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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Travel: A weekend guide to Capri


Having been to Capri twice, I’m surprised that the majority of people tend to pay the beautiful island a fleeting visit, arriving just before midday and fleeing on a late afternoon ferry. There’s so much more to see on the island than the Blue Grotto and the Piazzetta in Capri town! Here are my top tips and recommendations for an extended trip to my favourite Italian Isle.

What to do:

The Blue Grotto and the Faraglioni
One of the most iconic sites of Capri, it’s impossible to visit the island without taking a boat over to the Blue Grotto. Hop aboard a boat in Marina Grande, either just to the Blue Grotto or a half-day trip to the Blue Grotto and continuing around the entire island. I chose to go around the whole island, taking in the lighthouse, a couple of smaller grottos and of course the Faraglioni.

For the Blue Grotto, you’ll need to be transferred to a wooden rowboat so your able skipper can navigate through the entrance to the grotto – be sure to lay as flat as possible as the entrance is barely a meter high! Once inside, you’ll see the grotto lit up by a beautiful azure blue light, while the boatmen sing old sailor songs. It really is something special.

I continued around the island and one of the highlights was seeing the Faraglioni, three huge rocks jutting out of the water. They’re an iconic emblem of Capri and this is the best way to see them so I highly recommend taking the half day boat tour.


Capri Town
Capri Town is unsurprisingly the epicentre of Capri island. As soon as you step off the boat, you’re whisked by funicular train up to Capri Town. The Piazzetta is the heart of Capri Town, with four bars on each side of the square – ideal for sipping a limoncello and people watching. The town has a very laid back vibe so it’s best to take it easy and just have a wander down the little lanes and enjoy it at leisure.


I’ll cover where to eat and drink a little later in this post but the town is great for shopping. Fashionistas must take a stroll down Via Camerelle to window shop every luxury brand from Prada to Gucci, Chanel is opening very soon right across the street from the Grand Hotel Quisisana.


Aside from food and fashion, there are two lovely hiking trails which start in Capri Town. There’s a lovely hike up to Villa Jovis which sits atop Capri’s second highest peak, Monte Tiberio. The second hike is slightly more leisurely, taking you to the Arco Naturale, a natural arch formed by the collapse of a grotto which dates back to the Palaeolithic age. Both hikes start at the same spot. Next to Piccolo Bar, head down a tiny little road which is no more than an alley called Via Le Botteghe. Keep following the road until you see signs for both Villa Jovis and the Arco Naturale, pick your route depending on how adventurous you’re feeling! There are some great little restaurants along the Arco Naturale route, as an FYI.


Anacapri
Anacapri feels like the real Capri, no glitz or glam, no celebrities and much fewer tourists, you get a feel for real life on the island. Full of pretty little lanes and piazzas decorated with bright geraniums and bougainvillaea, it’s so picturesque it barely feels real. It’s only a short 15-minute bus ride from Capri Town but feels like a world away. Those day trippers are really missing out!

The bus shudders to a stop in Piazza Vittoria, in between the chair lift for Monte Solaro and the main street in Anacapri. Getting a chair lift to the top of Capri’s highest peak is one of my favourite things to do on the island. It takes about 12 minutes to slowly make your way to the top of Monte Solaro, enough time to take in incredible panoramic views of the island. At the top, you’re rewarded with beautiful views across the Bay of Naples, just blue skies meeting blue seas. There’s a shop at the top but I recommend taking your own picnic of treats with you.

You can either return via chairlift or by hiking down the mountain. I’ve done both and thoroughly recommend the hike down – for one, gravity is working with you! It's not an arduous journey, just watch out for goats on your way down.


Once you’re back in Piazza Vittoria, head across the road to Via Giuseppe, the main street in Anacapri. This is a beautiful little bougainvillea-lined street full of shops and restaurants. Last time I was taking a stroll down, I made friends with an old Nonno who introduced me to his wife and sold me a pair of her hand-knitted baby booties.

About halfway down the lane, you’ll see signs to Chiesa Monulentale di San Michele. Follow them and you’ll find the most incredible church. The baroque church was completed in 1719 and while it may look simple on the outside, the inside houses one of Capri’s architectural treasures. Ceramic artist Leonardo Chiaiese painted the majolica tiled floor with a scene showing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The detail is incredible, best admired up close on the ground floor and in its entirety from the organ loft where the colours and scene really come to life.


Faro
From Viale Tommaso de Tommaso bus stop in Anacapri, you can continue by bus to Faro, the southernmost tip of the island. Home to Capri’s lighthouse, the second tallest in Italy, this little spot in drenched in sunshine from dawn til dusk. No wonder it’s a favourite spot for the locals, both for sunbathing at the beach as well as enjoying an epic sunset.

There are a number of paid-for beach clubs on the island but the Lido del Faro is free, perfect! Beaches on Capri tend to be rocky but the beach at Faro has sun decks nestled between the rocks, a beach club, restaurant and snack bar.

On Sunday, half the island descends onto Faro for a sunset beach party. There are three beach bars servicing cocktails and it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set across the crystal clear waters.


Where to eat and drink:
When it comes to dining, you are spoilt for choice. Most of my favourite restaurants on the island are located in Capri Town, where you may or may not bump into one of the celebrities that love to visit Capri during the summer months.

La Capannina – Via Le Botteghe, Capri Town
La Capannina is a Capri institution. It dates back to the 1930s and everyone from Jackie O to Mariah Carey has passed through their doors – the walls are adorned with pictures of politicians, singers and royalty who have dined at the restaurant. During busy months, the beautiful conservatory is the place to be, decked out with flowers it’s a stunning space. I enjoyed a modest ravioli with parmesan topped asparagus as a side and regret not ordering more!



Aurora – Via Fuorlovado, Capri Town

Aurora is one of those places on the island, where you go to be seen. One of the top eateries on the island, it has a beautiful front terrace which is always lively as well as an expansive yet intimate dining space inside. Candle-lit tables with starched tablecloths and attentive waiters in black and white uniforms, this is the place to go for a special meal on the island. Owned by the D’Allesio family, the cuisine is traditional Caprese with a touch of Neapolitan flair. I started with a very green and very fresh minestrone soup followed by the thinnest, lightest margarita pizza I have ever had in my life, the base was paper thin but full of flavour. I didn’t want this gastronomic feast to end so of course, I found a little room for dessert, a delicious rhum baba was the perfect way to end this incredible meal.


Restaurant D’Amore – Via Fuorlovado, Capri Town

Just a couple of doors down from Aurora is Restaurant D’Amore. We grabbed a seat at the bright, pretty terrace to grab a quick bite before hopping on the ferry back to Naples and it’s probably one of the best impulse decisions I’ve made. The restaurant is a mix of old and new. The name itself is new, formerly known as the Ristorante Sollievo, and the place has had a beautiful, contemporary makeover. I had a delicious and generous portion of gnocchi alla Sorrentina, which was very welcome after the tiny portion I received at La Capannina. I finished my meal with the most exquisitely presented Crème Brulee. Even a month on, I still think about my meal at Restaurant D’Amore.


Villa Verde – Via Sella Orta

Villa Verde, like Aurora, came highly recommended and is known as one of the best eateries on the island – this was confirmed by the group of handsome Italians at the next table who inevitably started chatting to us. Despite the reputation, this was my least favourite place to eat. As a vegetarian, I’m used to having a reduced menu choice compared to my meat-eating pals but this has never really been a problem for me in Italy, I find it one of the easiest places to be vegetarian as everywhere does a margarita and a spaghetti Pomodoro as an absolute minimum. I opted for the latter as it was one of the few veggie-friendly options and it was awful. It was just spaghetti with chunks of very strong tomatoes chopped and thrown together, I didn’t get a hint of garlic, basil or any other seasoning. Luckily the tiramisu and multiple limoncellos saved this otherwise disappointing meal.


Taverna Anema e Core – Via Sella Orta

You’d be forgiven for assuming the nightlife in Capri was wild – ostentatious clubs rivalling the Just Cavalli club in Milan perhaps or perhaps super sleek hotel bars channelling the Armani hotel. There are in fact only two clubs on the entire island, the infamous yet unassuming Taverna Anema e Core and a nightclub I can’t quite remember the name of…despite two visits in two years. Located in the centre of Capri Town just a hop and a skip from Villa Verde lies the Taverna and its infamous stage show. The first time I visited the Taverna, I was ushered through the unmarked wooden doors by some rather cute Italian boys who promised it’s the best spot in town.

What I encountered was a live band playing traditional Latin and Italian songs which everyone (bar me) knew all the words to. Everyone was in high spirits, the drinks flowed freely and it was all very confusing. Hard to imagine Naomi Campbell or Beyonce and Jay Z in the Taverna but stranger things have happened. Like the end of the night when legendary owner Guido, a 90-something Italian Nonno, jumps on a table and starts to strip down to his white pants… to much applause. When I visit this year, I meet Guido himself. The charmer kissed my hand and sang me Italian love songs, the charmer. The second time around, knowing what I was in for, it was a super fun night and I can see why the Taverna is the island’s hot spot.

Where to stay:
Inevitably, there are a plethora of hotels to choose from in Capri. For me, location was super important. Having visited the island last year, I knew that I wanted to stay in Capri Town for ease, accessibility and of course to be near the good food! For me, the obvious choice was the Grand Hotel Quisisana – arguably the finest hotel in Capri. It was opened in 1845 and occupies an enviable location just off Via Camerelle. The neoclassical building is so grand and beautiful, the staff could not do more to help you and the breakfast buffet is to die for. I loved the beautiful pool area which looks our across the sea – this is a huge bonus owing to the lack of “proper” beaches on Capri. Read my full review of Grand Hotel Quisisana in my separate post, coming soon.


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Monday, 17 July 2017

Outfit Post: Let's Talk About The 'Gram


I think it's time we settled down with a cup of tea and talked about Instagram. As one of the blogging elders, I've been on Instagram for more than half a decade and I've seen it evolve from a sea of Valencia-filtered snaps documenting the ordinary to its current airbrushed and editorial. Change is good, particularly when it means no more blurry Starbucks pics in your feed but Instagram has changed so much over the last few years, I can’t help thinking its current landscape is problematic for a few reasons. 

As a blogger/influencer/content creator (what are we calling ourselves these days?!), Instagram is arguably the most important channel to promote your work. Despite not being able to include links in posts, it offers influencers the opportunity to visually communicate who they are - after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. A quick scroll of someone's feed gives you a snapshot into their style, lifestyle choices last holiday and even what they had for breakfast. This is why its’ such a key form of social media for content creators, it's invaluable to promote who you are and who you stand for.

This is particularly important for fashion bloggers. Fashion is a visual form of self-expression, so of course, Instagram is vital for the entire industry, not just fashion bloggers. I work for a brand that uses Instagram to establish a visual identity, using obscure art references or archive imagery alongside current product images. This helps to build substance behind the brand, establishing a personality and point of difference - which is exactly what influencers seek to do on the ‘gram. 


Learning about Instagram and how to harness it to build an audience is all well and good until Instagram decides to rewrite the rules. This happened last year; the infamous algorithm change which saw the feed change from simply displaying images in chronological order to a feed which uses an ever-changing algorithm to determine which content is displayed and to how many people. The upshot is brands and influencers alike have struggled with plummeting visibility and engagement ever since. For people who make a living from Instagram, it’s been disastrous. 

Influencers have had to start taking Instagram "seriously". By that I mean the fun has gone and it's now become increasingly strategic, laborious and stressful to maintain a decent presence on IG, both in terms of engagement on individual posts and to grow your audience. For brands and agencies, it’s all about the numbers. First and foremost, they judge influencers on how many followers they have. Engagement on posts in a secondary consideration, mainly to ensure there’s no discrepancy to indicate that an influencer has bought their followers. 

From hashtagging to comment pods, influencers have tried various different tactics to increase engagement and attract new followers. Perhaps the most extreme act is to engage bots to comment, like and follow/unfollow people in a bid to grow your audience. This is problematic, as brands will engage and pay for bloggers' services based on false inflated figures it essentially boils down to fraud. But I think it’s important to ask why people resort to such lengths for social media.


The pressure on influencers is insane. When I started blogging there were a few dozen fashion bloggers, we all knew each other pretty well. Nowadays, there are literally thousands. Everyone is vying to be the best and partner with brands or agencies, who only see the numbers. Instead of valuing micro-influencers, who have smaller but much more engaged audiences, it’s only ever the huge bloggers who are selected by brands - which is exactly why there’s so much pressure on numbers Bloggers also perpetuate this issue by judging other bloggers on the number of followers. We’ve all become obsessed with chasing a number which ultimately means nothing in the grand scheme of things. And Instagram keeps changing the goalposts make it harder and harder to reach that number. Isn’t that crazy?! 

For a while, I was obsessive about the number of followers and likes each picture got. I was invited to a couple of comment pods, I focused on making my Instagram look prettier. And honestly, I was adding a bunch of needless stress and worry to my life. Instagram began to rule my life, it was ridiculous. I've now given up chasing numbers, trying to keep up with comment pods, being a slave to a theme and all the other needless stress. I'm so much happier for it. It's liberating to take a step back and not put unnecessary pressure on yourself to live up to someone's expectations. 


Tshirt - Theyksens' Theory
Jeans - Zara
Belt - Off White
Heels - Aquazzura

Photography by Adorn Girl
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Monday, 10 July 2017

Outfit Post: Sunshine Yellow



There’s something about the colour yellow. It just feels optimistic, exuberant and joyful. It always makes me think of the sunshine and summer. In London, summer always seems to be fleeting so we make the most of it, packing onto rooftop bars and into parks or beer gardens. The city has a different feeling when the sun is shining; everyone is a little less fraught but the energy is buzzing. That’s what the colour yellow means to me. It’s one of my favourite colours to wear.

Despite being such an upbeat and zingy hue, yellow isn’t often seen on the runway and therefore rarely trickles down to the highstreet. This season though, brights ruled the runway with an abundance of yellow peppered through the collections, particularly in London. Soft sherbert yellow accents were seen at Simone Rocha, Erdem was enamoured with lemon chiffon and Roksanda’s signature feminine silhouettes came in a slightly subdued flaxen yellow shade.

Admittedly, yellow can be a little tricky to pull off and can wash out skintones and clash with blonde hair. But one of the best things about being a woman of colour is that pretty much every colour looks beautiful against our skintones, especially brights. This is never more evident than at an Indian wedding where every shade under the sun is worn, from burnt orange through to cool turquoise. The only colour that’s off-limits is red, it’s always reserved for the bride. One of my favourite Indian saris is a lovely soft pastel yellow shade and I love wearing it, I always feel so happy and confident. I guess that’s the power of yellow. There just never seems to be enough of it on the highstreet!

That’s why I couldn’t resist this little ASOS number when I spied it. I just had to have it. The beautifully draped sleeves and strappy back were stunning details and the bold buttercup yellow shade just amped up the attitude of the dress. I think the images speak for themselves, there’s not much more I can say to describe the dress or its fun, zingy shade. It just seems to perfectly capture summer, happiness and that energy that infects London when the sun shines. I have a feeling it will help me hold onto the feeling of summer a little longer than the fleeting sunshine in London! 



 

Dress - ASOS
Heels - Forever 21

Photography by Adorn Girl
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Sunday, 2 July 2017

Outfit Post: Keepin' it Simple


Sometimes you just need to keep it simple. No bells. No whistles. No ruffles or frills or prints. This has been my attitude to dressing over the last couple of weeks. My uniform has had two variations; a simple dress or jeans and a t-shirt. Nothing complicated. My life has been complicated enough, I needed to keep one aspect of my life simple. 

I don't like getting too personal on social media and my blog but these days it's almost inevitable. Instagram is a buffed and polished insight into someone's life but Twitter and Insta Stories are a little rougher. Twitter is like a conscious stream of unconnected thoughts and observations while Insta Stories delves behind the gloss and sheds some light on real life.

If you follow me on Twitter or Insta Stories, you may have an inkling about what has been going on in my life. My mum had major surgery this week. The 10-hour surgery was necessary but risky and I'm glad to say it went well; my mum's such a fighter I'm so proud of her for pulling through. Since the surgery, I've been by her side in the hospital and I'm so humbled and inspired by her strength and determination to survive. 

Now that we have been through the worst, I feel like I have a new lease of life. The road to recovery is going to be long and bumpy but my mum has a second chance at life, which means the world to me. I am forever grateful to the incredible NHS for looking after my mum for the last 14 years and I'm so thankful to Cancer Research UK for their pioneering work, which has helped save countless lives. 

Thank you to my pals for being so supportive and to everyone sending tweets and messages over the last few days. Your love, support and positivity has been incredible. 

Love, 
Reena
x





Dress - Missy Empire
Bag - Miu Miu

Photographed by Adorn Girl

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Outfit Post: Repeating Outfits & The State of Blogging


This outfit might seem a little familiar. I posted an almost identical outfit a couple of months ago with the same pretty, demure skirt and a very cropped tee. I absolutely adore the skirt and I’ve worn it dozens of times, so it seemed like a natural choice to shoot and share it again. But I have to admit that I’ve been doubting myself, debating whether I should post the outfit as it’s similar to the previous one. I’ve even shifted dates so there’s a sufficient gap between the two posts. Talk about overthinking it! I’m not Kate Middleton and it’s not going to make headlines if I repeat an outfit. Yet, the fear was there.

As an old timer in the blogging world, I’ve seen the blogosphere change a lot over the years. Back when I started, it was very personal and a little rough around the edges. It was a rebellion against the super glossy monthly magazines; an authentic and accountable voice. We wrote about what we loved rather than kowtowing to advertisers. It was genuine. But as blogging has evolved into a form of mainstream media, it’s become much more polished and professional than it used to, which had both good and bad points.


On the plus side, I have seen countless people use their blog as a platform to launch a really successful career. A blogger is essentially a one-person publishing house and as such, bloggers build up a plethora of skills from writing, shooting, art direction, branding, editing, social media management, the list goes on! The online presence bloggers build up is so invaluable to brands and it can become a full time career. I met Matthew Zorpas long before he started his blog, The Gentleman Blogger, and I couldn’t be more pleased that he has become one of the most in demand menswear bloggers in the world. The evolution of blogging has also created in-house roles as well as entire agencies to manage influencers. That is the power of the blogosphere.

I also love the democracy within blogging; anyone can use it as a platform and it’s been incredible to see so many different types of women gain a following. Women who don’t look like they just stepped out of a magazine or off a runway. As a woman of colour, it’s so heartening to see women of all shades thriving. It’s so dope that Kaushal of Kaushal Beauty is a L’oreal ambassador! It’s also brilliant to see plus-size bloggers like Nadia Aboulhosn and Danielle Vanier absolutely slaying. There’s still a long way to go for true equality but I feel like the blogosphere is more than doing its part to help give equal prominence to all minorities.

However, there can’t be positives without some negatives. I’ve been blogging for long enough to remember when it first started, it felt like a community. Most of us knew each other and we would be rooting for each other. The blogging landscape in 2017 is quite different. It feels so fractured with lots of different blogging tribes or cliques and there seems to be a Twitter brouhaha every other week now. The negativity is almost deafening.  

There are also the totally unrealistic expectations that blogging sets. The lifestyle portrayed has become such a contrived view of perfection. There has been lots of talk about bloggers photoshopping their blog and Instagram images, not just to punch up the colour but magazine-level airbrushing where the images are tweaked so much they barely resemble them. I’ve also heard of bloggers who have a separate credit card to order designer pieces to shoot and then return. There’s an immense pressure to have the latest pieces to shoot. But going to such lengths only to buy and return something while providing free publicity is ridiculous!


I feel like enough is enough. Blogging started from a good place, a genuine voice fighting against the sea of airbrushing, photoshopping and unattainability. But in an effort to evolve and refine blogging, we’ve now become what the magazines were. Pushing the envelope and striving to be better are great but I feel like we also have a responsibility to be accountable to our audiences. Things like excessive photoshopping or creating a fake lifestyle just feel deceitful.

It’s easy to call our the negative aspects but I have to admit, I also feel the pressure to create editorial-style images and have a constantly updated wardrobe. But I try to stay grounded to who I am. And if that means shooting the same skirt a couple of times then so be it. I’m a real person, I saw this skirt on ASOS, bought it and absolutely adore it.


Skirt - ASOS
Bag - Chloe

Photography: Adorn Girl.

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