Friday, March 29, 2013

me, mom, the medieval & the modern

last weekend I had the lovely leisure of having my mom hop across the pond for a visit! I was beyond excited to spend the weekend together & despite the frigid forecast, absolutely no part of our chosen activities were less than perfect. 

day one
after arriving mid-day thursday, I faked a sore throat & skipped my afternoon nap - I mean international marketing class! and met my mom at the hotel, positioned right next to the tower of london. I showed her my silly small apartment/dorm room before we ventured to visit the snap fashion team, grab a coffee & head over to the national galleries. they quite nearly carried us out of the impressionist room at the national gallery at closing so we made the excellent decision to go around the corner to the portrait gallery where to our surprise, live music & champagne were supplied as we perused the portraits! to top off the night in the most british of fashions, we found the cutest fish & chips place on the map and munched away with a cold beer in hand. 

 i see big ben
taking in trafalgar square
bubbly & beautiful portraits
 fish & chips at its cutest
the menu printed tastefully on the wall
the fish & chips! (I know we cheated a little ordering grilled but look at that bowl of chips!)
the cheddar

day two
friday in one word was 'fantastic!' a very slow start due to sleeping in and crabby waitresses at the breakfast restaurant eventually took us to the tower of london. my mom and her random knowledge of the medieval monarchy made a fantastic tour guide : the kind that makes you find your family name carved into walls of the prisoner towers in the 1500s and encourages multiple trips past the crown jewels! (we're talking diamonds literally the size of my fist..) when we started getting a hint of hunger, we walked along the thames path to for my mom's first time at borough market! we snacked our way through an array of chocolates, cheese, brownies and bread before picking out an awesome mushroom pate, british block of cheese & a baguette for cocktail hour later. too close not to make a stop, it was off to the tate modern after the market! I made sure to say hello to all my favorites before deciding on a double espresso (mom got a late) at the top floor cafe, which hosts the most amazing view of london from across the thames. 

how does our day get any better? tickets to THE LION KING!!! I'm pretty sure we had smiles smacked on our faces through the entire production as we watched the elaborate costumes prance around the stage and belt out the best songs disney has to offer. too giddy to end our night there, we hit up & closed out the pub near the hotel : chosen because its name is the cheshire cheese (naturally becoming 'the cheddar' when we refereed to it). a night cap at the hotel bar & friday was finished!

the medieval & the modern!
what did our ancestor edmund do? 
can't believe those english pooles were wreaking such havoc in 1564! 
 the tower bridge from inside the tower
not our cutest moment, but we were having fun with our pre-show champagne glasses

day three
saturday we slowed down a little bit, starting with a trip through westminster abbey : the eerie atmosphere only heightened by the cold snow & low light outside... my mom had been before & was a bit more prepared for just how many people were buried inside there of the utmost importance. of course we spent quite a bit of time trying to picture how princess kate had made it look so fantastic on her wedding day (inspiring a viewing of the wedding reruns later...) to warm up the mood : we went to the victoria & albert museum to enjoy not only their insane jewelry collection & historic fashions but also the best museum cafe I have ever cared to sit in for extensive periods of time. it was time for a nap before gearing up for the best indian food in london on brick lane! so excited to share the decently sketchy experience with my mom, we marched on down as I haggled for the starter, main, naan & wine package. she was happily impressed with my negotiating skills & the spice of our prawn madras! the night was topped off with a round of drinks at an incredibly cool pub that offered the best people watching of the weekend including a modern jack sparrow-like figure.

the side of westminster abbey
definitely cheated & ignored the 'no pictures' signs...

one of my absolute favorite museums! 

day four
by sunday we were in need of a little extra sleep before we headed to holborn station to tour the area near my school. bloomsbury square is an adorable sight even when it's trying to snow & I made my mom stop in the stamp store on our way to covent garden market. shopping is a shared hobby & we perused a few high street stores, fell in love with the paul & joe sister line, picked out a pearl necklace & maybe tried a couple macarons at laduree... after that it was off to afternoon tea at the topham hotel near victoria station. practically endless english breakfast tea, cucumber sandwiches, mini sweets, scones & a glass of champagne had us happily chatting for the entire allotted two hours. too sad to admit our weekend was at its end, I pretended to get caught up on homework as we hung out at the hotel & grabbed a late soup & salad dinner. thanks for such a wonderful weekend!  

 our fantastic afternoon tea assortment
the tophams hotel

Saturday, March 16, 2013

old bond & oxford

I'm especially glad we were in london for the historic event of the coldest day in the past few years... this week started with sudden snow flurries that never quite stuck and a test of my ability to layer my clothes as much as would still look normal. with a moment of sunshine (and very chilly air) on tuesday, I took the opportunity to cross window shopping on old bond street off my london bucket list! one of the oldest and most luxurious shopping streets around, I perused prada, meandered through mulberry, awed at alexander mcqueen and drooled a tad bit at dior while planning my fantasy wardrobe and picking out which bag I would one day spend my life's savings on, though I admit I don't think I ever narrowed it down to just one... 

on friday, caryn & I decided to head to oxford! with our last minute bus tickets in hand, we had two goals : see the harry potter dinning hall & buy cool shirts. our day turned into leisurely shopping around oxford, stopping in the market for lunch and simply staring at the architecture of the city. I felt transported back in time winding through the fantastic buildings and down random alley ways - our complete lack of knowledge about where to go or what to do was actually quite relaxing. upon arriving at the visitor's entrance to the church with the harry potter dinning hall and realizing there was an entrance fee, we opted to just shop around more for the perfect oxford rugby shirts, success! 

turning onto old bond street with the ritz at my back

a few of my finds while wandering through the insanely costly collections 
 basically every other building in oxford looks this grand
 I'm obsessed with the swirly columns on this church & thought the blossoms added a nice touch
we found this ribbon & yarn shop down a little side road : adorable! 
 not quite notting hill, but this pink shop stood out against the rain
 the great roads you find while you're happily lost
just inside here you'd find the hogwarts dinning hall inspiration
these eerie vines outside hogwarts gave the church wall such interesting texture

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

pearls in prada

"ciao! grazie! dove? gelato!" my new (extensive) italian vocabulary was obviusly enough to get us through the magnificent streets of milan this weekend! yes, milan! the wide streets only made each piece of italian architecture seem grander than the last as you found it impossible to avoid this overarching feeling that you were somewhere luxurious. this lead to a leisurely weekend of a few gals meandering through milan, coveting classic prada purses, eagerly sipping espressos and stopping for our hourly gelato breaks... 

{ day one }

day one started before sunrise as we hopped in the car at 4:30 am to head towards the airport. a couple coffees, last week's stylist & a couple twenty minute naps later and we were checking into melia milano. food first! around the corner we found the perfect italian introduction at a family owned restaurant that filled our plates with fantastic pizza while wine is ordered by the liter... cheers! fueled up, we made our way surprisingly simply through the milan metro to get to the center of the city. we came out of the metro to the sights of the castello sforzesco where the medieval nobility had lived but now houses a few museums. we strolled straight down the center before circling back to duck out of the rain for a few, fatefully ending up at the foot of michelangelo's last work in progress! though the legs of jesus were looking sharp, he died before the rest of the statue could come together...  after the castle we walked down to the duomo, what feels like the true center, and took a tour inside. the exterior is so elaborate and bright, you're amazed to find how the grand interior takes you into a cave of enormous columns and walls of stained glass, it felt eerie and dark in a fascinating, historic way! to lighten up we made our way through the rain towards corso brera, the 'artsy district,' where we stopped for our first fantastic gelato, created dream wardrobes and grabbed a trendy italian meal. even with slightly (as in very) soaked boots, our first day was still a success! 

ciao milano! 
 you know you're in italy when...
first sight upon exiting the metro : milan's main castle
this fountain would be more fantastic if it weren't raining...
old old wall behind the castle
if you're ever in milan in the summer, promis you'll wander through the park? 
 inside the castello museums
the duomo!
regal looking lion
entering the duomo!
can't explain how huge it felt : larger than the notre dame! 
 statues like this guy were what I meant by fantastically kind of creepy... then I'd look under my feet and smile at the floral flooring!
did I mention we snuck all this pictures? they apparently charge two euro...
my favorite nook in the duomo : loved the bright colors and dramatic statues
 galleria vittorio emannuele II : aka luxury shopping & people watching

later in brera we found missoni headquarters, I think...
my incredible caprese salad in brera
piazza castello : casually walking by the castle to get to the metro

{ day two }

the morning person inside me (that only comes out when en route to exciting places) got the group up & moving on saturday down to the southern side of the city. first thing on the agenda : caffeinate these girls! we stopped inside a cute cupcake cafe where I started strong with an american & croissant filled with nutella, perfection. we found our way down to fiera sangialla, what was meant to be milan's best flea market - apparently milan doesn't do flea markets... caryn described it as a 'garage sale' but I did manage to pick up a ridiculous pair of five euro sunglasses. so off to lake como we were! the train ride went incredibly quick and before we knew it we were strolling along the road between como lago & the surrounding hills of quite established looking estates... we all decided this rather large, orange and very italian house secluded on the side of a hill was george clooney's though the waitress we asked didn't seem to know. we stopped at a typical italian pizzeria for lunch along the lake & slowly enjoyed our pizza, giant calzones and liter of wine. the meal was topped off with a complimentary limoncello, whose sweet tart taste made me feel like I was truly in italy. we spent the next few hours happily (and slightly tipsy) walking through the shops in town, scouring for leather boots for maddy, cute bags for caryn and a cardigan for me. as it started to rain again, we stopped for one more gelato before getting on the train to milan and instantly passing out. our night consisted of wine in the hotel room, pasta & cous cous in the city & yes, more gelato... 

our first glimpse at the rolling hills and nautical atmosphere of lago como
 which one do you think is george clooney's?
 wanted to jump in & take one of these red buggies out on the lake
 the lovely ladies
 was slightly jealous of all the locals jogging around the lake this morning : looked perfect!
 the houses kept climbing up the hills in the most italian of colors
 lakeside view, large trees & a hidden garden : what more do you need?
by now we were feeling very italian 
 I was dying to know what was up those steps... the gate looked a hard to hop though
 the back of our fantastic lunch spot! (we ate out front by the water)
 como lago duomo
this was in just about the middle of the city so we circled it shopping
beth & I enjoying our last minutes before the rain
 one of the many incredibly italian & wonderful shopping streets of lake como
the prettiest pasta I've ever seen
 I loved this white wall someone had painted to look like a ship : quite convincing, no?
the single tugboat was calling for a photo-op
new favorite gelato flavor : nocciola (hazelnut)
 so italian we paid for still water...
de ja gelato? 

{ day three }

walking outside sunday with our bags in tow, we were devastated it was our last day - the sun was finally shining! we had two goals for the day : designers & duomo. for the first we headed down corso buenes aires where we heard we could find good deals and after stopping in plenty of shops to debate over italian leather (a bright pink furla was beth's final decision!) & a street-side panini lunch, we finally found the fake designer garb we had been not-so-secretly scouring for. though they were willing to haggle to my price, the faux prada & chanel bags were just a bit too fake looking for our taste so we moved on back towards the center of the city. the piazza del duomo was packed today & people watching was at its prime! while caryn & maddy couldn't tear themselves away from the sunny square, rachel, beth & I took on the 250 stairs to the top of the duomo with my jaw dropped the entire time. the cathedral has been impeccably reserved as each statue still has hd level detail & the unique style of the spires and arches gave the stack of stones a luxurious quality and a historic sense that reflected what we had seen inside. from the top, we found ourselves quite literally on the roof of the duomo and followed the status quo to lay down on the slanted sides and soak up as much vitamin d as possible before the thought of leaving could even cross our minds... though the city wasn't as picturesque as paris from the top, the duomo itself has been my favorite so far! when we finally made our retreat back down, we found our friends & grabbed one last gelato to enjoy in the piazza sunshine as we swayed to a young italian jazz-ish band and I could swear credits were about to roll to signal the end of the movie moment... ciao milan!

 hello duomo!

eggplant, zucchini & mozzarella please!
 first flight up the duomo steps
 crowds soaking up the sun in the square
 at one point every pigeon in the entire piazza took flight and swarmed around in some sort of choreography before landing on top of the statue... quite frightening actually
looking up just made it all the more better
incredibly dorky self-picture in the square
I couldn't get over how great each statue still was

my attempt to dress italian in all neutrals...
I swear the duomo just keeps going & going & going
beth, rachel & I making our way up top
can you find the only moon & sun in the entire cathedral?
full view of milan : obsessed with how these guys stand on top of it all

oh hey...