TRAVEL | Forget LA: Five Reasons to Visit San Diego, CA

Grab a snack; this is a looong one.

San Diego is just a couple hours away from LA, and although we all know the latter, there isn't as much out there about San Diego. But with my boyfriend living there, I've had a chance to visit quite a few places around SD and I really want to share with you all you can see there. It's a pretty awesome place, if you ask me. So this post will be full of personal impressions, tips on what to do and see and why I think you should visit SD if you're looking for a bit of Southern California for your next big trip...

If like me, you live in a European city and that going to the beach is a one-time-a-year exclusive event, then you'll love the beautiful sandy beaches along the coast of San Diego. I have been to the beach there in winter, summer and in the autumn, and no matter the time of year, they are beautiful. There are a lot of beaches worth visiting around San Diego, and my favourite is Torrey Pines, which is right near a beautiful natural reserve. You can hike there, and get some rest by laying on the beautiful beach. This autumn, my boyfriend took me to Coronado beach. Coronado is a little island connected to mainland San Diego by a long curved bridge. Let me tell you, Coronado's posh. Like, huge, beautiful houses all around. We went to the beach at around 5, as the sun started to go down, and we had it all to ourselves. It was the most amazing moment. 

If you're lucky, you might see some people surfing around. In Coronado, you can also see the most beautiful Hotel Del Coronado which looks straight out of Disneyland. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants around any of those beaches, so you could easily spend a whole day discovering a beach and its surroundings: Coronado, Carlsbag, Del Mar - all places I've seen and would totally recommend.

In San Diego, animals are a big deal. You can see plenty of them, of all species (more than 650!) at the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. I have been to both quite a few times as my boyfriend loves these two places, and the Zoo in particular is one of my favourites. I don't do zoos very often, and I make sure to only support places that show the animals the care and protection they deserve. San Diego Zoo is one of these: they keep the public very well-informed about their programmes of development, you have volunteers all around the park that share their knowledge and love of the animals, and the money is reinvested in plans to make sure we keep all these beautiful creatures safe all around the world. The variety at the zoo is quite amazing too, you've got anything from pandas to polar bears and gorillas.

The Safari Park (or Wild Animal Park) is a more extended park where you will see a lot of species in big enclosures that resemble their natural habitat. You can actually do a safari there, and get to see the animals closer than you usually would. Although I have a preference for the zoo because of the variety of animals that they have, the work that has been put in the Safari Park is amazing - you can stand a few steps away from the kangaroos, and that in itself is a pretty good reason to visit.

My absolute favourite area of San Diego, if you've seen my previous posts on the city, is Balboa Park.
Balboa Park. It is right in the area where the zoo is, and it is a beautiful, Spanish architecture heaven full of museums and gardens to visit. This time, my boyfriend and I went there after our day at the zoo, for a little walk. Most landmarks will have a fee, but even just walking around the area and seeing the Botanical Building, the Rose Garden, the Spanish Art Village and the International Cottages. There is always something new to see in Balboa.

These buildings are my favourite, and I always swoon over how beautiful they are every time we go there. I would highly recommend the museums of course - I loved visiting the Museum of Man last year.

The variety of landscapes in San Diego is impressing. You can find the beautiful, dry moutains and cacti galore, but you also have Downtown SD for all things city, cafes, and Comic Con. 
In Downtown San Diego, Seaport Village is an adorable spot where you can do shopping and have lunch. They have an amazing Christmas shop open all year around, as well as a cupcake shop that makes the yummiest treats. Around the Bay, you can also take a boat tour, which my boyfriend and I did with the Hornblower. On some tours, you can see sea lions, or even do dolphin and whale-spotting cruises. At the Convention Center, you will find the biggest Comic Con that is held every year, with tons of cosplayers and actors coming to San Diego for the occasion. Not something I have done myself, but if you're a fan of pop culture, it might be the dream trip to organise!

If you're cheesy like me, and you love a bit of stereotypical Americana, you'd love quite a few spots in San Diego. Old Town Temecula is one of my favourites: think 1800s style buildings, wooden barns used as restaurants, and fairy lights as soon as the night falls. Old Town is also where one of my favourite places to eat in the San Diego area is: Havana Kitchen. I've mentioned it on the blog before, but they do an incredible cubano sandwich, very flavourful, as well as the yummiest lattes you ever did taste.

Apart from Temecula, there's another lovely spot I discovered during this trip, courtesy of my dad's boyfriend: Bates Nut Farm. I had never been to a traditional farm like this before, and it was awesome. Fresh produce, animals (and an emeu for some reason?), make-your-own peanut butter machine, and pumpkin patch. Yes, pumpkin patch. Although most of the good ones were gone already (we went the day before Halloween) it was still fun to walk around. And take a look at the Christmas tree ornaments... It doesn't get more American than that!

I have seen very little of LA, but I can tell you that San Diego is an amazing destination if you're interested in discovering this part of California - so I would totally recommend spending a few days there if you ever plan a big California holiday. Personally, I love it and I can't wait to go again! (After all, it's not like my favourite person in the whole world lives there...)

Which part of San Diego would you like to visit the most?


LIFESTYLE | How To Feel More Confident

Work on your confidence like your life depends on it (spoiler: it does.)

This post is a bit of an experiment. You see, I am myself struggling a lot with confidence, and I will admit it before I start delving into the topic. Some days, I feel like the strongest woman in the world, and other days, I have as much confidence as Bridget Jones in the scene where she sings All By Myself, drunk and miserable. Needless to say, the days I feel like Bridget Jones are not exactly the happiest. So no matter where you are on the road to self-confidence, I feel you and understand you. It's not the easiest challenge to undertake.
However, I am striving to be the best version of myself, and thus undertaking this journey is so important. The more confident you are in yourself, not only in how you look like but also in who you are, the happier you will be. You can't face the world if you feel like a tiny little seed ready to be crushed. You need to grow your leaves and your beautiful petals one by one, to be strong enough to face the winds without breaking. Although I am still on the road to self-confidence, here is my advice on how to get started on your journey.

How many of us have found ourselves thinking, while scrolling on Instagram, 'She is so confident! I wish I was like her!' or 'Why can't I be as strong?'. We've all been guilty of wishing we had the confidence we see in others all the time. Truth is, and I'm just gonna throw it out here: because someone looks super confident, doesn't mean they are. The motto 'fake it 'til you make it' has never been truer than on social media. However, one thing you can get from looking at all these pictures of strong, confident women, is the motivation to start your own journey. You can wish it all you like, but feeling confident is a process that only you can build. Start little: think about what bothers you about your present state of self-confidence. Think about the changes you would like to see happen in yourself. What are the little things in your every day life that would make you feel more confident? It could be anything from finding the courage to wear a bold outfit outside, to smiling to people in the street, or even saying 'yes' to a night out. Every day, do one little thing that you will be proud of, and that will get you started on your journey. And then keep going!

This is a big one. You won't find your confidence through the eyes of others. You may feel great after a friend tells you how amazing you look in your outfit, but the minute you're alone and facing yourself in the mirror, all the compliments in the world won't matter. True confidence is looking at yourself, without frills and disguise, just you, and think that you are exactly who you want to be, for yourself and in the world. I'm not saying you shouldn't take anybody's advice - after all, I am right here, writing this post to help you find your own voice. But when you're trying to figure out the things that make you feel confident, only take your instinct into account. What people see from the outside is very different from how you truly are, and this is true even for the people closest to you who know you and support you every day. Self-confidence is a very personal and deep process, one that you should care for seriously. My words may seem over-dramatic but I do believe that building your confidence can change your life for the better. So don't see your own confidence through the eyes of others; only yours matter.

Coming back to the point of faking it 'til you make it, there's something that doesn't sit well with me. It's easy to fake something, and just get lost in the appearances, especially if it means faking to a social media following, or even to friends when you meet up with them. You can create a mechanism of fake confidence, a facade that you show to others to say 'hey look at me, I feel great with myself' whereas when you're alone at home, on a bad day, the facade breaks and you realise that you've just made it all up and tried to convince yourself of something that isn't true.
Please don't lie to yourself. If you're really not feeling confident at all one day, but you have to go out and meet a friend, just accept it. You will have better days. Don't put up a character that is not yours. It is better to have a low day that to get suck in a spiral of pretence. You could only keep it up for so long anyway before it all falls apart. Embrace yourself with all that you are, and work with it. Don't suppress it.

As I have mentioned, I think self-confidence is very personal to each individual. Only you really know who you are and how you can improve. You will have times of success and thriving, but you will also experience hardships, you will question everything and sometimes think that in the end, you are not confident at all. It's easy, during a low point, to feel like the days where you've felt confident don't matter, as though confidence was an end point and if you ever fail to reach it one day, it means you are never a confident being at all, no matter how hard you try. I've felt like that more times than I'd like to admit. But you should see confidence as something you work on forever. It sounds exhausting, I know, but it actually is amazing to think that you are always working on yourself. Always striving to be better, to make yourself happier. You are in charge. And just that thought can already make you so much more confident in your abilities and the power you have to change yourself and take the direction you want in life. 

What are the things that make you feel confident? What would your advice be to others on their self-confidence journey?


LIFESTYLE | The Best Things To Do In The Autumn

No pumpkin spice lattes will be involved in this post.

It would be very difficult for me to pick a favourite season. I love them all, and each season brings a new mindset, new hobbies, and every time I find new things to make me happy. Autumn is here, and now that the leaves have turned orange and scarves are out, it is time for me to share with you what is making me happy this autumn.
These past few weeks I have been feeling very creative, and I fuel this creativity as much as possible. It makes me appreciate the present moment even more, and experience this season in a totally different way. So without further ado, here are my favourite things to do this autumn...

Turn on the lights
The most depressing thing about the end of the year is that days are shorter and it gets dark very early in the day. A lack of light may make you feel unmotivated, sleepy, moody... So my best tip when autumn arrives is to turn the lights on! You can find really cheap fairy lights in Primark, and adding a couple of strings of fairy light in your room can be a game-changer. Think about where you want to put them too: around your bed and your desk are the best areas, because it is where you need a lot of light. Everything will feel so cosy and special!

Go outdoors
In the autumn, we should appreciate the days where it's not grey and rainy. This is why whenever the sun is out, and lets out that beautiful, golden light, we should run outside and enjoy it! There is nothing more satisfying that the autumn sun. It always feels like a privilege when you have a sunny and (somewhat) warm autumn day, and there are so many things to do outside at those times: leave and pine cone picking, walking in the park, a day trip (Winchester and Wells, UK are awesome cities to see in the autumn) or even, if the cold doesn't bother you at all, a picnic in the park with warm drinks and comforting foods!

My favourite places to go around London in the autumn time are the outside area of Covent Garden (you can always pop in Whittard's for a warm tea or delicious hot chocolate!), St James' Park and the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Autumn colours, and squirells galore!

Play with makeup
The autumn is my favourite season to play with makeup. It makes me want to get out all my dark lipsticks, my shimmery eye shadows and it gives me inspiration to create new looks. Often in the spring and summer I prefer lighter makeup looks, but in the autumn, my Naked palette is out again, and so are my glitter nail polishes! It is also a good self-care moment, - am I the only to feel like applying makeup is super relaxing?

I will soon be creating a blog post all about my favourite autumn look this year. Every year, I create a new makeup look on the blog. You can have a look at my previous looks by following these links: my 2015 autumn lookmy 2016 look and last year's more subtle look!

Take it slow
While in the summer we tend to be outside all the time, staying out for hours in the evening, going for drinks and spending a lot of time socializing, to me autumn is a time of centering yourself back. Find the time to listen to yourself, do things on your own a bit more, spend a rainy day at home relaxing and practicing mindfulness. There is nothing wrong with stopping from time to time, and letting go of the fear of missing out (but that is a whole other topic...)
My top tips? Spend a few hours doing exactly what you want. And if that means watching a silly TV show to get your mind off stress, then do it. Do something relaxing.

Since September, I have started stretching out once or twice a day, in little fifteen-minute sessions. I put on relaxing meditation music (you can find lots of these videos on YouTube) and think about nothing. It helps me unwind, especially before I go to bed. At this time of year, we can start to be tired. We have accomplished a lot, we have spent busy months working and enjoy holidays, and to make it through to these last days of December, we need pick-me-ups. Read books, watch comforting shows or films, cook hearty foods, and don't rush when you take time for yourself. You deserve it. Make it a weekly thing that you look forward to. And just like that, autumn will have flown by - and you'll be ready to attack winter strong!

What are your favourite things to do in the autumn?


FASHION | Why You Should Wear What You Want

Especially if it involves cute animal prints.

This post is inspired by an old story of mine. A few years ago, possibly four or five years, when I was in high school, me and a friend spent a lot of our free time browsing the shops after school. One day, we went into an Etam store (it is a French brand, but still linked here if you are curious). I found the most adorable long-sleeved shirt. It was soft, cream-coloured, and best of all: it has tiny sausage dogs all over it. Now, I swooned over the shirt, but as I showed it enthusiastically to my friend, she said it was kind of ridiculous. Don't worry, she's great though and I am happy to say we are still friends to this day (and she still questions my fashion choices from time to time.)
For a few weeks, I debated whether I should get the shirt or not. My heart said yes, my friend's advice was no. I ended up never getting the shirt. And as sad as it may be, I still think about this cute little sausage dog shirt from time to time, mentally slapping myself for not getting it because I would still love it today.
I wanted it, it made me happy, and these I think are pretty good reasons to wear something. That it makes me feel happy and confident.

So when I saw this cute pug blouse in Bershka, I fell in love instantly. I mean, tiny little pugs hiding behind the stripes of the shirt and showing their butts, what else could I ask for? So I decided to get it straight away. However, as I was trying it out, I thought about the pros and cons (well, more the cons) of wearing this shirt. Am I too old to wear a shirt with pugs on? Will I look silly? Will it clash with my usual style?
Then I checked myself and realised that the second-thoughts I had were nonsensical. I was held back by what others might think about what I wear - which, in my book, is the silliest thing to worry about. We feel our most confident when we wear outfits we like, that bring out our identity and allow us to express ourselves. The way we dress can be part of who we are. So, as we should never be afraid to show our personality and our true selves to those we interact with, we should never refrain from wearing the clothes we enjoy, and that would make us comfortable and happy. I smile every time I see this little shirt, and will keep wearing it. So if you like wearing all the colours of the rainbow, do it. If you want to wear all black all the time, go ahead. And if you like shirts with quirky animals all over, wear them too. We would twin and that would be awesome. 

What is the one outfit you have that makes you happy?