Category Archives: travel

“Unexpected Travel Plans Are Dancing Lessons From God”

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He had a face I couldn’t stop looking at. We’d only been on two dates, but one of them had lasted 19 hours. Now he was sitting in my living room, flicking through my book, reading passages of it aloud to me while I blushed uncontrollably.

Earlier in the week he’d mentioned that he was going to L.A., so I asked him how long he was going for.

“A week,” he replied. “You should come with me.”

I visualised my week in my head. I had no real pressing reason to stay in NYC, and I’m always up for an adventure, but I wasn’t sure how serious he was. I changed the subject. So when he looked at me a couple of hours later and asked, “Well, are you going to come away with me?,” I grinned and said yes.

Three days later, I met him in L.A. We checked into my favourite hotel (and home away from home) and had one of the best weeks ever.

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One morning I stole his hat and went out with Christina and Alie from Made U Look Photography to shoot some pictures. I’ve known them for years and they are my absolute favourite photographers. Christina and Alie shot my book cover and killed it — everything they shoot is magic, and I was so excited to see them again!

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We started out on Hollywood Boulevard, the iconic street which is paved with stars devoted to the biggest and brightest in show business. Tourists kneel on the filthy pavement, weirdos in costume harass people for tips, and dozens of stores sell the same kitschy souvenirs.

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Oh, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get photobombed by Mickey Mouse.

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The only stars I got excited about were Walt Disney and Liberace. Pretty telling, really.

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That is not forced enthusiasm. It is REAL! Liberace was insane, but he was a fucking boss.

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We walked back up Hollywood Blvd towards Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

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Outside the theatre, celebrities press their hands, feet, cigars (Groucho Marx), etc. into the concrete to leave their mark. Almost all of the women who’ve done it have had teeny-tiny hands.

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Diagonally opposite the Chinese Theatre is the Roosevelt Hotel which has so much history. Marilyn Monroe lived there for two years when her career was first taking off, and she had her first photoshoot there. The pool features a mural painted by David Hockney, and the hotel is (allegedly) super-haunted. Ooooooooooh la la.

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I love this stained glass window at the top of the stairs.

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After our quick trip the Roosevelt Hotel, we jumped in Christina’s yellow Volkswagen and drove to Beverly Hills. Such a good sign… In my dreams, all burglars wear a trenchcoat with the collar flipped, an eye-mask, and an extremely conspicuous hat.

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Beverly Hills is just as beautiful as you’d imagine. Lush manicured grass and greenery (even in the midst of the drought), palm trees as far as the eye can see, and ornate gates for days.

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And impeccable roses which I couldn’t resist getting up close and personal with. (Flower pervert, all day, every day.)

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Just loungin’ on someone’s lawn like it’s my own.

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The moral of the story is this: take a chance and embrace adventure, and if a cute boy invites you on a cross-country trip, you should definitely say YES.

I love you,

Quote in the title is by Kurt Vonnegut. Photos by Made U Look Photography. Dress by Betsey Johnson, hat by Creep Street, boots by Dr Martens, heart necklace from my upcoming collection!

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Florence: You’re Too Beautiful For Words, So Here’s A Thousand Photos

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D

ear Florence, you are the city dreams are made from. Our time there was brief — three days — but beautiful and action-packed. Every evening, we headed back to our Airbnb absolutely exhausted. It was a whirlwind, and while I wouldn’t classify it as a “relaxing” trip, we flew back to our respective corners of the globe feeling totally inspired, reinvigorated, and excited about life.

We’d planned to take the train to Venice on our last day, but the weather forecast of torrential downpours and never-ending thunderstorms put us off somewhat! We were happy to have another day in Florence… And we’ll go to Venice next time!

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I had heard about the Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) but I didn’t know that much about it, just that it was a must-see. On our first day in Florence, we walked down a skinny street into the city centre… And we were confronted by it. Photos cannot do it justice, and the scale is incredible.

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The detail — carved doors and panels, contrasting materials, etc. — is astounding. They started constructing the Duomo in 1296 (!!!) and it was completed in 1436. Like I said in my video about Rome, I had never been so close to something so old. Italy’s history makes America seem like a toddler in comparison.

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Professional jumper!

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Florence is a city of contradictions: some streets are crawling with tourists moving in a loud horde past empty United Colors Of Benetton stores, while some are like this, completely empty except for a sliver of sunshine and a bicycle. It’s an incredible city to just get lost in.

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I loved this cover! Sunglasses on marble busts?! Amazing!

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A Prada bag used for garbage? Why not? Oh, Italy!

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Photobooth time… We are physically incapable of passing one up. Honestly, if you want to trap someone from Generation Y, just put a bear trap in a photobooth. Got ’em!

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One of our favourite places in Florence was Luisa Via Roma. It was decorated like a rainbow wonderland, full of enormous My Little Pony sculptures and technicolour clothes. Swoon. The danger of it all!

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Check out those knockers! Hahah.

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One night after dinner, a waiter poured us some glasses of limoncello. I was grimacing as soon as he grabbed the bottle, because we’d had a not-so-wonderful limoncello experience in Rome. (It was disgusting: sweet, sickly and warm. Blech!) So you can imagine our surprise when this limoncello was great, easy to drink and adequately chilled. It fueled some hilarious conversations, dancing in the bicycle lane, and a random jaunt to the Four Seasons for overpriced but lovely cocktails.

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You’re never too old to ride on a carousel… Or be photobombed by your BFF!

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One of our favourite places to hang out in Florence was the Gucci museum. It is AWESOME. There’s a cafe attached to it and I am not ashamed to say we visited more than once. You can buy Gucci chocolates!

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Who doesn’t want to drink their latte out of a Gucci Museo official mug?! Nobody, that’s who! And by the way, your coffee comes with little cookies in the shape of the interlocking G logo. Sick. I nabbed some packets of official Gucci sugar for Emily and smuggled them back to America. What a good friend!

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Wearing my new Missoni turban (I went a little nuts in Missoni) with the most subtle tank top on the planet, hahah, a sequin pencil skirt, and Nike sneaker wedges. Living the dream. By the way, Nike sneaker wedges are the way of the future. Comfortable, stylish, and they give you just enough height. I walk miles in mine every single day.

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I was a couple of months into quitting sugar when we went to Italy. During a Pilates session, I told my instructor Jan how excited I was to go on the trip. “The gelato will change your life!” she exclaimed. “Yeah, I know, but I just quit sugar and I don’t want to backslide…” I replied. Jan is extremely health-conscious and as a result, her body slays. So when she said, “Fuck that! You HAVE to eat gelato in Italy!”, I took her seriously. Hahah.

Yes, the gelato was awesome, and yes, I had it a few times. But now I’m back on my no sugar regimen and I feel fantastic. (I really recommend it.)

 

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I have no idea what these say…

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Ugh. Florence is so gorgeous. We took this on our last night, before heading to the rooftop bar at the Westin for delicious but cataclysmically-strong drinks. (The view is beyond.)

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Shauna and I were totally obsessed with this window at Patrizia Pepe. I love the outfits on the left and right. A cropped sweater t-shirt with a pencil skirt, studded belt and striped jacket tied around the waist? KILLING IT. And the studded motorcycle jacket with the shift dress is a winner too. So inspired by these looks.

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Italian widow style. Doesn’t she look like she’s a getaway car driver, waiting for her new lover to run out of the bank with a big bag of cash?

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Bar Gala! I picked up this skirt at a vintage clothing store, what a great purchase. It’s like a candy wrapper from the 1970’s. My pink turban is from Amazon, it’s made of terrycloth and I have them in all different colours. Best thing ever for a bad hair day.

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Heart-eyes-emoji.

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Our trip to Florence was so quick, but it left such a massive impact on all three of us. I am absolutely obsessed with Italy, and I can’t wait to go back! 2016, here we come!

Love ever,

Photos by Lisa Jane Photography

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Italy: Gelato, Priests, And Crumbling Old Architecture

Priests in Rome!

Dear Italy, how are you so beautiful? After our breakneck trip to Marrakech, we knew Italy would be a change of pace, but we had no idea how different!

These trips were totally life-enhancing. Nothing can remind you of the intense beauty of the world — and gently prompt you to think bigger than your own bubble — than travelling around and seeing things you’ve never seen before. When I told my father we were going to Italy, he said, “You’ll come back a different person.” I thought this was a sweet piece of hyperbole, but — as is often the case with my father — he was right. Italy changed all of us for the better. What an incredibly charming, elegant, divine country.

As with Morocco, I have a massive photo overload post on its way… But I also put together a video of some of our adventures in Rome that I hope you enjoy! (A video about Florence is coming, too.)

Click play below to watch the video and pretend you were with us on our whirlwind trip! (If you’re reading this via email, click here for the video!)

 

Gosh, Italy. I never knew I’d love you so much. Next time, we’re definitely going to hit up the Amalfi Coast… And stay for a much longer time!

Ciao bella!

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Morocco: A Day Of Delights!

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Morocco is the place of my technicolour dreams. It is such an incredible country. I had high hopes for Marrakech, but didn’t really know what to expect, and I was blown away. Let me first say that if you love vibrant colours, incredible architecture, hot temperatures, and not constantly being within spitting distance of a Starbucks, you have to go to Morocco.

I completely understand the people who pack up all their worldly possessions and move, seemingly on a whim, to this amazing country in North Africa. I’m tempted to do the same myself!

Here, then, is my love letter to Morocco, in the form of a travel diary…

Fresh off the plane from London, we arrived in Marrakech in the afternoon. Even the immigration area of the airport — typically the world’s most unglamorous place, as those of you who travel a lot are well aware — was decorated with hand-carved tiles. Helloooooo! Once we’d handed our passports to a crew of extremely handsome Moroccan immigration officers (again, a stark contrast to what you experience everywhere else in the world), we were pretty sure this was going to be a trip in every sense of the word! We picked up our suitcases and met the driver who transported us to our hotel, El Fenn. (We organised this through the hotel and it made everything much less stressful.)

The airport is awe-inspiring, and looks like it is covered in elaborate ribbons of lace. It’s funny, as soon as I walked out of the airport, I felt the same feeling I had when I first got to NYC. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to describe: it feels like your energy and the energy of the city are one and the same. I was practically jumping out of my skin with excitement as we wheeled our suitcases to the van, and greedily drank everything in with my eyes as we drove towards the hotel.

I had never been somewhere like this before. The sun was just starting to set, and the whole sky was pale blue and flecked with pink and orange streaks. The streets are lined with palm and orange trees, and the road is almost entirely lawless. The paradox of the beautiful, calm sky, set against the chaos around us made my brain light up like a pinball machine. There seem to be no lanes, and the road is shared with people on bicycles, scooters, donkeys, and people pulling enormous trailer-loads of everything imaginable. I loved seeing women in hijab and sunglasses, whizzing past on motorcycles. They looked so cool.

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As we drove through the streets which were teeming with people, cars, and everything else you can imagine, we were in awe. I don’t really know what Kat and Shauna were thinking, but I was overwhelmed with thoughts, excitement, and nervousness. I was loving it and I felt so alive.

All of a sudden, we came to an abrupt stop in the middle of a crowded area. The driver got out and started unloading our suitcases. We were a little anxious: where was our hotel?! But as we followed him through a few twists and turns, we realised that our hotel was tucked off a little alleyway, hidden away in the Medina.

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Talk about an oasis of calm amidst the chaos. El Fenn is a staggering hotel. Owned by Richard Branson’s sister Vanessa, she and her partner purchased the property when it was an old, crumbling private home, and have transformed it into a luxurious, colour-soaked, truly unique hotel. It was the perfect place for us to stay.

Since there were four of us, we spent our first night in two Courtyard Rooms, and then moved into a Family Suite for the remainder of our time.

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The room Shauna and I stayed in was vibrant red, with beautiful lanterns illuminating the roof and a creepy but wonderful portrait over the fireplace. A turquoise pool glowed in one of the (many) courtyards, floor lamps cascaded down stairs, and the floor flickered with candlelight on green tiles.

El Fenn is absolutely loaded with lanterns which shine fragments of light all around the walls. They are insanely gorgeous. I want to hang a hundred all over my apartment!

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If you’re heading to Morocco, get ready to drink a lot of peppermint tea. Traditionally, you’ll drink three glasses, and the flavour changes as the tea deepens and transforms. There’s even an old Maghrebi proverb about it, which goes “Le premier verre est aussi doux que la vie, le deuxième est aussi fort que l’amour, le troisième est aussi amer que la mort.” Translation: The first glass is as gentle as life, the second glass is as strong as love, the third glass is as bitter as death. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

On the first morning, I woke up so excited. I slithered into a truly psychedelic Mara Hoffman kaftan and enormous Prada sunglasses. Always understated! I was READY for a day of shopping!

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But first, we needed to have breakfast. We headed to the rooftop terrace for a delicious buffet: Moroccan eggs (cooked in tomato sauce), teeny-tiny sausages, foamy lattes, and big glasses of unbelievably fresh orange juice. I mean, I could have sat there all day, gorging myself… But there was a whole city to explore!

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Then we sat on an amethyst daybed accented by red, pink and yellow roses as we waited for our guide to show up. His name was Abdel and he lead us all over the medina, showing us to the best slipper shops, into a traditional Moroccan apothecary, and through the winding alleyways.

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If you’re heading to Marrakech, I’d recommend having a guide (at least for the first day). The medina is intense, with no logical layout, and the odds of getting lost are extremely high! It’s also not expensive at all to have someone show you around. We paid 300 dirham which was $30 US for the entire day. (By the way, this conversion rate made shopping dangerously convenient and easy. Just take a zero off the price? Well, don’t mind if I do!)

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The entire medina is made from a salmon-coloured clay and chalk. Apparently the reason everything is this colour is because it reflects the heat! (But don’t be fooled, it is still HOT HOT HOT.) Walking through these crooked little streets was such a life highlight. You absolutely never knew what you’d see next.

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Partners in crime since 2008. I’m convinced we were sisters in another life. There is way too much synergy between us.

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Gorgeous. By the way, haggling is still a major part of shopping in the souks. There are no prices on anything. You always have to ask… And then the fun begins!

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My first purchase was a hot pink Moroccan wedding blanket from this gentleman… And that set the tone for the rest of the day. I initially intended on holding out for a while before going crazy on textiles, but I just took the plunge and I’m so glad I did! (The blanket is currently draped over my couch, bringing a whole lot of colour and sparkle to Darling HQ!)

We weaved in and out of stalls and stores, buying scarves, rugs, blankets, cosmetics, amber perfume, leather slippers with gold hamsa embroidery, and kaftans… Drool.

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Oh, don’t mind us. We’ll just be over here, ogling your fabric!

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Doesn’t David look dashing? I wish he’d bought this. Such a wasted opportunity! Regal as fuck!

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Another day, another donkey.

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My favourite people to travel with. So much ridiculousness, so little time.

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The medina winds and weaves, and is absolutely loaded with things to delight the hell out of anyone who walks past. There are tiled pillars and bright walls, stray cats, vendors selling everything you could possibly imagine, and dilapidated but beautiful doors which conceal the homes behind them.

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One thing I always find slightly disappointing about travel is that, a lot of the time, the shops are full of the same stuff. It’s all a bit homogeneous. I am extremely happy to tell you: Marrakech is not like this. There are 18 souks in Marrakech alone, employing over 40,000 people! So much of what you can find there is handcrafted and totally unique. It was like being in heaven.

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Abdel took us to this shop where the man above learnt metalwork from his father, and now makes these enormous padlocks, chests, keys, and other amazing things. So fantastic! But a little too heavy for my suitcase…

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After a few hours, we were exhausted from all the heat and excitement. It was time to go back to the hotel and relax…

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After a couple of hours spent relaxing by the pool, eating french fries and chicken kebabs, and drinking cocktails, we headed out to a restaurant for dinner.

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I don’t know what the restaurant was called, but that’s okay, because I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. We still enjoyed ourselves, ate tagine, and Shauna and I joined a Moroccan band. Pretty sweet!

Our first day in Morocco was so big, and our second day was wonderful too. Stay tuned!

Love and peppermint tea,

Photos by David McNeil (with the exception of the lantern and our red bedroom).


P.S. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Radical Self Love yet, you only have until Sunday! xo

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Morocco: A Magical Travel Diary

I love Marrakech! Photo by David McNeil

Marrakech is one of my new favourite places. It is absolutely incredible. It pains me that we were only there for two days. If you ever go and visit, please promise me you’ll stay at least a week!

I have a million photos to share with you, but in the meantime, I made this video of some of our adventures. From shopping in the souk to visiting Jardin Majorelle, there is lots to see. Even though our time was limited, we managed to get plenty done!

Click play below to watch the video and get an eyeful of the extreme beauty of Morocco. (If you’re reading this via email, click here for the video!)

 

I can’t wait to go back! (This time, I’ll bring a second suitcase…)

Kisses,

Photos by David McNeil.

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