The vain person’s guide to dressing for winter

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The lowest fashion moment of my holiday.

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The detailing on my wool coat bought in Poland.

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The delicate little gloves I bought in South Africa which I very quickly had to replace in Europe with a warmer pair.

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Trying to look good under the coat was a challenge too.

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My trusty pashminas – I would never trade them for a traditional scarf.

As I write this I am sitting in a vest and short-shorts back in the comfort of the South African summer. I also have to admit that I did not manage to find the holy grail this holiday; that is the ability to look and feel stylish while staying warm.

While we were in Paris walking along the river, a beautiful girl, in all black, long hair loose and blowing in the wind floated past (stylish people don’t walk, they float). I looked at her with all the envy and horror my body could spare since all my energy was concentrated on not crying from the cold. She had on a very light coat, no scarf and no beanie. I think she was even wearing heels.

At that same moment I on the other hand had on:
*two thermal vest,
*a top,
*two jerseys,
*a coat,
*2 pairs of stockings and jeans,
*2 pairs of gloves,
*2 pairs of socks cutting off the circulation to my feet, and
*a beanie AND a scarf wrapped around my neck and over my beanie.

It didn’t matter that my coat was grey wool and really classic, or that my boots are a rich warm dark brown leather. I felt like a war-time refugee from Eastern Europe. I had failed.

Call me vain, it’s okay, I admit it myself. I am also sure I am not alone. I was devastated that the soft caramel-colored leather gloves I bought at the Market on Main before I left made my fingers feel like I was climbing Everest. I detested the layers and layers tucked into stocking pulled up to my waist.

Maybe the secret is acclimatization, or maybe the beautiful winter fairy was just as cold as I was. All I know is that I long for the day when I can walk beanie-free along the river in Paris, in the dead of winter, smiling like I’m on the beach in Mauritius.

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Wining and dining in Paris

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It is my last day in Europe and I am feeling really sad about leaving Andrew and going back home. So in the spirit of reminiscence I wanted to write a bit more about the restaurant we went to for lunch in Paris on the Sunday. Kong, located at the top of a building at 1 Rue du Pont Neuf, was certainly a far cry from the little cafès we had been eating at the whole time. It boasts an incredible view over the river, stylish Asian-inspired decor and prices to make your poor South African brain cry when doing the conversions (wine, food and dessert came to about 100€ a person).

Having said that, it was completely worth it to fork out a little and to enjoy some of the style and trendiness that Paris is known for. We drank delicious red wine chosen by my friend Olivier, I had a great steak tartare, and at the end we tucked into a chocolate and passion fruit macaroon and two thousand leaf cake.

Reservations are crucial and the only chance of getting the tables with the amazing views is by pure luck as they do not guarantee you a specific table.

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Among the ghosts of Pere-Lachaise

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One of my favorite scenes in the movie Paris Je T’aime is the one of the couple who have a fight while visiting the Pere Lachaise cemetery, which results in some love advice from none other than the ghost of Oscar Wilde…

The Pere Lachaise was a non-negotiable stop on my itinerary for Paris, not just because of the movie but because I am fascinated with old cemeteries. Pere Lachaise does not disappoint – it is beautiful (a very overused adjective when it comes to Paris) and eerie without being gloomy.

While we were there we were approached by an old Frenchman who offered to take us around. I thought he would ask us for money at the end but instead he greeted us and walked off. I though this was very odd because tourist attractions are full of people hustling for a few bucks, but I was very glad because he was incredibly knowledgable even though his English was not great. Who knows maybe he was actually a ghost who spends his days taking tourists around?

He told us that the cemetery is over 200 years old and the same size as the Vatican. He also told us how many times Jim Morisson’s grave has been vandalized by fans and how his previous tombstone was completely destroyed by people wanting to take a piece of it back. It is now the only grave (well from what I could see) that is cordoned off and there are security cameras watching over it.

I wish we could have stayed there for longer, it’s is a dream for any photographer. Alas my toes were crying and we only spent an hour-and-a-half there before heading to Notre Dame. And it is definitely worth having a guide there, even if he’s not a maybe-ghost and wants to be paid. The place is massive, the famous graves are not that easy to find and the little stories are priceless.

My favorite statute is the one of the little boy with his dog, and just as I was taking the photo a little bird came and sat on his shoulder. Jim Morisson’s grave is the third from the bottom – I would have captioned it but the iPad app for WordPress does not give me that option and my knowledge of coding is non existent.

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Paris, city of love

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Thirty hours in a city like Paris is not enough, but it was the best thirty hours I have spent in recent memory. As a last minute addition to my Europe trip I decided that we should go to Paris for the weekend, leaving Zurich on Saturday morning and returning Sunday night. I have never been to Paris so I was determined to cram in as much as possible, sacrificing things like eating,sleeping and shopping.

Paris did not disappoint me – it was everything I have seen in the movies, read in the books and heard from loved ones. It is beautiful, filled with beautiful people, brimming with energy and history, and above all it is a city of lovers. Everywhere you look there are couples walking hand in hand, snuggled up to keep each other warm. Tall, short,young, old, gay, Parisienne, foreign – they can all be found trying to take photographs together with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Since we were staying for only one night I decided to splash out a little and we stayed at the Ares Eiffel Hotel, just a 5 minute walk from the Tower itself. It’s a really quaint boutique hotel that is centrally located and has free wi-fi. The classic rooms (which go for 200€ a night if you book via the Internet) are small but with lovely modern bathrooms. Being in such a central location is key when you only have a short amount of time.

So what can you do in Paris in 30 hours? Walk and photograph the Eiffel Tower (but not go up), eat cheese and drink wine for lunch, walk along the river, visit the Museum D’Orsay, cross the lovers bridge, walk the whole length of the Champs Élysées to the Arc d’Triomphe, eat lots of crepes, visit the Lafayette centre (every fashion label you can think of under one roof), walk half of the Rue Saint Honore in search of the Christian Loubotin store (which closed in your face), go to Pigalle to laugh at the sex shops and snap the Moulin Rouge, get frostbite taking photos of the Eiffel Tower at night and have some dinner. Then, after a bit of sleep you go to the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, Notre Dame, walk to see the pyramid at the Louvre and enjoy a very indulgent lunch at a very fancy restaurant (Kong, 1 Rue du Pont Neuf) before heading to the airport.

I was also very impressed with the Paris metro; while a bit stinky and dirty it is very efficient and the app on my iPad made it really easy to work out which station, line and direction to take each time.

The only thing that I would change is the weather. Minus 10 with the treacherous wind is no joke and Andrew and I both looked a little like refugees who had put on as much clothes as possible before fleeing home.

Paris, je t’aime.

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