As promised it’s a catch up today with a bit of an outfit round-up. I know you’ve seen snippets of our short break in Lanzarote but I’ll tell you a little more about that and then talk about what we did for my surprise birthday weekend. So without coming over all Foreign Office, today’s post is all about what I’m wearing at home and abroad. There are a lot of pictures and I’ve tried to keep the writing as short as I can but it’s about a ten minute read so pour a cup or glass of something first.
What I’m wearing at home and abroad
Part 1 – a short break in Lanzarote
Lanzarote was a break that we pulled together quickly when we spotted a few days that we could both take off work at the same time. I found the winter months hard going – as you know we’d planned to be away for almost the whole of February on a 20th wedding anniversary trip that was postponed again. I don’t know about you but I’m finding the disappointments that are continuing to crop up a bit draining. I often think that one of the things that separates more youthful midlifers from those who can appear to age faster is an ability to retain a degree of youthful enthusiasm despite the battles that life has thrown at you. It’s hard to keep on being optimistic in the face of regular letdowns though isn’t it? We’ve just had another one this week but I’m trying to keep it in perspective – life could be far worse.
So, in place of exotic winter sunshine, we had the good fortune to win a lot of work at a time when we’re usually quiet and I’m grateful for that because this year’s going to continue to be an unusual one. However by the time we reached the end of Q1 we were feeling jaded and with the very slow spring we’re experiencing I had one thing on my mind – guaranteed sunshine. We looked for the simplest route to it and The Canaries made sense. We’d been to Lanzarote when the boys were tiny and become increasingly intrigued by the work of the artist Cesar Manrique that dominates the island so we though we’d go back and look at it properly, without small, grumpy people in tow.
Here we are at Manchester Airport at about 5am after a night with no sleep so forgive my grey appearance. We’d made it through the queues and this is my favourite spot – when you’re heading to the gates and you know you’re almost ready for take-off. There was going to be a distinct temperature difference on arrival so I opted for a loose dress with sleeves that I could pull up and a belt that I could take off on the flight. And trainers obviously because they make security so much easier.
John Lewis & Partners dress (sold out, gifted SS22); trainers
The flight was fine, there was a Spanish requirement to wear masks but actually that’s quite good when you just want to fall asleep – which I did. Admittedly I didn’t have much time to plan this trip but I found it really hard to discover a cool place to stay in Lanzarote. It’s great to be travelling independently again but all I could find were huge all-inclusive resorts or villas on big urbanisations. I’d almost given up when I came across the small place we ended up in here. It has a number of villas of different sizes and they’re simply designed – we only needed one bedroom which was chic but simple…
… the star piece was the bathroom which had atriums with full sized plants growing in them, beautifully illuminated at night…
… and lovely details such as the twin basins carved from local volcanic rock.
There was a kitchen and living area and outside we had our own small pool and heated jacuzzi. The stairs you can see…
… went up to our own upper deck with a lovely sea view.
It was located at the very end of Playa Blanca, next to the lighthouse and it has a well known restaurant attached too.
The landscaping as you wander around is stunning.
So, I was ready for an early night but Mr MC persuaded me to walk along to the first chiringuito for a quick drink as the sun set.
And here’s the joy of our first full day – we found a beach in Playa Blanca and just relaxed. I bought this dress just before we left because I knew it would be great over a bikini. I’m finding the price of beachwear is so exorbitant for something that you’ll only wear for a few days that I’m looking for things like this that you can easily wear for sightseeing too. It’s semi-fitted so it has shape but doesn’t cling and the Bardot stop stays down well rather than springing up all the time. I was pleased that it didn’t crease either after spending the day folded up in a beach bag.
The sandals are classics that I’ve had for a few years now – they were an investment at the time but I bring them out every year so they were worth it.
The weather took a turn for the worse over the next couple of days, there were some bursts of sunshine but it was mostly grey and very windy. We hadn’t quite wound down at this stage so we went to the gym one morning and for a run the next – we were at that early holiday stage where you feel like you’ve taken your bike out of gear but you’re still pedalling hard nevertheless. Anyway this photo was to reassure our trainers that we were sticking to the plan!
We used both of the grey days to continue our Manrique mission. The reason he interests us so much is that when he returned to Lanzarote in the late 60s after spending years in creative communities with artists such as Warhol and Pollock, he was alarmed to see the overdevelopment on the island that had resulted from the rapid increase in tourism. He made it his mission to become actively involved with it, trying to combat the developers and persuade the authorities to make the most of Lanzarote’s natural advantages instead. When we’re commissioned to work on tourism vision planning here in the North West we often come up against the same kind of resistance towards focussing on the natural, underdeveloped beauty of our region.
Anyway we worked Manrique’s life in reverse. On the first day we went up to Haria in the far north of the island to see the last house he lived in before he died suddenly in a car crash in 1992. We weren’t allowed to take photos there but it was the day when I wore the Molly Mahon dress that you’ve already seen.
Molly Mahon dress (20% off this weekend only, gifted SS22)
The next day we started with the Manrique Foundation in Tahiche which was his home from 1968 – 1988. He designed the building himself around five volcanic bubbles that are connected by tunnels in the lava
– there’s no better example of someone making the most of the natural landscape.
It’s a fascinating place – do visit if you can, if only for the insight into a groovy artist’s world. An exhibition has now been added on with photos and video of his glamorous life and the parties he held at the house; it also documents his endless battles to combat the developers of the many soulless hotels and villas on the island.
Just look at the furniture next to the lava bubble swimming pool.
His artwork is everywhere.
I’m trying not to go on about him too much but here’s an example of the way he worked with the island’s natural phenomena. It’s almost always windy and so he placed what he called ‘wind toys’ at the centre of most of the roundabouts – they’re all different and they spin beautifully in the constant gusts.
We then went on to revisit his famous Jameos del Agua – another of his lava tube projects, created as a public space this time rather than as his own dwelling.
It includes a bar as you can see and a stunning auditorium with great natural acoustics if you’re lucky enough to catch a concert.
Unfortunately the part I really wanted to go back to was closed for renovation but it was still worth the visit. I remember the last time we were there our boys were 9, 5 and 3. They were so bored that we thought we’d have to cut it short until we stopped at the cafe where they discovered a patch of land with lizards that kept them entertained for at least half an hour, enabling us to sit back and soak up the environment.
One of those memories that makes you feel wistful as you suddenly realise that those young family years are all gone.
We’re back in Playa Blanca here for an evening out. I chose PB because I read in a few places that it was the most upmarket of Lanzarote’s resorts. By that I think they mean the Marina Rubicon that you can see here with its yachts because the main part of the resort is more bucket and spade. The marina reminded me of Puerto Banús so if that’s the kind of place you like with modern restaurants offering different kinds of cuisine, you’ll love it.
Now this was a lovely jumpsuit to wear because it’s made from a heavy jersey. The team told me they’d adapted the neckline at design stage just for me – you can see it’s a lovely boat line rather than a crew. The width of the belt pulls it in and gives you the illusion of a defined waist even if you don’t have one – I’m really hoping that they do it in red next year because I have a gap in my wardrobe for a bright red jumpsuit in a stunning cut like this one. I’m wearing a slim and it’s plenty big enough.
We had a nice enough meal in the marina (it was getting chilly so we sat inside) but by this point we’d concluded that Playa Blanca wasn’t really what we were looking for…
… although we did discover Barraquitos – a Canarian liqueur coffee made with condensed milk and licor 43. One of those things you know you shouldn’t have but it was truly delicious.
This is what we really like – simple chiringuitos bubbling with the chatter of chilled out people of all nationalities. The sun was back and so for the next couple of days we drove out to the stunning, simple Papagayo beaches, spending our days relaxing and reading on the sand and eating there too.
One of the things I love about it just being the two of us is that we don’t have to plan our days so we can stay on the beach until sunset if we want to without anyone agitating to leave. This day we did and so we saw the influencers arriving to catch golden hour. They worked hard at it (and I’ve deliberately blurred the photos) – it certainly isn’t the five minute job that some people think it is…
… these two completed a full 40 minute workout on the beach, presumably to pump up their muscles before they even started taking their photos.
Anyway Mr MC said we had a have go too but the moody look really isn’t in my skillset. This is the other bikini I bought a while ago and there’s still some stock in most sizes. I like it because it has a comfortable band under the bust and more fabric on the cups than halternecks usually do so I think it would work for quite a large cup size. I’m wearing a size 12 top and a 14 bottom to avoid any muffin overspill.
Another relaxed evening outfit here, the sequins picked up the sunshine and the elasticated waist on the trousers allowed for good eating. You’ll see that the vest top has been designed to cover your bra straps and it’s cut quite high under the arm for anyone who prefers not to reveal that area. The trousers are the bronze version of the navy ones I borrowed a while ago, they have a metallic sheen to them. I’m wearing size slim in both pieces and they fit fine.
By this point we’d decided that we were better off heading out in the car to the small villages on the coast in the evenings. Car hire is really cheap in Lanzarote so we enjoyed whizzing around the island in a little Mini convertible.
And sadly we’ve now reached the last day and our trip back to the airport. Mr MC had really wanted to take some shots in a lava field but we hadn’t had chance so we pulled up on the side of the road quickly. It wasn’t really what he’d had in mind though because we were running out of time. This was such a great outfit for the journey back, it’s going to be my relaxed summer staple. I love the return of towelling, it takes me back to tennis lessons at our local club in my teens – I was never very interested in hitting the ball but I did like the clothes!
So that was Lanzarote, it was just what we needed for an escape early in the season when the weather in mainland Europe can be so unreliable. Our conclusion was that it’s more developed than it was when we were last there fifteen years ago so I don’t think we’ll go back – but that’s just us. I know there are lots of you who love it and I understand that places often steal a part of your heart for reasons that others just can’t see – sometimes people say to us that they don’t like Kalkan and we shake our heads sadly. It’s stunning geographically and of course we couldn’t cover the whole island in just a few days so do let me know if there are good places that we missed.
What I’m wearing at home and abroad
Part 2 – A birthday weekend in… Newcastle
When I left you last week my birthday was approaching and I knew Mr MC had something up his sleeve but I didn’t know what it was. He went on to explain that he’d wanted to make it a bit more special this year because he was aware that my last two birthdays were in lockdown so there wasn’t much we could do.
My first clue that it was going to involve at least one boy was when the eldest arrived home on the Monday. My birthday was on Thursday and he had Zoom meetings in the morning but had then taken the rest of the week off. Mr MC gave me tricky, typically male instructions to pack a bag for a few days with no details other than it might be hot… or it might be cold… but that I’d want to look relaxed and be able to walk a lot!
At lunchtime we set off in the car and I soon worked out that we were heading to the NE which was exciting because the eldest hadn’t yet been to our apartment. That was all I expected because I knew that the other two were on deadlines – the middle one’s final assessment was due in the next day and the youngest had his first year exams starting the following Monday… but when we opened the door to the flat, Small jumped out from behind the curtains.
It was a lovely, warm day and so we headed out to The River Brew Co – Mr MC’s favourite Tyneside bar which you can just see behind us here. I didn’t get an outfit photo but I was wearing a Boden midi-dress from a couple of years ago – with a Uniqlo cardigan by this point in the evening.
And I wonder if you can see what one of our beloved kittiwakes did to the eldest below – look at his shoulder – clearly a lucky Newcastle welcome for his first visit!
We were just about to head to a restaurant when who should I see pop up but the middle one. He’d finished his assessment but the system was down so he couldn’t submit it – even so, he was feeling glad that his year was over and we celebrated with a birthday curry.
The next morning we were instructed to be ready at 11am because there was another plan that started with a walk down the river where the new summer installations are coming to life. These jeans are great for wearing with summer t-shirts and short sleeved blouses. I like the placement of the pockets (you can see it in the next picture) because it breaks up the expanse of midriff between waist and leg.
None of us knew what was planned until we stopped and were given hard hats…
… for a tour of Newcastle’s underground tunnels.
The guide brought them to life with all kinds of stories so it was a great way to fill the morning.
After a stop for lunch, the middle one was starting to worry about his 5pm deadline and the assessment he still hadn’t managed to submit. The Drama department at Northumbria Uni are pretty appalling and nobody was replying to his requests for help – it wasn’t just him, his course mates were in the same boat. Thankfully after a tense half hour with his dad’s help they worked out a way around the system which was a relief.
We walked into town because the eldest has a summer of weddings ahead and was on the hunt for a blazer, luckily we found exactly what he wanted. I love seeing my boys together like this…
… and the close relationship they’re building as adults despite being so far apart for most of the year. These two were cooking up a plan to go out with the middle one’s house mates for the evening which they were able to do with more exuberance than usual thanks to the Bank of Dad.
And this was the result the following lunchtime when we picked the youngest one up so that we could head to the coast on the metro! His brother was working so he had to come with us for more birthday fun.
We went to Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth which serves delicious, freshly cooked (but overly expensive) fish on the beach. Somehow the youngest had lost his socks in his brother’s house.
As part of my monthly edit I was keen to try this jumpsuit – I’ve had my eye on it for a while but it’s only now that we’re approaching summer that the colour feels right and I really enjoyed wearing it. A size 12 was true to size. Oh and by the way, after two years of persistence the trainers are starting to be vaguely comfortable.
And then on the way back we did the famed ‘Metro Hop’. A lot of the stations between Newcastle and the coast have opened little bars and so people buy a dayrider ticket and stop off at each one for a drink or a coffee. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon – we had a tense game of Jenga going on here. We finished in Newcastle with a quick Greek meal and then went home for the pleasure of watching the middle one hard at work. As you know we look straight across at him in the Baltic restaurant from our apartment windows.
Quickly popping out for breakfast – it was a delightfully ‘no cook’ weekend for me!
And there was just time when the sun came out to take a picture for the last of my edit. This is honestly such a lovely dress. I didn’t know whether I’d like the ruffles on the shoulders but I really do and the empire line is very flattering. It’s made from the lightest, crispest organic cotton so it will be perfect for holidays or very warm days. I’ve tried a lot of blue dresses this summer but this is the nicest shade because it has a bit more grit to it, it isn’t as pale baby blue as a lot of the others out there.
And this is just for the people who keep on asking me why I so often have my hand on my head. When you have short hair and it’s windy as it has been for months on end – this is what happens if you don’t hold it down. It’s tedious – but it is what it is.
Gingham dress (15% off with code MLC15, gifted SS22); Boden shoes SS18
So it was a simple birthday weekend spent with my favourite people and there was nowhere else I’d rather have been. The eldest now completely understands our enthusiasm for our favourite city – there isn’t anywhere else in the UK quite like it. I’ll just say that if you’ve been thinking about renting our Baltic Nest apartment, now is the time to do it. There’s a huge new music arena being built next to it so we’re soon going to lose some of our view – that’s when we’ll start putting it on AirBnB. For now it’s just for us… and you.
With all of that I’ll leave you to draw breath! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed a little vicarious break away. I’m aiming to post on Wednesday next week because of course we have a very long weekend ahead in the UK. See you then.
Disclosure: ‘What I’m wearing at home and abroad’ is not a sponsored post
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