Friday, March 18, 2011

My walk through Porto

Night in Porto

The great thing about Porto is that the centre is so wonderfully compact that everything is within walking distance. You can have endless walks and you see so much. The town is very historic and hilly and provides continuously different views.

Carmelitas church
Capela de Santa Caterina
An Art Deco building

And if you walk around you see that Porto has grown a lot during the Baroque period, the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the twentieth century.
The facades change with every step. And with every step you move into a different style. From Baroque to Belle Époque and then on to Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Until you descend towards the river and end up in the steep, narrow, authentic old streets.

The exterior of Porto causes already a special impression. Some buildings also offer the ability to look inside. Which is more than worth it.
One of the first examples of historic interiors will take place on the Via Catarina. It is an attractive shopping street where you will find the gorgeous Café Majestic. It is a very special experience to be able to just relax there with a glass of port. Menu itself is not really special and the prices are quite high for the Portuguese terms. But a dessert with a matching port is definitely worth it. And the service is very good!

Café Majestic

The next must see is the most beautiful bookstore I've ever visited. I love bookstores and libraries. I can entertain myself for hours with browsing and reading books. But this store is different. Livraria Lello is so beautiful that you do not even see the books around you. The incredible staircase in the middle, the ceiling, cabinets and walls. It's all abnormally pretty. Thinking back to this store makes me want to go there again.

Livraria Lello

Another walking place in Porto takes place on the metal bridge named Ponte Dom Luís I. This bridge is not just for crossing the Douro river, it brings you to the other side of town: Ribeira. It is an old neighborhood where many port wine cellars are present.

Douro river and Ponto Dom Luis

Eventually it doesn’t matter where in Porto you stand, sit or walk. Every corner is beautiful, very authentic and photogenic. I certainly enjoyed the many beauties here. And I haven’t even seen them all.

Door knockers
Magnolia tree on Aliados square
And me in Livraria Lello

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Louboutins: fakes vs. real

My wedding shoes

Imagine this nightmare scenario: you decide to buy the dream shoes of Christian Louboutin, you pay full price for it and afterwards you find out that those overpriced shoes are no more than 10 euros worth! You’ve purchased ‘Made in China’ quality instead of Italian handmade shoes.

The Chinese counterfeiting industry dominates not just the online stores. Today you can find the fakes even in the actual shops. And to avoid being a victim you need to become an expert. You have to be able to smell them from distance. (Which is not very difficult anyway, because they smell pretty nasty). And you have to recognize the imperfections. (Which is also quite easy, because Loubis are the perfect shoes).

I will not discuss the online products, as most sites are selling fakes anyway. Ordering shoes online is not really my thing. I believe you should take a good look at the shoe and fit it first before you buy it. Without literary being able to hold the shoe in my hands I lose control of my purchase. When it comes to buying shoes I'm very skeptical. 
But there is at least one very important rule for Louboutin shoes. When the price is relatively low, then it is too good to be true. Or you really necessarily need that red sole whether it’s real of fake. But for me it's not worth it. After all you pay for quality and not for a cheap look.

But it must be said that these copies are pretty well made. The shoes are precisely replicated. The differences between real and fake are subtle, but still quite visible.

Here are some observations I've recorded.

There is a very clear difference between the original and fake bags. First is the color. The real has a deep red color and the fake has a bright pink hue in the red processed. The logo on the real is very tight while the fake one is blurry. The quality of fabric is also quite different. The real thing is very solid and tight and straight while the fake is very fluffy and the sides are not all equal.

While the seams of the real Louboutin are perfect and consistent, the fake one is sometimes very close to the edge. In some places the wire protrudes and feels very hard and spiny.

Inside the shoe there must be a double seam. Instead of a single one.

And then a very classic example: the seam behind above the heel is held up on top by a crazy tab. 

But I believe that nowadays not all fakes are recognizable by that tab.

Leather quality
The leather is very soft. So soft that it will quickly deform. It is also possible that the edges are already bending outwards even before the wearing. And the smell is unpleasant, while the real smell very good.

The red sole
And last but nut least – the famous sole. The color differences are very subtle. Although fakes have a different hue. Orange-like, instead of deep red. And without the beautifully gloss.
The bow under the heel is full of coarse wrinkles. The real bow is very smooth though.
The logo on the sole has deep differences. Some letters are printed deeper than the other.

And if you look closely, the logo is not completely identical to the original. Look at that B and especially on the N on the end. That is totally not how the logo looks like in real life!?

Quite a lot of imperfections! And therefore the Chinese shoes will never come close to the real Loubis.

I would like to thank my girlfriend Nanda for letting me borrow her shoes for this research. That was a learning experience.

Happy women's day everybody!

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