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29 Nov 2019

Cyprus in November | Almyra

'Where is hot in Europe in Winter' was probably my top google search term once the temperatures dropped this year, along with I imagine most of the UK, and it just so happened that Cyprus ticked all the boxes, promising much warmer climates than London. We stayed at the Almyra hotel, situated on the shoreline of Paphos and about 20 minutes from Paphos airport. It has a boutique vibe about it with a modern, white-wash feel, but was a lot bigger than we anticipated. There's a spa attached to the hotel which we made the most of everyday, with both an indoor and outdoor (infinity) pool that very few in the hotel seemed to know about. They were our go-to spots for basking in the sun. We also had incredible massages (first time having a massage on holiday; what have I been doing all this time...), used the sauna and gym which were also both basically empty every time we went. Given the time of year, it was relatively quiet with mostly retired couples spending weeks upon weeks there, but I'd imagine gets pretty busy peak season with families and children considering the amount of rooms the hotel has. Perhaps what it lacked in heat occasionally (hot enough to sunbathe but gets pretty chilly around 4pm onwards), the quietness of the hotel definitely added to the relaxation of it all. In fact, I think it is probably the most relaxing hotel I've ever stayed in...!

The weather was around 22-24 degrees everyday; quite a few locals remarked it was warmer than usual for this time of year and we definitely had a fair share of cloud and wind, but just the right amount to feel like your catching some rays and very, very far away from drizzly London. Perhaps what it lacked in "perfect" weather occasionally, the quietness of the hotel definitely added to the relaxation of it all. In fact, I think it is probably the most relaxing hotel I've ever stayed in. Needless to say, the food was incredible. As a self-confessed slave to halloumi, I was in my element and interspersed my Cypriot cheese fixes with veggie moussakas, zucchini croquettes and Keo, the local beer (does that count as a dish...?). Almyra has a sister hotel next door (Annabelle) and both hotel restaurants had particularly good food in comparison to what else was on offer in Paphos. Ouzeri was our favourite and one we went back to a couple of times and right on the shore. 

 Call me basic, but one of the things I was most looking forward to about this trip was getting fully absorbed in a book, with only mealtimes and light refreshments being the interruptions. Expectation by Anna Hope was my book of choice and it didn't disappoint. Covering the broad spectrum of complexities within female friendship against the close-to-home backdrop of East London, Expectation tells the story of the relationship of three women as they grow up, measured by their own expectations of what it takes to be a women in today's society. A-maz-ing. 



You can find out more about the Almyra hotel here
All photos taken by myself.


20 Sep 2019

Let's Layer | Missoma 1987 Collection

Let's face it, we're all obsessed with Lucy Williams' effortless style and she really can do no wrong from a sartorial gaze. Rarely a day goes by that I'm not converted or at the very least window shopping over her Instagram feed, so when she collaborates with a brand, we take note. I'm no stranger to Missoma jewellery, in fact over the last two years, their necklaces and rings have been at the top of my birthday list (which my own Instagram feed can testify to), and their on-going collaborations with Lucy have been the perfect pairing. The latest collectionthe 1987 collectionwas inspired by her mother's jewellery box, mixed up with some 80s nostalgia. It's rife with pendants, chains and chunky charms that you just want to layer and there's even a very good Spotify playlist. 

The first thing that caught my eye in the collection was the Mini Ridge Cross Necklace. I'm a necklace-layering-fanatic (is that a thing?) and this one works perfectly with a lot of other necklaces I had already. The chain is almost as short as a choker so the cross sits above other chains so it doesn't get lost in the mix. The Flat Curb Chain Necklace is another one of my favourites; instantly giving the plainest of t-shirts an edge. They work just as well on their own, if you're wanting more delicate pieces. Second to necklaces, statement earrings are my fail-safe way of dressing up any outfit. As soon as I saw the Waffle Hoops on, I was sold. Bold without being over the top, they have a plaited design and don't make your ears feel like they're going to fall off—rejoice! Honestly, this collection is full of so many gems, my wishlist won't be falling short any time soon. The next piece I've got my eye on is the Lucky Charm Bracelet for obvious reasons...

I'm wearing: 

This post contains affiliate links and gifted items.


22 Jul 2019

Gold Accents with CLUSE.

Hot weather dressing is all the more alluring when it's teamed up with gold accents that take clothes to an outfit. It's no surprise that my magpie tendencies are much more present in the warmer weather; more skin on show means more room for wrist candymy instagram is essentially a gold chain and watch showroom right now. The newest addition to my collection is from CLUSEone of the new La Tetragone links watches (this one has a single-link strap, but the collection has three-linked and mesh straps, also!), and it's quickly become an every day wearer given the delicate nature of the design and the fact it goes with just about everything I own. Over time I've found that the simpler the watch, the more longevity it has and this one definitely fits that bracket. Pairing it with a lightweight smock dress and a pair of sunglasses is honestly my failsafe get-up right now; effortless and easy to wear, yet all the components of a thought-out look and the easiest pieces to mix-and-match. 

It seems almost unthinkable that it's technically only the beginning of summer given that we've been having hot hot days since the first May bank holiday months back. It takes a lot for me to get out of the funk of wearing jeans day-in, day-out but warm weather you can't ignore, a tan I want to make the most of and city humidity has accumulated to a change in wardrobe staples this year, admittedly for the better. Cotton dresses and midi skirts have become my favourite things to chuck on be it for work or playwho knew they were just as comfortable as denim, if not more so, and it's also been a much needed push in the direction of wearing colour again, because as cliche as it is, wearing colour really does bring up your mood. Granted, I haven't ventured miles away from neutrals, but the occasional red mini dress is what summer is all about and accessories like this make it all the more easy. When choosing jewellery, unless it's more statement pieces like rings, I opt for thinner chains and pendants so I can layer to my heart's content--there is no less is more with jewellery in my eyes! This chain bracelet duo from the Essentielle collection are beautiful individually, together or even layered with other bracelets. Likewise with the Force Tropicale pendant necklace; more statement in design being inspired by the jungle with an embossed snake on the pendant and a twisted chain, but just as delicate as the rest of the pieces and I love wearing it with a shorter chain to layer up.

La Tetragone Links watch in Gold | CLUSE.
Chain bracelet duo | CLUSE. 
Force Tropicale Pendant Necklace | CLUSE.
Dress | HM (similar here)
Sunglasses | Topshop

This post was made in collaboration with CLUSE. // All photos are my own.

26 May 2019

First Time in Fes | Morocco in May.

This was my second time visiting Morocco having been and loved Marrakesh a few years ago, this time round it was to Fes, the inland region in Northern Morocco and being in serious need of some sun, finding cheap London flights to here came at the best time. I travelled with my two best friends in the middle of May via bittersweet Ryanair (admittedly it was relatively smooth sailing for once...); and for only a three hour flight to get almost forty degree heat, the promise of some traditional Moroccan cuisine (it had been years since I'd had tagine) and an escape that feels a million miles away from home, it was undoubtedly a good decision.

First impressions of Fes were pretty overwhelming. Boldy or perhaps naively, travelling to Morocco as a small group of girls was something we hadn't spent too much time thinking over before we went, and arriving there on our first night with no bearings and being approached by men trying to 'help' every other step took some getting used to. When I visited Marrakesh previously, I was part of a bigger group so the difference in experience was something that struck me. Also, navigating around the Medina and it's maze-like streets is not easy in daylight, let alone after sundown; without having google maps on hand I think we'd probably still be stuck in there somewhere. Needless to say, I would wholeheartedly recommend speaking with your hotel to organise someone to help you get around at least for the first couple of nights when you're going out for dinner or walking far from where you're staying in the day. People are happy to offer this service, for instance when you're out eating at a restaurant, you can ask the staff to organise a guide to come and pick you up to walk you back to your riad (it's essentially your walking talking Uber pool); you just have to tip them afterwards. We also travelled during Ramadan which meant some things were understandably slightly more limited, less menu options available and some places were closed, but on the whole it didn't affect us day to day. 

First-time Hammam.
One of my favourite experiences in Fes was in the middle of our trip. I've wanted to try a traditional Hammam (admittedly not really knowing what it was, just that it was the spa-like "thing" to do in Morocco) and given it was followed up by a massage, couldn't go far wrong. A lot of the hotels we visited had spas and hammams, but we opted for a traditional hammam spa in the Medina called Mernissi Spaprice wise it was 400MAD (about £32) for a 30min massage and hammamprobably the cheapest massage we'll ever have. It was definitely a no-frills spa; renowned for it's good reputation over insta-worthy or picturesque interiors, in fact a lot of it was a bit of a building site so don't expect to be snapping any pretty pictures in there (aside from the absolutely incredible ceiling) but do expect to be immersed in a traditional and unique experience. We opted for a public hammam which are always split between men and women but you can book private ones as well. Given you end up just in your bikini bottoms for most of it, we figured it might be less awkward in the communal ones. Without spoiling it too much, you're steamed, scrubbed and washed thoroughly; a process which locals have been practising for years, since ancient times and continue to do this ritual today so it is very immersive. FYI—it's definitely more vigorous than an exfoliation you'd do in your bathroom - that's for sure - and the communal washing situation isn't for everyone, but it's an amazing way of experiencing part of the cultural tradition and on top of that you'll have silky-soft skin the next day not to mention leaving ultra-relaxed. 

The Tanneries 
Probably one of the most recommended and famous thing to do in Fes is the Tanneries. They are huge stone vessels that have been used for centuries to dye leather; absolutely fascinating to watch and a spectacle to see. Pre-warning, they stink and if you're a vegetarian, you might think twice about going. The Chouara tannery is the one we visited and a short walk through the Medinayou view them from a terrace accessible from the Medina (maps or a guide hugely useful here). To lessen the stench, you'll be given a stem of mint to hold under your nose while you're there, and trust me, you'll be spoilt for choice with men offering to take you up their terrace to view them... but they're all the same and are fine once you're there. It's one of the rare times in life that seeing a huge group of tourists actually gives you reassurance over eye-rolling. Initially it does feel like you're being taken for a ride in accepting a hassle-y demand to go up to one of the viewing points with a 'guide' and allow them to be glued to your side until you tip them, but there's no real way round it (that we tried...!) and perhaps organising a guide before hand is an option. The guide will also take you through a series of leather showrooms on your way down, but expressing that you're not really interested in shopping the leather is ok (unless you are!); we learnt to say no very quickly.  We also spent a lot of time in rooftop bars, swimming in hotel pools and wandering through the souks in search of wicker, so although you're amidst a bustling city, there's still ways to escape and unwind as if you weren't. 

Other things to do.
A salvaged situation from a guide's mis-direction and a haphazard taxi journeywe ended up at Art Naji; a ceramics factory outside of the Old Town (you'd need a taxi to get there but they are incredibly cheap and everywhere you look). We were shown around the factory by a tour guide, walking through each step of the process that is involved in crafting the incredible ceramics that you see all over the medina. Although by then we were somewhat alert to the waffle you are fed about being given a 'special discount' and the tour guide doesn't expect - it's one of those things you end up sucking up and doing for the experience. Needless to say we came back from Fes with hand luggage full of terracotta pots that were bought justified in the belief they will be useful in storing 'bits' and looking pretty...

We found food to be quite hit and miss unless you researched the places you were going beforehand. Traditional moroccan food is on almost every menu and although delicious, if you're looking for more of a variety of cuisines, I've listed a couple below that we loved for both lunch and dinner...

Places we ate: 
L'Ambre Fez at Riad Fez - Grilled vegetable tart was delicious and the most beautiful location for a calm, ambient lunch by the fountains.
Cafe Clock - Well-known in Fes for it's relaxed and almost bohemian roof-terrace, it's got a good lunch menu and does events, workshops and even rooftop cinema.
Maison Moi Anan - Thai food for when you're wanting a break from Moroccan cuisine. I didn't go to this one myself due to illness but my friends said the food was good.
The Ruined Garden - Undoubtedly the most popular restaurant in the medina. Amazing garden, food and deserved of it's reputation. Would recommend going by during the day to book a table. Many people told us it was closed when we approached it as a ploy to take us to other restaurantspersevere and go in yourself; it is more than likely to be open!  
Fez Cafe  - Similar beautiful outdoor setting to the above with a slightly smaller menu. 
Dar Roumana - One of our favourite meals; incredible food and wine with a Moroccan and French hybrid menu. Idyllic for a special occasion or a 'last-night-meal' scenario. 
Mezzanine - If you're looking for a relaxed vibe, cocktails and some tapas, head here for sundown. Good prices and even better Campari Spritza rare find in the Old Town and one we went back to a couple of times. 

Surviving the heat and sourcing a pool.
Arriving in the middle of an almost forty degree heatwave was a body shock coming from the ever-drizzly London, even for a sun junkie, and with no beach plus a distinct lack of pool at our riad (accommodation with a pool was very hard to come across), we had to research to find some which were usually in the grander hotels. We found that most hotels will charge you for pool use (we paid up to 200MAD which is about £16 each at Riad Fes) but some hotels also offer pool access as part of a package given they're so in demand (at Riad Faraj we paid 450MAD for a three course lunch as well as the pool). Perhaps because of the time of year we travelled, we were essentially the only ones there at most of the hotels we visited which was an unexpected luxury. Riad Fes was our favourite hotel for all of the above; lounging in the sun on the roof terrace (on the comfiest of sofas with an ice-cold Casablanca beer), an incredible menu for when you're hungry and a tranquil pool situ complete with wicker hats on the sun beds all located in the Old Town Medina. There's also a spa which we didn't use but it looked incredible and made the entire hotel smell like heaven. Palais Faraj was a close second living up to it's name; slightly further out of the Medina but similar in style -- three course lunch on the sun-drenched roof terrace and an idyllic afternoon of reading by the pool. Most of the riads and hotels are built in a square shape so if you're a sunseeker then you'll want to get there early to make the most of it as shade approaches fast. Given the heat, shade quickly becomes your best friend after a while, anyway.

All photos taken by myself on iPhone 8 Plus. // @aestheticalblog

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