Fashion Me Now | Fashion Blog written by Lucy Williams
Fashion Me Now is a fashion, lifestyle and travel blog by Lucy Williams.She lives in West London and has been working in fashion for six years. Lucy is now full-time blogger, freelance writer and brand consultant.
From Malibu, we headed north to Santa Barbara where we stayed for one night before taking a day to road trip up to Big Sur. While I loved seeing Santa Barbara (bike riding from our hotel down the beach was a really nice way to stretch our legs and get a little feel for the place), one night stops are kind of strange in how transitory they are. You arrive somewhere just in time for sunset, have dinner, go to bed and by the time you have breakfast you’re kind of needing to pack up and plan when to leave. If you’re doing many one night stops on a trip, accept them for what they are. You’ll never really get to see much of a place in one night and will always leave hungry for more time. On the flip side, they’re a great way to break up your journey, stay in nice surroundings or try out that restaurant you’ve heard lots about when you don’t have tonnes of time.
Because our time in Santa Barbara was so fleeting and our trip up to Big Sur had so many great stops, I thought I’d combine the two and document our journey from SoCal to NorCal up the 101 and tell you where I stopped.
First up, Santa Barbara. We stayed at the Four Seasons Biltmore which was perfect for us because it wasn’t in the thick of downtown Santa Barbara, but rather is tucked away 5 minutes on the beach from the highway so it’s an easy hop off from our route up the coast. It was great staying somewhere like this for a night so we could get some laundry done and the service makes everything easy. They have their own bike for rent too so we were able to do a bike ride without faffing around searching for a rental spot when we only had a couple of hours before it got dark. I’m not such a fan of big, old school hotels like this and the interiors don’t wow me nearly as much as somewhere like Surfrider but you can’t fault the service that’s for sure. It was definitely a treat to be able order a plate of dark chocolate and a hot ginger tea while falling asleep in front of a movie. The hotel grounds and the location are stunning for sure, it’s just the inside that feels a little tired to me but I think that’s more my taste than anything else. But all in all it was the perfect place for us to stay given how brief our stop was.
After a bike ride, we headed for some wine and then dinner in town and opted for dinner at a place called The Lark we’d been recommended. Every restaurant in California seems to be revolving around the farm-to-table, family-style food right now and that’s A-Ok by me as The Lark was delicious.
From Santa Barbara, we headed north with a few stops, both planned and unplanned along the way. We took a minor detour to go and see The Cold Spring Tavern, an old stagecoach inn tucked away in the Santa Barbara hills and a million miles away from the Nancy Meyers breed of California (which I’m also a huge fan of just FYI). I saw this on a Goop guide and also on Luke Edward Hall’s instagram and wanted to swing by for a photo op. I imagine if you’re passing at lunch and it’s a bit rainy or grey, this would make such a nice spot for a cosy lunch or just a hot coffee. We were there purely to check it out as we had a long journey ahead but it was fun to see.
After this, we might or might not have had a little run-in with the CHP (that’s Californian Highway Patrol)… Essentially, watch your speed in Cali kids! One ticket and heart in mouth situation later (‘licence and registration documents ma’am’) we were back on the road again, only this time not one mile over the 55mph limit (if I could insert a clenched teeth emoji here I would).
We briefly stopped in Los Olivos, a tiny little town with a couple of cute wine bars and grocery shops. It’s always fun to see as much as possible but I wouldn’t put this on your list if you’re doing the full schlep up to Big Sur. We carried on up north and stopped off in Los Alamos next. Los Alamos is definitely somewhere I would recommend stopping off. Matilda Goad told me about this place and we loved it. It’s a real mix of old school delis with Western-style architecture, and more contemporary taco joints and wineries. I bought a picture from a little antiques shop (no idea what it’s called but it’s the picture below with the flowers over the picket fence) and we stopped by the beyond lovely Bodega Los Alamos, a bright and airy wine shop and deli stocking Sqirl jams and pink crystal salt with a big garden and firepit outside for consuming your wine. The owner was so charming and after we helped her rescue a stuck hummingbird, she super sweetly gifted me a pot of jam and let us wander around the gardens despite not being open. For sure swing by here if you can, I think the motel here could even be a great place to stay for a night too.
After Los Alamos, we stopped in San Luis Obispo for lunch and a mandatory quick tour of the infamous Madonna Inn. My boyfriend did some googling and found a sandwich shop for us to stop at for lunch. I’ll admit I had kinda low expectations but it might just have been the best sandwich I’ve ever had. High Steet Deli is a real institution in this town with both locals and passers-through queuing up for the doorstep-thick pastrami reubens (you can make everything and anything you want from their extensive ingredients). The kind of concoctions you need dozens of napkins to soak up all the deliciousness that gets all over your chin and hands so get ready to get stuck in.
We swung by the Madonna Inn, a sickly-sweet pink palace that is as kitsch as Dolly Parton covered in Rhinestones at Christmas. It’s a fully-functioning motel that’s been family-run for decades so if you’re into brocade eiderdowns, gold baroque furniture and luminous cocktails in equally luminous cut-glass goblets, this is the place for you to stay. I was kind of glad we just popped in to have a look (I bought a Christmas bauble from the gift shop) but it’s definitely a sight to behold and I can imagine if you there with a group, a hilarious place to bed down for the night. A friend told me she’d had her Hen do there which I thought was amazing!
Carrying on towards Big Sur, we stopped at San Simeon beach so my boyfriend could avidly jade hunt (the Big Sur coastline is famous for naturally occuring jade but also famously hard to find) sadly to little avail. The beach is right off the highway and yet feels amazingly rugged, wild and windswept and almost cinematic in how fresh it is. Winding our way up the amazing coastline, you really start to feel you’re entering NorCal as the cliffs get higher and the coastline craggier. Every corner you turn, there’s a view, a patch of beach or a nature trail, so much so we had to get quite strict on ourselves and not stop every 15 minutes. We pulled over for the seals lounging around on the beach and caught the sunset at Jade Cove, another jade mission for my boyfriend and a chance to get over excited at taking pictures of the ridiculously gooey sunset light seeping through the pampas grasses. I was obsessed with how pampas grass grew like weeds in this area which I’m sure sounds mental to anyone else native to the area but it’s just not something we get over here. Honestly this coastline is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and the absolute dream to wind your way up in a car with The Star is Born soundtrack blaring out.
We got to Big Sur in the thick of darkness having driven the last 30 minutes alongside an almost violet-tinged sunset (and you know I love my sunsets). We checked in, got in the bath with a glass of champagne and were ready to not move very far for the next two days.
After a whirlwind, amazing trip to Arizona with Proenza Schouler (I didn’t blog it because it’s technically not part of the road trip) we flew back to L.A to carry on up north. There was one hotel I knew I had to stay at on this trip and that was the beautiful Surfrider Malibu, so that kind of dictated us wanting to spend a night here on our way up the 101. I never really know if Malibu is technically part of L.A or not, but given it can be up to an hour or more from central L.A in traffic, it’s worth assigning a few days to actually stay here rather than just swinging by for a lunch or a brief afternoon on the beach.
It’s right on the way up to Santa Barbara (literally on the highway) and opposite Surfrider beach, one of the best spots to watch the surfers roll in before grabbing a sandwich to go from Malibu Farm Pier or a drink at Soho Beach House. But the star of the show is Surfrider itself. The interiors are those kind of clean, light, contemporary but cosy neutral spaces you’d expect from the beach-dwelling Australian owners who redeveloped the place. Wooden ceiling fans send ripples through light, muslin curtains draped around four poster beds while stems of pampas grass and jasmine-scented candles serve as those perfectly minimal kind of homely touches dotted around. There is an incredible roof deck that overlooks the pier and the beach with a big fire pit, squishy linen chairs and a cocktail list including the most insane coconut margaritas. Surfrider without doubt is one of the coolest places to stay in L.A, if not California right now, but what I really loved about it is the fact that the guys who work there are not in the least pretentious or too cool for school. Warm, helpful (one of the girls at the front desk messaged her sister for an amazing list of Santa Barbara recommendations for us and both printed and emailed it to us too) and relaxed, they made us feel entirely welcome and at ease throughout our entire stay. The one and only fault with our one night at Surfrider was it was just that, one night. I’m already plotting to go back from a week…
It feels really bittersweet doing this blog post after the awful devastating fires that destroyed much of Malibu and multiple people’s homes and livelihoods. One on hand these pictures represent amazing holiday memories for us but on the other, they were taken just before a lot of Malibu and the surrounding areas were destroyed. Thankfully, Surfrider wasn’t harmed by the fires but much of the Malibu community was which is just so sad given how beautiful it is and what a lovely community it is. It’s such a surreal experience being somewhere carefree only for the whole place to change dramatically for the worse just a week later. Refinery 29 have produced a bigger and better list of how to donate and help in the wake of the fires that I ever could so have a look here if you want to help.
One night, a Mexican dinner at Soho Beach House and a morning feeling sand between our toes and soaking up the roof deck, we were headed for Santa Barbara, but that’s for the next post…
I’ve long wanted to see Salvation Mountain in real life after seeing photographic glimpses of this technicolour dreamland sitting in the middle of nowhere in the California. It really is off the beaten track and essentially on the way to nowhere (it’s a good 2 1/2 drive south of Joshua Tree). Luckily a 24 hour work trip to Arizona meant we had an excuse to do the detour to this crazy colourful shrine. The life work of a devout local resident called Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain is a wonderfully bonkers, brightly coloured creation that looms out of the middle of nowhere like a rainbow oasis. After driving for what seemed like two hours solidly alongside the slightly strange, eery Salton Sea and wondering if we might end up in Mexico after too long, suddenly the brilliantly crazy land of Salvation Mountain looms out the middle of the desert. All you need in maximum 30 minutes to take photos and wander round (make sure you stick to the yellow brick road unless you want a telling off) but I’m so glad we make the journey to get there as really it’s one of those things you’ll only ever see once. If you ever find yourself in the Californian desert with a day to spare, I would highly recommend making the journey out here. It really is the epitome of what the classic American road trip is all about.
A ridiculous amount of photos for one place I know, but I just loved photographing this place and it feels a bit of a waste to just leave them never to be published. So apologies for the scroll and I promise to be more edited one day!
The first in a series of blog posts from our amazing, whirlwind, happiness-filled California road trip. I say whirlwind, we had 12 days, but even that felt kind of rushed at times when trying to cram in as much of California ( and a quick 24 hours in Arizona) as we could. Having been to L.A a good few times before but never journeyed outside of the city properly, I’ve been dying to drive up the 101 and take in the likes of Big Sur and San Francisco for a long, long time. A work trip to L.A with Missoma (tough gig I know) at just the right time of year gave me the perfect excuse to extend the trip. L.A, Joshua Tree, a quick 24 hour trip to Arizona with Proenza Schouler (as you do), Malibu, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, San Francisco and Sonoma where all on the hit list. It’s only seeing it written down that I can really get a sense of how much ground we covered! I feel like we saw so many amazing sides of California, from the spiky, sprawling desert of Joshua Tree to the rugged coastline of Northern California, the variety of the state and all the amazing people we came across, the food we ate and the experiences we had are still hard to round into one experience. We had 12 days but you could have a month and still feel like you hadn’t ticked off nearly everything you wanted to. God Bless the size of America.
Not only do I love California, I really love America as a whole (current President withstanding) and the concept of the great American road trip is such a cinematic institution and one that’s really got under my skin and into my imagination since I was a kid. The reality is just as cinematic as you imagined but even more special than the on-screen versions thanks to a good dose of reality. It’s funny because while I love the idea of stopping off at random places along the way and letting spontaneity take you to places you weren’t expecting, the reality of being a perfectionist on a road trip means you really have to learn to embrace the journey as much as the destination itself. I’m not even being cheesy and metaphorical about this, I mean it totally literally. Road trips are romantic in their inception, the notion of grabbing a few supplies, jumping behind the wheel and driving carefree down the open road has been told and retold throughout literature and film. But in reality, you only have a limited amount of time to soak up as much as possible of your chosen spots and that can be stressful if you’re anything like me and want to see everything en route while also have enough time to relax where you’ve chosen to bed down for the night and arrive in time for a picture-perfect sundowner at your next spot. It was a welcome challenge to learn to let go a bit and embrace seeing the sunset from the car rather than with a glass of wine, or having a rogue lunch and trying not to let wishing you’d gone to the other place you wanted to ruin your day. Once you get past the idea of perfection, the road trip is an amazing way to really see a country and was exactly what I needed to switch off a bit and really get out of my head and into the moment. Yes I was instagram-storying while away (it is my job after all) but I only took photos on film, I put my out of office on and barely checked instagram apart from posting my own stuff sporadically. As someone who makes a living online, I think this was as close as I’ve been to switching off for a long, long time.
Road trips are all about planning as much as possible while also embracing errors of timings, directions and opening times along the way. I quickly realised that they’re not romantic for their picture-perfect moments, even the ‘spontaneous’ ones that have become as movie-worthy as the Manic Pixie Dream Girls who tend to go on them, but rather for the decidedly less than perfect moments. When you learn you can have a heated row about parking and laugh it off instantly, or the realisation that some of the most memorable meals can be one-pan pasta cooked late at night in an Airbnb. Whether you’re travelling with a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, friends or family, the real joy and romance of a road trip are the shit bits and how you deal with them. Instagram might lead you to believe there are zero ‘flaws’ to other people’s holidays but there definitely are and it’s these random moments that you’ll remember in years to come, rather than the ones you’ve mapped out in your head beforehand. Combine this with the open road, unexpected chats with people you’ll never see again, ever-changing scenery, endless vintage motel signs, gas stations that feel like Disneyland when it comes to E numbers (I’m not even kidding) and the most beautiful light I’ve ever been surrounded by (again, totally literal!) and it’s easy to understand why road trips are addictive. I’m already itching to do another American road trip one day (more Cali and the deep south are on my list) although I will say I’m not sure I’d do a road trip for a honeymoon unless you have plenty of time. It’s not a fly and flop trip and while I came home totally revived and refreshed mentally, it can be tiring unpacking and repacking time and time again, and having to make decisions on a daily basis if you’re knackered might not be the best idea.
First up, was a couple of days in L.A staying at The Rose in Venice. Aside from a couple of news places like MTN (amazing ramen and asian-fusion food), Great White (the best breakfast burritos) and Wallflower (yet more amazing Japanese fusion food and cocktails), I pretty much relied on old favourites so I’m going to refer you back to my previous L.A posts here,here, and here. We hiked Griffith park trail, walked the Venice canals, shopped at American Rag, and ate a lot of great food and tried to avoid getting run over by a Bird scooter, all while I continually freaked out at how best to show my boyfriend L.A in 36 hours when it can take over two hours to get from one side to another. I mostly focused on the West Side with half a day spent East and basically learnt you need three days at least in L.A to even begin to get a lay of the land. It’s just SO GOD DAMN BIG! The key is, and let this be a lesson to road trips as a whole, it’s better to do something well than do several things not well. While the desire is to whizz round as much as possible, it’s much better to minimise the one night stops as much as possible and give yourself the chance to do two nights or more at each place. Failing that, I would say keep the driving to under 4 hours a day. I didn’t mind driving 6 hours if we had the next day not driving much but if you’ve got another big trip the following day, it can be hard to keep up the motivation. Venice was typically misty when we were there but the rest of California was an absolute dream in terms of weather and everyone we chatted to said October/November is the real summer of California. We even had warm, sunny weather in San Fran which everyone said was very lucky! I was all prepped with wooly jumpers and jackets and ironically wore them more in Venice and Joshua Tree than anywhere else.
While the dream is to hire a convertible mustang for a trip down route 101, we actually went down the 4×4 route as we wanted something comfortable and armchair like to drive in. When you’re in the car for 6 hour stints, convertible’s can get boring as you can’t really hear each other talk or listen to podcasts and unless it’s really hot in the summer, the novelty kinda wears off after an hour or so. Plus, the size of my suitcase kind of dictated we needed a bigger car….
A few other hints and tips for planning the ultimate road trip:
– Let go of perfection. Sometimes the best lunch will be a sandwich (and you can find some AMAZING sandwiches in Cali) in the car rather than a super-fancy sit down meal
-Download podcasts and spotify playlists before you set off so you’re not caught short when your signal runs out.
-Keep your eye on the gas. Some cheaper SUV’s guzzle gas and if you end up on a road where there isn’t a gas station for 60 miles, you don’t want to spend 50 of those watching the fuel needle.
-Be a savvy packer. Keep PJs and underwear in separate canvas bags or packing cubes so you can easily grab with your wash bag for an overnight stay rather than having to rifle through your entire case. Likewise, pack your warmer stuff on one side, colder stuff on the other so you don’t have to unload everything to find what you want.
-If you’re only in a city for one night, look at the location of your hotel. It might make more sense to stay somewhere slightly one the outskirts (easier to navigate, park and not hit traffic on your way back to the highway) and then uber to dinner.
-Add at least two or three hours to your journey time to allow for random stops, lunches that take ages or spontaneous antiquing (just me?).
Right, admin done, Onto the travel from here on…. Next post, we’re heading out to the desert to Joshua Tree.
If you’ve spent anytime at all on Pinterest or Instagram in the last few years (so, all of us), you’ll have seen the Italian village of Positano well-documented. One of the most photographed towns of the Amalfi Coast, Positano is postcard-perfect with pastel-coloured houses descending down the cliffs, alleyways straining with tutti-frutti ceramic stores and rails of fluttering white linen dresses and no-end of great spots to tuck into spaghetti vongole and peach bellinis. I’ve long wanted to go but I’ve never quite found the right time; summer too busy for my liking, winter too chilly. But this year I found a spare weekend in the middle of October and realised it would be the ideal time to finally make the pilgrimage to Positano. I’ll concede I was kind of hesitant as to whether or not I was going to love it and was worried it would be slightly ruined by tourists and maybe, dare I say it, a little bit flash. Turns out October was the absolute dream time to go and it was neither of these things… The weather was still warm enough to sunbathe and the whole town still had a buzz to it without having to file down the streets like sardines or wait for hours for a table at a restaurant.
I’ll admit, one of the main reasons I really wanted to go to Positano was for one very special hotel in the town, Le Sireneuse. I’ve been eyeing up this beautiful hotel for years so was beyond excited to finally get the chance to go. If you were to imagine the most charming, perfect Italian riviera hotel, this would be it. From the beautiful pool and restaurant with one of the best vantage points in Positano, to the understated, elegant interiors and endless tile porn throughout, I immediately fell for this hotel. It’s sophisticated without out being overly luxe and feels so timeless, like something that could have featured in an EM Forster novel once upon a time. We arrived lunchtime on Saturday and headed straight for a table in the sun for melon and prosciutto and ravioli before collapsing to digest the whole lot by the pool. The staff were eternally charming, the restaurant eternally delicious and the the chinaware so covetable I couldn’t stop myself going to the ceramics store over the road and buying so much I had to have it shipped home (worth every penny just FYI).
On the Sunday we went to Da Adolfo for lunch which was probably the simplest and yet my favourite meal we had on the whole trip. You have to get a boat there (a red boat from the main jetty with a red, wooden fish on it) and thanks to the time of year we were there, we were able to get some sun and then amble up to get a table without any problems. The spaghetti and pesto was so, so good and any of the seafood was really fresh and perfectly grilled. It was exactly my kind of restaurant, really chilled, rustic but delicious. Other places we ate were Ristorante Max (ask for a table in the pretty garden), Chez Black (only worth it for a chilled lunch of pizza and salad I think) and the ridiculously lavish, romantic La Sponda at Le Sirenuse. In short, I ate pasta and drank wine at every meal but breakfast the entire weekend and loved every minute of it. We were treated to one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen (another perk of travelling in Autumn; those fiery skies are always more saturated) while sipping negronis on the terrace of Le Sireneuse (Harry’s Bar next door is well worth a sundowner too just be prepared to queue) and London’s stresses felt like a million miles away.
Le Sireneuse is undoubtedly expensive and a real treat, but if you can find a special occasion or a spare weekend to justify it, I really can’t recommend it enough. It was so romantic and so special, I felt a million times more chic than I really am just in being there and drinking wine looking over that view. It really made me realise the joys of travelling out of season too; look beyond July and August and think about going to super-popular, pricey places in April or October and I swear you’ll have a better experience all round.
The beaches of Mallorca proved so beautiful and deliciously turquoise, I felt they needed a whole blog post to themselves. We were based up in the North East so spent the four days we were there exploring the Eastern beaches, namely Cala Torta, Cala Mesquida and the stunning Cala Llombards, the latter of which really blew us away. We conveniently followed google maps on a bit of a wild goose chase, missed the beach car park and ended up parking on the headland surrounding the beach which meant we stumbled upon the most amazing steps down the beach with the best view of the water below. There are little fisherman’s houses nestled around the rocks (it reminded me of Benirras in Ibiza only prettier) while a shady beach bar serves up bowls of prawns, mussels, croquettes and aperol spritzs. We had grand plans to take in another nearby beach on the same day but in the end, we fell so in love with Cala Llombards, we couldn’t tear ourselves away until we were ready to head home.
Cala Torta was another favourite. It felt wild and rugged, with bracing waves and a tiny beach shack serving nothing but seafood platters, cold beers and colas. Unlike so many Mediterranean beaches, Cala Torta felt roomy enough for everyone with a long, stretch of deep, white sand meaning there was zero towel overlapping to contend with. Plus, going in September was such a great decision. It was super hot, the sea was warm but the crowds were distinctly less while still feeling buzzy and full of happy holiday goers. Cala Mesquida was the nearest beach to our hotel and the colour of the water was akin to the Caribbean with rolling dunes behind it and rocky headlands to clamber around. It’s kind of built up around the beach but not in a horrible, overly developed way, just mostly sleepy self-catering apartments for families with tennis courts and a few shops dotted around. There’s no beach restaurant to speak off apart from a sandwich bar but we ended up going to local supermarket and making a beach picnic of meat, cheese, breadsticks, tomatoes and peaches which was ideal. Proof that you don’t need a flashy white daybed and a 40 euro salad to have an amazing day in the sun
I worked with my favourite hat brand Lack of Colour to shoot their new collection while away (if you’re wondering why I’m wearing so many hats in this post!) and really condensed my wardrobe to simple favourite bikinis and throw-on floral dresses and linen overalls. So here’s a big batch of random photos from out and about on the beaches in Mallorca, proof yet again that summer in Europe doesn’t end come September. I already can’t wait for next summer in the Balearic islands and those golden summer days.
I’ll concede I’m normally that person that is away a lot and never short of salty beach days or a dose of sunshine. I’m used to being that person who people ask ‘have you had any nice hols recently’, quickly followed by an eye roll and a ‘you’re always on holiday’ groan. I don’t have the energy to explain that lots of my trips are in some way work-related so I just ignore the eye roll and merrily chatter about where I’ve been. However this summer has been slightly different. I’m not for one minute suggesting I have been hard done by in the holiday stakes (far from it) but by the time we got to mid September, I realised I hadn’t been on a beach since the first weekend of July and was craving it. I’d had a lot of work on, a lot of late nights, I’d flown to Sydney and back for two days, I hadn’t read a book for months (the thought made me really depressed) and I was feeling generally pretty uninspired. And people’s ‘you’re always away’ comments were starting to bug me if I’m honest. I thought, if people are going to think of me as someone that’s always on holiday, I’ll damn well be that person (toss of head mandatory). I wasn’t ready for summer to be over and decided to sandwich in 4 days away between popping to Paris for fashion week (as you do). After a lot of googling and day dreaming, my friend Phoebe and I settled on Mallorca for four days on sunbathing, swimming and reading by day and drinking wine and talking by night.
I read this article which made me see the North East of Mallorca in a different light as the East is often depicted as very touristy-y and overdeveloped in parts. I found Hotel Son Jaumell through i-escape. As I mentioned in my Lessons in Holiday Planning post last week, it’s one of my favourite sites for finding boutique hotels and this little gem was no exception. Tucked away in a sleepy corner of the island, about an hour from Palma airport, this was exactly the kind of hotel I was looking for. Think clean, modern interiors with plenty of neutral linens and light-filled rooms, and pale blue shuttered doors and windows with olive trees and enormous cacti dotted around. The whole place had a sense of unpretentious calm about it and the rooms were felt cool and clean without being austere or cold. We had a little balcony and small lawn with sun loungers and a rocking chair which I loved having a quiet moment on after an evening shower in a dressing gown. There’s a quiet pool that gets every last drop of evening sun and a michelin-starred restaurant definitely worth a dinner (or two). Saying that, the regular bistro restaurant was beyond delicious too. If you order one thing while you’re here, make it the chicken croquettes. Zero potato isn’t normally a positive attribute for me but these rich, oozy, sweet little nuggets of haven are unlike any other croquette you’ve ever had I guarantee you. Mornings and evenings were on the chilly side by the end of September so we had breakfast outside in cashmere jumpers nursing cups of teas waiting to be warmed up like lizards, but by the time in reached midday, it was the perfect temperature to laze around on the beach without feeling like you were frying like a piece of sizzling meat.
I’ve only been to Mallorca once before on a villa holiday with girlfriends a few years ago. We were staying near Pollenca then and aside form one trip to Deia and a misjudged boat trip that almost ended in tears, we didn’t explore the coast that much. Having seen a tonne of beautiful photos of Mallorca’s stunning beaches, I wanted to try a different beach everyday. Wer hired a ridiculous convertible car and took off everyday after breakfast to a new spot, returning before sundown for a swim and snooze by the pool before showering off the day and settling in for Gin & Tonics at the hotel. Son Jaumell is fairly rural rather than in the thick of a buzzing town so aside from one delicious dinner at Quinze in Porto Cristo, we found ourselves eating at the hotel as it was so good. There are definitely some nice places nearby to eat, but given we only had 4 days and we sensed the food was better at the hotel than elsewhere in the near proximity, we found ourselves opting to be lazy so we could quickly roll into bed after dinner. I always struggle with this because I feel so guilty not trying new things every single day, but sometimes I just don’t want to have to make a decision past whether to have the chicken or fish so I tried to just make peace with that and roll with what I really wanted to do versus what I felt I should do. Maybe it’s partly down to what I do or maybe it’s just a kink in my personality, but I find separating my gut from my head on holiday quite tricky sometimes and it’s only when I manage it that I really feel on holiday.
I’m going to do a separate, dedicated beach post so as to not bore you senseless in this one so I’ll make a list of all the beaches and spots we went to in that. So for now, here’s a whole bunch of pictures of our beautiful hotel, local beach and some last of the summer sun outfits.
Thanks to social media, it can sometimes feel like we’re the only ones not on holiday (yes, I’m aware I can often be fuelling that fire!) and we are constantly bombarded by holiday porn. I for one get completely bogged down, putting just about everywhere that looks pretty down on my mental bucket list which can make trip-planning tricky when you want to go just about EVERYWHERE.
However I’ve got much better at deciphering where and when to go places and like to think I have a pretty good back-up plan as a tour operator under my belt after lots of intense but successful flight-juggling-destination-hopping. So here are my tips for choosing, planning and enjoying trips to the max.
Make a Bucket List for the Year
This may sound super OTT but it really helps narrow down exactly where you want to go and budget for it. Ok, if you write down, Bora Bora, Iceland, Australia, Brazil and the Maldives, you might be in for a pretty unrealistic year. But a couple of weekend trips and a couple of longer stays could be doable. We can all get side-tracked sometimes and end up doing trips because they’re there rather than because we really want to go somewhere. I often find making a list of places I really want to do rather than naming every country in the world, helps me focus, plan and save to make them happen.
Try and Leave Perfectionism at the Door
I’m a recovering perfectionist and while it sounds like a great thing in job interviews, it can be really damaging in life and holidays are the worst for it. We sit around daydreaming for weeks, sometimes months, about that amazing trip we’ve got in the diary, picturing every detail, every meal, every outfit (guilty), and surprise, surprise, the reality of the holiday often falls slightly short of what you picture. I’m a big planner when it comes to trips; I want to go to every beach, every foodie recommendation, see every view and wander every pretty street all while being perfectly relaxed, easy-going and spontaneous of course. Needless to say these two sides of me never quite marry up and I’m learning to realise that there’ll always be one not-so-great meal, one underwhelming ‘must-do’ and one day where you just might not feel your best self. Learning to accept that not every trip will be 100% perfect is even harder in the age of instagram when everyone else is professing they’ve just had ‘the.best.week.EVA’. But take what you see online with a good healthy pinch of cynicism and relish your holiday for what it is. I’m still battling with this and still want to cram everything in and sometimes confuse what I want to do with what I think I should do. However, I can say I’m now a total pro at not freaking out when it rains on holiday and am realising you will rarely, if ever, do everything you want to in a week let alone the two days I’m often in one place for. But most of all, I’m learning to love the control-freak side of me that wants to plan the perfect trip because when it comes down to it, wanting things to be amazing for both you and your travel companions isn’t exactly a terrible quality.
Sometimes it’s O.K to Fly and Flop
We can all feel the pressure to explore on holiday which is a credit to our generation I think. Rather than going to the same European spot summer after summer, we can often feel both the desire and the pressure to make the most of our time of earth and cram as much as humanly possible into trips. Sometimes this it totally worth it (I did a great 10-day whirlwind tour of Rajasthan a few years ago) but other times, it’s o.k to just go and lie on a beach for a week. Modern day life can really take it out of you and there’s no shame in booking a nice villa or a hotel for a week in one place. Maybe this is just my predicament, but I often feel guilty for going back to somewhere I’ve been before or only staying on one place. But this year, I really enjoyed going on holidays with friends to familiar places and have already decided I want to spend a week in Ibiza next summer, casually going between old favourite places and new places I’ve never been to before. Basically, listen to what you really need from a trip and know that sometimes it’s ok to relish the familiar and make a holiday a holiday rather than an adventure.
All-Inclusive Isn’t Always a Dirty Word
All-Inclusive doesn’t exactly fill you with thought of boutique luxury does it. But when it comes to certain hotels, it can be worth it. If you’re going to the Maldives or any kind of long-haul resort where there’s not lots of different restaurant options within walking distance, it can be worth going for the all-in option. The Maldives are famous for excessively expensive food (everything’s imported so it kind of makes sense) so it’s much nicer to go knowing everything is already included is kind of liberating. No one wants to sit around on a special trip deciding whether or not they can afford lunch. It’s always worth remembering to check out the prices of food, drink and extras before you go and keep money back for that. You might have afforded the cost per night but remember that’s just the first piece of the puzzle.
Dig Deep with Accommodation
When it comes to booking hotels or apartments, get all the info to save being stung. Ever ended up in a hotel that’s miles away from where you want to be or an Air BnB that’s on a really busy road that keeps you up all night? Yeah, it’s annoying. I really go the extra mile when I book somewhere to stay. I research, research, research. Read the reviews, have a look at the pictures on Tripadvisor (if it looks nice on tripadvisor you’ve found a winner seeing as everything looks kind of rubbish on there I find), ask your Airbnb host key questions and check out things like parking, check out time and location carefully. Google street view can be super helpful for checking out Airbnb’s location or hotels. Also, compare everything; sometimes it’s better to stay in the nicest room in the cheaper hotel than than the smallest room in the super expensive hotel. Worth comparing the two to see what works out as better value. My favourite sites for finding hotels are Smith Hotels, i-escape (they also have a really good ‘where to go in which month’ secion which I find amazing for inspo) and Tablet Hotels to name a few and I rely heavily on Conde Nast Traveller for telling me about new, off the beaten tracks B&Bs, hotels and destinations. I’ve also liked Goop’s travel guides when planning on where to eat, sleep and and what to see too. Instagram is obviously a great tool in itself and I use the save tool a lot for hotels to find places that might not be so easy to find or remember. Just keep in mind everyone is different. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure after all, so just because someone swears you must stay somewhere or posts the shit out of somewhere lavish on instagram, it might not be for you so always triple check it.
Think Outside High Season
I think school holidays are ingrained in us all and we all automatically think of June, July and August when it comes to escaping to Europe, but don’t overlook April, May, September and October for some of the busier destinations. I’m about to go to Positano for a weekend (it’s mid-October if you’re reading this at a later date) and touch wood, it’s looking like it’s going to be a sweet and sunny 21 degrees. Sure the weather is a little more uncertain but one thing I can be sure of is it will be significantly emptier and cheaper than even a month before. Southern Europe gets amazing weather all the way through to October so think outside the box to stretch your wallet and minimise photo bombs.
Shop Around for Flights
If you can be flexible for dates, I use the ‘whole month’ tool on Skyscanner to find the best price for flights. Sometimes flying Tuesday to Tuesday is much more economical than Friday to Friday but obviously you don’t get the bonus of the second weekend. Skyscanner is my go-to for all flights. It draws in easyjet and Ryanair etc as well as the bigger airlines and I find the breakdowns for stopovers really easy to understand etc. Double check prices to different airports too; for example, there are three international airports in Jamaica so it’s worth checking which is closest to your hotel and which has the best flight prices and times for you so you can weigh everything up.
Don’t be Fooled into a False Economy
Flying from or to that airport might be £100 cheaper but are you going to have to spend the same in cabs to get where you want to go? Shop around for cheap deals but take into account any extra costs to balance it out. Make sure you google map the driving distance from your accommodation to the airport and map any transfers between hotels if you’re moving around too and take this into account when booking your accommodation.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
I’m lucky enough to have worked in travel long enough that I get to visit and stay in hotels I might not otherwise be able to in exchange for reviews and photography. Plus, being self-employed with a focus on travel writing and photo-journaling my trips, I try and see travel as an investment in my career as well as a much-loved passion, so I try and see as much as the world as I can while holding down a homelife in London. Combine the two, and I’m away for more than your average 25 days a year normally, and often in need of mixing up who I take with me. There are some trips I would only want to do with my boyfriend, not necessarily because they’re super romantic, but because they’re longer, meatier and to be frank, we can argue over directions in the car before laughing it off and swiftly moving on. Something that’s not always as easy with a friend for me. However, there are other holidays or trips I want to do with a group or just one friend and just lounge around in a villa for a week, laughing till we cry and talking about everything from feminism to face wash. There are some friends you’d want to hole up with in a cosy spa for a weekend, others who you want to dance until 5 A.M with, and some who you can do both with, so make sure you base who to travel with on the trip itself. It’s not a reflection on the quality of friendships but it’s definitely easier if you both want similar things out of a trip. If one of you wants to do yoga and be in bed by 11 every night while the other wants to bar hop and sleep late, you might struggle to make it work for both of you. Compromise and being upfront about what you need from a holiday is key.
Lastly, Pack Smart
I’m a serial overpacker so I’m most definitely not the person to dole out advice for how to pack for a week in a carry-on. However, I am the person who has everything you could possible need so you know, swings and roundabouts. A few things I’ve learnt are always worth having to be said smug person who is never caught short are below.
– A proper medicine kit incl. immodium and dioralyte (not cool or glamorous but if the worst happens, who wants to leave their sick bed and explain to reception what they need), pain killers, plasters, antiseptic, melatonin (if you use it for jet lag etc) and anything else you personally might need. Side note, if you’re going somewhere really exotic and are travelling around, take a course of probiotics a month before you go to support your gut. Second sidenote, never, ever travel to the U.S without travel insurance. After having to go to a doctor in New York once fashion after getting Olbas Oil in my eye and blistering it and $2000 later, I had my eye drops. Luckily I was insured but lesson truly learnt and that was just a simple, non-emergency doctor’s important.
– Two bank cards of some sort (one you can leave at home/in the hotel and one you can take out with you) – especially relevant if you’re going to to be partying hard/prone to losing things.
– The right batteries for the right cameras and the right chargers. I went to the Caribbean earlier this year and took the wrong charger for my camera battery so I had no digital camera for the whole trip. I almost cried and spent a whole morning calling around camera shops in Miami before our flight to no avail.
-A photocopy of your passport left in safe hands at home.
– Good quality sun cream. I for one do not want to have to rely on Hawaiian Tropic for a week.
-If you’re weird like me, take your own pillow case if you’re going to an Air BnB. I never used to do this and maybe I’m getting old and fussy but I’ve found it instantly makes me settle in somewhere easier and sleep better. Likewise wax ear plugs and an eye mask come everywhere with me.
-Comfy clothes for chill time. I’m not at all chic about it; marl PJs and a hoodie or long sleeve loose tee works for me, but I need something to lol around in, especially if I’m travelling for work and every minute of down time counts.
– Double check the weather at night. The first time I went to L.A I was ready to wear teeny tiny shorts and dresses every night but it was actually really cold and windy at night so I basically froze every night. Likewise, if it’s July in Greece, you don’t need that extra jacket or jumper (we Brits like to pack for every eventuality).
Nope, not Christmas. I’m talking about the joys of Autumnal dressing and those heady days of jumpers without coats and bare(ish) legs with trainers.
Yes I’m a summer girl through and through, but in the U.K my ultimate favourite season, especially sartorially speaking, is Autumn. I loved this summer’s heat wave yes, but I find getting dressed in a city the easiest at this time of year. No ‘can you see my knickers through this flimsy summer dress’ conundrums and it’s still bright, light and warm enough to getaway without wearing multiple layers. You can wrap up in a massive jumper outside a pub with a glass of wine and merrily pretend it’s winter, sweetly denying what actual winter feels like (brutal just FYI). It’s that magical overlapping time of year when you can wear your new coat with just a t-shirt underneath or those new boots with your favourite summer dress. Essentially it’s when my favourite kinds of silhouettes really come into their own.
It’s also one my favourite time of year for new accessories, swapping baskets and sandals for sturdier, back-to-school essentials. I’ve long loved the bumbag over the body trend but have yet to find the right one. Enter Bally, and the perfect belt bag that feels elegant and cool all at once. I love the warm tan colour and the structured shape, especially when slung nonchalantly cross body. It’s timeless rather than retro and throwback which I love as it doesn’t feel overly trend-led which is important if you’re dropping money on something you want to wear a lot. Bally’s foray into trainers this year are the ideal thing to run around town in at this time of year too, and keep the whole thing sleek rather than overtly sporty. I love extrovert accessories sure, but sometimes you need some refined, minimalist numbers in your arsenal that make everything look that bit more elevated, even on days when you have zero time in the morning (me every morning).
I’ve got some great trips coming up this Autumn so I’m being that annoying person that is really relishing the chillier weather. Not to be too weather obsessed (allow it, I’m a Brit) but I think that’s the key to enduring the unpredictable seasons in the northern hemisphere; finding the good in the even the worsening weather and enjoying it for what it is. And without sounding horribly materialistic, enjoying new clothes definitely helps me find the joy in summer slipping away…
Get ready to discover your wild side this season as animal prints are on just about everything.
That infamous leopard print Realisation Par skirt is still as great as ever, but now zebra and snake are in the running for the top spot when it comes to what to swather your bottom half in. Without stopping to think, I’ve already invested in not one, but two pairs of jungle-themed trousers and I’m not even sorry. I love the colourful takes on animal print this season (yellow and red for me as you can tell) and to me, they’re never something to shy away from. Yes they’re far from camouflage gear in the big smoke, but nor are they solely the domain of out and proud exhibitonists. I actually find them one of the easiest things to style as they do all the talking; a good t-shirt and biker jacket or neutral chunky jumper is all you need by means of accessories. Also, because they’re that bit extra they are the ideal topping to comfier than thou flip flops or this year’s hiking boots and make anything look intentional and cool, even that unwashed hoodie you pulled on for your morning coffee.
So without further ado, let me show you my pantaloons and scroll down to the bottom for for of my animal-print picks to snap up now.