Settling into London took absolutely no time. The perpetual gloom didn’t even phase me or my style, as I just kept my head covered with a hat at all times (not a problem in my eyes). One of my favorite days in London was spent walking Portobello Road with all the street vendors and amazing restaurants in Knotting Hills. And yes, I did stop by the blue door from the movie for a picture when no one was looking. The street vendors alone had such amazing food (paella cooked in huge vats, crepes, donuts!!!), but we couldn’t help but pop into a tapas place that offered a unique experience as well as delicious food. Even the coffee shops were fun to be in. Paul and I are considering opening a restaurant and just recruiting the best of London (mixologists, baristas, bakers, chefs, etc.). London will be sorely missed.
Oh, London. I already miss you. Originally Paul and I had planned to stop through London on our way home for a few days but kind of knew that it wasn’t the main attraction of our trip. Surprisingly, the 5 days we spent in London weren’t quite enough. While we were ready to come home after 13 days of trekking, fighting the cold, and spending tons of money, we really really really loved London and almost wished we had spent more time there. Paul had been to London once before and made it clear he did not like it. “The food sucks, the weather sucks, and it’s way too expensive” was his take on the city. Upon leaving, however, it went something more like, “The food was better here than Paris, the weather is the same as Paris so it doesn’t count, and yes, it’s still expensive but at least I feel like I’m getting value out of my money.” Here is what we learned:
10 Things I learned in London:
1. British food is not my thing. I don’t really do fried or mushy anything, but they have a seriously good variety of other cuisine, which was all very noteworthy and good.
2. The St. James’s Hotel + Club has a mixologist named Judy who makes the best anything! We gave her free reign and she got us happy, drunk, and very satisfied.
3. The Egerton House Hotel has a famous dirty martini maker named Antonio who is a legend. We were lucky enough to have him all to ourselves for a night and again, we were very happy, drunk, satisfied, and entertained by his stories of debauchery with celebs.
4. The Metro is much more difficult in London. We wasted more than a handful of rides on the Metro getting on the wrong train…including on the last day on the way to the airport.
5. Harrods is out. of. control.
6. The newspaper is not dead in London. Everyone reads it and shares pages on the Metro. It’s rather nice and refreshing to see such a communal act of kindness towards utter strangers.
7. The people in London are so damn attractive! I didn’t get too up close and personal to check out those infamous bad teeth, but everything else was on point!
8. The Shard has a restaurant on the 32nd floor that has a 360 degree view of London. While the meal is on the pricier side, it’s probably less expensive than paying to go up to the very top and not getting anything to eat or drink.
9. Big Ben is smaller than he seems in the movies.
10. Buckingham Palace is less grand than I imagined. Will and Kate do not live there, the Queen does. She’s only there Monday-Friday. On the weekends she goes to her country home. I did get some insider info on my favorite of the group, Pippa, but will keep that to myself :)
The Sacre Coeur…what can I say? The view of all of Paris is extraordinary, and we lucked out by being there on a sunny day. What was unlucky, you ask? Well, the fact that there was approximately 3 millions people there. From the second we stepped off the Metro we were immediately immersed in what can only be described as a parade of people (dysfunctional tourists) marching up to the top of Sacre Coeur. I know I sound super snotty about tourists, being one myself and all, but I pride myself on being a non-annoying tourist. Yes, I take pictures (of myself) but I do it in areas that don’t block other people or cause a stir (*expect that time I ran into the intersection by the very busy Champs Elysees for a picture). In fact, Paul and I didn’t even ask anyone to take a photo of us together so our Paris/London album is purely a compilation selfies. Oh well. Back to the subject at hand, the Sacre Coeur made for a fun little day trip and we even stopped by the exorbitantly pricey Moulin Rouge since that was my favorite movie growing up. Yep, my childhood favorite movie is about a glorified brothel. “Vou les vous coucher avec moi?”
More on Paris. I realize after my 10 Lessons Learned in Paris post I sounded somewhat cynical about the City of Love. Not to be misconstrued with cynicism, my honest thoughts on the city are just that. Honest. I spend 8 nights in Paris and found that after night 4 was going to have to take matters into my own hands. Meaning: I was no longer going to reference the long list of “hotspots” I so appreciated having with me from friends and family. Instead, Paul and I came back to our Parisian apartment each evening and spent hours researching where our next stop would be. See, we aren’t your typical couple that likes to frequent places loaded with tourists or lines. We enjoy quality food, good ambiance, and sometimes a challenge. My favorite place to eat was hands-down L’étage. It’s on the Rue de Buci and located above an Italian deli. They don’t advertise the place, it seats about 25 people, the lights are dim, the service polite, drinks mixed perfectly, and food exquisite. Our kind of place.
The pictures you are seeing are clearly not in a restaurant. I won’t bore you with the many food pictures I took, instead I will share some of my favorite shots through Paris. This was actually our final day in Paris, and after having explored every. single. part of Paris I was ready to just take a stroll along the Seine and “relax.” Of course by relax I mean start at Locks of Love and walk all the way to Notre Dame…
Bonjour! I’m back. It took me approximately 48 hours to bounce back from the jet-lag and such, but I am recovered, revitalized, educated, and ready to share. If you are behind in the journey that is my life, I have been in Paris and London for the last 2 weeks. My fiancé and I planned an impromptu trip to Europe over the summer as a nod to us being young, adventurous, and quite frankly, I was bored. We had an incredible time exploring–well, him basically dragging me all around (by foot, mind you)–eating, drinking, and meeting legends (sort of…more on that later). To sum it up for you I have compiled my most treasured lessons learned while traveling around Paris and London, myth busters, and will slowly share more photos that depict our days, style, and unexpected artsy fartsy moments.
Lessons I learned in Paris:
1. Not every cafe is phenomenal. While most serve a pretty damn good cafe viennois (their version of a “vanilla latte” aka strong coffee with whipped cream), the food is not so hot.
2. Paris is a much more beautiful place with sunshine. We lucked out with 2 whole days of sunshine amid the dreary weather and it was breathtaking.
3. The Metro is easy. We even got so comfortable that we started hopping the ticketed area like the locals. Oh, and I memorized the stops. My impression of the announcer is dead on.
4. A boulangerie (bakery) is crucial to your existence in Paris. Fresh baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat, macarons…you get it. I had no shame biting right into the baguette as I walked the streets. Paul did.
5. Speaking of macarons, a rose macaron from Laduree (I’m cliche, I know) is a must. Skip all the other colors. This one is pink and delicious.
6. A simple bonjour, bonsoir, au revoir will get you places in Paris. Sure, they knew I was American before I even walked in but at least I tried, right?
7. Shopping is not better in Paris. The exchange rate actually makes things more expensive so I now have a list of items spotted in Paris that I will be purchasing in the US.
8. Rue de Buci is the best street for stopping into pretty much any restaurant and being blown away. One major find: L’étage, an Italian spot above a deli is O U T S T A N D I N G.
9. Sorry, but not waiting 2.5 hours to get into the Lourve. Oh sorry, now it’s 4 hours. We came back TWICE and the line was out of control. Same goes for the Eiffel Tower. Luckily we went into the tower one night at midnight and avoided the mess.
10. New Years Eve is not a real thing in Paris. Sadly, we got semi-dressed-up and spent a small fortune at dinner (prices were raised by 30% for no real reason, as they don’t do anything special), only to discover it was just another night in Paris. As we wandered back to our apartment to start the real celebration (pop champagne) we got lost but shared a sweet kiss in the street at the stroke of midnight.
Cheers to my new adventure with my best friend, Lily Adel! We have launched a new style blog that is purely for the love of fashion and art. I hope you will travel over to Au Contraires (meaning opposites in French, btw) and show us some love. In fact, I won’t even share any more details, or any of our fabulous, and I mean fabulous, photoshoots. Just know that this is a collaboration that has been in the making for over a decade and I am so beyond excited to share it with everyone.
It’s a tradition of mine to write these out on paper, scour Pinterest for corresponding images, and mark them permanently into my blog for the world to see and hold me to! Forget cheesy, these are genuine and real resolutions that I have put a lot of thought into. Wishing you a wonderful, happy, and safe New Years Eve. Looking forward to all 2014 has in store for you and me. Thank you for making 2013 an unforgettable year for me!
Well, I’m off! I’m really going to Paris and it is still almost too goo to be true. For the next 13 days I will be exploring a new city, drinking tons of wine and coffee, eating too much cheese and bread, and thoroughly enjoying life. There will be some pauses in blogging, as I would like to just take everything in and bring you back a fabulous recap. However, you can always follow my travels and adventures on my personal Instagram (sivanayla) to see where I am at all time ;) Here’s wishing everyone had a wonderful holiday! 2014 is just days away and I know we are all excited for a fresh start. Stay tuned for my resolutions and a BIG new project that I am beyond excited to announce.
Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-WAH, has always been readily available to be cooked in my kitchen but never quite made it. Something about the blandness or card-boardy taste just didn’t do it for me. Paul recently proclaimed that he would love a “quinoa salad with mint” and that was all it took for me to realize that quinoa, like a basic white t-shirt, just needed accessorizing (or flavored ingredients in this case) to make it good. I would recommend making a batch of this salad and refrigerating it, as it lasts almost all week and makes for the perfect little (healthy) snack.
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Garlic cloves, shaved
- Cook the quinoa according to your box (each one is slightly different).
- Chop up the tomato, cucumber, beets, mint, and crumble the feta.
- In a separate small bowl, mix up 1 tblspn of olive oil, 3 shaved garlic cloves, and squeeze the juice of an entire lemon. Add a little salt & pepper.
- Combine quinoa, chopped ingredients, and top with salad dressing.
- Eat while warm the first time and refrigerate the rest (can be eaten cold later).
It is about that time I start to think about resolutions for the new year and take a moment to evaluate where I’m at currently. This time last year I was still partaking in the hustle and bustle of the fashion industry in downtown Los Angeles. I was irately sitting in traffic for 2 hours a day, getting seriously underpaid and overworked with no promise for growth or reward, surrounded by miserable people trying to make me equally as miserable. It was a blessing in disguise being let go from my last position, as it forced me to seriously make some changes in my life. I vowed to never be subjected to that lifestyle and phoniness ever again.
Almost a year later, I have been through a lot. Shortly after finding myself “jobless” (because who is ever really jobless?) I jumped into something too quickly that ended on a bittersweet note. I learned a lot about business and how to choose the people you work with. Sure, I made mistakes, but I learned many lessons: how to say No; never teach everything you know; creativity cannot be learned; authenticity is everything.
It wasn’t long before I moved forward and decided to use my creative talents and join forces with one of my best friends. Together we are a better duo (MUSE) that are doing what we love for people we love. And shortly after that, my best friend and I finally collaborated to bring the universe a platform to admire and share our personal style. Au Contraires, launching 1.1.14, is our art and is going places.
I got engaged. The happiest day of my life was when my best friend asked me to marry him (he may have forgotten to actually ask out of nervousness but I knew what he was getting at with the ring and all…). Period. I cannot even compare the feeling to anything else in the world. It is magical; the most amazing time in my entire life, and I get sad just thinking about the fact that the day he asked is getting further away each day. While our wedding in Greece will be beautiful, it will still be a close second to the day we got engaged. It was that good.
Today, December 16th at 6:31p.m., I am finding myself somewhat frustrated and eager to be somewhere else (Paris). I crave change, culture, wine, cold weather. I want to spend time with my fiance in a place where we can forget about the petty bullshit of our life in Los Angeles and truly enjoy one another. I want to rediscover myself in a new way that is untapped and evolved. I will be ringing in 2014 somewhere in Paris with Paul. We don’t have any big plans, just the hope for adventure, excitement, and memories. 2014 will be different. I promise.