The Ultimate Guide to Barcelona

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The ultimate dilemma when choosing where to spend you summer holiday: city break or beach retreat? Lucky for you the incredible city of Barcelona offers the best of both worlds: lazy days on sandy beaches, late dinners, even later drinks and more culture than you can shake a stick at. The city is undoubtedly the cultural hub of Spain where an exuberant, young party atmosphere meets some of the twentieth century’s greatest achievements in art and design. It is also 50 quid return on Ryan Air with cheap booze and a beach. With so many dimensions to the city, Barcelona is exactly what you make it – here are TASTE’s top tips for traveling to the iconic city.

Where to stay

Barcelona is the perfect city break, whatever you bank account and there are plenty great places to be found on Airbnb – just make sure you read the reviews carefully and don’t get caught out by hefty deposit fees. Not ready to take the Airbnb leap of faith? You can still do Barcelona on a budget.

If you are really strapped for cash, look in to staying at the university accommodation over the summer. Stick to Residencia Universitaria C. R. Bonanovain in El Puxtet, a great location just a little further out the city but full of great bars and cafés that are popular with the Spanish locals and a little more authentic than what’s going on in the centre. The accommodation, broken up into small student flats, is extremely basic – we’re talking singles beds, no towels and a shared bathroom, shower and kitchen.

If you are looking for something a little more luxurious but are still on a budget, its worth looking at Secret Escapes and Lastminute.com where you can find great deals on four star hotels. On my last trip I upgraded from the student halls to stay in Expo Hotel which boasted a roof top pool and terrace and clean modern accommodation located right next to the Barcelona Sants Station train station.

Where to eat

Barcelona is absolutely bursting with bars and restaurants but the standards and prices throughout the city can vary dramatically. It’s always best to have a place in mind rather than being sucked into an overpriced tapas bar on La Rablas. Lucky for you, TASTE has plenty suggestions.

First up Bar Lobo, the perfect metropolitan den, tucked in a corner just off Las Ramblas. The ultra-modern space is large and airy complete with oversized Chinese lanterns and dramatic oak décor. While it’s well worth a visit for the design alone, the cuisine on offer is equally impressive. Come in the afternoon and enjoy a bottle of wine on the terrace or join the city’s young crowd in the evening to try a range of classic tapas dishes.

If Bar Lobo is all about the atmosphere, La Maladrina is all about the food – specifically it’s world class steaks for less than the price of your metro ticket. The best steak dinner I’ve ever had was topped off with a five euro bottle of wine, and shots were offered with the bill as a parting gift – what more could you ask for? Down by the pier, this place is a little off the beaten track, but don’t be misled by its humble interior or lack of tourists. La Malandrina is one of the locals’ best kept secrets so it’s best to get here a little early. The Spanish don’t typically eat till nine or ten so beat the rush and get there for around eight.

Not to be missed are the fabulous bars and well-priced cafes in the EL Puxtet area. Hop on a subway to the north of the city and wander round this quieter neighbourhood filled with bakeries, tapas bars and, best of all, plenty of locals. You can always tell how good a place is by how many Spaniards choose to eat and drink there – and this is especially true in El Puxtet. In the evening, weave through the streets and follow the natives to the most packed out bar and order a goblet of gin and tonic. By day you can’t beat Doctor Coffee – order a café latte and a delicious pastry. For a light afternoon snack or a delicious meal on the cheap, head to the local focaccia joint where you can enjoy beautifully made bread topped with fresh ingredients, all made on site.

What to see

Thanks to Barcelona’s amazing metro system you can pack in all the sites in just a few days. While of course the beach is the highlight of the holiday for many Easyjetters heading out to Barcelona, the atmosphere within the city centre is equally electric and not to be left out.

Start your break with a visit to La Sagrada Familia, a vast Basilica designed by Catalan architect Gaudi, that has remained under construction since 1882. Avoid the swarms of tourists and visit early in the day, where you will experience the beauty of the morning light flooding in through the stained glass windows – an unmissable photo opportunity. Even better, do as I did and use your last metro card of the trip, pitch up several shots the merrier and enjoy a full on midnight photofest.

As I’ve already mentioned, one of the best things about Barcelona is that it’s a city with a beach. Tourists tend to head for Barceloneta, but why not try local favourite Bogatell beach- it’s cleaner, safer and a lot less crowded.

Any true nineties kid will remember the episode of Friends (The One with the Video Tapes) in which Joey tells the elusive seduction story of him backpacking through Europe  ‘hiking in the foothills of mount Tibidabo’. While visiting the real Mount Tibabdabo might not bring you the luck it brought Joey, it is certainly a sight to see. Standing at 512 meters, it’s the tallest of all of the Collserola mountains and marks the frontier of the Barcelona’s county. It also houses Barcelona’s only theme park with 25 rides, a telecommunications tower and an imposing neo-gothic style Catholic Church.  Natch.  It’s well worth the walk up from Mount Tibabdo metro station and the dizzying height of the funicular to find the best panoramic view of Barcelona (as well as the best candy floss). For something a little closer to sea level, the Barcelona Bunkers offer a full 360º view of the city, revealing everything from the spiralling city street to the glorious beaches. Built in 1937 and used during the air raids in the Civil War, the site has come to be regarded as Barcelona’s most popular secret space.

No visit in Barcelona would be complete without paying a visit to the legendary Parc Guell. The park is a breath-taking space overlooking the city filled with Gaudi’s remarkable architecture and signature mosaics. While general entry to the park is free, unfortunately they now charges for entry to the Monumental zone, the space where all of Gaudi’s work can be found. Depending on how badly you want a picture with a mosaicked lizard, these tickets can be booked online for seven euros,  though it is probably worth mentioning that the average supermarket rose here is a mere two euros.  My tip? Take a peek through the gates and some well angled pictures and head to the nearest supermarket with seven euros in your pocket and sense of smug superiority in your heart.

Where to party

Razzmatazz is probably one of the best known clubs in Barcelona – and for good reason.  This gigantic warehouse club caters for a huge variety of events and tastes, hosting everything from tech house to electro pop. It’s a little off from the centre but revellers can hop on buses straight to the club from outside Corte Ingles in the city centre and often tickets for events can be bought on the beach from Razzmatazz young PR staff.

What to wear (aka how not to look like a tourist)

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1.Hat £10 by Topshop |2. Slit Skirt £155 by Whistles |3. Off the Shoulder Top £20 by Miss Selfridge |4. Black Sandals £65 by Topshop |5. Bracelets £30, £45 and £50 all from HS Samuel

The local girls are naturally dripping in the latest finds from sexy Spanish labels Mango and Zara (and unfortunately the less sexy but equally popular Desigual) and while this is undoubtedly a stylish city, shopping is bound to be your last priority when in Barcelona. Instead pack casual but party ready outfits – heels are a no-no here – the look is one part boho one part raver. By day wear Supergas and cat eyed sunnies with a bag that fits snuggly under your arm or across your body (in other words, don’t let the pickpockets immediately target you.)A snazzy leotard or swimming costume paired with shorts is sure to keep you cool when you’re fighting you way through sweaty ravers in the wee small hours. If sightseeing is more your thing, stack some delicate bracelets and pair them with a floaty skirt and a top that let’s the sun bronze your shoulders.

The local lingo

Catalonians, in general, are a feisty lot. With a history of fighting for their traditions, culture and lately, their independence, the people of Catalonia are no pushovers– add this to a mix of clueless British stag dos on packed out metro and things might get a little heated. The best way to win them over is to speak their language – no matter how feeble your grasp of Catalan. Pronunciation is fairly straightforward and of course, is very similar to Spanish. Still no clue? When in doubt, always praise Messi.

Useful Phrases

Yes Sí

No No

Hello!/Hi! ¡Hola!

Hello Buenos días

Thank you (very much) (Muchas) gracias

You’re welcome De nada

Okay Bien

Please Por favor

Excuse me Perdóneme

Do you speak English?  ¿Habla inglés?

I’m sorry Lo siento/Perdone

I don’t know No lo sé

The shoes at Next are fabulous and I’m not even afraid to say it.

I’ve already mentioned how suburban mum favourite Next has recently upped is shoegame. At the risk of sounding like a Next groupie (is there even such a thing?) I’m going to tell you all over again.

These shoes remind me of the kind that Carrie Bradshaw would lose it over, buy and then declare that she was broke for a month. Unlike those shoes however, these babies won’t set you back more than £60 so you don’t have to running around saying rubbish like ‘I bought the shoes because I felt they will feed me more.’ *

So treat yourself to a few new pairs – not to sound cliché but these heels will take you from boardroom to bar and everything else in between. They’re pretty snazzy and grown up, with just a hint of LK Bennett, but they’ll look good with everything from distressed denim to flippy skirts. Go forth and shop, after all it’s what Carrie would do.

Black Mule £55 |Laced Sandal £60 |Black Point Mule £30 |Monochrome Strap Point Toe Shoe £32 |Strap Detail Shoes £35 |Nude Metal T-bar Shoes £36

 

 

*To paraphrase CB. In all seriousness the more I watch Sex and the City as I get older the more I question it. Yesterday I watched the one where Carrie literally asks Miranda if she is turned on by a man dressed as a hot dog. Seriously, what was that about?

How to Shop Stylishly on a Red Stripe Budget

I really need to stop keeping up with the Kardashians. With more consistency than I’d like to admit, I always keep up to date with the who/what/wear of the Kardashian clan.  Kylie and Kendall have undoubtedly upped the family’s fashion A-game (or K-game as I guess they’d prefer) with  eighteen year old Kendall  recently seen walking in Paris Couture week and dripping in designer garms for Givenchy’s latest ads, while I sit at home, a recent graduate the wrong side of twenty two, shopping low to high on bargain sites.

For now, it seems that my budget is more Red Stripe than Raf Simons but does that mean I’ll be going cold turkey on the fashion front? Hell no, couldn’t even if I wanted to. And although some girls are able to work thrift store finds, I have neither the patience nor the ounce of hipster authenticity that this pursuit requires. So for now it’s just about being sensible rather than stupidly ignoring the inevitable lure of the shops. Here’s what I’ve learned from being poor and and having a savings account that affords little more than a Red Stripe, never mind new Topshop’s new red sandals:

You are never too fancy for Argos.

Okay now, don’t roll your eyes fashion snob. I’m not advocating that you go all Jeremy Kyle and get your engagement ring here, but for low priced (real) gold you really can’t beat the big A and it’s gigantic catalogue. My new favorite guilty pleasure Niykee Heaton layers up her ghetto fab gold necklaces which she herself declares are from ‘ratchet malls’ and I can’t wait to follow suit and splurge in Argos guilt free. No maxed out credit card, no green fingers and no one needs to know.

H&M is a good as designer

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Everytime I go into H&M I practically sprint past everything and head straight to H&M Trend, or what me and my friends affectionately refer to as Pink Label, the Holy Grail of High Street Fashion or just, em, Pink Label. It really is amazing stuff that looks like it was designed entirely for fashion fanatics and street style bloggers. I usually woose out and buy the safe stuff rather than the off the wall stuff that I really, really want but it’s all good, and most importantly, it’s all cheap.

You can do the Whistles look on an ASOS budget

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As mentioned above premium lines from high street brands are your new best friend. ASOS White essentially rips of Whistles (in a really, really good way) and like H&M, it’s slightly more expensive than the regular ASOS stuff but is still cheap enough to add to your online basket with only minor pangs of anxiety.

Do some investigating, like a shopping Sherlock.

Superga is great. When I first started buying them they were only £25 – now you’d be lucky to get them for under £45 – buying trainers is daylight robbery these days. While Superga sales are great for bargains (£17!) their range of sizes isn’t always great. Don’t be afraid to look them up on Ebay. Just don’t make the same mistake as my friend did – if they are NWT and only £6 they are pretty much guaranteed to be children’s size, even if that’s not made explicit. ASOS Marketplace, similarly, is a great place to find what you want for less. I’ve picked up a few American Apparel pieces for next to nothing while my friend found a new season men’s Cos coat for 20 quid.

Unineed is my latest find. Admittedly a rubbish name for a site that sells heavily discounted beauty and fashion buys, but it’s pretty much like shopping duty free. While their fashion side of things is a bit dodgy, their beauty bargains are amazing – with everything from YSL Touche Eclat to Benefit brow kits being sold at a fraction of their usual price.

I’ve also been recommended to try Lyst – a comparison site that promises to be the shopping equivalent of Skyscanner.

Aspirational footwear in unlikely places

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Zara and New Look are undoubtedly the reigning Queens of fast fashion footwear. Each season you can buy a couple of on trend shoes without feeling too guilty and/or strapped for cash. But may I also recommend shock contender River Island? A seriously cool girl was rocking silver flatform sandals under her robes at graduation and I was deeply jealous until I found them in the sale days later along with a few other gems.

The ultimate footwear surprise however has to the suburban mum superstore Next – I got some pretty great strappy heels from there – very Rhianna- that have taken me from nights out, to graduation, and then out to work the next day. Despite having a fair few cringe chiropractic looking shoes on offer, they also stock dead ringers for Birkenstocks (in a cool navy suede) , fashion forward clogs and a pair of low heels that would make Olivia Palermo squeal with jealousy.

M&S does it best.

So much more than the home of Two for Ten, national treasure Marks and Spencer have been trying to up their fashion ante for a while now. Despite pulling in the big celebs for the campaigns and an even bigger supermodel to design lingerie, Marks recently admitted to yet another slump in sales. Every time they announce a slump it honestly pierces my heart but shopping there goes far beyond my sense of british duty. Their stuff is actually really good. I’ve bought my ‘comfy’ jeans there for ages, you can’t beat their snazzy indigo denim jeans for only £17 a pop in the sale. Right now they are also absolutely nailing the humble jumper. These two remind me slightly of Hannah Reid’s enviable style and I reckon they’d look great with some high waisted vintage jeans when winter finally creeps in. Also worth mentioning is their cheap as chips cashmere (not really cheap as chips, but you know what I mean.) Spot a cashmere jumper on Net a Porter and it will cost you upwards of £300, in Markey’s you can get them for £30. Try the men’s section for oversized knits with a round neck and grab them in navy or grey. Perfect for wearing with a statement skirt.

The Ultimate Guide to Budapest for Every Budget

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The city, divided into Buda and Pest, has a history as dark as it is diverse. Occupied by both the Nazis and the Soviets and only becoming a free republic in 1989, Budapest has transformed itself into a bohemian playground full of wine bars, hip restaurants and outstanding architecture. The city itself is full of juxtapositions – standing hillside, Eden-like Buda casts a magnificent shadow over the gritty and urban Pest, while much of the impressive neoclassical architecture, is in fact only 50 years old, rebuilt following the destruction of the Second World War. Yet the contradictions are what make it one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world, where the new and the old are perfectly entwined to create an idyllic city and an atmosphere that is second to none.

When to go

Bargain airlines offer cheap flights out all year round and the destination is fast becoming the only city break worth bragging about. In the summer months the heat soars to 90 degrees, making it the perfect time to enjoy all the outdoor baths and walk the city streets. Saying that, tourists may also wish to return in the winter months, when the entire city will be coated in snow and boasts one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in the world as well as countless winter markets and festivals.

Where to stay

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The blogosphere has gone mad for Brody House – a B&B with a twist. Radio One DJ Gemma Cairney, labels this place ‘the best hotel in the world’ and it’s not hard to see why. Each one of the 11 rooms has been decorated and designed by different artists who have all spent time at Brody Studios. As a result, the hotel boasts an eclectic mix of designs celebrating Budapest’s emerging art scene. The vintage antiques and stripped back brick walls give it a twenties speak-easy vibe yet the staff strives to offer the ultimate modern hotel experience. You can borrow CDs and DVDS for your room and take advantage of their honesty bar- making it the perfect home away from home. A truly unique experience, far better than any Air bnb you could find. Prices starting at 70 euros a night.

If you are looking for something a little cheaper but still want a private room and a central location, look no further than Pal’s Hostel. Unlike most hostels you can actually rent an apartment space, perfect if you are travelling with friends. Situated near the Chain Bridge, around the corner from popular bars and restaurants, you are also located by the intersection of all three metro lines. Prices start at just 12 Euros a night.

According to the locals there are two types of people in Budapest: the ones that stay in Buda and the ones that want to stay in Buda. While there is a lot more accommodation on offer in Pest, see what all the fuss is about over in Buda by staying at the hillside Hilton resort. The Hilton is perched right in the centre of the castle district in Buda; neighbouring buildings include the Royal Palace and the Fishermen’s Bastion. Built on the request of Golden Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor, this hotel used to be one of the only places Westerners could stay during Cold War and the Soviets had wires and bugs in every room. These days, the hotel offers a lot more privacy and promises panoramic views of the entire city. Prices start from 130 euros.

Where to drink

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Hip, unpretentious and just a little bit grungy, Budapest’s nightlife is what would happen if Glasgow and Leeds met and shared a dirty pint.  With an unmistakable retro vibe, Budapest’s party scene is littered with hipster hangouts, ruin pubs and wine bars celebrating all that the local vineyards have to offer.

A must see is the Jewish district, the undisputable nightlife hub. Start on Dob street and wind your way round all the quirky bars and clubs this area has to offer. One of the best picks is Doblo wine bar (Dob Utca). This little bar is all exposed brick and smoky settings with staff more than willing to educate you on the local wine. Sit under vintage chandeliers and enjoy a glass of Hungarian red or white wine for the perfect evening treat.  Just around the corner sits the infamous Király Utca, a cluster of restaurants and bars including Koral and Lokal, great for a late night drink. But it’s Spiler that really stands out. The mix is pure downtown New York with a hint of Hungarian edginess and is great for those looking for something more familiar (steak, pizza burgers) but still want a magical setting. Fairylights included natch.

Then head to Kazinczy Utca (dubbed as the street of culture) and visit one of the spectacular open-air garden pubs  that are considered the best party spots in Budapest, try Szimpla, 400 Bar or Ellátó. For clubbing it’s best to head out later, most clubs don’t get going until midnight and stay open till sunrise. For a night of good music and plenty of dancing work your way round any of the clubs on Dob, Wesselenyi Utcas and Kiraly. These warehouse clubs split music and bars over various floors and offer everything from techno-house to electro-pop.

Where to go

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No beach I hear you cry! No problem – Budapest’s Baths are world famous, offering the chance to lounge in mineral water that promises to cure all your aches and pains. At the Gellért Thermal Bath, they have both outdoor and indoor pools as well as every spa facility you could imagine. But ladies be warned, it’s not uncommon to have male masseuses. Come in the morning when it’s less busy and once you are done, head straight uphill to the Statue of Liberty (and one of the best views in the city). If you fancy some sunbathing and beach fun outside the baths however, head to Margaret Island. At the weekend this place is buzzing with locals and tourist taking advantage of the amazing outdoor pools, flumes and bars (see above image). Plus there is also quieter corners for those wishing to chill out in the shade or enjoy a run, cycle or walk around the island.

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If lounging around isn’t for you, there is still plenty sites to see. In fact, you’ll be doing well to fit them all into a short weekend break. For lovers of history, the spectacular House of Terror is a must see. This unsuspecting townhouse was the headquarters for the Nazis, and later the Soviets, earning its name from the horrible crimes that went on inside until 1989. The whole house has been fully renovated into an ultra modern and slick museum – apart from the basement where the killings took place, which remains chillingly untouched.

How to get around

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The transport system of Budapest has to be one of the best in Europe. The first underground in Europe (so the Hungarians claim, the first was actually in London) and trams that offer panoramic view of the city operate frequently across the whole city well into the night, and are much better value than hopping into an overpriced street cab.  That said, the best way to see Budapest is by foot, that way you can wind your way round the various squares, gape at the outstanding architecture and soak up the electric atmosphere of the various districts. Well worth doing is going on one of the fantastic bike tours on offer, try Yellow Zebra Bikes. Their tour last just over three hours taking you from the Opera House on Andrássy Avenue and all the way up to the Castle District in Buda, passing all the must see sights along the way. With the guide’s fantastic knowledge of the destinations and history, and a pit stop at a slick bar to sample some local delicacies, this tour is a must if you want to catch all of Budapest’s highlights.

Where to shop

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Perhaps the reason why Budapest hasn’t gathered as much acclaim as other European cities is that fashion hasn’t really arrived in Budapest. Aside from a couple Zara’s and  H&M’s, the style here is definitively Eastern European so you’re not likely to spot any cutting edge fashionistas or upcoming trends here. Aside from the overpriced designer stores on Andrassy Avenue, high fashion shops are few and far between. Save your well-earned forint for the duty free.

What to pack

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In the summer, temperatures reach an almighty 90 degree, so pack light. Airy dresses and comfy sandals for all the walking. Dressing is very casual –  locals here tend to wear as little as possible and as mentioned already, aren’t at all fussed with the latest trends.

Handy phrases

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Hungarians pride themselves on having a language that is near impossible to master. Alongside Russian and Mandarin, the Hungarian language is one of the trickiest in the world so don’t feel deflated if those phrases you learnt from your guidebook are received with blank faces or confusion.  That said, the locals really appreciate it if you try. The most useful then, is köszönöm (coo-sey-nom), their word for thank you. Basic English is spoken where needed – hotels, restaurants and airports -otherwise you’re pretty much on you own (aside from the mandatory tourist hand gestures obviously).

Beyonce and Solange Festival Fashion

Move over Olsens, fashion has a new ultra talented twin set in town.

As if their gorgeous looks and amazing vocals were’t enough, Beyonce and Solange have the wardrobe every girl wants to have this summer. Beyonce may have burst on to the Grammy stage earlier this year in little more than gaffer tape, some BeDazzled tights and a very elegant thong (and a vegan body to die for) but Queen Bey looked like she was taking style tips from sister Solange this weekend. Beyonce jumped on to the stage and joined her little sis in an impromptu dance off at Coachella, and both sisters rocked it out wearing clashing prints and matching wild curls.

Bold prints, crop tops and citrus colours – these sisters really know how to nail festival dressing. Look below and see how you can get the girls’ ultra stylish summer look and check out the video of them dancing along to ‘Losing You’ together at the bottom of the post.

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 22.12.501. T-shirt, £85 by Lulu & Co  |2. Top, £30 by Zara |3. Sunglasses, £25 by Quay Charlie at ASOS |4. Earrings, £78 by J.Crew |5. Trousers, £26 by Zara    |6. Skirt, £30 by Zara |7. Shoes, £40 by ASOS

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 22.18.18|8. Sweatshirt, £19 by TWINTIP (zalando.co.uk) |9. Skirt, £38 by Topshop |10. Rucksack, £30 by Herschel (coogles.com) |11. Bra, £17 and briefs £7 by Other Stories |12. Sunglasses, £165 by Karen Walker |13. Suede clutch, £30 by ASOS  |14. Heels, £35 by Topshop

 

 

Made in Chelsea Wardrobe Make Over

Why is everyone obsessed with Made in Chelsea?

I say everyone but  I’m really referring to twenty-something uni girls, who grab their flatmates and sit down every Monday night to scream at twits on TV. Really, I’m talking about me.

But why do we love to hate it so much? We’re getting degrees in Biomedicine, Engineering and Law but week after week, we tune in to watch the lives of the uber privileged people who believe that genius is spelt with a J.

 We live off cup-a-soups and tetley, can’t afford our roots to be done and spend our life in onesies and/or dingy sportswear yet we judge people with weekly holidays, champagne on tap and who dress like they just popped into Harvey Nicks and rolled around a bit.

Wait a sec, that’s exactly why they judge them – the way the dress. Yes they are all stuck up, selfish, ignorant bimbos – they cheat, they lie (they don’t steal – far too rich for that) but all in all, without a shadow of a doubt, they are bad people.

But in my eyes all is fair in love and bitching as long as they have a good blow dry. Remember way back at the start of MIC when the storylines were far more tame and the love lives far less incestuous? They still cheated (Hugo and Millie) and lied (all of them) but I could overlook all of their flaws if they wore a nice top. It was as simple as that. Yes its petty and superficial – but you have to remember I am the student living off beans, toast and Primark knock offs, I just want something nice to look at and some unrealistic dream (aside for a graduate job) to swoon over.

Back in the days, a perfect tan, highlights and a strong statement necklace was all it took for me to overlook their bad behaviour. We had Millie’s statement wardrobe, Caggie’s pout and Amber’s knuckleduster rings.The fashion was almost a cast member in its own right and certainly more exciting than Cheska.

But suddenly everything went downhill – the cast started to look more like TOWIE expats than SW3 chic. The tans got deeper and the extensions got longer (Binky I’m looking at you). Now it all feels a bit more Sauchiehall St and a lot less Savile Row.

Monday, its back and I think a make over is long overdue. Here is how I would re-style the leading ladies.

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