2 April 2013, 10:38
...Guilty feet have got no rhythm! Ah, what’s better than dancing in the drizzle with your BFF in Paris?
The answer, of course, is not much. We loved these photos by Juliane Berry so much that an animated gif was the only logical response!
Too fun not to share, I’d say…
Spinning in cities all over the world,
26 February 2013, 12:24
It was a rainy morning in Paris, and three overdressed bloggers were floating around in their apartment on the last day of their vacation.
We had woken up, procured trois cafés au lait and trois pains au chocolat to go with ‘em, and were listening to some very French songs to set the mood!
Back in my (very) early twenties, my travelling priorities were simple: cheap trumped all else. I remember booking a holiday for my boyfriend and I to Europe so we could see the Legendary Pink Dots play two dates, one in Amsterdam and one in Paris. I had never been to either city, so I simply chose hotels that were inexpensive and had semi-decent reviews.
We were lucky with our hotel in Holland. To save money, I decided we should stay in Haarlem (a 15 minute train ride to Amsterdam), and the Hotel Amadeus was perfect for our purposes, with a sweet view of the town square. But our hotel in Paris was so scary, with a lobby full of unsavoury characters, that I barely slept a wink! (Somehow I felt like they were going to burst through the door at any moment!)
As I get older, it’s not just about where I hang my hat. It’s about the neighbourhood, the feel of the building, and getting a taste of luxury. Travel may be an essential part of my existence, but that doesn’t mean it should be drab or purely functional.
Owned by an actress and perched at the top of the building’s superb spiral staircase, our two bedroom apartment was the perfect Parisian pad. It was eclectic but chic, with a velvet couch that made me swoon, and a bright red kitchen.
It was the perfect place to lounge, daydream, and listen to the rain falling outside.
While I did a little blogging…
Kat giggled with an oversized flower in the window…
...And Shauna thought about making us lunch. (Just kidding! This girl could burn cereal!)
I wore a custom tutu dress made by Ouma. I’d literally been eyeing her frocks for years, and I finally decided to take the plunge just before Paris! I don’t regret it one bit. My cardigan is from Victoria’s Secret, and not-so-secretly, I’ve worn it all winter long. It’s perfect for bringing a little glamour to your at-home lounging. This particular one isn’t available anymore, but this is similar!
Shauna wore a vintage top covered in crosses (how her!) that she found at Buffalo Exchange in Portland, and a plain black shift dress.
Kat wore an insane sequinned sweater from Manoush (I bought the same one!), an ombre tutu also by Ouma, a t-shirt from Whistles, and a belt from H&M.
Every trip to Paris goes by too quickly. I often dream about visiting in the spring, staying for a month, and really taking my time to soak up the place. After all, that is the French way!
19 February 2013, 08:58
Paris, je t’aime! ...& you should never trust anyone who says otherwise!
It already feels like a million years ago, but it’s true, I came back from Paris a little over two weeks ago. Phew! After giving London — & The Blogcademy — our all, we decided that a quick trip to Paris would be the perfect way to reward ourselves.
We were right. It was exactly what we were hoping for: beautiful light & exquisite architecture, croissants for breakfast & spilled champagne. We danced all over the city, from le Palais Royale to le Tour Eiffel, ate crepes & drank mulled wine, & marvelled at the overwhelming beauty of it all…
We decided that it was imperative to be super-tourists & get some photos taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. But we wanted to do it right.
...So after a couple of days of causing trouble on our own in Paris, our friends came to join us. Yep, we had enlisted the help of Elbie van Eeden, makeup artist extraordinaire, & two of our favourite photographers: Lisa Devlin & Shell De Mar. (One camera is never enough!)
The following afternoon, after a quick ride on le Métro, we were right there, staring up at the Eiffel Tower. But where were we going to take photos? Lisa set off in the direction of a park, & we followed her for about ten minutes. When we turned around, this was our view. Gorgeous. She has some kind of sensational-location-homing-beacon, I think. Imagine living on this street!
In fact, when it came time to pack our suitcases that night, Shauna & I ended up swapping dresses. I took her velvet skater dress in exchange for this vintage dress which I’ve never worn, & looks so much better on her! (Also, on Sunday night, I wore this skater dress to a vampire ball. Yes, you did read that correctly! It’s turning out to be a very versatile frock!)
Kat wore a dress from Manoush (which we talked her into buying the day before!) & glitter sneakers by Jimmy Choo. If you’re planning on going to Paris anytime soon, you must promise me you’ll make a stop in at Manoush. It’s one of my favourite stores in the whole world!
I know it might shock you to see me in not-pink. It kinda shocks me a little bit too, but I love it & I’m embracing it. Oxblood is like a more grown-up counterpart to the raging fuchsia that I usually go for… Plus, it’s nice to switch it up!
It makes me grin to think that Shauna found this dress at Buffalo Exchange in Portland. In my imagination, someone wore this to a bunch of grunge shows in 1994, & paired it with Doc Martens & ripped stockings…
“Welcome to my LAIR!”
This door is exquizz to the max. Oh, Paris, you are so beautiful… & Lisa bloody Devlin, you are the best. These photos are just too gorgeous. We’re so thrilled with them!
Paris, we’ll see you again soon… (!!!)
18 February 2013, 10:13
It was just like this… but with bangs.
Despite my self-proclaimed international playgirl status, I still fly economy most of the time. I love first class, but the prices are eye-wateringly hard to justify. Most of the time, you can find me in coach with the screaming babies of the world.
I think that may have all changed, though. Uh oh.
You see, I booked my flight to London through Virgin Atlantic — because really, who else would you want to fly to Europe with? — & even though I ummed & ahhed over upgrading my seat, I decided not to.
In a fantastic twist of fate, a few days later, I had an upgrade to Upper Class!
Was it all luck? No, not exactly! I won an upgrade to the Clubhouse by tweeting as part of Virgin Atlantic’s Christmas giveaway… But when they emailed me for my details, I sent them a sweet email not-so-subtly begging for an Upper Class experience!
Cheeky? YES! But cheeky is my middle name!
Thankfully, my cheekiness worked on my contact at Virgin — or maybe it was just that I told him he’d be “my new best friend”?! — & my new BFF Joshua upgraded me to Upper Class for my flight both to & from London.
Spoiled rotten, for sure.
It was the experience of a lifetime, so of course, it only seems fair to let you in on the details…
Virgin’s Clubhouses are one of the things that make flying with them such a delight. Now, having a dedicated lounge at the airport is nothing new: most airlines have them, & they’re pretty lackluster. They usually have a bar, some seats, but most importantly, they serve as a much-needed respite from the aforementioned screaming babies.
But Virgin’s Clubhouses are on a whole other level. For example, you can eat & drink all you want, & it is totally complimentary. Both times I was in there, I ended up devouring a full English breakfast, because let’s face it, you just can’t get good baked beans in the U.S.A.!
Secondly, they offer spa treatments, like facials, massages, haircuts & blowouts, & they are free. FREE!
It was a sublime experience: divine aromatherapy, hot towels, exfoliation, serums & wonder. After my slightly hellacious morning, in which I’d woken up at 5am, caught a taxi to Gare Nord, taken the Eurostar to London, & caught a black cab to Heathrow, it was exactly what I needed.
Afterwards, my therapist handed me a glass of water infused with strawberries & mint. I mean, hello. That is perfection.
But if you’d rather not have a treatment, that’s okay, there is plenty to explore. Heathrow’s Clubhouse — their mothership — comes complete with a rooftop garden, a Grey Goose loft bar, hanging bubble chairs, a restaurant, a deli & approximately three million power-plugs for ailing laptops.
I love you, Richard Branson.
Ultimately, a cool glowing purple cabin & a killer Clubhouse don’t mean diddly-squat if you’re squished into a teeny-tiny seat.
Thankfully, I didn’t have this problem.
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class is an actual slice of heaven in the sky. Filled with ambient purple light, it’s a big space full of oversized seats & ottomans, which recline to become a full bed. Your little pod comes complete with a fluffy pillow, a plump duvet, & even a slim but luxurious padded mattress which transforms your seat into the perfect place for a snooze.
Look, anything beats trying to catch a bit of shut-eye with your knees jammed up against a seat & a terrible thin pillow wedged between you & your noisy neighbour, but this is a pretty exceptional experience by anyone’s standards.
I actually fell asleep before we took off. Oops…
If you are not dead tired like I was, there are plenty of things to occupy you in your Upper Class playground. Like a trillion movies (when I finally woke up, I watched Pitch Perfect & Ted), a power point for industrious workers, all the food you can think of & infinite drinks.
...Which, if you wanted, you could drink at the bar.
Yeah, that’s pretty badass.
I fly Virgin as much as I possibly can, even choosing to fly with them when their fares are a little higher, simply because the service is so good. If you’ve ever flown with them, you know this to be true… & as you can imagine, their Upper Class service is even better.
Checking in was a breeze, & all the staff members I encountered were 100% charming & sweet. They went out of their way to make me happy & comfortable. For example, when I decided to pass on breakfast, the flight attendant brought me two little chocolate muffins.
“Just in case,” she said, smiling.
They also will transform your seat into your bed for you: pressing the buttons, laying out the mattress, duvet & pillow just so. Pampered, for sure!
One of the coolest things? The private security channel at Heathrow. You hold your boarding pass up to a scanner on the wall, & the panel beside you — which just looks like a wall — swings wide open. You walk through, & right up to an x-ray machine. You don’t have to stand in a long, snaking queue. There is no waiting & no standing around. It is GENIUS.
Of course, the problem with service like this is that you start to want it everywhere else, too…
Had to snap a photo of this! If you’re interested, I had the carrot soup, roast chicken breast, & some cheese. The perfect meal! The afternoon tea, served just before landing, was an incredible treat, too: a warm scone with cream & jam, sandwiches with the crusts cut off (my FAVE!), & a raspberry macaron. Helloooooo lover!
So, do I recommend Virgin Upper Class?
Honestly, you’d be mad not to. The whole experience was wonderful from start to finish — from the Clubhouse where I was able to get work done as well as a facial, to the delicious meals, to the smiling service, right down to sleeping through half the flight.
Before we took off, I snuggled down in my oversized seat with a view of the door, watching people walk onto the plane. A mother with a fussy baby boarded, & I watched in amazement as the crying noises disappeared into the back of the plane.
Now, that’s worth paying for.
These days, we expect there to be no disruption to our routine, despite flying at 30,000 feet. We want to be able to work, to eat snacks & the ability to take a nap at all times… & Virgin has been able to provide this.
Are we all just being a little spoiled? Yes, definitely. But when you find someone to indulge your whims, you run with it!
P.S. This is not a sponsored post… But if Richard Branson wanted to hang out, I would totally not be opposed. Just saying. Call me, Richard!
26 September 2012, 14:11
New Orleans is such a beautiful, magical city. On every corner, there is another crumbling building, another iron balustrade. The streets are dotted with turquoise gingerbread houses, & the water covers are emblazoned with a moon & stars. There are voodoo & esoterica shops tucked into tiny storefronts, & sugar-dusted beignets are available at every hour of the night.
I was so excited last week, when I boarded a plane bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. It was my first time in the real South (am I right in thinking that Austin & Orlando, while wonderful, don’t count?!). I had wanted to visit New Orleans ever since I was a young kid obsessed with Anne Rice & Poppy Z. Brite, & just like any compulsion you have in your adolescence, the fascination never quite leaves you!
I was incredibly lucky because for my first visit, I had the most fantastic tour guide I could imagine: my friend Jess. Even though Jess is from Australia — & in fact, we met when we both lived in Melbourne — she has somehow managed to visit NOLA about 8 times! She was determined to show me the best time possible, & she succeeded. In case you’re thinking of making the trek anytime soon, here’s what we got up to…
How charming is this sign?!
When you’re surrounded by buildings like this, you can’t help but fall in love.
We stayed in the French Quarter, in a fairly unglamorous hotel. A lot of people advised against staying in this area, & encouraged me to stay in the Garden District, for example, but I’m really glad we stayed where we did. Why? Because it gave us instant access to everything we wanted to do. Yes, it was tourist central, but for a first time, the French Quarter (or Vieux Carre) is where you want to be. Next time I go back, I will probably stay somewhere else, but the French Quarter is where it’s at for any NOLA virgin!
Our trip spanned Tuesday to Saturday, which was perfect. Any longer & we might have been wondering what to do next; any shorter & we wouldn’t have had enough time to do everything. I was also really glad we left on Saturday afternoon! Friday night on Bourbon Street is pretty revolting, very Fear & Loathing! I think another night of that would have driven up me the wall. (I understand that some people go to NOLA for a debaucherous weekend, but I am not one of those people!)
Every single day was action-packed, but in a wonderfully laid-back kinda way. The weather was perfect, warm but not too humid, & my suitcase full of tank tops, skirts & boots turned out to be ideal.
In front of the famous Galatoire’s. Of course, I stood in front of the “toire”!
Jess & I both splurged on new sunglasses…
New Orleans is a fantastic city to walk around & explore. It’s like New York City in that way: you could take a cab, or stick to one area, but you’d miss a lot. At the same time, there are some parts of NOLA that are unsafe. It definitely helps to have a local with you, just to make sure you don’t get into trouble.
If you’re planning on visiting, be sure to throw some comfortable walking shoes in your suitcase, & unless you’re going to have a super-fancy meal, I’d leave the heels at home. Cobblestones, mass public drunkenness & stilettos are always a bad combination!
We had a marvellous time walking (& occasionally driving, thank you so much, Bob & Lorin!) along Magazine Street, which is a super-cool shopping district mixed in with residential living. We especially loved Sucré, Trashy Diva & Armoire.
This photo is so “prom”. Also, please note, Trashy Diva dress!
Ricky’s nametag at The Camellia Grill, & me dancing with my new boyfriend, the crawfish.
Oh, how we ate. We had breakfast at The Camellia Grill, a Pepto-Bismol pink diner where everyone sits at the counter & is served by a sweet man in a bow-tie. Our server, Ricky, had a name tag that said, “Everything is Beautiful.” Another server, Penut, had a name tag that said, “As we say down south, ya heard?” Ricky gave us chocolate pecan pie on the house, & Penut called us “super-fucking-models” & flirted outrageously.
We didn’t have a single bad meal. In fact, even a last-minute emergency nacho stop was — we both agreed — inexpensive, easy & satisfying.
I fell in love with crawfish in New Orleans. This is somewhat of a miracle, since I am a fussy eater at the best of times, & never very keen to try anything new. But it’s different when you’re with someone you trust, who you know will only recommend things they genuinely believe you’ll like. Jess is a major foodie, & I took her suggestion & tried gumbo as well as crawfish étouffée. What a revelation! NOLA is absolutely worth visiting if only to get your nosh on.
My favourite meals were as follows:
Elizabeth’s / Redneck Tomatoes: Fried green tomatoes with eggs, hash browns (or grits) & a side of praline bacon. I MEAN. Best meal, hands down.
Ruby Slipper / Eggs Blackstone: Poached eggs on a freshly-baked biscuit, with bacon, fried tomatoes & hollandaise. LAWD HAVE MERCY. Jess said her grits were the best she’d ever tasted, & the waitress told us the grits came all the way from Tennessee!
Desire Oyster Bar / Fried pickles, gumbo (shrimp & sausage) & crawfish étouffée. This place looks like a tourist trap, but the food is excellent.
Cafe Du Monde / Beignets & coffee… Of course.
Yo Mama’s / Burger topped with bacon & peanut butter. This was completely off the hook.
The Praline Connection / Most insane fried chicken of my life (though the service wasn’t amazing — next time, I’d go to Coop’s Place).
...Told you she fed me well!
I love these; they are dotted all over the city.
A bar on Bourbon Street, & Kermit Ruffins.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about New Orleans without mentioning Hurricane Katrina in the same breath. I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought maybe the New Orleans of today wouldn’t be the way it used to be. I thought maybe the vibe of the city would be different; that I was too late. I was delighted to discover that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not perfect: the city is still recovering. But the people of New Orleans are so strong, & the spirit of the place is so powerful. You get the feeling that this place, & its population, will never be defeated.
It was shocking to be there & actually come face-to-face with some of the lingering damage. A lot of houses still bear their FEMA spraypainted crosses, though I was told that the crosses were a point of pride for some, almost a badge of honour. Hurricane Isaac had recently blown through the city & we saw plenty of roofless garages & blue tarps to provide temporary shelter.
The tourism industry in New Orleans brings in $5.5 billion a year, contributing about 40% of its tax revenues. I’ve heard that tourism has dropped off since Katrina, though it is coming back slowly. It felt good to go there, pour some money into the local economy, & help support small businesses owners. I adored New Orleans & was so happy to contribute any way I could, no matter how teeny-tiny.
If you have ever considered visiting the city, I would strongly encourage you to do so! I am sure you will be just as enchanted as I was, & even better than that, you’ll help so much.
St. Louis No. 1 cemetery.
Marie Laveau’s alleged burial place.
...Her grave is covered in lipstick XXXs, with the hope that Marie Laveau’s spirit will grant them wishes.
New Orleans is such a fascinating place, with a rich & wild history. As we walked around, Jess told me about ghosts & murderous socialites, drunken pirates & French vampire girls sleeping in caskets at the Old Ursuline Convent. I learned about quadroon balls, Congo Square & the illicit goings-on of Storyville.
Most of all, though, we soaked up the magic. We tried on magnificent hats at Fleur De Paris, & knelt at the grave of Marie Laveau (XXX). We enjoyed lagniappe at La Petite Grocery, Camellia Grill & Sucré. We danced to Kermit Ruffins at Blue Nile & gave singles to the Sweet Street Symphony, who were playing in the middle of the road. I discovered my new favourite newspaper — The Weekly Jailer — in a city where the actual newspaper is about to stop printing a daily edition.
I had a tarot reading at Bottom Of The Cup with Otis (who is lovely), visited multiple voodoo shops, delighted in Southern manners, took midday beignet breaks, grinned at trumpet players, photographed gorgeous architecture, & lay around in bed with Jess discovering fabulous/terrible late-night shows like Prom Queen & Love & Hip Hop.
Basically… It was the perfect vacation.
Of course, no city is fun if you go with someone who is difficult or grouchy. I was so lucky to be with Jess, who is the perfect travelling partner. I love you, girl, & can’t wait to see you again soon!
P.S. If you want to see my impromptu travel snaps — of which there are plenty, since I am absolutely incapable of sitting still — be sure to follow me on Instagram! My username is galadarling... Of course!
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