Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Churros y Chocolate


One of our guilty pleasures whenever we are in Spain is to have churros and hot chocolate for breakfast.  I can barely contain my excitement as I watch the churros man at work as he pipes the dough into a long pale spiral from what looks like a giant icing nozzle into a vat of clear oil, whereupon he pokes at it occasionally with long metal tongs as it disappears under a creamy foam while frying.  Eventually out emerges a long, elegant, golden coil which is then snipped briskly into sticks with a pair of scissors, weighed and wrapped up in paper.

Oh the anticipation as you open up your warm parcel and await your coffee and hot chocolate to arrive, so you can take the little sugar packets nestled on the saucers, unceremoniously rip them open and sprinkle generously over your churros, delighting in the tinkling sound of the sugar hitting the paper beneath.  I like giving my churros a good frosting.  There is a lot of regional variation in churros both in thickness and in sweetness and I have to say, that after having tried a few, my favourite ones are made here in Jerez.  They are on the savoury rather than the sweet side with a slight saltiness to them, which makes them a good base for a dusting of sugar.  Good churros is satisfyingly crunchy on the outside, melt in your mouth soft on the inside and doesn't lose it's crispiness when dipped in your coffee or hot chocolate.

The nice thing about some of the standalone churros stands near the fish market here is the rather civilised arrangement they have with the neighbouring cafes.  You buy your churros from the stand and then you can enjoy them at the tables in the cafes where you can order your chocolate and coffee to go with it.  Quite the refreshing opposite of that "you didn't buy that food at this institution so you can't eat it at our tables" sort of thing.  The Spaniards have retained that strong sense of community in their townships that fosters these sorts of informal arrangements.

Years ago when I was living out here I used to buy churros from the oldest and poshest churros cafe in the town centre, the Cafeteria La Vega.  There was a lovely man who used to make them there who took a shine to me and who I affectionately nicknamed Mr Churros Man.  Whenever he served me Mr Churros Man would always tuck several extra churros sticks into my parcel with a conspiratory wink and a cheeky grin.  In a brutal sign of these economic times we discovered that this age old institution which has been in Jerez for decades was recently sold off by the previous owner to new Chinese owners.

Spain is going through one of the worst recessions ever with Andalusia particularly hard hit and it is noticeable every time we are down when we see yet more empty shop fronts, shops closing down, tales of economic woe from friends based locally and protests about austerity cuts in the street.  The Spanish people are struggling to keep their own traditional businesses afloat and it has become more and more common now to see Chinese owners of tapas bars where the Spanish owner has sold up or gone bankrupt. This is not to fault the industriousness of the Chinese - it is far better that a business in a depressed economy continues than shuts down altogether and that immigrants are allowed to bring new vigour to stagnant local economies, but I couldn't help but feel saddened about the Cafeteria La Vega and what the future holds for the Spanish people, especially the youth, who are now suffering an unemployment rate of close to fifty percent.

I was a little taken aback when having breakfast at said cafe on another day when the waiter gave us what could only be likened to a hard sell when we placed our order.  When we ordered coffee and toast, before we could even qualify what we wanted with our toast, we were immediately asked if this would be with ham and tomato (the most expensive option) and whether we would be having freshly squeezed orange juice.

This is unheard of in this town where the only thing you are ever asked at the end of your order almost anywhere is a cursory "Algo mas?" (Anything else?).  For a Jerezano waiter, having to make such suggestions would be the equivalent of that rather annoying tendency of big chain fast food stores and cafes forcing their staff to ask you if you want fries with that, to supersize everything or presuming you want the large size cup of coffee rather than alerting you to the option that there is a cheaper, smaller size.  The sleepy, laid back nature of the Andalusian way of life has always been one of its charms, but it is now also its pitfall in the relentless march of global capitalism under which it is becoming crushed.  I have a sense that Andalusia is on the cusp of losing its innocence in this respect if not already.

Mr V and I tried to do our bit to support the local economy by doing a bit of eating out and shopping while we were out there.  Given that Euro to pound exchange rate was the best it has been for a while I couldn't resist a trip to Zara as I love their Spring/Summer collections.  You'll be seeing a lot of this silky floral print bomber jacket over the next few posts.  After seeing several UK High Street versions I was utterly unconvinced that a floral silk bomber was something I needed in my wardrobe.  That was until I saw this one in Zara on my first day out shopping and tried it on.  Something about the prints used in the UK High Street offerings in floral bomber jackets were just a little bit too Hawaiian for me. This one is less aloha and more chintzy with the edgier blurriness of a digital print.  I totally love it!  I didn't stop wearing it for the entire holiday!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Luxe T-Shirt

Introducing my new favourite T-shirt.  In fact it is also by my new favourite designer, Hermione De Paula whose highly original and ultra feminine prints have had me swooning this season.  There was a bit of a luxe T-shirt trend that had been bandied about the fashion press during the Spring and I found just the one for me from Ms De Paula, slightly boho, very romantic, with some fairy tale fantasy woven into the design.  I have a bit of thing for pink and I totally fell for this print which, at first glance looks like bright florals.  But take a closer look at the bright pink blooms...

...and they turn into birds!  Petals morphing into feathers.  How clever and creative is that?  In fact I loved the print so much I got the matching trousers!  I found this top so great for travelling. The whisper thin silk is as light as a feather, so it doesn't add too much weight in the suitcase - a must for the travelling fashionista in these days of paltry luggage weight allowances.  It's lightness makes it lovely to wear in the heat and it can be worn dressed down for the day or glammed up for balmy summery evenings. 

Its generous length also means it conveniently doubles up as an elegant cover up over a bikini at the beach (the theme for this month on this blog!).  I grabbed a belt from another dress to belt it up over shorts for heading into town after the beach.  Its versatility has made it the perfect holiday garment for a beach getaway.  Here I am back at Zahara and speaking of flowers, I love this time of year when the road down to the beach is festooned with a wall of white, pale pink and fuschia azaleas.

Silk print T-shirt: Hermione De Paula from My-Wardrobe; Suede Shorts: Kate Moss for Topshop; Belt: taken from another dress; Bikini: Calzedonia; Jewelled Sandals: Zara

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Rain in Spain

Some more photos of our Spanish getaway - back at our favourite beach, Zahara. Mr V and I are creatures of habit even on holiday!

We've only been back in London one week from our short break in Spain but I feel like I've suffered another entire winter! If you follow any UK based blogger I'm sure all they've been talking about is how unseasonably bad the weather has been here. The first thing I did on getting home was put the heating on and the next day back at work I was back in my winter coat!

All the wonderful Spring/Summer fashion editors promised us we'd be wearing this season is now languishing on sale rails or unworn in our closets.  And the prognosis does not look good.  If the horrors of a washed out April and May were not enough, we're being told that the whole of June is expected to be wet and rainy, and if this comes to pass we can write off the rest of the summer as well!

Whilst the weather in England has been chilly, rainy and windy there was nothing but glorious sunshine on our holiday. I stuffed my suitcase with my new season purchases to ensure I could get some wear out of them. We spent a rather large amount of time at the beach and I got to start using my new camera so you might have to suffer a barrage of posts featuring me in a bikini with various beach cover ups over the next month! It's that or me shivering in my winter coat!

Bikini cover up numero uno: my new Mary Katrantzou for Topshop tunic.  I love this print but it is indecently short as a dress.  While I don't really have a problem getting my legs out in hot weather, I don't feel comfortable in a hemline that doesn't allow me to sit down in public without flashing my underwear to all and sundry.  Sitting on the tube in this would be impossible!

And boy oh boy is it hard these days to get any dress on the high street that doesn't have this problem.  More and more I am finding that in order to get a sensible hemline on a dress or skirt, especially for work, I have to go upmarket.  But more on that on another post.  Topshop's hemlines are some of the worst offenders and I often buy short dresses that otherwise have a great design with a view to using it as a top - this dress was a case in point.  While it was great as a trans-seasonal piece with leggings in the run up to Spring, for the Summer (well the Summer in Spain at least!) I've been using it as a luxe T-shirt over shorts and as a colourful beach cover-up.  The Katrantzou print with all its vibrant colours was just made for bright sunshine.

And hats off to Mr V for joining the colourful print brigade in his bright new board shorts.  A Christmas present from me!  I do like a man who has the confidence to wear colour (his other swimmers are bright orange).

As we are both so bright in our zany prints that you'd need probably need shades to look at us, I'm also submitting this post to Patti's Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.  Head over there to see what the other Visible Monday participants are wearing.

Seriously considering another trip out to a sunny destination to escape this horrific English summer!

Dress: Mary Katrantzou for Topshop; Bikini: Calezondia;  Mr V's board shorts: Country Road Australia

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Colour of Water

Whenever I go on a holiday near the sea this is one outfit that always comes along with me.

Something about ombré in ever deepening tones of blue always reminds me of the ocean.  That miraculous gradation of the colour of water with its increasing depth that takes it from appearing virtually colourless through all the shades of blue, before darkening all the way to black as your eye follows the sea out into the distance.

The ocean is Nature's study in ombré.  I see it in the way the palest of white foam rides atop the transparent tipped waves that curl out of the expanse of azure to kiss the silvery shore.  I see it in the blue of the sky reflected in the sea, or when the bright sapphire waters eventually bleed into richer tones of indigo as they pass over the reefs below, before melting into the mysterious, inky black of deep water.

Ombré fringe top: Kate Moss for Topshop; Denim shorts: Zara; Bikini: Calzedonia

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Red, White and Blue

Happy Diamond Jubilee weekend everybody!

In preparation for the weekend celebrations throughout London we had a red, white and blue dress code on Friday and this is what I wore.  When my line manager found out beforehand that I owned a Union Jack print jacket I was given strict orders to wear it.  And what better to celebrate what's great about Great Britain than wearing it with a piece by one of the best British designers out there, Dame Vivienne Westwood.

That's about as far as my patriotic duty extends I'm afraid! You won't catch me freezing to death camping on the Thames in the wind and torrential rain we've been having since yesterday waiting for a glimpse of the Queen as she sails by on her royal barge.  In fact Mr V and I are taking advantage of the two bank holidays and are off to Spain today for some much needed sun.

Enjoy the long weekend!

This post is part of Visible Monday - head over to Not Dead Yet Style to see what everyone is wearing.

Union Jack Jacket: Topshop; Dress: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania; Shoes: Michael by Michael Kors; Bag; Prune


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