Something seems to happen to people when they become tourists. You know the sort, the ones you see dressed like they are going hiking or mountaineering or walking in the Lake District when actually they are just taking in the sights around a large European city. I often see tourists wearing the sort of gear that would be more appropriate to scale Mt Kilimanjaro rather than take a hop on hop off bus around a chic modern city like say, Barcelona or London or Paris. Did they stop off at the Amazon rain forests or the Congo en route? If not why the hiking sandals and trekking gear?
Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate the value of being comfortable whilst travelling but do we have to revert to horrible reef sandals, bum bags and a wardrobe exclusively from the North Face or Kathmandu to do so? My parents are a case in point. On our recent trip to Spain with them I found that the bulk of their suitcases was dedicated to brand new hiking shoes, fleecy pullovers and track pants and technical outdoor gear. In short stuff they would never normally wear at home but somehow thought would be necessary purchases for a trip to Europe in which they were hotel hopping in relative comfort rather than roughing it camping - and my parents never go camping!
I think being relaxed and comfortable while travelling doesn't mean having to compromise on your own personal style. Here are a few pics taken out and about in Barcelona. While I'm certainly not going to be running around in high heels and a cocktail dress, I don't dress like I'm going to the beach or on safari either, in fact you would find this is a regular off duty look for me in London.
When I get dressed whilst on a holiday in another city I take into account what we are going to be doing and what the weather is going to be like, but I also aim for a look that, although casual and relaxed, will still allow me to feel at ease walking into a church or other place of worship, or a chic restaurant, bar or cafe for a break between tourist stops without feeling like I'd be lowering the tone.
For city breaks I rely on a pair of slouchy silk drawstring trousers I bought from Whistles a couple of years ago which can be easily dressed up or down depending what you wear with them. To cope with variable weather I layer up on fine knit soft cotton tees in different colours from Cos, I pack a lightweight knit cardigan and scarf in my handbag and carry a leather jacket or for when the wind picks up or when it gets cooler in the evening. Strictly no fleece or Gore-tex in my suitcase unless I'm going skiing.
Footwear is a contentious issue. Nobody wants to suffer sore feet on holiday or be the one who spoils the touring party by complaining they can't walk any further because their shoes are hurting them. But I just can't wear my horrid old trainers all the time or bring myself to wear the types of comfortable walking footwear I see on a lot of tourists feet. For footwear I find a pair of low wedge espadrilles is comfortable enough to do a lot of walking in and can cope perfectly fine with cobbled surfaces you find in old European cities. And while the word Ecco makes my fashion fussy feet recoil in horror I will do a Fit-flop when some extra comfort is required. For really long periods of walking in the heat I bring a pair of sequined Fit-flops which gives my legs an extra work out at the same time and I'm about to buy a bejewelled pair for my next holiday.
I also never really understand security belt bags or the need to carry a back pack around with enough locks on it to confuse Houdini either. My own father does this and it drives me mad waiting for him to unlock and re-lock his bag if he so much as wants to get a map or guide book out! Believe it or not Europe is actually a remarkable civilised place but looking like a paranoid tourist is more likely to make you a target for thieves then if you just blend in.
I've always carried my normal handbag around with me everywhere and never had a problem. As long as you are a bit streetwise and sensible there is no need to advertise you are carrying anything more expensive in your bags than the locals. A good sized shoulder bag like this one is enough to fit a map, guide book, a bottle of water, camera, wallet and a light scarf and jumper. If I'm really concerned about valuables then I leave them in a safe at our accommodation, or I have a small flat pocket bag on a thin shoulder strap which I can wear cross body and separately to my handbag in which to put cash, cards, passport and mobile.
As we visited in late Spring the weather could flip between very hot to quite cool so it made sense to carry an extra layer in the form of a cardigan or jumper in my bag. This time my knit of choice was a lavender cashmere sweater from Uniqlo which squashes up nicely in the bag.
I personally would have felt awkward and self conscious walking around Barcelona in trekking gear and certainly not very good about myself when shouldering up for coffee at the bar next to the chic Barcelona residents on their way to work. So I prefer to just dress like myself. Here I am at the end of a morning's sightseeing recharging in a lovely cafe in an upmarket area of Barcelona. I don't feel uncomfortable and out of place, or even any less sensible than the other Gore-tex clad tourists swarming the city. Quite the opposite in fact, comfortable and at ease because I'm still dressed like me and that to me is a much nicer way to feel on holiday!
How do you dress as a tourist? Do you change what you normally wear?
Linking up to Patti's Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style, DC in Style and Monday Link Up at Bon Bon Rose Girls this week!
Silk trousers: Whistles; White tee-shirts: Cos; Pink leather biker: Joseph; Espadrilles; bought in Spain; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors; Cashmere jumper: Uniqlo