Thursday, June 12, 2008

Anglophile Packing Light

With American Airlines now charging $15 for even one checked bag (plus the constant risk of airlines losing your luggage), packing light has become a necessary skill. The LA Times interviewed fashion experts to find out how they pack light, as they brag that they can fit a WHOLE WEEK’S worth of clothing into a carry on.


You’re reading the blog of a woman who went to London for a MONTH with nothing but a carry-on and a large purse. I’m planning another trip to England in October for a week and a half—and not only am I taking a carry-on, I plan to leave room in it to bring home antique books from the Charing Cross road bookstores, and anything I fancy from Portobello and Camden markets.

The LA Times article asks, “is it even possible to stow a week's worth of wardrobe in a space the size of a breadbox without looking as stale as day-old bread?”

I’m just going to leave their “experts” holding their Dolce and Gabbana totes, and answer this myself.

~ Every piece of clothing you bring should be stylish, in colors and fabrics that will mix and match, that can do double duty as day and evening wear. In London, I lived in black lacey tank tops that looked great with jeans on a hot summer day, and served as a shell under a more colorful and formal over-shirt or jacket for evenings at the theater. Another plus, is that black cotton can be easily hand-washed in the hotel sink and air-dried overnight (along with black underwear and black socks). Black is timeless—and stainless, making it perfect for travel.
~ Bring one pair of casual pants (jeans or khakis), one pair of light weight pants that can double for semi-formal (or skirt), and one pair of dressy pants. Pants are easiest on the road, because cold windy days can hit anytime, anywhere north of the equator.
~ Bring 2 pairs of shoes. 3, if you need sandals. Bring one good pair of walking shoes (not tennis shoes) that can do double duty as semi-dressy or casual (I like Mephisto), and one pair of dressy shoes that you can walk in. Blisters on a vacation really suck the fun out of the experience, so do not sacrifice comfort for looks. Wear the bulkiest shoes on the plane
~ Bring a good jacket that- again- does double duty as semi-dressy and casual. I got a pink trench coat in London that I wore everywhere. For men, it’s even easier, because wearing a sports coat over a t-shirt, or shirt and tie, looks equally hip.
~ Wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane- it’s cold in those cabins anyways. Use sweatshirts and jackets as neck pillows and blankets.

So, when it comes to looking good: choose classic pieces that you can dress up or down with accessories like jewelry or scarves. Scarves double as wraps for the evening. Draw attention to your upper body so fashionistas won't notice your comfortable shoes. If you’re a woman, take the time to learn how to put your hair up in a French Twist—once you get the hang of it, it’s the fastest way to look chic without hauling hair tools.

~ White clothes! With limited clothing options, you don’t want one piece out of commission due to dripping gelato, or a spurting jelly donut.
~ Your entire makeup kit. Choose a couple neutral shades that make you look fantastic. Don’t worry about matching your eye-shadow to your shirt, match it to the color of your eyes instead.
~ Clothes that wrinkle easily. Cotton/polyester blends are your friends, as are tank tops and t-shirts. Most hotels provide you with irons anyways. This way you don’t have to worry about perfectly packing and professionally folding every article in your wardrobe.

To end my rant, I’d like to quote that LA Times Article one last time with a question the writer asked the knowledgeable stylists:

“You both live in New York. If you had to fly to Los Angeles with just a carry-on, how long a trip could you take?

MM: Five days -- no, I could probably go a week.

FM: Two days, maybe three.”

LV: One month at least!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Downtown Dining 3rd Edition

Little Tokyo and Literary Libations

The Curry House
The Little Tokyo Plaza is a three story building stacked with Japanese restaurants. On the first story, Marukai Market has unsweetened jasmine and green teas, and yummy chocolate ├ęclairs in the refrigerated section. Vegan-friendly Shojin, on the third story was recently featured in the Los Angeles Downtown News. But my personal favorite restaurant is The Curry House. You won’t find sushi here; this restaurant features newer models of Japanese cooking. Try the pork “katsu”, which is fried breaded pork smothered in spicy brown gravy-like curry sauce, served over white rice. Their curry ingredients read like an inventory of a grocery store’s spice section. If you haven’t had “Calpico” water, give it a try (it’s sort of like soda, but not carbonated). The sweetened iced green tea is another treat on a hot day. As odd as it sounds, they also have Japanese spaghetti, ranging from normal seafood marinara spaghetti, to Tarako & Ika Spaghetti (cod roe and squid). Lunch menu prices are from $7-$15, leaving you enough cash to get some…

Gelato! Just outside of the Little Tokyo shopping center is the Piccomolo Italian Ice Cream shop, with around 33 flavors of gelato. You get to pick two per cup or cone (I recommend chocolate banana and Peanut butter cup). Not only are they delicious, but the gelato is made fresh in-store daily, using only natural ingredients with no preservatives or chemicals. It’s lower in fat, calories and sugar than either Baskin Robbins or Coldstone with a softer creamier texture since its served at a higher temperature than American-style ice cream. If you really want a guilt-free treat, try the fat free fruit gelatos, but for me, I’ll take the rich Roasted Almond, Tiramisu and Hazelnut milk gelatos. 2 scoops for $3.25.

Friday night at The Standard Rooftop Bar is quite an experience. The swinging 60s retro design, the sun setting just beyond their long pool, and the scantily clad servers bringing pricey drinks and mini-burgers to you while you attempt to gracefully lounge on your waterbed in a dress without flashing the middle-aged men ogling you… well, it’s a rite of passage. The service is good, the view is fantastic, and the big TV behind the bar playing classic films like How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying won me over despite the wind gusts, the leak in the waterbed, and one drenched dress as a result. There's no cover charge before 7pm, and with a small group of friends out for novelty and nightlife, you could do worse—but you could also do better at…

The Library Bar, just around the corner from the L.A. Public Library (6th and Hope) is like an English pub or (an alcoholic) gentleman’s study. If you order food, it comes from Wolfgang Puck’s L.A. Bistro next door, which serves a passable pizza (not quite Pitfire’s) and excellent herbed garlic fries. The Library Bar is known for carefully selected beers (try Brasserie Dupont Saison, and the chocolaty Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter), but also serves fun martinis like the Willy Wonka and the Sun Also Rises. Happy hour is from 3-7pm, M-F.