Monday, 24 August 2015

Shopping and eating out in Milano

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
If you follow my blog you will already know that I go to Milan the second to last weekend in August every year. It has now become almost a tradition as my friend and I have been going since the year 2000 without fail. 
The primary reason for going is to shop the upcoming winter collections but also to enjoy girl time - good food, wine and of course, the good weather is usually a given! The most noticeable thing is that everyone now speaks English which wasn't the case 15 years ago. Some of the shop assistants also speak Arabic, Chinese and Russian as the tourism has increased substantially from those regions.

As each year passes we have come to the conclusion that the only things worth buying as far as good value goes, are Italian brands as they can be
Window display Prada
considerably cheaper than the UK and most definitely the USA which hikes up the prices by more than double. Most cities around the globe are pretty similar when it comes to big name brands and although there are slight variations in collections, you may as well shop for them at home. Of course there are always independent boutiques which are worth browsing and for finding something unusual and stylish. With the Euro being weak right now, the exchange from Stirling gave us considerable savings from the prices quoted for the same items in England. And we're not talking a few pounds but up to £150 on a coat that I purchased. A bargain indeed!

Boutique in Brera
In my humble opinion, the collections this year were not that exciting .. they were a mishmash of slight variations from last year to a kaleidoscope of clashing colours with '70s undertones - great if you're 18-25. No clear direction that I could see and some of my favourite shops had nothing that I wanted. I like quirky and different but as you get older you have to be careful not to look too eccentric (unless you want to) and if you're young enough you can literally get away with almost anything. Having said that, I did find a few great pieces and I know that I am unlikely to see them on anyone else in London - I don't think I will look like a mad woman either! Happy HQ!

Half a club sandwich for lunch at Park Hyatt
Eating out is always a joy in Italy. Most restaurants give you a complimentary apĂ©ritif of Prosecco while you peruse the menu and wine list. We were able to eat al fresco on Friday and Saturday for both lunch and dinner thankfully, as by Sunday the weather had turned, starting off cloudy with drizzle, to showers all day, so we opted for an indoor lunch before we headed for home. 

Cobbled streets
Saturday night we ate in the Brera district a restaurant we had been to before Osteria di Brera. The tables outside are very close together so be prepared to share your conversation with your neighbour if need be! The food was delicious and very reasonably priced although the service was a little lax.  

After dinner we strolled back to the hotel in the warm night air .. digesting our food, passing the tarot card readers and window shopping all the little stores along the way. Milan is quiet in the evenings .. not much traffic and just the sound of people walking along the cobbled streets chatting. 
To be fair, August is relatively quiet anyway as a lot of the locals are away on vacation for the whole month. It used to be that there weren't many shops and restaurants open but all that has changed. Even the department store La Rinascente stayed open till midnight on Friday and shops are open on Sundays now too!

I also love buying food in Italy - olives, oil, Italian marmalade and biscotti. The supermarket in the city centre has now closed so the nearest place to shop is the 7th floor at La Rinascente, and the lower ground floor at Excelsior - both stores are nearby the Duomo.

Looking forward, maybe next year the collections will be a bit more exciting - although it's good for the budget when it's not.

They love a dog in Italy

Italian brands that we like - 
Max & Co  
Max Mara
Penny Black
Liu Jo 

HQ flew from London City Airport to Linate, Milano via Alitalia

Dealing with your hair in the summer .. tips from top London stylist Conor J Kelly

Summer is almost over in the Northern hemisphere but these tips from top London stylist Conor J Kelly are great for now and any holiday you may take during the winter.. and of course for those of you south of the equator!

The sun can damage your hair just as it does your skin. If you add salt water and chlorine to the equation, hair that started out as shiny and easy to manage at the beginning of your holiday can quickly begin to look and feel fried. The damage can be more obvious if your hair is colour-treated but even if it’s not, UV rays can dry it out and cause the dreaded frizz.

Fear not, help is at hand.

Start summer with a trim. You'll get rid of split ends and refresh your style. You might need a mid-season cut too.

Shield your hair from the sun. Make a daily habit of applying a hair care product that contains UV filters (these can be in spray, gel, or cream formulas). These products protect hair from sun damage and help keep colour-processed hair from fading. If you intend to spend lots of time outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat. Not only will it keep your hair from getting scorched, it will also protect your scalp and ears, areas that we often forget when applying sunscreen.

Saturate hair before taking a dip. If your hair is drenched with clean water or leave-in conditioner, it won't absorb as much salt water or pool chemicals.  It's also a good idea to try to rinse your hair after a swim. If there isn't a shower nearby, keep a spray bottle filled with fresh water.

Switch to a moisturising shampoo and conditioner. You may be washing your hair more frequently to deal with summer's sweat and grime. If you are using a clarifying, or anti-residue shampoo once a week to clear away product build-up and chemicals, be sure to follow with a deep-conditioning treatment.

Skip the hot tools. At least once or twice a week give your hair a break from blow dryers, straighteners and curling irons.

Outwit frizz. Hair that's healthy and well-maintained is your best defence against frizz. Along with regular trims and conditioning, a drop or two of an anti-frizz oil or serum can help smooth hair and add shine. When the air is humid frizz is going to happen. Don't waste your summer trying to fight frizz. Instead, find an easy go-to hairdo like a slick pony, high bun, or side braid for those high-humidity days.

If you would like advice about which products would best suit you, please ask. At the salon I use KMS California which is an extensive range with products to suit all hair types and situations.

To make an appointment with Conor

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Being a tourist in my home town and summer update ..

pink prosecco
Now that August is upon us, the days are getting noticeably shorter and darkness now falls by 9pm .. those hazy days of summer seem few and far between again this year. Granted we have had some beautiful days and a couple of scorchers but mingled in with some not-so-warm days and smatterings of precipitation - so our memories play tricks on us as we recall the perfect summers of our childhood. 

In two weeks time HQ will be in Milan, Italy again .. the annual girl's weekend for new season's clothes shopping has come around again so swiftly, there's barely been time to think about it! However, we are pretty organised when it comes to booking flight and hotels so that was sorted out months ago and the only funds we need take with us are purely for our entertainment and shopping! Yay can't wait!

Yesterday my friend and I played tourist in London and went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Audrey Hepburn exhibition Portraits of an Icon. We got a bus to Covent Garden and wandered through the market (something I haven't done in ages) and it was remarkably quiet which for me made it all the more enjoyable. We browsed a few shops and made our way to the gallery which is a short walk away in Trafalgar Square. The exhibition was relatively small but fabulous and if you like Audrey Hepburn then you really must try to get to see it. I have many books about her so I opted for a fridge magnet as my memento of the day! 

After a light lunch we walked to Embankment pier and picked up the Thames Clipper commuter boat and travelled on the river towards Greenwich taking in the iconic landmarks of London. I have to say I never tire of the view and there always seems to be more to see every time I take that trip. 

HMS President
Moored along the Victoria Embankment is the WWI ship HMS President which serves now as a bar/restaurant/conference centre. In July of last year a German artist Tobias Rehberger was commissioned to cover the ship entirely in dazzle camouflage design. The idea was originally used during WW1 as a way of distorting the appearance of the ship to make it hard for the enemy to target it accurately. An ingenious idea! I knew nothing of this before I'd seen this with my own eyes! You never know what you might learn day to day!

We had a lovely day out and have decided that we are going to try to do a culture day at least once a month .. there are so many galleries and exhibitions in town, it would seem rude not to!

#Hepburn #blogger #dazzleship