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

 

 

 

Guilt Tripping

Having recently calculated that the renovation of my flat is 4x more sustainable than one planet living, I could be feeling smug, but with two flights in the pipeline next month I am less carbon footprint proud.  Let me explain…

One Planet Living is a framework created by Bioregional to help people understand their environmental impacts and enable us to do something about it. They calculated that we’re currently consuming resources and polluting the planet at a level of 40% higher than the earth can sustain.  

During my Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable interiors, presenter Kevin McCloud surprised the audience stating that “if everyone consumed as much as the average North American, we would need five planets to support us.”  

I glared at my American husband – oblivious – sweetly snapping my 45 minutes of fame, but I need not have been so quick to judge as the average western European consumes a similarly shocking amount, and even though my renovation was good, I am guilt tripping before we’ve even left London. 

Life and love requires us to travel sometimes.  Now that I’m cohabiting with my Californian husband I’ve been flying a lot less, but last year’s London summer lacked sun so we were inspired to book Seville, which will be followed by a business trip to Israel.  At least my husband is travelling to Jerusalem to advance the message about human rights in the digital realm – so his conscience is cleaner than mine.

This post doesn’t tie itself into a sustainably packaged, non air cargo delivered answer, I just wanted to acknowledge where I am.  There are of course ways I’ll reduce my environmental impact whilst travelling by walking lots, opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and ditching familiar flavours for restaurants with locally sourced ingredients.  What a sacrifice.  I’ll also be able to do the wild thing and actually wear my summer clothes, which Londoners rarely get to do. 

Until we sign-up to a life in nothing but bamboo Birdsong knickers, increasing the average number of times we wear things is the most direct way to increase value and reduce waste in our wardrobes.

And of course, the weather in London has been lovely lately.

Wearing eco-hot Jumpsuit by COSSAC worn with a Pachacuti hat from Ethical Collection, Abacá bag from Tidy Street general store [with Noumenon vegan pouch inside] and rope sandals by Nomadic State of Mind

Above, Birdsong bamboo knickers in collaboration with Clio Peppiatt

Californian album artwork The Grateful Dead

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Sustainability in the City

I know Sex in the City has been relegated to box-set territory but sometimes I refer to my flat as sustainability in the city, because like Carrie Bradshaw, I keep sweaters where my stove would have been.

Reflecting on the moment I decided to turn my kitchen into my wardrobe and started the journey towards a more sustainable life, I am getting ready to join Friends of the Earth, Salvo and Edward Bulmer Natural Paint for a Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable sourcing tomorrow.

Designing my home with sustainable materials inspired me to dress differently, but now that I’m trying to live more consciously I feel guilt for a wardrobe full of clothes accumulated over a decade working in the fashion industry.  And of course anything I “Toss” gets donated, sold, given to friends or recycled, but as you educate yourself about sustainability, guilt inevitably follows.  

When you really look at the manmade change we’re creating in the world, it is scary and to quote the SATC film scene above, “a lot of s**t went down here, attention must be paid.”  However, the awakening that is brewing won’t be achieved through sustainability shaming.

I experienced a refreshing moment for the sustainability movement when  I met designer Masato Jones the other week.

Masato was speaking on a panel for Fashion Revolution and reminded the audience of a SATC episode where Carrie skipped dinner out to buy something she really wanted.  He joked that’s the kind of feeling you have to have when you buy something because then you will truly treasure it.  Like working with salvaged materials, where pieces are often hard won, it is polar opposite to the immediacy we’re used to where we can have things so quickly – often before we’ve had time to think if we really liked something or even needed it.

That’s a long winded way of saying that Masato gave me the excuse to dust off my SATC box set and my guilt (wearing one of his organic fair trade t-shirts as a dress). 

Join me at Grand Designs Live  in the Grand Theatre at 12noon Saturday 12th May 2018.

Reclaimed wardrobe above made of wood salvaged from 100 year old industrial buildings in the north of England and a mix of vintage, ethical and sustainable sweaters.

Lips above credited to Ilia’s brilliant pigments and organic ingredients.

©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

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Little White Dress

It seems appropriate to end my Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label in the little white dress I started in.  I wore my white Reformation dress to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary and it got me thinking…

I have too many clothes and although I am on a mission to make my wardrobe more sustainable, I still face fashion urges to buy something new.   Even if it is beautiful and ethically made in organic cotton, I still need to learn that less is more.  What I am saying is that I am not holier than thou.  Weirdly though, the one time that arguably justifies a shopping trip (one’s wedding) I actually wore a dress I had owned for years.

It wasn’t from a previous marriage (not mine anyway) or a sample sale where all sorts of this is too good to resist scenarios run through your mind – strangely it was a student loan purchase for my photography degree.  Nine years later, wise enough to recognise love at first sight kind of craziness and the value of a 1960s Courreges hanging in my wardrobe, I couldn’t get married in anything else.

One of my takeaways from the challenge is to think of buying clothes like choosing a life partner.  Find out what they’re made of and ask yourself if you’re excited by the prospect of being seen with them years down the line.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Seeking Victorian house with sustainable luxury label VIMPELOVA

Having spent a few days working away in Brighton – the town where I grew up – talk turned to where I might ultimately set-up home if my husband and I decide we have out-grown our little garden flat barely made for two.

Back home in London, I dropped-off my luggage to travel east to see the new collection by sustainable luxury label VIMPELOVA.  The event took place in a Victorian family home where designer, Veronika Vimpelova lives and works.  Mentally setting-up home and filling my wardrobe with Veronika’s chic pieces made of organic linen, organic cotton and peace silk, the period setting perfectly complimented traditional pleating and cording techniques.

I haven’t contemplated a crop-top for years, but VIMPELOVA nails them with sophisticated examples like this made of peace silk.

It’s surprising what shopping in a relaxed environment can do for your confidence.  I bought this crop-top in traditional  hand-block printed, hand-dyed Czech Indigo (Veronika is originally from the Czech Republic).

This piece is from Veronika’s first collection, which is available to shop on online.  You can also rent some pieces from Wear the Walk.

The new VIMPELOVA collection, which includes pieces for women and men is available to preview and pre-order from your own home now.

If you’re curious to know more, pay a visit to @vimpelova to hear about future events.

VIMPELOVA

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 33 is Green Day

My Six Items Challenge made packing simple for a last minute work trip to Madrid.  I got out the Gabriele Vintage green dress – a symbol of fresh starts and progress, as we think of the green light as go.

This Maison Bengal bag I got from Tidy Street general store in Brighton has become my go-to ethical biz bag as it is light to lug around a laptop.  I was on their online store yesterday and thought I’d share that they also stock ethical shoes by Rachel Comey.  See below for some of the greenest must-haves.

antique green light at LASSCO Brunswick House

Rachel Comey Bose clogs from Tidy Street general store 

Rachel Comey Lourde boots from Tidy Street general store

Nomadic State of Mind JC sandals – also available from Nomadics  if you are after easier shipping in Europe (made of partly reclaimed polypropylene cord – super durable and sustainable.  Less sustainable if like me, you want to order them in every colour…🙀)

Rafa The Simple Sandal.  I am dying to get my feet into a pair of these sandals made of vegan recycled textiles. Handmade in LA – Rafa has stockists throughout the US, one in Japan and they ship internationally.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman