Vanity Feed

If Only: Outfit of the Day 17#

Forget the all black attire (more or less) of yesterday, today, I want colour, and florals, and a phone case that looks like an ice lolly! Today’s styled outfit also totals to considerably less than usual… no designer required. Jewellery is kept to a minimum, allowing that loud playsuit to speak for itself, while the blazer gives a pop of colour that breaks up the whole look. I love it.

27-Aug

1. Warehouse Leafy Floral Print Jumpsuit. £58. Available here.

2. Oasis Ponte Jacket in Yellow. £40. Available here.

3. Topshop Snaffle Loafers. £58. Available here.

4. Topshop Hinge Plate Holdall. £40. Available here.

5. Miss Selfridge Flower Multi Row Necklace. £10. Available here.

6. ASOS Stone Headband in Blue. £8. Available here.

7. ASOS Love Rocks Bracelet. £18. Available here.

8. Marmalade Moon ‘Dreamsicle’ IPhone/IPod case. £25.54. Available here.

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Bypassing Airline Limits

It’s fair to say, no matter how much I cut down the contents of my suitcase, no matter how strict I am with myself or how many hybrid items I buy (note, an IPod Touch and all-in-one makeup have saved me so much space and weight), I always struggle to remain within the 10KG weight limit of certain airlines.

The reason is simple: I’m a photographer. If I were not, I would not have a bulky camera, with its heavy lenses, and those little items that build up fast; chargers, spare batteries, blah blah blah. If I were not a photographer, I would drop the laptop, and all of the extras that go with it – again, charger, external hard drive, mouse (how some people can use Photoshop sans mouse, I don’t know). I could get by with a tablet – an IPod Touch, even. Camera – check, access to WordPress – check, email – check, the ability to show off to the world via various social networking sites – check. Kindle’s app – check. And then I swear, my travelling ways would be much simpler. I would not have been forced to swap a backpack for a suitcase to save myself from having to carry my life with my limited upper body strength… by limited I mean, barely existent, it seems.

Nevertheless, I am a photographer, and while my ‘kit bag’ is way more limited than so many that I have seen on the road, being an equipment minimalist, I did the maths last night, and the results were scary. I calculated exactly how much weight my camera, lenses (and extra snappity-snap related bits) and my laptop (and extra clickity-click related bits) take up alone.

My basic equipment comes to a grand total of 4.5KG. 4.5KG – that weight comes from a grand total of the following list:

1x 5D MKII

1x zoom lens, e.g. 24-105mm

1x 50mm prime lens

Camera charger

2x batteries

Several CompactFlash cards

A couple of filters

Camera bag

A teeny tiny cleaning kit

My Dell Ultrabook – aka – the working man’s MacBook Air.

Laptop charger

External Hard drive

Mouse

Laptop sleeve

IPod touch

IPod charger

Phone

Phone charger

Portable charger (because something always loses charge just at the wrong moment)

Various camera-to-laptop, laptop-to-screen, charger-to-blah-blah-blah cables

And that 4.5KG total is not including the bag in which I weighed it all. Had I included my tripod, the total weight would have included an extra 1.8KG. So that’s 6.3KG out of 10KG used up on equipment alone.

That doesn’t leave much for clothes, even if I do try to select the lightest fabrics, and minimalise my makeup bag.

Sure, I could merge my IPod and Phone and just get an IPhone – I know that that’s the obvious choice, but I’m not about to pay for an insanely expensive phone contract, nor do I want to buy a PAYG IPhone. Most of the time, I’m seriously considering just leaving my phone behind entirely, I use it so rarely.

I’m getting off track… so I’ve given a lot of thought over the years as to how to sneak through airport security with much more than I ought to be carrying. I’ve looked into the recommended methods of others, for example, Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months has made a few videos talking about ho he carries more than the weight limit. There are jackets and cargo trousers and magic handbags that turn into cardigans with seven-thousand hidden pockets, such as the Jaktogo, and if you want to go for that method, great, good for you. It’s definitely a clever design, as are the many other similar products, but I’m just… I guess, if I were to be honest with myself, I’m too vain to walk through any airport wearing something that resembles a Mr Potato Head fancy dress costume. Nor am I about to buy an old jacket just to tear a ‘pocket opening’ into the lining and strut through the terminal with a Kim Kardashian bum and boobs because I’ve stuffed the lining with my possessions.

Filling my pockets with items would be my go-to solution, but I don’t really buy clothes with pockets very often. My winter coat has sewn-up pockets for detail only, my jeans are jeggings… I have one fairly new trench coat with pockets, one jumper with pockets, and one cardigan with pockets… that’s about it. Ooo, and my new chinos! Ok, I guess the number of pockets in my wardrobe is growing. If pockets are available, stuff them with as much as you can.

Next – and quite obviously, I think – I layer. I wear as much of my wardrobe as I can get away with – as much as can be worn as an outfit without looking like this:

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I’ll also make sure that I wear my bulkiest item of clothing – my favourite pink skirt, with its 100 layers of tulle. Not only does it take up a lot of space, no matter how carefully I roll or fold it, but it’s quite heavy, so I almost always fly while wearing it.

I also realised that a waist belt over a baggy shirt can be a great way to hold a few items. Purely by chance – this is the sort of discovery one makes while juggling my passport, boarding ticket, wallet, a novel, my IPod/IPad, my camera, and whatever else I’m trying to carry all at once. The waist belt makes a nice little pocket of space, and I’ve been known to shove a few things in there discreetly… though of course, emptying your shirt in the middle of airport security would be rather annoying.

These aren’t my main methods for slipping past strict weight limits though. The combination of a knee-length trench coat and a discreet shoulder bag is my best friend when flying. I’ve learnt that when passing through security, no one questions how many bags I have – I can be carrying a handbag as well as a suitcase, and even if my boarding pass clearly shows that I’m flying with an airline that won’t allow two bags, I need not actually put the handbag away until I’m about to board. And then, rather than shoving it in my suitcase like I see everyone else in line doing at the last moment, I chose a bag with a ‘flat cut’; you’ll need something stiffer than a tote or canvas bag, which will just bulge out rather than holding the contents flat and upright. I bought my particular bag in a small boutique in Budapest, but you’d need something like these:

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Nette’ Leather Goods. Olivia Laptop Case. £185. Available here.
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LK Bennett. Karina mini leather tote. £225. Available here.


Wear it beneath your coat, and no one need know that it’s there. I use mine to hold my laptop, external hard drive, a novel, my travel journal, passport and wallet, which immediately removes about 2KG (1.37 being the laptop) from my suitcase. The second I’m in my seat, I see everyone else awkwardly opening up their suitcases to pull out their handbags, or trying to balance their wallets, books, IPads and phones on their fingertips while pulling along their case behind them. Instead, I sit down, take off my coat, the bag goes under my seat, and bam, done. As long as you don’t fill it with anything bulky, no one can see that it’s there.

I’ve heard people talk about stuffing possessions in their socks, bras, even using safety-pins to attach socks to the linings of hats or folds of scarves. Bypassing airline limits comes down to creativity, and just how silly you’re willing to look in public. But if you’re as vain as me, buy a flat shoulder bag.

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My 5 Travel Site Musts

The verdant limestone bluffs that form the Phi Phi Islands open at Wang Long, a famed dive site with submarine tunnels and caverns. Though hit hard by the December 2004 tsunami, the place has been cleared of debris, and diving is as popular as ever

At a glance, I have about 1050385 travel-related web pages listed in my web bookmarks. I’ve become weirdly OCD about organising my bookmarks, so I know exactly how to find just that exact website whose entire url name escapes me.

Still, out of those 1050385 bookmarked web pages, there are a select few that I use again and again, be it for booking my flights, finding a bed for the night, or reading about the adventures of others.

  1. Skyscanner. Let’s start with the most addictive, shall we? Skyscanner is simple enough: select the airport/city/country from which you wish to depart, choosing either a specific date or the month in which you will be flying, select where you’re flying to, and behold, a list of prices with various airlines. It’s a flight comparison website. What I find most addictive is the ‘fly anywhere’ option… I love browsing and seeing where I can jet off to. Many a spontaneous trip has been born from my Skyscanner addiction, I can tell you. Sure, it has a few hiccups – sometimes it will display an incorrect flight price, but generally it’s accurate. And you always find those mistakes before booking any flights, so no worries there.
  2. Couchsurfing. I have met so many lovely people through this website, many of whom I’m now fortunate enough to call my friends. Thanks to the freedom of modern day travel, I have friends in more countries than I have visited – often due to this website! This is the perfect website for if you’re short of cash, or, like me, you simply prefer to stay with locals when you’re travelling. It’s an online community designed to bring together ‘surfers’ – aka, the adventurous traveller, to you and me – with hosts, who will offer them a bed for the night, or if they can’t do that, their company, a drinking partner, a tour guide – whatever. Yes, there can be some safety concerns. I’ve heard them all from my loving but a tad over-protective friends. You know, warnings about lone young women staying with strange men, in a strange city, in a strange country with a strange language and no money. Blah blah blah. Honestly, as long as you’re careful, and you keep your creep-radar on full at all times, you’ll be fine. There are women hosts too, you know (if it does worry you).
  3. Seat61. While I love flying (a little too much, perhaps. I get such a rush from take off), I like to travel by train as often as possible. The views are nicer (and there are many more window seats, so it’s much less likely that I find myself wrestling with strangers over the best seat), the ride kinder on my ears, and it gives me a chance to say ‘ooo what a lovely little village… I think I’ll go and explore’. Somewhat adrenaline junkie I may be, but I am not about to jump out of a plane because ‘ooo, that mystery space of Earth 30,000ft (at a guess) below me looks pretty… I’m sure they won’t notice if I borrow a chute and just float on down there for a browse.’ This site is the creation of Mark Smith, ‘career railwayman’, who luckily saw a need to breakdown to us wanderlusters exactly how to get from any A to any B via train, from routes, approximate prices and timetables. Very handy!
  4. NomadicMatt. This guy is something of a budget travel king. His blog focuses a lot on money-saving tips, from how to get cheap flights and cruise tickets, how to choose the best insurance and credit cards, to how to build a successful travel blog of your own. While now days he has a base in NYC (though according to his blog he only spends a few weeks there at a time before jetting off again), he travelled constantly as a digital nomad from 2006 until New Year 2013. Six and a half years of travel!? I think he’s definitely earned his crown.
  5. BlaBlaCar. Again, for when I want to see the world pass me by – or I just want to nip to the next nearest city or a quaint nearby village with no public transport links. If people have planned a car journey, they can sell spare seats for a small fee. Tip: even if you think you’re travelling light, always message the driver to check that there is space for your luggage. Don’t just presume that they will have room for your matching LV luggage set – or your teeny tiny rugged canvas rucksack, if you’re me.

Honourable Mentions:

Finding the bare essentials:

Airbnb.
Hostelworld/Hostelbookers.
Warm Showers. <—-so useful when you’ve just stepped off a stuffy train/bus/boat after a day-long journey with no air-con, having spent the entire trip stuffed into a sweaty overweight stranger’s fat folds. Yes, such an event has happened to me. Yes, therapy is ongoing.

Money makes the world go round…

Global Work and Travel. A great site for finding work abroad; paid, voluntary, internships, etc.
‘7 digital nomads explain how they live, work and travel’ <—- very inspiring post, and links to several great blogs.
WWOOF. While it’s really useful that every country has it’s own WWOOF website, I find it a little annoying that each of those websites requires a seperate membership, and even more so that each membership ranges everywhere from £0 to £50. If you’re planning to ‘wwoof’ and travel across many borders, this can get quite pricey. Still, a great source for finding fruit picking/farm work if you’re looking to experience something different than museums and beaches.
Verbling. Teach English online.
’50 Travel Magazines that want to Publish your Writing’

Inspirational bloggers:

Adventurous Kate.
JacksGap.
The Odyssey Expedition.
The Runaway Guide.

A to B:

Hitchhikers.org 

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My Favourite London Hotels

Today I’ve had three friends all ask me to recommend a hotel/hostel in central London, and as I started rambling, as I do, and listing places for them, again, as I do, I started to miss London. It only made sense to post something on here about it.

The Ones I’ve Stayed in in the Past:

Clink78, on Kings Cross Road. For a start, this building is 200 years old; it was once a courtroom, in fact, what is now the internet lounge was once the very courtroom where The Clash stood trial in 1978, which geek-me found rather exciting.

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All images for Clink Hostels are from here.

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I stayed here for two nights, and to be honest, I had to force myself to come back to Derby (lectures can be such an inconvenience). Prices start at £12 for a mixed/girls only dorm (boys, you don’t get the choice of a men-only dorm, though I’m sure few of you would mind about that 😉 ). There are also ‘Deluxe girls rooms’ for £15 which are a little bigger and include hairdryers, free towels and extra mirrors. I chose a ‘Deluxe girls room’, and it was just so pretty and peachy-pink; beautifully decorated and so cosy.

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Or, you have the option to stay in a private single/twin/double or triple room for £40 or, best of all, a prison cell for £50 – recently re-decorated so that it’s just as cosy as the other rooms, but they are English Heritage-listed with original prison features still in tact. I hear these are snapped up pretty much immediately though.

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I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

As for other old features of the courtroom, the magistrates court is now an internet lounge (£3 for 14 days unlimited wifi), again, English Heritage-listed. A second courtroom is now a TV and film lounge, with some bizarre red leather sofas. Possibly the comfiest I’ve ever been in my entire life was curled up on those sofas at 3am watching lord-knows-what and eating nutella cakes. The bar is also incredible.

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Go there.

*There is also a second Clink Hostel; Clink261, which you can find on Gray’s Inn Road. I haven’t stayed at this one, but it looks equally incredible (though I’d say the decor at Clink78 wins), as you can see, and prices are almost identical.

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Blue Skies Hostel. I clearly have a real thing for hostels/hotels that are renovated somethings; courthouses, pubs, camper vans (I’m yet to find one of those), whatever.

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Photo from here.

This time, it’s a renovated pub. They need a better photographer for their website to really show it off for what it is (hint hint); beautiful. They haven’t stayed as far from the original style and feel of the pub as Clink78 have, but it’s still so modern. You’ll find this gem next to Tulse Hill station, which of course makes it a little more out of the way than some of the hotels I’ve listed here, but transport into central London is piss-easy.

…I can’t help giggling, as 80% of my friends have either Londoners, born and bred, or spend as much time there as I do and therefore may as well be, and here I am blogging about London, despite knowing that the only people who will read this will sit there rolling their eyes and saying ‘yes, Emma, we know‘. Sorry guys.

Anyway.

The Dictionary in Shoreditch. This hostel was only recently recommended to me in May by a friend, and I spent one night there in June. What is it with beautiful hotels filling their website with terrible photographs? Again, hint hint!

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Photo from here.

It’s percentage average on hostelbookers.com is 83.1%, and prices range from £21 for a 13 bed mixed dorm to £31 for a 4 bed mixed. Worth it. Best part is, the staff can always recommend great events around London to check out while you’re there, in fact, they have a page on their site purely for ‘What’s on’, from galleries to clubs to markets. Wifi is free, as is breakfast, and there are drinks discounts at certain times, on certain days, etc etc. It’s not a place to stay if you want to actually sleep and relax, though; everyone is always laughing, dancing. It’s just one big party, without the awful mess to clean up in the morning. If you wander outside at any time of night, you’ll find that the streets are still buzzing too, so seriously, don’t stay there if you want some quiet, unless you plan to bring ear plugs, though with dorms of up to 13 beds, they wouldn’t help much anyway. It’s Shoreditch; it’s expected.

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Photo from here.

Shoreditch House. This one definitely isn’t a hostel. They have some interesting rules for when you are within the club:

  • No Mobiles
  • No Cameras
  • No Suits
  • +1 Guests Only

It’s an interesting place to stay. Prices are generally £200 for a night – double room – but if you book far enough ahead, at the right time of year, it can dwindle to about £140, and I’ve heard that they can be as low as £85 for non-members, though I don’t believe it.

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Photos from here.

I much prefer the madness of Clink78 and The Dictionary. There you can meet people and laugh and enjoy yourself, rather than having to behave like a responsible adult. But for those rare occasions that I accept my age, this place is perfect. For one, look at the beautiful restaurant!

The Ones I will stay in in the Future:

So, Ace Hotels are opening a new hotel in Shoreditch London this September. That’s going on the ‘to visit’ list, that’s for sure. I imagine room rates will be pretty affordable. They’re also teaming with local London businesses, such as That Flower Shop and I’ve heard rumours about indie coffee stores, both of which will also open shop within/alongside the hotel. Personally, I’m most excited about the décor; each room will feature British Revo radios and record players! It’s so – dare I say it? Hipster. But good.

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Photo from here.

It doesn’t look like much so far, but I’m sure it’ll be amazing.

The Ritz. One day I will stay here, even if it’s only in the cheapest room, though that’s still £440 a night. £570 including breakfast! Maybe one day I’ll be able to really splash out and book the most expensive suite on their website: £3600 a night, £3660 with breakfast. Add it to the bucket list.

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Image from here.

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Images from here.

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