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.
I think it’s long established I’m a sunny weather girl. I love leather trousers, thick tread boots and massive bomber jackets yes, but nothing gets me excited like summer threads. Sunny days in London suddenly have me thinking beyond jeans and boots and just like that, I feel like I’ve got my mojo back for getting dressed on a daily basis.
So in addition to the two outfits featured, and incidentally two of my favourite current colour combinations (tequila sunrise cocktails and terracotta against a blue sky), I thought I’d make a little favourites/Spring wish list compiling everything I’ve spotted and loved online recently. From pieces I’d wear right now in London to the best summer dresses for weddings and holidays, these are the things I’ve been putting into my fantasy online shopping basket(s). I’m nosy and love to know what others are looking at online or planning on purchasing so if nothing else, this can be a little window into where my sartorial head’s at this season.
Scroll down to the bottom of the post from my current online edit and credits.
It’s been almost (emphasis on almost) twenty years since I was last in Cape Town and I was really excited to see how the cities changed since I was last there a train-track wearing gawky tweenager. I’d heard tonnes about the amazing food scene in Cape Town (make the reservations well in advance – it’s like New York in terms of getting a table at some places) and was excited for more beach time, wine and culture over our last two days. Being a beach bum, it’s unsurprising I chose the cliffside Cape View Clifton as our base camp. Compared to London and L.A, Cape Town is quick and easy to get around so you can stay by the beach and be in the thick of the city in 15 minutes and I always love starting and ending the day looking out at the water if I can. Cape View Clifton itself is stunning, one of the most immaculate, meticulously decorated places I’ve ever stayed and with a killer view stretching all the way over Clifton’s four beaches, with the dramatic twelve apostles looming behind. The hotel is tiny so breakfast is intimate and communal with the hotel’s lovely staff whipping up delicious omelettes and pancakes right next to you in the kitchen and a fully-stocked honesty bar and regularly restocked homemade cakes and cookies up for grabs. It really was a sanctuary after a busy day and felt so soothing and relaxing to come home to. It’s not cheap and there’s an argument for not needing somewhere so plush if you’re only resting your head there at night and spending the rest of the time playing tourist, but if you want to pump for somewhere really special and beautiful, I can’t recommend this place enough. Plus if you’re blessed with better weather than us, the hotel’s pool with a view would also be a serious plus. We were kind of unlucky with the weather while in South Africa and our only properly warm, sunny days were while we were at Babylonstoren so we spent zero time by the pool and just 20 minutes on the beach below before the chilly wind and clouds scared us off.
Eat and Drink
Clarkes on Bree Street – As the wind whipped down Cape Town’s streets, we wrapped up and sat outside this easygoing, diner-esque joint In Central Cape Town for grilled cheese and tomato shoup (me) and pastrami reuben (him). They also do mean juices and the burgers looked pretty mega.
Between Us – Tucked away on the first floor of a nondescript white building on Bree Street, this is the ultimate brunch spot. The menu is pared-back and simple with an emphasis on wholesome grains and farm-to-table ingredients. Think eggs with collared greens on rye bread, buckwheat pancakes with compote and honeycomb butter and an array of juices, coffees and cacao with maca. We sat outside in the sun and took in the street from above.
Foxcroft Constantia – Hands down the best meal we had in Cape Town, I loved every mouthful of the dinner we had here. I found this under the radar gem after scouring online for restaurant reccommendations after we tried and failed to get to get into Cape Town’s hot spots The Tasting Kitchen and Pot Luck Club. It surpassed all expectations and I can’t recommend it enough. The location is kind of strange and almost feels like it’s in a mini outdoor mall, plus it’s in Constantia so a little further from the centre of town, but it’s definitely worth the pilgrimage, The simple inventive menu isn’t pretentious or try-hard in anyway, but the plates of food are small, perfectly formed and delicious.
The Shortmarket Club – Given we couldn’t get into The Test Kitchen or The Pot Luck Club (both meant to be excellent), we tried our luck at The Shortmarket Club, another sister restaurant of the group, and after a quick drink next door at The House of Machines (a local buzzy dive bar), we were in. Amazing cocktails and delicious food but perhaps a little rich and OTT for me personally but sill a great option.
The Lawns at The Roundhouse – We had our final lunch before heading to the airport at the easy-going, outside spot up in the hills above Clifton. Delicious pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads with a relaxed atmosphere with kids and dogs playing in the sunshine filled rolling lawns (hence the name), it’s a really lovely chilled spot to get a low-key lunch in the sun with a bottle of wine.
The Power and the Glory is a great spot for a casual pre-dinner glass of wine. I think they do a good brunch or lunch too according to a friend. There’s also another great little wine bar next door.
Do (Or at least just what we did!)
The Old Biscuit Mill market on a Saturday is the loveliest way to start the weekend. Located in Woodstock that some liken to Brooklyn in New York, the market has tonnes of great independent retailers for clothes, interiors, gifts and the most amazing food market with all kind of juices, burritos, traditional food from all around the world, pancakes, eggs, burgers and just about everything else. We were kind of annoyed we’d eaten before so barely had room for anything else but I did manage to pick up some locally-produced chocolate, a ceramic plate, linen napkins and shorts and a top from a sweet little South African brand called.
Wine tasting – we’d planned to spend our Friday afternoon soaking up some rays on the beach but given the thick clouds and chilly temperatures, we literally threw in the towel and headed to Constantia for some wine tasting instead. On a whim, we headed to Beau Constantia (I’d heard lots about the food at Chef’s Warehouse here too) and did their wine tasting while sitting outside with cheese board while looking out over the rolling vineyards. I feel like there would be prettier, more traditional vineyards for sure but this was a great contemporary option and the wines were delicious ( we ended up buying some bottles to take home with us too).
Beach time – If the sun does shine, Clifton 4th is by far the nicest beach to escape to. I’d give Camp’s Bay a wide berth, I really didn’t like the vibe at all down there, too touristy and not charming in any way. But Clifton is pretty and sheltered. If you have more time, I’d buy some sandwiches and supplies and head to Llandudno beach – a little further out of town but super pretty and away from the crowds.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – I remember coming here many moons ago with my family and it was so great to revisit as a grown-up. The gardens are vast and almost Jurassic Park-like in their magnitude and depth and breadth of varieties of plants and flowers. We had very little time (trying to cram tonnes into our last day) but you could easily spend a whole afternoon here and set up camp with a picnic or grab a bit at one of the cafes on site.
Bo Kaap – A hot spot for group walking tours and tourists yes, but Bo Kaap’s colourful houses and brightly-coloured streets are highly photographed for good reason. I would have love to learn a little more about the heritage and history about this area but without a guide, we settled for just roaming round and taking in the colours.
Lion’s head hike – Ok, full disclosure, we didn’t actually make this hike. My insomnia and migraines were raging while we were in Cape Town (excuses, excuses I know) so I’ll admit I didn’t manage the 6 A.M alarm. Was kind of gutted not to make it but if I was out there again, I would definitely do this hike for amazing sunrise or sunset views.
From Franschooek, we headed South East for a few days exploring the cape peninsula before finishing off in Cape Town itself. I really wanted to get at least a taste of living like a local for a couple of days at least and have our own space so loved the idea of renting somewhere right on the beach. My sister, a Cape Town regular, recommended the small, surfy beach town of Kommetjie (Komm-uh-kee) about an hour outside of central Cape Town as a place to base ourselves and the beach house we ended up renting really was a dream. I found it via Perfect Hideaways, an amazing resource for renting beach houses in and around Cape Town and beyond and honestly even if you’re not in the market for a holiday to SA, I’d definitely recommend diving in and having a look – the house porn is amazing! Complete with wraparound wooden deck, hammock in the backyard and the sound of waves trickling in from open windows and billowing curtains, I was living out all my Grace and Frankie beach house fantasies at this place. It felt like the loveliest family home too rather than a show home, and was clearly much-loved by the people who owned it. Kommetjie was the perfect base for us for a couple of days of getting a salty beach fix while also exploring neighbouring little towns like Kalk bay which is amazing for pottery, textiles, vintage shops and 100% make sure you have dinner at the delicious new restaurant Salt, Scarborough beach where you can get your acai bowl fix at Whole Earth cafe or a coffee and deli-style supplies at Foragers/The Hub, beautiful Misty Cliffs that really do live up to their name, and last but not least Nordhoek, an incredible, sweeping beach on your way to Chapman’s Peak Drive where there are some great spots for wine with a view or even a horse-ride on the beach. You 100% need a car to get around, buy supplies and explore, although we did get an Uber both nights to dinner which was a really nice surprise so we were able to have a drink with dinner.
In Kommetjie itself, there’s little else aside from a corner shop, deli (a lovely one with lots of healthy, wholesome options), a cafe for pastries, juices and coffee, a bottle shop for booze and a pub/bar opposite all the previous.I really loved how low-key it was as we really felt like we were calling it home while there. The beach is stunning with pretty white houses lining the sand dunes and tonnes of surfers or all ages congregating around the fare end of the beach as the sun starts to get lower. It really is one of those rare places that’s totally unspoilt and unpretentious while still feeling special, the kind of place you’ll instantly start plotting your retirement/dream life basically.
I was last in South Africa aged fifteen with my family so needless to say, the country’s beautiful wine country and vino it produced was kind of lost on me. While I was just entering that phase of life where you’re continually trying to smuggle a Smirnoff Ice, I was most definitely not yet old enough to appreciate a really good Sauvignon. So when Faithfull the Brand, as you know one of my favourite go-to labels for holidays, asked me to go to South Africa to shoot their new collection for them, I knew I had to tie-in a trip Franschhoek, a world-renowned wine region less than two hours from Cape Town. And if you’re going to go to Franschhoek, you’ve got to go to Babylonstoren.
I’ve long heard about beautiful Babylonstoren, an almost fabled oasis in South Africa that boasts not only beautiful rooms and sprawling, stunning gardens, but also one of the nicest rosés I’ve ever had (get your hands on a bottle for drinking in the sun this Spring). Babylonstoren really is one big lesson in how to do understated luxury, not to mention ‘farm to table’, in the most literal sense of the phrases. Too often both those expressions get bandied around in the hotel and food industry when in fact a lot of the time it’s more of a marketing ploy than a philosophy. Not so at Babylonstoren, where everything is centred around the flourishing gardens and vineyards. From the soap in your room to the melt-in-the-mouth figs with honey that are served direct to our door with a glass of white wine at sunset, nearly everything is produced and grown on site. Meat and fish are sourced as locally and sustainably as possible too. The white-washed Cape Dutch style architecture of all the rooms, restaurants and outbuildings lends themselves perfectly to all that sunshine and green, flowering surroundings. From the outside, the rooms look thick-walled and cosy, but inside they’re light-filled and lofty with roll-top baths, four-poster white beds and glass double doors at the back leading to a private sun trap complete with wooden hammock and loungers, begging for a glass of wine or a cup of hot rooibos tea in the morning. There’s also an open fireplace for chillier evenings if you feel like getting cosy. After we’d settled in, we strolled over to the Greenhouse restaurant for a chilled lunch (and some of the best potato chips ever) before taking in the gardens. I’d have loved to have done one of the complimentary garden tours but our schedule didn’t allow it this time so we just wandered round and explored on our own, stumbling upon Prickly Pear farms, fruit trees surrounded by blue and white mosaic tiles and row upon row of brightly-coloured flowers and vegetables. It really is magical with the perfectly laid-out, much-loved gardens sitting in front of a dramatic mountainous backdrop. You can also grab a bicycle from reception and roll round the gardens on two-wheels, stopping for an ice tea or lemonade at the Greenhouse. After clearing our heads and rehydrating after a long, horrible, dirty flight (but that’s another story), we headed to the farm’s dedicated wine-tasting bar to try the literal fruits of the farm’s labour. We ended the daylight hours by wandering over to the spa and stewing ourselves in the sauna and the hot tub before dopily walking home and showering before supper. Dinner was pretty special (although little tip, don’t forget to pack some nice light knits or long sleeved shirts; South Africa can get chilly at night as it heads into Autumn and I was always kind of cold in the evenings) with every course seasonally-sourced and packed-full of veggies and flavours. They’re definitely not stingy with the portions either. No pretentious tiny portions here, we barely had room for pudding but I’m glad we squeezed it in; every mouthful from start to finish was delicious.
The next morning, after the most amazing breakfast spread (make sure you try some of the lesser-know fruits like a num-num) including an omelette dripping in basil oil and roasted tomatoes, we roamed the gardens once again, soaking up the sunshine and saying hi to the resident donkeys. One of which we realised soon afterwards had been heavily pregnant so there’s now a sweet little foal bounding around which I’m kind of gutted we missed. Make sure you stop by the farm shop too to pick up some of the farm’s olive oil, jams and textiles, and if you’re heading to a rental in Cape Town afterwards, you can even grab some bread and eggs to take with you. Staying here really is dreamy and I couldn’t think of a better base to explore wine country from if you have a few days. I feel like Babylonstoren is my kind of retreat; wholesome, real food, a dreamy spa, the great outdoors on your doorstep but zero gimmicks involved. Even if you can’t stay here, it’s well-worth swinging by in the day. Anyone can come and take in the gardens, the wine and the farm shop so definitely mark it on your map of Franschhoek.
Full of food, a few new freckles, one new hat (some of the best I’ve found in ages and all-made locally) and taking half a bottle of rosé with us, it was time to leave after just one night but honestly, we milked as much as we could out of our 24 hours at Babylonstoren and it was definitely enough to really fall in love with the place. I got so many messages from people who had been before while I was there, all of whom seemed to feel exactly the same and were pining to go back so I’m definitely not the only one. So even if you have just one night to spare, Babylonstoren is definitely worth making time for. Oh and keep your ears peeled because rumour has it, there might be an outpost of Babylonstoren opening in the U.K this year….
Frosty mornings and multiple layers can really take their toll on your wardrobe. It can be hard not to end up melting into the sea of other people shuffling around in various shades of black, brown and bobbly scarfs. Goes without saying winter is 10 times harder to show some personality when you get dressed but it’s by no means impossible. Don’t be wrong, I love to shuffle around in a big, black parka and beanie myself while walking the dog and running errands, but too much time in my beloved ugg boots and hoodies can end up making me feel like something of a sloth. So I feel like I have some go-to solutions for not feeling drab and sad like the weather, but instead expressing myself and wearing things I love while also keeping warm.
Invest in some mega gold hoop earrings, the thicker and chunkier the better. They instantly take an ordinary outfit or a roll neck jumper beyond the realm of hibernating at home. Suddenly loungewear looks chis and knitwear looks slick.
Think accessories. A fun little sequinned drawstring bag, a retro bucket hat or an amazing pair of patent boots can make such a difference. I hate being cold with a passion so often wear long sleeves jumpers or polo necks out for dinner and the right accessories make jeans and a jumper perfectly acceptable for even the fanciest work dinner.
Clash your colours. Step away from the grey jumper and those black boots and push yourself to try a pale blue jumper with red boots, or in my case, a rainbow knit with a rainbow scarf. Forget what your mum drilled into your about matching and be playful. Personally I love red with brown, yellow with navy, blue with maroon, tie dyes, neons (lime green right now) and rainbow stripes.
Heat tech thermals will open up a world of possibilities for you. They make looser trousers a million times toastier (I have a sneaky pair of leggings under the leather trousers I’m wearing in the second outfit) and they can mean you can wear just a thinner lighter jumper under a coat rather than needing to turn into the incredible hunk.
Don’t be afraid of bigger, oversized shapes. I like playing up to the abominable snowman effect sometimes ands wearing a big coat over loose fit trousers and longer layers a la the Olsens. Just make it feel deliberate rather than bag lady with the help of aforementioned hoops, hats and investment statement boots.
Layer textures. Fluffy faux fur with denim and nylon; leather with shearling and cashmere; PVC with wool. The combinations are endless and it’s one of the easiest ways to add interest and depth to outfits with minimal fuss.
Smile! Winter will be over before we know it and we’ll have to start shaving our legs and going out again.
*I do not give my permission for any words, opinions or photographs in this post to be re-published or paraphrased by any other media or news corporation or outlet without prior written permission and consent.
Our recent trip to the Maldives definitely taught me more than I expected, especially as I expected simply to learn the plots to a few new books and maybe the names of a few new tropical fish. The main lesson being how lucky shitty situations can strangely make you feel and what silver linings really look like. I posted an instagram on this so don’t want to repeat myself and ham it up even more, but while it definitely wasn’t the week we were expecting, we definitely ended on a high.
I can’t talk about our time in the Maldives without touching on the fire that happened on our first night at the beautiful Gili Lankafushi. We’d planned to be there for the whole week and I’d posted insta story after insta story when we got there because it was just so magical, a watery-wonderland of rustic, luxurious over water villas and residences circling the most perfect powdery sandy island. So after a sleepy, lazy first day and early dinner, we headed to bed excited to properly start our holiday the next day. Only a few hours later, our villa was burning down while we watched from the beach. While it was very scary and traumatic in the moment (getting woken up by hotel staff knocking on our door telling us there was fire’ while sleeping naked is kind of stressful to say the least – never sleeping naked again for what it’s worth), ultimately we and everyone else thankfully were very lucky. When we were woken and taken to safety via boat to the beach (the fire was a few villas over from ours at this point), I thought it was something like 3 A.M but turned out it was only 30 minutes after we’d gone to sleep and we’d gone to bed relatively early because we hadn’t slept on the plane. I was really stricken when we first jumped on the boat and saw how big the fire was because we didn’t know if the people in those villas had got out ok. But as soon as we knew everyone, guests and staff, were unharmed and we felt safe on the beach upwind of the fire, I was able to relax. I’d grabbed my handbag with passports, wallet and phone so I knew we could get home ok and we were safe and that was all that mattered. Sitting on the beach watching our villa burn down, it’s amazing how little you feel for all the stuff in there and all you really care about is being thankful you and everyone else is safe and well. At that point we thought all our stuff was gone and as we are insured and we were fine, I really couldn’t have cared less. But when we were leaving the island by boat a few hours later (Gili had liased with another hotel Huvafen Fushi to re-house some us) we were told some of the staff had managed to get our luggage out of the villa before it caught fire. We had no idea how much or what and decided to anticipate nothing and then anything was a bonus. Late the next afternoon, a boat from Gili Lankafushi arrived at Huvafen Fushi and we were overwhelmed to learn the hotel staff had managed to grab most of our stuff and cases so it was just clothes and a few incidentals we ended up losing. I couldn’t believe it. They’d even grabbed my book from our bedside table which was amazing (Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife for anyone interested) as by that point I was so ready for a bit of escapism and zoning out. We met some great people who moved from Gili to Huvafen with us and it was so nice having a sense of comradery between other guests and sharing smiles and laughs with each other when we all arrived looking pretty dishevelled to breakfast. Huvafen Fushi looked after us so well, working closely with Gili to sort everyone out, kit us out with everything we were missing and generally look after us.
Our main feeling after the fire was that of sadness for all the team at Gili Lankafushi after the fire. It’s such a beautiful island and an amazing resort with the loveliest ethos and the nicest people. While selfishly we were of course gutted not to get to experience the place properly, we just hope Gili gets back on its feet as quickly as possible and rebuilds and reopens as soon as they can and hopefully we’ll be back there one day to experience it again.
Having been to Soneva Fushi at the end of 2017 with one of my best friends, I’d been dreaming of returning ever since. I hate myself for admitting this but being newly single at the time I was last there, I couldn’t help but think how romantic it was (the outdoor bathrooms at Soneva are mega!) and kept thinking how I’d love to come back one day with a boyfriend. The feminist in me hates me right now but you know, I’m only human (who’s probably watched one too many Romantic Comedies in my time). So now me and my boyfriend found ourselves in the Maldives without any concrete plans for the rest of our time out there, I couldn’t think of a better time to go back to Soneva Fushi and thankfully they had room for us and generously offered to host us for our last three days. I mean, talk about silver linings. So after three nights at Huvafen, we were en route to Soneva Fushi. As soon as we were in the hotel’s little airport lounge, I felt on cloud nine. I really do LOVE this hotel. No news, no shoes is the island’s mantra (Soneva’s signature), and while it is the most luxurious, spoiling place, it’s all done in a barefoot, understated way which I love. Our villa was amazing and exceeded all expectations yet again. The bathroom is like a Swiss Family Robinson fantasy with stepping stones that lead out to a jungle covered outdoor shower and an a tub that looks up to the stars. Soneva and Gili are really similar in terms of decor, attitude and environmentally-friendly credentials, but the main difference is that while aLL of Gilis villas are water-based, Soneva’s villas are all on the beach nestled between palm trees. If you’ve never been to the Maldives, you picture being on a water villa and while they’re super fun and unique, I do love having direct access to the sand for a stroll down the beach first and last thing. I loved being able to show Soneva to my boyfriend, over-excitedly pointing out the ice cream room, the breakfast hoppers and the wild domestic bunnies hopping around in the light of our bikes at night (if you make it to the ooutdoor cinema watch out for them stealing your popcorn). One of the things I love about Soneva is how big it is compared to lots of islands; there’s plenty of room to cycle and walk so you never feel cooped up or claustrophobic ( a potential side effect in the Maldives if you’re on a tiny island). We didn’t get a buggy once, cycling barefoot everywhere which I absolutely love; it really makes you feel like Soneva is home, for a hot minute at least. A few highlights include the resident astronomer complete with monster telescope based at the Fresh in the Garden restaurant who we pestered not once but twice after dinner for an up-close look at stars and galaxies; sushi, snorkelling and sliding at the newly opened Out of the Blue restaurant and all-round daytime and nighttime playground and last but by no means least, heading out to the private sand bank by ourselves at sunset on our last night for a bottle of champagne on our very own island. Each week they have a cocktail party on the sandbank for guests but our stay didn’t fall over this day so they really kindly offered to take us out there on our last night so we got to experience it.
Needless to say we definitely ended the trip on a high (you can probably tell from the leading picture for this post!) and despite my raging insomnia all week, I think we ended up having more of an amazing time thanks to feeling grateful for being safe and lucky on an hourly basis. You can listen to all the podcasts and TED talks on gratitude and all that, but sometimes it takes an real life experience to really make you get it. It’s funny when things don’t work out at all how you planned but then something great comes out of it and for a perfectionist like me, that’s a really great lesson to remember. While I’ll admit I was actually super happy to sleep in my own bed when we got home after the trip, I have great memories of every place we ended up staying in the Maldives and each and every time I go, I realise the Maldivian water and icing sugar sand has yet to be beaten. Although I’m always up for a challenge so if you have any suggestions where might beat it let me know!
Anywho, as always, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (meaning, I’m about to bombard you with visuals) and hopefully inject a little virtual Vitamin D (and sea) into your day.
*I do not give my permission for any words, opinions or photographs in this post to be re-published or paraphrased by any other media or news corporation or outlet without prior written permission and consent.
(A couple of pictures of Gili I managed to capture on our first day – so beautiful)
I can’t believe we’re finally at the end of out California road trip blog posts, with just one stop left before it was time to head home…
We were really keen to squeeze in one night in wine country while in California. We both love our wine and when I realised from mapping various options, Sonoma was only just over an hour from San Francisco, the plan was a go-go. When deciding between Napa and Sonoma, I’d heard Sonoma was the the less glossy, low-key sister to Napa so naturally, that’s why I picked it. I found the amazing Beltane Ranch B&B and vineyard through Goop’s travel guides (which are amazing just FYI) and it was exactly what I hoped for and more. Blame too many old re-runs of Little House on the Prairie or just a love for American movies in general, but I have a real weakness for classic wraparound wooden porches and Beltane Ranch has not one but two of them, both of which look over a picture-perfect flower garden, fruit trees and a white picket fence, surrounded by rolling vineyards naturally. Essentially, it’s one of the most beautiful, authentic places I’ve ever stayed. I love finding really, truly special places to stay like this around the world. Places like this in India and this in the Bahamas for example. I’m always selfishly torn as to whether or not to keep them a secret because they’re so damn magical so just don’t all go at once ok?! But seriously, this place is just dreamy… There are only about four rooms at the B&B, all of which open out onto the veranda with your own table and chairs to take in the view (and some wine obviously) while wrapped in layers as the sun goes down. There are old, snoozy dogs and cats sleeping in the shade and wandering around to say hi, freshly-cooked communal breakfasts at the kitchen table (fluffy ‘biscuits’ and chorizo eggs) and fresh fruit in the garden you’re allowed to pick and eat. There’s a tennis court overgrown with flowers, horeshoes to play in the garden and the most delicious cheese boards to go with your wine wherever you choose to set up camp in the grounds. From the website, it’s hard to tell if the rooms are maybe slightly twee or dated but they are anything but that; the house may be classic old America, but the bathrooms are sparkling new marble and brass and the sheets smell like they’ve just been put on fresh from the line. Essentially this place marries the classic, homely B&B with modern creature comforts perfectly.
We were only there for one night (as soon as we got there I was feeling blue about leaving!) and I wanted to enjoy Beltane as much as possible but we did manage to see a bit of Sonoma. We had lunch at both the Sunflower Cafe and The Girl and the Fig (not both on the same day don’t worry), both of which were delicious and beyond friendly, and we did some wine tasting at Gundlach Bundschu (affectionately known as Gun Bun locally) vineyard before leaving with a couple of bottles. We’d heard a tonne about the winery Scribe but it was closed both days we were there sadly so if you’re being serious about it, check their events calendar before and try and time it with one of their feasts. Beltane Ranch also do big featsing style dinners and events from time to time which look magical and definitely something to try and time a trip around. Maybe it’s growing up on a farm, or maybe it’s just having a fantasy of being Diane Keaton in Baby Boom one day, but Beltane Ranch made me feel so happy from start to finish. Hopefully these pics go someway in explaining why although I’m not sure even the dreamiest photo could do this place justice.
So that’s the end of my California Road Trip blog posts. It feels like a lifetime ago now but what a trip it was… I can’t wait for the next road trip now (America’s deep south is on my hit list) but the next destination with be the Maldives at the beginning of January so you can expect some turquoise seas and sandy feet up on the blog soon (apologies in advance).
We set off from Big Sur towards San Francisco, full of the biggest breakfast from Deetjens and stopped off for a walk on the beautifully wild Pfeiffer Beach, with actual purple sand no less. W decided not to stop in Carmel and Monterey this time as we were trying hard to live by the ‘do one thing well rather than multiple places not that well’. attitude. We wanted to get to San Francisco before dark so we parked lots of the stops along the way for next time. After a disappointing sandwich and insane wait in Santa Cruz, (if we did it again we would have stopped for lunch in Monterey or Carmel rather than Santa Cruz) we well pulling into San Francisco as the sun was setting. A good friend of mine told me the key to falling in love with San Francisco was avoiding the inner city touristy bits and moving between the different neighbourhoods and suburbs to really get a feel of what life om San Francisco is like. I opted to stay in a little hotel called Hotel Drisco in Pacific Heights which is essentially the Notting Hill of San Francisco, the kind of streets we all picture after films like Mrs Doubtfire. Think big, beautiful houses with turreted corners and long, steep streets with views down the high rise city and sea on the other side of the city. Hotel Drisco looked like a relatively stress-free drive in and out of the city, and it’s position was smack bang in the middle of all the things I had on our hit list. Quiet, impeccably clean and with a lovely old world charm to it, we loved Hotel Drisco’s location (nothing was more than a 15 minute uber from our door), massive beds and the light-filled marble bathrooms with heated floors. We arrived, flopped and caught up on admin before getting ready for drinks and dinner, both of which were less than a 10 minute walk from our door.
So I’d heard kind of mixed things about San Francisco, some people loved it and others weren’t wowed by it at all. I kind of love places I get this kind of feedback on as it means I go into it with a totally blank slate and zero expectations (aside from the food scene which I’d heard was amazing in San Francisco). If you know my blog by now, you’ll know I’ve spent a fair amount of time in L.A and love, love, love that light-filled, palm-lined, cinematic city, so I’d almost prepared myself to be firmly in the L.A lovers camp rather than the San Francisco camp. How wrong I was. Instantly, I felt at home in San Francisco. People say it’s one of the more European-feeling cities in America so maybe this had something to do with why I really connected to it. Unlike L.A, there’s a buzz and energy to the streets like New York. People spill out of bars and restaurants, commuters walk home from work and there are village-like clusters of shops and cafes at least every other block. From brunch in the mission to fish tacos by the beach in Outer Sunset, we managed to cram a tonne into our single whole day in San Francisco and fell more and more in love with the city with each new neighbourhood. San Francisco is cool in an entirely different way to L.A. It’s relaxed, easy going and a little grungy. Unlike L.A’s glossy, shiny plant-based eateries, San Francisco’s food scene has a little edge to it and is all about farm-to-table, family style dining. It’s not black and white obviously, you can find both styles in both cities, but San Francisco as a whole definitely felt overall more free-spirited and creative than L.A does, on the surface at least.
I thought it would be easier to bullet point the recommendations I have for San Fran to keep it succinct and readable, so here goes…
Breakfast at Tartine Manufactory. The pastries and baked goods are all made right in front of you (especially if you grab a seat at the counter) and various tartines (things on toast basically) are delicious.
Walk around the mission and down Valencia Street. We popped into San Francisco chocolate shop Dandelion, random vintage stores and book shops and there’s a Reformation there too.
Check out some of the mission’s street art and murals down streets such as Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. I’m not normally into murals like this but the political and social messages some of the artists manage to portray through their work are super interesting and evocative.
Wander round the shops in Hayes Valley (Welcome Stranger is a great shop for guys), there’s an Away store if you’ve shopped so much you need another case and an amazing vintage store with lots of beautiful independent brands called Reliquary.
Get the fish tacos or burritos for lunch at Hook Fish Co in Outer Sunset, a surfy little suburb right by a massive beautiful beach. All the fish is sustainably caught, local and fresh. Pop into The General Store nearby while you’re at it too.
Have a cocktail at The Snug followed by dinner at The Progress, the sister restaurant to famed State Bird Provisions. The food was epic and as always everything is family-style so no food envy needed.
Wander through the ferry building for loads of local food artisans, homeware stores and gift-y stuff.
Have a carb feast at renowned pasta place Flour + Water. Amazing flavours and the portions are just right.
Go and see the famous Painted Ladies houses from Alamo Square Park
Take in the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach.
Can’t wait till the next time I’m lucky enough to go back to SF. It really is the coolest place.
Big Sur was probably the most hyped place we went on our trip. I’ve heard people waxing lyrical about this spot on the Californian coast for years. Words like magical, spiritual and special were bandied around, along with the the phrase ‘like nowhere else on earth’. Needless to say I was giddy with excitement to finally make it up there while also trying to suppress a slight trepidation all the hype would lead me to be disappointed… Well, I can hand on heart say Big Sur lived up to every adjective and more and I fell head over heels for the place pretty much as soon as we crossed the boundary line of the Big Sur national park. Big Sur gets a lot of visitors from L.A, San Francisco and much further like us from London for example, and yet it’s managed to really retain it’s small-town, nature-focused, unpretentious feel while also offering some amazing places to stay and eat. That’s a rare, rare thing I’ve found, normally once the amazing hotels come, it can be hard to retain the spirit of the place but Big Sur is still a big hippy at heart which I loved.
We stayed at the amazing Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, and did one night in a super-pampering suite and a second-night glamping in the hotel’s own section of the redwood forest. I loved the balance of this and would actually be really hard pushed to decide what I loved more. The suite we stayed in on our first night had everything you could possibly want and some extras you didn’t even know you needed like a hammock on the deck and a hot tub overlooking the forest. Our room was right in the thick of the resort so the Japanese baths and forest pool were a stone’s throw from our door which was great. One thing I really loved about this hotel, and it applied to both glamping and the main hotel, was the text service. You can text anything you need to a dedicated number rather than calling reception and it gets sorted super quickly. The hotel also does a private shuttle service so you text the concierge asking for a quick lift to dinner or a drink somewhere (sunsets in Big Sur are like a daily ritual) , they collect you and then you text them when you’ve finished dinner (and that bottle of wine) and they drive you home. No decisions on who isn’t drinking for two days, yay! We decided on our long drive up to Big Sur with endless stops and a succession of one night stops that were were going to take it really easy in Big Sur and soak it all in without feeling the pressure to do everything. Ventana Big Sur is the ideal place to do just that. We were treated to amazing weather while there, so much so it was strangely sunny and warm so we spent a whole morning lying poolside on our first morning before heading off for a hike in the afternoon. We had tacos served to our sunlinger and stayed in the bubbling hot tubs, both our own and the ones at the bath house, until we turned into prunes. Heaven! We took in Mcway Falls. ate dinner at Big Sur Bakery, breakfast at Deetjens (both absolute musts) and had sundowner at Nepenthe (I actually loved the unstuffy, chill vibe here but it gets mixed reviews). We didn’t even make it to Post Ranch Inn in the end, even for a drink, because we loved Ventana Big Sur so much (the food, the views, the peace and quiet) and all the other little spots, we kind of forgot we even needed to tick that one off.
Glamping on our second night was such a cool experience. I was worried it might be a bit of a hassle checking out of one room and checking into glamping but Ventana made it super easy. You can park right next to your dedicated tent so no unloading woes and each room has not one but two firepits, s’mores kits and an outdoor sink amongst lots of other well thought-out comforts. I loved the cosy, woodland setting and the A-frame tents themselves are ridiculously photogenic and warm and snug inside. I’m not going to lie, I don’t looooove not having an ensuite as typically it’s the times you don’t have one that you wake up dying for the bathroom and have to either lie awake for hours too scared to go out in the dark or drag boots, coat and torch out to go the loo. The bath houses in the glamping ground are really clean, tidy and have hairdryers, big fluffy towels etc but it’s just not quite the same as having your own space. I’d also recommend going mid-week rather than weekends if at all possible. There seems to be weddings every weekend in Big Sur and they inevitably take over certain areas or sections of the hotel and/or restaurants all over town so if you can at all avoid weekends, you’d end up having much more of a free run of the place.
Magical, spiritual and like nowhere else, are definitely the right kind of descriptions for Big Sur. I started imaging myself throwing regular life in, moving here and holing up in a cabin somewhere near the rugged, wild coastline with a piece of foraged jade stuffed in my bra for luck. But as with all great things, sometimes it’s better to leave with a memory rather than overstay with a dream. Till next time Big Sur…
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.