feared for my life

Hope you enjoyed this travel guide,
Ciao!

British Style Collective 2017

7/10/17

I was going to write a huge post about the British Style Collective but instead decided to select some of the best pictures I got from the fantastic weekend to summarise my experience. I'm so grateful to have been invited along. I got the chance to see designer catwalks in the beautiful St. Georges Hall such as Edeline Lee and Barrus, see talks with fashion experts, get goodies and freebies, chat with designers and talk to and get a photo with Glamour's editor Jo Elvin. It was a truly 'pinch me' moment weekend that i'm so happy to have attended!

British Style Collective was formerly known as The Clothes Show Live in Birmingham and i'm delighted it's now in my hometown and hope it's here to stay. It was a city wide takeover with events going on in every part of town across different venues. It was 3 exhausting yet superb days.

Edeline Lee at St Georges Hall

So & Jo Clothing at the shopping halls



An interview with stylists at River Island Studios








Annaliese Dayes chatting with Hello!'s website editor, Alexandra Light

St. Georges Hall which would, fyi, make a fab venue for fashion week, amiright?!



Edeline Lee

Antonia O'Brien chatting with Henry Holland and Edeline Lee


Again with Jamie Laing discussing his new brand Candy Kittens

Again with Hilary Alexander (I got a picture with her too, and Jo Elvin, but I look minging)

Caryn Franklin with Gary James McQueen

I got the chance to network and spend more time with bloggers from Liverpool who I knew before and got to meet some new faces too and i'm so grateful to know them all!
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