Category: Europe

7 Reasons to Visit Belfast

Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast can’t help but capture your heart with its electic mix of historic, street art covered city center, tasty eateries, artsy bars and interesting cultural offerings.  I visited for a weekend in May and fell in love with the cities creative and historic vibe.  Here are 9 reasons we think you should make it your next European city getaway.

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Packing for a European Mini-Break…

I am really excited because this week I travel to rural Southern France to visit family and work with some new Image Consultation clients.  It will be my first holiday of the season and I couldn’t be happier about spending five days relaxing in the sun, exploring crumbing, rural villages and eating delicious French food.  It’s going to be beautiful.

As you know I love traveling and everything that it brings, except one thing – the packing!  I am a terrible packer!  Being a total fashion girl I want to take my whole wardrobe away with me every time and almost always end up over the weight limit and/or sitting on my suitcase to try and cram everything in!  This is especially difficult when, like for this trip, I only have carry on luggage so I really am limited to one small suitcase only!

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How to Live Like a Milanese…

I have been living in Milan for nearly three years now, and although England is definitely still my home, I find it amazing to see how settled and homely Milan feels to me now.  I really noticed it on my recent trip home last month.  I was so excited to go home and had such strong feelings of being home when I arrived, but then when I got back to Milan a week later it felt like I was coming home too.  I found it so interested how both places can feel like home to me but in two very different ways, and it made me happy to think Milan has become my home away from home.

I started to think about all the little personalities traits and Milan-isms this city has for me that makes it different from home.  And though I am definitely still 100% English, I have noticed myself picking up on them and how they have become normal for me.  It reminds me how no two countries or even cities are the same which is why traveling is so exciting and eye opening for me.

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(Photo from Pinterest.com)

Here are some of the things that make up the personality of Milan for me…

Saying Ciao A Lot.   Especially when speaking on the telephone, which Italians love to do.  When you want to end the conversation you have to say Ciao Ciao Ciao and then they say Ciao Ciao Ciao and it goes on for a little while.

Taking Regular Espresso Breaks.  Italians go for espresso several times a day and there are so many coffee shops all over Milan.  You order and drink it standing at the bar and are in and out really fast.  It’s a great pick me up when you are on the run.  Normally there are lots of people bustling to get to the front but the coffee people always seem to know who’s drink is who’s!

Becoming a Regular at Your Favorite Cafe or Restaurant.  If you keep going back to the same place and they get to know you they will greet you like family, bring you things to try from the kitchen and make you feel so welcome every time you stop by.

Having Good Shoes and Handbags is Essential.  Milanese girls always have beautiful shoes and handbags made of high quality leather.  Its a great way to transform a basic outfit into something elegant and chic.

Skipping Happy Hour For Aperitivo Instead.  Nearly every bar in Milan does Aperitvo in the evenings and its so good.  Order a Spritz or Prosecco and get served yummy snacks of olives, cheeses, salads, pasta and savory pastries with your drinks.

The Rules are Made to be Broken.  Italians follow the rules up until a point but they are very comfortable bending them when they need to and are totally fine with you doing the same.  Need to park in the middle of the road while you run into a store to pick something up – no problem.  Don’t have time to buy a ticket before you jump on the train – no problem.  Just flash them a smile and its always fine.

Dressing Stylish is a Priority.  In Milan everyone loves fashion and being stylish and chic is a major priority.  I love it because everyone of all generations always looks beautiful and you can get so much style inspiration from the people you see on the streets.

Taking your Dog Everywhere.  Milanese people love dogs and they bring there little dogs out with them everywhere they go.  In restaurants, cafes, on the trams – once I even saw people bringing their dogs around Ikea!!

Sushi is Everyone’s Favorite International Food.  Italians are really proud of their heritage and their food and don’t often eat the food of other cultures.  However the exception to this in Milan is Sushi which everyone loves and there are sushi places all over the city.

Picking up on these things makes me feel like I am starting to live a little more like the Milanese and makes me so happy Milan has become my second home.

What are your favorite differences about living abroad? Let me know in the comments below…

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Milan Fashion Week Survival Guide…

Fashion Week is nearly upon us here in Milan.  My schedule is filling up with cool events and presentations and I am getting really excited about what the week has in stall .  When I am not shooting, a lot of my schedule is spent working at home and online, so I love using Fashion Week as an opportunity to attend loads of events and shows around the city, visit cool exhibitions, check out new bars and catch up with people in town for the week.  I always think the city comes alive during Fashion Week and I love the energy and buzz that comes with that.

Saying that, the week can get pretty crazy running from event to event and I have learnt, that to maximize the weeks success and fun its important to be prepared.  Here is my tried and tested Survival Guide for having fun at Milan Fashion Week…

MFW Survival Guide

Make Sure you Have all your Essentials Packed in Your Handbag.   Fashion week means being on the go all day and often into the night.  So if you want to make it to the end of the day without feeling (or looking) exhausted its important you stock up your handbag with essentials for all situations.  Think portable phone charger, healthy snacks, lipstick, facial powder, nail files, mini perfume and gum to name a few.

Buy Comfortable Shoes.  Pre-Fashion Week, invest in some shoes that are stylish but comfortable.  I literally cannot stress how important this is. You will be on your feet all day running from event to event and partying all night, so there isn’t time for painful shoes.  I have invested in a pairs of heels that are cute and comfortable and some really stylish brogues for when I need a day wearing flats!

Plan your Outfits in Advance.  Once you know your event schedule, take some time to plan out your outfits.  Make a space in your wardrobe and hang your outfits together in groups so you always know what you are going to be wearing.  As a Stylist I always do this when I have important events coming up and I can’t tell you how much time and stress it saves!

Take Time to Sit Down and Eat Lunch.  Food is one of the most important things in Italian culture and there are so many chic and tasty restaurants to try around the city.  Try to take at least half an hour out of the craze to sit down during lunch – your body will reward you by feeling more relaxed and energized during your afternoon events.  Some of my favorite healthy and tasty lunch sports around the city are Cascina Cuccagna, California Bakery, Fluid and Mantra Raw Vegan.  If taking a break for lunch is a bit of a stretch, pop back during aperitivo hour for a glass of prosecco and some tasty snacks.

Get beautiful nails at Bahama Mama I love matching my nails to my outfits but when I have a jam-packed schedule I don’t always have much time to devote to my beauty routine.  Bahama Mama is a super cool nail bar in Milan where you can get amazing manicures and pedicures in no time.  They even have a coffee and juice bar there so you can load up on tasty treats during your pamper session.

Got any of your own Fashion Week Survival Tips? Or have some cool bars, lunch spots or shopping places you love around Milan? I would love to hear about them in the comments below…

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Secret Milan – My Top Spots for Vintage Shopping

Ever since I started loving fashion I have loved vintage shopping.  I think it is the idea of not knowing what I am going to find before I enter the shop, and the surprise at finding an amazing piece that is perfect for me.  The thing I love most is that the items have their own story to tell and that by owning them, I am becoming part of their story and their history too.  I love to imagine what parties my vintage dresses have been worn to or what foreign cities my vintage jewellery might have once visited.  I started my vintage collection nearly ten years ago, and as well as the usual selection of Levi’s jeans and floral dresses, I also collect special pieces with a unique quality.  Whenever I travel I search for vintage shops and antique markets so I can take a special souvenir home with me.  The favorite pieces I have found are a crocodile-skin handbag I found at an Antiques market in Cape Town, a pocket-watch I found in Buenos Aires and a Dolce & Gabbana scarf I found here in Italy.  So as soon as I moved here, I went on a hunt for the best vintage shops in Milan. Here are my favorites…

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Cavalli e Nastri – This is a Milanese landmark for any fashion lover in the city.  ‘Cavalli e Nastri’ sell an amazing selection of high quality vintage pieces.  The price tag is a little high but the pieces are so special.  Think hand sewn sequin dresses, lace vintage wedding dresses, antique jewellery and vintage designer handbags.

Madame Pauline – I love this cute little boutique with lovely owners who are really passionate about vintage clothes.  They have the most amazing collection of vintage designer pieces, beautiful embroidered kimono’s and special jewellery.  All pieces have labels explaining which designer they are and what year they are from.

‘Lo Specchio de Alice’ –  Found in the cool Porta Ticinese neighborhood, this vintage shop has the BEST collection of Levi’s jeans, Dr Martins, baseball jackets and sportswear.  Think racks and racks of the stuff.  You need to be prepared to rummage but you can find the most amazing pieces and at really great prices.  I love getting vintage jeans and Adidas jackets here.

Groupies Vintage – In the same area as ‘Lo Specchio de Alice’, Groupies Vintage also sells a cool selection of urban vintage pieces with a great price tag.  Denim jackets, woolen jumpers, checked shirts, sports wear, Dr Martins and trench coats.  They also have their own line of customized pieces which is really cool if you want to find something a little different.

Sunday Antiques Market – Held on the last Sunday of every month along the Naviglio (canal) in the south of the city, this market is really amazing.  A mix of flea market and antique sellers, you can find anything from antique furniture, old records, street artists selling paintings and cheap vintage clothing to collectible designer pieces.  Even if you don’t buy anything its so much fun walking around and seeing all the crazy stuff on sale.  I love it here and if I have time I visit every month.

If you want to read about more places I love for shopping in Milan, check out my post ‘Shopping Guide – Exploring Milan’s Porta Ticinese District’… 

 

 

Unique Places to Visit in Northern Italy

I have been living in Italy now for three years, and every year I spend here I discover new and exciting thing about this magical and enchanting country.

I started off my experience here much like everyone else and my travel list was to be expected – Rome, Venice, Florence, Vatican City.  These places were undeniably amazing, but sharing the experience of seeing the Sistine Chapel shared with 50 other tourists or waiting over an hour in line to see Venice cathedral makes the experience a little less special.  The longer I have lived in Italy the more I have discovered the real gems of this country are the places less known of, that you have to search to find, or that involve a degree of adventure.  It’s in these moments that you see the real Italy.  The Italy with a big heart and amazing food that welcomes you in like a long lost family member.

If you want to experience a little of that (and why wouldn’t you?!) then here are my favorite unique places to travel in Northern Italy.  Maybe you can try and squeeze some in on your next visit to Milan, Venice or Florence…

Unique Places to Visit in Northern Italy

Parma.

The region of Parma is known for its incredible food – specifically it’s hams, cheeses and olive oil.  The best time to visit is in November when the Fall food festivals are in full swing and you can combine a morning of city site seeing with a local foodie festival.  We combined our visit with ‘November Pork’ a festival which celebrates food from local farms including cheeses, home-made pastas, wine and of course ham, salami and pork.

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Lake Como.

Located only an hour from Milan on the train, Lake Como is a perfect place to escape from the city and pass a day relaxing by the water.  Take a boat ride on the lake to visit the old villa’s and mansion’s of old Italian aristocracy or get lost walking around one of the little villages dotted along the lake’s edge.

Verona

Arguably one of the more touristy locations, Verona is definitely still worth a visit.  Take a local bike or walking tour around the city and take in the mix of ancient roman architecture and renaissance art dotted around the city center.  Visit the Amphitheater and Juliette’s (of Romeo & Juliette) balcony and then finish your day at a open air restaurant in one of the cites beautiful plazas.

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Lake Garda.

Located between Verona & Venice, Lake Garda is a beautiful, tranquil spot with little villages lining to shore of the lake.  Two places worth visiting are Peschiera del Garda and Sirmione where you can spend a day walking around their quiet streets, taking boat rides on the lake and eating seafood in sunny plazas.

Alba.

Another place to visit during the Fall, Alba comes alive through the month of November for the International Truffle Festival.  Plan your visit so you can spend a day exploring the exhibition, tasting the truffles and visiting local deli’s and wine stores.  Then finish up by visiting vineyards and farm based restaurants in the surrounding countryside to experience truffle eating at its best.

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Torino.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, Torino is an elegant and characteristic city 120km north of Milan.  The city has a more local feel but still offers lots of museums, churches, restaurants and sunny plazas so you can get your culture fix.  Strolling around the city and exploring its piazza’s and cobbled streets is a fun way to spend a day out of Milan.

Are you planning a trip to Northern Italy? Let me know where you are thinking about going in the comments below…

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6 Must Do Things in Torino

Torino (or Turin in English) is located in the north west of Italy in the Piemonte region.  Originally the capital of Italy, it’s an elegant and grand city made up of wide boulevards, sweeping plazas and old marble arcades.  It feels less touristy than Italy’s other major cities and spending a day or two strolling around allows you to observe city life and local Italian customs without the heavy crowds of Rome or Venice.

I have visited Torino twice, both times with visiting friends and family, and found I fell in love instantly with the compelling mix of culture, architecture, restaurants and wine bars.  Located 120km from Milan it’s possible to arrive in under an hour on the fast train so makes the perfect place for a day trip.  Here are my 6 must-do’s while visiting Torino…

Visiting Torino - 6 Must Do Things

1 – Try some Chocolate from a Traditional Chocolate Cafe.

The Piemonte region is famous for growing hazelnuts and a result of this is they make really incredible chocolate! Torino city center is full of traditional chocolate shops and cafes, all of which have inviting counters displaying hand-made chocolate and treats.

2 – Take the Lift Up the Mole Antonelliana & Admire the City Views.

You can’t miss the beautiful and unusual architecture of the Mole Antonelliana towering above the city skyline.  Taking the lift up to the top of the tower allows you to admire the architecture up close and gives you panoramic views of the city below.

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3 – Visit the Film Museum.

Inside the building of the Mole Antonelliana is the Torino Film Museum.  One of the coolest museums I have visited in Italy, the museum features exhibits on cameras through the ages, optical illusions, famous film sets, movie props and 3D cinema.  It feels really crazy and as you walk through the rooms you don’t know what you might find next.

4 – See Mummies at the Egyptian Museum.

Torino also has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo housed in the Egyptian Museum.  See ancient Mummies, Sarcophagus, painted tombs, royal jewellery and even a Sphinx!

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5 – Stroll Through the Widest Plaza in Europe.

Torino’s ‘Piazza Vittorio Veneta’ is the widest plaza in Europe, with wide boulevards stretching between marble archways, elegant shop fronts and open air cafes.  The plaza finishes by opening up onto the banks of the River Po.  Take a walk around the plaza and finish up on the river where you can walk across the bridge and enter the beautiful church on the other side.

6 – Have Dinner in a Local Trattoria.

The Piemonte region is famous for being one of the best regions in Italy for food.  So make sure to eat in a little ‘trattoria’ – a simple style restaurant serving up local dishes from the region.  These places are frequented by locals and have menus based on the season so you are sure to try some authentic Italian cuisine.

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Secret Milan – Armani Silos Museum

This weekend my Mum was visiting from France and on the Saturday we spent the day in Milan visiting the new museum and exhibition space ‘Armani Silos‘.

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The museum opened earlier this year and I have been dying to go ever since, so it was a nice excuse to visit while somebody came to stay. The museum is located on Via Bergognone next to the Armani offices and was built inside an old granary mill. The exhibition covers four floors of the building which has been recreated in minimal black, white and concrete grey design.

The exhibition itself was absolutely amazing. Containing over six hundred outfits and two hundred accessories dating from 1980 to the present day, the exhibition is a beautiful archive showing the talent of Armani from over forty years of his career.

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In an unusual way, the exhibition is not set out in chronological order but grouped according to themes that have inspired Armani and define the brands aesthetic vision. They are named Daywear, Exoticism, Colour Schemes and Light. Exoticism was my favourite as outfits had subtle influences from ethnic cultures and contained vibrant patterns and strong colours. A style I always love!

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After spending several hours pouring over outfits in the museum and choosing our favourites using the Armani Silos app, we stopped for health drinks in the Armani Cafe on the bottom floor and looked at chic accessories in the museum gift shop. Afterwards we went into Porta Genova and had a couple of glasses of prosecco in the Mercato Metropolitano before heading home to get ready for our Halloween party!

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Secret Milan – Shopping in Milan’s ‘Porta Ticinese’ District…

One of my favourite things about living in Milan is that the city has so many different neighbourhoods for shopping.  From the ultra-chic Via Montenapoleone, to the artsy boutiques in Brera, and the high-street stores in San Babila.  There are so many cool districts to explore and amazing shops to discover.

Last week I decided to head down to the south of the city and check out the cool/underground street Porta Ticinese.  This is my favourite neighbourhood for shopping in Milan, so I try to head down here as often as I can.  Porta Ticinese is a collection of vintage shops, cool foodie places and urban boutiques. Lots of the shops here are pop-up’s and the collections sold are limited edition, so every time you visit you never know what cool things you might find.

The street starts in a piazza lined with old Roman Columns and runs all the way down to the two long canals of Porta Genova.  When visiting, I love to start at the piazza and finish up on the canals for a bite to eat – post shopping.

Last week I found so many cool clothes and new things going on here and so I have decided to share my discoveries with you.  Hopefully when you visit you will love it as much as me…

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(colourful bikini’s at Individuals)

For Fashion

Cetang. Recently opened concept store Cetang sells a cute selection of clothing and jewellery from cool, young designers.  The shop is all white and decorated with pretty green plants so even just walking around is relaxing and fun.

Everyday Milano.  This new store has an ‘& Other Stories’ type vibe with an on-trend, fashionable collection at really good prices.  I think its great for when you want to buy something high-street but don’t want to end up wearing the same dress as everybody else.

Individuals. A little bit past Porta Ticinese street but definitely worth the walk if you love bikinis like me.  The swimwear is handmade by the shop owner out of brightly coloured and patterned fabrics. They also have a really cute collection on lingerie and leotards.  

For Vintage

Lo Specchio di Alice. This vintage shop sells an amazing selection of Levi jeans, baseball jackets, Dr Martins and has a beautiful collection of vintage bags.  I almost always buy something when I pass by because they always have cool finds and the prices are really great.

Groupies. Located right at the start of Porta Ticinese, this vintage shop is amazing for finding unique and eccentric pieces without a crazy price-tag.  The girls that run the store are super nice and always want to show off the newest stuff they have in.

Serendeepity. Check out the first floor for a super cool selection of magazines, books and vinyl records and then head downstairs to find a curated collection of vintages dresses, suits, coats and accessories.

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(graphic street art near the canals)

For Accessories

Yobe. For super stylish eyewear check out the selection of frames at Yobe.  Their selection of sunglasses and reading glasses are so cool and sold in amazing colours and shapes.  You can even get your eyes tested on site to find your perfect pair of frames.

Stiu Shoes. Absolutely my favourite shop in the whole of Milan! Every time I go in here I have to stop myself from buying the whole store! The shoes are all locally produced from Italian leather and are made in classic styles but with a modern twist.  Think summer sandals with a chunky platform or winter boots in metallic shades. So cool!

Cult.  Another really cool place if you love shoes as much as me! Cult sells a cool collection of masculine style flats like lace up boots and chunky brogues.  Great pieces for when you want to rock the androgynous look while being stylish and comfortable.

For Food

I Love Vegetarian. For healthy smoothies and organic snacks this place is the perfect pit-stop.

Natural Bakery. Found down a little side street this bakery sells an amazing selection or organic breads, cakes and pastries.  Grab some yummy treats to take away and then have a little picnic in the nearby park.  I love the spinach and ricotta rolls the most.

Darsena Harbour Food Market.  At the end of the Porta Ticinese street is the newly renovated Darsena Harbour.  It is really pretty to stroll around and sit by the water but also has a really amazing little food market.  Find stalls selling fresh meats and fish, grab a stool and watch the stall owner’s cook up your food right in front of you.  It’s really fun to share lots of small dishes and try lots of Italian food.

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(cute floating cafes in the Darsena Harbour)

And there you have it my friends… My guide to shopping in Porta Ticinese.  Let me know what cool places your discover there in the comments below…

For more of my european shopping guides check out my Guide to Amsterdam’s Nine Streets…