LIFESTYLE | Why I Am Buying Less

Am I a reponsible adult yet?

Over the last year or two, there's been a big change in my way of seeing fashion, beauty and shopping. I've come to a stage where I rarely buy anything, don't jump on the trends and focus on what I need, not what I lust after. 
There hasn't been a big epiphany to come to this stage, no life-changing moment, it just happened over time. Yeah, I became more responsible and aware. I thought it would be interesting to address this in a blog post, and see if any of you could relate. 
Here are some of the things I've come to realise since I started buying less...

Breaking news: I am not in desperate need for anything

Sounds silly, but really this is the key thing to remember. I have stopped buying nail polishes every month or clothes that I wasn't even sure I'd ever wear. I have stopped buying while telling myself 'I'll get it, it was only £10' and ending up never using the said item. I don't restrict myself, I just know how to stop from buying unnecessary things. And happily, I'm doing just as well as I did when I bought three nail polishes in Boots just because they were on offer! 
All the things I bought were all extras I splurged on because I could afford it, and because it feels great to buy new stuff. It really does! I get super excited when I buy new makeup. But all the makeup I bought on a whim, I barely use now. I didn't need it, so it's there, taking up space. I could have done without it... and I think that's the most important thing to understand - buying less doesn't mean restricting yourself or being frustrated. Once you realise that you'll be fine buying only what you need - remembering that these are things you do want as well of course - you'll start thinking about the way you buy.

I appreciate my new purchases more

Because I buy mostly things I need, I always look forward to the purchase. Most of my shopping lists are thought through: I'll note down that I need a new scarf, and look for the perfect one. Needless to say, when I do find the scarf I want, I'm super excited and I want to wear it until the end of time. I feel more responsible towards my possessions, I care more about what I own and it makes me feel more aware of what I have. When I fall in love on an item, I don't buy it straight away - I wait for a bit and see if I still want it as much. If I do, awesome, I'll get it! If I've forgotten about it, it means that I can probably do without it. Wouldn't it be cool to absolutely love everything you have?

Quality over quantity

This is an obvious one, but buying less means that I have more money to spend - well, once I've paid the rent! I'd rather spend that money on quality items, that will last me a while and that I won't throw away six months later. Because these are often items I need, I want them to be top quality so I enjoy using or wearing them all the way. Last January, I needed a new foundation and got the Magic Foundation by Charlotte Tilbury. It was expensive, but it's the only foundation I used all winter and spring - and it is bloody great. Last December, I wanted a new winter bag and got a burgundy Coach bag. It was the most expensive bag I'd ever bought, but I've used it a lot, taken it in trains and at school where I worked, and it still looks brand new - the leather is perfect, nothing fell apart, no scratches anywhere, the gold details haven't lost their colour... Best investment ever. A few years ago, I would have gone through three Primark bags in six months instead. 
Although I do still buy from Primark and the like, I've been drawn to sturdier materials for accessories and clothes. Have you ever noticed how the quality of some of the clothes in Topshop or River Island is awful? Is it really worth that price tag? Going on less shopping sprees could potentially allow you to access items that are a little bit more expensive, but a lot better quality-wise.

Are you a compulsive buyer or do you think through your purchases?


TRAVEL | A Guide to Visiting Sintra, Portugal

Two words: be prepared.

When you visit Lisbon, going to Sintra is almost a mandatory step. We've all heard about or seen photos of the green mountains and the bright Palace of Pena, and all the other historical landmarks that make up Sintra and look straight out of a fairytale. I've had the opportunity to visit Sintra during what is probably the busiest time of the year, so here is my little guide if you want to plan a trip there in the future - which I highly recommend!

What is Sintra?

Sintra is a town (and in fact a whole municipio) near Lisbon, surrounded by the mountains and by the ocean on the coast. It concentrates several major sites of cultural importance for Portugal. Castle after castle, garden after garden, Sintra is a real gem and deserves to be seen. It is a very popular area with thousands of visitors each year, and you'll soon understand why. I will talk you through the places I saw there, and hopefully make you want to see it for yourself! Let's start with the most eccentric palace around...

Monserrate Palace, the exotic dream

Built in the mid-19th century, Monserrate was originally a summer residence. Its style is called eclectism, which basically means that the architecture is of mixed inspirations: Neo-Gothic, Oriental, and of course Romantic - almost all the palaces around Sintra have that particular Romantic style to them which is really difficult to describe because of its multiple influences, but very recognisable. Architecturally, this is the palace that caught my eye the most. I mean, could you do more extravagant than that?

The palace is so ornate and beautiful, the Indian and oriental inspirations for the carvings and ceilings are unlike anything I've ever seen before. The interiors are unfurnished, but the beauty of the building itself makes up for it. 
I also highly encourage you to wander around the gardens, which are divided in several areas with ponds, ruins and exotic plants of all kinds. These gardens are a bit wild, but definitely fit in with the unruly atmosphere of Monserrate.

Quinta da Regaleira and its fairytale gardens

Another dreamy location, and gardens that seem straight out of the darkest fairytales. This was probably my favourite, it is easy access from the centre of Sintra - meaning the closest landmark you can get to by foot - and the buildings, as well as the gardens, really mesmerised me. Just as Monserrate, the Quinta was built and modified over time, to materialise the architectural dreams of its owner at the time. The Palace is heavily influenced by the Manueline style proper to Portuguese architecture and dating back to the 16th century. One can only imagine the architects sketching and getting inspiration from the past to build this whimsical structure.

The inside of the palace and of the chapel (the last picture above) are as beautiful as the outside. Once you've done a little tour of these buildings, you can walk around the gardens. My top tip for the gardens of the Quinta is to take a map at the entrance, because otherwise you'll get lost. Trust me, we even got a little lost with the map. The gardens are a beautiful maze, inspired by Romantic ideals - you'll see plenty of turrets, fountains, sculptures... You should allow around two hours if you want to have a pleasant walk around without rushing. The crowds gather around the main attractions of the gardens pretty quickly, so you might need to wait in turn to get that pretty photo.

Truly, these gardens were rather impressive. It felt like being sent back in time, in a medieval, almost mystical atmosphere. One of my favourite parts of Sintra, surely the one I'd like to see again the most!

The National Palace of Pena, aka where the controversy comes in

Now, this part of the post is where I get a bit more critical... Because unfortunately, the visit of Pena didn't meet my expectations. To tell you the truth, I was so disappointed that I was almost angry and swore I'd never go there again. Dramatic I know, but I still stand by that statement today - Pena hasn't made me want to give it a second chance.
This is the most popular landmark of Sintra, the one we see a lot online and in ads. And that is for a reason: the architecture of the palace is like no other, with its bright colours and incredible towers. Admiring it from afar, it does feel like a promising place to see.

The creativity displayed here is so unique, and you can't help but look at every little detail, every turret, every mosaic, exclaming 'ooohs' and 'aaaahs' as you turn your head around. As you walk around the walls of the castle, the view gets absolutely breathtaking. The castle is so high up that the temperature drops a little and the wind seems ready to blow you away!

The negative part however, comes when you step into the grounds of the castle. Crowds everywhere, noise, queues to enter the caste itself... I was very disappointed with how we visitors were managed. As beautiful as it is, the castle wasn't made to receive such a number of people at the same time - understandably. But nothing has been done to improve that. Even when queuing to buy the tickets, the wait was neverending and very uncomfortable, especially in the summer heat. 
I have to say the interiors of the castle were very disappointing as well. The route to follow from room to room was very narrow, so we ended up queuing all the way. The decor itself was rather poor, I was particularly disappointed with the walls, which were covered in trompe l'oeil wallpaper all the way through. There was no richness nor depth to the art, just a series of spiritless, meaningless rooms. I couldn't wait to get back outside and admire the view instead.

Now of course this is just a personal opinion and some might adore Pena, but if you have a particular inclination for castles and palaces like I do, it's easy to spot these little things. For me, the standards promised by all I'd read online before visiting were not met. The castle should definitely be made more visitor-friendly, because presently, I find it a very unpleasant experience.

My Tips to Visit Sintra

Book in advance the places you want to visit. Sintra has become a very popular destination recently, so try and save as much time as you can before getting there. Buying your tickets online will allow you to only queue at the entrance of each palace. 

If you want to visit all of Sintra (or at least as much as you can), you should do it over two days. We only spent one day there and ended up rushing a lot to see all we wanted, which was properly exhausting. If you really want to enjoy the different sights, arrange for a two-day visit. There are plenty of places to stay overnight around Sintra, the easiest being Lisbon, which is only a short train ride away.

Transportation to and from the different landmarks is really bad. There are buses that link the different sites but they're always really crowed, with queues waiting to go in and very unpredictable timetables. The best thing is to either go by car if you can drive, or use tuk-tuks - a bit unusual I know, but there are lots around so it's easy to catch one, and it'll get you where you want to go quickly!

In terms of food and drinks, there are cafés in all the main palaces, but I'd advise you to take some snacks and drinks with you - a much cheaper and probably better quality option.

Wear good walking shoes, and do not go there if you're not in a state to walk. Sintra is literally a mountain. Lots of steep paths, ups and downs, and the gardens of each palace are so extensive that if you want to see it all, you'll be walking all day. So heels aren't the best option to go for!

Have you heard about Sintra? Which of these three palaces would be your favourite?