There truly is no place like home. Despite whatever the land of Oz could offer, Dorothy understood this too. Last week I had an amazing trip heading back to England to enjoy some time with family and friends. The glory of a trip home is always a good one.
The ‘red eye’ flight overnight from Ottawa to Heathrow was a winner. When you factor in no children to entertain or worry about, I found myself watching some fab films (Steve Jobs and Far from the Madding crowd, get the thumbs up) and happily drinking double Gin and Tonics to my heart’s content, what’s not to love! After a nice little cat nap and landing to effortlessly go through passport control and baggage, I joyfully listened to the British accents delivering information over the tannoy system. It’s that magic moment you take a deep breath and soak in the reality you are home. Bliss!
First off I enjoyed a couple of days with my parents in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. It was so lovely to be with them and wander around Cheltenham. All the years I lived there, I completely took it for granted, but now when I walk around the town, I appreciate how pretty it is. We had a gorgeous Lunch at The Langton in Charlton Kings followed with a spot of shopping to gather football stuff for the boys, I’ve got a Chelsea fan and a Manchester Utd fan?! We had a peek at TK Maxx for goodies where I picked up a lovely Zoe Karssen tee for 10 quid. We popped over to Gloucester docks and made a sacramental trip to the All Saints outlet store. I adore the tailoring and quality of All Saints pieces. In true style, Mum and I both left with a fabulous coat each. Lovely Dad promptly paid for them and smiled as he watched us happily swing our paper bags declaring what a bloody bargain they were!
A couple of evenings of sharing a bottle(s!) of wine with Mum and watching some good old British Telly was all I wanted and made the perfect time spent home with my parents.
Next I headed to London to visit my best mate, Jane, and her adorable little family. We have known each other for 16 years now and despite not seeing each other for a few years at a time. We tend to just pick up where we left off. This little visit was about two mums reliving their youth with a couple of ‘golden freedom’ moments sans kiddliwinks. It didn’t take us long to get back to our old ways and start getting into trouble!
Whenever I’m back in London, I love to have a Wagamama Chicken Katsu Curry and a pint of beer in the Red Lion Pub on Kingly Street, Soho. This time my friend introduced me to a great little place called The Breakfast club. This quirky little breakfast themed cafe was in Spitalfields, however, there are other breakfast club cafes in Hoxton, Angel, Soho and Battersea. The food was amazing and I had the most delicious cappuccino to set me up for a day of shopping shenanigans. I adored the mismatched tables and wire benches. Their signature neon sign of “sex, drugs and bacon rolls” was pretty cool too. A great little spot to discover.
No visit to London is complete without a trip to the TOPSHOP flagship store at Oxford Circus. During my years of living in London, I would find some amazing pieces here. Come to think of it, some I still have! The best part of the flagship store aside from the boutique line and extensive accessory selection, is they have some very cool concessions within the store . I fell in love with some gorgeous Artisan bags along with some stunning jewellery that had been made in Africa. It was great to wander around their epic shoe department. I fell for a pair of silver metallic ankle boots that have been on my wish list for sometime. They look stunning and were nowhere near the Yves St Laurent price point that I drooled over last year. I also found a brilliant plaid shirt with Cactus sequin patches all over it. Absolutely bonkers but absolutely brilliant. Good old Toppers!
Then I made a little skip and a hop to one of my favourite shops to visit on Great Marlborough Street. I absolutely adore a trip to Liberty’s! When I lived in London I would regularly pop by Liberty’s and peek at all the goodies and new designers. As soon as I walk past their stunning florist section and enter those doors I tingle with anticipation at what treasures I’ll find. There is nothing like walking up the stairs to the above floors of this cool and unique department store. The creaks from the gorgeous wooden beams as you walk make me smile. I love the fact this department store interior is constructed from two ships. I happen to know a little random fact that the Liberty family reside in Hertfordshire and it’s so cool to learn that one of the ships figurehead sits in their garden. Bloody brilliant!!
I was thrilled to learn that the Vogue 100 exhibit was showing at the National Portrait gallery during my trip. It was such a treat to see this with my lovely mate as we both adore fashion and art. The National Portrait gallery building on St Martins place is beautiful. There is nothing like London for the beautiful stone and architecture of its historic buildings. It’s sensory overload for architecture lovers!
Vogue 100: a century of style
The exhibit was breathtaking. For me, as soon as I turned a corner and saw the huge Alexander McQueen photograph, it was complete. Not alone the iconic photographs of my faves Kate Moss and Bella Freud. I was in awe of the heavy vintage books full of volumes of vintage photographs taken for the vogue issues over the past 100 years. The exhibit is incredible and a must for fashion lovers. The rooms were buzzing with fashion and photography enthusiasts. Jane and I started chatting to a lovely lady who was an assistant to a London designer. She joyfully shared her knowledge of a Holst photograph that she had made a pilgrimage to see. This was an iconic fashion photograph from the 1940’s that had gone on to influence the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and their work. We both agreed that no one has come close yet to McQueen for being a modern-day design genius. Only in London would you chat with a stranger and share your experiences and thoughts with them like they were your long-lost friend. There is so much to love about London!
The Victoria and Albert Museum
I was thrilled to make a trip to South Kensington and visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, on Cromwell road. This is a great museum and free to visit like most of the great London museums. I had a great time looking at the history of fashion exhibit. Beautiful pieces ranging from the 17th century gowns to a modern-day gold McQueen clutch. I loved to read and learn about where the pieces came from and who they had belonged to. From a pair of golden leather shoes belonging to the Queen Mother to a donated knit swimwear collection belonging to a Lady who cruised in the 50’s. The gift shop was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous albeit dangerous! I couldn’t resist a fabulous necklace that reminded my of old typewriter keys.
A big mission of mine was to visit the Bella Freud shop, 49 Chiltern street. She opened her store just a few months ago and if you have read some of my previous posts you will know I have always been a huge fan of her designs & knitwear. This was an exciting visit to make. The shop front calls your name with the sublime Lucien Freud ‘Dog’ gracing the window. When I stepped into the shop on a Saturday morning proudly wearing my Bella black ‘Pop Group’ sweater, I was greeted by the sweetest staff. I chatted with them about how thrilled I was to see the store and immediately they kindly offered to give me a tour of the super cool interior with a cup of tea. Heavenly! So off I go discovering the beauty of the store and peeking at the beautiful artwork including some pieces from Bella Freud’s father, Lucien Freud. The store naturally has beautiful fitting rooms and a very cool bathroom. They have a ‘no photograph’ policy but the lovely Anita (below in the Lion sweater) shared with me how Bella had designed the store with the same colours of textures as her home. She shared how the paint colours and stunning green curtains were just an extension of Bella Freud’s home. They were happy for me to take some photos with them. A true Fan-tastic moment. Thank you ladies xx
The current Bella Freud collection is without doubt, bloody gorgeous. My heart fell for the knit cushions and still pines for the iconic red 1970 sweater. Kat looks stunning in hers. I was able to sample the Bella Freud fragrance line and fell for the 1970 perfume which smelt divine. I didn’t buy anything that morning as I was about to meet the blogging babes in Mayfair and thought I would go back afterwards, but the flowing Prosecco and fabulous company held me ransom until 10pm! Good job though, as I have been known to leave shopping bags behind when under the influence of bubbles!!
My visit to the Store was an incredible one and I highly recommend taking a peek. Anita and Cecile were the sweetest and kindest gals to show me around. They were so friendly and personable . I had a great time learning what were their favourite pieces from the collection and what they had in their personal wardrobes. I absolutely adore the grey cashmere 1970 jumper Cecile is wearing below along with the iconic Lion sweater Anita is wearing. There is nothing that Bella Freud can do wrong!! Next time I fly home I’m on a mission to save up and buy that red 1970 beauty along with some gorgeous perfume. If you have a spare hour in London, then you must take a wander down the lovely Chiltern street and visit this fabulous shop.
Another favourite boutique of mine has always been Browns Fashions on South Molten Street. My London yesteryear’s have memories of wandering through, the now 5 interconnecting town house, Browns stores and soaking up the new up and coming designers to grace our fashion world. This year the founder of Browns, Joan Burstein, turns 90. This incredible figure in fashion history, set up Browns in the 1970’s. Mrs B is credited amongst others in the discovery and support of fashion design talents such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Commes des Garcons. I adore the window displays currently celebrating the birthday of Mrs B.
The bloggers meet
You can only imagine the excitement and anticipation I had for meeting these blogging idols of mine. You see, whilst living in Canada, for the past couple of years I have enjoyed reading British blogs as a means of not feeling so far away from home, keeping up with Brit street style and the British high street. I absolutely adore this a set of brilliant ‘real’ bloggers so when they gave my blog the thumbs up and invited me to join them in their annual meet, I was ecstatic. The kind of ecstatic from a 5 year old who had consumed their body weight in Cadburys on Christmas Day. I know this scenario…… I may have actually achieved it!! The meet was a bit like a Vegas trip. What happens at the Mayfair pizza co. remains at the Mayfair pizza co!! These women were all absolutely amazing. I may have walked into the restaurant as the new girl, I may have tried to restrain my starstruck tendencies to jump up and down and scream, well I tried anyway, sorry girls! But they were the loveliest crew to meet. The crazy thing was that I may have flown all the way from Ottawa to London, but I sat next to the lovely Iva from Toronto. WTF? I have watched her present fashion on the Canadian TV program Cityline yet somehow I was sat next to her supping our Prosecco?! Crazy how small the world is. A lot a laughs and fashion talk was shared. Not a single ounce of self promotion or self indulgence was there, bloody love it, good old England!! An amazing day with some truly incredible women. Social media and blogging can be an incredible thing for bringing like minded people together. Thank you so much ladies xx
Kat from Does my bum look 40 in this
Fran from School run style
Michell from My Fashionable 40’s
Joanna from Poppy’s style
Helen from Fashion 40ish
Marlene from Chocolate, cookies and candies
Becky from re:style
Iva from Falling in style
and Joanne, Andrea, Sarah, Christina and Cathy from Alice’s wonders
Did the capsule wardrobe work?
So, if you read my previous post Capsule packing: London Calling you will know I was on a mission to pack the perfect minimal wardrobe that would ease the pain of a shopaholic on a minimal shopping budget whilst visiting the mighty London. Did it work? It sure did!
One of the best pieces I took was my cross body Rag and bone bag. The removable strap meant I could adapt it from a handy hands free walking around bag to a cool clutch in the evening. My grey Gap overcoat didn’t look the bargain price it was. It felt warm in the chilly February mornings yet didn’t look like a crazy heavy winter in the afternoon sunshine. My flat Chelsea boots and Sam Edelman black and white numbers were easy to walk around in both shopping trips and pub trips! These along with my beloved grey Bella Freud rockers jumper were the perfect pieces for walking around lovely London.
Was there anything I didn’t wear? There always is something isn’t there?! lets face it, who doesn’t return from a trip with something they didn’t wear in their suitcase? I salute you if you do. This time for me, it was my grey and a black J.brand linen tee’s. I just didn’t get around to wearing them. I popped them in my suitcase for ‘extras’ as they are great neutrals and both work well with my Mcqueen and vintage scarf. Alas, I guess I just nailed the capsule this time and the extras were not needed. Done and dusted.
What did I come home with?
The Canadian dollar against the British pound had me in tears in comparison to previous years. Despite being 38 years old with two children, I’m clearly not too old to be given pocket-money from my lovely parents! I’m so lucky to have parents who understand that a trip to London and lovely shops would see me in agony. So with some crazy early birthday pennies and some ‘sterling’ christmas money from my lovely Mother-in-law. I was ready and set with some spending pounds in my pocket. This blog has helped me along the path of analysing my shopping purchases and becoming wise with what I do buy. Therefore, I decided to have an extra G&T at Heathrow airport to celebrate the fact that I was coming back to Canada with some very cool treasures that would be a welcome addition to my ever evolving capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe that was completely ME!
This time I came home with…….
Brilliant time. So good for the soul. Could not be justified in a short post!
Thanks for reading xx