Friday, 30 May 2014

Barcelona Hotels

In my last Barcelona post I would like to take you on a tour of a couple of hotels. Both are located in the trendy El Born area, with plenty of interesting shops and restaurants ( and the Picasso Museum) just minutes away.

This year we stayed at K + K Hotel Picasso, just opposite Parc de la Ciutadella. We came across this hotel last time we visited Barcelona, a year ago, while walking around, and decided to give it a try on our next trip, i.e. this Easter.

K+K Picasso Barcelona

By Barcelona standards, the hotel is rather plain, i.e. looks less trendy and design-driven. However, what it may lack in design touches, it makes up for in amenities: e.g. Free Wi-Fi, concierge, laundry services, coffee and tea making facilities in the room, and a roof-top terrace with a small pool. The buffet breakfast is fantastic and has something for everyone: the usual cooked breakfast, cold cuts, cheese, fresh fruit, pastry and a selection of breakfast rolls and bread (with healthy alternatives to the ubiquitous white bread...), and room service is available till 10 pm.

K+K Picasso Barcelona
K + K Picasso rooftop pool
The other hotel I would like to briefly introduce is the slightly more affordable Chic & Basic Born, a few blocks from K + K Picasso, and across the street from the Chocolate Museum. This hotel has been our favourite for years, and who knows, maybe next year we'll be back... Although I really liked the buffet breakfast and room service at K + K Picasso, so it's going to be a tough choice...

Barcelona hotels

Well, you have plenty of design touches in Chic & Basic Born... Most notably the colour-changing lights in the rooms. The bathroom may be a bit of a challenge for the very shy: the 'glass-enclosed shower' provides slightly less privacy than a more traditional bathroom.
There is a spacious lounge, or 'common area' with magazines, books and free coffee and tea. Free Wi-Fi is also available in the hotel, and there is a lively bar / restaurant adjacent to the hotel.

Chic & Basic Barcelona
Chic & Basic Born lounge and hallway
Chic & Basic Barcelona
Chic & Basic Born: Minimalist White Bedroom
I hope you have enjoyed our Barcelona tours,

Tiina

Linking up with (a bit late... but better late than never...) Bonnie Rose for:

Travel Tuesday
SHARE:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

NORDIC WEATHER (AND MOODS) DEMYSTIFIED

I'm sure you've heard that we Nordics are a bit bi-polar when it comes to weather affecting our moods. You know, how the long, dark winters are supposed to make us go all Nordic Noir: moody and suicidal. And then there's the instant personality transplant that comes with the long, bright summer nights: turn on the sunshine and we get unnaturally cheerful and chatty, even start talking to strangers on the bus… (BTW: if you are taking a bus in Finland and a fellow passenger starts talking to you, it’s OK, as long as this happens in summer. Any other time of the year, on the other hand... well, we tend to think that only crazy people, drunks and American tourists try to start a conversation with a stranger…)

I guess there is some truth to that, temperature and daylight hours do affect your mood, though I for one am not so much affected by daylight as I am by temperature…

And because of that I would like to divide the year into six seasons, instead of the usual four:
(NOTE: both the temperatures and daylight hours are average for southern Finland; in the north both are quite a bit more extreme)

THE PERFECT WEATHER SEASON

from mid-August to late October, temperature from 20°C / 68°F (August) to 5°C / 41°F (late October),  daylight hours: 16-9

I love autumn... it's warm enough to go for walks, cool enough to wear nice coats (a trench for early autumn, a wool coat for October). I don't mind the dark evenings, or even some rain (except for what it does to my hair...don't ask). The only problem with autumn is that it's too short, to be replaced by:

THE DARK AND DREARY SEASON

November- December, temperature from 5°C / 41°F to  -5°C / 23°F, daylight hours: 8-6

Bears hibernate, the Moomins hibernate...  a walk on a Saturday afternoon? More like sofa and telly, pass the wine, please...
Time to put on the 'winter work uniform': a sleeveless dress, a cashmere cardigan, tights, boots, a wool coat / long down coat.

THE WAY-TOO-COLD-I-REALLY-HATE-THIS SEASON

January-February, temperature from  -5°C / 23°F to -20°C / -4°F, daylight hours: 6-10

OK, can me make this a stay-at-home-day? No? I have to go to work!?! OK, fine, whatever… At least it's not snowing anymore... Oh, it is? Oh well, snow happens, get over it... Spring is just around the corner, it's almost March, just a little while longer... Although I wouldn't mind a bit of that climate change here right now...

Nordic Winter
Professor M's Winter Elegance

THE ENOUGH-WITH-THE-SNOW-ALREADY SEASON

March-April, temperature from  -5°C / 23°F to 0°C / 32°F, daylight hours: 10-15

Not this again...slush everywhere, can’t I just sit this one out? Could the weather gods or powers-that-be finally settle on either 'cold and snow' or 'warmer and rain', not both? And could we please get temperatures to match the sunshine??!! I mean, seriously, a down coat and sunglasses, I look like the Michelin Man on holiday...
(Ditch the 'winter work uniform' for trousers, a cashmere cardigan, water-proof shoes, light-weight down parka, sunglasses)

THE I-HATE-THIS-EVEN-MORE-THAN-WINTER SEASON, 

a.k.a  THE POLLEN SEASON

from mid-April to May, temperature 5°C / 41°F to 20°C / 68°F, daylight hours: 15-18

I hate spring...I hate spring... I hate spring... (sneezing) I hate spring...

20°C / 68°F : SUMMER!!! Sandals!!!

THE WAY-TOO-HOT-AND-STICKY SEASON

from mid-June to mid-August, temperature 20°C / 68°F - 30°C / 86°F, 
daylight hours: 19 - 16

Confused Japanese tourists wander around the empty streets, wondering where all the locals are... But fear not, Finns have abandoned their cities only temporarily: they're on holiday, cooling off by a lake somewhere, frying their pale skins under the midnight sun as if they'd never heard of skin cancer. They'll be back by August.


These photos were taken on Friday 23 May, between 10:10 and 10:20 PM.
The sun was about to set. Sunrise was at 4.22 AM 
I do like summer, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing:

20°C / 68°F: PERFECT!!! I need a new sundress... or two... make it three, summer's here to stay.

23°C / 74.4°F : I think there is a special place in Hell for fashion designers who put belts on sundresses…
I miss February, I swear I will never complain about cold weather again...

27°C / 80.6°F : Clothes??!!?? DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE WHAT I’M WEARING??!!??
Where's the freezer? Quick, I must go and stick my head in the freezer, I think my brain is melting…

Does the weather affect your mood? Are you a winter or a summer person?

Enjoy the weather, whatever it might be in your neck of the wood, 

Tiina

Tiina L


PS:
This blurry photograph is a rare piece of evidence of me
1) wearing swimwear and
2) not trying to hide from the sun...

According to my (late) grandmother, I was quite a fashionista at such a tender age and had specified that my swimwear had to be a) a two-piece and b) red.
SHARE:

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Red Hot Summer

It is summer... It's 30°C / 86°F, 17 hours 50 minutes of daylight (which means a very hot flat...), so I put on a lot of sunscreen (SPF 50, of course) before going out.


Tiina in red
Photo by Professor M
Today's photo session was unexpectedly challenging. I really wanted to join Sacramento, Rosy and Peggy Sue  at Mis Papelicos  Share-in-Style and wear red. It should have been a done deal, easy-peasy... after all, I'm the queen of red, with photo album after photo album of pictures of me in red. Red has always been my power colour... and yet now I couldn't find a single red dress in my wardrobe. 

Tiina in red
Photos by Professor M
Yes, red used to be my power colour, a long time ago. But for the last 4-5 years I haven't  bought anything red. Did I just get tired of red? Maybe. Or perhaps I finally reached red overload, saturation point, and needed to experiment with all the other colours that I had been neglecting all my life.
Lucky for me, I found this really old dress (seriously, it must be at least 10 years old... and so is the necklace I'm wearing). And this made me think that maybe it's time to revisit red; after all, there's no other colour that suits hot summer weather better...

Necklace: All That Glitters / Ring: Shaun Leane
And a little flashback: just  a sample of all those photos of me wearing my 'power colour'...


Sunshine and kisses, 
Tiina
SHARE:

Thursday, 22 May 2014

MAKE A STATEMENT: Flower Power

I'm not a fan of 'romantic' style, or 'romantic' anything, for that matter. In fact, I think I may very well be the least romantic woman in the world (my husband would agree...). 

So, why am I suddenly drawn to big flowery necklaces? 

Who knows, my style crushes come and go. It's statement necklaces today and punk tomorrow, been there... Still, the last time I had floral anything in my wardrobe must have been in the early 90s.

That doesn't mean a floral statement necklace wouldn't me my 'thing' in the long-run; it's all about how to style it.

Floral statement necklaces

Dresses from left: LelaRose, L.K.Bennett, Oasis, Temperley London
Necklaces from top left: Forever 21, Forever 21, Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta,
bottom left: newlook.com, jewelry.novica.com, kohls.com, J.Crew, Stella&Dot



Obviously, frills are out of the question (childhood traumas: all those - quite pretty - frilly dresses my mother made me wear...). And flowy layers look far too fussy for my liking, and would breach my only-one-messy-item-per-outfit rule (my curly hair sort of fills that quota...). So, no boho or hippie looks for me.

So, how would I style a necklace like this, then?

A ladylike, streamlined, fitted dress, maybe with a hint of Mad Men (the early 60s version), that's the answer.

What do you think? Would that work?

Elegantly yours, 
Tiina
Amateur Fashionista

Linking up to Passion for Fashion at Rachel The Hat
SHARE:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Eat Barcelona

Pim Pam Plats Barcelona

It goes without saying that there are numerous wonderful restaurants in Barcelona. And I have been going there once a year for the past ten years, always for a 3-4 days. It is therefore challenging to find time to explore new restaurants during such a short visit; we are hard pressed to have enough time to visit all of our old favourites. There is a limit to how much one can eat...

Professor M would never skip a visit to this one, though: Pim Pam Plats (Rec 18). A man must have his burger, and this is usually the place we go to on our first evening in Barcelona. If burgers are not your cup of tea, the restaurant has several other dishes to choose from, either to eat in or take away.

Pim Pam Plats Barcelona
Pim Pam Plats Barcelona
Pim Pam Burger
 In the mood for some "proper food" for dinner? We always try at least one restaurant we haven't been to before, and this one was conveniently just around the corner from our hotel:
Big Fish (Carrer Comercial 9) offers a combination of contemporary Catalan and Japanese cuisine. The portions are not too big, so you can have an appetizer and  a main course without feeling that you've overeaten. And you should definitely not skip the appetizers here: I had some really wonderful tuna with silky smooth avocado mousse...

Barcelona restaurants

If you are looking for a 3-course mealElx is an excellent fish restaurant in the otherwise quite run-of-the-mill Maremagnum shopping centre. There are a few meat options, too, but why waste this opportunity to have excellent Catalan fish dishes?

For tapas, or as they call them in Basque, 'pintxos', check out Txirimiri (Princesa 11). Basque specialities and good wine are the ingredients for an enjoyable evening here.

If you prefer a light lunch, how about the Mandarin Oriental on Passeig de Gracia?
The  Blanc Brasserie & Gastrobar (Passeig de Gracia 38-40) serves tasty small dishes and delicious desserts in a very stylish setting where Catalan and Finnish design meet to create a unique space that is cool and elegant.

Barcelona restaurants
light lunch at Mandarin Oriental
Another great place for a light lunch is the quite busy and popular restaurant in the Mercat de Santa CaterinaCuines de Santa Caterina. An extensive menu has something for everyone, from Asian to Mediterranean to fusion, from small snacks to several courses. Arrive early, though, as it fills up quite soon at lunchtime.

Barcelona Market
Barcelona Market

How about some coffee, tea, or maybe chocolate and churros? Well, there is no shortage of chocolate shops in Barcelona (read my earlier post here), but this little café caught my eye, mainly because of the lactose-free / gluten-free sign:

Barcelona chocolate

I guess they have a lot of Nordic customers... There were plenty of chocolate treats, and excellent coffee and tea (Petritxol Cafe, Carrer Petritxol 11).

I hope you enjoyed our little culinary tour.
Bon Appetit!

Tiina
Bad Tourist

Linking up with

Travel Tuesday

SHARE:

Sunday, 18 May 2014

RESTAURANT DAY

Saturday 17 May was Restaurant Day, so Professor M and I headed to the park where local residents set up their stands for the day. The weather was nice, almost like summer. Well, sunshine and anything over 18 °C / 64 °F is warm enough to pass for summer and thus qualifies as picnic weather...

Tiina L restaurant day
Everything I'm wearing is old, except for the necklace (Banana Republic): dress (Phase Eight), cashmere pashmina
(bought in India 13 years ago), sunglasses (Tom Ford), watch (Viceroy), bangle: my mother's. ring: custom-made from my grandmother's wedding ring.  (Photo by Professor M)
If you look at the picture above more carefully, you see some old tombstones and an old church in the background (upper left corner). The park used to be a cemetery in the 18th century, and some of the old stones are still there. That's why the  park has a rather grim nickname, "Ruttopuisto", (which could be translated as 'Plague Park') because victims of the 1710 Plague were buried there. The church was build much later, in 1826, and it is very popular for weddings and christenings.

Tiina L restaurant day
Tiina L restaurant day

Restaurant Day started in Finland in 2011 and has since spread all over the world. The idea is simple: anyone can set up a restaurant or a cafe in their own home, in a park, on a street corner, on the beach, practically anywhere, for a day. And you can serve anything you want (except alcohol, there's a state monopoly on that here...), so there was quite a selection to choose from: all sorts of pastry and cakes, Vietnamese and Thai food, African dishes, Cajun, Mexican, blinis and roe, barbeque...Of course, we sampled some of the delicacies on offer...

Tiina L restaurant day
Tiina L restaurant day
Tiina L restaurant day
Photo by Professor M
Saturday was the warmest day in May so far, and as it is set to get much warmer in the next few days, we could say that summer is finally here...

Enjoy the summer sunshine, 

Tiina

Linking up to Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style
Linking up to Passion for Fashion at Rachel The Hat
SHARE:

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Islington Vintage

Where would you go in London for fabulous vintage shopping?
Notting Hill? Brick Lane?

Try Camden Passage in Islington (Tube: Angel). This small area is packed with antique and vintage shops, markets, restaurants and all things retro.

London Islington vintage

What makes Camden Passage unique, then?

This is the place to go if you're looking for a vintage wedding dress (try Annie's for genuine vintage, Angelica Bridal for vintage-inspired modern dresses), vintage accessories and costume jewellery, mid-century glassware, or antique furniture.



Camden Passage also has something for the well-dressed gentleman: Fat Faced Cat has a well-edited selection of vintage finds for both men and women, in addition to gifts and luggage.


How about some retro signs?

London Islington

Or toys?


What do you say, shall we give north London a chance?

Happy Shopping, 
Tiina
SHARE:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Packing Made Simple


Recently I have been reading a lot of blog posts about packing, and I'm impressed by some bloggers' elaborate packing systems. And at the same time, there's a part of me that just wants to roll my eyes. I mean, packing is something I don't usually even think about, and yet you could say that my suitcase has been constantly packed and 'on the road' since I was nine... First I was being sent back and forth, on my own, between my divorced parents; then travelling with my mother; extended periods abroad as a student; and now my husband and I share our time between two homes in two countries.

Yet, I've only ever thought of packing as a simple matter of transporting your favourite items from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible. And to this day, this is the only way I look at packing.

For example, those little plastic bags you're supposed to put your (travel-size, of course) liquids into for the airport security control? Let's take that little plastic bag as our starting point:

travel tips2

The items in selection A fit into the plastic bag, and can therefore go into your cabin luggage. However, if you need all the items in selection B (and / or more) and want to travel with cabin luggage only, you are seriously deluded. It's never going to work. Obviously, you are not a low-maintenance girl (nothing wrong with that) and you should stop pretending that you are. Now, repeat after me: "I'm a high-maintenance girl and I need a proper suitcase." Keep repeating this mantra for ten minutes every morning until the message sinks in. Then go get yourself a nice, roomy suitcase.

luggage1
Some airlines let you take only one piece of cabin luggage. Yes, ONE PIECE. So, your handbag must either fit into your trolley, or your handbag IS your cabin luggage...

The mini-bag (Jet Set Crossbody by Michael Kors) is actually a wallet, with slots for credit cards. It can also fit my passport, a lipstick and a compact mirror, a phone and a camera. And you can sneak it past the eagle-eyed jobsworths at the gate counting how many items of hand luggage you have... I often use this instead of a handbag when I travel, too, as I like to go hands-free when I go 'sightseeing' (= shopping).

The trolley (or whatever you use as your cabin luggage) should have a  pocket with a zip, for your iPad, tickets, magazines etc that should be easily accessible.

My suitcase is in proportion to my size, easy to handle and light-weight. And as my trips often involve getting on a train or the Tube, I have to be able to lift the suitcase with one hand, or carry it up and down flights of stairs (you didn't think the Tube had lifts, did you?).

I commute between two countries regularly, so I don't have time to look for the items I only need in Homebase 2 (keys, travel insurance card, train tickets, railcard, Oyster Card, British store loyalty cards...) every time I pack. So, I keep them all in a little pouch, together with my passport, and then take the whole pouch with me and leave my 'everyday wallet' behind (since it contains items I only need in Homebase 1...)

On the plane, I always wear some variation of the following:

  • flight socks (seriously, DVT is no trivial matter)
  • a big scarf or pashmina (planes can be drafty)
  • trousers (they look better with the flight socks)
  • a T-shirt
  • a cardigan / jacket
  • slip-on shoes (they make you take your shoes off at the security control anyway)
  • a coat appropriate for my destination (i.e. it might be -10°C / 14ºF in Homebase 1 and 5°C / 41°F in Homebase 2, so I choose the coat according to my destination and take a taxi to the airport)

The trolley is strictly for weekend trips, or when I don't have time to wait for luggage because I need to get out of the airport quickly and  rush across London to catch the last train to Homebase 2.

When I go on holiday (as in, to a place other than one of the Homebases), I take a suitcase, even if it's just for 2-3 nights. Yes, really. And yes, maybe I won't wear everything I packed, but so what? I like to have options... I'm sort of an impulsive dresser: I often change my mind at the last minute and ditch the carefully planned outfit for something completely different. And as I need to take the suitcase anyway because of the toiletries (I only wear spray-on sunscreen, which is not available in travel-size), might as well make the most of it. But the suitcase should never be more than 3/4 full at the beginning of the holiday as there must be some room for the fabulous shopping I always end up doing...

Travel comfortably, 
Tiina
SHARE:
Blogger Template Created by pipdig