A citybreak suitcase

Thursday, 25 April 2013

As a little law commonly known as 'Sod' would have it, I am one of those people who tend to stand in front of their wardrobe wailing that I have nothing to wear. A great exaggeration, even by my standards! I do have things to wear - it just so happens that I don't seem have too many things that really -click- and go together. I may have made it known to a few people (or possibly the whole world, who can say?) that I feel like I'm forever on the quest to create my perfect capsule wardrobe: as in, a hustle of items that all fall together without so much as a fleeting doubt. For I am a massive doubt-head! I could throw an outfit together without a second thought, but it's that last dash past a mirror that sometimes gets me umming & ahhing - sometimes enough to make me turn around and change back into something truly in my comfort zone. Definitely an instance where less does truly equal more! And that's a massive reason why I love suitcase living.

Some people see packing a suitcase for your holidays as a chore but I love the challenge of it. I'm a total budget-airline-hand-luggage-only babe at heart which makes light packing absolutely vital. Not only do I have to lift it up into an overhead locker, but first it has to fit into the airline's size regulations - which is often the hard part! And you need to remember so much more than just your attire: your toiletries, books, electronic gadgety items (& inevitable chargers), towels and countless other little bits and bobs that you just cannot survive without. Don't forget pants! All in all, it leaves you with precious little space for all-important things to wear and this is where all-important stealth suitcase packing comes into play.

The trick is to figure out what goes together in your existing wardrobe. You definitely don't want to be creating huge problems by buying lots of last minute things in a rush just to fill up gaps (bad preparation) or make you feel good (worst) unless it's that vital perfect jean jacket you've been waiting for for years (been there, done that). Consider the kind of break that you're actually going on too: is it warm weather or breezy? Beach holiday or city break? Long-haul or quick weekend getaway? Then the rule I always go by is The Rule Of 10 Or Thereabouts (As In, 9 Or 11 Is Also Acceptable)™. That is the amount of core items that you should take away. Think tops, skirts, cardigans, dresses and shoes and don't count your jacket, socks and tights, key accessories and pants (obviously). Ten, in my mind, is a more than acceptable amount to be able to create lots of different outfit combinations. And if I can do it, then anybody can.

Since I knew that it would be a pleasant-weather kind of citybreak, I seized the opportunity to take only skirts - and it sure paid off! I alternated two skirts on different days and threw on different top, cardigan and shoe combos with them. I decided to take the same amount of shoes as I did skirts, which made for some nice swappage. Then I added a cardigan, two trusty t-shirts and two vest tops. They're not pictured, but on both air journeys I wore a pair of jean shorts. Are you keeping count, calculator ninjas? I do believe that's 10 items! And look at the combinations I got out of them.

There aren't an awful lot more tips I can dish out really, only common sense. Try and select things that naturally go together in colours that compliment each other. Go for more muted shades rather than lots of loud ones with no harmony at all. Don't go crazy for ALL THE PATTERNS; instead stick to just one or two, and try to make the rest of your pieces pattern-free. Do pick key accessories that go with absolutely everything such as a belt, a plain-coloured tote bag, a pair of sunnies, a scarf, watch, necklace, plain tights, a brooch that you can swap from your jacket to cardigans and back again, and neutral shoes. And if you've got a little extra room in your suitcase then don't be tempted to fill it up straight from your wardrobe, leave it be. I guarantee you will probably find yourself 'accidentally' shopping at some point. Hey, it happened to me! I only stumbled into H&M for a pair of sunglasses and the next thing I knew, I had bought a t-shirt and a cardigan from Pull & Bear. For some reason, stuff that you'd usually be on the verge of buying back at home is suddenly totally acceptable to snap up when you're on holiday. Probably a combination of both holiday I-don't-give-a-f___ and holiday money (which never seems to count, am I right?). Just be certain that it goes with everything pre-existing in your suitcase. Believe me, that's the last place stood infront of that you want to be wailing, "I have nothing to wear!"

And just in case you're at all interested, these were my items worn in the photos above. Jacket: H&M / Mint Green Cardigan: Primark / Blue Skirt: Glamourous / Floral Skirt: New Look / Grey T-shirt: H&M / Blue T-shirt: Urban Outfitters [donkeys years ago] / Red Vest: New Look / White Vest: Primark / Tan Brogues: Clarks / Blue Vans: Soletrader / Belt: vintage / Tote Bag: The Bronx band merchandise / Birdie brooch: Sunday Girl [donkeys years ago] / Sunglasses: H&M in Budapest.

Love padlocks

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

While on one of my afternoon strolls in the centre of Pest (aka. the eastern side of Budapest) I found myself in Deák Ferenc Square. It wasn't the first time, for this square seemed to be the centre of everything. I had stumbled upon it on my very first day, gasping for a coffee and later perused the tourist-trap market stalls with their arrays of magnets and souvenir paprika. I had passed through it on my way to meet a friend one evening, the metro station lending itself to be the central hub of all three metro lines. But it wasn't until this particular day - my last full day, in fact - that I had ambled through the actual square. In a way, it reminded me of any old town square: it had greenery and it had scenery. And as all squares do, it had something uncommon. Something to look at. Something that takes you totally by surprise. This something was love padlocks.

Love padlocks are exactly what they sound like: locks that are fixed to a structure to symbolise the 'everlasting' love between sweethearts. You write your names, nicknames or initials on them and perhaps a little message and then you get locking! They mostly appear on bridges over rivers (like the Seine in Paris, the Tiber in Rome, and the Guadalquivir in Seville to name but a few) where lovers may traditionally throw away the key into the water below so that the lock - the never-ending bond - may never be severed. Or they may choose to keep a key each as a memory. Other fixtures such as trees in Moscow, fountains in Montevideo, and fences in Pécs (also in Hungary) have since sprung up to play host to arrays of these declarations of love. All in all, there aren't many spots in the world that play host to myriads of padlocks and it seems that pretty much anything goes - but there are a lot of understandable annoyances surrounding them. The increasing weight of padlocks on some bridges means that councils have had to forbid the attachment of any more locks for fear that it would compromise the safety of the bridge. Also in the protection of certain listed or heritage structures, love padlocks are very quickly taken down after being put up. However it's not all doom and gloom as some cities truly embrace the phenomenom! Moscow even have special iron trees erected so that couples can continue their love-locking spree with no danger to the bridge nearby, and in Seoul the council installed a "key bin" so that keys were no longer thrown into the river and thus damaging the environment. Stealth!

In Deák Ferenc Square, these love padlocks are affixed to a railing around a tree. Despite research, I can't seem to find exactly how long lovers have been a-locking here but I sure hope they continue - and that maybe I can join in with all the fun one day. There must be literally over 1,000 locks on this teeny-tiny patch and I hope for all it's worth that most of these sweethearts are still together. Love!

Looking up in Budapest

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Very quickly, Budapest. I've just got back from possibly the most amazing city I've ever had the pleasure to visit and I have a ton of photographs to sift my way through but I just wanted a speedy second to share something with you all. If you ever feel stuck while sightseeing, as in you feel like you're just trundling along seeing the same ol' thing over and over, there's super simple little thing you can do to turn it all on it's head: look up. Honestly, you'll surprise yourself how much beauty you can find in rooftops and balconies and blue (or even grey) skies. For the streets will often be cool enough but the skyline will absolutely take your breath away. Trust me. Don't keep it all at ground level. ♥

Springing into action

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The clocks jumped forward! And all of a sudden the evenings are brighter and the sunshine is actually present. It may not be warm (yet) but boy, how that daylight at the end of a working day helps. Now I'm not one to jump on any ol' bandwagon but I've always wondered if I have a touch of the winter blues as I'm always reaching the top end of stroppy in the middle of March, but as soon as British Summer Time begins it's like I've drunk a magic potion. I'm excited! I'm chirpy! I can be in the most dandy of moods even with a hangover! And best of all? My productivity is upped by at least 150%. Spring, I'm ready for you. Here are some things I am really looking forward to...

1. Devour books like nobody's business.
You may think wintertime is the best time to get your nose stuck into a good book or six but I just can't seem to dig that. For me, it's the brighter seasons that make reading a lot easier. Think: reading your book in the park after work while you sun your bare legs, or sat on an inner-city coffee shop sofa with a frappe, or on an airplane to a warmer and new destination. I'm off to Hungary for a break in a couple of weeks and one of the main reasons I'm so excited is because I can finally lose myself in a few books! Finally, my Goodreads won't look so bare.

2. Find lots of wicked things to do in Budapest.
As I mentioned before, I'm taking a trip to Hungary in the middle of April and for many various reasons, I absolutely cannot wait. Firstly, I'll be visiting a brand new city which alone is more than enough to quench my thirst. The next two weeks will be spent ferociously studying all the best things to do, see and taste in Budapest (where I'm off to) and trying to grasp a couple of useful phrases (a little more than Bocsánat, nem tudok magyarul anyway!) that I can practice while out and about. Which also means I get to meet up with my little angel Hungarian ex-colleague to teach me her lovely language, which is long overdue! Secondly, this is the first break I have taken with my Mum and just my Mum, ever. I'm really looking forward to spending some quality time with her and also for her to show me around a city she is already familiar with (it doesn't happen this way around often). Lastly, I've been running off my feet with work the past few months and I haven't had a chance for a proper break; Budapest will be just the perfect place to lose myself a bit and feel completely out of reach from everything. I'm looking forward to slowly whiling away time reading, writing and general wandering.

3. Getting back to healthy living.
I've got a confession: I'm a bit of a fairweather fitness fanatic. In the summertime I'll run races, I'll swim the channel, I'll cycle to Brighton and back, I'll practice Pilates all night. I'll do it all! But come the winter, I go into the most drastic of shutdowns where my morning sit-ups are replaced by an almighty strop ("I don't WANT TO get up!") and running suddenly becomes nothing more than a sprint to the supermarket for lazy food. Shameful! It's safe to say that I have truly let go over the past few months to the point of beginning to feel a little bit flubbery (as in: woah, my jeans feel a bit tight all of a sudden) and I need to get back on it like Sonic. Because I love a bit of planning, I am having the best time finding lots of low-fat and healthy recipes to conjure up and trying to work out where my workouts can go in my busy weeks - now it's all about putting it into practice.

4. Take a photograph every day.
Did you know I recently got a smartphone? Because I am the last person/dinosaur on the planet to do just about anything, it means Instagram is suddenly EXCITING!!1! again, if only for me! What I love about Instagram is that it's Twitter in pictures, practically. Where you're not being as witty or interesting as you can be in 140 characters, you have to be as eyecatching and descriptive as possible in one little square box. And as a total magpie photographer, I really madly love it! It also makes it so easy to get on with A Photo A Day-kinda projects; there are not many places you could possibly be without your phone or where you may have forgotten it. So from April 1st 2013 until March 31st 2014 I'll be recording daily snapshots. Who knows? It may even give me an excuse to do a round-up every month(!)

5. Be more firm and stand my grounds, amongst other things.
Basically, a little attitude overhaul. I say grounds because while I'm only thinking of one or two areas in my current life, I want this to start applying to everything - and this is definitely not to say that I'm a pushover! But more like I am one of those people who just wants to make everything okay. I do like a bit of pleasing people, even sometimes at the expense of my own enjoyment. I am also a total Yes Girl and I just need to train myself that I cannot say yes to everything. I need to not only get tough with myself but other people too. I think the change of the seasons and of your age (especially around the mid-20s mark) really make you evaluate what's important and brilliant and what you need to address and shake up a bit.

6. Simplify!
In other words, sort out the mountains of junk that accumulate my life room! I really want to get back to basics ASAP so it's no other time but spring clean time! Black binbags time! eBay time! And all those other times that come with. And this time (as I've said so many times): I mean it!

7. Get back on the blogging bandwagon.
I think being a bit fairweather between seasons and having a touch of the winter blues play a lot into this. Having recorded most of my life in some form, I am not about to give it up any time soon but every now and then I get a little bogged down by it all and (shock! horror!) sometimes just want to erase everything. That's the worst! Usually in the winter, too. I can't imagine not having all these diaries and journals to look back on when I'm older and remember all the minute details, but I somehow feel that in the last one or two years there has been a bit of a gap where I haven't written so much. Understandable, right? But being so busy with work now, I need to find different approaches to keep it not only exciting for me, but easy for me to follow through with. While I'm on the learning curve, maybe I'll pick up a few tips for you all!

8. Let go, or figure it out.
This very time last year, I'd put in an offer to buy a two-bedroom flat with my other half. It was rejected. At this very moment this year, I am sat in my bed writing this post. It is not the same bed I slept in this time last year, and I am not with that other half anymore. To write just about that mere thought and this little feeling is quite surreal and it seems sudden, but then I realise I've cartwheeled through the best part of a year in a haze. I've never quite stopped and stared at it all square in the face before. And there's nothing more I can say to this without getting terribly rambly (and we don't want that) that just saying I need to do that.

9. Enjoy myself.
Because when it's all said and done, with all of this I can at least enjoy myself. I can finish every day with a smile. I can wake up with happiness. I can look forward to tomorrow and the next day, instead of just a month from now or three months from now. And when the spring has sprung it's last, I can look back (hopefully) and say that I made the most of it. I had a good time. I did everything that I wanted to do, and perhaps a little bit more. And I'll be ready for the summer!