Colorful Cape Town tour! Table Mountain, Bo Kaap houses, Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island.

rainbow houses bo-kaap, malay district

Did you know Cape Town is so colorful? My face says it all: I loved it here. On Day 1, I experienced the city’s kind people, diverse neighborhoods, soulful cooking, and intriguing history.

Follow my rainbow shoes, as I explore the South African city by land, air and water.

cape town V&A Waterfront boat tour

Cape Town’s colorful architecture inspired me to dress accordingly. I’m wearing a Goth/rainbow tie-dyed tank top by Gladnews (the Japanese brand in Shibuya 109). My bunny ears hoodie jacket is by Peace Now. The cute Batman leggings are from Hyoma in Izzue, Hong Kong.

gladnews rainbow tank top, tie dye shirt

We started the day bright and early, with a private helicopter ride. There’s no better way to see the scenic city and its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean coastline.

private helicopter ride south africa

I was here with my two filmmakers, thanks to Cape Town Tourism. Photography in this post by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann. They captured a cinematic shot of helicopters landing with lens flare.

cape town mountain range

Up in the air — what fun! We felt safe during the helicopter ride, which was smooth and not too noisy. We could even communicate through microphones.

Out the window, we saw this mountain range with a Mohawk of African trees on top.

aerial view cape town waterfront

Cape Town began as a Dutch trading settlement, founded in 1652. As you’re probably aware, the city has a tumultuous history from the days of slavery and apartheid, to independence under Nelson Mandela. Today, Cape Town has a new and developed vibe, and is a safe destination for anyone to visit.

devil's peak cape town mountain

From any point in the city, you can see the famous flat Table Mountain, covered with a “tablecloth” of clouds. Next to it lies the Devil’s Peak, domed Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill.

robben island, nelson mandela

We flew over Robben Island, in Table Bay. Since the late 17th century, the Dutch have used this as a jail primarily for political prisoners, and as a leper colony. The first post-apartheid President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years.

nelson mandela's prison island, cape town

Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. Many visitors take the ferry here, and go on tours led by guides who were formerly prisoners on the island.

cape town ferris wheel, pier

Next, our driver took us to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, a favorite destination among both locals and tourists. We sampled artisan bread, and browsed African goods in the gift stores. I posed beneath the Ferris wheel with my lion backpack from A Bros Products, Hong Kong.

cape town v&a waterfront

Lots of quaint buildings dot the V & A. There are many attractions for families including the Two Oceans Aquarium, and four museums.

boat trips cape town waterfront

We went on a short boat ride around the harbor. A seal leaped out from the water!

south africa sailing tour

A bunny popped out too. The kids on the boat were rather amused.

bo kaap colorful painted houses

Onward to the Bo-Kaap district, distinguished by this row of rainbow-colored houses. This was the traditional neighborhood for the Cape Malay, an ethnic group descended from the Indian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company.

cape town tourism, travel bloggers campaign

One of the oldest houses is now the Bo Kaap Museum, filled with photos and objects that chronicle the district’s history over the years. Our guide told us about the insane Dutch system of racial classification: Cape Town was divided into black, white, colored, and Indian (each with sub-sections). Many of residents were mixed, and rules were applied indiscriminately.

cape malay child, cape town africans

People of “lower” classifications were forced to relocate, often to segregated townships. They received worse treatment in prisons, and limited opportunities for jobs and businesses. I can’t believe that the apartheid system lasted in South Africa until 1994 — only 20 years ago.

wale street blue house bo kaap

Today, Cape Town feels peaceful, and the city is a mix of cultures. Wale Street, found under Signal Hill, is full of character. In this mostly Muslim community, these houses are painted every year before Eid.

rainbow shoes, sandals

The colors match my sandals with a rainbow platform heel, from Shinjuku Studio Alta. I felt like wearing bright clothing the entire time I was here.

purple house boo kaap, Faldela Tolker

Faldela Tolker lives in the purple house. She offers a unique cooking tour: visitors come into her house to learn how to make Cape Malay specialties, and eat lunch at her table.

cape malay cooking school

Faldela is one warm, sassy lady! We loved her stories and sayings, like “salt is love.” From the staircase, I glimpsed her grandchild peeking at our table.

cape malay samosas, bredie

She served us samosas, with spicy sauces on the side. Next came a hearty tomato bredie (a distinctive stew with Indian flavors) and rice. We finished with sweet koesisters, a traditional syrup-coated doughnut, washed down with cardamom tea. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals I had in South Africa, and certainly the warmest.

south african chef, Faldela Tolker

Faldela then showed us how to fold and stuff samosas. She laughed at my bunny hoodie and insisted on trying it on! There’s so much heart in this home, and I’m so grateful I got to join her Cape Malay cooking “safari”.

bo kaap spice shop, atlas trading

Across the street lies Atlas Trading, a 70 year old spice shop with bins of exotic flavors. I’m not sure what “ass seeds” are. In the back, we even found cannabis and opium scented incense.

cheesy green screen tourist photos

My crew and I ended the afternoon by taking the cable car up Table Mountain. Can you believe we did all of this in a day? Everything is close together in Cape Town, so you never have to travel far to reach attractions.

Before boarding the “aerial cableway,” each group takes a photo in front of a green screen.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway souvenir photos

When we left, we saw that this image was superimposed on various backdrops, and packaged as a souvenir! So touristy and cheesy that we had to get them. I can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we look.

table mountain cable car

From the top of Table Mountain, we looked down at the rocky coastline and city. I admit we were a bit spoiled by the views we had already seen from the helicopter ride.

dassie rat, Rock hyrax

On the way back, we ran into a dassie, a squirrel-like rodent found only in southwestern Africa.

south african rat, dassie

The dassie lives on rocky outcroppings, and since there are tourists carrying food on Table Mountain, they’ve become rather bold.

touching wild animals

Melissa is doing a big no-no… One shouldn’t touch these wild animals! At least she didn’t get bitten, unlike the peacock that pierced her skin during our safari.

taj cape town hotel room

Back to my room at the Taj Hotel. I lay on the bed and stared out at this view of the mountain ranges.

table mountain, cloud tablecloth

A million thank yous to Cape Town Tourism, for bringing us to this fascinating and beautiful city! Coming up, I’ll take you on a tour of the street art, fashion designers, and African cuisine.

lion face backpack, women travel bloggers

Did you expect South Africa to look like this? Don’t miss out on the bonus photos of my trip, on my @lacarmina Instagram.

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New York club kids party! King Vulcanus Levi at Friday Factory, Library Hotel.

King Vulcanus Levi, new york club personality

Every time I go back to New York, it feels like a homecoming. I lived in NYC for years, and the city kindled my passion for nightlife, alt cultures and fashion.

One New Yorker who inspired me over the years is King Vulcanus Levi, club promoter and nightlife royalty. It was an honor to be his Queen for the night, and host an underground party together.

ny club kids, party promoters

I was here for a TV shoot, and we wanted to celebrate the city’s flamboyant underground nightlife. Reserved Consulting was launching a new club event, called Friday Factory, and it fit the bill perfectly. Their parties shine the spotlight on NYC’s underground through performances and personalities.

friday factory ny underground party

Vulcanus and I held court at this giant gold table, which was reserved for us and friends. Thanks to everyone who joined the fun, and to Reserved for the generous bottles of spiced rum!

ny androgynous club dancer

The scene at Friday Factory was like a “21st century vaudeville.” Most of the guests dressed up to the nines, in styles as diverse as Gothic, retro, leather, lace. Lots of dancing and shenanigans — that’s the New York club kid spirit.

new york club performance art

I particularly enjoyed the performance art: burlesque, whips, urban singers. The highlight was my friend Lauren. She covered her body in liquid glue, stood in a corner to let it dry, and then peeled it off and gave bits of the dried “skin” the crowd. Their reactions were priceless.

blue feather crown

I’m wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress and lace top (the brand is by Mana sama, of Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois). The blue feathered crown was bestowed upon me, by King Vulcanus Levi, who designed it himself! I urge you to add his Facebook page, to see more designs and inspiration.

(All above photos by Alex E. Houston)

peacock feather hats crowns

Before Friday Factory, Vulcanus had a pre-party at his Lower East Side apartment. He showed me his collection of handmade crowns and accessories, a pleasure-palace of peacock feathers, playing cards, Gothic crosses, jewels, and other luxuries.

The Baroness latex designer

He showed me some of signature looks from over the years. A majestic combination of bird on head, feathered collar, cinched corset (standing next to his friend, latex designer The Baroness).

king vulcanus levi, new york clubbing

Vulcanus showed me how he put on his distinctive makeup, with a pure white face, and black V-shaped lips. When I first saw him at NY clubs ages ago, I was blown away by this vision — he seemed like a royal from another planet!

gold bracelets, rings on hand

He puts thought into every aesthetic detail, down to the gloves and rings. I’m in awe at his creativity.

ny club kids makeup

All around the room, our friends were doing makeup touchups, pouring cocktails and dancing.

ny club kids partying

I’ll never get tired of the NY’s nightlife energy. So many friendly and welcoming creatures here.

white facepaint club makeup

Living here sparked my love of subcultures and alternative beauty, which continues strong to this day. In New York, you can express who you want to be, and find other like-minded creatives.

taking selfies party

And the nightlife can’t be beat! If you want to join the fun, you can check Reserved Consulting’s site for announcements about their next Friday Factory events. And add King Vulcanus Levi on Facebook to see where he’s appearing next.

library hotel manhattan room

At dawn, I was happy to lay my weary head at The Library Hotel. In my hazy state, I couldn’t remember my room number: but thankfully, each door has a unique plate that follows the Dewey Decimal System. I was on the Languages floor, so the rooms were called Romance, Asian, Germanic…

yru platform shoes, clear heel

It’s the perfect place for me to stay: a hotel dedicated to book-lovers! I love to read at night to wind down, so this put me in instant relaxation mode. Unlike some theme hotels, there is no cheesiness here: it’s 5 star luxury, with seamless service and cozy design.

Here’s a close-up of my white platform sandals, sent by YRU — here’s the link to purchase them. So cool, the clear heel with a cloud print.

monkey see no evil statue

The Library Hotel has an ideal location, near Central Park in midtown Manhattan. They have a unique “Writer in Residence” program that aims to give authors inspiration and sanctuary. If you qualify, you get a complimentary stay at their properties, and enjoy perks like the lounge and free Wifi.

elizabeth wurtzel, author of prozac nation

My friend, author Elizabeth Wurtzel, joined me for tea. The lounge serves tea, coffee, sweets and fruit all day long “to keep the creative juices flowing.”

teale coco hooded vest

There must have been over a thousand titles on the shelves, from a variety of authors. I wonder if the collection includes Elizabeth Wurtzel’s books, Prozac Nation and Bitch.

My sleeveless jacket with a hood is a gift from Teale Coco. She makes devilish harnesses too, including a full body Lucifer harness.

ny library hotel lobby

The lobby has a Great Gatsby feel. (Are you currently reading any good books? I’d love to hear your reading recommendations; leave me a note in the comments!)

bookmarks bar library hotel rooftop

Take the elevator to the top floor, and you’ll walk into Bookmarks Bar and Lounge. My friends and I drank literary-inspired cocktails — like a Hemingway made with rum, mint and champagne — on the rooftop terrace, which has a lovely view of the Empire State Building.

new york city breakfast berries

Can’t go wrong with a free breakfast that includes berries, lattes and grapefruit juice. Thanks to the Library Hotel for treating us writers like VIPs!

totoro nail art, sprites nails

Finally, a closeup of my mint-colored Totoro nail art by Glam Nail Studio. More of their kawaii Japanese nails on their Twitter.

statue of liberty, burlesque cruise

Here are some Instagram snaps from the Dances of Vice burlesque cruise, which sailed from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty. New York, I’ll never grow tired of you.

Do you you prefer dancing at clubs and holing up with a good book? Or are you fond of both, as I am?

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I went to the Tokyo owl cafe! Fukuro no Mise address, opening hours, directions, entry fee.

tokyo japan owl cafe

Yes, that’s an owl sitting in my blue hair! This summer, I visited Tokyo owl cafe Fukuro no Mise. This newest Japanese trend lets you drink coffee while petting over a dozen live owls.

Keep reading for the shop address, cover charge, hours of operation… and tons of fluffy owl photos!

owl petting theme cafe, japan

In Japan, cat cafes (where you can play with dozens of kitties) are old news. To keep the novelty fresh, people opened up petting spaces for dogs and bunnies, and penguin bars.

Now, owls are the stars of the show. Fukuro no Mise launched in 2012, and its bizarre concept became so popular that more have opened up. Today, there are two owl cafes in Tokyo (Tori no Iru and Fukurou Sabou), and two in Osaka (Owl Family and Crew), all run by different owners.

fukuro no mise, tsukishima japan

Let me take you inside! But first, the pertinent travel info…

Owl cafe address: Seven Star Mansion 1F, 2-6-7 Kiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo.
How to get here: Ride the subway to Tsukishima station (it takes about 40 minutes from Shinjuku, via Oedo or Yurakucho line). Walk out of Gate 10, and the café is a few blocks ahead.
Opening hours: Sun 12-6pm, Weds and Thurs 2-6pm, Fri 2-9pm, Sat 12-9pm. Closed Mon and Tues. English speaking staff every Friday.
Entrance fee: 2000 yen ($19.50), which includes a drink and gift book. Check their website for any changes.

フクロウのみせ

I recommend arriving at least an hour before doors open to make a reservation, since the spaces fill up quickly and can’t be booked in advance. (I arrived at the exact opening time, which varies depending on the date, and the earliest availability was three hours later.)

owl plush toys, stuffed owls

At the designated time, the staff let me in along with ten other customers. I saw real-life owls staring at me from every corner — some were smaller than my hand, others were larger than my head. There were even adorable stuffed toy owls everywhere.

tokyo owl themed cafe

All the birds are tame, and have a leg attached to the perch by string. I had an hour to enjoy their company and sip a drink that is included with the cover charge. The café doesn’t serve food, so I didn’t have to worry about beaks pecking at my plate.

owl print dress

I wore a mint-colored dress with a royal owl print, to match the theme cafe. It’s from the Algonquins store in Shinjuku.

cute sleeping owl

The staff gave a short introduction in Japanese (if you don’t know the language, there’s an English speaker on Fridays). Then, it was owl-cuddling time. I pointed at a horned one, and the staff helped me put her on my shoulder, hand or head. The birds are calm and I felt comfortable holding them. Up close, I could sense the power of their talons and bright eyes — such majestic creatures.

pet owls japan cafe

So far, these cafes are unique to Japan. Customers get to see these intelligent creatures up close, and interact with them for an hour. (All photos by Said Karlsson, Tokyo-based photographer.)

barn owl, japanese owls

Fukuro no Mise houses a variety of different species, including barn owls. I was amazed at how tame they were, sitting quietly together.

japan owl cafe interior

The staff gave commonsense instructions, such as “Don’t make sudden movements. Only touch the birds gently on the head or upper back.”

fukuro no mise owl cafe

With a cute cartoon, this sign reminds me not to take videos or flash photos.

japanese girls petting owls

A lot of customers took selfies with an owl on the wrist. The girls made cute poses with their hands, next to the owls.

white baby owl

These two are babies, so I was only allowed to touch them twice on the head. So soft and cute!

owl souvenirs, jewelry

Before the hour is up, don’t forget to browse the owl-themed memorabilia for sale.

owl iphone case

Fukuro no Mise sells owl-decorated goods like a jeweled iPhone case, statuette, and stationery.

cute small owls

However, the pet owls are not for sale — although you may be tempted to take one home!

tokyo owl cafe entry fee, opening hours

Here’s a snap of the owl-petting cafe rules and cover charges.

owl cafe menu

As you can see, the menu includes a variety of soft drinks and coffees. One drink is included with every entrance. Alcoholic beverages cost slightly more.

scottish fold cat big eyes

My Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow, felt left out… so here’s a photo of him. With their giant round eyes and heads, this breed is often compared to owls.

cat breed never scratch

Scottish Folds are so gentle — they never scratch or bite, and love to get tummy rubs!

robot mechanical toy cat

You can watch videos of my Scottish Fold cat with his robot-kitty clone (a moving toy from Japan!) on his kawaii blog.

stuffed scottish fold kitten

For more animal-theme cafe coverage in Japan, check out my posts about Calico cat cafe, Harajuku bunny cafe, and Deco dog cafe.

Would you visit an owl cafe? What do you think the next Jpop cafe trend will be?

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Killstar Clothing at Museum of Anthropology! Moat House sunglasses, SVNTY wood iPhone case.

killstar fashion blogger, outfit post

Space witch disco! One of my current favorite designers, Killstar, sent me some dark fashion to model.

I paired it with two gifts made from wood: cat-eye sunglasses from Moat House, and a carved iPhone case by SVNTY.

Take a walk on the witchy side… and find out where you can see powerful masks and totems, up close.

dollskill model killstar co

My outfit of the day had a spooky-spiritual vibe, so I wanted a location that reflects this: the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The stark exterior, designed by famous architect Arthur Erickson, created the perfect lighting and backdrop. I felt like a sorceress, arriving in an alien land.

killstar la luna crop top

Nearby, there was an outdoor exhibit of longhouses and Pacific Northwest totem poles. Some of the carvings symbolize the moon, much like my Killstar La Luna crop top.

killstar clothing, coffin purse

I paired it with Killstar’s Occult maxi skirt. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable, and the long length gives a dramatic impact. This original print, featuring stars and symbols, is also found on Killstar’s Occult racerback dress and pullover sweatshirt.

sulfur alchemy symbol, killstar blogger

I can’t get enough of this coffin purse, branded with the alchemy symbol for sulfur. With a handle and chain strap, the coffin bag is large enough for your necessities, and fastens with a secure silver clasp.

Such a fan of Killstar’s many products, which range from studded leather vests to galaxy cat shirts.

blue hair, cat eye sunglasses

I’ve been all over Moat House Eyewear ever since they reached out to me on Instagram. This British company hand-makes stylish sunglasses — out of wood! Because of the natural materials (ebony, oak, walnut) and handmade process, their sunglasses have a special vibe, much like the totem art behind me.

My ebony cat-eyes have a faint and lovely wood smell, and don’t worry, there aren’t any splinters. (Scroll to the end of this post for photos of my kitty posing with them!)

custom wood iphone case

I guess I’m on a wood kick these days, since that’s also the material used for my SVNTY iPhone case. My old plastic one fell apart, so SVNTY stepped in and sent me one of their artisanal cases, engraved from wood. I think the spooky totem-face behind me wants to join the selfie!

killstar occult maxi skirt

Unlike the usual plastic or rubber phone cases, these ones feel sturdy and natural, yet are still light-weight. Once again, this is something you won’t find in typical stores. SVNTY’s Etsy selection includes original carvings of a geisha, moon, King Tut and Marilyn Monroe. The cases fit a variety of mobiles including iPhones and Samsungs.

I’m taking a photo of the powerful totem poles on display at the Museum of Anthropology. These spiritual sculptures date back to the late 1800s, and were carved from large trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

easter island pink floyd phone case

These mysterious figures remind me of the Easter Island stone statues (moai). I’m rather obsessed with visiting this island (Rapa Nui), so I chose the Easter Island / Pink Floyd “Division Bell” image for my case (get it here).

witch moon black tshirt

Especially in the summer, it feels nice to be wearing materials like cotton and wood. The sunglasses and phone case never feel sticky.

space witch gothic fashion

My gold hair jewel is actually a necklace from Israeli friend Shelly Dahari, made from a shekel coin. Remember when I visited her Tel Aviv jewelry store?

coffin handbag killstar

I travel so much that I rarely do posts about my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, there are a lot of fascinating places to visit here, such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The immense collection of ethnographic objects, especially by tribes in this region, make it well worth the $17 entry (or $9 on Tuesday evenings).

museum of anthropology haida bear statue

The most outstanding works are the towering sculptures and totem poles, made by BC First Nations artists. Bill Reid is celebrated for his carvings such as this Haida bear.

british columbia totem poles

The imagery is forceful, and tied to aboriginal legends. I’m always in awe at how the artists envisioned these figures, which seem to come from another world.

cedar man, museum anthropology statues

Totem poles and house posts usually depicted supernatural “crest animals,” which symbolized a clan or family’s history. These stylized forms were usually carved out of red cedar, and might include images of the Thunderbird, raven, wolf, eagle and salmon.

witchcraft print skirt, svnty etsy

On the other side of the world, the people of Easter Island made art with similar aims in mind (or so we think… there’s still so much that we don’t know!)

modern aboriginal indigenous art

The UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) also had extensive displays of modern First Nations art. One gallery showcased works by youths, in media like poems and photographs. I liked seeing the cute Japanese manga influence in this one.

native canadian masks

In the back, glass cases hold thousands of artifacts from tribes in Canada and worldwide. The British Columbian masks stand out from the rest, with their captivating patterns and expressions.

vancouver museum of anthropology masks

Walking through this room, you can feel the spiritual power of these objects. I noticed unique design elements, like a beak curled up to form a second face inside.

kwakwaka'wakw masks

These are by the Kwakwaka’wakw – try saying that three times fast. Doesn’t the mask with the flopped-hair look like an emo boy?

thunderbird costume vancouver

The MOA lets you compare indigenous art from all around world: Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Korea, China. These ranged from intricate costumes to… sticks.

bill reid ubc statue, raven and first men

Don’t miss this iconic sculpture by Bill Reid: The Raven and The First Men. It depicts the Haida creation story, where Raven opens a cockle shell and releases humans into the world.

university of british columbia anthro museum

Not a bad way to spend a summer day in Vancouver. Simply drive to the University of BC, and you’ll see signs pointing to the Museum of Anthropology. You can also explore the nearby beaches and Japanese garden. Then, you can get lunch near the waterfront, at Granville Island or on West 4th.

unique wood sunglasses, moathouse

All photos by Joey Wong, except the cat and iPhone snaps by La Carmina.

kill star model, fashion blogger

What do you think of my spooky Kill Star outfit of the day? I hope you enjoy these posts that combine fashion with something cultural and travel-related.

carved bc canadian art

Are you familiar with Pacific Northwest native art? Aren’t these forms impressive?

la carmina cat

Let’s turn the post over to my Scottish Fold cat. Basil Farrow wanted to take selfies with me, so I obliged.

svnty wood carved mobile cases

His flat-face is a bit like the Easter Island figures. Basil enjoyed sniffing the wood phone case.

division bell pink floyd cell case

When you order a case from SVNTY, you can request a custom name engraving. Mine is marked with La Carmina & The Pirates, in our logo font. There are several types of wood to choose from — including cherry, rosewood and maple — and the matte plastic border creates a snug fit.

cat with cat-eye shape sunglasses

It’s funny that this Moat House sunglasses shape is called “cat eye”… when my Scottish Fold is round all over. I suppose he’s more of an owl than a maoo.

moat house wooden eyewear

Moat House has glasses for both men and women, in a variety of modern designs. Check out their full collection and order from their site.

british sunglasses

Love supporting independent brands, and handmade local goods.

round fat face cat

Basil can’t wear sunglasses because he doesn’t have a nose or ears… but he insists on suntanning anyway.

vancouver buildings ocean reflection

I leave you with some of Joey Wong’s images of Vancouver. He says (and I agree): “Vancouver has to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered cities I’ve been to.”

“No doubt the geographical setting is one of the best in the world with the downtown core being enclosed by beach, sea, and mountains. The scenic beauty is stunning, the food is plentiful and fresh, multiculturalism is real, and I know very few other places where you can be hiking in the mountains and then 30 minutes later be chilling at the beach. It has the contradictions that keep things interesting: small city vibe + cosmopolitan flair, copious amount of wealth + Downtown Eastside, an old European history + a new Asian influence.”

vancouver beach at night, moonlight

“I am disappointed when people overlook Vancouver. It’s not that cold, and it definitely isn’t that wet. Just go. Actually, better yet, don’t. Keep the city a secret.”

So give it some thought. Perhaps you’ll run into me, shooting outfit photos!

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