Along the historic Madrid-Andalusia route lies this little blue gem of a town - a lapis lazuli, if you may. In the olden days, there were not many places travelers could stop for food and shelter on their journeys, but Puerto Lápice was one of them. Like those travelers, we too made a quick stop here for a meal as we left Madrid and began our tour of Andalusia and Toledo. Today, this quaint place is renowned not only for its striking cobalt accents on white buildings, but because of the fictional adventures of Don Quixote. Written in the 16th century by Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha is considered a founding work of Western literature. On one of Don Quixote's adventures, he was psuedo-knighted after he mistook an inn for a castle... And that inn is believed to be the Venta del Quijote, where we were having our breakfast and coffee.
In the three sweaty days spent in Madrid this summer, I came to the not-so-groundbreaking conclusion that I'm a city slicker. Always have been, always will be. Madrid lacked the usual features of a place I'd typically fall in love with, but I was drawn by the magnetic charm of a big city. And what a city, so unapologetically metropolitan. Characteristic of a capital, Madrid bustles at full force, vibrant with life, at any given time of day. And night. People who proclaim New York as the city that never sleeps perhaps have not seen the state of affairs along Gran Vía.
Whenever I'm in Madrid, I never feel displaced. I fit right into the hustle. It definitely does not feel like home either, but a strange familiarity looms overhead while, for example, I walk through Puerta del Sol, or indulge in some dessert and coffee at an industrially rustic cafe. Madrid is comfortable enough to make me forget I'm on vacation (I'm still unsure if that's a good or bad thing). My take is to not be afraid to let your instincts* guide you. The best way to experience this city is to get lost in her. Repeat after me, kids. Get. Lost.
Get lost in the history of her museums and galleries. Get lost in the beauty of her oases. Get lost in the elegance of her streets. Get lost in the intoxication of her food**. Take it slow and approach your holiday with no rigid agenda.
Except for San Ginés. The best chocolate y churros must always be on the agenda. Always. Thou shalt not resist.
Photo assistance - Claudia Naomi
Wearing: Zara - Shirt, jeans // Bershka - Shoes
* Hopefully it does a better job than mine, which left me in the middle of a political party's campaign, of which's official colours were coincidentally all over my shirt. But that's a whole other story for another day and time.
** While on the topic of being a glutton, make sure you visit Mercado de San Miguel on an empty stomach. You'll thank me for this after your nth gourmet tapas plate.
A couple of weeks ago, me and some friends spent a day in the seaside town of Brighton. For some strange reason beyond me, I had always expected it to be a moody, gloomy and grey place. Foggy and drizzly images of Brighton are all I recall seeing in popular media. As soon as my friends and I stepped out of the train station that morning, all my expectations were shattered. Not that I was complaining. Sunshine is always welcome - especially at this time of year, when the days are getting shorter and shorter. The rest of our time was spent exploring hipster streets, eating some of the most amazing seafood ever, people-watching on the pier, trying to start a campfire by the beach after sunset, flinging pebbles into the air and hunting for coins on the ground, just to have some cheap thrills at the arcade. It really was one of those perfect, carefree days. If you don't count the train ride from hell on the way back, that is. Nonetheless, Brighton, I will definitely be seeing you again. Thank you for being so beautiful.
Very often something as simple as a sound or sight can fire up long-forgotten childhood memories, sending me into the past to relive that moment.
Take the clack of a trotting horse. As soon as I hear it, my very first memory flashes before my eyes, as vividly as a movie. Everywhere I look, I see white. Snow, I presume. Snow on the roads, snow on the trees, snow on the mountains. Even the sky is white. I am moving forward, with an icy breeze in my face. My attention is devoted to the blur of dark figures that I pass by, but I soon realise that I'm in fact sitting on a horse. A white horse. Eventually I tire out and slowly place my head against the back of his neck, burying my stubby fingers into his mane, tightening my grip. And then my memory too fades out into white. My mother, skeptically, tells me I couldn't possibly remember this since it happened when I was only a year old, on a trip to Murree. Perhaps she's right, with infantile amnesia and all.
The sound of crows cawing immediately makes me break out into a sweat. I'm transported back to the balmy month of June, at some undistinguishable age, lying on the floor of my grandmother's home in Karachi. The air is still. I take slow, deep breaths. The marble floor does its best to fight off the heat that's gripping my body as I stare through a netted window at the dust covered leaves of a black plum tree, the crows fooling around beyond the tree, and the black kites soaring like kings even further away in the heavens. I close my eyes and all I hear is the soft whirr of a neighbour's electrical generator, periodically interrupted by the commotion of these crows.
And as such, I have many triggers and memories hidden away, which every now and then take me back to Pakistan. My favourite though, is a particularly milky shade of pink that stirs up sensations of bliss - the colour of Kashmiri chai sipped on rainy winters, the colour of dusty sunsets spent on rooftops.
The reason why I bring up this topic of memories in Pakistan is because over this past summer, I spent six weeks in Karachi. It's the longest time I've spent there in a single stretch. No matter what people say or what you're made to believe through sensationalised news stories, it is a painfully beautiful country, full of gems, full to the brim with untapped potential. Pakistan is a country close to my heart and if you were following me on social media, you'll know that I had an immensely fulfilling time there.
I did have my doubts though. I was a little hesitant and resistant towards the idea of being there for so long, but by the end, I felt the same hesitance and resistance as I was boarding my flight back. The first few days there I felt like I had lost my direction in life, after being separated from the comfort and security of my regular routine. Living alone in London for two years has changed me in some ways (mostly for the better, I'd like to think), but spending time with family I grew up with reminded me of an age of pristine innocence. Every now and again I would recall things that I used to do in my younger days, unostentatious and uninhibited. It really was a time of self-rediscovery and I remembered the many things that really make me who I am today. I guess in order to find your way sometimes you do need to get a little lost first.
Refreshed, I hope to get back onto my creative journey with a stronger direction, filled with more purposeful intention. For some time now, my presence on the blog has been less than optimal. I've been questioning a lot of the things that I do, which lead me to scrapping drafts left, right and centre. Mediocracy is something that I often speak about and never want present in my work. But at the same time, I'm also letting go of the idea of perfection - nothing is truly perfect. If you do something, simply do it with all your heart and to the best of your capabilities and knowledge. If mistakes are made, take it as a learning opportunity and grow.
I wait for the cool breeze; it cuts the thick, humid afternoons into pieces - like a fragmenting river through fertile banks, like a piece of honeycomb as it hits the floor. Another summer day, speckled with pink dust and the calls of crows, goes by.
Despite the naysayers who insisted that my first time in Italy should be somewhere "nicer" (like Venice or Rome), I decided that a visit to Milan completely warranted my time - so I spontaneously booked my flights and the rest was history. In the land where culture meets commerce, you'll find hidden treasure on every street, between iconic landmarks and esteemed establishments. It was four days of wandering on foot (with the occasional Metro ride here and there), experiencing Milanese flavours, and falling in love with a culture full of romance. Here are some snaps from my time there and a list of places you really ought to visit.
Photo assistance - Aditi Dhanu
Look 1: & Other Stories - Shirt // Zara - Jeans // Givenchy - Patent Oxfords // Prada - Sunglasses // Topshop - Denim jacket, with 'fixated' embroidery by Hand & Lock
Look 2: & Other Stories - Shirt // Acne Studios - Trousers // Givenchy - Patent Oxfords, scarf // Moschino - Bucket bag
Look 4: & Other Stories - Shirt // Vintage - Linen chinos // Bottega Veneta - Leather weave bracelet // Prada - Sunglasses