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June Wish List

It’s that  time of year when I am thinking about holidays, and while I now days always venture further afield than what good old England has to offer, I do love spontaneous road trips to out lovely seaside-resorts with my friends… when I stick around for long enough to arrange them, of course. For those of you who have never stopped by an English seaside town, all of the picturesque stereotypes are true: colourful beach huts line the sea front, from whatever spot of the beach you stand on, I can guarantee that you’ll hear an ice cream van singing merrily, and seagulls will try (and usually succeed) to steal your ice cream/fish and chips/mug of coffee. Here in England, we’re mad about pinstriped deck chairs and colourful wind shields (a necessity here, I’m afraid), and as lovers of beach-side co-ordination, these colour schemes can’t help but seep into out clothing, our accessories and the unnecessary clobber that we simply must take to the beach with us, in case we get bored (or is that just me?)june-wishlist

1. Sunnylife Ipanema. Beach Towel. £39.95. Available here. A great place to start on the beach-side wish list, is of course, a beautiful beach towel. Because yes, it really does matter just how cute and fashionable the piece of sand-covered fabric on which you lie, is. Most of the time, your choices are either bland, bright or childish printed towels, or those striped wicker mats that cut into your elbows when your trying to read on your front. It’s nice to finally stumble across something pretty that doesn’t scream ‘I’m a beach towel’, because of course, no one wants that.

2. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. Flo Stretch Dress. £940. Available here. Again with the yellow… it seems to be my clothing colour of choice lately (though I wear it surprisingly rarely). This is a beautifully cut dress is so flattering for big-bummed, small-boobed ‘pear shapes’ like myself (always a challenge.. no one wants to balloon the pear!), accentuating a tiny waist.

3. Topshop. Red Square Stone Studs. £6.50. Available here. These earrings would look great with the yellow Preen dress above, don’t you think? Unfortunately, I have never been lucky enough to find a metal that does not cause a reaction if worn in my ears (not even gold, sadly), and so earrings are a big no no for me, but perhaps… they could be turned into clip-on’s? I think I’ll have to start searching Pinterest for that particular DIY blog post… or of course, I could risk failure and attempt to figure it out for myself? Hmm…

4. Dune. Celia Peeptoe Wedge Court Shoes. £59. Available here. A beautiful pair of elegant, sleek white wedge shoes. These can be worn with any summer dress, which I adore (and in terms of packing your suitcase, it’s so much more practical). Not ideal for walking along sandy beach fronts, but stick to the esplanade and you’ll look great.

5. Kate Space. Cuba Street iPhone Case. $45. Available here. Kate Space… one of my favourites. Get your phone ready for the beach (and have planned a carefully sand-and-sea-free environment in which it can enjoy your holiday) by ‘dressing’ it in this illustrated ‘Cuba Street’ phone case.

6. Prada. Cat Eye Acetate Sunglasses. £230. Available here. This year, sunglasses trends are all about colour, pattern and drama, and Prada are, of course, leading that trend with their stylist new collection, my favourite being these cat eye, red-and-tortoiseshell glasses. Great for adding a touch of old Hollywood to your look. Think of Marilyn Monroe’s beach style.

7. Michael Michael Kors. Hamilton Saffiano Leather Shoulder Bag. £218. Available here. New wish list, new handbag. Usually, I prefer for my handbag to go big – out of necessity, obviously (is it just me who can’t read the word ‘obviously’ without Alan Rickman’s Snape temporarily commandeering my usual brain voice?). I generally need a bag that can hold my camera, laptop, kitchen sink, several layers to accommodate for our fickle weather, make up supplies, pen and paper, and other ‘essentials’ of a photographer/writer/art-and-gadget creative, but when there is sand involved… no. Key, phone, a novel (which can be tucked under my arm, along with my beach towel), are all I need… ok, slight lie, there is always the canvas tote beach bag, but that doesn’t mean that there is not also room on my shoulder for this little red Michael Kors bag.. you know, for my house key and phone. And literally nothing else.

8. Newgate Clocks. The New Ritz in Sleepy Blue. £25. Available here. Perfect for that seaside wake-up call at the start of a long drive (if you’re from the Midlands), to the sunny south coast. Or that was a typical start to the annual seaside holidays of my childhood, anyway. I’m a grown up now. My parents aren’t going to drag me out of bed anymore – not that they ever had to, as far as a holiday was ever concerned.

9. France-Tastic Voyage Travel Bottle $34.99. Available here. I know that flasks are more of a winter travel necessity, but for me, as a coffee addict (it’s been two hours since my last cup of coffee.. the cravings are strong), the need for a constant supply of caffeine is very real, and so road trips and long drives (short drives, a nip to the corner shop, crossing my hallway.. anywhere, really) without a drop is simply impossible.

10. James Read. Gradual Tan for Body. £24. Available here. I’ve never really been one to delve into the world of fake tans, being far too fearsome of the dreaded Tango TOWIE look to try, but I’ve heard good things about James Read’s Gradual Tan collection. Great for those who, like me, can’t sit still for long on a beach and would prefer for their skin to remain pale and therefore healthy, youthful and melanoma-free.

11. Mischa. Continental Wallet. £85. Available here. An alternative to the tiny Michael Kors handbag, I suppose (a house key could easily fit in a wallet… but a phone?), this gorgeous blue and white print purse would look great used either as a wallet or, when possible, a clutch bag. Imagine, this purse with the Dune shoes and yellow Preen dress… it works, yes? Or the dress, shoes and red Michael Kor bag, for that matter… choices, choices.

12. Zara. Blue Mini Skirt. £35.99. Available here. This skirt would look so cute with the white Dune wedge sandals and Prada sunglasses above… though a shirt would of course have to be found to complete the look. I should have added a shirt to this wish list.

13. Urban Outfitters. Berlin Boombox in Pink. £60. Available here. When I was about six, I wanted a pink boombox almost identical in my imagination to this one. A few years later, I wanted one of those stereo bags. I never gave into either of those desires (or rather, my parents never did), and I’m quite glad about it really. I mean, they are both equally ridiculous inventions. Nevertheless, this one is adorable, and so a small part of me can’t help but think that maybe I could somehow make it work… no, no, definitely not, but it’s here nonetheless.

14. Chan Lu. Wrap Bracelet. £128.73. Available here. Nothing screams backpacker chic more than a wrap beaded bracelet. Especially if they are handmade. I can guarantee, however, that no true backpacker would ever be seen wearing a £130 bracelet when one could be made from a bit of twine and some plastic beads instead… imagine just how many hostel nights could be paid for with that money! Still, it’s beautiful, and I would wear it all summer long… probably forgetting to ever move it onto the other wrist, resulting in unfortunate wrap-bracelet tan lines.

15. Hope & Greenwood. Tuck Box. £40. Available here. For £40, this is an overpriced extravagance if ever I saw one, but being an item on sale at Selfridges, I suppose it’s to be expected, I suppose. Still, there’s plenty to go around, so shared between a group, this could become a cute little addition to any beach-side summer picnic. Just throw in some Pimms, and your picturesque English picnic is complete.

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My 10 Favourite Travel Apps

Everyone I meet on the road has some sort of tech now days, be it a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Some people, like me, need them for work, to run their businesses and keep the money needed to travel coming in, while others are simply too used to having their gadgets as a part of their day to day lives to leave them behind, or they’ve promised family members that they would stay in touch. I’ve met people whose parents gave them IPads before their backpacking trips for that reason. But for a brief daily addiction to Facebook last year that ended in a cold-turkey cure, I could easily travel without any gadgets were it not for my freelance work. If I’m away for a very short time, my IPad replaces my laptop, which stays at home. Of course, I’ve put together a nice little list of my preferred travel apps which definitely come in handy when on the road, and as most of them are the apps of websites, even when the IPad stays at home and I have my laptop instead, I’ll still use the same sites.

1. Skyscanner. This site/app is addictive because of its ‘everywhere’ option: I can see a list of flight prices in ascending order to countries around the world. Terrible temptation, and usually one I give in to. Free.

2. Hostelworld/Hostelbookers app. These two apps – and the websites they come from – are pretty much identical, and I tend to use both, depending purely on whichever one pops up in Google’s auto-fill first. This would be my number one in how useful I find them, and they are beaten by Skyscanner only because of how fun and addictive I find browsing through worldwide flights. Finding a place to stay in the only think I would find difficult without wifi access, especially now that I have become used to booking rooms online rather than simply using my feet and my eyes. Lazy, I know, but we all do it. Both free.

3. Couchsurfing. When I’m feeling sociable, I love Couchsurfing – I’ve met so many people through this site, many of whom I am still friends with to this day. However, I’m someone who likes a lot of me-time. I enjoy my company, and so whether I choose Couchsurfing or a hostel tends to depend on my feelings on that particular day. Free.

4. XE Currency. There must be hundreds of currency converters out there, and surprisingly few of them are freebies. I tend to check the currency conversion when first arriving in a new country, or just prior to, and write down a simple list on a scrap of paper: £1=, £10 =, £100 =, etc, rather than standing awkwardly in the middle of a busy market or shop, scrolling through my IPad, jabbing in the exact price. I prefer a piece of paper and some simple maths. Free.

5. Google Maps. I’m not going to try and be fancy and different and mention some obscure alternative app that does the exact same as Google, just because everyone has heard of Google Maps. It’s free, it’s arguably the biggest and the best, and I know exactly how to use it. Free.

6. AroundMe. I use this when I need to find something in particular – wifi, a launderette, a supermarket. Yes, you need wifi, though there is a useful – and common sense – feature; wifi is not needed to find wifi. Sounds ridiculously obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised how many similar apps I tried before this one that had that one fatal design flaw. Of course, because that feature helps you wind only wifi without a connection, that means that sometimes I have to first find wifi, go and connect to that wifi before I can then search for what it is I’m actually looking for, but again, if I apply a little common sense (yes, I do use it from time to time), I can kill two birds with one stone. For example, if it’s 44C and I’ve just drank two-thousand gallons of water, I search for wifi at a cafe or shopping centre – the app always tells you exactly where you will find wifi, rather than just blindly guiding to it. Free.

7. Various metro map apps. I have one for Paris and Rome, and I once had one for London too. Generally they’re free, and of course they’re quite useful, though equally, every metro stop has a map. However, in some of the smaller, non-touristic metro stops in certain cities – Rome especially, it seems – the maps can be based only on the lines that cross that metro, rather than showing the whole map, or there is just one map in the building and it has been vandalized. It’s always handy to have your own copy, and I always lose the paper ones. Generally free.

8. Museums Mobile. My favourite geek-traveller app. With a frequently updated database on thousands of worldwide museums, including information on current, permanent and upcoming collections. It also uses GPS to inform you of nearby museums. I’ve found many a stroll turning into a spontaneous museum trip thanks to this app. Free.

9. Translate Pro. There are so many translation apps out there, but this is just the one I happen to use. Being able to say what you want in the local language is always useful. I don’t know what else I can say on that matter, really. Free.

10. Airbnb. Another ‘find a place to stay’ app. This is for when I really need me-time – and a bit of extra money. People rent out their apartments, either the whole place, a spare room or a spare bed for travellers to rent for a short time. Great for if you want to really integrate yourself within a community by staying somewhere where the locals live, rather than necessarily somewhere with the most popular attraction on your doorstep. Then again, I think there’s only so much you can really integrate yourself into a neighbourhood if you’re staying in someone’s home without them actually being there too. If they’re there, you’ll be invited out with them and their friends, they’ll teach you about their city and their language, whereas if you rent an entire apartment to yourself, you’re just the loner foreigner in the street. Free.

And the ones I am still to try:

JetLag Genie. I’ve only recently heard about this, but apparently it carefully calculates when to set your alarm clock based on your flight time, arrival time, flight length and normal sleep patterns to ease your through the ‘trauma’ of jet lag – something I have not yet experienced, hence I haven’t yet had any need for a jet lag app. I am curious as to how well it could work, though. Then again, if I have never had jet lag, how well would I know that it has worked if I were to try it on my next long flight? Perhaps I’m just super lucky and immune to jet lag (is there such a thing?). I don’t know. £1.99

Tipulator. It can be tricky knowing how much to tip. It’s considered offensive in some countries, and obligatory in others, and in those that is is expected, exactly how big a percentage is considered the norm? And once you’ve passed that first barrier, the total cost on your receipt is rarely easy maths. Even more so if you’re eating with someone else or a group and you’ve all chosen different prices dishes on the menu. Tipulator not only works as a calculator for you, but it tells you how big a percentage you give and works it out for you. I don’t know what happens if it recommends a certain percentage, and you disagree depending on the quality of your meal and service… maybe it works on a non-negotiable basis and you’d have to turn to good old fashioned pen and paper – or a calculator app and figure it out yourself… £0.69

TravelSafe Pro. Up until now I’ve again relied on pen and paper to note down each countries emergency numbers as I arrive there, and luckily it’s a scrap of paper (many lost and re-written scraps of paper over the years), that I have never had to use *touch wood*, but it’s definitely something that everyone should have, in one form or another. What would worry me more than whether or not I have the right emergency number is the potential language barrier if ever I have to make an emergency call… hmm… £0.99

WorldMate/Blackberry Travel. Simply, these apps – I mentioned the Blackberry one because I have a Blackberry… for some reason – organise all of your reservations, from flights to restaurants, and put together an itinerary for you. Pointless if you’re just winging it, of course, but they’re free, so why not? Both free.

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