Charmed by Lisbon: Food, spectacular views and sights

Wednesday, 6 April 2016
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Lisbon (or Lisboa as the city is called in Portuguese) has got to be one of Europe's most under-rated cities. It's far more affordable than France or Italy. If you're traveling with sterling pounds, the budget goes that bit further because entrance fees are ridiculously cheap, espressos will set you back €0.75 and exquisite meals do not cost an arm and a leg.


A 2kg crate of strawberries costs less than €7.00 which is unheard of in London unless you're best mates with a farmer who happened to yield a bountiful harvest. I went a little strawberry mad for a whole week and I don't really want to see those little red suckers for another year.


We set off on a week long jaunt to Lisbon and rented an apartment on the top floor of a converted watch tower in Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. Sitting on one of the highest vantage points in Lisbon, we were rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Alfama and beyond. Catching the sunrise or sunset has never been easier.


I spent many precious hours lying on this hammock while reading a book and gazing at the stars. Every now and then, I would poke my head out of the window to do what I do best - people watching (I have voyeuristic tendencies).

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Out of respect for the long suffering husband and daughter, I relaxed my OCD self and set an easy itinerary - wandering around the different districts and looking for food when the hunger pangs struck. We stumbled upon this pastelaria as we were searching for a café. There were tables outside where you can soak up some rays or have a cuppa under a fragrant orange tree.

We had grilled sandwiches, 2 different types of Portuguese version of bruschetta, a large plate of salad to share and washed down with soft drinks. The bill came up to approximately €20. The husband liked Medrosa d'Alfama so much that he dragged us back a few days later.

Medrosa d'Alfama
Largo São Rafael 6
Opening hours: 11am - 9pm


What can I say? Beautiful tiled floors go well with cute kitty flats.

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Alfama is unapologetically gritty, rustic and picturesque. It was, once upon a time, home to the poorest and most deprived. Having read so much about the place, I expected hordes of tourists swarming the labyrinth of narrow streets but it felt more like a tranquil village with residents going about their business. Washings were hung outside the window, friendly dogs roamed the streets, residents stopped to chat with their neighbors.......

Many of the buildings looked derelict with broken tiles and weathered paintwork. One of the residents told me that they prefer to spend money renovating the interior. We peeped through the windows of some of the properties and sure enough, a modern decor that belied the dilapidated exterior.


The famous number 28 tram literally went past our doorstep. The sidewalks were so narrow that I could feel the tram rambling by as we plastered ourselves to the wall.

Outfit: Rick Owens leather jacket, Zadig & Voltaire sweater, Zara jeans, New Balance 420 sneakers and Olympus OM-D EM-10 (obviously NOT an accessory.......)

Apparently, I got the memo right since my outfit du jour looked like every other Lisboeta's - black leather jacket, black skinny jeans and a pair of sneakers. Yup, when in Lisbon, blend in like a local.

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Catching the sunset at a miradouro (view point) is not to be missed. This is the view from Largos das Portas do Sol which happened to be a skip and a hop from our apartment. I was captivated by the gradient pastel hued skies along with the spectacular sweeping view of Alfama, dotted with terra-cotta rooftops and colorful houses.

parque das nacoes

Next on my list was the cable car ride at Parque das Nações, a newly created area by Tagus river. The futuristic architecture here couldn't be more different to Alfama's centuries old buildings. The ride cost peanuts (€3.95 for adults and €2 for children) compared to the exorbitant fees I've forked out in London. You'll also see the expansive Vasco Da Gama bridge that stretches 17.2km across the river.

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rua augusta

The queue to get on the Santa Justa lift snaked around the block every single day yet we had the entire Rua Augusta Arch to ourselves. The cost? €2.50 per person. Unbelievable.

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Taberna da Rua das Flores is a well known institution amongst foodies. In fact, on the day we were there, a group of important looking officials were seated a couple of tables away and slowly working through each course. Both the chef and his staff were fluttering about nervously. It turned out that they were representatives of a major culinary organization in Portugal where a nod of approval is a BIG deal. The menu changes everyday depending on what fresh ingredients chef André finds at the market. The cuisine is fusion with a lot of Asian influence. Go early (12-1pm or 6-7pm) or be prepared to wait up to an hour.

Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores 103

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There's a superb pasteis de nata shop/café just around the corner from Taberna da Rua das Flores. Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata makes the most incredible custard tarts fresh at the store. There's only standing room though. Most locals just pop in to down an espresso (only €0.70!) and a pasteis de nata (€1) before hurrying off again. The café is bustling at all hours of the day. If you're like me and can't be bothered queueing up for ages to get a custard tart at Belém, Manteigaria is a good option.

Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
Rua do Loreto 2

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I've been told that Sintra which is a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon is a must-see. We only managed to see the colorful Palacio da Pena which at first sight, looked straight out of a fairy tale book. Located high on top of the Sintra hills, the impressive looking Pena palace makes an imposing albeit colorful sight. Plenty of brave tourists clamored to sit in one of the towers which isn't a great idea if you're afraid of heights. The temperature is a lot cooler than Lisbon so I was thankful that we had a few extra layers on.

**Photos were taken with iPhone 6S Plus and Olympus OM-D EM-10

Ruffles, broderie anglaise and boho chic from Étoile Isabel Marant Spring/Summer 2016

Thursday, 4 February 2016
IM S:S 2016

1. Naoko cotton dress (or in white)
2. Relly embroidered dress
3. Rebel embroidered dress (or in ecru)
4. Orianne denim dress
5. Dill cotton eyelet top (size up if you have a decent bust)
6. Flenn tweed jacket
7. Rodney playsuit  (take 1-2 sizes down as it's HUGE)
8. Karon linen t-shirt (slouchy fit so either size down or take your usual size)
9. Noly ruffled skirt (or in white)
10. Charlotte Olympia Dorsay flats
11. Valia Gabriel Lorne nubuck sandals
12. Isabel Marant Alisa Wraparound sandals
13. Maud cotton twill shorts 

Pretty pink cherry blossoms have appeared well ahead of spring. Daffodil spears have emerged from the ground too. Since spring has arrived early this year, I've gotten a wee bit excited and plunged headlong into Spring/Summer collections.

To say I was disappointed with the Isabel Marant Etoile Fall/Winter 2015 clothes was an understatement. I was left largely underwhelmed by the repetitive pieces, recycled from previous seasons in different fabrics and colors but with hiked up prices. Yawn. I thought this spelt the end of the mighty Isabel Marant's magic touch.

 A glimpse of her flirty dresses and separates in the signature bohemian style that Isabebl Marant is well known for has re-sparked my interest. Well, what can I say? I'm in loooooove. No one does ruffles and boho-luxe better than she does. She understands women.....our complex with our upper arms. The right amount of sex appeal without going overboard. Never overly girly and most importantly, very wearable clothes that'll get a lot of mileage. Okay, enough of the gushy and saccharine comments.

Sigh. If only I have an unlimited budget for clothes. I'm glad she didn't go too crazy with pricing her clothes from the Etoile line this time. Most of the pieces are within the ballpark figure of £145 to £270, along the price point of the likes of Maje, Sandro and Zadig & Voltaire.

I tried on Dill cotton eyelet top when it first hit the store late December. It wasn't even tagged yet. It was so flattering on -  hugging the body but loose in all the right places that I wanted to run out the store with it right there and then. Lately, I've noticed that all the smaller sizes are selling out quickly so I've bitten the bullet and purchased one. Any ruffled or broderie anglaise clothes from either the Etoile or mainline seem to fly out the door the minute the weather warms up. Every single year.

Winter Neutrals

Thursday, 21 January 2016

December was unusually warm until......WHAM! Suddenly, the temperature took a dive and it's now properly winter. This was a quick snapshot of the frost on the window pane at Brockenhurst station as I got off the train. Despite the deceptively sunny weather, the temperature was well below 0˚C.


What's crazier is seeing daffodils and tulips on sale everywhere.........

Clockwise: Zadig & Voltaire merino sweater, New Balance 420 sneakers, Frame Denim jeans (65% off), Hermes Garden Party, H&M wool scarf and Isabel Marant Etoile linen t-shirt.

Here are some new additions and current favorites. Truthfully, I haven't done a whole lot of shopping other than replacing well worn clothes that'd fallen apart. Either I've been extremely careless and snagged my Uniqlo sweater on sharp edges or a hungry moth had a hell of a feast but my favorite knitwear can no longer be worn out of the house. My merino wool sweaters from Zadig & Voltaire have fared incredibly well over the years. No bobbling whatsoever. Incredible. My frugal self managed to nab a brand new Zadig & Voltaire sweater with a cool embellishment for a good price.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Isabel Marant Etoile linen tees for 50% off over at The Outnet. This one's from 2 seasons ago and the fabric is a lot thicker than the tees from the last Spring/Summer collection.

I caved in and bought the Hermes Garden Party TPM which comes with a detachable strap last year. Very handy and light as a feather. I've had it with heavy bags that ripped my shoulder to shreds. No bag is worth shoulder and back pains. 


My infamous red New Balance 420s are so well worn that it was high time I shopped for antoher. After seeing Adidas Stan Smith and Superstar sneakers everywhere, I was keen to get a pair........except that the smallest size in the kids' section is still 2 sizes too big. Apparently, they run wide and big. And no....there's no way in hell I'll wear ones with velcro straps. So it's back to these New Balance 420s. Thankfully, I love the color combination. They're on sale over at ASOS for £42. In fact, if you head over to the men's department, they're priced down to £29!

Androgynous Style

Sunday, 3 January 2016
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Outfit: Miu Miu sunglasses, Alexander Wang t-shirt (hidden), Nike quilted rally hoodie (size down as it runs big. I'm wearing XS), Rick Owens leather jacket, The Kooples sweatpants (mine's medium) and The Kooples wedge sneakers.

"Are you a boy or a girl? I can't tell the difference."  Guys back in my university days used to taunt me. That's usually followed by "you should learn from the other girls." Pffffft. Whatever.

The standards and beauty ideals for guys and gals that Asians adhere to in Asia seem to be far more glaringly obvious than in the western world. Girls are meant to look pretty, girly, sweet, feminine, slightly sexy but not overly so but most definitely, innocent. Bah! None of those attributes apply to me. If anything, whenever I chanced upon a Chinese or Korean contemporary drama, my eyes are naturally drawn to menswear. The sharp tailoring. How they style sportswear. Their monochrome outfits.

A few close friends insisted I must watch "My Love from the Star", a Korean drama that took the world by storm. The lipstick worn by the heroine was even sold out in Winchester. Old historic city of Winchester of all places!! While my friends went mad for the heroine's clothes and accessories, I loved the male character's outfits. I found his sense of style (come to think of it probably his stylist's) far more appealing because it's more avant-garde and there are plenty of cool and practical sneakers as well as weather appropriate clothes.

Androgyny style can be sexy, edgy, comfortable and practical depending on how one interprets it.

I've noticed that whenever my blog's mentioned on certain forums, there's usually a comment about the decrease of fashion posts. It's also interesting to see that my Instagram account tends to get this introduction - "a blogger who normally writes about fashion but only ever posts travel photos here." I still enjoy fashion but I'm shockingly bad at following trends. I wear what I like. I take a million years to make up my mind when I'm shopping because I'm bloody picky. I prefer clothes from a few seasons ago which means I sometimes trawl secondhand places to see if they turn up. I often get sidetracked by food and travel. I'll try to add a few more fashion posts here and there but be prepared to see the same old clothes appearing again and again.

p.s. thank you to all those who helped diagnose my condition a few months ago. Yes! There's a name for it finally (IBS = Irritable Bowel Syndrome). What a difference it has made just knowing which food types to avoid. Thank you!

Net-A-Porter Sale Edit

Thursday, 17 December 2015



Q & A about being 42, wrinkles and plastic surgery

Monday, 14 December 2015
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Oddly enough, I've been getting a deluge of comments about my "youthful" appearance in the last two years. It all started when I hit the big 4-0. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm now considered properly middle aged or that there's a certain expectation of what a 40+ year old person is supposed to look like. It feels a little presumptuous to cover this topic as I have friends who look way younger than their actual age (check out their interviews here). In any case, let's go straight into the list of questions I've been getting.

1. Have you had any plastic/cosmetic surgeries done?
Nope. I avoid being poked and prodded unless it's ABSOLUTELY necessary. Some of my friends have had botox, fillers and minor surgeries with good results. Personally, it's not for me unless my face collapses overnight or something to that effect.

Here are my personal thoughts that some of you may agree or disagree with me. Cosmetic surgeries are a slippery slope unless you are disciplined and not become overly obsessed with tweaking every so called minor flaw on your face. I've seen those who started off with getting the eyes done and before long, they think their nose needed some work too. Oh heck, why not throw in some facelifts and fillers while I'm here….. It's awfully strange talking to someone whose excited voice doesn't match her expression.

2. Are you sure you're 42? Can I see your ID?
You're welcome to see my driving license though the photo with my pissed off facial expression may not be all that appetizing to look at. Don't say I didn't warn you. I'm 42. I'm getting as blind as a bat and am one step away from getting varifocals so yes….I'm definitely ageing.

3. You don't seem to have any wrinkles. 
I have fine lines. They're not too obvious at the mo but they're there if you want to eyeball my face. I'd be worried if I didn't have any lest I accidentally discover that I've been made a vampire.

DNA certainly plays a part. Asians tend to age slower but after menopause…..KA-BOOOOOM. God is fair. My grandmother, mother and I share one similar feature. A moon shaped face and very chubby cheeks.  On a good day, we look like cute chipmunks. On a bad day, we look like greedy chipmunks that had overdosed on nuts.

4. You don't behave like a 42 year old.
True. From time to time, I succumb to an intense desire to prank others. You've been warned.

Secondly, I have friends of different ages, from late teens to early 90s. It's fascinating to explore and understand the minds of different individuals regardless of their age. They keep me curious, up to date with the latest trends and push me to try a new challenge that's outside of my comfort zone. How boring is it to be proper and serious all the time?

When you've dealt with deaths, serious illnesses and trauma in your life, you learn not to sweat the small stuff nor be overly concerned about what others think of you. I'd rather be the best me that I can be.

On that note, I don't care much for labeling age with personal style either. It's like hashtagging Carine Roitfeld #over60style and Emmanuelle Alt #over40style. Why bother? Dress according to your personality, lifestyle, body shape and budget. Age has nothing to do with it.

5. What skincare products do you use?
I try to stick to natural products as much as possible. I've covered most of these in my previous posts but here they are again with a few new favorites.

I have oily T zone and dehydrated cheeks and lots and lots and lots of open pores. I finally caved in and bought the Foreo Luna Mini (15% off here with code XMAS15). It's been nearly two months and I'm so pleased with the results. I use it once a day (mostly at night) and it's reduced my breakouts and blackheads drastically. My skin's baby smooth as the tiny contraption exfoliates gently which means I no longer have to spend ££ on AHA acid. My complexion is clearer and surprisingly brighter. It's so economical as I don't have to keep replacing the brush (there isn't any) and one charge lasts for months.

I'm loving Korres White Tea Fluid Gel Cleanser (15% off here with code XMAS15). It does a fantastic job of removing make up but doesn't dehydrate the skin. I tend to double cleanse at night, using Bioderma Sensibio H20 to remove my make up and then Korres White Tea Fluid Gel Cleanser  with Foreo Luna Mini.

Serums and Masks
I have noticed that my cheeks and the area around my eyes are getting dryer as I get older. The lines get deeper if I'm not moisturizing enough. In winter time, I swear by Apivita Prickly Pear mask and Apivita anti wrinkle eye mask. I slather on the prickly pear mask twice a week and the eye mask every night. All the expensive eye creams that I'd bought in the past were utterly crap with the exception of this Apivita eye mask. With one application, both masks plump and hydrate my skin so much so that they actually reduce the appearance of fine lines in 15 minutes. They work like a magic eraser. The two masks are ridiculously difficult to buy outside of Greece so I've resorted to getting them via eBay.

I've been using oils on my skin for years now. They're fantastic on mature skin but may be a little too rich for those in their 20s and early 30s. Right now, I'm flip flopping between REN Vita Mineral Omega 3 Skin Oil  and my all time favorite, Trilogy Rosehip Oil.

I tend to spend more money on serums than on moisturizers. I've used different ones but none gave as good result as Korres Wild Rose 24 Hour Moisturizer.  My skin stays hydrated all day and actually looks brighter and dewy. I also give myself a mini facial massage every night when I'm applying the serum and moisturizer. I haven't been to a facial in years. They cost a fortune here in the U.K and frankly speaking, I can't lie still for 15 minutes without fidgeting.

6. Anything else? 
Yup. None of this is any good if there's a lot of sun damage on your face. I've always believed that prevention is better than treating the damage. Make sure you pay attention to your neck as well.

Oh and finally, Photoshop was used to increase the exposure of the photos as it was rather dark in my bathroom. I was vain enough to use the healing brush to remove a stubborn zit. As for the rest…..what you see is what you get.

How to spend 48 hours in London

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Palace of Westminster

What do you do if you have 48 hours to spare in London? There's literally so much to do and see there that one can barely fit it all into a week, much less 2 days. London is best explored on foot. It's like cracking open a Kinder egg. You never know what'll surprise you just around the corner. A house that Mozart once lived in. The ornate designs of a building.  A row of terraced houses in varying pastel cotton candy hues. It's a city where historical buildings intermingle with modern architecture, sometimes rather disharmoniously and at other times, the stark contrast may amaze you.

For me, the sight of the magnificent Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster just as I get out of Waterloo station never fail to leave me a little awestruck. A stroll along South Bank is perhaps one of my favorite things to do when I have a few hours to myself in London.


South Bank

The café on the top floor of the Tate Modern has a sweeping view of St Paul's Cathedral. It's a great spot to rest your weary legs, enjoy a hot cup of coffee while gazing at the spectacular view right in front of you.

Shakespeare's Globe theatre is only a hop and a skip away and if you're a foodie, the Borough market which has been in existence for nearly a thousand years is a popular choice. I wanted to push on to get another close up view of the Tower Bridge but St Paul's Cathedral beckoned instead. I managed to dash in just in time for their 10:15am Choral Mattins.

ootd_1Outfit: Zara coat, Uniqlo sweater, Frame Denim Le Garcons jeans (on sale here and here), Charlotte Olympia Kitty flats and Hermes Garden Party TPM bag.


Fournier St

After the morning service, I had a sudden desire to explore East London, a part of the city that I rarely visit. How shall I put it?  While West London (Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge etc) is like the obedient child - all spiffy, polished and proper who minds her Ps and Qs, East End London is a rebel. One who's an individual and cares little about conventions. It's unashamedly gritty but there are pockets of the area that are fashion forward, edgy and yes, even pretty.

The charming terraced houses on Fournier St and Princelet St, a short walk from Spitalfields Market with their colorful shutters have a certain rustic Provençal charm to them.


National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is served by 3 tube stations (Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Charing Cross) that are an easy walk away. I remember being held spellbound by the paintings at National Portrait Gallery on my very first visit there more than 18 years ago. For someone who simply can't draw even if a person puts a knife to my throat, I find it amazing how the artists could paint such luminous skin just the way the light would fall on the face.

Hunger pangs reminded me that no matter how beautiful art is, my stomach rules. I went in search for a bowl of ramen over at Soho before heading to Amba Hotel Marble Arch where I'd be spending the night.


Amba Hotel Marble Arch

I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning. I can tell you that it was no mean feat for I've been a night owl all my life. The stupendous view of floating baubles above Oxford Street with the gradient pink sunrise in the background was totally worth the agony of having to forcibly peel my eyelids back.

I'm sure a few passersby bagged an eyeful of this crazy unkempt hotel guest with her arms stretched as far out of the window as possible to get a shot of this view. #crazyphotographer. Be sure to ask for a room with a view if you plan to stay at Amba Hotel Marble Arch.

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I asked for room service as I preferred not to scare fellow guests while clad in my PJs and face devoid of any make up. It was a nice change, scarfing down a large breakfast while peering out the window and watching the world go by. There was never a dull moment on Oxford Street as hundreds pounded the street even in the wee hours of the morning and dozens of double decker buses roared past. The windows and walls are so well insulated and soundproofed that I couldn't hear a squeak.


I tend to travel light as I don't normally check in till late. That means I would be walking for miles with a bag over my shoulder. My overnight bag for the past few years has been my trusty Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 35cm.

I'm not big on make up but I do love Laneige BB cream cushion (I wear #21 Natural Beige), Laura Mercier brow powder (U.S here), Bobbi Brown blusher (U.S here), Laura Mercier concealer (U.S here), Bioderma Créaline (which I'd tipped some into a small travel bottle), Shu Uemura lash curler, MAC eye shadow (which is all broken up. Argh. It's mostly used as a highlighter), Lancome Hynôse Drama mascara (U.S here), Lancome eyeliner, NARS eye primer and Moroccanoil. I've also picked up quite a lot of REN skincare and Apivita samples over the years which are great for short trips. They take up little space in my bag and I toss them in a bin when they're finished.

AmbaHotel-coffee Ambahotel-room

My room came equipped with a Nespresso machine and several capsules as well as an electric kettle if I wanted to make myself a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I did a little jig around the room the minute I clapped my eyes on that coffee machine. I simply can't function in the morning without a good cup of coffee and no, instant coffee powder doesn't cut it. There was a mini bar tucked away in the cupboard with complimentary water, soft drinks and snacks.

I hit the shower (LOVE their monsoon shower) and got ready to check out. Thankfully, Marble Arch tube station is just 2 minutes away as my legs were a little stiff after walking for miles the day before.

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Saatchi Gallery and King's Road

These photos of Chanel Mademoiselle Privé exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery were taken a few weeks prior to this trip but I thought I'd sneak them in. I love Duke of York Square, the area surrounding the Saatchi Gallery with its water jets sprouting from the ground, the Saturdays market and King's Road. Shopping along King's Road is always a pleasant affair. The pace is never frantic as few tourists ever venture this way.


Natural History Museum

I did a little detour to the Natural History Museum to take a peek at the skating rink and carousel. They were gearing up for the Christmas countdown. The garden was transformed into a mini winter wonderland which at a glance, looked like something out of a fairy tale book.

While the Natural History Museum may be Lil L's favorite museum, mine's the V&A which is a minute away. I've been to both multiple times but there's still so much to see.

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Farm Girl, Notting Hill

South Kensington tube station is conveniently located opposite Natural History Museum. The circle line took me all the way to Notting Hill Gate and from there, it was a 10 minute walk to Farm Girl café. I've been dying to check out the new and much hyped Farm Girl cafe, hidden inside a little alleyway off the busy Portobello Road. Yes, the coffee there costs far more than anywhere else I'd been to. It's one of a handful of cafés that will actually use almond milk in their hot beverages. Lately, I have developed an allergy to milk. A spoonful of milk will reduce me into a quivering wreck with severe abdominal pain that'll last for several days.

There were quite a few gluten free options (whew!) and a new revelation. Frying Burford brown eggs in coconut oil. Absolutely D-I-V-I-N-E. I decided to try matcha latte with almond milk with much trepidation. I'm not much of a tea drinker but caved in when they agreed to do a little latte art in the shape of Bronté, the owner's French Bulldog. Spirulina with matcha takes a little getting used to.

My 48 hour jaunt to London was short and sweet. Sadly, it was time to head home on the hour long journey back to Winchester.

I was a guest of Amba Hotel Marble Arch. Do check out their website for more information. 


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