Prague: a city known for its architecture, history, gastronomy and magnetism for British stag dos. The latter being, oddly, the reason I came to this city second time round (the first I was interrailing aged 20 with my best friend – enough said.)

No, I wasn’t on a stag do, the boy was – and since flights were insanely cheap he suggested I join him after the lads had returned (and his broken body remained in a state of beer-induced disrepair.)

So, in negligence of the fact we’re meant to be saving, my inner travelista remains a force to be reckoned with. And off to Praha I flew last Sunday.

I’m not so much of a rigid plan-maker when I go to new cities, I prefer to mostly just wander and see what I can find, though there were some particular sights and activities we were recommended. So I give you a list of highlights from 4 days in the Czech capital…

Charles Bridge

Yes it’s an obvious one, but missing this out on a trip to Prague would be pretty sacrilegious. The bridge itself provides a glimpse into medieval Prague (pre-cartoonists and postcard vendors, obv) and there’s nothing like a bit of history on your holidays to make you feel cultured.

It connects Prague’s old and new towns and is just a lovely space to wander around. Leading onto the Old Town’s gorgeous old cobbled  streets, which are lined with old beer houses, squares and medieval buildings, the piece de resistance is the multitude of bakeries selling Trdelniks – or ‘Chimney Cakes’.

Oh god the Chimney cakes.

Round pastries coated in butter, rolled with cinnamon sugar and almond and filled with nutella, jam, ice cream or fruit, trdelniks are everywhere in Prague and were the sweet lining to my hol.

 

Hemingway Bar

If you want to feel like Daisy Buchanan for the night, this is ya place. I’m a total sucker for anything novelty/vintage/retro – anything that reflects a different time period, basically.

So when I heard about this little speakeasy tucked among the cobbled streets of the Old Town near the river Vltava, I took little persuading to go in and sample a cocktail or two.

Entering through a thick, velvet curtain, you’re led into a small, candlelit bar. There’s classical music playing and the waiters wear bow ties. The cocktail list is immense, and the drinks are served in a variety of oddball container. I had the “Magic Moment” cocktail of Beefeater gin, mallow and nettle cordial.

“Part of the magic is made by you” the bartender told me (flirt), before presenting me with an odd looking little potion bottle with 2 different openings. You mix the gin and then the cordial and the drink changes colour, which provides a lot of excitement for a simple gal like me – especially after a couple of wines already. It also tasted pretty dang delicious. I could’ve inhaled any of the cocktails on their list – peruse it for yourself here.

Oh and just in case you require any further persuasion, Hemingway Bar has been listed as one of the top 50 best bars in the world. In short, you gots to go.

 

Cafe Imperial

We heard about this art deco place through my dear old dad as a jazzy little spot for lunch or dinner so we thought we’d check it out. With over a century’s history behind it as one of Prague’s best-loved restaurants, I knew we’d be in for a bit of a treat.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside (one food pic on my phone was already pushing the bf’s limits), but the ornate ceiling, golden intricacies of detail and bow-tied waiters (do I have an underlying fetish for this?) made for a very luxurious restaurant experience.

I had a “US Hanger” steak – nope, not entirely sure what it is either, but I can tell you it was unbelievable! Good house red wine too.

 

Lennon wall

Who knew the Czechs held such an affinity with the Beatles’ bespectacled lead singer?  On the other side of the Charles bridge, into the Old Town, there’s a whole graffitied wall which serves both as a shrine to JL and a canvas for the city’s enthusiastic spray-painters.

Random to us, yes, but apparently after his death, the music icon became a pacifist hero for oppressed young Czechs living under communist rule.

It’s a mish-mash of JL imagery and the words he stood for – peace, love… also now ‘beer’, which you can see emblazoned on his forehead – but the common theme that belies it all is one of inspiration and political freedom. It’s a pretty cool place to visit.

It’s also really close to the Trdelnik street I mentioned earlier.

Just saying.

Lokál Dlouhááá

Want to be where the [Czech] people are? Then this is ya boy.

A friend of ours who lived in Prague for 6 months told us about this place and it was just as she described – lively, full of young locals and with a gigantic list of different craft and local beers and wines, I felt like this one one of our more ‘authentic’ Prague experiences.

We got probably the most lethal “Grog” I’d ever tasted – as in, probably could’ve got drunk from the fumes alone – and a pint of raspberry beer which was (dangerously) tasty. There’s an array of local food as well, i.e., potato dumplings and sausages, but we were content with our novelty bevvies.

Great little spot for day or night drinking (I don’t discriminate), and probably your best bet to sample some of what the Prague locals eat and drink.

Beer spa

So it seems the Czechs love beer so much they bathe in it. After a heavy night but with a determined “when in…” attitude, we marched to the nearest available spa. Mainly for the lols, if I’m honest.

And lols it did bring.

We were led into our own private spa room with two deep, wooden baths at one end. These were filled with hot water and a mixture of malt and hops. In the corner there was a little fire and a “traditional hay bed” (no we didn’t really know what that was about either).

When our host eventually left and we had recovered from our laughing fits, climbing into a bubbly bath of beer with access to an unlimited beer tap next to you proved to be one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.

And yes we eyed each other cynically when the host started talking about the benefits of malt and hops on your skin, but I gotta say we were softer than a couple of peachy baby bums after that sesh. With the added benefit of finely sculpted abs from laughing for an hour straight….

 

It’s a city I’ve now experienced in both summer and winter and both times it’s been equally as beautiful – and very good fun. If you visit, there’s no other way for me than an air bnb – we got this beauty for £23 a night. Praha, I’ll be back again some day.

 

Follow:

Every so often you stumble upon such an aesthetically pleasing Instagram page that your scrolling thumb eventually begins to stiffen in protest. This is what happened when I discovered the glorious profile of Emma McDowall – the brain child behind Edinburgh-based homeware brand Studio Emma.

KK and I went along to her studio to find out more about how Emma’s business has developed from experimenting with materials in her parents’ garden shed to shipping her concrete creations to household names around the world.

 

Humble beginnings 

Like most people of our generation, at some point post-uni Emma found herself making the obligatory move back in with her parents to figure out Life’s Next Chapter. It was during this period that she was able to exploit her spare time and lack of uni commitments to start creatively experimenting.

“I didn’t have access to all the textile equipment and materials I had at Art School which was frustrating”, she explains.”But it led me to source other materials and make new processes so I could satisfy the craving I had to just make!”

After discovering cement in her dad’s shed, she began experimenting with it, mixing together different materials and using objects she’d found to create forms.

After this of course came the introduction of her trademark bright colours. “I found the contrast of concrete as a solid, industrial material and the playful colour palettes an interesting concept, and it was something I wanted to experiment with further”, says Emma.

 

Concrete and colour

I find Emma’s designs so intriguing because they’re simple yet mysterious, with an end result that is so far removed from the mental idea most people would have of concrete (for me: ’60s architecture and road maintenance.)

One of the most popular pieces she makes are the square vessels, whose shape is quite industrial but whose sides resemble what Emma describes as “tiny abstract paintings”. Of course it’s this deviance of concepts that makes her art so eye catching and unique (…as I said before, an Instagrammer’s dream).

…how does she do it? “I mix the concrete adding vivid colour before pouring the moulds in layers”, Emma explains. Leaving them to dry, she then removes the pieces from their moulds – the part of the whole process which is Emma’s favourite. “The surface pattern and texture is unpredictable so that makes it exciting – no two pieces are ever the same.”

The colour, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of it all. Instagram is one thing, but it proved too much for me in the flesh.

And that, readers, is how I ended up buying an entire box of homewares to adorn my flat with.

 

Home and away

When we arrived at the studio and immediately began fawning over all the different shapes  and colours of some of her finished products, we found out that lots of them were on their way to Iceland for stockists there.

When prompted by two excitable fangirls masquerading as bloggers, Emma listrs in casual nonchalance some of the exclusive brands who stock her products, and it’s clear her products command a universal appeal.

But what is it about the brand that attracts both a domestic and an international following?

“I think people like the use of colour in the designs. Colour makes people happy and they find the products to be fun.” If anyone’s looking to practice better modesty as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve found your gal.

“I also think sometimes in our culture full of cheap, mass produced design people find craftsmanship refreshing. They like something which has been made with consideration and passion, it makes the product feel special and with each piece being complete unique – it is special!”

 

 

 

Find Emma’s designs online at www.emmamcdowall.co.uk and follow her excellent Instagram account at @_studioemma 

Photos by KK Land 

 

 

Follow:

I know this is a controversial way to start a blog post, but I think you lot can probably deal with it.

You know when you quite like someone and then realise they vote Tory?

Well, this is exactly the feeling I get when I realise people have bought their Instagram followers.

It’s that sinking feeling of disappointment, pursued by a creeping feeling of disdain. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a bitch, but at least I’m being honest. I judge people who buy their Instagram followers.

Big time.

I started my Instagram page when I moved to Leith in the middle of last year, because I was so excited about the area and its non-stop happenings. Street food, cool bars, amazing restaurants, great second hand shops, the list goes on and on. As a passionate writer, I thought I’d link my Instagram to my blog and become a more active member of the online Edinburgh community that I get so much pleasure from being a part of.

I’ve grown my followers organically, and from engaging with people whose interests align with my own (or at least, I like to think they do. Most of the time they’re much more interesting/fashionable, but what’s a gal without her dreams?). From being primarily about Leith and stuff going on there, the blog has evolved into what I loosely term “life and style”, featuring photos and articles on places around Edinburgh – and, when I’m lucky enough, places outside of the UK too.

I get such a buzz knowing that the majority of people who follow me have chosen to do so, because for whatever reason the content they see appeals to them. So it sounds heavy, but for me, realising that a person has bought their followers leads me to question their integrity, and the extent to which it’s been compromised. Yes, everybody likes seeing their follow count go up, but I don’t think Instagram should be used as two dimensionally as that.

It’s such a powerful tool to connect with people both on and offline. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting some inspirational people doing amazing things because I have an honest, organic following and whatever perks or benefits I get out of my Instagram page and blog is earned from the effort I put into it.

Fine, it’s Instagram,  whatever way you look at it there is a degree of self-indulgence, but to use it as a platform to falsely influence another person’s perception of you screams insecurity and vanity all at once. Surely your online presence should reflect you as a person, to at least some extent?

We’re all guilty of projecting a degree of fallacy in our posts, but I think we’ve now reached the point where we all accept that, and still choose to appreciate what has become a sort of an art form. The bent leg, the candid pose, the false smile, the perfect lipstick, the moaning boyfriend/sister/mum behind the camera. These are just some of the measures deployed in the effort to achieve an insta-worthy photograph, but anyone with a slither of sense knows that this stuff isn’t real – especially when the very people in such photos keep telling you so.

To look at accounts with thousands of followers only to notice suspiciously low engagement fills me with a sort of disappointment, because it reflects a much bigger message: that people are increasingly unable to appreciate what they have, rather than the things they don’t. Yes, Instagram can be used for both personal and business pursuits, but I don’t think it should be the dogged recepticle of a tireless masquerade.

So let’s stop caring so much what everyone else thinks about our follower count and keep using Instagram in the way it’s meant to be used: for fun (with a side of self-indulgence).

Over and out,

Charlotte McRanterson

Follow:

Every gal who follows fashion to any extent has A Thing. Admittedly, my list of ‘things’ covers many bases (shoes, jumpers, bags and jeans all make the top lust grade) but there’s one area I’m particularly obsessed with. Ever since the wardrobe rail in my childhood bedroom caved under the weight of my many coats, it became obvious that I had somewhat of a fixation for outerwear.

You can therefore imagine how excited I was when I discovered the range of Autumn/Winter delights Biscuit currently has in stock. So for those of you wanting to keep cosy while looking longtime fab-yoo-luss during those short winter days, read on for my top 3 pieces.

The chic day-jacket 

You know when you want to be really toasty but don’t want to compromise your silhouette? This leather and fur jacket by Oakwood settles any form over function disputes by doing both extremely well.

It’s really flattering and comfy to wear, and gives an effortless outdoor chic to any outfit. The perfect complement for long, Sunday walks – or, as I thought when I first laid eyes on it – hanging out in an exclusive ski resort. (Aviemore will have to suffice for me this winter.)

I wore this with blue jeans but due to its flattering fit it could go with pretty much anything, and is smart enough to rock as a night out jacket too.

The stylish boucle

I love, love, love a boucle number – and this coat by Dutch brand YaYa simply strengthened my feelings. Since I pretty much live in skinny jeans/trousers I like wearing slouchy/oversized coats and jumpers to balance my outfits out a bit more.

This is so lovely to wear and is made of really soft, cosy material. I paired this with monochrome to bring it out the unique colour, but it would also work well with blue denim or leather.

YaYa describes its brand as “a way of living”, rather than just clothes. And believe me, I’d happily live in this coat.

The statement parka

Everyone’s got an inner diva. I brought mine out in this in-ya-face parka by Popski London, complete with pink fur hood.

I love adding a fur texture to casual outfits to give them a bit more of a “pop”(ski) and this jacket is just so fun to wear. As you can see we were battling with some gale-force winds shooting this but I was so snug under my ma-hoosive hood.

If you love a bit of fur luxe but aren’t sure about such a bold colour, there are also navy, grey and natural fur options for a more toned down feel.

All of these beauts and many, many others are available in store at Biscuit – find them at 132 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, or 22 Thistle Street (look for the custard cream!).

Opening hours at the Thistle Street store are 10am – 5:30pm Monday-Saturday, and 12pm -5pm on Sunday.  Bruntsfield is 10am – 6pm Monday-Saturday and 12pm – 5pm on Sundays.

You can also check out their website – and, if you’re also a knitwear fan (because quite frankly in Scotland you can’t afford not to be) – KK has put together some of her Biscuit faves. Cosy chic is waiting for you – go go go.

Follow:

 

The fading of tans, layering of clothes and packing away of novelty inflatables make Autumn a bit unpopular to die-hard Summer fans. Sandwiched between summer (yay!) and Christmas (double yay!), Autumn, for some, is probably a bit like puberty: awkward, unpredictable, neither here nor there… Lots of people probably want it to just end already so they can get onto the good stuff (Santa. Or his damn beard.)

Personally, I love the Autumn. It’s something to do with the intangibility of it – the shifting of colours and smells. Living in Scotland, that tired old villain Rain will predictably be a force to contend with too- but for me that’s a small price to pay for the ability to layer up, crunch through leaves, consume hot beverages (alcohol optional but generally recommended), carve pumpkins, and finally light that spiced-something candle you bought in July.

Before I get too carried away in my romantic Autumn daydream, let me share with you 5 things that can convince any fence-sitter to “fall” in love (sorry not sorry) with this cosy season.

So here’s what’s on my Autumn ’17 to-do list.

 

ONE. The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire

I’ve been wanting to go here for years, but have never actually made it. So I’ve decided. 2017 is my year.

In case you haven’t heard of it – from 28 September to the 29 October, Faskally Wood near Pitlochry is transformed into an “Enchanted Forest“, with incredible lighting, visuals and music. I plan to go, buy many glasses of mulled wine, perhaps eat some sort of unhealthy burger thing, and appreciate the glory of nature in the Autumn (and some cool jazzy lights).

TWO. The Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

I’d just moved to Edinburgh when I made my first trip here in 2014, and it was one of my boyfriend and I’s first dates, so I’ve got a particular fondness for this spot. I’ve been to the Autumn light show here for the past two years, but this has now been trumped in favour of a Christmas event. The gardens are still one of the most beautiful places you can be on a sunny day in Autumn, though. Go at night and you can get a mulled vino from their booze van, too… (do I have a problem?)

THREE. Oktoberfest

As if I need to convince you that drinking beer and eating bratwurst is a great idea. (I have a problem, don’t I?)  OK so it’ll never be Munich, but Edinburgh’s got a wannabe in Princes Street Gardens and that’s good enough for a non-German, non-beer connoisseur, comme moi. Although I’m in London later in October so will be hitting up Erdinger Oktoberfest at the Greenwich Peninsula. Prost!

FOUR. Samhuinn/Beltane fire festival

So I feel like this is regarded as one of those Edinburgh myths, much like that well-known “best place in the world for new year” patter. My reasons for this? No Edinburgh local seems to have actually heard of, or been to it. But this is the year I plan to test this “Celtic New Year” out for myself and get lost among the, er… fire sticks and hooded people. (It’s not a KKK gathering, I swear.) Read more about it on their page….

FIVE. Jupiter Artland 

Okay fine so technically this isn’t an exclusively “Autumn” experience, but the grounds look absolutely beautiful and I’ve been meaning to go for ages. And what better season to feel smug and cultured than in the arms of a crisp, autumnal day, in somewhere that alarmingly resembles Tubby land. No, YOU’RE uncultured. https://www.jupiterartland.org/

Follow: