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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Wanderer

The Pains of Restless Soul Syndrome

yup      and currently my spirit has been home too long for the liking…

Hello, my name is Emma and I have R.S.S. As in, Restless Soul Syndrome – yes, with capitals, because I think it should be recognised as an official condition. It drives me crazy. What’s that saying about… you can have it all, but not at the same time? Or something like that. That is my life. There’s two sides of me; the crazy, spontaneous-trip taking, digitally nomadic, wandering hobo creative travel nut, and the somewhat sensible, but equally ambitious, city-loving Fashion photographer. Part of me wants to spend the rest of my days (or the next several years, at least) seeing every inch, documenting every moment, building up this blog and making a freelance, online living, on the road. The other side of me wants a cute little apartment in London, or Paris, or somewhere in Italy, and to build up an amazing wardrobe and focus on getting my portfolio into the big fashion magazines.

When I’m travelling, I feel guilty for not devoting 100% of my time to work, even though I still am working (you know, about 50% of the time), so then I come home, as I did at Christmas, to focus primarily on work, sneaking away only for a few days here and there, and yet I find myself still feeling guilty. Guilty for confining myself to one place, to one office, one home, when there is so much of the world that I have not yet seen and so many things that I have not yet done! R.S.S is a contrary bastard.

I think it’s obvious that my ‘cure’ will be found in balancing out my needs out better. I’m still trying to become truly ‘digitally nomadic’ in my business. Too much of my work is still UK-based, and while popping to London frequently is great, and I adore it, I need to spread things further afield. I’ll live in London one day. That much is obvious to me. And Paris, and at least one Italian city. I’m just constantly torn between my impatience to move there now and my impatience to see every single country in the world. Yes, I’m only twenty-two. There’s plenty of time to do everything I want to do, but damn it, I wish it were possible to choose one thing that I want and temporarily switch every other desire off until I’ve finished with the first one.

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The 3 L's

2014

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It is definitely a good time for a re-brand, I would say. Time for a new website, new photography blog, new logo… a completely fresh, new look.

Recently, I’ve learnt the importance of not allowing my portfolio, my business and generally, my creativity to become stale. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a loop, like a broken record, repeating the same ideas over and over, producing the same photographs, working with the same people. I was guilty of this in 2013; for example, I worked with one particular model no less than half a dozen times in two months. We worked great together, and, as people often do when they work together as often as we did between 2012 and 2013, we became good friends, which for a while only fed our creativity further; she was, I suppose you could say, my muse. However, after a while, our model-photographer friendship became less of a muse, and more of a habit. Our shoots became less ‘spontaneous’ and more ‘half-heartedly planned’. Actually, no, half-hearted is not accurate… just… rushed.

It was therapeutic, really. In many ways, 2013 was a bad year for me, personally. A lot happened, and these somewhat repetitive photo shoots were a release, with the familiar team, making me laugh, inspiring me. I don’t regret falling into a replay loop for those two months, but it’s definitely not something that I wish to continue either.

I plan to break that mould this year, and to experiment with new creative teams, new locations, new creative mediums. I have been working hard to learn web design, experimenting with graphic design, throwing myself into the creative writing that I have always privately enjoyed so much. I have for some time been considering whether I am purely a photographer, or whether or not I will some time in the near future also call myself a graphic designer, or a writer, or even a web designer? The four creative professions overlap easily, they can each focus on the same fashion-led specialty, while opening my eyes to ways of creating art that this time last year, I would never have considered.

I have so many plans for 2014, and I am so excited to begin! I will be stepping out of my comfort zone with some new projects. I will be experiment and discover new areas of photography, further my new-found graphic and web design skills (hopefully, talents), exploring new styles and techniques and meeting new people. I have a moleskine of ideas that are still little more than a scribbled note or a hastily drawn sketch, and this needs rectifying. What’s more, I will be deciding on my future ‘base’. It’s no secret that I tend to be a bit of a nomad. I blog about it here. I love border-hopping across Europe; the vast array of cultures, languages and opinions are such a wonderful source of inspiration for me. However, recently I have been wondering whether it is time to lay down some roots, and to find a base for myself, and to become a girl who occasionally travels, rather than a girl who occasionally flies back home.

It’s a tough decision for me, and right now I have no idea which I will choose… not just in terms of nomad or… sedentary? And after that decision, then there is the matter of which country do I choose? Which city? London? Paris? Milan? Or do I throw myself out into the unknown entirely and fly to the States, to NYC – a complete unknown to me. It would have to be a fashion capital, I can say that much at present. That much is clear, no? No doubt, I shall blog about my decision, once it is made, and so keep a close eye.

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Wanderer

My Favourite Jazz bar in Paris

Firstly, I’m sorry for a quiet few weeks, I’ve been cut off from the internet since May, and I haven’t been able to easily get out of the house to seek internet until this week because my foot has been in a cast! But its fine now, internet is back, my foot is free, I can walk (well, limp) again!

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Image from here

Anyway… I’ve been to many Jazz bars in Paris, I love them, I’d much rather go and dance in a jazz bar with a glass of wine than go out clubbing! Lame as that may make me, its true. There is one bar that I only discovered a few months ago when I spent a few weeks in France with a friend, and I think I honestly fell in love.

Caveau de la Hutchette. Just south of Notre Dame and so very central in Paris, its tucked away down a quiet cobble street lined with dozens of equally quaint-looking bars of various sorts, each crying out to be explored (one day!) It was the history that caught my attention; tucked away in 500-year-old cellars, the bar was once a prison, a make-shift courthouse, an execution chamber, and a secret meeting place for the Templars and the Rosicrucians, It’s been a drinking house since 1789. You walk in and the whole place just reeks of history!

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Image from here.

Live jazz bands play every night, and there is plenty of room to get a jiggle on (and trust me, if you’re a woman/group of women alone, you will not be allowed to merely sit and enjoy the music, you will be coerced into dancing!)

I’ve never danced in my life, but I can honestly say this was one of the best nights of my life.

Now for the boring stuff: money. Entry is €12 Sunday-Thursday, €14 Friday & Saturday, and €10 for students. Drinks start at $5, if you want champagne, you’re looking at splashing out $90, but its so worth it! If you’re travelling on a budget, its easy enough to just pay entry fee and nothing more for the rest of the night; you don’t really get much chance to sit and drink anyway and I found that my glass of red pretty much went to waste! It was delicious, but the moment I sat down, I was up dancing moments later!

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France!

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Me and my lovely friend Jessica spent the first two weeks of this month in France, travelling by train from Paris to Bordeaux, Montpellier and Avignon. Quite frankly I wish I was still there, not only because of the better weather, food, and because back here my uni deadlines and the realities of being a grown up are slapping me in the face again, but also because, while we arrived back in Derby at 4am last Saturday (20th), by midday on Sunday, I found myself sitting in A&E with a broken foot…..

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Of all the times to break my foot, now is not a good one! I have my two final uni deadlines, arrangements for our two uni exhibitions, the end of my TEFL course and figuring out my post-uni plans (as in, my move out date is 30th June… possessions need to be sold/stored… flight ticket needs to be bought for 1st July), all on crutches… fun.

Still, the cast is off on 30th May, just in time for the Derby exhibition! Timing!

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As for France… what is there to say, besides that as ever, it was beautiful, and I miss it already. I have come back with a really dark tan, and therefore England seems more dull and grey than ever before. While I am glad to finally give my feet a rest (I couldn’t begin to guess how many miles me and Jess walked in terrible, blister-inducing shoes over those two weeks), I especially miss walking around Paris, bra-less and shoe-less, with tourists trying to be helpful by pointing out that we were not wearing our shoes but in fact, have you noticed… you’re carrying them…….? Oh really?!

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For anyone visiting Paris, I strongly recommend Oops Hostel by Les Gobelins metro stop, and La Manufacture Restaurant, which is just a few doors away. Amazing food.. and amazing chocolat chaud!

Jess being a beautiful model, we of course had a few personal shoots while we were travelling, and I am currently editing those… I may post a preview soon.

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For now.. a few travel snaps.

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Wanderer

French Adventures: Paris

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The Alexis Mabille Couture SS 2013 Collection hit the catwalks yesterday at Paris’ Mode à Paris and, as ever, I want to buy every single piece of the collection for myself.. if only I had both the money to afford such a luxury and a big enough wardrobe to store it all.. but then again, if I did, I wouldn’t hide away such beautiful dressed in a wardrobe, I’d want to display them around the big house that I would of course have (I mean, obviously I’d buy myself a big house before I but myself an entire designer couture collection!). When I’m not waltzing around my big house in my lovely designer dresses, I’d hang the rest of them from the ceiling as light shades, and centre them in big gold empty frames, and use them as curtains between rooms.. but of course that would be ridiculous, and so I’m glad that I don’t actually have any money to fund my ridiculously over-active imagination.

Welcome to the contents of my head, people, this is the sort of silliness I have to deal with on a daily basis! And now it’s a blog.. oh dear :’)

You can see the entire collection here.

It’s a collection that is about as feminine as it is possible to get, all about delicate floating fabrics, pastel hues with pops of dramatic black details and the occasional splash of eye-catching colour, and Mabille, has managed to weave perfectly between remaining exactly on trend, meeting the exact desires of beloved fashionistas worldwide, while adding his own bold streak to the styles that have been floating down the catwalk again and again for quite some time now. The lace details and net skirts are very Black Swan, while the bigger ball gown dresses would not be out of place in the next big budget fairy tale adaption that Hollywood throws our way. The models sported slicked back, white-streaked updo’s that complimented the pale colour palette, their makeup always a few shades paler than their necks and shoulders, a slight rosy blush to their cheeks and natural, glossy lips. Nails are painted a mushroom colour, completed with white french tips. I love the shoes! So simple, though I can’t help but wish that they had gone as far as quick swipe of mushroom varnish on their toenails too!

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Alexis Mabille Couture SS13

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