On my last trip, I was reminded that magic exists – and it’s all around us. For ten days last December I travelled through Spain for the first time, finally getting a glimpse of the country I had wanted to see for many years, especially since I started learning Spanish in school.* The cities I visited had their own flirtatious charms, effortlessly courting my wide-eyed heart, but the three days I remember most vividly were the three days spent in Granada.
From the fog-veiled dawn that welcomed me, to the fading pastel sky that bid me farewell, there was not a moment that passed without wonder. It was different in every way possible to home, yet something in the air felt like I belonged there.
The first day was spent walking around, as I always do in new places when vacationing. It sounds pretty boring and unexciting, but for me, the opposite is true. The most interesting way to get acquainted with a place is on foot. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the people and (most importantly) the food – everything is boundless and unrestricted, waiting to be discovered. After a few hours of getting delightfully lost, I somehow found my bearings and managed to make my way back to my hotel.
Neighbourhoods with their distinct façades, narrows alleys thick with colour and scent, whitewashed walls adorned with pottery and paintings, conversations en Español fluttering through the air, trapezoid courtyards fountaining with vendors, cobblestone roads that seemed to want to trip me at every opportunity, the pace of life that moved far slower than I’m used to – all the unfamiliarity of these things faded away and became less foreign as I immersed myself in my surroundings. I was under a spell.
Taking advantage of the fact that Granada is situated at the foothills of a mountain range, the following day was spent at the Sierra Nevada Ski Station. After a short and scenic bus ride to the top, I could hardly contain my excitement of actually being on the white-tipped peaks that I could clearly see from the city, thanks to the lack of tall buildings. To my dismay (but later to my relief as I tumbled around clumsily in the snow), it was strangely warmer than I had expected – 13°C and blazing sunshine called for a couple of layers to be shed. Now that I was there, there was only one thing left to do – ski.
You’d think that learning how to ski at the age of 4 and being able to do it independently by age 7 is something that would remain with a person for their whole lives. But apparently and (very evidently) it’s something you will forget if you leave a decade between your ski sessions. Despite multiple falls and several crashes (I was convinced I was the worst student my very amused instructor ever had), I actually had a good time. I found time to grab a little bite and go for a mini trek through the snow, and before I knew it, it was time to make my way back down to the bus station.
On my final day in the Andalusian town, I visited the Alhambra – a palatial fort overlooking the ancient city, described as "a pearl set in emeralds” by Moorish poets. A slice right out of history, saturated with architecture and design dating back to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The last refuge of the Muslim rulers on the Iberian Peninsula, this crowning glory was built towards the end of the thirteenth century, and after the fall of the Emirate of Granada, Christian influences were overlaid on Islamic structures, giving rise to its telltale legacy. Palaces, courtyards and gardens, the Alhambra is breathtaking not only in it’s scale, but in its scrupulous attention to every little detail that makes it what it is. Plain as the exteriors may be, the interiors are equally ornamental.
I can confidently say that I have discovered one of my favourite places, not only in Spain, but also in the world. An air of tranquility hangs through every harmonious space, making it more than easy to spend an entire day (as I did) wafting through corner to corner, from the Puerta de las Granadas to the Peinador de la Reina, from the Patio de los Arrayenes to the Patio de los Leones, from the Sala de los Abencerrajes to the Palacio de Generalife. This was definitely the highlight of the trip and will always hold a special place in my life, for I have left a piece of my heart there.
The rush I feel when seeing things I’ve never seen before or don’t get to see often is what keeps me fueled every morning, continually inspiring me. Words can never fully do my experiences justice**, so I hope the photos that I’ve taken will suffice. Can’t wait to be back in here again, the city definitely warrants a second visit. Granada, te amo.
* Touring South America – now that’s the next dream.
** Unless I had the literary capabalities even slightly comparable to Diane Ackerman.
Comfort has never been a priority for me when deciding what to wear. 35°C and sunny outside? Let me throw on a cashmere sweater. Going to be walking long distances all day long? I think I'll wear my most uncomfortable pair of shoes. We're going skiing? This t-shirt would look really good with the snow.* When it comes to clothes, more often than not I put style before substance.
However, it doesn't always have to be like this. I'm slowly discovering that looking good and being comfortable don't have to be mutually exclusive. Crazy right? Is it really possible that you could look good and feel good? And I don't mean the confidence-boosting, high-morale, you-can-conquer-the-world kind of feel good on the inside. No, my friend, you can look like a star and not have to deal with physical discomfort. Not without a little effort on your part though. Don't expect to throw on sweatpants and look as fabulous as Regina George.
The secret to conquering comfy-chic lies within basics. Plain tees, tanks and shirts, unfussed shorts, trousers and jeans - basics are building blocks of a good wardrobe. You could play it up and wear a white t-shirt under a suit, or you could keep it simple and pair two basics together for high ease and effortlessness, as I have done with this blue-jeans-white-shirt** combo. Picking out essentials are where people make mistakes. I avoid loud colours, any kind of print or pattern and wordings or logos***. Colours that are easy to match, like black, white, greys and pastels of sorts are a good start. Remember, less is always more. And once you've found the style and colour of jeans that do the right things for you (read: slims, elongates, accentuates), you're set to go (I understand while this covers the comfort aspect of dressing well, it doesn't really solve weather problems - if you really don't want to dress bare or throw on a coat, then you're gonna have to embrace the perspiration and shivers).
So that's my two cents (or should I say two pence?) worth of advice. I'm no authority on fashion and I personally dislike rules and people telling me how to dress (the irony), so feel free to disregard everything you just read and style yourself the way that makes you feel best.
In dire need of some reprieve, it was time to de-stress and de-clutter - visually, that is. Shooting an editorial is always the best and my favourite way to momentarily escape reality. I can't, or rather, don't want to clean up around me, not until I'm done with finals atleast.* I'd rather waste my precious free time doing something that makes me happy.
Let me set the scene of what the last few weeks have been like, because what you see in these photos are nothing but a zen fantasy. It's four o'clock in the morning and I'm surrounded by a pile of notes and textbooks, only second in size to the growing stack of dishes in the sink. The floors' cries to be vacuumed and mopped are muffled by the mounds of clothes waiting to be washed. Exam prep is not a good look for me (or my apartment), never has and never will be, not with the onslaught of binge eating and my body clock migrating to another timezone. This external mess is a good indicator of how hopelessly messy it is inside my head at the moment. It gets bloody suffocating for a neat freak like me to be encompassed by so much clutter, but at times it can be a good and inspiring thing. A quote by Nita Ambani comes to mind, "the lotus comes from the murkiest water but grows into the purest thing", and as such is how these photos were born out of chaos (and a little bit of planning).
Now that you get an idea of the disorder I'm living in, let's not digress too much and return the simple joys of clothes.
Upon utterance of the word "spring" in a sartorial context, it is only acceptable to picture bright hues and lively prints. I'll admit, I myself have been guilty of donning florals for spring, so you won't catch me silently judging you if you decide to walk down the street like a blooming rose garden (I promise!). This year I'm pursuing a minimalist-meets-normcore path to an aesthetically crisp wardrobe that would make Miranda Priestly proud - or at the very least make her not purse her lips. There's something about a white shirt that decidedly whispers très chic. Without the distraction of colour and prints, the focus shifts back to the basics of textures, shapes and design. De-cluttering my style and photography gives me the same satisfaction as diving into freshly laundered white sheets - so clean, so indulgent, so appeasing to the eyes.
Reading is another form of escape that I engage in frequently. What has this got to do with my white pursuit, you ask? Everything, my friend. Recently I decided to read The Secret again (you need to step on it and discover this life-changing bible if you haven't already) and reencountered an affirmation I believe in, "thoughts become things". A few weeks later as the weather brightened and my white shoes entered daily rotation, I thought to myself "I'm getting a white backpack to match these". That very day, distracted by the 640 x 1136 pixel screen in my hands, I trailed behind my friends into Zara like a zombie. I take a second to look up and, lo and behold, it's the perfect white backpack - just as I pictured it. That right there, is the secret of The Secret in action. In hindsight, I should have imagined a Prada suit hanging in my wardrobe. You never know, right?
At present I may be a master at turning a blind eye to household chores, but I'm no master at Marketing or Quantitative Research Methods (yet). Maybe it's time for me to get back to revision. Or maybe it's time to will some straight A's into existence.
Or maybe not.
Look 4: COS - Linen shirt
Styled and shot by myself and Claudia Naomi in her quaint apartment.
As featured in Estela Magazine Issue XVI.
* Or until I've run out of clean underwear.
Killer looks and endless legs aren't the only weapons in this goddess's arsenal. Her magnetic personality and bohemian demeanour are equally captivating - enough to launch a thousand ships.
Meet Putri. While no actual wars have been fought by men head over heels for this Architecture graduate, there's no denying that it could be a very real possibility. Representing Indonesia, she was captured by Mihaela Noroc for The Atlas of Beauty. Talk about accomplishments. Born and raised in Jakarta, Putri now finds herself in the UK not only modeling, but getting her master's degree in Historic Building Conservation.
The first time we were introduced, through a mutual friend, it felt like being reunited with an old pal. We got along perfectly, to say the least. The rest of the day exploring Kew Gardens was total bliss. Putri was my muse. There couldn't have been a better time or place for a spontaneous shoot. It would have been criminal not to. Dusky and dewy, Putri embodies vernal freshness, always in complete harmony with her natural surroundings.
While on a creative high, it's easy to lose track of time. Only until your stomach's growling pulls you back into the real world, which isn't a bad thing when you're surrounded by glorious flora at the start of spring. It's hard to ascertain what inspired me more, Putri or nature. Or was it Putri in nature? Whatever it was, the feeling of having your senses and mind reinvigorated is divine. Inspiration, not ignorance, is bliss.
My musing of late:
Be inspired. Be happy. Be the architect of the life you want. Do what you love, so when someone tells you to stop and smell the roses, you wouldn't have to, because you love what you do.
Given how shy I tend to be in social situations (despite what my friends will tell you), it's a wonder that I love being in front of a lens as much as I do behind it. When I'm not towering above my brunch with an iPhone, forcing my friends into uncomfortable positions or flatlay-ing my belongings, I'm probably figuring out how to take an outfit-of-the-day shot, all while completing essays and revising for midterms. I have a love-love relationship with my camera, which is why it was so devastating when just a few weeks before moving to London, I had to be parted from it, resulting in an indefinite hiatus from blogging. I won't delve into the long, boring and somewhat tedious details as to why and how this situation came to be, but I will share what I've learnt about myself.
Visually chronicling events was and still is a big part of my life - not uncommon for most people today, considering we live in the peak of the pics-or-it-didn't-happen era (read: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). I started building my photography portfolio in 2006, when I was entering my teenage years, not too long before the domination of smartphones made photo taking more accessible and convenient. After discovering my friend Natalie's blog and being amazed at what one could create with a camera (check it out and you'll know what I mean), I started playing around with my point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot, constantly bugging her for tips and instructions... and the rest was history. Fast-forward through eight years of unfaltering devotion, I was brought to a screeching halt, losing my sense of direction. Initially I found myself restless, more often than not, having nothing to do with the time I would have spent taking photographs and creating content for my blog. Days turned into weeks, turned into months, yearning faded to reminiscence and grew into reflection.
I began to question why I did what I did and finally became conscious of the fact that most of the times my passion lacked a purpose. Thanks to taking art during my IB years, I knew all too well that an intention is as important, if not more, than an action. Being a perfectionist stems from my belief that nothing should be done with mediocrity, otherwise you shouldn't do it at all, and taking photos just for the sake of it is pretty damn mediocre. Trading off quality for quantity is just not the way to go, which is why when the opportunity knocked, I decided to let go of my old blog and begin again.
I've learnt you cannot control what goes on around you, but you can choose how to handle yourself and make most of the circumstances. Come what may, I hold on to hope (my God, I live on it) as I embark on a new journey in life.
Shot at St Paul's Cathedral, London, England.