Saturday, July 31, 2010

World Capital Debate

After a heated debate with a stranger a couple of days ago it has recently come to my attention that people outside of the United States consider New York City to be the Capital of the world, and for some reason I feel a little bit surprised.

Now, I do believe that at one point NYC was the capital and melting pot of the world, but quite frankly I think this image is slowly fading and the privilege seems to be shifting to some other place. I have not traveled as much as I wish, but simply keeping in touch with current events has me thinking that perhaps it has shifted to a city in China; but for everything other than sports, we all know the sports capitol is Spain!

I would really like to know what my fellow friends and readers have to say about this. Every opinion is valid! Which city gives you the sensation of being the cultural melting pot, where you hear approximately five different languages a day minimum, and can choose from many, many different world cuisines to eat for dinner?

What is the new world capital and why?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shaky Town

Throughout my life I have spent many summers in Spain, and the heat can be brutal (although never as brutal as Florida summers). To cool down, Spaniards treat themselves to either one of the following: beer (sometimes with lemon Fanta) or MILKSHAKES!

But these aren't just milkshakes, they are smooth, creamy, delicious, and fattening milkshakes. You can walk into any bar in this lovely plaza (Plaza Mayor) and choose from a wide variation of these decadent cold drinks.

We're not just talking about vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate. They get quite creative with these drinks, but my favorite place to treat myself to one is Niccola cafe. They serve everything from ice cream to frappés, and from pancackes to icey slushy drinks. This place is filled with way more awesome than Starbucks. Starbucks Shmarbucks!

While my cousin chose a raspberry milkshake I decided to opt for something a little more innovative. How about an orange juice slushy or 'granizado' with a ball of vanilla ice cream on top? Vitamin C and mega-delicious-cool-down all in one cup? BINGO! Needless to say, my sweet tooth was begging for more after I finished but my stomach won the battle crying for me to stop feeding it.

Although I wouldn't mind having one every day, my wallet would dwindle since these drinks can get a little pricey and...well... my waist line would do anything but dwindle; I'll go back to drinking my cold sparkling water for now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Paper Couture

Outside of Spain most people are not familiar with Valladolid, so when asked about this wonderful province/city I typically respond that it is best known as the old capitol of Spain and the one place in the world where the best spanish is spoken. Apart from those two facts, I consider it to be one of the most charming and beautiful cities I've ever lived in or even visited. Filled with historical architecture and about 300,000 habitants, this city is oozing with culture; always an exhibition to see, or a new restaurant/bar to try.

This evening I visited an exhibition at the Teatro Zorrilla named Vestidos de Papel - Colección del Museo de Mollerussa, a.k.a 'Paper Dresses'. Never in my life have I seen such intricate hand work done with paper. As if sewing couture level dresses with fabric by hand wasn't hard enough, every pleat, embroidery, thread, and pearl was handmade with paper! These extravagant, and original dresses on display were entered in a paper dress contest that has been in the running for 45 years now, awarding fashionistas in categories such as period costumes, contemporary dresses, and fantasy dresses.

Every category has its merit, but I personally think it is far more interesting when a designer can achieve a wearable look made of anything but fabric. The dress that stole my gaze was the 2008 winner of the contemporary dress category; an outfit reminiscent of Chanel with perhaps a touch of Balmain.

By: Josefina Xufré Sirera Cerdanyola

I suppose the best part about making paper dresses is that it hardly costs you the price of using 'real' materials, but if this dress were to be realized in 'real' fabric and metal I would buy it in a heart beat (we'll go ahead and pretend it would NOT cost exuberant amounts of cash). Yet, how could one not appreciate this creation after careful observation of the delicate pleating?...

The other little wearable number I was impressed by (and with which my aunt fell head over heals in love) was this flower embellished dress...

By: Grupo de Arte Deltebre

At a first glance this piece looked like something they picked out of a local boutique and it is only when you get close that you begin to notice it is all paper.

Every detail is manipulated by twisting, turning, and cutting to trick your eye into believing it is fabric! I could really go on and on about every look I saw today, but instead of boring you I'll leave you with a couple more images and call it a day.

Period Costume category...

By: Joan Banyeras Alguaire

And fantasy category...

By: Concepción Arias Sanz

Inspiring, intimidating, and very impressive! Oh and huge 'by the way'... these dresses are all worn by real women during the competition.

The exhibition itself is reason enough for any fashionista to make a trip to Valladolid!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dehydrated? Open a coconut!

Now that I will be between Valladolid and Madrid for a while, I have plenty of time to tell you about the styles and foods of Spain, so before I do so I feel the need to revisit my trip to London once again.

The United States really spoiled me on hot summer days with the full blast air conditioning in every building possible, so accustoming my body to the lack of air conditioning here is quite a task. Thankfully the 90% humidity of Florida does not exist here so surviving 40 degree celsius weather is a completely different animal. It is nonetheless 40 degree-scorching-hot-summer-weather and I can't help but remember the amazing green coconut I drank water out of on the streets of London.

Coping with the heat can be torture and sometimes a glass of cold water doesn't cut it anymore; fresh coconut water actually hydrates the body by replacing the fluids and minerals the body loses during physical activity. I do recognize that opening coconuts to access this magical water is anything but easy and convenient, so why not clone a few more of this guy to cut them open with a machete?

I think if this guy were on the corner of every street on hot summer days, no one would suffer from dehydration; walking around sipping out of a coconut looks way cooler than sipping out of a soda can anyway!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

European Burger Indulgence

Last time I was in Madrid I tasted some wonderful foods that have not left my memory, and being back here reminds me of a mental note I made myself in London.

For those of you who know me, this entry may be very unexpected; I was in fact a vegetarian for a year, or 'pescatarian' rather. However, lately I have made a confession to myself: I love a good, juicy burger! What I am getting at ladies and gentleman is that there are two places that are in fierce competition to win the "best burger" award. The names are (drum roll please) Fast Good of Madrid and Carnaby Burger Co. of London.

Fast Good was actually something I learned about from my dear Madrid Lonely Planet. The title of the place is actually a play on words; the concept is a 'fast food' joint that is actually healthy. This concept was transformed into reality by famous chef Ferran Adriá (à ) of Spain who is very much against the concept of fast food and how it is transforming people of our culture into obese $1-low-quality-burger eaters; even I am guilty of an occasional McDonnald's indulgence. Anyway, the menu at Fast Good ranges from pastas to paninis and from yogurts to burgers. The best part, it that the meat is organic and local while the fries are fried in olive oil.

As you can see I was so excited about this burger that I remembered to snap a shot only after I took a bite, sorry about that...

But I will go ahead and point out the inside is PINK! It is illegal in some States of the USA to serve undercooked burgers for the simple fact that there has been so many E-coli epidemics (can you say, "gross"?). The quality of this burger is unlike any burger meat I had tasted before.

The rival, Carnaby Burger Co, also serves ecological burgers but their menu offers a much wider selection of burgers. For some reason I usually find myself drawn to the 'Blue Cheese Burger'; perhaps to merge my love for cheese with an already sinful item. This was the most amazing blue cheese burger ever and luckily you don't have to see my bite marks this time...

What I did find odd, however, is that the burgers do not automatically come with fries which allowed me the opportunity to order these amazing fries with a guacamole and sweet thai chili fusion on them...

The fries take the award between the two places, but the burgers are tied. The atmosphere award goes to Carnaby Burger Co. since obviously has more of a restaurant feel whereas Fast Good clearly has a clean, modern interpretation of a fast food atmosphere.

Conclusion: If you are having severe cravings for burgers eat one for lunch at the Madrid based joint, and then fly to London for dinner to indulge in one of the many Carnaby burgers.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

London I Love You

It is not the places that create memories when we migrate to different cities, it is the people we travel with and meet along the way. This past Saturday was the most memorable of the whole London trip and was achieved through pure spontaneity. When traveling, my Lonely Planets never leave my side, but I've learned that it is best to use them only for navigation purposes. I hope that through sharing my experiences on that Saturday I can convey to you the fruitful possibilities of a plan-less day!

We began by nourishing our bodies with the protein and carbs necessary to start off our walking-filled day. The perfect summer breakfast consisted of smoked salmon, avocado, grilled tomato, and scrambled eggs...

We jumped on the "tube" and headed to Camden Town to see the diverse crowd the area is famous for and shop the street markets. Walking through the bustling crowd can be exhausting on a hot summer day, but my eyes take over when viewing so many different styles and interesting people.

In this area, you'll see everything from extreme metal rocker, to vintage girl, to... typical tourist. The markets are unlike any I've seen before; selling rocker tees, silver necklaces, plastic coats, neon tutus, and street foods from all over the world.

Who doesn't love a Nutella filled crepe? or a cheese filled Arepa?

After sampling some of these delicious street foods we explored the vintage shops and ran into a series of peculiar stores that were heaven for any romantic girly-girl; racks filled with lace dresses, jeweled headbands, and vintage-inspired purses.

Right as we were about to hop back on the tube, we couldn't help but notice a huge crowd of people jumping and singing. As we got closer we realized an indie band was putting on a show in the middle of the street. The guitarist and singer were rocking out and jumping around sometimes standing in the middle of the street blocking traffic despite the honking busses. Sometimes the bus drivers even joined by honking to the beat and dancing in their seats. The energy and excitement in the crowd was incredible and after 5 minutes everyone caught on to the chorus and sang along.

This rebellious attitude and oozing talent sent an adrenaline rush through our bodies and was an embodiment of the attitude and style seen in Camden.

Exploring a big city based on impulses can be a hit or miss situation and although Camden was definitely the hit, the miss was the river tour we decided to take. NEVER take the Thames Clippers unless you want to view the city behind foggy, dirty windows in airplane-like seats with no actual tour guide. After wasting a few pounds and almost 2 hours on this ride, it was time to find a dinner spot.

After walking, and walking, and tubing, and walking we randomly found this enchanting little street...

And ended up at this restaurant with french-inspired dishes ran by casually dressed ladies eager to give the best in customer service...

The delicious dishes and South African white wine served here were the perfect ending to our adventure filled day. To run into this little spot by coincidence gave us a satisfying feeling that could only have occurred through our spontaneous decisions. The styles we saw, and foods we tried that day were everything I love about traveling and it was that evening that London ran away with my heart.

Madrid is the next stop. Adios!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blazing Beauty

I promised we'd discuss Berlin Fashion Week a little further so I'm sacrificing some London sight-seeing time to share my some-what humble opinion. So, with the help of the Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week webpage I browsed through some collections that I deeply wish I had viewed in person.
I am a firm believer that a beautiful blazer can really transform an outfit and can make your $10 H&M dress look like you just dropped 3k at KaDeWe (Luxury department store in Germany reminiscent of Neiman Marcus or Sax Fifth Avenue but MUCH bigger). As a designer, I'm obsessed with designing jackets and coats; and it wasn't until my senior collection that I realized I'm all about tailored looks. Therefore, my eye was naturally drawn to the following:

This little number from Kaviar Gauche is simple, and ingenious. An over-sized blazer, so over-sized that it can be belted to synch your waist expressing femininity through classic androgyny.

This tuxedo blazer is a little more traditional with satin lapels but updated in a pale color for Spring 2011 with the sleeves pushed up to create a little edge to the look.

And these looks from Guido Maria Kretschmer are more innovative versions of blazers and a very successful use of color blocking my two favorite colors... black and white!

This jacket here takes the award for 'Most Fabulous' and let's face it, not all of us can pull this look off the way this model can but I wouldn't mind seeing this at a cocktail party; I would be quite envious of the wearer.

But I would be far more envious if I saw someone on the street with this jacket...

Tailoring and draping fused in one look creating a soft interpretation of the blazer-wearing androgynous woman; simply amazing. Dear Santa Claus, can you put a rush order on this one? Thanks.

Now, I'm aware that blazers are not easy to pull off in Spring/Summer everywhere in the world which is why I feel the necessity for an industrial designer to put an internal-blazer-cooling-system on the market, but until then make sure you squeeze the juice out of your jackets in appropriate weather.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trends under Tent

Day one of Berlin Fashion Week! My first fashion week ever...

Svea in front of the tent who has everything to do with making this trip happen. Thank you.

While I may not have been able to sneak into the .DIMITIRI show, I did manage to squeeze my way into the press lobby where all the fashionistas mingle and drink champagne handed out by sponsoring companies. The best part about this was witnessing loads of young people pull out the best from their closets to showcase their personal style without fear of criticism. However, not just young people were in the spotlight, the more mature audience also ranged from sophisticated, preppy looks to outrageously scandalous outfits. No worries, I snapped a few candid shots for you.

In my eyes, on of the best dressed was this chic woman braving a leopard print blouse:

And this woman took leopard print to a whole new level; sheer, bright colored harem pants with absolutely nothing (or what looked like nothing) underneath... what is your opinion on this sheer trend?

Lately I am obsessed (or maybe I have always been obsessed) with hats; headpieces in general for that matter. It puts a smile on my face when I see others share this appreciation and as you'll see everyone has a very different interpretation.

And finally here is a sneak peak of the interior... We'll discuss the actual shows later, but for now I'm off to prepare myself for some serious soccer festivities.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Berlin = German Eye Candy

After almost missing the train and having an hour delay thanks to someone's attempt at suicide via jumping in front of our train... we finally made it to Germany's capitol!

Thats right... Berlin! This city is a true melting pot of happy people from all over the world. If you are yearning for the tiniest bit of social interaction, just stand with a map in your hands and look totally lost. People will gladly take time out of their day to approach you and help you find your destination; so far the friendliest major city I've been to.

Berlin may not be the most attractive city in the world, but it is extremely diverse and has provided my eyes with delicious eye-candy; the people, the fashion, the exhibitions, the architecture, and even the bicycles!

The winner of the "aesthetically pleasing contest" today goes to the Helmut Newton exhibition we viewed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, he is one of the most influential fashion photographers who is mostly known for provocative, avant-garde photo-shoots with... lots of nudity. Please do not misunderstand me, it wasn't aesthetically pleasing for the pornographic shots he is famous for; I enjoyed his portraiture the best and here are some of my PG rated favorites:

And this is Helmut Newton himself...

The exhibition, as advertised below, was very inspiring, worth the 6 Euros, and the perfect start to Berlin Fashion Week.

Worth another 6 Euros was the boat tour this morning granting our vision architectural beauty, old and new:

The glass-structure happens to be the largest modern building in the world. It took ten years to build and approximately 300,000 people flood through this building everyday. Much more amazing in person than in my amateur shot.

Long day ahead tomorrow with the beginning of fashion week and the Spain v. Germany FIFA semi-final!

Ciao for now!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Journey to Vapiano!

Who doesn't love a good bowl of pasta? Better yet, who doesn't love a fast, fresh, and affordable Italian meal?

I wish I could tell you that I made a little journey to Italy and ate a homemade meal in a small village in the hills of Tuscany, but where I ate yesterday provided my taste buds a similar experience while my imagination filled in the rest. What is even more surprising is that this experience took place at a chain restaurant. Now, those of you who know me are well aware that I despise supporting chain restaurants and am all for the mom-and-pop-small-town restaurants, but this was worth the exception.

Vapiano: a franchise in Dortmund with an ingenious concept and one that I think would really succeed in the States. This Italian restaurant has the atmosphere of an upscale place but is somewhat of a fast food concept.

You take a menu, pick up a tray, get in line and place your order to the cooks behind the counter who cook everything in front of you! The ingredients are incredibly fresh and probably the best tasting Italian food I've had by far, I kid you not! (Granted, I have yet to travel to Italy).

I couldn't resist ordering the pasta Carbonara; something I felt I could never find authentically made in the States. First they take the homemade pasta and drop it in what looks like a deep frier but is actually boiling water. Then after sautéing the ingredients, the pasta is thrown in the pan and swished around together collecting the marvelous flavor!

And... TA DAH! Our dinner Italiano...

Let's not forget about the center pieces of each table: herb plants for you to pick and crumble fresh leafy greens onto your favorite dish.

These beautiful herbs also served as decorations...

As my friend and I sat outside on the terrace introducing our palettes to the magical flavors of Vapiano cooking, our ears were also treated to a delight as a young girl sat at a piano and played Yann Tiersen music from the film Amelie...