House Museums & The Hippie House in Córdoba

The upside to taking a train to Córdoba on a Monday and realising many of the monuments and markets are closed is you get to really enjoy the neighbourhoods. 

We still got to explore the western world’s most stunning example of Moorish art, the Mezquita and the Roman bridge, which due to reconstruction most of what you can see today is also Moorish – not bad for a Monday morning’s work.  

We were also able to see two house museums that often don’t make the to-do list for a one day visit.  We loved the old Jewish quarter and although the synagogue is closed on Mondays, the Casa de Sefarad and La Casa Andalusí are open.  The respectfully restored houses are an intimate way of understanding life at that time. 

Casa de Sefarad traces Sephardic (Jewish-Spanish) history before and during the Spanish Inquisition.  It features food, music and traditional crafts with a small but perfectly formed collection of clothes and accessories with examples of gilt-metal thread embroidery.  There is also a room dedicated to women from Al-Andalus who made an important impact, but were nearly forgotten.  If like me, you like to exit through the gift shop, Casa de Sefarad will not disappoint.  Here you can find genuine handicrafts from Córdoba, Seville, Granada and places where Sephardic communities settled such as Fez, Istanbul and Jerusalem.       

After Sephardic lunch at Casa Mazal Tomás Conde, 3, Córdoba we went to La Casa Andalusí. I read complaints about it being small, but I found it to be a sanctuary.  I took my time as music mixed with the trickling fountain provided an off-the-clock soundtrack.  A history of papermaking in medieval Córdoba,  Islamic furnishings, beautiful books and a Roman mosaic in the cellar didn’t seem a bad offering for one 12th-century house.

Less than 15 minutes walk form the old town you’ll find The Hippie House.  This friendly place is worth a visit if you like a rummage through secondhand clothes with some vintage gems and retro sportswear. Good for both women and men, and perhaps even better for men.  My husband had a good selection of preloved Levis to look through and left with a pair of green 501s.

Wearing a seventies dress, Luna bag Cult Gaia, sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, leopard print sunglasses I bought in California when I was twelve! Proving that even loved sunglasses do last, but I know that’s not helpful so check out these sixties styles from Klasik Vintage Eyewear if you’re after something unique.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

Seville travel diary – A week on the tiles

Nobody wants to feel like a tourist. Who us? No no, we’re trailblazers – so you can imagine our surprise when we discovered our destination of choice is Lonely Planet’s No.1 city to visit in 2018.  

If like me you have to work through some guilt before enjoying your summer holiday then Seville is your sun blessed escape.  My pre-trip guilt stemmed from a) taking a holiday when I work for myself and b) taking flights when I’m also working on what it means to live green.  

Beyond sustainability shaming yourself, holiday stresses come from many things; your work to-do list is longer than your list of tapas bars to try; you splurged on that collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; your pet-sitter pulled out; you’re already anticipating the urge to Instagram whilst being present; you didn’t buy that cute collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; the reasons to stress continue… 

The most stressful thing about Seville is scaring yourself into thinking you might never experience that much joy again.  From the moment we arrived in the city we were soothed by purple flower blossoms on the jacaranda trees.  It’s like 2018’s city teamed-up with Pantone’s colour of the year to deliver the promise of intrigue for what was to come.  

Purple is also the colour of mindfulness, so it’s no surprise that the Andalucian capital has a captivating way of bringing your attention to the present moment.     

Eat & Drink 

Seville attracts Game of Thrones fans as scenes from the series were shot in the city’s Alcázar Palace – which is stunning and absolutely on the list of things to do – but for us the main game was tapas bar crawls. 

Seville is home to thousands of tapas bars so it’s good to do as the locals do and have a drink with one or two tapas and then move on to try another place.  Wine by the glass is really great value so you don’t get stuck in one bar with a bottle and you get to sample more and branch out into the local speciality – sherry.  My husband took to ordering deliciously dry manzanilla to mix things up. 

The food is incredible so it’s hard to go wrong, but here are my absolute favourites. 

You have to have breakfast at Bar El Comercio.  Take tips from the local old ladies on how to eat churros – dipped in coffee without spoiling your lipstick.

I’m not a local lady so I also went for a cup of melted chocolate to dip my churros

We loved Bar Estrella for lunch. Away from the bustle, we stumbled across it when we lost our way trying to return to a tiny tapas bar we liked, but couldn’t remember the name of (which incidentally is La Taberna del Rey Calle Corral del Rey, 2, Sevilla).  It’s definitely a city to get lost in and we were glad we did.  We got chatting to a local guy that took us down the street from Bar Estrella to see Iglesia de San Isidoro, a church and a living example of how the building was once peacefully used by both jewish and muslim worshipers with the Star of David over one entrance and the muslim horseshoe arch decorating the other.  He pointed out Moorish tiles as we meandered back to Bar Estrella and helpfully warned us not to over order here as the tapas are generously portioned.

Casa Morales is a wonderful place to stand and eat by the wooden bar or pull up a chair surrounding the giant wine vats.  Originally opened as a winery in 1850, the family run place still attracts locals and is charming in a hectic kind of way with a printed menu that’s not worth ordering from as the dishes they actually have that day are all on the blackboards.  Definitely sample the sherry here. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the modern Maquilla Bar. Scrumptious croquettes, really friendly service and especially good if you like beer.  

Eslava is on every list you’ll read so there’s a lot of hype and you have to queue, but as this was the only time we did it was part of the experience, plus you get to people watch and sip sangria whilst you wait.  Expect interestingly arranged tapas. 

We chose Abaceria La Nina Bonita for our final dinner.  Situated in what was once a grocery opened in 1931, the setting and menu are full of character.  They deliver the food from their sister restaurant Bar Antojo,  but this is absolutely the best setting to enjoy it. 

The only evening we didn’t eat tapas and booked ahead was for slow food restaurant ConTenedor.  The menu is presented in alternating coloured chalk on a blackboard propped on mismatched chairs that the waiter kindly translates, explaining the fifteen or so daily dishes.  We loved everything about this place from the live music (on Tuesdays) to the unique wine list to the eclectic interior.  Definitely save space for dessert. 

When not taking in tiles and more traditional sights – such as the Alcázar and Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses pictured below – here’s some other ideas to get your heart going.

Shop local 

I picked-up this silver pendant below in the Sunday morning market in Plaza del Cabildo. It’s mainly for coin lovers, but worth it just to see the local men trading stamps in this monumental square.

My best flamenco experience came in the form of a visit to local flamenco atelier, Aurora Gaviño.  The shop has two cabinets of earrings ranging from big to huge.  I got these hand-painted tiles for earrings. 

 

Vintage and preloved fashion can be found on Feria, the street that is transformed into a flea market every Thursday morning.  I noted Crispa2 Vintage for the cute preloved Fendi bag I saw in the window, but it wasn’t on Feria street so there’s ironically a second Crispa2 somewhere else in the city.    

Near the Metrosol Parasol, the giant controversial wooden mushroom structure that we thought was stunning, sits some good places for conscious shopping. Verde Moscú is a great little boutique selling eco-fashion for women and men with their own brand of clothing alongside other sustainable Spanish and European brands such as Thinking Mu, Tiralahilacha and Armedangels.  I also discovered the Barcelona backpack brand Urbanita here.  Isadora is another women’s boutique just in front of Verde Moscú that is more cutesy, but stocks some cool pieces by Skunkfunk.   

There are lots of shoe shops, and I couldn’t leave Spain without a pair of espadrilles. La MallorquinaCalle Córdoba, 7, Sevilla had the best classic styles in bold colours by brands that are part of the espadrille association from the town of Cervera del Río Alhama in Rioja.

Jazz 

There’s an intimate little club called Jazz Naima Sevilla in Alameda, which is the hip district with a beautiful square and lots of bars and restaurants.  It’s free so you can poke your head in to see if you like the vibe of the music which ranges from jazz to swing, blues to funk fusion from night to night.

Triana 

Check out the Triana neighbourhood across the river where the flamenco artists, bullfighters and gypsies used to reside. Triana looks a lot more ordinary than the other side, but when you explore there are some real gems like casual local bakeries and tapas bars where we sampled our first salmorejo soup (like gazpacho, but creamier). Note: If you’re veggie then it’s worth making sure they don’t garnish it with serrano ham. The indoor food market, Mercado de Triana is also worth a visit for genuinely great local food.  

Packing list with what I wore from the Indigo crop at the top 

Indigo crop top VIMPELOVA, preloved Balenciaga skirt, Luna bag Cult Gaia (also below), sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, ’60s sunglasses from Klasik

Black ’80s Katherine Hamnett dress from Wolf & Gypsy VintageGeorge basket bag by MUUN from LN-CC, rope sandals Nomadic State of Mind, antique cross necklace The Sablon Antiques Market

Loyalty 2 Gaia dress Vivienne Westwood

Hollyhock dyed silk slip Local Dialect, preloved Yves Saint Laurent jacket, bag Abacá worn with a Vegan pouch inside from Noumenon, earrings Aurora Gaviño

Organic cotton shirt MUJI, skirt, sandals and sunglasses as before, preloved Fendi bag from Isabelle Bajart

Dress Naya Rea,  preloved Fendi bag as before, shell earrings from Brighton

Old Stella McCartney dress that comes out every summer holiday or wedding since I bought it in a sample sale in 2011

And finally, How bad are bananas?  Mike Berners-Lee provided my reading material about the carbon footprint of EVERYTHING.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

I want my time with you : 24 hours in Brussels

My husband and I suffered a bout of food poisoning this week, but off he went to his conference in Brussels and off I went to join him for the weekend.  Since completing the Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label I have been conscious to wear more of my wardrobe more often – but also conscious that Brussels is home to some incredible vintage shops, I packed super light to save space for some new old treasures.

“I want my time with you” reads the new artwork of Tracey Emin lighting up the London station that welcomes everyone arriving from mainland Europe via the Eurostar.  It’s said to be a love letter to Europe over Brexit madness, but the words are a fitting memo to oneself before you go shopping, and before I share my favourite places to shop in Brussels.

Sustainably speaking, “I want my time with you” is kinda like Livia Firth’s advice, every time you shop, always ask yourself “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”  In other words, make sure it’s love.

Shop Local

The navy jacket I’m wearing above is by Natacha Cadonici.  I was rerouted dropping my bag at the hotel when I found Natacha’s studio and shop and fell for the bomber made in Brussels using fabrics from a couture house in Paris.

Shop Vintage

The Sablon Area has some gorgeous boutiques and on the weekends The Sablon Antiques Market is a must.  Find the stripey tents before the 15th-century Catholic church, Église Notre-Dame au Sablon and you’re in the right place for antiques including high jewellery and fashion jewellery like this bakelite ring I found from Caroline Michils’ stand.  Complete with a portrait of someone’s loved one, I didn’t need convincing… this ring will definitely be loved.

On my second visit to Gabriele Vintage, I actually made it to the back of the shop to see vintage shoe heaven (the first was a fly-by on route to Bruges).  I don’t often buy vintage shoes, partly because my feet are a size 38-39, so I usually avoid the embarrassment of seeing if they will squeeze into pretty teeny-tiny shoes with no clearly marked size.  The shoes are handily displayed by size at Gabriele Vintage and include a good selection of 38, 39 and 40s dating from the ’40s to the ’70s.  These suede block heels are from the ’60s – worn with shiny ’90s trousers I got on Brick Lane in London.

Whilst in the area, check-out the beautifully curated edit of designer vintage and preloved pieces next door to Gabriele Vintage at Isabelle Bajart.

And the window styling at Ramon & Valy on Rue des Teinturiers gives better outfit game than Instagram.

Eat

As you can imagine, traditional moules weren’t what the doctor ordered in our case, so we went for Ethiopian where it is customary to eat with your hands. We tried the intimate exchange called gursha – where you scoop up the first taste of stew from the sharing platter and feed each other.

We got carried away with the first food we’d eaten in two days and kept feeding each other for half the meal. *no food positioning necessary, this over-share is permission to puke now*

Seriously though, even with a sensitive stomach this restaurant was too good to skip dinner.   Fashion aside, I would go back to Brussels just for the food at Toukoul.  We loved this restaurant.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Greek green living in Athens

I just visited Athens, city of marble for the first time.  The Greek side of my husband’s family visited us in London before we all headed to a big fat Greek wedding in Athens.

I’ll keep references to that film brief, but it’s been a running joke since my first dinner with them. “What do you mean she don’t eat no meat?” A good excuse for me to share some good Greek spots for vegetarians visiting Athens.

Teasing over the Elgin Marbles was also inevitable.   Stereotypically English, I neatly queued up their banter, as my eyes started tearing up in the heat as we queued for the Acropolis.   “Awww she’s crying at the sight of the other marble they could have taken.”  Elgin marbles aside, Athens is a city with marble in abundance.   I walked on pavements, staircases and curbs made of the stuff.

I wore vintage Zandra Rhodes (above) from Circa Vintage and gladiator sandals I bought from a local London based brand IRIS.

Outside the Acropolis museum, running as a tour guide uses my shirt dress to describe the meaning of the colours in the Greek flag, blue sky, white ocean waves.  Accessorising my Greek flag with Castañer espadilles and a vintage cork backpack from People of 2morrow.

Stay

We chose an Airbnb with views of the Acropolis, solar thermal energy and homemade wine in the southeast neighbourhood, Koukaki.

I packed Bentley Organic shampoo and conditioner and Aloe Pura Organic Aloe Vera sun lotion with pomegranate, protecting echinacea, nourishing Jojoba and avocado oil.

Eat & Drink

Greece has a cornucopia of natural products that promote wellbeing. Vegetarians visiting Athens can’t go far wrong with the salads.  Vegans should check out both Mama Tierra and Avocado.  As a pescatarian, I feasted on vegetarian starting plates in more meaty Greek restaurants, which shouldn’t be skipped for the traditional live music.

I loved the salads at Skoubri (above) Σκουμπρί, Drakou 14, Athina and the floral vintage wallpaper, old Athens style decor and dishes at Cherchez La Femme (below) Σερσέ λα φάμ, Mitropoleos 46, Athina.

In local Lotte Cafe – Bistrot (below) Tsami Karatasou 2, Athina and Birds & Booze in Plaka you could feel like you are in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  Both are fun day and night.

Shop

Athens is painted in graffiti, so I couldn’t resist sharing this.  There is some great guilt-free shopping to be had in the independent shops amongst the touristy traps in Plaka and Monastiraki .  Check out repurposed accessories made in Greece at 3Quarters with bags made from leftover balcony awnings.

I couldn’t leave Monastiraki without handmade sandals from The Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens. Good enough for John Lennon and Jackie O. Good enough for me.

The store opened in 1920 and remains a family business today, run by the grandson of the founding artisan.  The makers know your sandal size just by looking at you.  You choose a style and they fit and cut the leather to your foot.  I chose Aeolian No. 2.  

©photographs Reclaimed Woman