Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Lifestyle // The Fortnightly Round Up #2

A couple weeks ago I started a new series on my blog - The Fortnightly Round Up - posting every other Monday and chronicling what I’d been up to. (Yes alright, this one is slightly late!)

My first post saw me ride the world’s fastest, longest city based zip wire, go Walking With Dinosaurs and take a trip to Oxford.

I’ve had another good couple of weeks, slightly less activity based than last time, but with plenty more foodie adventures, homeware shopping, pampering and a girls weekend away to Center Parcs. Let’s dive in.

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The Leicester Square Kitchen


Andy and I went for an impromptu lunch at The Leicester Square Kitchen. We’ve been before and love their small plates of Mexican and Peruvian tapas - anyone else all about nibbly sharing feasts?! 

Part of the The Hampshire Hotel, and recently featured on Celebrity Masterchef, The Leicester Square Kitchen is tucked in the corner of Leicester Square, just by the TKTS booth.

They have a nice outside space, separated from the hustle and bustle of the Square with plants, so you can still people watch to your heart’s content, but with a bit of privacy and set back from the tourist mania.

The food comes beautifully presented, is full of flavour and isn’t actually too expensive, especially considering it’s location. Highly recommend! 
We ordered the:
♥ Homemade nachos and guacamole;  
♥ Josper-grilled chorizo soft tacos with guacamole, arbol chilli and spicy lemon salsa; 
♥ Crispy duck and pomegranate ensalada with papaya chilli dressing
♥ Tiger prawn hard tacos with lime and cilantro 
♥ Robata chicken wings with green habenero chilli sauce - my fave! Y U M!

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Sorted out my India tourist visa


I finally got my India visa sorted! Hurrah! It actually was a lot less of a stressful process than we were anticipating, having read all sorts of nightmare blogs and articles about what a lengthy and complicated process it would be, with no guarantee of getting a visa at the end, despite paying out £75.

Whilst the online forms are a little bit tricky to navigate as they’re not written in the best English so are slightly open to interpretation at times, they didn’t take too long to complete. At times we googled to check if we were reading the question the way everyone else was, others we just crossed our fingers and went for it, but we got there in the end!

We uploaded the info, sent off our pictures (which also have annoyingly non-standardised specifics), paid the fee then kept everything crossed waiting for a “visa granted” email. 24 hours later we were all done and dusted, and the countdown to our trip is officially ON! Now to book hotels and internal transfers...

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Senzala Creperie - Brixton Village


Andy often works afternoons and evenings at the weekends so we go out for a lot of brunches together. Living in Brixton is great as it has so many good brunch spots and one place we love to go is Senzala Creperie in The Village. I adore their galette - The Spaniard - which is stuffed full of chorizo, cheese, baby spinach, red onion and topped with a fried egg. ALL THE GOOD THINGS!

They’re always packed with fillings and the galettes and crepes are always perfectly cooked - light and fluffy with crispy edges. They’re such a great brunch as they’re really filling but I never come away feeling like I’ve eaten *too* much and wiped for the rest of the day. 

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Homeware shopping - H&M


I love pottering around and browsing homeware shops. Brixton H&M has a really big homeware section, and I had a lovely afternoon browsing all their cute homey bits. I fell in love with these two teacups and have decided I now want a whole collection of same shaped teacups with different patterns on.

I love the cheetah image - they’re my favourite big cat and hold a special place in my heart after seeing them wild when volunteering on a game reserve in South Africa last year. My favourite was the “Seek Magic Everyday” design - it’s so simple and obviously perfect for a Harry Potter fan.

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Watching Rising: Re-building Ground Zero - 9/11 Documentary series


My boyfriend and I are both huge documentary fans, as well as huge New York lovers, so we’ve watched a lot of 9/11 documentaries in the last couple weeks (obviously tied in with the 17th anniversary of the tragedy).

When Andy and I visited New York in March one of the stand out times from the trip was visiting the 9/11 museum and memorial, and going up the One World Trade Centre tower. Andy told me at the time about Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero - a six part documentary executively produced by Steven Spielberg which focuses on the building of the memorial and new tower, how they chose the design and the building process (I’m a big architecture nerd so this is right up my street)

It’s a really fascinating documentary, and refreshing to watch one based on the aftermath, regrowth and defiance against the terrorists, rather than the attacks themselves. It's definitely one to watch if you are visiting New York any time soon.

One World Trade and the memorial is such a powerful and poignant tribute to the victims, and I learnt so much from the documentary, for example that the new Oculus train station was positioned so that every September 11th at 10:28 (the time the North Tower fell) the concourse is flooded with sunlight, to symbolise light shining through the darkness. 

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Girls weekend at Center Parcs Woburn Forest


Oh you can’t beat a good girls weekend away can you? 11 of us went to Center Parcs Woburn Forest for a weekend of girly fun, plenty of good food and wine and frolicking in the forest! Whilst Center Parcs is expensive, it’s lovely to be tucked away from reality in a land of trees, where no cars are allowed and there’s plenty of activities to keep you entertained.

We went down on the Friday, headed out for dinner that night at the onsite Las Iguanas then home for plenty of wine and reminiscent dancing round the living room to garage music. Lads lads lads. 

On Saturday we spent the day at the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise, riding the rapids, flumes and lazy river until we were shrivelled like prunes and our belly’s ached with laughter! We also squeezed in bowling, more boozing, a lot more eating and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity before spending Sunday in the Spa having a full on pamper -perfect. Same time next year girlies?! 

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Getting my nails done 


I always feel so much better when my nails look nice. Before heading to Center Parcs I thought I’d spend my morning off work at the salon getting a fresh set of acrylics done.

I know they’re super bad for your nails, but sadly my natural nails are so thin that they are super sharp like a baby's, no matter how short they are. I suffer from eczema and allergies, meaning my skin is very itchy, and when I do scratch my nails often cut the skin making it super sore and it’s something I get very self conscious of.

By having acrylics, the tips are thick and smooth, so don’t graze my skin if I scratch which is much better for me. I had my nails painted with my favourite go to colour - Go Ginza by Essie which is the perfect blue toned pink. I love them!

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Its pretty much one month to the day that we head to India, so I’m aiming to have my whole trip planned by the time I post my next Fortnightly Round Up on the 1st October. 


We’re going over for a wedding so I'll be doing some Indian outfit shopping with the bridge and groom in the next couple of weeks, and I’m also finally having my Mum visit Brixton to show her my new hood. Tell you all about it next time!


What have you got planned for the next fortnight? 


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Friday, 14 September 2018

Travel // Seven Top Things To Do in Bari, Italy

If you saw my post last week, you will know that I rather excitingly won a weekend away to Bari on the southern coast of Italy with Wizz Air. Literally one of the most exciting things to happen to me!

It was part of a huge PR stunt, which chartered a mystery flight from London Luton Airport to the Unknown, and none of us knew where we were going until we landed. Mega exciting! 

That blog post was mainly focused on the excitement and process of The Trip to The Unknown, so I thought I'd do a follow up post to talk more about the top things to do in Bari.

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Bari is a pretty sleepy little town beautifully quaint with cobbled streets, wide open squares, ornate churches, stretches of sea side promenade and a small sandy beach. You could pretty much experience it all within half a day, or a full day if you want to go and explore inside the churches and the fort.

There are a few shops if that’s your thing (including a Sephora!) and there’s plenty of cafes and restaurants to keep you well satisfied during your trip. The train station in town also easily connects you to some of the famously picturesque towns of Puglia, like Polignano a Mare and Alberobello (and in hindsight I wish we’d gone to explore these too - next time!)

As it was though we were very content spending an extremely leisurely couple of days just wandering, soaking up the sunshine, and spending a lot of time chatting and chilling. 

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Here are the seven top things you have to do when you visit Bari


1) Basilica di San Nicola - this church is simply beautiful inside, has been visited by the Pope, and we witnessed two weddings while we were there - a great insight into Italian culture.

2) Eat all the sweet treats - well you can’t go to Italy without trying the gelato can you? We also ate the biggest and most decadent cannoli I’ve ever had, and Bari is also famous for it's Nutella pizza. Well, it would be rude not to! 

3) Walk the city walls - gorgeous views of the city and the coast from a high vantage, with some beautiful colourful houses. Perfect Instagram opportunities! Check out more of my fave Instagram spots in Bari here.

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4) Try the seafood - being a port town, Bari is famous for its seafood. We had some of the nicest grilled king prawns I’ve ever had (and I’ve had A LOT) at Pizzeria Alleggre, just off the Main Square, Piazza Mercantile. There’s an excellent seafood restaurant on the Square itself too - Black and White - but unfortunately we couldn’t get a table!

5) Look up! Bari has one of the most wonderful collection of window boxes and decorations I’ve ever seen! Flowers, colourful windmills, ornate balconies and even some floating teacups - Bari is as beautiful above the warm toned cobbles as it is at street level.

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6) Go to the beach - Bari’s beach is quite small, but it is there - the sand is golden and the sea is warm. I really wished we’d packed our swimming things as the water was crystal clear and the perfect place to cool down on a hot day. It’s sheltered by bars of rock out to sea, so it’s nice and calm and not too deep - perfect for swimmers of all ages and abilities. We had a nice little paddle in the sea then went for a drink at the beach bar. Dreamy. 

7) Mercantile Nove Cafe - our favourite spot to sit and chill, we came here at least once a day. The staff are friendly, it’s on the corner of the main square so far enough from the tackier places but close enough to still watch the hustle and bustle. Plus the food is EPIC! They also have a sister restaurant next door which also does insanely good paninis to take away.

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Bari really is a beautiful little town, and such a great place for a short break. It's small, easy to wander and has just the right amount of things to fill your days without needing to rush around. We very easily wiled away three days here, and I'd definitely like to return again, and this time use Bari as a base to explore the other coastal towns nearby. 


As I said in my previous post, it was also pretty cheap in town, and Wizz Air fly there for as little as £17pp. The flight is just under 4 hours, so it’s a great place for a weekend away - leaving after work on Friday and being back at your desk on Monday.


Where are your favourite places for a weekend away?

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Monday, 10 September 2018

Favourites // August 2018

I don’t mean to alarm you, but summer is over. Yep it’s officially Autumn. And isn’t it glorious?! I love Autumn - nice crisp weather, cosy evenings in watching the telly (which always has some decent series starting at this time of year) and candles flickering. Lovely. August was a bit of a wash out too, so I’m hoping we can leave the grey drizzle behind and crack on with warm orange crunchy leaves! Despite the August weather, I still had a good month - I won a holiday to Bari, southern Italy with Wizz Air, went to my first football game, rode the world’s longest, fastest city based zip wire, had a work trip to Oxford, got some good reading in, and fully embraced the leopard print trend. Here are my August faves.

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I did a full post about this last week but a highlight of August was definitely winning a holiday to an unknown destination with Wizz Air. It was so exciting to rock up to the airport with no idea where we were off to and seeing “Mystery Flight” on all of the boards. We ended up in Bari, Italy which was the perfect destination for a short city break, with plenty of pretty cobbled streets to wander, lots of lovely little cafes to eat all the delicious Italian food, and a lovely golden sand beach to do all the paddling! Go check out my last post to read all about the excitement of boarding a flight to the unknown, and there’s another post coming on Friday with my Top 6 Things To Do in Bari.

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New Look Leopard Print Skirt

Yes leopard print is back, yes this fills my heart with JOY!!! I’ve always been a fan of animal print and shunned the chav haters back in the day, but I've always held off from wearing it other than on accessories as I’ve always felt I’m a bit too big and at risk being hit with a sedation dart out in the street and being dragged back to the zoo. Well, no more friends! I’ve been feeling - on and off - a bit more body confident recently, which I’m putting partly down to some bloody awesome instagrammers - hello @midsizecollective. I bought this skirt just before I went to Bari and I bloody love it! It makes me feel super confident, it fits beautifully, and is also a super soft almost suedette material which makes me feel as sleek as an actual leopard. Thank you New Look.

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New Look Leopard Sandals

Yeh alright, I got leopard sandals as well. And maybe leopard culottes, two more leopard skirts and a belt too...but look how pretty these are! I love the mix of tan and leopard patterns and textures, plus they’re real leather so are super supple and comfortable, and are wearing really well. They were a bargainous price of £19.99 and I got them for 25% off so they were only £15 - absolute steal! 

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Probably the most hyped book of the summer, I had a bit of a love hate relationship with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I really struggled to get into it, not warming to the protagonist at all, and finding the dreary day to day storyline extremely draining. Then all of a sudden, a hint of an upcoming plot twist was dropped unexpectedly and it snapped into place for me. A modern tale of loneliness, I now realise that Gail Honeyman is actually a bit of a genius, and the way I felt at the beginning is pretty much how Eleanor has felt her whole life. It’s now firmly on my Must Read list and I’m doing to others as friends did to me, and urging everyone to read it and "KEEP GOING IT GETS AMAZING!" As always I listened to my book on Audible, and it also included an interview with the author at the end which was really interesting and added to my enjoyment.

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We went to see Walking With Dinosaurs at the O2 and it was absolutely RAWRSOME! I’ve put a more in-depth review over in my “Fortnightly Round Up” post - which is my new blog series I’ve started, to share my adventures every two weeks - go check it out. Andy surprised me by coming back to our seats in the interval with this gorgeous cuddly Brachiosaurus who is literally the cutest little thing (and I’ve been wanting a dinosaur plushie for so long). I am 32 I promise.

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I also posted about losing my Football Match virginity in my Fortnightly Round Up, but I had such a good time I just had to include it in my August Favourites as well. Balls, boys, booze and bawdy chants - I was in my element! It was a really great game too, keeping the fans on their toes at all times, and I had so much fun! It was great to share one of Andy’s great passions with him and we won to boot! Go read more about what happened when I went to my first football game here. C’MON BOROUGH!

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I’ve been feeling really meh about my hair recently. It desperately needs a cut and the long hot summer has left it feeling quite dry, especially at the ends. I kindly got sent this Hempz Vanilla Plum shampoo which promised to hydrate and energise my hair, and I’ve been really happy with the results!  It smells divine - a really pretty, warm and lightly fruity scent which isn’t overpowering or overly sweet. Hempz products are made with pure herbal extracts, enriched with 100% pure natural hemp seed oil and are totally paraben free - which is great as I have a super sensitive scalp. They’re also gluten free and 100% vegan too. A little goes a long way with this shampoo, it lathers up really nicely and the tube packaging makes it really easy to control how much you squeeze into your hand so you don’t get product overload. It’s definitely given the ends of my hair a lot more life - they look healthier and I’m noticing less breakages and split ends. A new firm fave.

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Love Island Australia 

I thought I’d had enough of Love Island for one year, after finding this year’s series a bit lack lustre compared to prior years (though that didn’t stop me watching pretty much every episode...) Then one night I was bored at home and decided just to have a little peek at Love Island Australia, to see if it really did deliver the goods that LI UK lacked this summer - (unstaged) DRAMA! And yes, yes it did! The girls are girls’ girls, the lads actually have personalities, and they all seem in there to actually have a good time, rather than to pout personality-less by the pool awaiting their In The Style sponsorship when they leave. I AM LOVING IT! There’s only five episodes a week on the ITV Hub so its a little but more manageable too, and they seem a lot shorter as they’re so action packed. So far there’s been bitching, back stabbing, sexing, partner stealing, physical fighting, and the best girl Love Island has ever seen - Erin! Please tell me someone else is watching?! Tell me your thoughts about Cassidy!!!

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So there we have it. Bye bye Summer, hello Autumn! I’ve got another weekend away coming up in September - this time a girls weekend to Center Parcs - I’M READY FOR YOU RAPIDS! I’ll also be ramping up the holiday planning for India (which is now next month!) and lots of trips out and about to explore London with friends. 


Seriously though, talk Love Island Australia to me!


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*Thanks so much to Hempz Beauty for inviting me to try out their Vanilla Plum shampoo. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Travel // A Trip to the Unknown With Wizz Air

I love a competition, and I also love travel. So a competition to win a trip to the Unknown was right up my alley! When I saw Wizz Air were chartering a flight for 180 adventurers to an unknown destination only revealed upon landing, I knew I needed a seat on that plane. And thankfully - I got one! Yep, to my excitement I won two return flights to the Unknown and two nights accommodation when we got there. It was one of the nicest weekends away we’ve had, and it was an Instagram dream!

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Andy and I rocked up to London Luton airport and made our way over to the Wizz Air check in desk, where the signs above the desks simply said “Mystery Flight”. How bloody exciting! We had a bit of a wait, but in that time amused ourselves trying to guess where we might be going, watching the hoardes of bloggers and YouTubers excitedly vlogging and instagramming, and even being interviewed by the BBC. Sue was so proud!  Our boarding passes simply said London Luton > Unknown and all the boards around the airport just echoed the check in desks with Mystery Flight. All we knew were a few teasers from Wizz Air that there would be food markets and bikes... so pretty much like all European cities! We boarded the plane and it was so much fun - a bit like being on a school trip - everyone was in such high spirits and chatting to each other about where they thought we were going. I wish every plane journey was as friendly!

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I’ve never flown Wizz Air before but was super impressed with the service, and the amount of space we had. I never feel more like a heffalump than I do on a Ryan Air flight - why are their seats so so small please?! We had loads of space on Wizz, both in terms of seat size and leg room. The cabin crew were all really friendly and we got lots of updates from the pilot with clues on where we were headed “Your flight will last between one and six hours” “To the left of the plane you’ll see some mountains, to the right you’ll see a city. We’ll be landing in either a city or countryside”. The suspense was REAL!

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When we did land we were waved off the plane to the Unknown and handed a goodie bag to help us on our way. But where were we?! Cue plenty of meerkatting to gauge clues! We’d landed in Bari - in the heel of Italy’s boot on the south coastal region - famous for its peaceful whitewashed towns, vibrant ports and architecture ranging from imposing baroque to simple trulli stone huts. Let’s get exploring!

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We jumped in a taxi to our hotel - Hi Hotel Bari - which was about 20 minutes away. A quick check in and freshen up, then we jumped back in a taxi to the centre of Bari, which was another 15 minutes drive away. We then spent some time wandering through the streets, getting our bearings, and stopped for some lunch in a cute cobbled street just off the main square.

This pretty much set the tone for the whole weekend - wandering around, stopping for a drink or some food or just to watch the world go by! As our time pretty much all blurred into one glorious long relax, I’ve just left a selection of my favourite pictures from the trip in this post, rather than splitting them out diary style like I usually do. I will be sharing my Top 6 Things To Do In Bari next week though - so be sure to check that out for more pretty pics from this lovely little town.

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GETTING THERE

Wizz Air fly to Bari from London Luton airport from as little as £17.99 per person. Bari centre is about 35 minutes taxi away from the airport.

WHERE WE STAYED 

The Hi Hotel Bari is a really lovely and stylish 4* hotel about 25 mins taxi from Bari airport (25 Euros) I was so impressed with the hotel - it has an outdoor pool, gym, excellent free breakfast buffet, complimentary coffee station and you get 6 free bottles of water in your room each day. Perfect! The bed was big and comfy and you could adjust each side of the mattress to be firmer or softer, we had a beautifully big rain shower in the bathroom filled with Malin+Goetz products, and you could opt to have the TV blasted into the bathroom too which suites me perfectly as I hate having a silent shower! My only one issue with the room was the contemporary glass sliding door separating off the bathroom from the bedroom didn’t slide all the way closed which is not ideal when sharing for obvious reasons! 

HOW MUCH SPENDING MONEY?

We were really pleasantly surprised at how cheap Bari was. Sometimes smaller towns and cities can be just as expensive as their big counterparts, but Bari was nice and easy on the pocket. We probably spent about £150 each over the 3 days we were there on taxis, food and drink. A beer cost about 3 Euro a pint and a big platter of bruschetta was about 5 Euro. Scrumptious!

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I would definitely go back to Bari - it’s such a lovely little place for a short getaway - you could totally head there after work on Friday and come home in time for work on Monday and still feel like you’ve had a peaceful, cultural break. Big thanks to Wizz Air for giving us the opportunity to Get Lost in the Unknown - it’s definitely opened my eyes to taking a city break off the beaten path, and I’m very excited to try out some more lesser known destinations soon!


Where else needs to be added to my city break list? 

The more obscure the better!


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