My Favorite Paris – Montmartre
My preference for arrondissements has changed over the years. From historical centre 1st, to spreading out slightly to the 2nd, trendy 4th over to Latin Quarter 5th, back to 3rd, pass by 11th, touristic 7th to the canal in the 10th… but the 18th shall always hold a special place in my heart.
Montmartre lies perfectly at the tip of the 18th. Though a popular tourist attraction, the crowds of tourist with flashy cameras can easily be avoided if you know how…
The Sacre Coeur is one of my all time favorite displays of magnificent French architecture. I always pay homage to it on my visits to Paris. It sits peacefully and elegantly on top of the hill. One place I do avoid (at all costs) is the Place de Tetre behind the church, which is heavily populated by tourist and souvenir shops.
Eating out in Montmartre can either be expensive or disappointing if you end up in a tourist trap. One lesson I’ve learnt is never to order a crepe from a place that has a pile of precooked crepes on the side waiting to be filled. The French are famous for their emmental filled crepes though it’s best to look for a place that makes them fresh from the batter on the spot, unfortunately I haven’t yet found a decent creperie in Montmartre. What I have found are fantastic bakers and cheese shops (yes shops that solely sell cheese).
Rue des Abbesses and the roads that follow down from it to Pigalle, such as Rue Lepic are my favorites for boulangeries, fromageries, fresh fruit and veg and fresh fish (oyster bar anyone?).
I’ve blogged about it before and I’ll blog about it again. Le Relais Gascon is my favorite restaurant in Paris. I like to convince myself that I’m eating healthy by ordering one of their huge salads. The food is a treat, the wine is decent (and decently priced) and the service is quick, most of all it’s not pretentious and doesn’t try to be “typically French”, it just is. I especially love sitting outside as the view down to Pigalle is great for people watching, even on a rainy day.
I’ve come to realize that the main reason people in Paris dress so well is the availability of inexpensive fashion a la vintage shops. Though not the centre of vintage (which I shall discuss in a later post), Montmartre has it’s fair share of decently priced vintage boutiques (5 Euro boyfriend coats for example…). My friend and I spent well over an hour inside one particular shop that not only sells vintage clothing but shoes, bags, furniture, books… you name it, they sell it.
The shop: Les Billes de la Gamine, the owner: Cecile. Cecile is a connoisseur in all things vintage. She just has to look at you to pick out the perfect item that you will instantly fall in love with. The star buy was my friend’s 30 Euro pair of Doc Martins boots in ivy green. Cecile’s little shop can be found at 66 Rue d’Orsel, at the very tip of Rue des Abbesses.
Other great vintage shops that I shall definitely be visiting again include:
100 Rue des Martyrs
and Vintage Desir (for those 5 Euro boyfriend coats)
28 Rue Yvonne le Tac
(sadly they don’t have a website or a Facebook page)
Sunday is flea market day in Montmartre, Rue de Clignancourt boasts stretches of market stalls selling all sorts. I felt absolutely chuffed to have discovered it by chance one day! Nearest Metro stop in Montmartre is Chateau Rouge though it’s a 5 minute walk from the Sacre Coeur. You can also stop at the very tip of the market at Metro stop Porte de Clignancourt where they have the bigger more serious stalls, I believe these are also open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Most of all I love Montmartre for it’s slopes and slides, green open spaces and quiet little back streets. The sky always appears bluer in Montmartre, I can only imagine the influence the landscape would have had on the great French Impressionists who populate this area.
Life’s a Beach (when you’ve found the right bikini…)
Here is a piece on beachwear in Rio de janeiro. One of my first ever posts was predominately focused on the beaches – Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana and the stretch of Leme beach, I put up some nice pictures but I didn’t really embrace the topic of travel.
Having spent some time in the Cidade Maravelhosa, I found myself accustoming to beach life. My (almost) daily routine consisted of waking up ridiculously early (the sunshine and warm weather seems to have a ‘get up and go’ effect on me), heading out on my bike, cycling around Lagoa (my apartment was one block away from the lake), breaking off of the Lagoa cycle track at Leblon beach and cycling down to the Ponto do Diabo beach crest behind the Arpoador, a large rock that separates Ipanema and Copacabana.
Being the shy and somewhat reserved British girl that I am (you’d never guess that my mother is Brazilian), I made sure I dressed the part English style… I bought myself some cycling shorts, leggings, large t-shirts, hats, Raybans and factor 30+ sun creams to wear to cycle down to the beach. I bought myself a black bikini from TOPSHOP too. I once sported denim shorts and a gypsy top to which my Brazilian uncle commented “where on earth are you going dressed like that? Do you want someone to steal your wallet gringa?” (gringo/gringa = humerous pet name given to Westerners in Latin America). So I rather sheepishly asked my aunt for some beach wear ‘street cred’ advice.
1. Everyone gets semi-naked on the beach, get used to it. Even my 60-something year old aunt does it. I learn’t to cycle/drive/walk to the beach in my bikini and t-shirt or sarong as opposed to dressing up for a day out. Though I was extremely self conscious at first, I eventually learnt that this is the norm and anything goes on the beach, except for dressing like a gringo. I learnt to love the skin I’m in and because of this I am far more confident in a bikini these days.
2. Bikini = fashion accessory and not just something to cover your privates. Brazilian girls hang out on the beach in their bikinis dressed up like tropical birds. I have never seen such an array of colourful and skimpy swimwear in different shapes and (minimal) sizes. Each time I saw a new one I’d think “no that one’s my favorite… actually no that one…”. Considering the sheer mass of almost naked young ladies on the beach, I became the centre of attention in my BIG black bikini.
So I visited a couple of shopping malls and stores in Rio including the Leblon Shopping and the boutiques on the streets of Ipanema.. Some of the mid to upper price range beach wear stores include Salinas, BumBum and the Girl From Ipanema store. These stores sell beautiful bikinis at a cost. One of the cutest bikinis I saw was bright pink with flamengo and piano key print all over. As cute and kitsch as the bikinis were, the nice ones were quite pricey ranging from a minimum of £30 just for the bottoms. I had to find a smart solution to this… I simply couldn’t spend a fortune on bikinis and one pair just wasn’t enought to compete with the girls at Ipanema!
My aunt introduced me to what is probably the most fantastic shopping experience I’ve ever had – Santa Clara 33. Santa Clara 33 is an eight floor mini shopping complex dedicated to beach wear and clothes. Budding young designers set up shop in Santa Clara in order to start up their bikini businesses. You can find anything and everything related to the beach at Santa Clara! I bought myself two bikinis at half the price on the highstreet. You can mix and match tops and bottoms and if you buy a few pairs they tend to give a nice discount. I find their designs much more exciting and original than those found in shopping mall stores.
There are street sellers who walk around the beach selling bikinis, sarongs, dresses and other bits and pieces for the beach. I would generally suggest sterring clear of these if you’re looking for good quality beach wear that you’d like to wear again and again. I bought myself a bikini on the beach and not only did it not offer support but after one wash it almost completely fell apart. I also bought a beach dress which appears to have survived a couple of hand washes but the elastic is already giving way. You can often find simple, white cotton dresses to wear to the beach at local markets or in Santa Clara 33. I bought my little white cotton dress in Botafogo market just off Rua Visconde da Silva. You’ll find some fantastic fashion and jewlry stalls at great prices and much more traditional gifts than having bought something at the shopping centres. There is also the day market in Copacabana in front of the beach and the hippie market in Ipanema on a Sunday.
So there you have it, beach wear in Rio that doesn’t cost a bomb. You can find more information on Santa Clara 33 at:
Or if you feel like breaking the bank a little:
What to Wear in Egypt
I’m sure many who have traveled to Egypt can relate to the (at times) tricky subject of what to wear when there. To be honest with you it really depends on where you go and what time of year you’re there. Either way, I’m sure those seeking advice on this topic would appreciate some helpful hints.
Firstly I’ll talk about the varying regions of Egypt and how this can affect dress code. If you’re visiting a resort such as the Red Sea resorts or Sharm el Sheikh then you don’t have to worry so much about what to wear. Seaside resorts are catered for Western guests. One thing to keep in mind is the heat. Wear cotton and linen and if like me you’re prone to burning then wear a hat or cover your shoulders. It can get particularly cold at night so carry a shawl around with you in the evening.
It’s a whole different story when you get to the cities, such as Cairo. Egypt is a Muslim country and though they don’t expect you to cover up or wear the hijab, it’s decent to show some respect and modesty by not letting it all hang out! If you don’t mind and decide to go out in denim shorts and a vest, don’t be surprised if people stars or make comments, it’s not the social norm. It can get very hot in Cairo so the trick is to wear light colour, cotton and linen. Steer clear of synthetic materials.
When visiting a mosque, Old Cairo or even downtown, dress conservatively. Low necklines should be avoided ladies, make sure there is no chest or lower neck on show. Cover your arms with a long sleeve cotton top, white and cream are your best friends. Carry a big bag around with you so you can keep a scarf (pashmina) with you at all times as you must cover your hair when inside a mosque. If you’re visiting various mosques in one day then wear shoes that you can easily slip off and carry in your hand as shoes are not permitted inside mosques and you can be charged to put your shoes and socks away.
I always wore a white tunic top with a high collar and long sleeves, you’d be amazed at how much attention a girl can get for wearing a thin t-shirt in more conservative areas. I mostly wore baggy boyfriend jeans or a long black skirt when visiting mosques. I wouldn’t suggest wearing high heels as the streets are dusty and uneven. I wore my Swedish clogs by Lotta From Stockholm. They’re secure, comfy, sturdy and cute and I absolutely love wearing them. When I wasn’t wearing these I wore simple open toe sandals, the pair I’m wearing in the picture I bought from a shoe shop in Zamalek for 140LE which is around £15, not bad for real leather.
You can buy Lotta From Stockholm clogs via their website (they even come nicely wrapped up like a present!):
The bag I’m carrying is a 14 inch Cambridge Satchel in Navy. I chose to take my satchel with me because it’s sturdy and has buckles to secure it shut, which I believe is safer than a zip bag. Plus I can wear it across my chest and hold it in front of me when walking through busy streets. Take a look or purchase a Cambridge satchel online, they even come in various colours:
There are more relaxed areas such as Zamalek (which hosts some great sheesha bars and restaurants), Maadi and Garden City which aren’t so conservative. I felt comfortable wearing skinny jeans, maxi dresses/skirts and short sleeve t-shirts. I would still advise ladies not to wear mini skirts or anything too figure hugging even in these areas. T-shirts are fine though even the most relaxed and Western dressing Egyptian girls tend not to expose their shoulders.
V-neck, batwing top and palazzo pants are both from Zara. These trousers are incredibly comfy and airy. The clogs are the same as before, Lotta From Stockholm. I do love my clogs! I found that Christian areas were less conservative. I was comfortable wearing t-shirts and clothes that didn’t cover me up as much in Coptic Cairo. I would suggest covering your shoulders when entering a church though this a custom when entering most Christian religious sites around the world.
I’ve recently developed a love for jewellery from Tribu a small boutique in Camden Market, London. Tribu source some of the finest and most delicate pieces from the East. The shop assistants are at hand to explain the history and symbolism of each piece, whether it be a tree of life pendant or a Hand of Fatima ring. The brass piece I own was originally a bracelet which I hung on a chain. The bracelet cost £25 and the chain cost £12, they have various sized chains to pick from. The second piece is gold plated, the Buddha cost approximately £30 and the disk was £75. I love them both equally. They are minimalist yet classic and different from anything you’d find in a chain or high street store. You can find Tribu stalls tucked away in the heart of Camden Market in London. Or alternatively, check out their website:
Lastly I’ll mention Alexandria. Alexandria appears to be far more conservative than the last time I visited the city back in 2006. I would definitely suggest covering arms, chest and legs at all times and especially when visiting mosques, Pompey’s Pillar and the Roman catacombs. Pompey’s Pillar and the catacombs are in a small district of Alexandria some 20 minutes out from the main train station. It can feel a bit extreme whilst walking through the small winding streets, Alexandrias staring at you and pointing you to the catacombs, small children trying to shake your hands and chasing after you down the street. Though it’s heart warming to see how welcoming these people are it can also be very in your face for the first time visitors to Alexandria. I loved every minute of it! Egyptians are warm and welcoming people and I only hope for the best after the revolution.