Europe Taught Me…

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I’ve been, well, everywhere in the past few weeks. Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Nashville! Oh the glamour. If you’ve been to Nashville, you know glamour, amirite?

I am so fortunate to have a job that sends me all over the world, and not just because I love to travel. The experience of seeing new things and checking the box on a new country is, to me, secondary to the things you learn from people in other countries. For example, in France two weeks ago, I learned that even though my French is “making progress” (which is nice person code for “still pretty bad”) I am still nowhere near fluent enough to be ordering things unsupervised. Especially not cocktails. Some cocktails are delicious, while others may or may not taste like mushroom. What is a martini rouge? Still don’t know, and also do not recommend that you order one yourself. Unless you like your drinks like you like your mushrooms: mushroom-esque.

Key learning #1: stick with wine. This is just a life learning, really.

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The other (and probably more important) takeaway from this trip was around spontaneity. I’m a major planner and I love checking things off a list and getting shit done. I haven’t always been this way, but that’s what we’re working with now. Traveling with a colleague who is the complete opposite of that was a wonderful exercise in letting go of planning and fully embracing a wander mentality. Shall we hop on a train to Milan and wander with gelato in hand? Yes. Shall we hop on a train to Zurich and spend hours touching soft things in their opulent department stores? Yes. Would that have made a daily agenda item? No. Am I extremely delighted it happened? YES. Always make time to wander.

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Other things I learned:

. Swiss people are the nicest people in the world. Courteous, friendly, and kind. And with its big city amenities, college town energy, and alpine air, Zurich is the most perfect city in the world. I’m moving.

. Tina Turner also lives in Zurich. This newfound knowledge neither persuades nor dissuades me.

. Fondue makes a great lunch. And snack. And dinner.

. Do not buy the large bottles of interesting beer at the beginning of the day. Rookie move all the way.

. Italians are too cool for you. They are also too cool to explain things to you, so if you want that panini you gotta throw some ‘bows and yell at somebody until you get it. But seriously, jump in there.

. It pays to leave extra room in your carry-on to bring back chocolate.

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Have you been anywhere recently? What did you learn? DO TELL!

Basel

Basel

Of all the places I’ve wanted to go in the world – and there are many – Basel, Switzerland, was never on the list. Not for a lack of wanting, mind you. It’s just that Klosters takes the glitz, Zurich takes the glam, and Zermatt gets whatever is left. Small, unassuming Basel wasn’t even in the periphery.

Luckily for me, the world is a wonderfully mysterious place, and I’m headed to Basel next week! I know very little about this gem of a city and I’d LOVE any recommendations and tips from those of you who’ve been before.

Thank you!

Image via the beautiful blog All Things Lovely

Street Style: London

What I love most about visiting other countries isn’t the food or the music or the museums – though I do love all of that, as my indulgence in fish and chips, Jamie Cullum, and many, many art museums last week can attest – but the fashion. I love seeing what women all over the world are wearing where they live, and I also love to see what looks and ideas I can steal and get away with back home.

London was rife with great summer fashion this week – especially since their recent heat wave made it impossible to stay covered up in those omnipresent trench coats! Below, some trends worth stealing and savoring for ourselves here in the states.

London loud print pants

Printed Pants

The London Look: The Brits are unashamed about wearing a big, bold printed pant about town. From students to stylish ladies who lunch, everyone was into this trend. I saw big landscapes, tribal prints, florals and ikat, to more subtle prints like stripes or polka dots, all the way down dainty swiss foulard and a light summer Chevron. For those ready to be bold, London-style, Topshop has tons of fun prints, like florals, Aztec, and animal print.

London print pants

Steal it Stateside: Not ready to be so bold? J. Crew has fabulous prints that are a touch more neutral, as in this lighter Liberty floral, or this bright (but not too loud!) Jacquard.

Images via Street Peeper (top) and The Telegraph (bottom)  

London silkscreen top

Photographic Tees

The London Look: Young London is all about photographic tees that represent their worldview, their ethos. Usually paired with distressed denim or high rise jorts. Yes, I just typed the word jorts. Somewhere seriously. That is a trend I still can’t get behind. I’m a square, don’t care. Some of my favorite tees said “wild” or “BE FREE!” or everyone’s seeming favorite (as it was everywhere) “NYC.” Londoners seem to be obsessed with New York.

London rocker tee

Steal it Stateside: To lady-up this trend, which is what I would do, you can find a beautiful floral or rep the homeland and pair it with a classic cardi and only-half-ironic pearl earrings and a delicate purse. And Chuck Taylors. Because always.

Images via Vogue (top) and LDNFashion (bottom)
 

London peter pan collar

Ladylike Detailing

The London Look: Just because K-Mid is out of sight yet clearly not at the Lindo Wing even though the entire world is waiting for her to get on with it already, including certain Americans who dragged their boyfriends past said Lindo Wing multiple times last week. Harumpf… doesn’t mean her style influence isn’t still being felt and translated to the streets. Small handbags, nude heels and Peter Pan collars on shirts and dresses are still du jour across the city. Even with last week’s heat wave, sundresses were showing fluttering hems similar to Kate’s Alice Templerly tour dress, and many a tiered ruffle dress that were possibly inspired by this Temperly London dress, aka, Kate’s much beloved Wimbledon ensemble from two years ago.

Kate nude pumps

Steal it Stateside: for those of us who live in cold climes, dainty collars are still an adorable choice on sweaters, shirts, and dresses. Dorothy Perkins has some especially beautiful and breezy tops with interesting, ladylike collaring.

For summer weddings when the weather warms up, a great pair of nude heels (and accompanying Dr. Scholl’s inserts) can still always carry you through any number of unfortunate bridesmaid dresses, or until they shut down the dance floor! I’m still loving my pair from Nine West, which look similar to these.

Images via Modastation (top) and PA News wire via WhatKateWore.com (bottom)

The Art of Blend

praha

When I was in Prague last month, what struck me about Prague wasn’t so much the pork ribs or the incredible architecture or the flooded river (and accompanying lack of riverside beer gardens, sadly) but the…Americans. Or, as Rick Steves puts it, The Ugly Americans.

My countrymen, I am calling you to the carpet.

I saw white sneakers. I saw a lot of talking on cell phones, LOUDLY, in public. Worst of all, I saw…fanny packs. I also saw some being rude to waiters, some grumbling about why people don’t all speak English, and just a lot of  pushy American behavior. GUYS! Come on. Aren’t we better than that? Though perhaps it’s feeling better than things that got us into this mess to begin with. Hmm.

It’s one thing, I suppose, if you just don’t give a shit about how you’re coming across to people who are nice enough to host you in their country. Some people don’t. That must be freeing for you.

However, there are many people who don’t intend to behave this way. They just haven’t had the pleasure of traveling abroad and simply aren’t acquainted with the European way of going about your business.

If I may, I’d love to add a few tips to the list to help everyone – us and them – have a more pleasurable experience with the Americans:

1. Try to blend in. Instead of sparkling white New Balance sneakers, perhaps you might consider a cushy ballet flat or a well-made loafer or boat shoe? Or, when all else fails, a classic pair of Converse in fresh white or their Euro cousin, Bensimon sneaks. Dr. Scholls inserts are a wonder for tired feet. Investigate.

Nothing screams I AM AN AMERICAN like a windbreaker. Any and all mentions of breaking wind should be reserved for classy fart jokes. Invest in a classic trench coat for rainy days and a light cardigan with a scarf for less cold days when a lighter layer will do. And even if you don’t want to invest, per se (though we talked about that, remember?) you can get a perfectly fine trench coat at the Gap and some colorful pashminas at any open market from Galway to Versailles.

trench

Finally, instead of a fanny pack (I can barely type those two words) have you considered an over the shoulder tote in classic leather? Or maybe a small cross body handbag that’s easy to tuck inside a larger, more unobtrusive bag like the Longchamp le Pliage? Look into it.

2. Learn before you leave. The coffee break podcasts from Radio Lingua are fabulous for learning the romance languages, plus a few others. The episodes are short and you can easily ramp up on greetings, directions, counting and introducing yourself with minimal effort. It’s not important that you have a flawless conversation, but it is important to try.

Chatting

For those who want to take it to the next level, a small guide book with some words and phrases can be an awesome accompaniment to all that gum you have stashed in your purse.

3. Jump in! Get flowers at the local market to spruce up your rented flat or hotel room. Get coffee at the local cafe and chat with the barista as best you can. Shop the local markets, engage the neighbors, and jump into the daily doings of wherever you are. Not only will you make friends, but you’ll have a more authentic experience.

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4. Manners trump all. When everything fails – and it will – and you are lost and feeling like an outsider, make like Kate and smile, smile, smile.

<> on August 19, 2011 in Birmingham, England.

Approach a local, smile, and ask as politely as you can if they speak English and if they can help you. When someone approaches you here, you are often more than happy to help them, right? Same goes overseas, if you are polite. Barging up to someone and yelling about where’s the train station? and where’s the samiches? is not a great tack to take.

With a smile and some consideration, you will often get back on track in no time. Not to mention, serious global traveler brownie points. And possibly even brownies. If you are lucky enough to run into a baker. And then you call me right away.

And if you run into Kate Middleton, hold her down until I get there.

All images sourced via Pinterest

Summer Europe Essentials

Last time I went to Europe – and, actually, every time I’ve ever gone to Europe – it’s been either Spring or Fall. I dislike Summer in general (yes, I know, bring out the pitchforks!) and especially for travel because it’s hot and muggy nearly everywhere but San Francisco. Among the many reasons to love San Francisco: ease of bodily temperature regulation.

Also, it’s crowded, and it’s a well documented fact that when I wander around Europe, I prefer to do it sans people in white sneakers and fanny packs.

To help, I thought it would be fun to pull together a summer Europe packing list. Bonus points if you can fit it all into a carry-on, as I intend to! Please note operative word – intend.

Europe Summer Essentials

Tennis, Anyone?

tennis

We are leaving for London on Friday, and only yesterday did we put two and two together (or is that 15 and 15?) that the first full day we have in London is also the last full day of Wimbledon. After zero seconds of thought, we decided it was worth a try to get up insanely early and get into the people’s queue! It’s a lifelong dream of mine to attend Wimbledon, so we have to try.

Of course, one doesn’t just bop over to Wimbledon and swing in for a few hours – there’s a lot to it. Have any of you ever been?

So far, we know to bring layers, an umbrella, sunscreen, a book for waiting in line, and according to Pippa’s new Vanity Fair column, leave the stilettos at home. Little does Pippa know, I’ve actually banished all stilettos from my home.  Chuck Taylors and ballet flats have officially won any and all sartorial battles taking place below the ankles.

I’d love any advice about the tennis fortnight! And, of course, any other London tidbits and stories you have.

{Photo by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair}

London

London

London has some big events coming up: the birth of the Royal Fetus, the summer celebrations in honor of the queen’s birthday, because apparently the queen just gets to celebrate her birthday whenever she damn well pleases and call it a fancy name, and my impending arrival! Yes, all of Britain is eager to see me. Or maybe I’m just eager to see it… Either way, I’m lucky to be headed across the pond in just a few weeks.

On my last trip to London, I spent hours in the Tate, The V&A, and seeing shows at The National. This time, I have a few new items on the agenda:

. Playing tourist and taking a tour, because I almost never do

. Having an Audience with the queen!

. Wandering every floor of this magical place

. Strolling around on a foggy morning, steaming cup of builders tea in hand!

 

What are your London must-see and must-do activities? I’d love to know!

Prague and The Grandma Rule

prague diptic

Now that I’m back and rested up from Prague (let’s be real – I’ve been home for two weeks. It’s the resting part that takes awhile since I require sleep equivalent to that of a sloth) I thought it would be fun to share a few pictures.

Travel, for me, is not only the chance to see a new country but also the chance to try on a new life. At home in San Francisco I eat primarily vegetarian, with the occasional fish or shrimp. In Prague, I ate barbecue pork ribs, a whole rack of ’em.

I don’t really do pork ribs, barbecue or otherwise. But my new Czech friend told me I should, that they were her favorite dish, that they were quintessentially Czech, and that they were, in her objective opinion, delicious. So I said, “Great – how do I order?”

Enter Anthony Bourdain’s Grandma Rule:

“I often talk about the “Grandma rule” for travellers. You may not like Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry – and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblets you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it is ‘Grandma’s Turkey’ and you are in Grandma’s house. So shut the eff up and eat it. And afterwards say, “Thank you, Grandma, why, yes, yes of course I’d love seconds.” 

When in Rome, people. 

And here’s the thing – the pork ribs were actually delicious. Did I feel awful afterward, both morally and…gastroenterologically? Definitely. But not as awful as I would have felt had I used my Czech friend and her incredible generosity to cause a fuss and make some sort of vegan scene in the little Czech pub owned by her friend, where we were drinking at our leisure in the back garden, and where we were having one of those great, up all night, we are now friends for life kind of conversations that can only happen when you travel.

I know that many hard core vegetarians and vegans would disagree with this stance. Alicia Silverstone would have been in knots even setting foot in the place. But I am all the better for having gone to dinner with my new friend. And when she comes to visit us in San Francisco, as she promised to do, she will be taken to all sorts of amazing vegetarian restaurants. And I have no doubt she’ll say, “Great – how do I order?”

Prague

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I have the incredible good fortune to be jetting off to Prague for work in two weeks. One never “goes” to Prague, mind you, nor does one merely “fly” there either. Around here, we jet. And I’m sure you do, too, you fabulous minx you.

When last I was in Prague, I was doing the post-college backpack through Europe thing with a very dear friend. We spent our days eating baguettes, drinking cheap beer, and while in Vienna, we inexplicably purchased one very, very expensive slice of cake. It’s amazing what you prioritize when you are recently educated and yet have absolutely no common sense, nor financial means. Bring on the fancy cake! Which, actually, should just be a life strategy, expense notwithstanding. When do you not want the fancy cake? Am I right? I’m right.

Due to the aforementioned cake eating and no common sense having, I’m quite sure there is a large portion of Prague that I missed the first time ’round. And aside from working and making time for dinner at the best vegetarian restaurant in the world (in.the.world. you guys!), I do not yet have many plans in Prague.

Would you like to recommend some for me? Something you’ve stumbled on while jetting around the Internet, or perhaps, whilst jetting to actual Prague itself?

You know you do, you fabulous minx you.