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On the third day of our Parisian adventure my mum and I headed to the Musee de Louvre to put on our best art critique impression.  

Our first port of call in the vast museum was to see da Vinci’s world famous Mona Lisa.  Now, I haven’t been to an art museum for a while so perhaps protocol has changed, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a scene as I did at the Louvre.  As Mona Lisa sat giving her wry smile behind a plate of protective glass there was what I can only describe as a paparazzi scrum taking place beside her.  Never before  have I seen people so fanatical about a painting.  I felt like I was surrounded by paps catching Lohan’s first post-rehab drink.  People were crowding around, welding cameras, most bizarrely taking selflies, all whilst attempting to get closer to da Vinci’s masterpiece.  The painting really is the A-list star of the museum, but she is a bit small isn’t she…?  

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The tiny teeny main event.  

(No, I’m not talking about the naked statute below, you dirty minded readers.)

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Should I have included a nudity warning?

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Playing the role of the tourist perfectly 

Dress – Topshop / Necklace – Topshop / Sunglasses – Ray Ban 

After making my way to the front of the scrum, we predictably, got lost around the museum and ended up wandering past fine Egyptian jewellery, Roman mosaics and unexpectedly, the famous Venus de Milo.  Once we regained our bearings (after asking a few attendants…shhh) we headed to the French Sculpture Rooms.  Far away from the Mona Lisa fanatics, this room is quiet and calming in comparison with great marble sculptures of mounted horsemen towering above you.

Our next stop of the day was Notre Dame Cathedral which sits on the Ile de la Cite island in the River Seine.  We made our way to the cathedral by walking by the river and peeking into the stalls which sell vintage Vogues, leather bound editions of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and an endless supply of magazine cover prints which I seem to be collecting almost absentmindedly.  Although we could have easily taken the handy Metro, the best way to see Paris or any city is by walking.  Use those legs, people! Although you may need an emergency pedicure post-city break you will gain a greater understanding of the city and it’s people by walking – map in hand – than you would if you spent most of your time underground listening to the accordion players who seem to follow you around.

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As we made our way through the impressive French Gothic church, I had to hide my disappointment of not spotting Quasimodo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame hanging from the bell tower, but I was soon captivated by the buildings interior.  Impossibly high ceilings, intricate stained glass windows and a haunting beauty that is only reserved for churches kept me wandering around the cathedral multiple times.

After lighting a candle for my grandma, we decided to give our feet a rest and head back to the hotel where I soon found my mum fast asleep, glasses hanging off her face, still clutching her book.  Awww. 

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On Sunday morning, I woke uncharacteristically early in anticipation of a full day ahead in Paris.  My mum and I had breakfast in the hotel but wandered along to a bakery down the road from our hotel after hearing rave reviews from our helpful taxi driver who had given us some useful tips for our trip.

When driving us into the city from the station, he had mentioned that the bakery’s around Madeleine were famous for their goods, however were overpriced because of their notoriety and he suggested that instead we visit a boulangerie which was just as good – if not better – and kinder to the purse.

Eric Kayser is a chain of bakeries which are  strung throughout the city, named after the famous artisan baker, they are full of sweet pastries, colourful macaroons, tarts, crumbles, an endless assortment of breads and perhaps best of all, cookies.  Their cookies are deliciously melt-in-the-middle soft with overly generous portions of chocolate which make them guaranteed to give any sweet tooth their sugar fix.  I vowed to return to Eric Kayser’s bakery every morning for a spot of culinary indulgence; when in Paris!

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Look at all the gooey goodness

After gorging myself on cookies, my mum and I jumped on a double decker train on the RER towards Chateau de Versailles.   The Palace of Versailles is a monument which I’ve been itching to visit since watching Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) about France’s most controversial Queen.

The opulent palace housed the court of the Ancien Regime from 1682 until the French Revolution when France became a Republic and became a symbol of the absolute monarchies wealth.  Originally built as a hunting lodge, Versailles went through many reincarnations to become the huge chateau that it is today and boy, is it big.   SAM_0139

SAM_0140Entrance into the palace is free on a Sunday meaning that you can spend more pennies on shopping but you are visiting on one of the busiest days.  We arrived to discover a huge line outside, so I would definitely advise taking some sort of shade and plenty of water as there aren’t many places around and inside the palace which sell bottles! IMG_3554

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Hidden rooms to the public eye…

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We took around 3 hours to tour around the main palace, slowly taking in the grandiose design and straining our necks to stare at the epic ceilings which depict the founders of the Roman Empire (most of them naked as well…ooo-er).  We marvelled at the beds, which are covered with sumptuous blankets with golden thread while also commenting on how short they are!  After spending too much time in open mouthed adoration we took to the gardens, which were definitely my favourite part of the day!

The Gardens of Versailles were designed by the landscape artist Andre Le Notre and represent the ideal of the French formal garden style, which uses the idea of imposing control over nature through symmetry.  So it’s no surprise that the gardens which cover over 800 hectares are always pruned to royal perfection.  Our ailing feet and empty stomachs prompted us to take the lazy option by hopping onto the Petit Train which allowed us to stop off at various points and jump back on when we wanted.

We whizzed through the immaculate gardens to the Grand Trianon which was the built on the request of Louis XIV and his mistress of the time, Marquis of Montespan.  The Grand Trianon would have definitely been my choice of domain, being removed from the overbearing grandeur of the main chateau, the Trianon allowed those who stayed there to avoid the stuffiness of court life and enjoy a relative freedom.  I imagine, in modern day terms this would mean, skinny dipping in the various fountains, playing loud music and generally running amuck.

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IMG_3601 Top – Topshop / Skirt – Topshop / Necklace – Primark

After sauntering through the gardens of the Grand Trianon we made our way back to the Petit Train where our final stop was the Grand Canal.  The immense stretch of water today plays host to Parisians aimlessly rowing while reclining in the warm weather, but back in Louis XIV’s reign, it was the sight of many nautical displays and housed perfect replica’s of ships scaled down and a winter wonderland-esque ice rink in the winter.

On our walk back to the palace we encountered marble sculptures, beautiful fountains (I’m sure I could almost hear my mum whisper the words ‘we need a water feature’), and imposing hedges which rose around us. IMG_3611

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After leaving Versailles we headed to the Champs de Mars on the RER to scale the Tour Eiffel.  My mum decided that sticking to the 2nd floor was probably for the best, but I with a head for heights made my way solo to the summit for the spectacular sunset.  It was the perfect end to our first full day in the City of Romance and after standing on our feet all day long we stuffed our faces before heading back home to bed, ready for another day of city living!

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After spending a week interning at LOOK magazine in London, my mum and I headed to Paris to be complete and utter tourists in the City of Romance.  In a confession which may lose me some street cred – did I have any anyway? – I treasure the time I get to spend with my mum, so I jumped at the chance of having her for a few days all to myself.  For years, my mum and I had planned city breaks which we would spend indulging in rich foods and soaking in even richer culture and it’s only now that we’ve actually got round to executing one of these highly anticipated trips!  We chose Paris as the location for our first annual ‘mother-daughter jaunt’ (yes, I’m hoping to make that a thing) as mum had only visited the city years ago on a work trip with my dad, while I had only vague notions of going to DisneyLand when I was much younger and although neither of us know a lick of French – my knowledge stretches to ‘ou set le piscine?’ a phrase I didn’t use once on our trip – we were both eager to return to the French capital.  

On Saturday morning we headed to St Pancreas and spent a quick 2 hours on the EuroStar before emerging with tired eyes on the other side of the Channel in Paris!  We were staying in the Hotel Pont Royal which is located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and just a 5 minute walk away from the iconic Musee de Louvre and a short 2 minute walk to Rue de Bac Metro station on line 12, a spot which was absolutely perfect for all our tourist needs and provided more than a few surprises (more on that later…) 

After settling in at the hotel, we hopped on the Metro to Montmartre and made our way past local markets selling paintings and nic nacs towards a set of stairs which would take us to Sacre Coeur.  After a tiring day lugging around heavy suitcases, we climbed breathlessly – only to find that there was in fact a lift which could have taken us the whole way for a small price – toward the summit.

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Dress – Zara / Necklace – Primark / Sunglasses – Ray Ban / Bag – Mulberry

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Sacre Coeur itself is architecturally stunning but the view outside it is breathtaking.  With the sun low in the sky, my mum and I took in the almost panoramic view of Paris while planning the days ahead and marvelling at a talented street performer who was balanced precariously in front of a gawping crowd.

After taking in the view and admitting to each other that we were feeling rather peckish we returned to the Metro and headed back towards our hotel.  We stopped off at Le Saint German to share a plate of delicious antipasto smothered in pesto before hitting the hay, ready for a packed day of cliche activities in the morning!

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Co-ord – Topshop / Jelly Shoes – eBay / Frilly Socks – Topshop / Necklace – Estella Bartlett

It’s not everyday that you find yourself wearing a staple of your childhood wardrobe.  No, I’m not talking about my old favourite Tammy Girl tshirt but a pair of glittery jelly shoes.  

After weeks of contemplating via Twitter whether I should purchase some of these childhood relics my mum (of all people) convinced me that I really did need them and so I bit the bullet and hit the magic button on eBay.  At first I worried that these new shoes could be a sign of a post-Graduation crisis point whereby I was trying to recapture the essence of my youth through  nostalgia inducing purchases, but, even if they are I still bloody love them.

My old pair of jellies, which I probably wore circa 1997 were glittery, pink and had a Disney Princess emblem on them and although I searched high and low for a replica pair, it’s probably best that I didn’t manage to find any.  My new pair have a block  heel, which I like to imagine signals that I’m now an adult…just an adult wearing jelly shoes…

Although the temptation to don some dungaree’s and wear a scrunchie in my hair was great, I managed to pull myself away from the faded denim and throw on this Topshop co-ord which I picked up in the sale.  I can’t find this particular co-ord online anymore but if you’re as enamoured as I am then keep your beady eye on eBay for some bargains or check out Topshop’s other incredible two pieces.  I also wore a sweet little Bumblebee necklace which I found in a local shop in Guernsey.  It’s by Estella Bartlett and can be found on John Lewis online and myflashtrash.com for only £15, no need to break the piggy bank just yet.  

Are you a fan of jelly shoes?  How do you wear yours?

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After three quick years at the University of Reading, I graduated on the 4th of July with a 2.1 in English Literature and History.  As well as being a bit of a tear jerker (sentimental moments get me teary) it was also, admittedly, a day of fine dining with a bit of booze thrown in there for good measure.

I had chosen to wear a French Connection dress to the ceremony (which is now in the sale!) accessorised with a Michael Kors watch, some Swarovski rings which my housemates gave me on my 21st birthday, my Chanel bag and my lovely Louboutins, whose stiletto heels were perhaps not the best thing in the grass but nevertheless got me a few compliments!

Looking back on the day now, it’s a blur of photographs, sweaty palms and the feeling of relief after having not tripped up infront of the huge hall full of people – something I maintain is my greatest achievement to date, nevermind the degree – but one thing I can clearly remember is the food.

As a foodie at heart, I had put more thought into where my family and I should dine on the evening of my graduation than even revising for some of my exams but ultimately I left the decision up to my dad, the senior foodie of the family.  After consulting some in-the-know friends he booked The Forbury’s restaurant in Reading – not to be confused with The Forbury Hotel’s restaurant Cerise.  

After generously filling our wine glasses, we all got down to the serious business of ordering our food.  I’m one of those sad people who will obsessively check a menu online before venturing inside any restaurant, but on this occasion I’d been too busy in Newcastle sans internet to plan my meal – a travesty.  

After asking everyone round the table what they were planning to have at least twice, I opted for the Hand Dived Scallops served with a Pea Puree and Black Pudding for my starter and the Fillet of Angus Beef (medium rare of course) with Duck Fat chips, Onion Rings and Cherry Tomatos.  I can vouch that both were absolutely delicious, with the scallops being the best I’ve ever had (a huge claim for a scallop addict) and the steak being cooked to perfection.

By dessert time, my poor dress was probably feeling the strain, but Ross and I decided that we could both stretch to dessert and shared our first ever Bourbon Creme Brulee with a ShortCake Biscuit.  I’m more of a starter and main fan, mostly because I always fall foul of the ‘eyes too big for my stomach’ curse and don’t survive to the third round but I’d always coveted the crack of a Creme Brulee so loosened my hypothetical belt and tucked in.  I am now 100% a dessert convert and will be making room for some more sweet treats in the future whilst also renewing my gym membership ASAP.

This coming September I’ll be heading up North to study a Masters at the University of Newcastle so expect a Graduation 2.0 post in a year’s time!

If you’re graduating this summer, first of all GOOD LUCK (try not to trip!) and second, enjoy every second!

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A couple of weeks ago on a fine summers evening, three friends and I headed to Newbury Racecourse for an evening soiree at the races.

We were there to watch a little filly called Nyanza run her first ever race under my dad’s instruction.  Him and a few pals had an interest in the gorgeous little mare and since he wasn’t on the mainland at the time, I was his dutiful replacement.  

As we’re all ladies now we decided to doll ourselves up to the nines, so my new love, a Topshop skirt so ladylike that Kate Middleton has surely placed it in her online basket, made its debut with a light cami overtop and an old Zara leather jacket to keep me warm.

The skirt isn’t in stock in white anymore, however I found mine hiding on the ‘Last Chance to Buy’ rail but if you can’t find one there, don’t despair, Topshop have outdone themselves and released it in a variety of colours and patterns and I’m currently coveting this look alike.

Once we arrived we made our way to the pre-parade ring to inspect the stiff competition and introduce ourselves to Nyanza and a few of my dad’s kind friends who proved to be some extremely helpful betting advisors.  Usually I stand by the ancient technique of picking winners by either the horses name or the colour of the jockey’s silks without looking at any of the statistics.  In the past, this tried and tested technique had proved almost foolproof but with the help of Andy, Richard and a quick maths lesson, us four girls were able to finally understand odds and came home with a healthy £18 each!  Soon we’ll be raking in the millions!

After putting on a customary bet on Nyanza (a bank breaking £2), we made our way to the stands to watch her debut.  After struggling with the gates she placed a valiant and promising 9th out of 16 making us all extremely proud parents and thirsty for a tipple or two to celebrate.  

Cue the champagne.

 

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My fascination with the Knowles family does not just start and end with Beyonce but stretches to her younger, lesser known but no less stylish sister, Solange.

Just like her older sister, Solange has many strings to her bow, with the titles of DJ, mother, singer, model, actress and universal fashion icon all gracing her CV it’s hard to see where she gets the time.

An obvious penchant for bright and often clashing colours and prints has meant that Solange has become known as a true fashion maverick and someone who isn’t afraid to stretch and break the rules.  She’s become a regular feature on Opening Ceremony’s blog and Vogue has profiled her too many times to count.  Hers is a wardrobe I would love to rift through.  

Solange’s self titled ‘Afro Punk’ outfit to the 2013 MET Gala is one of my favourite Knowles sister moments and perfectly encompasses her passion for print.  Her custom Kenzo dress and Diana Ross inspired hairdo wowed the fashion critics and in my opinion, trumped Beyonce’s Givenchy gown, an impressive feat.  

Late last year, Solange released True, an eclectic dance EP featuring the amazing single, ‘Losing You‘ which has already been sampled by music’s current ‘It’ boy, Cyril Hahn.  Her third studio album which will feature such bigwigs as Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams will be released later this year under her own start up record label, Saint Records, while she’s set to promote her new music on the stage at Glasto later this month so there is plenty more Solange to come.  

If all this wasn’t enough, girl has her own tumblr where she chronicles her latest fashion forays, music making, some gorgeous photos of her son and an array of nostalgic holiday snaps from far away destinations.  Just to make me a little bit more jealous.

Move over Beyonce, 2013 is Solange’s year.  

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Sometimes a girl just has to treat herself.

After a tense morning of waiting for my final year degree result (a 2.1 in English Literature and History for all you nosey ones) a spot of retail based celebration was in order.  So I hopped onto a train headed to London and made my way down to the city’s iconic department store, Harrods, for a wander.  I was soon drawn to the shoe gallery upstairs where the red soles of some Louboutins happened to be whispering my name.


The Louboutin suite at Harrods pays homage to London’s main attractions with an etching of Big Ben in the window and a quaint reminder of the Underground in the tiles, but thats not even the best bit.  The 1st floor room is packed full of classic shoes and new season favourites all with the coveted red sole while some spectacular handbags are also thrown into the mix.  Shopping there was an exercise in self restraint.  

I soon surrounded myself with boxes full of Loubs in an array of different styles and sizes.  My aim was to pick up a classic shoe which would do for years to come and look good for my upcoming Graduation, but that didn’t stop me from giving a spiked Pigalle a go…maybe next year.  My chosen shoe was the simple but elegant FiFi 100 in black patent leather and it gave me a real Cinderella moment – cheesy I know.  Before I could experience any shoppers regret (definition: an irrational and momentary panic which ensues after spending a large amount of money on one item.  My advice is to not check your bank account for a few days…or weeks) I made my purchase and ran back to Reading with my shoes in tow.

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As I type this I’m staring in awe at my shoes, still in their box, sat up high on my shelf.  I plan to give them their first outing on Graduation but I can’t help but keep getting them out of their box every now and again to check they’re okay.

Unfortunately, I think this first Louboutin purchase has started a lifelong obsession which will not only be detrimental to my poor feet but also my already ailing bank account.  Oopsie.  

What have you bought to treat yourself recently?

JKA x

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The weather has finally improved and the summer is officially here, Pimms anyone?

I spent last week in Guernsey with the family and my two dogs; taking walks on the beach, seeing friends, getting a little bit burnt and eating out too many times to count – my Ibiza body took a backseat.  

As is tradition, a trip home meant going to one of my favourite restaurants on the island for some dinner and since the weather was near perfection, my family and I headed to the Auberge which is perched on Guernsey’s stunning east coast cliffs.

Grey Crop Top – Topshop / Skirt – Topshop / Necklace – Topshop / Boots – Topshop / Watch – Michael Kors / Bag – Chanel / Sunglasses – Ray Ban

First of all, I need to apologise for my grumpy face in the photos, I was obviously too hungry to smile, I’ll make sure to feed myself before I attempt some more photos!

The outfit I wore for the night was extremely Topshop heavy; a result of my recent personal shopping experience at the flagship store on London’s Oxford Street (which you can read about that here)!  My bank account is still a little sore, but no pain no gain! 

The skirt was one of my favourite purchases of the day and is a part of a co-ord set.  It has some strategically placed splits to show a bit of leg, however, I almost showed off a bit too much when an unexpected strong gust of wind came along, watch out for Marilyn Monroe moments!  And while I may be late to the party, I’m now officially a member of the prestigious Michael Kors watch club.  Every blogger and their dog seem to have one but I couldn’t resist after seeing this gold beauty!  I love a good chunky watch and always covet my dads army candy more than my mums (sorry mum) so this was the perfect compromise!

Now onto the food, the moment you’ve all probably been waiting for.  The view at the Auberge really is beautiful and the food is equally as amazing, making it the perfect venue for a summer’s day.  If you’re heading there soon I 100% recommend trying the delicious Aberdeen Angus Beef Fillet with some added tiger prawns and hand dived local scallops for the full Surf and Turf experience, while the Sticky Toffee Puddin is also something to drool over.

Check out what I ate below:

Hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful weather!

JKA x

P.s. I’ve recently become obsessed with Tumblr, if you’d like to have a look at my page just click here!

Back in March it was my 22nd birthday and as anyone who knows me will already be well aware, I do love to stretch out the celebrations.  Just like the Queen, I tend to have two birthdays, one at home and one with uni friends, however, this year I’ve managed to keep the birthday spirit alive right into May, something I hope will become tradition!  

This week, in post-exam bliss my boyfriend and I headed into London with a full itinerary of activities for a belated birthday treat.  The first order of the day was heading to the personal shopper suite in Tophsop’s flagship store on Oxford Street.  I did not have to be told twice! 

While booking the session, I’d been asked to fill out a simple form with my sizes and a brief outlining of what kind of clothes I was looking for (basics or statement pieces) and for what occasions.  Having recently booked a trip to Ibiza with 40 of my closest friends (yes…forty) and confirmed some work experience at a magazine in London for the summer, I thought I’d use the opportunity to buy some clothes which would stretch to both of these occasions!

On arrival, Ross and I were introduced to my personal shopper for the hour, Lauren and taken to a suite with a huge comfy chair for him and a rail of clothes for me – heaven.  Lauren had handpicked a selection of outfits which would be perfect for the beach, club and office complete with accessories and matching shoes.  Could she be my new best friend? 

My rail was full of some perfect classics (black cami/grey jersey crop/denim shorts) and also a collection of colourfully printed maxi’s, embellished skirts and palm tree adorned shorts – resulting in the perfect style menagerie.  When I first walked in and saw some of the clothes on the rail I was a bit worried as there were a few things which I would not choose for myself however, I was more than intrigued to try everything and was pleasantly surprised by the majority!  Even Ross was generous with his complements – he’s usually quite a hard person to please!  While trying on every ensemble Lauren popped in and out with advice, helpful comments and beverages for us both whilst also offering to go grab anything else which I needed/wanted from the shop floor.

My trip to the Topshop Personal Shopper suite made for the perfect morning and although it sorely dented my poor bank account my wardrobe looks all the better for it!

I’ll undoubtably look like I’ve been sponsored by Topshop on my Ibiza trip but I can think of worse things!

If you’re thinking about booking a personal shopping experience at Topshop, then look no further than here!