Souvenirs from Japan

Back in London and bought a pretty significant amount of Japan home with me 

A photo posted by Laila Layla (@lailapictures) on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:29pm PDT


I’d wanted to visit Japan for a very long time and knew I would want souvenirs; for months before going I was avoiding buying things I need so I could instead shop in Japan.You may have seen this snap on my instagram – one of my most liked images – today I’ll show you what I got! I have to say I felt very hypocritical as I’m just not the “haul” kind of girl. I don’t go crazy with my purchases; I shop rarely and I hate buying replacements or items similar to things I already own. I‘m also very conscious of where my stuff comes from and goes back too (as you may have guessed from my ethical and vegan lifestyle choices). That being said; I absolutely planned to buy a lot in Japan and purposefully took more money than I thought I’d need to live (first time I’ve ever done that for a holiday…!). 

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Mini-guide: Cardiff

Crown arcade roof detail interior cardiff

I’ve only been to Cardiff a handful of times but I thought I’d create this little guide of our favourite shops and cafes I discovered on my most recent visit there. We spent our days in Cardiff shopping for vintage clothes, admiring the adorable arcades and eating wonderful food. I highly recommend a trip to Cardiff if you can get there; it’s beautiful!
Be warned, there are a lot of photos in this post – everything was so pretty I just wanted to document it all! I’ve written about the place underneath the photos and I’ve put links in all the headings if you want to find out more.

Vintage zizou front
Vintage Zizou display cardiffVintage zizou layouts


(16 Crown Arcade, CF10 1BU)

Vintage Zizou is a clothes and accessories shop for women; for a relatively small premises they have a very varied stock with vintage and contemporary clothes, bags, jewellery, vintage accessories and some gorgeous bridal wear. My friends were quick to drag me away from the wedding dresses before I could spend another half an hour dressed in tulle. Prices were fairly reasonable; I got a beautiful costume jewellery for £6 and one of my friends took home a stunning sequinned top for £25 which was in mint condition.

Childrens books lined up on a wallsecond hand book store sign


(39-43 Castle Arcade)

Troutmark Books is an absolute must-visit if you’re a bookworm like I am. The shop appears deceptively small from outside but once you get set foot inside you’re confronted with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The shop spans 3 floors and has a huge selection of genres available. The shop owner is very friendly and we spent a long time poring over various titles in this shop. Being the kid I am, I especially loved these old children’s books with beautifully coloured spines and the impressive comics collection.

Sophies cafe in Cardiff


(16 High Street Arcade)

There are a huge number of cafes around Cardiff and I won’t lie, we chose to go in to Sophie’s purely because we had a Sophie in our group. Sophie’s specialise in crepes and galettes and although there were no vegan options listed they were happy to accommodate and create something new for me. Again this cafe was deceptively small; however downstairs there was a spacious seating area where we occupied the sofa for a good hour or so.


Hubbards Cupboard interior
Cushions in Hubbards Cupboard
Hubbards Cupboard front window display
Hubbards Cupboard dress window


(35 Castle Arcade)

This shop was so beautiful! Light, airy and very well-presented; we spent a long time in here as it was also one of the first places we found with a decent mens section. The shop was split into two sections; vintage on one side (with a great selection of dresses ranging from medium to high prices) and crafts, stationary and wedding bits and pieces on the other side, all laid out impeccably. I’d recommend this shop to seasoned vintage shoppers or crafty people with an interest in aesthetically pleasing displays!

Barkers afternoon tea
Barkers Tea interior
Barkers Tea Danilo reading


(High Street Arcade)
I’m genuinely upset I don’t live closer to this place as I have been telling everybody about Barker Tea House since I got back to London. I am a prolific tea drinker and the mate infused with mint that I tried at Barker Tea House was exquisite! This was the last “meal” we had in Cardiff; the mini afternoon tea for one came with scones and chocolate brownies that were extremely rich and shared between three people we had more than enough. The upstairs area has a lovely interior which kind of reminded me of an updated country house or old-school british library; I loved the floral tiles that were used as accents and the stripped wood everywhere. I can imagine whiling away a lot of afternoons chatting with friends in this place. (Side note: doesn’t Danilo look like an advert for beards?)

Hobos in CardiffHobos vintage shop in CardiffFriends outside Hobos


(26 High Street Arcade)

Cardiff is well-known as a vintage destination and I don’t know if Hobos is the oldest vintage shop there but it certainly seems to be one of the most iconic. The stock isn’t hugely varied, instead focusing more on popular vintage items (such as silk blouses and varsity jackets). You’re unlikely to stumble across a sequinned ballgown but the items they are all in excellent condition and available in a good selection of colours and prints. For people who take a more streamlined approach to vintage shopping or those who have a more classic style I’d recommend Hobos. They also had a great selection of upcycled vintage items and retro inspired clothes (including the Northern Soul dress I wore in this post!).

Barkers Coffee


(13 Castle Arcade)
On my previous trip to Cardiff with James we had an idyllic meal here; I can’t remember what I ordered but I can remember both James and I talking about how great the food was on the train home. Another gorgeous cafe where I could happily spend a few hours if there weren’t so many other things to go and see! The interior has a kind of New York coffee bar feel to it, with squishy brown sofas and lots of cute metal signs.

Garlands Cafe


 (4 Duke Street Arcade)
A couple of locals recommended their Garlands so we headed there on our final (hungover) morning. The vegetarian/vegan breakfast was so filling and although quite a small and busy place the staff let us sit around for a while which made us feel very at home. Prices were great and the plates were so large it was really good value for money. I also recommend their juice; it was amazing!

Claire Grove Buttons displayClaire Grove buttons shop


(45 Castle Arcade)

This shop was about to close by the time we got there but a quick look around confirmed that they have a HUGE selection of buttons and beads from all over the world. The shop has been there for over 30 years and they also have a selection of quirky cards and prints. If there was a specific button or bead you were after I imagine you’d be able to find it here but it’s a great place just to browse as well – the shop is quite small but beautifully laid out.

Cardiff Fashion Quarter outside colourful entrance
Cardiff Fashion Quarter mural
Cute displays at Cardiff fashion quarter
Retro kitsch designs at Cardiff fashion quarter
Interior layout of top part of CFQ
Vintage clothes at Cardiff fashion quarter
Colourful displays at Cardiff Fashion Quarter
Cute paper flower display
Rhinestone cowbosys


(Womanby Street)

Cardiff Fashion Quarter is almost a miniature shopping mall of independent traders selling a combination of vintage and contemporary clothes, books, jewellery and furniture. It’s based inside a converted cinema and is spread across two floors. Some of our favourite shops were Rhinestone Cowboy, Nelly’s Treasures, Rock-Ola Reborn, Bada Peng and Freak Unique Boutique. The whole space was beautifully decorated with fairy lights, bunting, paper flowers and pretty wallpapers covering the space and each stall had cute displays, we spent such a long time just wandering around and browsing all the cute retro toys!


Other places I would recommend based on my previous visits to Cardiff:

Chapter Arts

One of my favourite arts centres with a really good programme of events, also the cafe is absolutely amazing!

Spillers Records

Obviously I collect records so I’m always biased towards record shops anyway but even if you’re not a vinyl owner this shop is worth a visit anyway – it’s the oldest record shop in the world.

Natural History Museum of St Fagans

The Gate Arts Centre

Bute Park



So there we go, a few of my suggestions for Cardiff! I’ve not really written any city guides like this before so let me know if it’s useful or if you’d like to see more. If you have any favourite places in Cardiff pop them in the comments so other people can go there too!


Dress of dreams

dress selfieoh my skirtbehind curtain looking outsmiley!
straightening up
We were wandering around Cardiff when one of my friends noticed a shop selling brightly coloured sequin maxi dresses and said “Laila, your dream shop is here!”. I ran inside only to discover the most BEAUTIFUL dress I have ever seen nestled on the back wall. Peachy satin corset, sequinned lace flowers, frilly bows and diamnate ruffles leading into a lengthy feathered train; what more could any self-respecting fairy princess want?! The very friendly shop assistant told us it was the only one of it’s kind and had never been tried on. I pretty much leapt into it when I found out it was in my size and she kindly let me cavort around in it long enough for all the boys to get bored and head to the bike shop next door.

I always loved fairies and princesses and the bigger and more whimsical the better! My Pinterest board of dreamy clothes has a lot of frilly fantasy items and my love for princess clothing has led me to amass quite the collection of second hand wedding dresses over the years (sadly no groom in sight) and probably a few more tiaras than is necessary for a freelance musician and volunteer charity worker. Sadly I didn’t have a spare £365 to add this particular number to my collection, but rest assured as soon as I can I’ll be back to snap it up for future gigs, carnival parades and midnight dances with charming members of fairy royalty… well, I can dream right?

Facebook/Twitter/Bloglovin/LookBook/Pinterest/Flickr/Soundcloudappearingwearing the dressstanding at front in dressback of dress bending over


feeding swans girl outside egyptian geese mute swan uk outside exterior surrey green housepair of mute swan royal white swan england uk surrey outside driveway bricksfeeding swans girl outside egyptian geese mute swan uk outside exterior surrey green house feeding swans girl outside egyptian geese mute swan uk outside exterior surrey green house My parents live by a river and for as long as I can remember “feeding the swans” has been a part of daily life. Swans re-use their nests each year and also teach their cygnets to find food (as opposed to the babies stay in the nest and the parents bring them food) and so generations of swans have learnt that hanging around outside our front door results in food. Over the years canadian geese and egyptian geese (as seen here) have come to join the party. I’m particularly fond of the egyptian geese; they’re more timid than the other birds and have the most beautiful plumage (which I shamelessly tried to copy in my outfit).

Swans have an image of being regal and graceful, but a hungry swan on land is anything but: they waddle clumsily, flapping, hissing and honking noisily and fighting with the local cats, dogs, geese and ducks, invariably winning. Swans are very fierce and ours actually broke a ducks wing once which resulted in an RSPCA call-out. Whilst our swans eat from your hand that’s mostly because they’re so greedy they reach out to snatch food from your hand before you can throw it on the floor. Inevitably you end up with scratches on your fingers from their beaks but I like it; all animals are wild and there’s something inherently unsettling about tame animals who eat politely from human hands. I’m a supporter of animal rights and don’t believe in pets, so I love this kind of close encounter with animals especially when it happens on a daily basis! What wildlife do you have near your house?shiny skirt shiny shoes bronze metallic skirt goldfeeding egyptian geese outsidefeeding swans girl outside egyptian geese mute swan uk outside exterior surrey green housemute swan open beak outstretched food hungry *Whenever I refer to  “our” swans I am referring to the wild swans who my family regularly feed as their nest is in our garden. In no way do we own the swans and I am against the concept of owning an animal or a pet.

The Dolls House

dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall designdead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall design dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall design thank cluck dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall design Welcome to The Dolls House in Dalston, presented by aesthetic wonderkids Dead Dolls Club. I don’t know if you would describe me as a party animal as I tend to be too broke to go out every week, but I do love a good night out dancing with my friends! The Dead Dolls Club have essentially taken over an abandoned house in Hoxton and filled every floor with gorgeous drawings and murals on the walls and ceilings. It really does make you feel like you’re in a life size dolls house! Each floor had a slightly different theme whilst maintaining the unique atmosphere throughout the house. The dining hall (pictured in the above picture) felt very Parisian and art deco whilst the dance floor (top picture) felt a bit more western saloon to me. They had amazing cocktails available on a couple different floors – I really fell for the Admiral Bloom – and though we missed the dining there were burgers down in the basement courtesy of the really lovely Thank Cluck who had some pretty tasty vegetarian options.

I am often jokingly referred to as “the hipster” one amongst this particular group of friends and as we normally hang out in bog standard pubs or theatres, so heading to Hoxton (trend central ever since Hadouken! rocked up) was a bit of a departure. It became a bit of a running joke that we were heading to “my house”, “home territory” and partying with “my kind”; I played up to this by wearing some clear frames as obviously nothing taps into that Hoxton mythology better than a pair of fake frames. I did then hilariously bump into one of my friends unexpectedly which was pretty good punchline to that joke! All in all it was a great night out – would you be up for a party in a giant doll house?

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White shirt – River Island, £15.  Pinafore – Ark Clothing, £15. Shoes – Comme Des Garcons via charity shop, £6. Gold studded socks – Urban Outfitters, £4 (sale). Fake frames – Camden Market, £1 for two. Pink shoelaces – Camden Market, 75p (haggling!).dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall design

dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out interior wall design dead dolls house shoreditch east london brick lane night out

Old Town

IMG_7991arhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets stone walls day light exterior old townrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets stone walls day light exterior old town garden purple lilac flowersrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets stone walls day light exteriorrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets stone walls day light exterior old townrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets stone walls day light exteriorLaila greece rhodes old town exterior

This will be my last post on Rhodes and I’m sharing my pictures of the old city with you. My travel companion Philly and I were so enchanted by the old city that we spent our last evening there, getting lost amongst the cobbled street and staring wistfully at the beautiful displays in all the shops. Most of the roads are nameless and the city doesn’t follow any kind of grid structure so it’s very easy to lose your way. Philly and I soon gave up trying to use the maps dotted around the city and just followed our noses until we arrived at a gate.

The city was warm and welcoming in the daytime despite the imposing stone wall, but by nighttime the old town was magically lit up with strings of fairy lights. The maze-like quality of the streets was enhanced by the darkness and it almost gave the impression that the minute you turned a corner the rest of the town was shuffling itself around behind you! Most of the shop in the old town are open front, with huge archways leading directly into the display area. As we walked past we could gaze in to the colourful, meticulously laid out displays inside with shops selling all manner of items: lace, carpets, swords, honey, ceramics, gold chains, sandals, postcards, stationary, musical instruments, statues and traditional wood and leather crafts. The best way to spend our final evening in Rhodes!

Thank you to Philly for all the photos of me in this post (and my last two Rhodes posts here and here) and for being such an awesome travel companion! You can read her blog here, and follow mine on Facebook, bloglovin and twitter.

rhodes old town greece castle display shop ceramics statues bust rhodes old town greece castle display shop ceramics bowls cats kittyrhodes old town greece castle display shop coloured lights glass lantern pretty redLaila greece rhodes exteriorrhodes old town greece castle display shop wine cellar knights medievalrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets night bank display tilesrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets night painter artist street artistrhodes old town walls exterior cobble streets night guitar musician busker

Polkadots & Plimsolls

Modcloth peppermint mint turoquoise polka dot dress cape layers cape shell exterior glass building camden  tapeparade tape parade mel melissa white plimsolls Modcloth peppermint mint turoquoise polka dot dress cape layers cape shell exterior glass building camden  tapeparade tape parade mel melissa white plimsolls I’m not really a fan of pastel colours but this minty polka dot dress won me over, mostly because it has A CAPE. This minty turquoise colour has become a favourite of mine in recent times, I don’t know if it has been a trend recently but I seem to see lots of people wearing knitted jumpers in a similar colour. The dress is from ModCloth and was brought by my auntie last time she visited. These photos were taken by the glass building in Camden, as one passer-by commented I blended in pretty well with my dress!

I’m also wearing my new plimsolls. Plimsolls (and studded boots) are my default shoe, and most of the pairs I own are about 5 years old, inherited from my grandma (and therefore a size too small) discoloured and full of holes. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than £5 on a pair before, but this summer I decided it was time to invest in something better. That’s where these plastic plimsolls from Melissa stepped in! I purchased them for £22.99 down in Covent Garden (who are very open to haggling) and have really enjoyed having shoes that retain their colour and shape for more than a week. The red soles remind of Sonic the Hedgehog (probably my favourite game character) and being made of plastic they feel super springy as well;  very different to canvas shoes! What do you guys think of plastic shoes?

white plastic plimsolls mel melissa brand new wiffle white yellow blue redModcloth peppermint mint turoquoise polka dot dress cape layers cape shell exterior glass building camden  tapeparade tape parade mel melissa white plimsolls Modcloth peppermint mint turoquoise polka dot dress cape layers cape shell exterior glass building camden  tapeparade tape parade mel melissa white plimsolls Modcloth peppermint mint turoquoise polka dot dress cape layers cape shell exterior glass building camden  tapeparade tape parade mel melissa white plimsolls

Camden Day

aIMG_7248ImageImageLast Friday was James And Laila Day! Regular readers will probably have read about James before as we spend so much time together. In the absence of any kind of formal anniversary we decided to start James and Laila Day – one day per month devoted to not working together and instead hanging out and having fun. As it was my turn to plan James and Laila Day I decided to share some of my regular haunts with James. I live and work in Camden and it’s always been this bit of London that feels most like home to me, despite being born and raised in the south. I go for a daily walk around the markets and often stop in after work on my way home as well.

We started off the day with an amazing breakfast and then wandered down to the market stopping at all my favourite food shops on the way, including my favourite ice-cream shop. I follow a very weird diet and it can be hard to find foods I can eat, so I’m very lucky we live by some awesome health food shops.  The first couple of pictures are taken down this little road with brightly painted houses. There’s about five of these pretty coloured streets on the route from James’ house to the market, in my head I call them rainbow roads and they remind me of the town in Edward Scissorhands.ImageImageImageThe rest of these photos are from Camden Market! Camden is divided into about 6 different markets and once upon a time each bit of market had it’s own specific focus; these days they do broadly stock variations of the same thing but there’s still some individual flavour between them. The three biggest markets are Camden Locks (arts and crafts), Stables Market (subcultures and imported fashions) and Horse Tunnel Market (vintage and antiques). It was such a gorgeous sunny day and even though I visit the same places every other day, it was fun sharing that part of my day with James. I should be employed as a tour guide as I know the whole layout so well by now.

After the market we went to Honest Burgers for dinner (no photos!) and whilst the chips and drinks were amazing the no-meat option was essentially a vegetable pakora in a bap; definitely not recommended. We also went to our favourite pub and the cinema, needless to say we were pretty tired when we traipsed home later but happy and content. It’s so important to spend quality time with your friends, especially if (like me) most of your close friends also double as artistic colleagues. It’s easy to fall into the habit of just hanging out post-rehearsal and never doing activities purely for fun so I’m so glad we started this tradition. Here’s to the next James and Laila Day!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage