26 June 2017

Berlin Botanical Garden

In March I spent 36 hours in Berlin on a blogger trip with a jam-packed first day and time to do my own thing on the second day.  This was my third time in the German capital, but I hadn't cycled there before - my favourite way to see a city - so hired a bike to explore the parks and head down to the residential Lichterfelde borough 12km southwest of the centre to spend the morning at the Botanischer Garten.

Emma Louise Layla at the Berlin Botanical Garden - travel & lifestyle blog


24 June 2017

The Summer Exhibition

Since 1769, the Royal Academy of Arts has held its Summer Exhibition, the largest open submission exhibition in the world, which today features a vibrant, visual collection of art in all media from artists across the globe.  This year, the committee of 12 academicians - led by Eileen Cooper OBE - reviewed 12,500 digital submissions, shortlisted 2,500 to see in person, and chose the final 1,500 sculptures, neons, paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, models, words and films for inclusion.

Imperial Palace, Tokyo - Robert Walker, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Robert Walker

It's a British institution, and the democratic selection process - anyone is welcome to submit work - provides a platform for young artists, ensures diversity and keeps things fresh every year.  The themes of discovery and new talent means there's no hierarchy: a small black and white print from an unknown photographer sits alongside a colourful large-scale abstract by an up-and-coming artist, next to a more traditional oil landscape from an established painter.  This is the fourth or fifth time I've attended and each year you discover some gems: here are my twelve favourites from the 2017 show.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition runs 13 June-20 August 2017

Flame and Summer - Mali Morris RA, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Flame and Summer, Mali Morris RA

Afternoon Shade - Beatriz Elorza, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Afternoon Shade, Beatriz Elorza

To Belong Somewhere, David Remfry RA, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
To Belong Somewhere, David Remfry RA

Yellow Mimosa July 23, 2015 - Donald Sultan, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Yellow Mimosa July 23 2015, Donald Sultan

Broken Terrain - Emma Stibbon RA, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Broken Terrain, Emma Stibbon RA

Pacific Coast Highway, George Condo, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Pacific Coast Highway, George Condo

Red Sea - Barbara Rae RA, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Red Sea, Barbara Rae RA

Hub 1 - Bill Jacklin RA,  Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Hub 1, Bill Jacklin RA

The Tide That Laps Against The Shore, Gillian Ayres RA, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
The Tide That Laps Against The Shore, Gillian Ayres RA

Tate Shadow, Simon Lawson, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Tate Shadow, Simon Lawson

Promenade, Charlie Billingham, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017
Promenade, Charlie Billingham

12 June 2017

Restaurant Duke, Berlin

In March I went on a blogger trip to Berlin and had a whirlwind 24 hours planned with the Chamäleon Theater team and six other bloggers, and a second day to do my own thing.  I woke up at the super-cool 25Hours hotel, opened the curtains to blue skies and zoo views (you can see monkeys and giraffes from the bedrooms), had breakfast in the sunny rooftop restaurant and hired one of the hotel's complimentary bikes for the day.  I ended up cycling 40km between the city's parks, stopping for a late lunch at Restaurant Duke.

Restaurant Duke, Duke Ellington Hotel, Berlin - travel & lifestyle blog


11 June 2017

36 hours in Berlin

Back in March I received an email asking if I'd like to go to Berlin to see the new Scotch & Soda production at The Chameleon Theatre.  Would I?!  Berlin is an awesome city - I hadn't been since 2007 - and I love cabaret shows (including the Scotch & Soda London show in 2015 and Cantina in 2012), so I promptly replied with an excited ja.  Here's what we got up to...

Scotch & Soda at The Chameleon Theater, Berlin - travel & lifestyle blog


8 June 2017

Pastel Brights

Nails Inc recently released four nail varnishes which are long-lasting, super glossy and in the prettiest bright pastel colours - I'll be wearing them all summer long.

Nails Inc Neon Pastel nail varnishes - UK beauty blog


1 June 2017

The Otherist

I'm baaack!  My little blog hiatus is over, as I returned from Peru on Monday (I have so much to share with you) and the jet lag has just about subsided, so I thought I'd jump back into things with a cheeky little cheap eats recommendation.  A few weeks ago, I met my boyfriend in the city for a casual Thursday night dinner at The Otherist from the guys behind Drake & Morgan.

The Otherist, London restaurant review - British lifestyle blog

12 May 2017


Llama in Peru, ffffound - travel blog

Signing off for sixteen days as I'm flying out to Peru today and visiting South America for the first time - hasta luego!

10 May 2017


After five days in Hanoi, we hopped on a rather bleak overnight train to Sapa in northwestern Vietnam for a day of hiking through terraced rice paddies, past fields of wild animals, small villages and the local black Hmong and red Dao tribes before catching the sleeper back to the capital.

Sapa rice fields, Vietnam - travel blog


8 May 2017


I'm much more of a silver girl than gold - with blue eyes, quite fair skin and dark hair, I've always gravitated towards cool colours over warm colours, so the majority of my wardrobe is black, greys and blues (have I mentioned I like blue dresses?) paired with silver jewellery.  But every now and then, gold jewellery catches my eye and these star pieces from Newbridge Silverware did just that.

Gold jewellery and vintage Jaeger jacket - UK style blog


24 April 2017


Last week I received a parcel with 'Why send flowers when you can send Biscuiteers?' written on the outside.  Well, quite.  I love Biscuiteers - there are always squeals of delight at press days or when we're sent some at the office and I've featured the Easter egg tin before - but I also love gardening, always have fresh flowers at home, and my phone and camera are 80% full of flower photos (especially cherry blossom, magnolia and wisteria right now).  Put the two together and you have a very nice afternoon tea break indeed...

Biscuiteers Green Fingers biscuit tin - UK lifestyle blog


22 April 2017


I love fashion editorials which tell stories and create characters, like this chic, sunny Harper's Bazaar shoot.  Featured in the May 2017 issue, Puerto Rican supermodel Joan Smalls plays happy families as a luxe vacationer with a mid-century vibe - prim pearls, preppy hairbands, pastel colourblocks and bold prints - complete with a hot husband (Justice Joslin), cute kids and awesome poodle.  Shot by Peruvian photographer Mariano Vivanco, styled by Jaime Kay Waxman.

Joan Smalls chic fashion editorial for Harper's Bazaar US by Mariano Vivanco


18 April 2017


When I took my Dad to Bilbao last summer for his birthday, we travelled west on the subway out to the Bay of Biscay using our 72 hour Bilbao Bizkaia cards - I'd recommend getting one as it's both a travel card for all public transport (including the cable car up the Artxanda mountain for incredible views of the city) and gives you free entry to lots of attractions, including the must-see Guggenheim museum.  We walked along the Ibaizabal estuary to see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed iron Vizcaya Bridge - the world's first bridge to carry people and traffic on a suspended gondola - and out to the beach to stroll to Getxo and Algorta in the sunshine.

Bay of Biscay beach day, Bilbao - travel & lifestyle blog


14 April 2017


Pantone Easter eggs ffffound - UK lifestyle blog
Happy Easter! Enjoy the long weekend...

12 April 2017


I liked Ho Chi Minh City, but I loved Hanoi.  We were in Vietnam last year for a total of eleven days, spread over four days in HCMC before we headed over the border to Cambodia for a few days in Phnom Penh, a few days in Siem Reap, then back over to northern Vietnam for five days in Hanoi in between trips to Sapa and Halong Bay before heading up to Hong Kong.  The Vietnamese capital is hectic with its crazy streets and bustling markets, yet elegant with beautiful French colonial architecture, Chinese influences and lakes dotted around everywhere.  Here's what we got up to...

Emma Louise Layla in Hanoi, Vietnam - lifestyle & travel blog


7 April 2017


L’Eau from Jimmy Choo is the newest addition to my fragrance collection; a light, fruity and floral scent in a pretty pink glass bottle which came out earlier this year.  I liked both Illicit and Stars a couple of years ago, so was keen to try out the latest adaptation of the Signature fragrance from the luxury British brand.

Jimmy Choo L'Eau fragrance - UK beauty blog


5 April 2017


How amazing is this weather? Even though we didn't have a particularly harsh winter, every time spring comes round it is an absolute joy to throw open the curtains in the morning and see sunshine, leave work when it's still bright outside and not have to worry about wrapping up in knitwear, coats and scarves.  Although saying that, I always get over-excited at the first sign of spring, pack away my winter coats and freeze once the sun sets...  Sorry Mum, still doing that.  The weather's lovely, the blossom and magnolia is in bloom (I can't stop taking photos) and I'm starting to get my cycling mojo back (let's be Strava buddies) after knee surgery last year.  I'm looking forward to a spring/ summer spent outdoors!

Boohoo dress of the month - London blogger Emma Louise Layla


30 March 2017


Last month I went to the Coliseum to see the English National Opera's production of Rigoletto, set in 1950s Little Italy in Jonathan Miller's iconic New York staging.  Giuseppe Verdi's three-act opera is one of the best-loved in the repertoire and tells a tragic story of jealousy, vengeance and sacrifice.

English National Opera's Rigoletto at the London Coliseum - UK culture blog


17 March 2017


Philippe Starck Ghost Chairs in the dining room - interior style blog
We're about to move into an unfurnished flat (I'm surrounded by dozens of stacked boxes as I type - oh joy) and I'm trying to convince my boyfriend about Philippe Starck's iconic ghost chairs for the dining table...

13 March 2017


A few weeks ago, we navigated the busy Thursday night crowds in Covent Garden, walked down to Maiden Lane and through the bright green patterned door of the casual, vibrant Indian restaurant Cinnamon Bazaar for a delicious dinner.

Cinnamon Bazaar Indian restaurant, Covent Garden - London lifestyle blog


8 March 2017


Essie is up there with Nails Inc as my favourite nail varnish brand.  I love their products, gel manicures and ballet, so when I heard that they were bringing out a collection of ballet-inspired nude shades in their gel couture range, I wanted them all...

Essie gel couture ballet nude nail varnishes - UK beauty blog


6 March 2017


The weather's doing odd things at the moment: we've had rain, sun, gale force winds, hailstone, rainbows, showers and everything in between in the past week.  Trans-seasonal dressing is tricky at the best of times, but I've spent the past few days running all over London with scarves, gloves, hats and umbrellas in my bag.  So on the breezy but relatively mild weekend just gone, I relished carrying a small bag and wearing minimal layers.

Green and black outfit - London fashion blog


1 March 2017


Like most girls my age, I grew up loving the 90s classic Beauty and the Beast, singing along (I still seem to know all the words to Belle) and dreaming of living in an enchanted chateau, swishing around a grand ballroom in a beautiful ballgown.  Hell, I still do.  Of all the Disney remakes, this is the one I was most excited about, so I was thrilled to go to the London premiere last week.  The film is SO good and my Emma Watson girl crush has soared to new heights.  There are lots of exciting collaborations to promote the new film, but this is my favourite...

Latest in Beauty x Beauty and the Beast limited edition beauty box for women


26 February 2017


After four days in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, we took a flight to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for a few days, then drove north to go temple-hopping in Siem Reap and took a flight back over to Vietnam for a few days in Hanoi.  In HCMC, we stayed at the chic Intercontinental Asiana Saigon and decided to stay at the Intercontinental in Hanoi too, situated just outside of the centre on the largest lake in the city.

InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, Vietnam - luxury travel blog


24 February 2017


Vintage Vogue Paris cover - fashion blog
I'll never get tired of vintage Vogue covers... Vogue Paris, Juillet/ AOut 1952


A couple of weeks ago I attended the last night of Richard Eyre’s classic production of La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. Written in the early 1850s by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi and set to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, the three-act opera tells the story of a courtesan falling in love in 19th century Paris, based on Alexandre Dumas fils' romantic novel La Dame aux Camélias, itself based on the true story of beautiful courtesan Marie Duplessis.

La Traviata at the Royal Opera House - London lifestyle blog

It opens with an elegant party with ballgowns and tuxedos as the guests raise ‘A toast to the pleasures of life!’ in the famous Brindisi (The Drinking Song) and takes us beneath the glamorous surface of Parisian high society, with social tensions and doomed lovers.  Violetta falls in love with Alfredo, whose father Germont disapproves and convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo for the family's sake, whilst Alfredo thinks Violetta left him because she no longer loves him. When Germont sees the ill, lonely Violetta (the 'fallen woman' of the title) he understands how much she's sacrificed and confesses to Alfredo, who goes to Violetta's deathbed to see her before she dies.  It's one of the most popular operas for its breadth of dramatic emotions and wonderful melodies, and a must-see for all theatre-goers, classical music lovers and opera newbies.

 Read more culture posts & London features

22 February 2017


Tenue de Soirée is the first Annick Goutal fragrance I've tried since the Vent de Folie eau de toilette back in 2014.  Launched last October, Tenue de Soirée is a sweet-smelling chypre dedicated to the sophisticated Parisian woman.

Annick Goutal Tenue de Soiree fragrance - UK beauty blog

Created by Grasse native Mathieu Nardin, the eau de parfum opens with fruity blackcurrant top notes, softens into a powdery iris heart and finishes with a warm, woody patchouli base.  It's sweet but not sugary, leaving a lingering gourmand scent on the skin for hours.  The perfume is beautifully-packaged in a chic purple glass bottle with a quirky detachable pompom to add to your keys or handbag.

Annick Goutal Tenue de Soirée EDP50ml £72 for 50ml and £96 for 100ml


20 February 2017


When we came to London on day trips as a kid in the summer holidays, we used to come to Camden to visit the colourful market stalls and buy "rock" t-shirts, incense sticks, weird little bits and pieces for my room from alternative stores and, once when I was about 12 or 13, a rainbow plastic bead curtain to go above my bedroom door (sorry mum). As a teen, I used to go to dozens of gigs at Koko, Barfly, Proud, the Electric Ballroom and Jazz Cafe, and many a night out at Club NME nights at Koko. The Camden novelty wore off, I lived in Covent Garden then moved to London Bridge for six years, Paris for six months, and when it was time to look for a flat with my boyfriend upon my return, Camden called once more - I've now lived here for three years.

Emma Louise Layla in red ASOS dress in Camden - London fashion blog


15 February 2017


Last week I went for dinner at Cafe Monico, the cosy all-day brasserie on Shaftesbury Avenue from the Soho House team.

Dinner review at Cafe Monico - London restaurant blog


13 February 2017


When I was looking for a place to go for my Dad's birthday (which is conveniently the same week as Father's Day) last year, I wanted somewhere neither of us had been before, with cheap direct flights flying out early AM and returning late PM, and good weather.  The last time we went to Spain together was Menorca for my first birthday, so Spain it was!  After looking into Girona, Cadiz and Bilbao, I booked the latter for a long weekend as a surprise birthday present.  We had a great time; I've blogged about the chic, central place we stayed (Hotel Miro) and the best restaurant we visited (the Michelin-starred Andra Mari) and, as I was pretty snap happy, I'm sharing some photos from wandering around the pretty city for three days with my camera, along with recommendations for a lovely weekend break.

Andy Warhol at the Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog


10 February 2017


Julia Frauche shot by Andrew Yee for How to Spend It magazine
Julia Frauche shot by Andrew Yee for How to Spend It magazine 

7 February 2017


Pixi is one of my favourite beauty brands. Launched by the gorgeous Swedish makeup artist Petra Strand in their flagship Soho store over ten years ago, Pixi offers beautifully-packaged, multi-tasking skincare and makeup products using natural ingredients and innovative formulas for women of all ages.  As a busy mother of four, Petra is all about convenience.  She's created simple, on-the-go products and clever multi-taskers for a quick and easy, low maintenance beauty routine.  Here are some of my favourites...

Pixi by Petra beauty products - UK fashion & lifestyle blog


4 February 2017


Last night I headed to southwest London to visit the annual Magical Lantern Festival to mark the end of Chinese New Year.  Held in the historic gardens of Chiswick House, the outdoor event features over 50 colourful illuminations.

Magical Lantern Festival, London - UK lifestyle blog


31 January 2017


Warehouse is having a bit of a moment right now. The British high street retailer had a rebrand last year to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a new logo, fresh retail concept and streamlined aesthetic under new design director and queen of print Emma Cook focusing on sleek workwear, contemporary styling and cool separates for city life. Since Topshop seems to be chasing the tweens, Warehouse is slotting nicely into that 20s-40s mid-market (at a more accessible price point than Reiss or Whistles) and it's better than ever. Now January payday is finally here - hallelujah - I've been checking out what's new for spring and have my eye on these six gorgeous dresses from the chic SS17 collection.

Pretty pink lace peplum dress - Spring Summer 2017 fashion


30 January 2017


Last summer when we arrived in Bilbao, we checked into the beautiful Hotel Miro, spent the morning wandering around the city centre then jumped into a taxi to go for lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant Andra Mari for an eight course tasting menu.  What a welcome to the Basque region.

Michelin star lunch at Andra Mari in Bilbao, Spain | travel & foodie blog


27 January 2017


Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 | dreamy fashion blog

I loved the Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 collection shown in Paris this week: the sparkling gowns, high waists, emphasised hips, feather details, bold brows and slicked back hair. Dreamy.


23 January 2017


Last month I attended the press night of Matthew Bourne's world premiere adaptation of The Red Shoes at Sadler's Wells, at the beginning of a six week run before it embarks on a national tour. Much like the movie of the moment La La Land, the ballet is reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour - it's colourful, enchanting and you'll want to see it again and again.

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes ballet at Sadler's Well, London - UK lifestyle & culture blog


19 January 2017


In November we went up to Manchester for a long weekend for our friends' wedding.  As a Smiths obsessive and live music lover, I've been to dozens of gigs there - including a weekend in 2006 doing the Smiths tour during the day (visiting Salford Lads Club, the cemetery gates, the old house etc) and seeing Morrissey play for three nights on the trot in three different venues - but I hadn't been for years.  It was great to go back and spend a couple of days wandering around the hipster Northern Quarter and checking out cool indies, vintage stores and new bars.  We stayed at The Principal, a fantastic five star hotel in a massive Grade II listed red brick building on Oxford Street.

Emma Louise Layla at Salford Lads Club, Manchester weekend - UK travel blog


16 January 2017


So First from luxury French jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels is a beautiful floriental, gourmand fragrance. I'm addicted. Created by perfumer Nathalie Lorson, it's a fresh new reinterpretation of First, the debut perfume launched in 1976, to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

So First fragrance from Van Cleef & Arpels - UK luxury beauty blog

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