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New York Fashion Week: Day 1

It’s here! It’s begun! New York Fashion week has finally arrived for SS15! I’m literally quivering with excitement.. or, judging by the pounding heartbeat, I’ve drunk one coffee too many, too quickly. While there are still a few more shows to go before the day is up, I couldn’t wait any longer to share a few of my favourite runway looks.

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Creatures of the Wind

That second outfit… can you not picture Keira Knightley wandering around Canonbury in that? She has baggy, high waisted paper-bag trousers to perfection, after all. Though I’d change the shoes. I’ve seen too many 50+ citizens limping down high streets in similar. There’s ‘granny chic’ and then there’s…

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Honor

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BCBG Max Azria

My evening’s inspiration.. tomorrow I shall be experimenting with karate-style fabric belts, that’s for sure.

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Tome

This is hands down one of my two favourite shows of the day. Tome have done well for me, fixating on beautifully cut silhouettes, silks mixed with lace details, modesty mixed with flashes of skin.. all the things I love most about fashion at the moment. And the combination of navy’s and blacks, with creamy golden pastels works wonderfully together.

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Nicholas K

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Tadashi Shoji

Ok, so I may as well have dedicated a whole separate post to Tadashi Shoji’s latest collection… when I would ever have a chance to wear most of these outfits, I have no idea, but my god, they are beautiful – the detail, the colour pallet, everything is just so intricate and perfect…

I’m already noticing a trend that I’m particularly excited about: that of draped, billowing fabrics which fall into wonderfully feminine, flattering silhouettes with cinched in waists. Yes, yes, yes!

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The 3 L's

Please People, Can We Stop Using The Term ‘Real Women’?

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It’s been a lovely afternoon for me, spent meeting with a friend over coffee. I couldn’t help but overhear, however, the conversation taking place between two bushy bearded men two tables away. It seems I have a hyper-sensitive radar in regards not only to the mention of my name, but any reference to me whatsoever – in this instance, I was simply ‘nah, mate, the other one’.

We were being assessed. Luckily, not with numbers (I hate that. Why do guys have to label us with a mark out of ten? Could their way of expression any attraction – or lack of – be any more degrading?) Instead, they were comparing us to the standards of beauty of today. That’s when that term came into use… ‘real woman’. According to Santa’s Hipster son 1# and Santa’s Hipster son 2#, I’m a ‘borderline real woman’ because I have a bum, but according to his friend.. ‘nah mate, she’s not a real woman, she’s too thin, mate, too thin, I like real women.’

Excuse me, I can vouch that I am a real woman, and I can also say, with confidence, that I am not hovering around an imaginary line between womanly and… whatever the alternative is. Boyish? Butch? Barbie? I see myself naked on a daily basis, and trust me, I’m all woman.

Of course, the bigger issue with this conversation was the fact that we were being so casually evaluated in the first place.. I’ve heard men hold similar conversations in front of the meat aisle in Tesco. ‘Mate, steak tonight? What d’ya think of this one?’ – ‘Nah mate, look at it, that’s barely a steak at all – it’s a borderline cold cut! The only thing that’s good for is being slapped on a sandwich!’

I’m not about to start complaining about being picked at by men, however. I frankly can’t even muster the energy to do so. But I can muster the energy to complain about that term, because this isn’t just a degrading term used by men who see woman as objects to be assessed, and used, and disposed of, but it’s a part of the forefront of our society. It’s used in our magazines and on our TV shows and in our day-to-day debates as we compare ourselves to others. Suddenly it seems that in the ‘quest’ to force the fashion world to accept ‘plus sized’ and curvier women rather than sticking so stubbornly to their size-zero ideals, everyone has in the process developed this obsession with what is and is not ‘real’ or ‘natural’. Is that not counter-productive? Everyone has been calling out for the fashion world to accept all shapes and sizes, and yet we’re all too willing to decide for ourselves what is natural. And that just makes it ok for guys to then do the same.

Is it not about time that we adopt a cultural attitude that is accepting of all shapes and sizes? Take me and my friends, for example. Yes, I’m thin, but I have a bum and boobs . Take a look at my friends: anonymous friend 1# is thinner than me, and she really doesn’t have any curves at all, while anonymous friend 2# would be described as curvy, anonymous friend 3# is a full time plus-sized model and anonymous friend 4# has a perfect hourglass figure the we all can’t help but envy. (PS, those friends may be anonymous, but they know who they are and they have agreed to be mentioned here… just in case the rest of my friends real this and wonder.)

These are our builds, our natural figures and regardless as to how well or how badly our diets are going, our shape never changes, the only thing that changes is how squidgy the top layer is. Equally, while we all know that most models work hard to keep in shape, working on every inch of themselves until they are a sculpted masterpiece of perfection, it’s ridiculous to say that they are not ‘real women’ either, because they are there, they exist – I’ve seen enough famous models pass me in the street here in London over the years; Kate Moss and Lily Cole and a strew of lingerie models, and I can tell you, Photoshop or no Photoshop, they still look as stunning and slender as in their expansive portfolios. They exist and therefore they are real.

So please, can we stop referring to women as ‘real’ or ‘not’? Because last time I checked, it was definition enough to be a real woman purely to exist in all our fleshy goodness and to have no dangly bits between our legs… etc.

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The 3 L's

Why ‘Meet-Ups’ Will Never Be My Thing

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This evening, with a rare moment of time of my hands, I decided to spend it well, strolling through Green Park, here in lovely London, reading Richard Branson’s Like a Virgin (which I highly recommend to anyone with a business.. or a future business.. or any job at all for that matter.. or no job at all.. so anyone, really!) I was happily minding my own business, absorbed in my book, and then quite possibly the only thing that could have dragged me out of my meditative read-and-walk state in that moment was the click of a shutter – or rather – the continuous click-click-click of about two hundred shutters.

I had stumbled across a Brooke Shaden ‘meet up’ group, here in London. For those of you who are unaware, Brooke Shaden is something of a Flickr celebrity, whose portfolio can be seen here. While her editing skills and her constant steam of ideas are both equally impressive, I must admit, I find her work too gloomy and ominous for my taste. I’m personally more of a lens-flare/light-and-airy style girl. Nevertheless, I can see why she has such a large fan following, and the figures certainly show just how popular she is: 382K likes on her Facebook page, 12.3K Twitter followers, each photo of her Flickr account is littered with hundreds of likes, favourites and comments. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that she can so easily convince a couple of hundred Londoners to gather in Green Park one cloudy evening for a ‘totally free’ meet up with ‘lots of hugs, models to photograph and the love of the craft’, with a single Facebook post as an invitation.

I lingered for a while, curious. I had my camera with me after all. Who doesn’t enjoy a spontaneous photo shoot, after all? What I saw, however, did not strike me as the polished, well organised workshops that I imagine when I see behind the scenes images from the various Facebook fan pages of the photographers I admire, complete with agency signed models, rails full of beautiful garments, and an amazing set that no one but the workshop-running photographer would ever otherwise be able to afford.

Instead, I can only describe the scene as being reminiscent of vultures picking at the same rotting corpse for hours on end. That is the big problem with meet ups and workshops – there is no privacy. In the short time that I lingered, watching from a park bench, I saw the same scene on loop: one photographer would tentatively approach one of the volunteer models, distinctive only from their wearing one of Brooke’s trademark vintage dresses. They would briefly discuss an idea, wander off to find a patch of grass to call a studio, and approximately five clicks of the shutter later, the vultures would flock.

Next thing you know, that one photographer’s idea has been photographed a thousand times by fifty other people from every possible angle. Those images will undoubtedly pop up on Flickr in a day or two – if some of them have not already – each edited with varying degrees of skill, yet all undoubtedly almost identical. Originality… obliterated.

That is why ‘creative meet ups’ will never be for me, she whose idea-sharing skills are fairly limited to my introvert evenings alone with my thoughts, or bouncing ideas around a room with a creative team of stylists, makeup artists, designers, etc etc etc. She who will tackle anyone who dares to photograph my idea over my shoulder. At meet ups, there is not idea bouncing, no collaboration. Instead it’s a silent, mutual agreement of, ‘whatever happens here, is ours for the taking’. One person will shout out instructions to the model, and everyone will begin to capture the same shot in a strange, almost zombie-like trance.

They’re not entirely negative experiences though; I can see the value of these meet ups to others; they can be a great place to network, make new friends, gain inspiration. Everyone looked to be having a wonderful time. But personally, I think it’s surely better to network over ‘portfolio sharing’ events rather than ‘photograph mimicking’ events’.

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The Row: Pre SS15

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The Row is one of those fashion houses that on paper can’t justify their prices for such basic items of clothing. Nevertheless, one sweeping eye across each increasingly intriguing collection and it takes the strongest of characters to keep a hold of all financial sense, and we’re left hanging precariously close to sacrificing our rent money for a t-shirt. As a childhood fan of the Olsen Twins, I have been eagerly watching their lines since they first announced the launch of The Row. They have not let me down, and long gone are the days of their tween fashion line for Walmart – and on this side of the pond, Asda. I’m sad to say that to date, my only Olsen fashion purchase is a long-gone pair of baggy jeans, complete with pink patches and two removable chains; one in pink, one in blue. Yes, we’ve all come a long way since those days, and I think the fact that I wore those shows just how long I’ve considered the twins to be fashion idols.

Of the celebrity-cum-designers of 2014, leave colour down to Victoria Beckham; the Olsens like their neutrals. The SS15 collection embodies Japanese influences, with kimono-esque coats, wraps and shawls, to the stiff, upturned collars of another era. The peasanty (yes, that is now a word), beige tones and coarse fabrics throw in a touch of that Olsen-made Granny-chic style that we have come to liken to the twins as much as we do their tween movies and their near-decade-long role on Full House (not that I’ve ever seen that aired on UK TV…), while the immaculate tailoring brings the collection together in a neatly tied, on-trend bow.

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Kate Moss for Topshop

Everyone with an even remotely fashion-minded blog is talking about Kate Moss’ new Topshop collection, and of course, I felt it only right that I join in. It’s been eagerly awaited since it’s announcement last year… probably longer in fact, as I think many die-hard fans have spent the last three and a half years with cramping crossed fingers for a return of their favourite fashion model-slash-designer. Thinking about it… has it really been seven years since her first Topshop collaboration??

One thing that I have noticed, however, is that my personal ‘top picks’ from her long awaited new collection, seem to differ from the top picks of most bloggers. It is a gorgeous collection, for sure, but no matter how many fashionista models or designers try to persuade me otherwise, I won’t be joining in with 2014’s cow girl trend. Not even Chanel can convince me otherwise. Nor am I a fan of seventies inspired fashion. I’m just not one for fringe.

Kate Moss Topshop collection 2014 preview

Kate Moss Topshop collection 2014 campaign

Nevertheless, it is a stunning collection, and no doubt it will remain on rails for all of five seconds. I think I’ll have to avoid Topshop for a while unless I wish to be trampled to death. I’ll stick to online shopping for my favourites. Maybe I can just about squeeze the gorgeous black jumpsuit into my suitcase.

My Topshop Top Picks:

Also, who was the photographer for her collection?? Brilliant.

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The 3 L's

HIMYM finale…. not a happy bunny.

I’m not a big fan of TV shows. There are very few that I make the time to watch – I’ve always preferred movies and books to TV, but HIMYM is one of the few exceptions, and I admit, these past few weeks I got sucked into the finale frenzy, and I sat up until 2am waiting for a decent quality copy of the big finale to appear online, despite my early start this morning.

It’s pretty clear from a quick glance at Twitter that the HIMYM, like all sitcom and drama finales, has divided opinions. You can’t just have ‘liked’ the HIMYM finale – it’s a marmite situation. I myself came away bitterly disappointed, but not at all surprised. I was, I guess, ‘team Swarkles’ (actually, I was team ‘why does Robin have to end up with someone?’), and Ted pissed me off from day one. Ted pissed me off so much, that while I first saw HIMYM back in about 2007-2008, it wasn’t until last year that I finally got into it and caught up in time for the final season. I hate his whiny, self-absorbed, snooty personality clogging up an otherwise great show. I also can’t stand Lily. She’s a bitch.

Then again, I can’t deny that it’s a great show. Blatantly inspired by Friends, it has all the same base characters; the couple (Monica/Chandler, Lily/Marshall), the will-they-won’t-they couple (Ross/Rachel, Ted/Robin), the slightly adorable comedy gem (Joey – and Chandler too! And in HIMYM, Barney). And I always found Phoebe ridiculous and unnecessary – and a complete bitch. So I’m glad that she, as a character, has not been re-imagined.

Don’t read any further if you haven’t yet seen the finale. Spoilers!

Last night’s finale answered a lot of necessary questions including the big ones: the mother’s name, how they meet and of course, who gets a ‘happily ever after’ ending.

Barney and Robin get a divorce within the first half of the finale. As much as I prefer her with Barney than Ted, I saw this coming as soon as it was revealed that Robin becomes a successful news anchor who travels around the world, I just though… Barney doesn’t seem like someone who would want to travel the world. And yes – her travelling drives them apart after just three years.

Reverting back to his womanizing ways, it’s revealed that the only girl he ever truly falls for is his accidentally conceived baby daughter, Ellie. I didn’t anticipate this, but when it happened, it made sense and suddenly seemed obvious that this is what they had been building to all along.

Nothing surprising happens with Marshall and Lily. They have baby number three, Marshall becomes a judge and later, a judge of the Supreme court (lovingly dubbed ‘Judge Fudge’ and later ‘Fudge Supreme’ by the gang). With three kids in tow, they of course have to move out of the apartment – minus the big Friend-esque ‘goodbye house’ scene.

As for Ted, we learn that his wife’s name is Tracy McConnell. They take a surprisingly long time to get married, their fairy tale wedding being indefinitely postponed on finding that she’s pregnant with Penny. They do eventually get married, though. And then… Tracy gets sick. Very sick. Those fan theories were right – the mother is dead.

It had been hinted at, of course, and thinking about it now, it was pretty obvious throughout. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t piss me off, all the same. Purely because of the inevitable Robin and Ted ending that followed – the kids give their blessing for him to ask out ‘Aunt Robin’, and he arrives outside her bedroom window with the blue french horn, just as he did back in season 1.

I’m not a fan of corny, and that is undeniably corny. But more so, why does Robin have to be with someone? Earlier in the series, Ted said that Robin was ‘never alone’, and yet, during the ten years or so between divorcing Barney and finally ending up with Ted, it’s made clear that she’s pretty lonely, despite her successful career and slightly nomadic lifestyle. She distances herself from the group because, as she points out to Lily, the gang consists of a married couple who are about to have their third child, her ex husband who is back to his womanising ways and ‘the guy I probably should have ended up with, with the beautiful mother of his child’. That’s life – people drift apart, life choices drive us away from each other. Why couldn’t Robin have lived happily, independent and successful, travelling the world but still making an effort to be there for ‘the big moments’, as she was in the first half of the finale. Why does she have to be lonely? Lily seems to spend the duration of the show selfishly complaining that she’s never around anymore, as she does.

It seems like they decided to give Ted his perfect happy ending. He always wanted Robin, but it was just impossible – he wanted kids, she didn’t. He wanted to raise his kids in the suburbs, she wanted to live in Japan or Argentina or wherever else took her fancy. So, easy solution, give Ted a wife to have kids with in the suburbs and spend a decade or so together, polishing pennies and admiring NYC’s architecture. Then kill off the wife. Bam. Ted finally gets the girl.

Surely Ted and Robin are impossible at working as Robin and Barney? Even more so, considering that Swarkles divorced because of her travelling for work, which would surely be an issue considering he has two kids in school to think about, as well as his own career and his general dislike for travelling far. Or would that problem be neatly resolved too with an early retirement for Robin at the tender age of fifty?

No, had I been the writer of HIMYM, I’d have done things very differently. The mother – Tracy – would not die. She and Ted would live happily together, as they were perfect for each other. They would live in the suburbs with their kids, and no doubt Marshall and Lily would live nearby with their own trio of kids. Barney would have his daughter to dote on, and Robin would simply be alone but happy, dropping by whenever she was in the neighborhood. There’s Skype, right! Or the 2030 equivalent… I’d cut out all of the ‘lonely Robin needs Ted to be happy’ crap.

And there was me thinking that the inclusion of a strong, independent, feminist character like Robin in the show was a big leap forward compared to the ‘everyone gets married and has children’ endings of so many past shows – including my favourite, Friends.

Ah well… I wonder how Big Bang Theory will end, when its own finale finally comes. I really hope it’s not a Shamy wedding…

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Wanderer

My European Top Spots.

It’s nearly April… I’ve been wondering where to spend my summer. While I’m looking at spreading my wings as far as Thailand or America (I know, completely different ideas there!) this year, I think I’ve definitely scattered my heart across different cities of Europe, including good old England. Then again… I tend to say that about pretty much every city and country I visit, so no doubt as I wander further afield, that list will just grow longer and longer.

I love the diversity of Europe; the array of cultures and languages and delicacies, the contrast of stark differences and intermingled traditions from border to border. There are some cities that I just find myself going back to again and again, and it never gets old – there are always new cafes serving coffee even more delicious than the last, more landmarks that I haven’t found the time to visit yet and beautiful little streets that are deserted but for myself and the occasional knowing local.

This wasn’t easy at all, but I managed to order my unruly top 10:

1. Paris. For years Rome held this top spot, but France’s capital has rather snuck up on me over the years – every time I go I love it more and more, even if I’m literally just passing through on a train, and somehow, it overtook Rome. Yes, the people can at times be a little snooty, but most of the time the snooty-ness that I have witnessed against tourists is purely because they are not meeting Paris’ standards – arriving in Paris in dirty clothes and Birkenstock with a tatty rucksack on your back is not going to make you the darling of the city. It’s quite like trying to wear jeans and a t-shirt to a ball. Everyone makes an effort in Paris, even if it is in that je ne sais quoi, ‘I just fell out of bed’ Parisian sense. They’re experts at putting in a lot of effort in looking effortless. Try to blend in, and that snooty-ness will disappear. Or so I find. 

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2. Rome. See, my ex-top spot has not slipped far. I love history. I love art, architecture, literature and the renaissance, all of which can be found on every corner of Rome. I feel comfortable walking around the city without getting lost – I can act as tour guide to fellow travellers. There’s no better feeling than realising that you know a foreign city. It’s not just a place that I have visited a few times anymore. I’ve always been and will continue to be lured to Rome for its history, its art, its food and its coffee. Yes, yes, yes and a very big yes from me on those fronts!

My one pet peeve when in Rome? Arrogant, metrosexual Roman guys who still live with their mothers well into their thirties. They linger around Trevi Fountain in droves. Huge, huge pet peeve of mine.

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3. Prague. When I first visited Prague, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s just not a place that I have looked into too much before I arrived at  Hlavni Nadrazi station. Until then my Pinterest (what came before Pinterest? Good old fashioned cut-and-paste scrapbooks?) had been full of photographs of Paris, Rome, Athens, The Great Pyramids, Macchu Picchu and Buddhist Temples. I’d always planned to visit Prague, but somehow looking at what it was like never occurred to me. The beauty of the place blew me away. It’s a perfect blend of East and West European; some streets could easily pass for France or Italy – or even England, when suddenly you’re surrounded by Eastern European architecture, Czech music ringing through your ears and people drinking brands I can’t even pronounce.

Also, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities at night.

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4. Venice. Yes, it’s quite a pricey city, but then I’ve found that I can still keep my budget low – Venice is not a city teaming with museums and must-see sites with expensive ticket fares like other touristic cities. I’m also not big on souvenirs, which could prove to be super pricey if I were. Venice is the city I head to if I want to see Italy, without the hustle and bustle of Rome or Milan or – to some extent – Florence. I tend to avoid the few busy spots of the city – St Mark’s Square and Ponte di Rialto. Two or three streets from these Venetian hot-spots, and you’ll find deserted streets, a woman beating sheets over her balcony perhaps, the occasional cat, but otherwise you’re entirely alone. No cars, no noise. It’s wonderful.

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5. Florence. Yes, Paris may be my number one city, but Italy is clearly my number one country. Florence is a nice balance of everything I love about Italy. It’s not as mad as Rome, or as busy and metropolitan as Milan, and while it has that same peace as Venice, it’s gifted in sprinkles rather than spades. It is quintessential Italy in the country’s best region: Tuscany – I love taking day trips from Florence to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside.

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6. Lisbon. I tend to yo-yo between Porto and Lisbon when choosing my favourite Portuguese city, but right now, I’d choose Lisbon. It’s true what they say – ‘Porto works and Lisbon plays’. Things are much more relaxed in the south, and people seem to mysteriously work less and yet are richer. I do have one issue with Lisbon – its treacherously slippering paving stones.

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Seriously, I had to buy a new pair of shoes just because wearing my sandals or ballet flats was about as effective as wearing Cinderella’s glass slippers. Otherwise you pretty much have to choose between risking your life by walking in the road, or risking your life because every step could end in a broken neck.

Still, Lisbon is beautiful, not majorly touristic and yet not entirely isolated to the lone traveller who doesn’t speak a word of Portuguese – like me. Actually, that’s a lie. I can say thank you. I think thank you is the most important phrase to learn in every language. Even more so than hello.

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7. Budapest. Another city that I had little knowledge of – like Prague. I knew it to be cheap, but that’s about it. Yes, it is cheap, though as tourism grows, so do those prices. The architecture is sophisticated, the people are sophisticated – but for a few old men who linger on park benches whistling at passing women. So many people have apologized for ‘the habits of the older generation’ – honestly, it’s fine. Clearly they have never passed a building site in the UK. The famous thermal baths are wonderful. I recommend visiting the bath houses during winter – it’s instantly even better when you’re lounging in the steaming water watching the snow fall outside.

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8. Barcelona. I’m not a fan of gaudy Gaudi, but of course, his architecture makes Barcelona what it is. I find it amazing how we all flock to see a building that is not due to be finished until 2026. I mean, of course, La Sagrada Familia. However, one place where I feel Gaudi’s unique style does work within the city is Park Güell – also the spot of my favourite (yet discovered) view in Barcelona. In Park Güell you will find pianists, violinists and musicians of instruments so exotic that I don’t even know what they are. They claim a spot and play beautiful classical pieces to entertain tourists and locals alike. It’s quirky and amazing.

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9. Vienna. A haven for museum-geeks like me, my favourite being the Sisi museum; a museum dedicated to the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. It’s cleaner than Paris and Rome. It’s more efficiently run than England, but it’s not as frustratingly perfect as a few cities I have been to; so perfect that they no longer feel real. Also, the people who live there are unbelievably lovely.

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10. Off the beaten track. Finally, while I could go on and on about this city and that city, for me, one of the best parts of Europe is the little villages whose names I never learnt before I moved on to the next. I love the lakes, beaches, rivers and hills. I’m a country girl as well as a city girl, and I love rambling around woodland and climbing hills to see the view at sunset. So if you’re going to Europe, don’t just stick to the ‘must see cities’.

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