Friday, 31 January 2014

"We'll Always Have Paris"


 So we went to Paris with one of our good friends in November - and I'm only just getting around to blogging about it. This is partially because all the photos we took, we took on Victor's phone, having forgotten to pack out camera. (D'oh!) I don't care what people say, camera phone pictures are never as good as anything you can take with a digital SLR. So please excuse the picture quality in some of these! 

Coat & boots: Anthro, Cowl: from Japan: Trousers & bag: from Norway
Outfit photo! I'm only sorry my coat is wrinkled in such a weird way - I mean, it makes me look like I can be folded up and put on a luggage rack. Actually, that's probably what I did with the coat on the Eurostar train from London to Paris. The Heidi-braids are because I didn't have time to wash my hair. (Ahem!) And this cowl is in fact part of the warmest sweater I own, which I picked up in a mall in Ikebukuro - it totally deserves a post of its very own. Oh, and that's the Eiffel tower there, in the background. (Heh.)


Yeah, yeah, go ahead and make retching noises. Paris is the City of Love, after all! 

It's taking me real restraint not to blog all the cute bestie photos Victor took of me and our friend, jumping in front of the Arc de Triomphe, hugging on the subway, by the way. We kind of look like polar opposites, she is the little blonde Hermia to my tall, brown-haired Helena, and we were posing our little hearts out. But, like with Second Wife, I haven't asked for permission, so I don't really feel I can post any of those photos. Victor doesn't have any such rights, though!   


Walking down from the Eiffel tower, we came across this little glass building, which turned out to be a peace monument. It has the word "peace" written across it in so many different languages. (And something that looks like "Mullup", but we worked out that it actually was just "Mup"; the swirly writing had us fooled. After that, we were all going around saying, "Mullup out, dude!" to each other.) Look closely, and you can see the Eiffel tower through the wall on the right side. 


Beholdens, the beauty of the ceiling at the Gallerie Lafayette - Paris' most famous, and most venerable shopping centre! And have a better look at the big Christmas tree clock - I wonder who that was sponsored by, eh? 


On the Saturday evening, we went to the Moulin Rouge. There was a strict no-photos rule, but Victor managed to snap a few sneaky ones, including this one of the stage from where we sat. We were right by one of the stage wings, so the performers were always walking past us, and you could really see the beautiful details of their costumes. It was definitely a fun experience, so much incredible dancing and madness - and ponies! They had miniature ponies in some of the acts, as well as huge snakes in another.


We also got free champagne as part of our ticket price, so we were all nicely pickled by the time we got back to the hotel. That's when we invented the three-foot high-five. Which took a bit of practice before we got it right!

The day after, we went off to see Notre Dame!  Which is the most beautiful cathedral - and they even let you take pictures in there! They had a huge bandstand-style construction up right opposite the cathedral, with a wide platform on top that was perfect for  taking photos from. When we came out again, it was filled up with fur-hatted Ukrainian people holding up posters we could not read as part of a protest - I think it was a memorial of something that happened during World War Two. We never did find out what that was all about.


There are many little alcoves along the side walls of the cathedral, this pictures is from the far end of one of those. If you look closely, you might be able to see that the person in the far corner behind the coffin is, in fact, Death - holding up an hour-glass. 


Here's some detail from another one of those alcoves. It was impossible to get a good picture because they all had huge metal grates up, not to mention you were always climbing over other tourists. Still, isn't it just beautifully painted?



The multi-coloured light filtering in through all those stain-glass windows was just so lovely. It's a shame this lady didn't move out of my shot, though! Ironically, it's probably a picture she would have liked to keep! 


 They also had this adorable little model showing how the cathedral was built. Lots of tiny people toiling away. It was all behind glass, hence the weird reflections. 


 I'm not quite sure where this carved wooden panel was, but I have a feeling it was close to the pulpit. There was just so much stuff to see and take in, but this carving really fascinated me - I mean, look at those little houses along the top! How strange and awesome that they were added on!


And here is what looks like St. Peter, guarding a casket of relics - i.e. assorted bits of dead saints. 


And finally, here's one of my favourite pictures from the trip; this spiral candlestick full of votive candles. Isn't that accidental light effect strangely pretty? We probably never would've got that effect using the "proper" camera, so maybe using the camera phone wasn't such a bad idea after all?


Thursday, 30 January 2014

Pardon Me While I Snark...

Cardigan, Anthro, Top: J.Crew, Skirt: UniQlo, Shoes: Clark's, Scarf: from Norway.

Brace yourself for some upcoming snarkiness here, because my job is draining all the life out of me. Chief reason for that is my manager, and her dreadful personality. I've been thinking, "Who does she remind me of?" And the other day, it hit me - she looks like Stegosaurus. 


Now, when you look like Stegosaurus, "emo" may not be the most flattering fashion tribe you can pledge your allegiance to. When you dye a single neon green stripe into your hair, and then make the decision not to wash your hair, ever, the results are not always flattering. The same goes for piercing the middle if your nose as well as your bottom lip. No,  I am not making this up. She also has a small piercing in one nostril, but compared to the other two, that one is downright classy.


And then, I enter the picture, looking like a normal woman, and making friends with people. So maybe you can see why someone like that would make me her special victim? A small-time tyrant with no chin to divide her face from her neck, who has already driven three of her subordinates to quitting their jobs. Not to mention I was starting to fantasize about wiring her mouth shut with the help of her piercings. And a telephone chord.


But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Because our team is now being transferred to a new manager. My colleague and only remaining teammate grinned at me and said, "Christmas came late, but it did come." So here's to a fresh start, and a Stegosaurus-free life. Sorry for being all complainy today! And yes, this is another one of my call-centre outfits. I'm finally blogging my denim skirt.
You'll tell me if it looks frumpy, right?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

But Of Course!

Sweater: Madewell, Shirt: H&M, Cords: AG's, Anthro, Boots: From Norway
     This sweater was one of those things that grew on me. I saw it in the Madewell store - first thing I spotted when I walked in there to pick up my bag - and thought, "Well that's ugly." Only then I couldn't get said sweater out of my head, and after several days of touristing and sleeping on it, I realised that I actually liked it. A lot. So then I bought it, and lived in it until it got so gross that I had to bit the bullet and hand-wash it in the bathtub. Because isn't it cute and preppy? Isn't it the sort of sweater Audrey Horne might have worn to Spanish Class in Twin Peaks?*


This shirt, now, I knew I had to have that the minute I saw it on the H&M website, while actually looking for a present for my friend. (Isn't that always the way? Siiigh.) Because well, I bought the previous version of the shirt last year, and then wore it so much that how could I resist the exact same shirt in a different colour-way? (All the designer did was change some filters in photoshop, I swear.) I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this shirt, as a layering piece and on its own. 


These cords were kind of a weird one for me - I only meant to try them on for size, but they were on sale, and they were so soft! And they perfectly matched this sweater I have that doesn't match a lot of other things... and I'd been wanting a pair of burgundy cords, though are they even burgundy? Or are they rust? They seem to change colour depending on the light. This was kind of a bad idea, trying these cords on, I mean... I'm already a massive AG addict, and now it's not just the jeans I'm obsessed with, but the cords, too?!


*Because Audrey Horne was a contrary girl, I just bet she would've loved the idea of showing up for Spanish in a sweater with French writing on it. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to watch yourself some Twin Peaks so you can come fangirl over that show with me!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Carcassonne

                                 
 
So it's Friday once again, and once again I set out to torture people with my holiday photos. This time from the medieval French city of Carcassonne. (Yes, the one they named the board game after.)  We went on this trip with Second Wife in the summer, in a scorching long weekend in July. Why did I choose to blog about this particular trip right now? Well, for the very sound reason that there was a folder of pictures from it sitting on my desktop - and writing about any other trip we'd been on would've required looking for the camera cable. So Carcassonne it is!

 

We flew into Toulouse, where we stayed in a hotel - and can I just say really quickly, if you ever go to France, Toulouse is not exactly somewhere I'd recommend with all my heart. It's kind of nasty to be honest. But we were planning on using Toulouse as our base for a couple of road trips anyway, so we didn't end up spending too much time there. This is the first close-up view of the Old Town of Carcassonne, from where Victor parked our rental car.


Is this place straight out of Game of Thrones, or what? It wouldn't surprise me if they use this for one of their locations later on in the series... I've always loved going to medieval castles, but visiting Carcassonne is something I've dreamed of since I was a child - because, and this is where it gets embarrassing - my parents went there, back when they were young and crazy, and hung a huge poster of the city up in our house. In our toilet, to be more precise. So you know, you'd always have something nice to look at while you were doing your business. And that's why I always wondered what it would be like to actually go there. 


Here's the obligatory couple photo outside the castle of my childhood bathroom dreams! Hm, now there's a sentence. It was so warm that there was no way I could stand to wear my hair down, and in fact I brought a spare T-shirt with me to change into later that day. I couldn't even wear my necklace because the metal burned my skin! What can I say, I'm Norwegian and much as I love the heat, I don't deal with it very well. Victor, on the other hand, was in the full throes of hay-fever season. More on that later...


How awesome is this enormous gatekeeper lady? She was positioned right over the drawbridge of the dry moat. Which, incidentally, was never filled with water. Having to clamber over a great big ditch makes it difficult enough to conquer someone's castle town, without having to waste precious water.
But this lady, she kind of looks like a mother-in-law from hell, eh? And from this angle, doesn't it look like she's got one hand on her hip? Or is that just me?


Like I said, it was hayfever season. So here, have a picture of Victor blowing his nose in a huge eucalyptus leaf! He leapt up and yanked it off a branch with no explanation, and I was like, "What are you - oh." I guess if you really have to blow your nose, you learn to improvise. (I have his permission to post this picture, by the way. Just so you know. His exact words were, "Okay, but is there a way of putting it up without showing that it's me?" "Uh no honey, there really isn't." "Well, I guess it's fine then.") 


Like all medieval towns, Carcassonne has an outer wall, that protects the part of the city where the townspeople would live and do their trading - and then an inner fortress, where the rulers lived. This is also where everyone would retreat to if the city came under attack, which did happen from time to time.



When you peeked over the walls of that inner fortress, which had a grassy moat of its own - following the trusty medieval maxim that you can never be too careful - this is what you saw. They were growing what looked to be herbs down there, and in fact there were stalls all over the city selling pretty bags of lavender. You put them in your closet and they protect your clothes from moths. And they smell amazing! Of course we got some bags, they were the perfect souvenir. 


Here's what the courtyard of the inner fortress looked like, seen from the ground. In a moment, we'll be going up on the walls and taking in the view from there. But first, we discovered that there was a museum up on the first floor, so we got tickets to that and retreated into the cool shade for a bit. 


These old arches were part of a segment of the old walls, and they made for the perfect photo opportunity. I really like this picture of us. 


Now, don't quote me on this, but I have a feeling this fountain was from Roman times - when they occupied France (or Gaul, as it was called back then). There were also Roman amphorae and a pillar with what might have been graffiti written in Latin. So yeah, Carcassone is pretty old. 


These guys used to adorn the outer walls, and were brought inside to protect them from the wind and the rain. There were so many of these things in the museum, but I think that face on top there was my absolute favourite. I mean, look at that grin!


There were also wall-paintings. If you look closely, you can see that this was a scene from a battle. It's such a shame the figures have faded over time, but look at how blue that painted sky still is! 

After the museum, it was time to brave the sunshine again, and walk around the city walls to see Carcassonne from up high! Of course that wasn't free either but it was well worth the money. I mean, you can't really come to Carcassonne and not go up on the walls, that would just be wrong. Because the views were just amazing.


Carcassonne didn't always have these "witches' hats" roofs, by the way. They were added in the 18th Century, I think, by an architect called Viollet-le-Duc. The old city had fallen into disrepair and was actually almost demolished, but Viollet-le-Duc set out to rescue it, and that rescue operation included tarting it up a bit. Of course, he also restored the original medieval bits, and it became a huge tourist attraction. And I personally could never imagine it without the fairytale castle roofs, so I say good on old Viollet-le-Duc!


This is from when we walked around the city walls, where guardsmen once patrolled. It wasn't that long a walk, actually. After going around the city walls of Dubrovnik a few years ago, which took us, and my feisty mom, a couple of hours, the walls of Carcassonne were peanuts. And they offered some amazing photo opportunities of the castle town and the surrounding country-side.


Here's that same courtyard, seen from above. Or at least, I think it is? I'm confusing myself now.Moving on...! A lot of people don't realise that Carcassonne is also a modern city, which grew up around the old city. It even has its own tiny, horrible airport, with one flight a day from Ryan Air, one vending machine and a single small bench - hence why we flew in via Toulouse instead. 


Carcassonne was also one of the bastions of the Inquisiton, and the result of that was that a lot of people got tortured to death here, back in medieval times. So among all its other attractions, the old town has a torture museum with lots of original instruments and descriptions of what they did to people. I'm not going to post any pictures of that stuff here, because to be honest it was kind of creepy to look at and realise that these were used on human beings. But it was very interesting, and worth a visit if you've got the stomach for it.  


On a happier note, have a picture of me sitting on a wall! This is the closest to an outfit photo we'll get from this trip to Carcassonne, I suppose. As you can see, I'd managed to change into my fresh T-shirt by then, and seriously, suddenly wearing a clean shirt on a hot day like that, it felt like my skin was being caressed by angels or something! Hah, T.M.I. much?! My skirt was a birthday gift from Second Wife, and I'm holding it down to stop the wind from blowing it up into my face - and revealing my underwear to the thousands of other tourists who were there that day. Because that really would have been T.M.I.!



Tuesday, 21 January 2014

As Above, So Below

Jacket: Vero Moda, Blouse & skirt: Lindex, Belt: Next, Shoes: Clark's

As in, I am wearing the same pattern on my top half as on my bottom half - this isn't a dress, but a skirt and a blouse from the same store. You know, Lindex, the one where my friend works and gets me amazing discounts? She texted me today to tell me that they've just outsold every other Lindex store in Norway, and since she runs the place, that's pretty good news! I am so proud of her!

"Hello, ladies! How YOU doin'?"

So the reason for this outfit was that I saw a picture of one of the Madewell executives in a magazine, in her all-Madewell ensemble of black brogues, black leather jacket, and matching skirt and blouse. And it just looked so effortlessly cool that I had to try my own version of it. When I looked in the mirror, this outfit seemed so 80's hockey-mom that I had to add a leopard belt in sheer self-defense. Then, I felt better about the whole thing. When in doubt, cat-and-dot. 


I have to apologize for the messy balcony again! I swear I will clean it up someday, but right now it's so cold out there! Plus the wind will literally throw our patio furniture around out there anyway - and we're only on the fourth floor! I bet the poor sods up on 15th just have their stuff smashed to kindling every year...


Oh, oh! And today is our anniversary - for the first time we met. I can't believe I've known this amazing man I'm married to for nine whole years, that's kind of scary how time flies! But we've had so much fun together, so I guess that's why! Have I told you the story, by the way, of how we met? The short version is that he chatted me up in an airport, while I teased him about his Australian accent. Never mind the internet, airports are where all the hot action is at... 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Sans, or Avec?

Cap: J.Crew, Blazer: Striped Spinnaker Blazer, Anthro, Necklace: F21,
Jeggings: UniClo, Boots: Steve Madden

At some point, I realised that working at the call centre doesn't really call for dressing up - at all. One of my colleagues always showes up in a lovely shirt and cashmere sweater - and trackpants! Because we do so much sitting down there, wearing something without buttons and zippers on your bottom half definitely helps make your workday more bearable. 


And so, I came up with this concept I like to call, "School of Not Giving a Damn" - it's a bit like School of Rock, but with less singing. Basically, I tell myself that nobody cares what I dress like there, and then I try to put together some things that disguise that comfort factor a little bit. I mean, leopard print and stripes are always nice together, right? And chambray shirts go with everything. And for each of my "SNGD" outfits, I try to add in at least one, sometimes two, nicer items, to "lift" the whole look - in this case, my Steve Madden boots and striped blazer from Anthro. 


 Anyways, how do you prefer this outfit - sans le hat, or avec? I couldn't quite make up my mind either, so I took pictures of both versions. I guess you can just scroll and look at only the version you like - or if you like both, that's what we'd call a win-win situation, I guess! Of course, if you like neither, then I guess you'll just have to check back tomorrow! 


The two best bits about this outfit were that a) I got this necklace and this blazer back into my rotation, I'd kind of forgotten about them for a while there, but I do love them both and it's nice to be all obsessed with them again and wearing them all the time. And b) literally nobody even said anything about the leopard jeggings I was sporting. Nobody. So I guess it's just a matter of time before I turn up there in my bright pink track suit with the angel wings picked out on the back of the sweater in little studs... *

*Well actually, this will probably never happen. Much as I'd like to. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You: Some of my (Many) Pictures from Japan!


So you see, Sayaka wanted to see some more pictures from my trip to Japan, and since Sayaka's wish is my command, I will now treat you all to my holiday photos. Looking at other peoples' holiday photos can be a bit, um, hell-on-earth-ish? I fully realise that. But, I will do my best not to be too boring. And to post pictures that might give you an idea of what it was like to be there at the time - that's how I try to take photos. So that when I look at a picture, I will remember the feeling of looking at the thing I was photographing. 


So, the first thing you notice when you set foot on Miyajima Island, because that's what I'm focusing my little post on today (little? Who am I kidding?) is the deer. Like Nara, Miyajima has tame deer walking around, doing what they please. 


 Now, as someone who's been bitten in the ass by a so-called tame deer before, I was understandably a bit wary. You can probably see the fear on my face right there. But unlike the Nara deer, who will just walk up to you and try to snatch food out of your hands, your bag or even your pockets (that's how I got my, ah, upper thigh munched on) the Miyajima deer were more of the mindset that if we all left each other alone, we'd get along just fine. Whew!


Here is a close-up of one of the legs of the famous torii gate. Victor was picking at the clams and seaweeds growing on it, since the gate stands right in the path of the tide. So you really get an idea of how big it is!


And this is what you saw when you looked up - the enormous arch of the bright orange gate against the blue, blue sky. Victor called me a retard for taking this photo, but like I said, I wanted to remember that moment, of looking up and up and just marveling at how big the gate was, and how endless that sky seemed. 


Miyajima had a pagoda, amongst its many other wonders. I think we actually didn't have time to go in there, that's how much there is to do and see on that island. But it made for some beautiful photos. 


GAAH! We came across this fellow  in one of the shrines on the island, and Victor immediately dubbed it "Satan's own horsie".  It was, if possible, even more unsettling in person. 


This bridge was so beautiful, even if it was being repaired. And I like pictures where the person in them isn't aware they're being photographed. (Yes, including pictures of me.) 


And this is the view from that bridge. Beautiful, isn't it?


We didn't meet the people who lived here, but I was struck with serious house envy. Because come on, isn't this the coolest house ever - especially with that glass veranda, siiigh! I want a house like that! The curved roofs aren't built like that to provide easy footholds for ninja, by the way - but to make snow slide off more easily in the winter. Or so I've been told. Could just be a cover-story the ninjas came up with, I guess.  


There's no humor quite like Japanese humor. The path leading up to the ropeway was dotted with these signs, consistently telling you the distance in "walk" and "run" mode. Sadly, the ropeway was closed because there had been storms the night before, so we had to go back down. 

                                 

We decided to walk up to the temple complex on top of another hill instead. There were many, many stone steps, and alongside them you would find statues like this - wrapped up in scarves and knitted hats to protect the stone from eroding in the rain. 



Now this picture, it just kills me. Because every once in a while, I'll take a photo that captures Victor in the sexiest pose ever. And I'll just sit back in amazement that I'm married to such a beautiful man. I mean, just look at this guy! I die, I die! 
(He'd be so embarrassed if he ever saw this, haha!)


Up top, you could buy these dharuma-doll shaped votive tablets and write your wishes on them before hanging them up. And at some point - maybe at the end of the day? - a priest will take them all down and burn them, releasing all the wishes into the heavens.  


This is the view from up there - I think you can just see the big torii gate as a tiny orange speck in the distance there, right in the middle! I like how the trees have been allowed to grow around the buildings and wrap themselves around them, almost. It really makes you feel relaxed when you visit, like you're that one step closer to becoming one with nature. Ah, I can't explain it! But it's a lovely feeling. 


We came across this sleeping Buddha shrine up there, and isn't it just beautiful? The lanterns, the light, the rows of clay statues behind him... And what was really interesting were the sacrifices in front of this shrine - and any other shrine you could leave sacrifices on, for that matter. Because people were being practical about the sacrifices, you see, so they left nothing but tinned goods. Fruit and vegetables, mainly, it was all strictly vegetarian. 


There were so many of these separate shrines up on that mountain, but this one really fascinated me. I wonder what the text on that rock means? As we started our descent, we went right back where we'd come up, past rows and rows of behatted little statues. It made us speculate out loud about who crochets all those hats? The statues seemed to watch us as we went pas them. 


 Next up, we visited this building - or rather, buildings, it was all a huge, inter-connected shrine complex, linked by walkways on poles, and facing the torii gate down on the beach. 


You walk through these corridors, lined with red, ducking and diving past the other tourists and waiting for them to leave so you can get good shots. But you also smell the seawater, and hear the planks creaking gently under your feet. 


I wonder what it would be like to work in a place like this. Would you eventually get used to all the beauty around you, would it become everyday? Or would you always be slightly giddy, walking on those boards? 


They give concerts and traditional dance performances here, I've been told, and you can watch the show while the water slowly creeps up around the torii gate's legs for high tide. However, neither of us had a spare kidney to sell, and besides, we were keen to get back to Hiroshima before it got dark. So no show for us. We didn't mind though - the island itself was the biggest show of all!


There was a curved path leading to and from the ferry-station, and this was the perfect place to take photos, framing the gate with pine tree branches and stone lanterns to give your pictures some extra depth. 


Or you could just fool around. 


So here's Victor, Bruce Lee-ing it up. I tell you, you can take the boy out of Hong Kong... I didn't make him do this, by the way, he just kind of started leaping around and going "HI-YAH!" And I have to post this picture in revenge for the one he made me pose for, which was even cheesier. 


Ta-dah! Can you say, "Lonely Planet Catalogue?" What I was actually saying was probably more along the lines of, "Are you sure you want me to do this? This is what you want?" 
But oh well, if I'm going to show you tourist photos, we might as well be acting like tourists in them, right?

By the way, if you have read all the way to the bottom, congratulations. I wish I had a reward to give you, but you will have to content yourself with internet brownie points. And a cute sleeping baby Buddha, with his pet rat.