Sensational, Pierre’s Bistro

I met Pierre Gagnaire at a secret dinner party held just a few days before opening his new Dubai venture. Picture dimmed lights, misarranged partly unwrapped furniture, absence of décor but a collection of rare French wines, a sweet view of the nearby marina and its colourful fountains, melting candles, and an atmosphere of a medieval castle ready for a feast. Mingling between a well-selected group of local celebrities, magazine editors, TV anchor, food critics, PR and social media opinion shapers, I kept a very curious eye out for the much talked about chef. In the best French tradition, he appeared with a chilled bottle of dry champagne ready to pour.

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P4196137.JPGFeeding a group of highly experienced foodies eager to express what they think is a hard job. Speaking from my personal experience, at some point dining out may turn into a blur: if not for photographs, I would have no idea what was served an hour ago even when it was the best burrata ever. You can imagine my curiosity and anticipation to watch Monsieur Pierre handling us. Spoiled: he did well. Making short but sharp appearances in various intervals during the dinner, he managed to look after everyone by topping up a glass a wine, bringing a dish to the table, swiping crumbs, sharing a joke in both French and English and patiently waiting for follow up questions. The night ended with a cookbook copy signed by the chef. I left completely mesmerized. Needless to say I craved the world’s best frog legs ever since.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.31.14 AM.pngI missed the restaurant opening as I was on a trip to India but called to reserve a table a few weeks later, curious to see the turnout. Guess what? It all turned out pretty well! With a separate entrance on the side of the Intercontinental Hotel, dedicated team of three on arrival to ensure guests reach the destination happily and a very elegant interior design worth a fortune, the Pierre’s Bistro is fancier than it sounds. Playing “un petit truc” with the word “bistro” referring to a casual eatery with a simple menu, Pierrre Gagnaire delivers the opposite: fine dining with the most delicious French cuisine.P4196230.JPGA wonderful mix of bright and soft interior colours sets an appropriate mood for various areas: exotic lush green lounge with DJ booth, energetic bar sparkling with reflections, spotless chrome kitchen with one transparent wall shared with a hall, lovely terrace and less dramatic but still eccentric salon with macaroon like chairs, cheeky paintings and soft light. I loved that on top of smoking/non smoking or inside/outside tables there were options for “intimate dining” and “the centre of attention”.  As the weather chose to be kind that night, I sat on a very comfortable sofa outside facing the fountains and a promenade.

My dinner started with a warm baguette baked “en ce moment” and served in a branded paper bag. Crispy on outside, the baguette was so airy and fantastically fragrant; that I couldn’t help but eat it all with the beautiful salted French butter. I ordered my all time favourite frog legs with garlic and parsley cooked to such perfection they melt on a tongue. My other dishes were as exceptional as expected but it was the apple tart that stole my heart that night.

P4196221.JPGOh mon Dieu! It arrived together with caramel ice cream and whipped cream with bits of real vanilla and a dash of brandy. Someone cut it gently in front of me into two halves while I couldn’t take my eyes off its golden glow. I eat very slowly savouring every bite, thinking of beautiful sunsets, apple trees in bloom and fireworks. What a magical end to a magical night!P4196142.JPGStalk me on Instagram and Facebook.

10 years later, the Taj in Mumbai

It’s been 10 years since my last stay at the Taj Mahal in Mumbai (read part 1 here). I left a few days earlier than planned to help my friends deal with a glamorous shopping spree in Dubai.

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Taj Mahal, view from the pool, 2008

At that time Taj ran at full occupancy, hosting party after a party and guests from all over the world. The hecticness, however, wasn’t obvious to anyone’s eye except the staff, and  all my free time was passed at the swimming pool, guarded by statuesque lions and ever hungry crows.

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Taj Mahal Mumbai, the pool, 2008

10 years later the lions were still on duty.

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Taj Mahal Mumbai, the pool, 2018

When not in the water, I used to enjoy lazying in vintage like chaise longues, starring at the grey stone majestic facade.

Ten years later the facade was the same. The most drastic transformation was a change in the “open sky” policy for cheeky city birds, limiting their access to all day long “bed and breakfast”. But don’t you worry: birds still sneak in, showing a complete ignorance to etiquette. The garden has greatly expanded to the mezzanine floor, and new palm trees popped up here and there. I noticed chaise longues no longer featured sun shades. Instead, the traditional Rajasthani umbrellas were installed, adding a touch of cultural and heritage to the pool area. Believe it or not, but this used to be the front entrance back in 1903. Do you agree that the pool is a better idea?

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Taj Mahal Mumbai, view from the pool, 2018

Happy to see that the Taj’ exteriors stayed true to their 2008 look, I did noticed a change in interior design. Damaged after the fire and destruction, all ground level restaurants were completely refurbished and highly unrecognizable. The number of open entrances to the hotel was reduced to one, where strict security has been introduced. I could no longer run in and out without passing through a metal detector. On the brighter side, the iconic floating staircases look exactly the same if not a little prettier.

The rooms featured the same white marble in the bathrooms, giving them a rather royal feel. Additionally the new wooden flooring, brighter paint and furniture appeared in the living spaces and all sort of life hacks in the form of buttons, cables and devices were introduced to add technical luxury to the stay. The view stayed the same.

To be continued…

Find out more about the Taj Mahal of Mumbai here.

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Where Turquoise Waters Shimmer

At Angsana Velavaru

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Aangsana Velavaru is an island paradise 45 minutes away from Male, the capital of Maldives. In the shimmering blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the island is surrounded by a live coral reef with unimaginably colourful species and creatures.

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The island is far enough away from civilization to create the illusion of an exotic adventure and disconnection from hectic urban living. But it’s just an illusion as fast free WiFi allows one to reach out anywhere in the world within seconds.

We arrived on a little floatplane right before the sunset and were greeted with the sounds of traditional instruments echoing in the waves. I turned my face to the breeze and smiled.

It was a fantastic ending to a desperate morning struggle to book an alternative to the first hotel that turned out to be hideous. Changing hotels in Maldives was a risky exercise considering logistics, most of the resorts existed as independent islands. I called Angsana Velavaru in panic requesting immediate help with the booking. I wanted to believe they were moved by my sobbing voice however later experience proved Angsana’s team really truly cared about guest’s wellbeing. So in a matter of half an hour, I was assured of a new address to stay at and most importantly, that great humanity existed! So when I stepped out of the last seaplane for the day mesmerized by vanilla sky reflected in crystal clear shimmering waters, I felt like the luckiest girl on Earth! I will never forget the kindness of the person on the opposite side of the line helping me out.

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Our island villa with air-conditioning and cheerful wall art was a delight to step into after a long day of travels.

It included a private swimming pool, spacious garden facing an expansive waterfront, and a complimentary bottle of chilled champagne that obviously didn’t last long.

We spent our first night sipping champagne on the terrace, listening to waves, and bathing in the disappearing sun.

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The next morning was the start of the Maldivian island routine.

Imagine waking up to the sounds of sea followed by a quick splash in refreshing waters, then rushing to exotic breakfast that I usually started with a fragrant cup of black coffee; despite the presence of fresh guava juice on a shelf. The best part was the view.

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After breakfast a wooden boat would take us for a complimentary snorkeling expedition to beautiful reefs, different every time.

Sylvia, our snorkeling instructor, mingled between swimmers, pointing out sea treasures. I kept following her around for a better glimpse of the underwater world. She didn’t seem to mind.

We would spend evenings taking photographs at golden hour and tasting local cocktails. At night the fatigue associated with 3+ snorkeling trips would kick in and I opted for lovely room service dinners.

I miss my time at Angsana and their amazing team and looking forward to going there again!

Take a look at Sylvia’s inspiring Instagram.

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Blue Lagoon, Intercontinental Dubai Marina

A few weekends ago I secretly stuffed my shiny LV suitcase, left a lot of extra water for my ever-hungry cat Freddie and ran away from my friends, work and routine. Don’t worry guys, it didn’t affect my Instagram community as they are the real family and impossible to part with, right :)?

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For the purposes of extreme privacy I selected one of the most popular hotels in one the most public-friendly Dubai areas, Intercontinental in Dubai Marina, right when a huge group of Instagrammers from Kuwait stormed the city. Can you spot me?

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The Intercontinental in Dubai Marina is a place with a view. Conveniently located between The Marina and The Beach, the hotel’s design contrasts with the gold skyscrapers on one side and fancy yachts on the other. Right from the entrance the interiors surprise visitors with high ceilings, and minimalistic simple colours that create a magnificent additional space to breathe, walk and enjoy a moment. Stunning!

At check-in I obviously pretended to be new to the city and was dully briefed on all nearby attractions (spoiler: many) and dangers (spoiler: none). Frankly over-shopping is one of the tourist traps I always fall into. However it was a look at my key that made me realize I was in for a treat. What’s your favorite number?

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The 13F didn’t disappoint. I walked into a spacious room with a view on deep blue water where busy boats left wavy trails behind and a party vibe, breaking reflections of skyscrapers and fancy towers.

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Despite high humidity, the balcony’s attraction was irresistible resulting in my room turning into a sauna.

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And what a room it was!

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Equipped with essentials including iron, complimentary mineral water and a Nespresso machine, it also featured fresh fruit, toiletries and Instagram themed macaroons. Spoiler: they didn’t last…

Satisfied with my lodging, I went on a walking tour around the premises looking for cool shots and hot snacks. I discovered’ em all strolling amongst futuristic art objects installed here and there. Don’t miss complimentary cookies and dates served with traditional Arabic coffee offered at the lobby (I wasn’t shy).

The staircase led to me up and down to irresistibly looking bars and restaurants. Ginter with retro furniture, glass displays and gin themed cocktails, Marina Social and popular night out destination Ynot.

With a few hours to spare before dinner I changed into my fanciest swimwear and hurried to the beautiful terrace with a pool overlooking the busy waters of Dubai Marina. I instantly called it the Blue Lagoon for its incredible shades of this warmest colour.

While the sun was setting the blue intensified creating an eye-candy of photography including breathtaking views on Marina.

Inspired by street lights, I adorned myself in sparkles, crystals and other shiny things. Then I headed to Ynot to eat and party, shamelessly taking an advantage of their Thirsty Thursday offer (more here). It was nice to chat with oft sought after chef Ioannis, known for his good taste in food and humor. Apparently he often makes an appearance to check how quickly guest clear their plates and glasses. Spoiler: instantly 🙂

So I turned off my phone, brewed a cuppa and soaked offline…

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Looking for more? Head to the official site of Intercontinental Dubai Marina – here. 

Good night!

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Castle on the Hill, Dwarika’s

Previously on Dwarika’s:

Imagine waking up to the first rays of sun playing a game of hide and seek on the wooden walls and floors of your bedroom. Red, golden, orange and silver twinkles mingle in a flirty dance reaching for your pillow. Goooood morning!

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Tucked in the softest cotton sheets, you are lazying in comfort but your curious eyes are locked on a stunning view of the Himalaya’s peaks. The fresh mountain breeze rushes through big panoramic windows which you carelessly left open last night. Inhale… the sound of cheerful birds singing from the branches gets closer and louder, encouraging you to throw on a robe and get the coffee brewing. Tip: listen for the bird singing “La Cucaracha”!

Conveniently, the kettle, mineral water and freshly grounded coffee are just a few steps away. Another few steps and you’ll find yourself lounging on a spacious terrace at the top of the world. Exhale…

I could not resist spending most of my mornings sipping coffee in a sublime peace, watching the desperate attempts of local cheeky birds to steal Dwarika’s famous home-baked cookies, which are by no means sharable.

Easily carried away, I lose track of time! Every time. Fortunately, hotel guest relations are serious about looking after me and would often bring me back to the earth with a courtesy phone call to rush for breakfast. Un, deux, trois and I was fresh as a rose and ready to explore!

After an adventurous day out and about at Dwarika’s, I would always look forward to getting back to my “castle on the hill”. It’s such an incredibly nice feeling to mess the freshly made bed, open curtains wide open, fill a tub with a hot water and soak those super tired muscles in a pleasant long herbal bath.

Barefoot, with only a bathrobe made of the lightest cotton, I often ran upstairs to the terrace for some serious tea time in the shadows of the disappearing sun. The hardest choice of the day would be between herbal, camomile, jasmine or pure green (all locally sourced).

As the sun leaves my sight until the next morning, I covertly run downstairs, turn on the light and surround myself with the comfort of indoor warmth. See you soon!

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Splash in nature @Dwarika’s

Nepal for many is one of the world’s best trekking destinations, where the bravest conquer the peaks of Everest or chase down the mysterious Yeti. I arrived in Nepal in a search of peace and hidden treasures, hoping to discover sights, people and, as it turned out, cats defying stereotypes. That’s how I ended up at Dwarika’s in Dhuikhel, a place very few have heard about and even less visited (here is a link to the start of my journey).

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Located on several hills in the Himalayas, this resort is not a typical all-inclusive 5 star Disneyland to impress and entertain.

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Nor is it a boring detox center filled with over concerned personnel.

The resort is founded on a philosophy of respecting nature and the self, and promoting a balance between a body, mind and a spirit to enjoy a healthy life (with a breathtaking view).

With a holistic approach to every detail, Dwarika’s incorporates a mix of Nepali tradition with the best modern life has to offer. Think air conditioning, soft cotton fabrics, solar panels, water re-harvesting, minimized light pollution at night, recycling and a lot more. Dwarika’s is built using mostly natural materials like clay, stone, wood, glass and sand to decrease the harmful effect on the environment and guests.  Dwarika’s helps out Nepal’s indigenous arts and crafts by creating working spots for locals plus a continuous demand for products.

The designers deliberately chose earthy colours and patterns to transform this resort into real eye candy from an architectural point of view, branding Nepal as a new luxury destination.

Top it off with the famous Nepali hospitality, a focus on individual wellbeing, and you like me will never want to leave. To prove how seriously guest relations are taken, a resident cat was hired to ensure that happiness is not a just a meawy word.

Being a respected employee, the Dwarikat is entrusted with additional responsibilities that include but are not limited to spontaneous food tastings. Blessed with a cheerful, loving, humble and cheeky personality (not to mention the pretty face), the Dwarikat is set to become the next most popular Katdashian. I am surprised she doesn’t run her own celebrity Instagram page yet. I would follow her straight away.

To be continued…

P.S. Thank you Dan  for a brilliant Cat’s name idea, the Dwarikat

I am wearing a tailored kaftan and swimwear hand made by a Dubai-based designer Anna. Check them out.

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Nepal’s well kept secret – Dwarika’s

We arrived in Katmandu early afternoon.

Being in a habit to rush off the plane, I noticed only the tourists were hurrying, worried about queues and luggage and airport wifi. Local Nepalese travelers smiled peacefully, letting us push past.”Namaste, welcome,” smiled a man in a uniform. “Namaste,” I replied and bombarded him with visa related questions. He patiently answered them and pointed me through the visa formalities. My destination was an hour away from the capital, a gem of a hotel hidden high in Himalays.

Exiting the airport, Katmandu greeted me with sun, cheerful conversations, fresh breeze, laughs and uniquely melodic truck horns. I was welcomed by a charming man in a suit, Dwarika’s ambassador, who relieved me of two heavy suitcases and supplied a bottle of water, hot towel and a lovely chatty driver. I jumped into the car and we bravely joined the traffic chaos.

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The music of street life burst through the bus windows. Motorcycles, fruit vendors, authentic houses, gossiping girls, moms holding kids and lots and lots of construction. My eyes were shining bright, piercing for every little detail. Katmandu’s daily routine is paradise for a curious soul.

Katmandu is still rebuilding after the 2015 earthquake, however nothing apart from bricks and cement indicate it. My camera couldn’t get enough of outside scenery, especially when  lavish green fields replaced the urban streetscapes. I spotted women in colorful sari-like outfits crossing farms with huge wicker baskets hanging off their shoulders, at the same time boys were enjoying themselves at coffee houses spread along the road. Needless to say it was all casually happening against a background of traditional huts, clay temples, resting cows and powerful statues. Meanwhile our bus was taking us way up, higher and higher with every turn.

The road curved one last time and the bus stopped. I was at the footsteps of Dwarika’s. A few minutes later a golf cart appeared out of nowhere and in a matter of minutes I was sitting in a lobby on top of the world sipping a refreshing welcoming drink. Life has never been better!

To be continued…

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Dubai International Film Festival. The Opening.

The 13th Dubai International Film festival opened last night with a red carpet screening of “Miss Sloane” by British Director John Madden (loved for “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Debt”). Surrounded by the breathtaking architecture of Madinat Jumeirah, traditional Arabian style with water canals, palm trees and a crystal clear beach, the DIFF venue resembled a Hollywood studio set from the Golden Age inspired by the tales of One Thousand and One Nights. The festival’s focus on regional talent and industry was no surprise.

At the opening, the red carpet was overflowing with guests and celebrities rushing in to the screening. Obviously there was press too, represented by leading UAE media giants like Dubai One, Gulf News, Dubai Eye and my favourite Harpers Bazaar Arabia (among others). I did on occasion feel like a sassy well-trained paparazzi snapping photos on the go.

The event was as theatrical as expected, with a ruby red carpet rolled under the stars, powerful stage lights, and beautiful people from all over the world appearing and disappearing like a dream sparkling with diamonds, confidence and haute couture outfits (incredible #WIWT by Indian actor Ranveer Singh). It was overwhelmingly exciting to spot the dangerously dazzling Olga Kurylenko (Bond girl!), the crew of “The Eagle Huntress” (amazing cinematography) and, no introduction needed, Samuel L. Jackson.

The opening ceremony started with Lifetime Achievement Awards celebrating film industry contributions. Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, Indian actor Rekha and Samuel L. Jackson were honoured.

The premier screening, “Miss Sloane”, was an intense fast-paced political thriller focused on American political intrigue (hot topic this year!) and the controversial subject of gun control. With a strong leading female character played by Jessica Chastain (secret agent in “The Debt”), I was curious if her previous performance influenced John Madden’s decision to cast her in this role. This year’s program has been passionately selected by organizers and consisted of more than 150 movies from over 50 countries. In my opinion (it’s so personal!) other films to watch out for included: “Their Finest”, “Swallows and Amazons”, “La La Land”, “Rogue One: the Star Wars story”, “Jackie” and “Manchester by the sea” (reviews to follow). Meanwhile here are some exclusive behind the scenes photos of DIFF 13th opening night in making:

To be continued…

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Toronto’s Style gAnngstars

This October Toronto is the most delightful place to hang out (in Canada at least!). While it snowed in Alberta and elsewhere across the country, the weather has been at it’s best behavior in this breezy city treating everyone and everything to incredibly warm afternoons. Day after day the sun made it’s reappearance to reflect a perfect turquoise blue sky in the million glass windows of the downtown high-rises. Meanwhile the trees were changing colors like determined bloggers loosen up their haute couture outfits during fashion week.

Loaded with the unexpected overdose of Vitamin D, the local street style has flourished with eye-catching accessories, soon to be forgotten summer staples (think mini-shorts), natural fabrics and occasional layers carried in a moment of weakness to potentially compensate for the wind of change from Antarctica.

So I wasted no time and immediately WhatsApp’ed two most heroic fashion gangstars who negotiate food but never style. Together we connected what Toronto is loved for, emerging urbanism with self-expression.

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You can always define the true big city girl by her shoes. She is independent, beautiful, confident and quick. She knows what she wants and where she wants to be. She is in rational snappy sneakers that would accelerate her potential and get her going. I caught up with Dana at Trinity Bellwoods Park, a place with many hidden gems and three-dimensional friendly beasts.

PA163272.JPGWalking Queen St. W., I cursed my choice of ballerina flats for this fashion expedition as my delicate feet echoed with pain at every tiny stone. I could barely keep up with Dana diving in and out of mysterious looking stores. So I used my old trick of pulling out the camera to stop for a quick “strike a pose” moment and charmed Dana into sharing her secret of being on the best dressed page with the minimum effort and investment. As it turns out, the recurring trend in Toronto street style at any season or on any occasion is based on emotions and love.

Torontonians are passionate about the Blue Jays (Toronto’s baseball team) and they are not shy to express it. Jay’s hats, created in combination of red, blue, gold, black and white colours add a touch of naughtiness to any outfit, instantly developing into a fashion statement that drives attention. I’m totally shopping for one (well, it’s never one, believe me!). I also need to find a way to sort my hair around it or get it in the tiniest size to outshine that cool girl on the left.

One of the most romantic views of Toronto is from the roof top bar at the Park Hyatt. Shorts paired with Hawaiian tee looked rather extravagant in the middle of October and with no questions asked and with no arms raised they confidently passed for a smart casual. Meet Jesper, a fearless super fit traveller, who is rounding a latest stretch of his tour de monde.

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After a couple of fancy cocktails (tailored to my vicious desires), we were absolutely charmed by the elegance of the city winking at us in the sunshine. I demanded a change of decorations, so we headed out to the Kensington Market or “Hipster’s Paradise” in the search for the dodgiest outfit of the day.

Dressed as a “nasty woman” in black suede boots with shiny silver zips, military cut coat and mini grey woolen dress, I radiated pure awesomeness. Jesper in torn denim, keds and explorer’s windbreaker was completely immersed into surroundings, hiding his true identity behind “Top Gun” shades. It was only a matter of minutes before we started attracting some unusual waves of attention from locals and tourists (blame our pretty faces) forcing us to look for shelter. So a trip to the Lakefront seemed to be an easy escape.

Queen’s Quays is the best place for people and seagull watching and for being watched (plus a nice view of the lake). The Lakefront attracts fashionistas and crazies (in its best meaning) from all over the world, who peacefully co-exist and co-inspire. The Lakefront is also a home to the Power Plant contemporary art gallery, a busy local brewery with the tables always taken but free seats around the bar, and Canadian vintage trains that one shouldn’t climb.

The October Fashion experience in Toronto is incomplete without a photo of the CN Tower, ideally with yourself on it and some serious showing-off (don’t forget to empty pockets prior to attempting).

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P.S. Stalk Dana through her blog or Instagram and Jesper over here. Keep up with me on Instagram and Facebook. Happy styling!

Autumn style, sugar coated

The calendar is a funny thing, it cannot be trusted! Take September for example. While the weather is staying baking hot in Dubai, Australians are cheering the beginning of Spring and somewhere in Siberia kids are building their first snowman. So, where on Earth do I go to show off my new cashmere coat? I decided to head to Eastern Europe for some serious sugar coated autumn style. Salut, St. Petersburg!

Secret: Read about my summer adventures in SPB here and here.

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Peterhof, St. Petersburg

It’s true, the autumn’s here! I feel its presence in cooler breeze and shorter days… September sky is getting heavier allowing the weather to rapidly switch from fatally gothic to dreamy rococo. Autumn is here to charm with the ever-changing palette of colours and forever steal our memories of sweet summer days… With no time to lose, I encourage you to assist me in embracing the change of season with the sounds of l’Autunno by Vivaldi accompanied by a skinny flute of sparkling rose. Let’s savor this moment as every day is unlike any other. Follow my ten steps to glam up!

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On the streets of St. Petersburg

1. Allure. There is nothing more stylish than a great hair or… a complete lack of it. Scented with long lasting perfume (I love Dior Addict on a windy September afternoon), your flirty locks lure attention, making you truly unforgettable. Go for it!

Secret: I use Fountain Cosmetics moisture hair mask for extra softness and shine. Available here.

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Rooftop bar, W Hotel with the view on Admiralty building, Saint Petersburg

2. Red lipstick. Forget about pink, orange or purple. Forget about lighter or darker shades. Power play the upcoming autumn melancholy with a beauty statement. Red will make you irresistible in any circumstances and in any weather. Think red!

Secret: Red lips by Feral Cosmetics, semi-matt Envy. Available here.

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Feral instinct

3. Lace it. There is no bad weather! Whether it’s sunny or rainy, dry or muddy put your comfort first because heels are killers (in every context). Get a pair of funky laced sneakers and be a big city girl who values independency and time. Own that walk!

Secret: I love shoe hunting at Farfetch for their all-time discounts.

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg

4. Fashion forward. Splash your outfit with a little colour. Play with a scarf, long necklace or umbrella (your choice) or use your fantasy and creativity to enhance the “every day in a coat” look. Experiment with your individuality and you’ll never look back.

Secret: I love scarfs by the upcoming designer Kris Jane. Available here.

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Nevsky avenue, St. Petersburg

5. Trench that trend. They say elegance is attitude, but a classy trench coat on a rare sunny day will be as impressive. Plus it may save you from an unexpected rain and annoying paparazzi by softly camouflaging you in the 19th century architecture. A good trench coat gently wraps around your curves, hiding some of your secrets and keeping open what is needed to be seen. Add shady shades for a super cool spy look.

Secret: I’m wearing trench coat by Elementy Simple wear . Available here.

6. Candy it up. The fun of wearing layers is an opportunity to sneak in a fancy piece and shine it at the right moment. There is always that special dress that reminds you of sunshine, summer secret affairs or an exotic vacation. Be the eye candy, get noticed. You are awesome!

Secret: I’m wearing “Pink pearls for my girl” silk dress. Available here.

7. Polish it. For the rainy day at the museum (I ended up strolling through a spectacular art collection at Hermitage) opt for a “good-girl” look with focus on beige tones and natural fabrics. Play the cliche element of your outfit right and every photo you take can easily be a page from a glossy magazine.

Secret: I love Ruelala.com for style inspiration.

8. Warm coat. Never underestimate tricky autumn weather and invest in a comfy, yet warm cashmere coat. Apart from saving you from sneezing, it has all the opportunity to turn into a timeless and favorite forever piece. Choose a flirty cut and pay attention to the fabric. It has to be either cashmere, wool or a mix of those two. No compromises!

Secret: Aritzia offers awesome selection of coats (especially when they are on sale). Contact Canadian customer care for worldwide delivery.

9. Heavy military coat. Military design is as hot as ever. A heavy maxi coat tailored to compliment your curves or tiny waist is a must for those special nights out to the ballet or daytime downtown walking sprees. The best part – you can wear whatever underneath, including a naughty bodysuit, this coat will keep your warm!

Secret: A tiny purse with metallic details will add a little sparkle. I love DVF handbags (keep an eye for price cuts), not to mention her statement coats. Available here. 

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10. Stockings. This one is quite simple. Say no to nudes and instead welcome opaques with microfibre in brown, grey, black or maybe cosmic red. When the weather behaves show up in fishnet tights in all unimaginable shades.

That’s it! You’re ready.

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Feel Like a Soviet in Moscow, Top 10, Part 2

My shady mission that started one dangerously sunny afternoon in Moscow has so far led to KGB interferance and thousands of vivid photos of the Red Square from every possible angle (except space). Those who followed my walking map in the previous post (as ambitious as the USSR’s five-years national economy plans) have developed a strong immune response to discoveries and probably lost 4-10 pounds of precious western body fat. Those, who didn’t – shame on you! The real communist is always on the go and with a little help, you’ll soon become one, willingly or not.

No. 7 – Gorky Park + Garage art center

Entrance to the park is free!

All you Scorpions fans will certainly remember the visionary video and heartbreaking lyrics of Wind of Change : “Follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change… To the magic of this moment… Let your balalaika sing what my guitar has to say…”. Wait no more! I’m taking you to the place “where children of tomorrow share their dreams” 🙂

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Since its opening in 1928, Gorky Park was established by a young Soviet government (fun could be regimented too) as a place to feel the change. While the new state was growing through the ruins of the Empire, the site for the future park was chosen on a deserted area, a former dump 45 minutes away from the Kremlin. Named after a Soviet writer (“Untimely Thoughts”) it was here that in 1935 a two-headed herald eagle striped off the Kremlin towers spent their last hours on display outshined by the symbols of a brand new era, red stars encrusted by semi-precious stones. For the next 75 years propaganda and leisure co-existed here. Extraordinary, from 1929-1937 it was run by female manager, Betty Glan who was only 25yo when appointed.

During WWII it was used to exhibit German war trophies, feeding anticipation for victory, and in post war years, the victory of communism. Following a recent restoration in 2012, Gorky Park was overrun with evil hipsters who enjoyed the 24/7 schedule of free wi-fi, all sorts of “ball” activities, lush lawns to sunbath on, access to Moscow’s river embarkment, never ending supply of kvas (a cold local drink which apparently is super hot) and street food. Beware, it’s easy to loose your sense of time and spend the whole day over here.

Not on my watch! Whatever you will be tricked in doing (local enthusiasm is contagious), find an hour or two for Garage, the museum of contemporary art opened by Darya Zhukova. Apart from a selection of peculiar installations, you’ll be surprised by the modern hybrid of minimalistic soviet architecture and modern urbanism. More here.

N0. 8 – Patriarch Ponds

Free!

Dive into the Moscow metro for a rapid ride from Oktyabrskay to Tverskay station, and for a quick meal at the first McDonald’s to open in the USSR. You may find this idea quite awful at first (especially if you are Vegan or allergic to fast food), however at the end of January 1990, around 30,000 Soviets arrived to queue for the taste of freedom. For many following months, a trip to McDonald’s became a dream stop on a sightseeing tour of Moscow (here is a video proof). Looks convincing, eh?

Our next mission is to explore the Patriarch’s neighborhood, the area loved by former party leaders, expats, spies, poets, ministers, the nouveau riche and readers of Master and Margaret (soviet satire novel by M. Bulgakov if you skipped my previous post). It was here at the Patriarch Ponds (actually there is just one) where the Devil allegedly appeared on May 1st, 1929. It was here that a phrase “don’t talk to strangers” turned into the meme and a dark fate for the two participants. Lounge on one of wooden benches to watch a very well dressed crowd pass by or have a drink at many nearby bars.

No. 9 – VDNKH

Entrance is free!

VDNKH is one of my favorite places in Moscow recognized for its authentic feel and magnificent architectural structures. It’s a Soviet version of Disneyland with rides, candies, glitter, performances and a promise of the Brighter Future for every working comrade. Many call it “Versailles stormed by Bolsheviks”. VDNKH or vystavka (fair) of Soviet realism with pavilions exhibiting new exciting gadgets, machinery and produce (anything from apples to spacecrafts). Here, feel the vibe!

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Glittering with gold, VDNKH isn’t just eye-candy, but it radiates the famous Russian spontaneity when one never knows where the day ends and is ready for all sort of scenarios. I was treated to a random glass of prosecco on board an empty stationery soviet plane.

Take a good look around. Back in 60s you may be walking alongside Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Today you may spot parkour enthusiasts rolling head-breaking tricks, brainy youth on scooters or special forces officers splashing in the fountains. A must-see are the space pavilions and the nominee of Stalin’s prize, sculpture “Worker and a kolkhoz woman (farmer girl)” by Mukhina. Just like Hollywood’s roaring lion it was chosen as the opener to Soviet films.

Once you watch the setting sun in the Communist themed park, it’s time to use the privileges of the capitalist’s world and jump into a comfortable Uber for the long drive through the center of Moscow to a place best described as temptation.

No. 10 – Chinese Grammar or Kitayskay Gramota, the restaurant

Reserve a table a day in advance. Arrive hungry. Be ready to throw cash to settle the bill. Tip: impress staff and audience by making it rain thousand ruble notes “Bad Grandpa”  style. Explore their food, drinks and mind-blowing menu here.

Owned by Mr. Rappoport (remember Dr. Zhivago), a lawyer known in his circle as a foodie and a talented chef with obviously good sense of humor and taste (in art for example), Chinese Grammar wins your interest at the front door. In the best traditions of the communist era, the statue of the greeting comrade is cheerful, green and screwed to the wall (for its own good they say). March in and be stunned by the atmosphere of a post-Imperial selected members only bunker loaded with artifacts. Strikingly good looking staff dressed in Mao’s soldiers uniforms are quite entertaining to watch with their trained posture and detailed knowledge of the menu. Believe me, my reader, it’s not just the decor that this place is loved for, but the Cantonese cuisine delicious in its simplicity and long selection of tempting cocktails. I couldn’t stop looking for a hidden door leading to gambling, opium tastings and happy patrons puffing the magic dragons so well described in Sherlock Holmes, but I failed. Maybe you’ll get luckier…

The end!

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Operation “Kremlin’s Shadow”

Raised on memories of the Cold War and fears of Bolsheviks emptying the bars of Rockefeller Center with the vigour they demonstrated storming the cellars of the Winter Palace, I sacrificed purchasing the newest Chanel Boy to save for a trip to the nest of former-Soviet culture, Moscow.

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Red Square

Set on a mission to investigate the progress and success of the working class, I first had some time in Toronto to master the complicated art of “maskirovka” and dress in camouflage. Visual aids were sent to me by my contact in Moscow.

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Serebryakova, “Bleaching the cloth” displayed at Tretyakov’s Gallery

Well, being a cheeky City Chick and a big fan of Versace silk scarves, nostalgic Etro garments and bright fabrics in general, I always follow one impeccable life motto: “when in a doubt – wear Italian”. So fashion decisions were not a challenge! To top it off, I invested in a decent chapeau and Google Glass (a must-have this spying season). The process of turning me into a comrade had begun!

Once the dress code was successfully deciphered, a rendez-vous with group activists was scheduled to practice the “Na Zdorovie” drinking ritual, another important aspect of every day Soviet interactions. After an intensive briefing by the group leader (not present on this photo for obvious reasons) on the dangers and fun of cocktail consumption, I was cool and ready to pursue the operation “Kremlin’s Shadow”. Well, I called it “tourism” and boarded a flight as a true communist with “a cold head, flaming heart and clean hands”.

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Na Zdorovie

I arrived in Moscow on a beautiful sunny afternoon and as instructed headed to Red Square without delay to take photographs and collect information. My maskirovka worked perfectly, allowing me to sneak unnoticed a few steps from the Kremlin. What a great start!

However, unexpectedly and sadly, suspicious activity around my hotel made me realize my cover was blown and my room was potentially bugged. As someone brilliant once said: “You find party in the West. In Russia, party finds you”. Well, I knew from the start what I was up against and at least they revealed a good sense of humor.

So I sat by candle light, armed with American technology, Chinese stationery and a printed map, to experience and share with you the best 10 “feel like a Soviet” attractions in Moscow.

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To be continued…

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