Monday, 16 May 2011

Toulouse - Intro

Last week I spent a delightful weekend in the South of France. My boyfriend's family own a gite (converted farm house) in Le Verdier in the wine region of Gaillac. It's a great destination for chilling out, wine tasting, eating delicious French food and walks through the vineyards with the gite dog Gigi. The flight from London takes an hour and a half to Toulouse. Easy-jet flies there now so flights are cheap. Whether you hire a car or get picked up by Sally and Eric (who are lovely!), the 40 minute drive through the stunning Le Verdier countryside helps wash away all the stress of city life. 

La Vele Villa 
81140 Le Verdier,
SW France

Toulouse - Markets

If you manage to prise yourself away from the pool the nearest city is Toulouse. The shopping here is like a mini edited down version of Paris. The centre of town isn't huge, you can easily walk round it in a day.

Start the morning wandering around the gourmet food markets on Place Victor Hugo. You'll find an amazing selection of fois gras, cheese, fresh fish, charcuterie and of course the best locally sourced wine from the Gaillac.

If all that food shopping makes you hungry head to place St. Georges for lunch (5 mins walk away), but make sure you go via Place Wilson and take a look at the vintage carousel and gardens.

Around the corner from Place Wilson is the chic Place St. George. Stop in one of the many al fresco restaurants for lunch. The food here is as good as in Paris but without the hefty price tag. Head to Le Miroir Restaurant (in the middle of the square) for a delicious salad and chocolat crepe, the perfect place for people spotting.

Le Miroir
12 Place St Georges
31000 Toulouse, France
05 61 12 04 16

Place St George

Toulouse - Shopping and Eating

After lunch take any of the exits off the Place St George to discover hidden boutiques down beautiful quaint streets. Rue Antonin Mercie is a pretty little street with great boutiques like Diptyque,

Mouvance at 17 rue Antonin Mercie is a gadget and gift haven for design lovers, think Zara Hadid designed vases and Kartell Ghost Chairs.

 Claudie Pierlot, 11 Rue Antonin Mercie, is great for jersey breton tops and white collared LBD's, cest tres chic.

Wander around the surrounding streets between Rue Cantegril and Rue des Arts and you'll find classic French stores Sandro, Robert Clergerie, Zadig & Voltaire, Hermes, Cos and Isabel Marant.

For a post shopping tipple there's an impressive wine list at

Cote Vin
37 rue Boulbonne,
31000 Toulouse

or for tea and cake Le Nouveau The' on Rue Tolosane is a gorgeous little tea shop by the cathedral.

Toulouse - Street Style

Toulouse is an affluent university city and the style on the street is classic, smart and preppy. It's not avant garde or particularly dressy but instead understated and chic.

The Toulouse packing essentials are a classic trench or blazer, breton top, smart capri pants and flats to deal with all the cobbled streets.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Maldives - Intro

I was recently lucky enough to visit The Maldives, a group of 26 atolls (clusters of islands) known for its stunning natural beauty and incredible coral reefs, situated in the Indian Ocean.

 From white tipped reef sharks, dolphins and graceful manta rays to spectacular underwater coral worlds, t
he natural plant and wild life on these islands is astounding.

To reach the Maldives you'll most likely arrive at Male, the capital, then catch a sea plane to your individual atoll. Most of the islands are tiny; ours was 20 mins walk from one end to the other; and generally owned by one hotel or resort. It was the annual Rakhit family holiday so we stayed at the child friendly resort Diva, where Liz Hurley stays. Some of the other hotels of note (especially if you're going on a romantic getaway or honeymoon) here include The Banyan Tree, The One and Only Reethi Rah, Soneva Fushi, The Four Seasons

Once on your island you are unlikely to leave it, except maybe to go snorkelling on the nearest coral reef. Shopping here is limited to the hotel shops (which can be ludicrously expensive) unless you are near Male (above, shot from the sea plane) or a more residential island where there may be day trips (below). The boys in the shot below opened up shop specifically for us, then ran off for a game of beach football afterwards.

 Despite the lack of shops here tourists to the islands do seem to be rather style conscious. The general vibe is laid back beach chic. For the evening take white linens shirts and chinos for men and floaty or jewelled pretty dresses for women. By day accessorise your bold block coloured or printed bikinis with ethnic layered up jewellery and a straw fedora or trilby hat. As the islands are made up of sand and wooden walk ways, heels are definitely not the most practical footwear, but if you must, I'd recommend a pair of Louboutin cork wedges!

Me walking back to the water villas after a busy day of relaxing.
So the rule of packing here is definitely buy before you arrive. To help you rise to the Maldivian beach sartorial challenge take a look at the five swimwear trends I predict will help you stay cool on the hottest beaches this summer.

One of the pools at Diva

Maldives - what to wear - 50's

Go retro by channelling 50's screen icons and pin up girls for the sauciest look on the sand this season. To avoid taking the trend too literally accessorise with sporty flats and modern jewellery. For the finishing touch add a splash of red lipstick.

Clockwise from left: red 50's bikini - ASOS, sunglasses - Persol, necklace and bracelet - Lucy Hutchings, ring - Maria Francesca Pepe, sandals - Office, terracotta skin foundation - Guerlain, lipstick - Revlon www.revlon.comLe Mosaique bronzing Powder - Clarins 

Maldives - What to Wear - Minimal Sporty

 Sporty minimalism is the simplest and most practical choice on the beach this season. 'Prism' the trendy eyewear specialist has launched a new sporty swim wear range . Pair one of the bikinis, in sky blue or nude (key colours for spring summer) with metallic power flats and round lens sunglasses (very on trend). Accessorise with tough jewellery, natural lips and ice blue nails. Simple as.

Clockwise from left: sunglasses, blue and nude bikinis - all Prism, scarf - Missoni, sandals - Kors Micheal Kors, Lip gloss - Max Factor, nail varnishes - Essie, perfume - Miller Harris, cuff and ring - Maria Francesca Pepe

Maldives - What to Wear - Neon

The boldest beach look this season is neon. Clash acid yellow, pink and orange for impact. Not only do flouro shades enhance a tan they are also thought to lift the spirits. For a quieter nod to the trend stick to bright accessories or a pop of neon nail polish.

Clockwise from left: vest - Velvet, tube dress -, bikini - Pistol Panties, sun cream - Clarins, UV hair  protector and conditioning shot - Charles Worthington Takeaways, nail varnish -  Essie, lipgloss - Illamasqua, bangles - M&S, friendship bracelets - Links of London, sandals - Farhi Nicole Farhi, sunglasses - Rayban, ring - Freedom at Topshop

Maldives - What to Wear - Stripes

As seen on the catwalks of Prada and Jil Sander, going linear is the easiest way to earn your beach  fashion stripes. Whether you go for a bold graphic line or an elegant French breton, this look is so chic and laid back, it's virtually horizontal.

Clockwise from left: turban - American Apparel, bikini - ASOS, stripe top - Day Birger et Mikkelson, sunglasses - Vogue, ring - Maria Francesca Pepe, lipgloss - Givenchy, nail varnish - Estee Lauder, compact - stylists own from YSL, cuff - market stall in Ibiza.

Maldives - What to Wear - Boho

The boho trend is back on the beach (did it ever go away?) This summer think world traveller, mix up your ethnic with tribal, faux feathers with animal prints. The eclectic clash is what makes the look work. Go for hot pink shades and watch the temperature rise.

Clockwise from left: Trilby - Zadig and Voltaire, kaftan - Lotus of London, Earrings - Miss Selfridge, bag - Zara (old season), shoes - KG Kurt Geiger, leather wrap bracelet - Salvatore Ferragamo, friendship bracelets - stylists own, lipgloss - Topshop, Ring - Dorothy Perkins, bronzer - Dior, bikini - Melissa Odabash, sunglasses - D&G