Acne black leather jacket, Lover ‘Courtney’ guipure lace dress, Michael Kors rose gold watch.
Finally getting the chance to post this outfit I wore to dinner the week before I flew out of Perth.
If there’s anything more telling about how unfathomably run off my feet I was in the days leading up to my holiday, it’s the realisation – when I touched down in Tokyo – that I forgot to pack my toothbrush and iPhone charger. D’oh.
Aside from settling into my new job (which I’ve temporarily left for 2-3 weeks and feel absolutely terrible about), I’ve been working with a friend to give this blog a pretty major facelift, which I hope to launch very soon. It does mean moving away from tumblr, but I promise we’ve designed my new home in a way that’s bigger and, most importantly, better; keeping you – the reader – top of mind, so that everything you’re searching for is only a couple of clicks (or less) away.
As for this outfit, I suppose you can’t really go wrong with a leather and lace mash-up. And if it’s good enough for Stevie Nicks…
I’m sitting up in bed savouring every last crumb of the fresh Manneken waffles I picked up in Ginza on the way to dinner tonight. And now, I’m brewing a cup of green tea in my hotel room, deciding whether to read a few chapters of Memoirs of a Geisha or attend to my overflowing inbox that clearly didn’t get the memo about taking a holiday.
As most of you have figured out, I’ve been in Tokyo for just over a week now. To say it has been captivating, culturally-enriching, gastronomically-out of this world, and maddeningly exhausting and downright frustrating (why is everything tucked inside an office building?) would be doing the sensory overload no justice at all. Over the past week, I’ve seen snow, felt the downpour, had my hair cut (!) and laid my eyes on the beauty of Mt Fuji.
Tokyo is one hell of a city and I’m kicking myself for not discovering it sooner.
We’re leaving for the mountainside first thing tomorrow, spending three nights at an onsen situated 1700m above sea level. It’s probably as far from civilisation as you could get, but I’m looking forward to truly getting away. And maybe, just maybe, those emails will come away with me too.
As far as packing lists go, Joan Didion’s is inexplicably boss.
But I do love a good list. Doesn’t this particular one just make you want to pile all your hair on top of your head, find a cosy seat on the plane, snuggle up in a knitted sweater with a face free of make-up, and just be done with it?
There’s a certain appeal to approaching a brief excursion out of the country with a packing list that you’ve revised a thousand times over. That’s me at my most happiest.
In packing for Japan, I’ve decided to take a leaf out of Joan’s book (The White Album, FYI) – or at least tried to.
I will be wearing on the plane: black soft leggings (I’m bringing two – wool long johns whilst I’m up in the air, and fleece-lined leggings whilst transiting). An Acne scarf. Always an Acne scarf. A Bassike loose-fitting striped shirt at high altitudes and a crisp, classic white shirt from Witcherywhen I arrive at my destination. And lastly, a pair of black Chanel ballerinas, because who doesn’t love the ease of kicking off a pair of ballet flats to soothe their feet in a pair of cosy socks?
As for the rest of the notable contents in my suitcase: a couple of collared shirts, three sweaters, two pairs of jeans, and erm, four coats (yes, I know). I’ve accepted the fact that coats and shoes will always, always, win.
Longchamp is a tried and true travel favourite of mine. I’m travelling with this tote
as an every day bag and this expandable overnighter
Oh, and if anyone who follows me on Instagram is wondering
, I’m taking the black pointed oxfords and leaving the grey Dieppas at home. And yes, my heart broke into a million little pieces in deciding to do so. I’m a creature of comfort, though. And as such, I’m leaving the heels at home this time.
A new season and a brand new month means getting my beauty essentials in order to see me through the next few months. Some are old favourites, some new, and some I’ve rediscovered and unearthed from the back of my beauty cupboard.
1. Babyliss Curling Iron 32mm: It’s crazy that I own three of these – all different barrel sizes to cater for my different hair lengths. As my hair’s currently past the collarbone, I’ve moved from using the 25mm to the 32mm to achieve more round, bouncy waves.
2. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector: this is always high on rotation no matter what season. On days when my skin feels settled, I apply a pea-sized amount to my face, and then finish with concealer. Nothing more, nothing less. My shade of choice is Moonstone.
3. Shu Uemura eyeshadow duo: I picked this up a while ago whilst duty-free shopping in Shanghai. Bronze/copper/gold shadows suit my complexion the best. I save this one for evenings as it’s very shimmery and pigmented. I usually apply the darker bronze across the lids and then dab the gold in my inner corners (and blending it with the bronze).
4. Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturising Masque: At the moment, I’m using this masque in place of my conditioner. I ran out of conditioner one day and haven’t been bothered to replenish it. This masque leaves my hair feeling soft (I have to leave it in for at least a minute though) and gives it a silky finish the next day.
3. Almay Make-Up Eraser Sticks: You can buy these from Priceline – they’ve honestly been SUCH an essential part of my cat-eye routine. They’re basically cotton buds with make-up remover contained within the stick. Just snap one end off and the remover simply moistens the other end for you to use.
4. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner Pencil: my go-to when I can’t be bothered using a brush to apply liner. They don’t have as much staying power as, say, MAC Blacktrack or my Wet ‘n’ Wild Mega Liner, but as far as pencils go, this reigns supreme by far. I use Mahogany for day and Jet for night.
5. Philosophy Cinnamon Buns lipgloss: I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve been using this – possibly since my early 20s! I was introduced to this by an SA at Mecca Cosmetica when they were first released for Christmas. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I love the gold flecks in an otherwise clear gloss – it suits my warm-toned skin and looks lovely (and subtle) over any lippie.
6. Lulu Organics Hair Powder: A dry shampoo in (talc-free) powder form. It’s made from organic corn starch, white clay, horsetail powder and fine essential oils. I was introduced to this by my hairdresser and have all but forgotten it until now. There’s more information on it here.
7. Make Up For Ever HD Powder: I will use no other powder forever and forever. I love the new/improved packaging – it used to be a tiny tub which was so hard to swirl my powder brush in.
It’s hard to describe what Iceland is truly like without having words fail me. It’s as about as far away as I can be from home, yet as soon as I touched down, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me. As if to suggest that I had, indeed, found home in this city so beautiful it could move me to tears (and it did).
Here’s my (mini) guide to Iceland. I hope it’s useful to anyone planning to visit soon.
Gullfoss – often coined the most amazing waterfall in Iceland. Basically, it’s three waterfalls falling into one – so special and unique. Make sure you have lunch at the nearby cafe, Gullfoss Kaffi – more details in the Eat section below.
Geysir (above, and part of the Golden Circle). One of the most incredible, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping things I have ever seen in my life and in the world. The Great Geysir, as it is often known, erupts up to 70 metres of boiling water into the air at a 10-15 minute interval.
Thingvellir National Park – this world UNESCO site has planted strong roots in the minds of the Icelanders and in the country’s history. I was most amazed by the fact that the Þingvellir area is part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. So, basically, I was literally standing between two continents – North America and Eurasia.
Blue Lagoon – oh my God, amazing. Even better if you take a dip in 2 degrees Celsius temps. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal pool that never dips below 37C degrees and is conveniently located on the way to and from Reykjavik and the international airport. To save time and to recuperate from the flight, we decided to go for a swim as soon as we arrived. This was, hands down, the highlight of my time in Iceland. Just a small tip though – DON’T get your hair wet. I did, and it took over a week for the sulfur to come out, even after washing my hair every single time. Imagine having 5-day dirty hair every day and not being able to wash it out. Yeah, not fun.
Vik & Bassalt Cliff – a black sand/lava beach unlike any other and perfectly typical of the unique Icelandic landscape. Pictures don’t do it any justice but if you’re interested or curious, there are a few on my husband’s blog.
Northern Lights – we sadly didn’t get the opportunity to see the Aurora, not helped by the fact that we didn’t have the time or inclination to drive a few hours out of Reykjavik at 2am! If you do want to muster the effort and try your luck at catching the Northern Lights, try driving out to Hólmárfossar cascades, Dettifoss and Selfoss, or Westfjords (they’re all around 5-7 hours east and/or north of Reykjavik). You’ll have a better chance when the skies are clear, when it’s super cold outside (so late autumm/winter) and the more north of Iceland you go.
Hallgrimskirkja – to get your bearings, take the elevator to the top of this austere, imposing pale gray church with a distinctive stepped-slope facade. I loved seeing a bird’s-eye view of the city’s colorful rooftops from the top. Admission costs 700 kronur, or about $6 at 118 kronur to the dollar.
Harpa Concert Hall – this is so, so, so, beautiful. It’s a dazzling geometric structure with a honeycomb-like facade that sits on the Waterfront and built (after much controversy) in May 2011. Home to Iceland’s symphony orchestra and opera – I wish we could have seen Sigur Rós perform here!
Waterfront – the walk along this magnificent stretch of water is best enjoyed on a languid and clear afternoon – you’ll get uninterrupted views of the majestic Esja mountain range across the water. I was gobsmacked at how something so relaxing and naturally beautiful could be right on Reykjavik’s doorstep.
Icelandic Fish & Chips – best in town with some of the best fish in the world. There, I said it. I love that the fish here is battered in oat flour and not oily or greasy in the slightest. The Skyronnaise dips are a must-try with your choice of fish and sweet potato chips. http://www.fishandchips.is/
Laundromat – a quasi-cafe, quasi-laundromat. So cute. We had breakfast here and loved its lived-in, relaxed atmosphere. It’s also “baby and boob-friendly”, according to a postcard I picked up at the cafe, lol. For matters of housekeeping, there is also a bank/ATM nearby – we personally found it so difficult to locate one in Reykjavik!
Gullfoss Kaffi – the only cafe near waterfall Gulfoss therefore a popular lunch spot. Also a souvenir shop, Gullfoss Kaffi serves up authentic, Icelandic home-style dishes – try the soup of the day!
Grillmarkadurinn – if you’re after a fancypants place, this is it. It’s not pretentious in the slightest though; but as Icelandics are generally quite humble and conservative, it’s a world away from the quaint pubs and scruffy cafes outside. This is where all of Reykjavík’s social set seem to eat (at least on the evening we were there, anyway). There’s charcoal-grilled steak of Icelandic horse (5,490 kronur) and a sampler of three mini “burgers” featuring lobster, puffin and whale. Yes, my husband ate puffin and, yes, I have never let him forget it. The restaurant can be hard to find from the street (even with a GPS) but look for the big red building tucked away on Lækjargata.
I also love this guide on dining in Reykjavik, which you might find useful.
Think of Iceland and Reykjavik as a sight-seeing experience, rather than a shopping expedition. There is zero high-street shopping here (i.e. Zara, Topshop et al) but there are certainly a couple of boutiques that stock Scandinavian and Icelandic labels, as well as international ones. There’s two streets in downtown Reykjavik that all the stores (and cafes/restaurants) are situated – Laugarvegur and Skólavördustígu. Definitely worth having a look – my favourites included a vintage store (I loved Spúútnik which is where I purchased this hat), a bookshop (they stock magazines like The Gentlewoman) and a few boutiques stocking local Icelandic and international labels. And like its Scandinavian neighbours, things are quite expensive here (i.e. I saw a pair of Hunter Wellies for around A$300).
There is also a flea market in Reykjavík’s Old Harbour area, open only on weekends (11am – 5 pm). Plenty of stalls selling all kinds of stuff, from vintage clothing (it’s more like your local swapmeet than a retro Vinnies, though) to typical Icelandic food, such as fermented shark, dried fish, and sour sheep testicles. Look out for the big white warehouse shed across the road from the Waterfront. Address: Tryggvagötu 19, Old Harbour.
How we got around
Public transport (buses, no train or subway) is available but only through Reykjavik, really. We decided to hire a car (booked it online before we left) and picked it up at the Budget rental counter straight after we touched down at the airport.
I really recommend hiring a car to get the most out of your stay in Iceland. Car hire is reasonably cheap (same as what you’d pay in Perth or Sydney) and you don’t need an international drivers’ licence. Just be careful driving if it’s snowing – the car should be fitted with snow tyres. Also, you drive on the right in Iceland, and all cards are left-hand drive. Having said all that, it’s pretty easy to navigate around Iceland but do yourself a huge favour and download the Iceland TomTom or similar GPS on your smartphone.
Around downtown Reykjavik, we walked everywhere. We stayed on a street called Vífilsgata which was an easy 10-15 minute walk to the shopping strip and to the Waterfront. For anything further (like to the abovementioned restaurants) we drove, especially at night. I found Reykjavik to be one of the safest cities I’ve ever visited, though, and with everyone speaking better English than most people, it was so easy to get around.
Where we stayed
Because I was travelling with my parents in-law, we booked an airbnb apartment in Reykjavik. There are some good hotels around but because the Icelandics are very house-proud, there are plenty of modern, clean and well-furnished apartments available on airbnb at such cheap rates (compared to the rest of Europe). I think we paid $120 per night for 4 people and that included heating, a fully-equipped kitchen, a nice big bathroom, free (fast!) wifi and a place to park our car (for free).
We flew from London via WOW Air for $214 per person. It’s a 3-hour flight from Heathrow to Keflavík International Airport and it was a pretty comfortable experience for a budget airline.
We stayed in Iceland for 4 nights during the second week of October 2013.
See my Iceland Photo Diary: Part 1 & Part 2