London Fashion Week 2015: Event Review

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I expected more.

I expected to be awed by an unparalleled sense of decadent historical nostalgia, contemporary style innovation and pure wonder at the annual spectacle that celebrated British fashion and implied subsequent creativity.

What I got was something that paled in comparison. I don’t count it to be a fault on my part for putting London Fashion Week on such a pedestal. The British Fashion Council markets and continuously praises itself for delivering near perfection in its  annual fashion events. I was not at fault for expecting perfection;nor does the fact that I come from a country still adolescent in its foray into being formidable fashion deliverers, discount my opinion as valid.

I spent a brief amount of time at Somerset House on the 19th in an attempt to sort out my press credentials, and map out the event location so I do not get lost and find myself out in the literal London cold with barely a know-how of how to return to a warm safe haven.

Day 1 of Fashion week was good because I had a wide-eyed wonder at the efficiency of the events entire planning and execution – despite being angered at my media accreditation debacle that took negotiations and pleading, cross-continental phone-calls and an impassioned speech delivered by me to the poor sods simply doing their jobs, to sort things out. Every one at the event was always moving, posing, social networking, or running after people to get releases signed. There were the British Fashion Council and Vodafone personnel dressed in white hats and black uniform they’d likely been advised to wear in a way that showcased their slim silhouettes, while at the same time remaining comfortable. Wi-fin pins were spoken in whispers, and the charging points at Somerset House set up by the official sponsors Vodafone meant the bloggers and general media hardly had a need to worry about low batteries that meant their content was delayed in being sent, and being kept out of the fashion loop because technology had defeated them.

I got invitations from Jean-Pierre Braganza, and another one illustrated by Tezo Kyungdon Lee, from J.JS Lee for their runway show at the British Fashion Council’s Courtyard Show space – a show which had opened up London Fashion Week Day 1. I found it my favorite immediately because of the collections aesthetic – J.JS Lee had managed to take already ordinary clothing items like A-line skirts, dresses and formal shirts, and use about 10 shades of grey, pasty yellow and fuscia pink to reconcile her tomboy childhood with crisp innovative design, and androgynous tailoring that breaks the stagnation of formal and informal apparel when styled right.

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The street style revealed orange to be this seasons staple color, and the Brits showed that their usually famed dour disposition could be lightened with bags, shoes and accessories in amazingly bright shades of color like sunshine yellow and variations of blue. Some attendees embraced meticulous tailoring, while others preferred to don apparel that nears the realm of Cosplay (costume playing) – because I somehow cannot find it in myself to deem actual doll-heads on jackets to be stylish – pardon my disdain.

I could likely dissect each attendees outfit and find merit and something terrible in it all, but for each person that wore something eye-catching, I found something nice in their look – whether it be some intense face metal bling, or whether it be the coats that had me contemplating changing nationalities. The winter coats, British fashion houses like Burberry are known for, are worn with such awe-inspiring coolness in London. Real fur and faux fur coats, scarves, shawls etc. were not exempt from making appearances as attendees rushed all over London for numerous shows. Fellow fashion aficionado Arian Humirang kept it popping each day with his looks. Clothing was not the only tool used by the Fashion Week attendees. Make-up and hair played a huge part in showcasing the individuality of attendees, and their particular brand of style.

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My Day 1 was finished off by attending the Royal Fashion Day at Middle Temple Hall, where there was an exclusive showing of off-schedule fashion designers works like Luca MicheleReka OroszBlack Rose CollectionElena RulFabrizio Poker, Beauty SecretInnu, and MODO Fashion Society – an event which would likely receive rave reviews due to the serving of some rather tasty alcoholic beverages. I found the bulk of the designs by the different designers to be very much more of the same. There was nothing new, and it was only the jackets made by Elena Rul that I found absolutely awesome.

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Day 2 began with the Pavane show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. I found the over-all show interesting thanks to the studio venue and the models make-up, and the clothing to be unassuming garb – dark palettes and apparel cut to slim forms and thereby ostracizing quite a group of larger potential customers by sheer design alone.

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While waiting in the queue at Freemasons Hall where the Fashion Scout Catwalk schedule shows were, I saw some folks wearing some really lovely accessories – from icy white and silver bling to 50s Stepford wife ensembles. I didn’t appreciate much in the Mimi Tran show, and the Soojin Lee show had an enviable stylish front row and an average collection set to a beautiful backdrop and soundtrack. The Coral infusion of the designs was the only thing singularly likable about the pieces.

Probably the show I was most eagerly anticipating was the invitation-only Zeynep Kartal show where the trend of gold-bar everything was remade into silver, and the red carpet designs of Stéphane Rolland, Cavalli, Humberto Leon for Kenzo, and Elie Saab were regurgitated – much to my disappointment.

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Day 3 began with the Kiev Fashion Days A/W Showcases including comfy babydoll cuteness by Anna K, relaxed yoga-like flowing cotton fabrics in pale violet and grey mixed tones by Pentatonica, and ethereal music setting the tone for moody ‘I’m walking in a moors dramatically’ designs in the Dinara Nurlan show.

Xiao Li’s runway showcase was a fun show with apparel that looked like it was mocking design with its neon color palette prints in childish cut-out designs. While I may not like the 3-D neon effect of the pattern designs, I loved the weird form the clothing took that made it seem odd to wear but really warm and comfortable. Given that I was experiencing the London winter, any warmth I experienced or saw likely triggered conscious bias.

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Seeing Alexa Chung, Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne and Emily O’Hara Ratajkowski at the Topshop Showspace was pretty cool. Thy dressed impeccably and kept their make-up game simple and smokey.

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Day 4 began with Huishan Zhang’s runway show at the Rosewood London Hotel which I attended with the Mess Magazine team and Arian Humirang. We liked everything we saw – a diversity of color and design – new, insofar that it had thee most luxurious fabrics and combinations of embroidery and fabric mixes.

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Dora Abodi’s Unicorn on the runway probably made the show before it even began. I liked the leather jackets the most, but the attendees were way more interesting.

Day 5 began with a show that blew my mind because I love excess occasionally – MARKO MITANOVSKI! The collection was basic black and took items from Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and made them dramatic, wearable, and stylish. For a second I questioned the “Blackface” make-up direction because I refuse to condone any form of racism, however, I saw that it in no way referenced non-white people in a negative way. The black make-up/paint was a creative direction that showcased the apparel better and spoke to the collections inspiration. It reminded me alot of Charlize Theron’s evil witch costume design in Snow white and the Huntsmen.

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I finished off my London Fashion Week with an invite-only blogger evening hosted by Maria Grachvogel at her London shop. The Champagne and Macaroons helped ease me into feelings of contentment while I browsed her shop. There was a particular cream chiffon jumpsuit that stood out for me. I loved its lines and its romantic feel. The whole event was intimate and made networking quite nice.

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The Summary:

My first experience of London Fashion Week was overall “Okay!”. I got to see what First World planning and execution is when it comes to fashion events – It’s incredible. I found the attendees to be 80% austere, super stylish in their own way, and eager for photo ops and passing about business cards, but not eager to properly engage and network.

Probably the thing that left me most disheartened was the general ambiance and the British Fashion Council’s approach to the event – that this is a business. They went through he motions of London Fashion Week without anyone enjoying the actual event. I understand that this is in part, a business. However, the very fabric of Fashion Week is composed primarily of an exploration and celebration of creativity, and not solely an endeavor to further the premise of business profitability. No one basked in the feats of incredible design, in the fact that thousands had traveled from all across the globe to be at this place for these moments in the life cycle of British fashion.

My advice for future London Fashion Week attendees:

  • Know the fashion event dates months in advance and constantly re-check the sites for updated dates.
  • Get business cards made for yourself with your name, number, email and website.
  • You get a good idea of where things falter and where people succeed when you have numerous comparisons to make. So attend Fashion Weeks on your own turf first. I found I rather enjoy Fashion Week’s in South Africa because we are everlastingly still in possession of that wide-eyed wonder when it comes to fashion, and that is something worth savoring.
  • If you’re a person prone to wearing strange things during fashion weeks, make sure you go to the fashion event’s location the day before it begins so you have a good idea of where you can stop to fix things inconspicuously, where the bathrooms are located, where the charging ports are, where your base will be to meet people should you or they get lost etc. Sometimes you just need a place to take off your stilettos – I make sure I case a spot out with cushions every time.
  • Eat before your fashion day stars. Things get hectic during the day. You may not anticipate it, but you could be doing interviews and photo shoots thanks to your great street style.
  • If your media accreditation for an event doesn’t come through, make sure you have contingency plans. As a back-up I got the list of PR companies handling the different fashion houses shows and requested tickets. Ensure the following are covered before you send the email to the PR Companies:

Have a publication commission you to cover the event. Get the Editor to write you a commissioning letter with the publications letterhead on it. Get the publications statistics in a separate letter and perhaps a breakdown of how you plan to write-up or photograph and publish.

Acquire a list from the organizers on the PR companies handling the fashion designers ticket distribution.

Have an idea of where you will be staying for the duration of the event.

Make your email to these PR agencies brief, and informative, and attach he various documentation with the email. Add the address you will be staying at for the duration of the fashion event so that they may post tickets to you.

  • They may look at you weirdly but smile, and compliment someone if they’re wearing something nice – even if you have no ulterior motive. It’s just a cool thing to do.
  • Say “Please” to the celebrities you take pictures of. I’ve seen paparazzi stampedes and they kind of scare the celebs guys. If you say please you might get some of the most perfect shots purely from the celebrity being shocked into freezing; Happened with me and Alexa Chung.
  • When getting photos taken of you, or when  you are taking photos of them, exchange cards and at the end of the day send an email so as to remind the person of the situation and not lose track of things. You’re working in the realm of media and things move super fast, as does memory loss.
  • Even when you’re just ordering coffee, browsing a shop or networking in the queue awaiting a runway show – You are selling yourself! That sounds prostitute’y but what I mean is that everyone is a potential connection whenever and wherever you are. Don’t annoy someone by bombarding them with information, but should they be willing, converse with them in a way that shows you find them interesting and that you too are a person worth knowing. I scored half of my tickets and business connections at Fashion Week just by talking (which we all know I love).
  • Please find pleasure in whatever you’re doing. Whether you are writing about an event, photographing it, working as a liaison, simply being an attendee or a PR guru – find your bliss and help make the event a success by transforming the ambiance into something palatable by sheer force of emotion. It’s not nice attending something where everyone seems depressed and just tired of this sh*t!

For the full album of street style pictures and runway show pictures, visit my Facebook page.

My looks for each day of London Fashion Week

Stay tuned. 
Next story is my round-up of my trip to London from a tourist angle.

London Fashion Week: Day 4 Look

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I figured I’m a sucker for pain because come day 4 of London Fashion Week I deigned to wear high heels again.

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Today I wore Forever New sunnies, a clutch bag by Shiko from African beadery, Black skinny jeans from Levis and a leather jacket from Woolworths. The rest are vintage pieces collected over time.

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This ring was an impulse purchase I love.

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Front row #FlexxinIMG_2417

Whoever said unicorns don’t exist needs to reevaluate their existence. I even got a photo with one.
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Maintain eye contact when tryna push the sexy!
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The Dora Abodi show unicorn and I.IMG_2425

London Fashion Week: Day 3 Look

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First of all: HOLY CRAP!

Today’s weather went from tolerable cold to “Dear Lord! Save me!”

I barely survived the walks between Fashion Scout’s runway shows at Freemasons Hall and the official London Fashion Week base at Somerset House.

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Today I wore a faux fur jacket by MilQ & Honey with some durable leather boots, stockings, black poloneck , Spitfire Sunnies (sans sun in the city though) and a jersey knit dress.

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How you like me now?

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“Oh! you fancy huh?!”

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London Fashion Week: Day 2 Look

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As I mentioned yesterday – Expect the full event review of London Fashion Week on the 25th.

In the meantime, enjoy the looks.

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For Day 2 of London Fashion Week I wore a MilQ & Honey dress, Errol Arentz stileto boots, a Simon and Mary hat and vintage jersey throw and bling.

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Shout-out to Yahoo and everyone who requested photo ops and interviews. I had fun. Do let me know when and where you publish them.

Xx

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Getting interviewed by Yahoo UK yesterday

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London Fashion Week: Day 1 Look

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IMG_1688I have a whole lot to review for Day 1 of London Fashion Week so I’ll post a review sometime next week.IMG_1300 This is what I wore to Day 1 at Fashion Week.

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I’m wearing a silk Shirt from Babette – A vintage shop in Cape Town, South Africa. I have a grey Jersey throw from Milady’s, Jeggings from Woolworths, custom Chuck Taylors, and a beaded vintage bag.

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Stay tuned for more tonight.

Pictured below at the J J.S Lee showIMG_1490

Ollie in London: Day 1

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Day one in London and I woke up at 7am, lazed about in bed, updated all my social media and let all the important people know that I’m alive and well. Following a revitalizing hot shower that washed off 24 hours of travel, I spent a while picking out what to wear in accordance with the temperatures of London. I’d like to point out the weather in London has been grossly exaggerated; its actually a tolerable coldness. IMG_1413s

Being really meticulous about my make-up and blingIMG_1425

I used Citymapper to advise me on the train and bus routes I should take seeing as how I wanted to do a mock run to Somerset House where the British Fashion Council’s London Fashion Week is to be held. I like being acquainted with my surroundings so as not to inconvenience myself, seeing as how I usually don elaborate apparel to Fashion Weeks and walking more than a kilometer in heels is hell on the feet.

I love the Oyster Card system – One card that’s pre-loaded and can be used on any of the public transport. For travelers such as I, the £40 Oyster card that lasts 7 days is amazing. If you’re like me you get lost often in the cities you visit, and having the convenience of unlimited credit means hopping train platforms and buses till you somehow end up where you’re going without paying exorbitant prices.

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Springfield! Fans of the Simpsons know my excitementIMG_1435

I managed to end up on the Southernmost tip of London by bus, saw a little of Surrey while walking about, took a train to London Bridge to somehow get closer to where I was going at Temple Station, I spotted the Millpark Football team stadium and a mushroom tip-less penis-shaped building I spotted in the film Guardian of the Galaxy.

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After asking around because my Blackberry is essentially a music playing device since Vodacom is Ray Charles to working off the African continent, I got to Strand, took some much required tourist snaps in the rain, and looked good while I was doing all this.

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The advertised view of London’s greatest attractions is awesome.IMG_1450

Beautiful building nestled in the back roads of Strand.IMG_1455

I popped into Somerset House where a large amount of personnel were in the midst of setting up for Fashion Week tomorrow and the opening showcase hosted by Naomi Campbell as part of her Fashion for Relief initiative.IMG_1466

The British Fashion Council officers advised me on the press protocol that would be in effect from tomorrow, and while exiting I met a wonderfully-dressed lady awaiting the start of the Fashion Week opening night showcase. IMG_1464

Following that little stop I headed to the motherland I’d been hoping to visit – STARBUCKS! I got a Caramel Frappuccino which is basically Coffee blended with caramel sauce, milk and ice, and topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

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It gave me the mother of all sugar highs and I reveled in it. Also, Starbucks’s reputation precedes itself because the Wi-Fi with no code and the crowded hipster vibe was present and accounted for. While chilling there I got mail – thank you J. JS Lee for the invite to your showcase. I promise to be there in a timely fashion.

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Day 1 was good despite momentary blunders. Let me rest because tomorrow the madness begins – London fashion Week Day 1.

xx

Soundtrack played today:

Young the Giant – “Anagram”

Young the Giant – “Firelight”

Young the Giant – “Mind over Matter”

KT Tunstall – “Suddenly I see”

Adele – “Hometown Glory”

Jay Z & Kanye West – “Niggas in Paris”

Jay Z & Alecia Keys – “Empire state of mind”

Natasha Bedingfield – “Unwritten”

Coldplay – “Magic”

Kate Havnevik – “Unlike Me”

Katy Perry ft. Juicy J – “Dark Horse”

Simphiwe Dana – “NdiReady”

Plain White Ts – “Hey there Delilah”

One Republic – “I lived”

Maroon 5 – “Sugar”

Beyonce ft. Nicki Minaj – “Flawless” (Remix)

The Warblers – “Whistle” (Glee Soundtrack) [Flo-Rida cover]

My travels to London: Planning and execution

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This is the beginning of making great strides for myself globally.

The opportunity to travel abroad presented itself because of a peculiar combination of factors. I had never properly celebrated my birthday since I was 14 years old – that includes Sweet 16s and 18th birthday blow-outs. Anyone well-versed in the broadly generalized behavior of black South Africans will tell you that the age of 21 is usually marked with an elaborate celebration that involves entire families, a selection of ancestors mentioned but unseen, the slaughtering and consumption of animals, and emotional and drunk speeches by family members. I had finished doing my postgraduate studies at the young age of 21,  and my mother refrained from any notions of being ordinary and a conformist by stating that my brilliant behavior as her only child, my academic and professional successes, and my un-celebrated birthdays were to be commemorated with a trip abroad – something I’d always coveted doing.

After months of agonizing over the details, of seeing how brilliant Contiki prices were for students-only to realize they didn’t factor in cross-continental flight costs, of hours spent speculating on currency conversion, accommodation etc. I decided on heading to the United Kingdom. Traveling overseas is always something people make out to be nearly impossible – the logistics for a normal middle class person make it close to improbable. However, my mother gave me a R20 000.00c limit and it’s not much, but I’ve made do with it.

Here is my process and my advice for South African wanting to travel abroad to the UK:

  • Breathe! After the excitement of the possibility of traveling presents itself, you’ll often feel an overwhelming sense of worry and dread because of the prices of everything.
  • Get your budget – I’m working with a small budget but it is doable if you plan everything accordingly.
  • Go to Visa4uk.fco.gov.uk - The official site has, literally, the easiest step-by-step explanation of which kind of Visa you should get depending on your circumstances, it has the procedures for applying etc.

-Read through the site.

-Figured out I need a Basic Travel Visa because I wanted to stay for a time less that 06 Months and was going on a vacation.

-Assembled the paperwork and details I needed to have at the ready (these include parents full names and surnames, dates of their birth, proof of my address, an idea of where I may be staying, a basic itinerary of sights you want to see etc. , the details of any possible friends or family in the region, some kind of proof that I have ties in South Africa that will bring me home, 3 month bank statement and my personal details).

  • Click on the Visa4uk.fco.gov.uk link to begin the online application – which was convenient as hell and eliminated mountains of paperwork.

-Once application is completed there is a tab to check where you can check for the nearest UK Visa & Immigration center and therefore schedule an interview with one of their officers. There was one in Port Elizabeth and their personnel are amazing and efficient. You will have to pay online around R2 500.00c total for the application for a Visa and for the interview.

  • Go to AirBnB and sort out accommodation – AirBnb is a worldwide website where people can look for affordable non-hotel accommodation in any city in the world. I’m staying in someone’s house paying less than R500.00c a night , which is cheap for London accommodation prices.
  • Go to a travel agency - I used Pentravel and they answered any and all questions I had. They booked me affordable plane tickets with Etihad, they sorted out my travel insurance, and advised on health insurance with my bank. They also helped with itinerary’s and figuring out the greatest city attractions. They also give their clients a VIP discount card to be used at American Express. Everything totaled at around R 11 000.00c.cash_passport
  • Go to American express and get a Cash passport – They basically require your passport, plane ticket and proof of address and they’ll give you a card which can be used like a Debit Card but you pre-load your money onto it in your home country, and the cash is converted to the British pound. The Pentravel travel agency VIP card basically gets you a discount on service charges.
  • You’re pretty much ready to go if you’ve attended your Visa interview and they’ve gotten back to you within 15 days. Finalize your accommodation, make up a mock itinerary for yourself, pack within the 30kg baggage limit for UK, have a folder you pack any paperwork you might need while abroad including ID copies of yours and your parents, and travel safe!

On the 16th Feb my mom and I spent some quality time at an awesome hotel near the beachfront before my trip the next day. I had my hair and nails done, took a wicked comfy bubble-bath which ended later when the bubbles dissipated and I finally accepted that I was lying in a puddle of my own filth. Next day I was surprisingly relaxed – neither hugely excited or panicking. I had everything sorted. I checked in my luggage in PE airport, had lunch with mom, grabbed my laptop pouch filled with my UK chargers etc., got my purse/bag filled with my camera, wallet,tablet, phone, make-up etc. , and my folder filled with my travel wallet and paperwork and left Port Elizabeth for OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

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While getting lost in the suddenly huge airport I found Wifi and made sure to download the apps I needed, like: Citymapper, AirBnB, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. It’s good to have an app that advises on trains, buses and walking times across whichever city you’re in so you have options on prices, distance, time and all.IMG_1348

The luggage check-in in Johannesburg was a little tiresome.

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Once through, I breezed by immigration, spent some time ogling fashion houses like Burberry at the international stores in the terminals, eventually charged up my different technology pieces while sitting on the floor, and then boarded the plane to Abu Dhabi.

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On the plane with my hat game on fleek!

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On the plane I met some good people, listened to the inane loud chatter of boisterous couples and big Indian men, and had some food while I caught up on the latest TV shows and films for 8-10 hours all from the comfort of a seat with enough leg room for a giant such as I.

Landing in Abu Dhabi took forever. They don’t lie when they say the airports huge, and is still expanding.IMG_1375

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I figured I’d have time between flights but an hour and a half goes by quick there. I barely passed the shopping center when I had to go through the many security points, wait 10 minutes while my plane got prepped, and then straight on to Etihad again and flying off to London.

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Airplane selfie

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During the flight I saw snow-capped mountains and the darkest of blue oceans.IMG_1390

It really hit then that I’m not anywhere near home. One of the snarky voices in my head muttered the pop culture line “Guess we aren’t in Kansas anymore” like I was the Dorothy of a Wizard of Oz production. Some of the views from the plane were amazing. My blogger Canon Camera captured the myriad of colors over the clouds and the bird’s eye view of London.IMG_1399

I landed at some boring Heathrow Terminal with no fan fare, and spent an excruciating amount of time (2 hours) in the queue at Immigration. The officer that talked to me gave me a biting reality check that I’d likely not get far with the amount of money I had with me, for which I remained utterly silent on the matter for fear of deportation or an arrest. While pop culture has made Scotland Yard prolific, I wouldn’t want to be acquainted with them so.

Probably the thing I feared the most was the public transport system in London. I got an Oyster Card worth £ 40 for a week, which means unlimited travel in 2 of the Zones I’d planned to frequent. There were alot of tourists on the underground, and since it was rush hour the masses descended and we got evil side-eye for our suitcases taking up space. A couple of train switches later, asking railroad personnel directions, deciding on a cab ride because it was dark and I was tired from 24 hours of travel, I arrived at my accommodation. I got advice from my landlady on grocery shopping and got a f*ckload for under £ 10.

I know I wanted to update my social networks yesterday night but I fell asleep so suddenly it shocked me. So here I am this morning – a little late because I’d planned to be up at 07:00am and see the town, but alas. London is 2 hours behind South Africa time-wise and I can only do my Social Networking thing when I’m in a Wi-Fi zone, so excuse my sporadic updating.

Fashion Week starts tomorrow, but my tourist’y fun begins today.

Till next time

xx