Fashion Favourites: Topshop

I've always had a bit of an odd relationship with Topshop. Some seasons I go in there and want to buy everything, others I don't see anything I like for months. However, so far this year they seem to have loads of things I'm really loving - I bought two skirts in their post-Christmas sale, and then in the last few months I keep going in there and seeing loads of different things I want to get. Unfortunately my budget won't quite stretch to it all at the moment, so consider this a bit of vicarious shopping...

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Occasionally I have to dress smartly for work, and often in the summer that's a bit of a struggle. This dress could be the solution to that. Looking like something Joan would have worn in an episode of Mad Men, its bright colour lifts it from being too wintery and the classic shape works just as well for a bar as it would for a boardroom. I'd wear it with black Mary Janes, a black blazer and a killer lipstick.

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I spotted this top on Vivianna Does Makeup and instantly fell in love with it. I'm trying to move away from the rut of retro T-shirts I've been in since I was a student and this top would be great for that. The mesh sleeve detail is subtle, yet lifts it from being an everyday top to one that would work for lots of different occasions. Plus you could wear it with jeans now and with shorts or a skirt on holiday or once (well, if) the weather warms up.
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You can't go wrong with a classic denim pencil skirt and this is my favourite. The fact it's black rather than blue makes it a bit more unusual, but equally means you could match it with lots of different things and that it would work across the different seasons depending what you put it with. I think it would work great with the top I posted above and some cool silver Converse, or with a comfy jumper and flat ankle boots in the winter.
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Topshop has always had a reputation for good jeans, and these Lucas ones would be a great new addition to any denim wardrobe. The rip in the knee gives them a bit of a rocky edge and the fit is a nice halfway house between being skinny and relaxed. I think they're something I'd get loads of wear out of with various different things and they'd be a wardrobe staple for years.
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Finally, I'm a firm believer you can never have enough workout gear (mainly because I am the lazy type who would use having no clean clothes as an excuse not to run), so this Ivy Park T-shirt would be ideal for me. Having seen it in the shop the material is really soft and I like that the print is relatively simple without looking too close to gym-wear, which makes it a good option to wear when not running as well - perhaps with the Lucas jeans. Plus for a celebrity brand the fact it's affordable is always a bonus.

Have you bought anything from Topshop recently?

Budapest

Obligatory George Ezra clip:


So, as those of you who follow me on Instagram will know (and if you don't, you can do so here), a couple of weeks ago Nick and I went to Budapest for a short break. I have to admit I didn't know much about it before we visited, but since we came back I've been singing its praises to everyone we know! If you fancy somewhere that's affordable, easy to get around and combines history and culture with opportunities to relax, then I'd definitely recommend paying a visit. Here's what we got up to in the four days we were there...



Where we stayed:
I'm a big fan of Airbnb for city breaks, but I think the one we stayed in in Budapest is my favourite yet. It's a rooftop studio near the Jewish Quarter - great for going out in the evening and really easy to walk to all the main sites - but what made it perfect was the fantastic view out of the window to the Gellert Hill and the fact that it was both bright and cosy. Our host Judit was lovely too; she made us feel really welcome and gave us loads of great tips on what to do and where to eat and drink. There were even welcome beers and chocolate, which was a really lovely touch!

The view from our apartment with the Citadella in the background
Favourite places to eat:
For breakfast, I loved Zoska - think French patisserie pastels and mismatched vintage china but with added quirks like a fake grass bench in one window and shark-shaped cushions. And Spinoza Café is an absolute steal at five euros for a breakfast dish - I recommend the pancakes - plus coffee of your choice and juice. Most places will do a similar deal but the offering usually includes pastries rather than a hot breakfast, so you definitely get the most bang for your buck there (or should that be food for your forints?).

Lunch-wise, I'd say definitely go for the buffet options. There's a great one near the castle called Var Bistro; we got a plate of two enormous pork and paprika meatballs, super-creamy mashed potato and red cabbage each, plus a drink, for less than £8. Also orange Fornetti bakeries are everywhere, including the underground stations (Greggs needs to get on doing this in London, stat) and great for a quick snack on the go. And if you fancy a posh cake afterwards, then it has to be Café Gerbeaud. Sit outside in the square if the weather's nice and get the dobos torta, a layered chocolate sponge cake with a mirror-like burnt sugar top. It is the most Instagrammable dessert I have ever seen and, despite being almost too pretty to eat, tasted just as good as it looked.

Dobos torta at Café Gerbaud
Finally, we had a plethora of dinner options. If you fancy something a bit more upmarket I'd recommend a Jewish restaurant called Macesz Huszar (matzo balls the size of a baby's head and cheesy gnocchi. What's not to like?), and for those who like seafood tiny hole-in-the-wall, wouldn't-look-out-of-place-in-Cornwall Halkakas is great. We also found a random little alleyway just off the road with all the bars and restaurants near the apartment that turned out to be full of places to eat and drink (and had a great little market on Sunday mornings too), which we'd definitely have checked out if we had more time. But my absolute favourite was the street food market next door to Szimpla Kert pub. It's colourful, covered in fairy lights and sells pretty much any food you might want pre- or post-drinking. Go for the langos - Hungarian fried pizza - with sour cream, cheese and goose greaves and revel in the greasy goodness.

Favourite places to drink:
You've got to go to Szimpla Kert, the original 'ruin pub', which is full of interlinking rooms with decorations ranging from graffiti to trailing ivy. Grab a beer from one of the many bars and have a wander, whether that's to a quiet corner near the DJ decks or the acoustic music stage in the back left hand corner. It's also the only pub I've ever been in with a theme park ride dinosaur which is used as a table, which is always a bonus, and they do burgers upstairs too. We also really liked Hops, a craft beer bar-cum-bottle shop with several beers on tap and plenty more from all over Europe to buy by the bottle and drink in.

If you're more of a wine drinker, then brick-lined, candlelit Doblo is great. They do wine tastings but I'd suggest you're better off ordering two or three glasses of whatever catches your eye and a few nibbles to go with it. I'd also recommend the wine tasting in the castle cellar - granted it's not cheap but it is easily some of the nicest wine I have ever had, and the candlelight and stone walls makes it definitely one of the most atmospheric places I've had a drink in.

Please excuse my terrible fringe!
Finally, the best coffee I found was at Printa, which also sells gorgeous printed T-shirts, notebooks and cushions, as well as lovely quirky prints of the city - definitely worth a stop off if you fancy a souvenir that's a step up from a fridge magnet.

Favourite things to do:
We dedicated our second day to the Castle District, and you definitely need a whole day there to do it justice. Get the furnicular railway up to the top and then go for a stroll. My favourite bits were the Corvinus Gate (all jet-black iron and ravens) and the towering Matthias Fountain complete with drinking dogs. There are also two museums which will take at least half a day each - we went for the art gallery which is basically a whistle-stop tour of Hungarian art, but the Castle Museum with its history of Budapest looks good too. My other sneaky tip is not to pay to go up the Fisherman's Bastion, but instead go off to the café in the turrets on the left (with your back to the Matthias Church, whose copper-tiled roof looks beautiful in the sunshine) and get the same view over the city for nothing.



Doesn't it look like a Disney castle?! (Well apart from the car, but you can't have everything...)

On our last day we headed for City Park, which is a lovely break of greenery and a great mini-escape from the city should you so desire. You can walk there from the centre but I'd say save your legs and get the Metro, where most of the stations still have their early 20th century décor. Once you get to the park have a walk through Heroes' Square before strolling through the park. We ended up spending most of our afternoon at the Budapest Zoo, which is absolutely world-class, but you could also grab a pedalo on the lake or hop into the Szecheyni Baths with their (apparently) surprisingly warm outdoor pools.

Speaking of baths, although we didn't make it to the Szecheyni, we did go to the Gellert Baths which are possibly the most luxurious spa I've ever been in. The 36C and 38C indoor pools are set in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building - all columns, cherub statues and beautiful tiled ceilings - and it's worryingly easy to just lie there soaking all your cares away. There's also indoor and outdoor swimming pools (the outdoor one has a wave machine) and a sauna.

There was so much more I wish we could have done though, such as going out to see the Soviet-era statues at Memento Park, the House of Terror museum or the Roman site at Acquincum, or even playing one of Budapest's now-legendary escape games. But overall we had a really great long weekend of food, wine, culture and history. I'll definitely be back!

Have you ever been to Budapest?

Fashion Favourites: Summer Tote Bags

Fashion Favourites is a new, semi-regular series on the blog which will cover things I'm loving that week - whether it's one amazing piece or my favourites from a particular shop's current season. Let me know what you think of it and if there's anything you'd like me to feature in the series!

As the weather's getting warmer, I'm shedding my heavy parka for a short trench or blazer, swapping black tights for nude and wearing louder patterns. But my beloved oxblood satchel and treasured black McQueen V&A shopper simply aren't cutting it any more. I want something lighter, brighter, more in keeping with a sunny Sunday afternoon than a wet Monday morning. (I know, summer in Britain lasts about three days and we've probably already had it. But I can dream, right?)

What I want is a tote bag - something slouchy that I can carry most of my life around in, with a cheerful colour scheme and that will work just as well walking round London as it will in Havana or Cornwall. These are my four favourites:
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To paraphrase Miranda Priestley: 'Nautical? For summer? Groundbreaking.' But I'm a little bit in love with this Accessorize bag. The navy and white stripe print and tan straps are a design classic and will go with loads of different outfits, from work to weekends, and it's really spacious inside so will mean I don't need to lug two bags around with me. I like the fact it zips up too for an added bit of security and the pocket on the front makes it easy to find things you need (just me who always ends up stood on my doorstep and scrabbling for keys buried at the bottom of my bag?).

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Zara has been knocking it out of the park recently, and this bright tote is the latest in a long list of things I'm lusting after from them. It's guaranteed to inject sunshine into even the dreariest days, whilst the rope handles give it a beachy air. The addition of a smaller bag inside, as opposed to the more standard inner pocket, means it could be great for holidays too as you won't have an extra bag taking up suitcase space. It doesn't have a zip though so maybe not the best for those who are security-conscious.

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If monochrome is more your thing, then I'd give this Paperchase tote a go. Granted it's not the first place I'd go to for bags, but they actually have some really nice designs; there was a really cute rainbow cloud print rucksack from there I fell in love with a couple of seasons ago. This one is my current favourite of their range. I like how the flash of blue lifts the stripes and the print is exotic enough for a beach break whilst still working for weekend lunches in the sunshine or chilled summer nights out (good when you're taking a bag from work to the pub). And it's on sale - what's not to love?!

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OK, I know that £180 is an insane amount of money to spend on one bag, but this beautiful Kate Spade tote is definitely the one I'd get if money was no object. I really like the grey and yellow colour combination as it looks professional but still has that summery feel, and the striped lining is just gorgeous (you can tell I like stripes can't you?!). Yes it's an investment, but given how difficult it can be to find a smart summer bag I'd say that it's worth considering splurging on this. There's also a black and white version if you want something that would work all year round.

Have you bought a new bag for summer? Which of these four is your favourite?

Friday Five #1: Eurovision

Hello lovely people! Apologies for having been so slack on the blogging front recently; work has been super-hectic the last few weeks, then we went on holiday and it's all just been crazy busy. But I've thankfully got a bit more time over the next few weeks so hopefully I'll be able to post a bit more regularly, and am launching my good intentions with the Friday Five.

The 'Friday Five' is a new semi-regular series of five songs linked together by a particular theme. It could be themed around a particular occasion or simply what I'm loving that week! For the first in the series, I thought I'd kick off with a Eurovision-themed post in honour of the contest, which is happening in Stockholm tomorrow night (good luck Joe and Jake!). I will admit most of these are quite obscure, because I am that person who always likes the really random songs that come somewhere in the lower mid-table, but they all have a special place in my Eurovision-loving heart.

1. Guildo Horn - 'Guildo hat euch lieb' (Germany, 1998, seventh place)



1998 - the last time the UK hosted the contest - was the first time I watched Eurovision. However, my abiding memory isn't Dana International winning, but Guildo Horn. 1998 was the last contest where countries still had to sing in their official language, and the sight of a middle-aged German Terry Nutkins lookalike, wearing a billowy yellow satin shirt and green trousers, playing cowbells and climbing the lighting rig, seared itself into my nine-year-old brain. To me it's what Eurovision is all about - silly costumes, a cheesy song, and a performer enjoying every second of their three minutes of international fame. Although looking at the rest of these I think it set a worrying template...

2. Jedward - 'Lipstick' (Ireland, 2011, eighth place)


This feels like a confession ('Hi, I'm Laura and I think Jedward were a good Eurovision entry'), but hear me out! Ireland had struggled at Eurovision since the introduction of the semi-final in 2004 and so when Jedward, who were somewhat divisive on The X Factor, were announced as the Emerald Isle's representatives in 2011, a nation collectively groaned. But when the twins burst onto the stage in Dusseldorf, with shoulder pads almost as high as their hair and a ridiculously catchy song, they were a huge surprise. (I apologise now that it will be in your head all week.) Eurovision can get you like that; sometimes, something you're worried is going to be terrible actually turns out to be quite good. Ireland clearly liked them so much they sent Jedward back to the contest a year later, but unfortunately they didn't do quite so well, only coming 19th.

3. Sidsel Ben Semmane - 'Twist of Love' (Denmark, 2006, 17th place)



I stand by my view that 2006 was the best Eurovision ever. You had Lordi winning, Lithunia's slightly overly optimistic 'We Are The Winners' (which finished sixth), and this, which became something of a running gag amongst my university friends. The lyrics are completely random - 'while poor old O'Smarty was left in the ring' anyone? - but it's uptempo, fun and in a strange way we all fell in love with it. Ever since it's been a regular feature of our various get-togethers, including our annual Eurovision parties, and Nick and I even played it at our wedding. If I had to pick a favourite Eurovision entry, purely for the memories associated with it, it would probably be this one.

4. Pirates of the Sea - 'Wolves of the Sea' (Latvia, 2008, 12th place)


You might have guessed that I have a running thread of liking the stuff at Eurovision that is slightly bonkers, so it was only logical that one of my favourites would involve a silly costume. There have been some brilliant examples of them over the years - the aforementioned Lordi and Guildo Horn to name two - but I've gone with Latvia's Pirates of the Sea, who unsurprisingly modelled their look on Jack Sparrow. Despite everything about it being inherently silly, it does stick in your head (again, apologies) and the performers look like they're enjoying themselves, which is really all I want in my Eurovision entries. And you can't argue they weren't committed to a theme...


5. The Common Linnets - 'Calm After The Storm' (Netherlands, 2014, second place)



There had been attempts to introduce country to Eurovision before - witness Texas Lightning, who came 13th for Germany in 2006 - but The Common Linnets were the first to make an impact. Sounding like something that wouldn't be out of place on the 'Nashville' soundtrack, with beautiful harmonies and simple staging, it's a song I still listen to regularly even now and - had it not been for the legend that is Conchita Wurst sweeping all before her - it probably would have won. I really like the Country seems to be a thing for Dutch Eurovision entries; they're through to the final with Douwe Bob's 'Slow Down', which is where my vote is going on Saturday.

Will you be watching Eurovision tomorrow? What's your favourite moment from the contest?