One sunny Bank Holiday weekend in last month, my friends Liv and Joe were visiting Cambridge for a spring staycation. Of course, I did what any self-respecting Cambridge-resident would do: rounded up my favourite Cambridge girl Caroline and her boyfriend, Oscar, and insisted on a picnic and an afternoon of punting on the river to kick off the summer.
I cycled across town to meet the gang at St John’s, where we all traipsed through the Bridge of Sighs towards the river to borrow a punt from Caroline’s college. We all piled in, the bottles of champagne outnumber the crew, and set off on the Cam with dashing Oscar and his master punting skills at the helm.
The sun was shining gloriously, so the afternoon melted into dusk as we floated up and down the river more times than I could count until it was time for dinner. It is quite simply the best way to see all the grand colleges along the Backs, and the three of us recounted all the marvellous historical tales we could think of as we passed each college, and made up our own stories when we couldn’t think of anything better.
It wouldn’t be a Cambridge summer without at least a few adventures by the river, and there’s no place I’d rather be on a sunny Sunday afternoon than messing about on boats with friends.
Let it never be said that I don’t know what I like. Trends come and go – and whilst I’ll sometimes experiment with a new style – it’s those classic, gorgeously feminine pieces I always reach for. Or put more simply, red lipstick and Louboutins always trump #normcore (unless you’re my friend Alex of The Frugality, who wears boyfriend shirts and Birkenstocks like no one else and makes me wish I were half as cool as her).
I’m pretty powerless against a dark floral dress, but I always prefer a dark, winter version (as seen here and here) vs a lighter spring iteration, which can feel a little too twee or predictable. I bought this neoprene version in Anthropologie before Christmas, and it it looks instantly glamorous, but is actually completely effortless (exactly what I like in a dress). I teamed it with my sky-high red Louboutins for date night, but it looks just as good with a mid-heel (this Kate Spade pair are a perfect substitute because, let’s be honest, those Louboutins are strictly taxi shoes only) for dinner, or teamed with black boots or a ballet flat for day. Just add red lipstick and a jaunty beret and voila: the perfect coquettish winter look that will work for just about every occasion.
Though I’m never one to dive head-first into the latest trends, I do like to give a nod to the changing seasons; a new silhouette here, and added dose of sparkle there. For me, like my favourite jewels or a stroke of red lipstick, fragrance is a year-round style staple; a spritz of scent in the air as I dash out the door each morning lends the final finishing flourish to every look.
Once the clocks go back and winter descends, the scents I associate with summer – my beloved Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal which smells of pears and cut grass and a Parisian park in the springtime, or Jo Malone’s crisp Orange Blossom, which always accompanies me on any far-flung summer adventure – make way for gourmands and heady white florals that so beautifully complement winter’s richer palette and moody skies.
Much like my sartorial style, I’m always drawn to pretty, classic feminine scents rather than anything cloying or overpowering. Marc Jacobs‘ original scent – a gorgeous combination of gardenia, jasmine and bergamot – has been a favourite for a decade, and Diptyque’s DoSon is a similarly lovely white floral that works anytime. I adore Jo Malone’s Rose Water and Vanilla cologne (pretty-sexy rather than saccharine, it smells of Turkish delight and candlelit dates and will linger softly all day), and was so upset when I discovered it was being discontinued that I panic-bought two more bottles from the Cambridge store (if you also love it, you won’t find it anywhere online but the standalone Jo Malone stores should all still have a bottle or two hidden in the back). My Burberry has become my everyday scent – it works just as well with a cashmere sweater and jeans as it does with lace and jewels for evening - and Chanel’s Gardenia is a perennial favourite when I want to feel my most ladylike.
And if they look well-loved, that’s just because they are. With the exception of Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir which I’ve just added to my collection (I’m giving this a whirl in lieu of my other autumn/winter favourite, Blackberry & Bay), and Tom Ford’s Fleur de Portofino (which I added this year and wore all summer long, but is luxe enough to work just as well for winter too), these are all firm favourites from last year* which will take me through another winter season until spring’s call for an olfactory clean sweep next year.
I’d love to know your favourite fragrances and any new scent you think I should try. Do you have a signature perfume which you wear each day, or do you, like me, rotate a collection based on your mood and the seasons?
*Tip: always keep your perfumes out of direct sunlight and store them in the top shelf of your fridge when out of season and they’ll last for at least a couple of years.
Last month, I was lucky enough to be whisked to Munich for two days to attend Oktoberfest with Thomas Sabo. Now, anyone who knows me will know how hilarious the thought of me at a beer festival is; I hardly ever drink and the thought of noisy festival goers en masse rather fills me with terror. But because I love Thomas Sabo, and because I know attending Oktoberfest is one of those things every traveller should experience once in their lifetime (but that I probably wasn’t about to go anytime soon otherwise), I jumped at the chance.
So there I was a few days later; swapping two days in the office for the annual Bavarian festivities. Happily, my blog pal Carrie had also been invited; as we’re both premature nannas who don’t drink beer, we knew we’d be sticking together like glue. We tore ourselves away for half an hour after landing to quickly peek at the city, before being ushered off to begin our evening at Oktoberfest. We were greeted by our lederhosen-clad guides and delicious gebrannte mandeln (paper cones of hot sugar-glazed almonds) for a walking tour of the area.
In truth, I was a bit apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect, but I honestly had the most wonderful time. The atmosphere was celebratory and merry; the air thick with the smell of warm gingerbread and the sound of old-fashioned fairground rides, and I was wide-eyed at the sight of all the charming stalls (selling German snacks and ceramic beer krugs) and almost everyone dressed in their lederhosen and dirndls. Although I was aiming for ‘Bavarian fairytale’ when I got dressed, I only wish I’d found an authentic dirndl to wear to really get into the spirit (we were the odd ones out to not be wearing traditional dress).
After trying our luck at a few games of chance and walking around the whole site (it’s not especially large, so only takes about an hour or two to cover the ground), we headed into Käfers Wiesen Schänke - one of the oldest and grandest beer halls at the festival. It was as though we’d stepped into some kind of German Disneyland; it felt like a perfect version of every traditional stereotype you could imagine. Think jolly oom-pah bands and revelry, gingerbread hearts strung from the wooden beams, and the sound of hundreds of giant beer glasses clinking. At our booth we were greeted by tables groaning with giant pretzels, brotzeit (platters of German sausage, cheese, radish and bread), potato dumplings and strudel. As the night wore on, the cries of ‘Prost!’ (cheers) grew more frequent and everyone began singing loudly and dancing on their benches while we looked on in bemused wonder (I’m sure I would have joined in had I managed more than an inch of my beer…! I’m so very rock ‘n’ roll, I know).
As they say, it certainly was a night to remember!