When I was ten, I had a bicycle I named Furious Fire that I’d ride beyond neighbourhood borders pretending it was my trusty steed leading me into adventures. You’d think now that I’m all grown up, my relationship to transport vehicles should change to something more subdued, yet when I bought my Prius seven years ago, I fell in love with adventuring all over again.
Everything about my new hybrid car was thrilling; the way it slinks silently running on an electric motor, watching the fascinating interplay of the petrol and electric engine on the screen, how it cruises smoothly on a highway or the economic way I only need to visit a petrol station every two and a half weeks - it just felt like the future. Unsurprisingly, when Toyota recently asked me to visit Japan to test drive their newly redesigned Camry Hybrid on a twin circuit whilst taking in the sights and tastes of the country, I was thrilled and said yes immediately.
Japan is an incredible country, one I’ve had experience with in the past when I used to model in Tokyo as a teenager and absolutely adore. People are kind and courteous and the food is, as we all know, amazing. But unlike Tokyo, which is a hive of activity, this time the itinerary also included Nagoya, the countryside and temples, giving me a bigger mouthful and appreciation of the rich Japanese culture.
Adding to the fun was having Adam Goodes,Tyson Mayr of Naked Traveler,Richie Strahan, Jennifer Nini from Eco Warrior Princess and Travis Lunardi to gang up and eat way too much with. From a day in Tokyo that started off with a raw fish breakfast at the iconic fish markets straight off the plane to the granddaddy Toyota experience of racing the sporty new Camry Hybrid on the Suzuka Twin Circuit track with ex Formula 1 drivers, this trip had everything.
I loved the sporty and stylish Camry for it's aerodynamic design and luxe features, but it was the pure excitement of driving it that had me hooked - the acceleration is seamless with 3 transmissions and the speed sensitive steering keeps it tight around corners - all the while using a fraction of petrol of a conventional car. How little? The Camry Hybrid uses just 4.2 litres per 100km - one could drive from Sydney to Melbourne on just one tank; making this car an incredibly ecological way of commuting. It's high performance, luxury and ecology blended seamlessly. I have partnered with Toyota for another post in which I learn additional specks and the science behind how these cars work -( something my inner nerd is quite excited about! )- but till then, here is a little montage of my trip...
When I first came to Australia 20 years ago, I was taken aback by the way summer here meant unpretentious fun, like days spent on vast expanses of sand wearing just a bikini, hanging out on grassy knolls barbequing sausages with friends or meandering around languid Bondi streets popping into vintage stores. It meant people who’d soothe my habitual overthinking with words such as : “She’ll be right mate!” or “No worries!” on issues that previously seemed catastrophic. I was a young teenager out in the wide world trying my luck in modelling , a sea apart from my family but coming to Sydney just felt right. The laid back vibes, friendly people, beachy summer nights ...it's enough to make a girl get an enviable tan, fall in love, forget any worries and make Australia a home .
In that time, I also bought my first pair of Havaianas ; they were white ( perfect for offsetting the tan you see ) and so comfortable, I loved slipping them on as soon as my high heeled modelling work hours were done. The company launched in Australia the year I arrived here and everyone loved them, including me. Let's face it, Australians didn’t need convincing on flip flops, a.k.a thongs (incredibly funny to my American friends we call them that here! ) - after all they are a national pastime.
The Havaianas ' styles came in all sorts of colours made of quality Brazilian rubber and took the streets like a tsunami. I think I ended up owning 5 pairs in different colours and wore them everywhere. Henceforth, when I see brightly coloured Havaianas thongs now, I have vivid memories of myself as a plucky teenager having fun on the beaches and streets of Sydney.
Now Havaianas have a new incarnation in sandals, a prim and polished thong cousin that doesn’t make the flippy sound , looks good with all kinds of clothes, comes in a variety of styles and shades whilst staying supremely comfortable. I partnered with the brand to pick out my favourites and pair them with trends I’m loving now across two editorials. First up: weekend separates that take you from day to night.
Come summer, I unleash my hippy, boho clothes from the top of the cupboard because there is nothing like playing 70s rockstar dress ups. This season, I’m loving throwing shades of nudes, browns and neutrals together for a tonal look . ( Havana Luna Rose Gold sandals , T-shirt from Spell, suede shorts from Sir The Label , tote bag by Gucci, vintage earrings)
To me; leopard is a neutral and always in but this season the trend gods agree it's a hot commodity. Pair it with blacks for a look that says : come dance a purrrrfect night away (Havaianas Flash Urban Black sandals , Acne shirt, Bec & Bridge bralette, Saba skirt, Balenciaga sunglasses)
Wide legged pants are de rigour this summer but this khaki hybrid is an everyday fave. I love the vegan leather Havaianas too- they pair well with dresses, pants or shorts. Wear with a crisp linen white shirt for a look that is a hybrid of Audrey Hepburn on holiday and Hemingway in Havana. Both good things. (Havaiana sandals in sand grey, pants by Frame denim, linen t-shirt by Bec & Bridge, Sunglasses by Carla x OPSM, vintage bag )
photographed by Alice Wesley-Smith
2016 is here! I've taken a few weeks off over the summer holidays and moved into a new apartment; between unpacking boxes, hanging out with my daughter over school holidays and catching up with all my visiting overseas friends, I forgot to share my personal pictures of Cuba with you all! But here they are...and along with it, a diary entry I wrote in Havana. Hope you enjoy my peek into this amazing city...
My worn out desk at the Palacio O'Farrill hotel is decorated by an old landline phone and a quickly warming pina colada while I listen to the tropical rain cooling Old Havana. This is my 4th hotel in 4 days ; it was busy when I tried to book almost a month ago, even the nice private accomodation at the so called casas particulares was gone so all I could get was single nights at various hotels. It seems the whole world fervently wants to come see Cuba before the country loses it's decrepit nostalgic beauty when (if?) the sanctions are lifted.
On my first day at Hotel Florida there were no window panes on my room's balcony doors , the heaving noise of the city's busy main street below welcoming me to this seaside town and when the night fell ,humid and heavy with a blanket of heat, the sound of whistling men and laughing women reverberating through the dusty neighbourhood. Down in the lobby bar, mojitos flow by the double while couples dance the salsa; Latino men and women oozing unbridled hips, wet skin and well practiced sensuality.
Havana is both beautiful and haggard, fresh and utterly filthy, excitingly full of opportunity and desperately stuck in the past. On one corner there are newly paved streets and colourful walls but turn left and it's crumbling balconies and the stench of dead chickens rotting on the road while huge vultures circle the skies waiting to claim these Santeria offerings to the Orisha.
If Havana were a person, it would be both the one legged old man I photographed on the merikon where the old city walls meet the sea, and a happy little girl on her way to school with a faux LV bag and stars in her eyes. It's those that wearily improvise and upkeep their possessions with a dogged resignation under a lead backpack of the embargo but also those who re-invent rules, trying to establish a hipster utopia with makeshift bars and great organic food.
This town presents insane mid century architecture that will take your breath away and cold soviet era buildings greying and peeling in the island sun. It breathes in fragrant peanuts in white paper cones, 1 peso rickshaw rides , huge papayas sold by handsome mixed race hunks , billboards of revolutionary slogans instead of advertising, hotels whose star ratings are not an indictment of quality but a representation of a time long gone and people that will either try to fleece you or charm your socks off or both.
To be honest , I wouldn't have it any other way - I had such a fun time here exploring the streets, meeting people, drinking white rum in all it's incarnations, riding in an old pink car while the sun pounded bleached out neighborhoods and dancing the hot nights away. Don't go a changing Cuba Linda!
Hotel Terrigal (newly renovated)
Hotel Serratoga (what's good for Bey & Jay Z...)
Hotel National (iconic)
Chanchullero (Brazil between Christo and Bernaza )
Sia Kara Cafe
Rooftop Hemingway hotel
La Terraza for great bbq
walk the streets and practice spanish
go to a salsa show and dance the night away
take the Havana tour in an old car
visit the close by beaches for a day trip
lounge by the pool at hotel Nacional
drink a lot of mojito
Favorite city tour guide:
Matias Da Via
With thanks to new friends and wide horizons <3