Thursday, 7 September 2017

Porto Photo Diary

Way back in July I headed to the beautiful city of Porto for a few days.
Porto has been on my travel bucket list for quite a while and it definitely didn't disappoint.
It's an amazing combination of old meets new - a vibrant, bustling city with so many extremely old beautiful buildings, cobbled streets mixed with high street shops and crumbling aged sections contrasting against the clean tiles.
The architecture is just incredible, and blue and yellow seem to be the predominant colour schemes in the city. There are beautiful old churches on nearly every street corner, each one incredibly ornate. The stunning Chapel of Souls above is a perfect example, it was built in the 18th Century and is situated in one of the busiest shopping streets in Porto.
One of our favourite places to head to was Ribeira, which is the old town that runs alongside the banks of the Douro. It was so lively and busy, with cobbled streets, buskers, old fashioned boats and plenty of streetside cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Porto is definitely a foodie lovers paradise. Seafood is very prevalent as expected, but there are so many amazing culinary experiences to be had, and the tapas is out of this world. We stumbled upon Antiga Leitaria down a side street, which is a small unobtrusive bistro serving the most amazing local food. 
Other highlights include the huge indoor market, brunch in the iconic Majestic Cafe, the wonderfully ornate Porto Sao Bento train station and a boat trip along the Douro. We went early evening when it was slightly cooler, and just in time to see the magnificent sunset. 
Finally, no trip to Porto would be complete without some Port tasting! As we're not the biggest fans of Port we opted not to do a full day tasting tour (as amazing as it looked) and instead booked a city hop on-hop off bus tour which threw in a free mini Port tour. We headed to the Southern side of the Douro river (Vila Nova de Gaia) which is connected to Ribeira and Porto by the Ponte Luis I Bridge, and is where all the Port houses are situated. We tried some rose and tawny Port which were actually really nice, but not being a Port connoisseur I wouldn't be able to say if there was better out there.  
I really, really loved Porto and would return in a heartbeat. There's so much to see and do, and I'm sure if we went back we'd be able to find numerous things we didn't manage to squeeze in on this trip. 
There were a few 'tourist traps' we avoided, such as the cable car over the Port houses which to us seemed a waste of money as walking through Vila Nova de Gaia provides you with the same views, just without the price tag.
The other thing we wanted to do was Livraria Lello; a traditional bookshop with a huge sweeping spiral staircase and glass ceiling that looks beautiful, but due to the fact that JK Rowling used it as inspiration for Harry Potter, was overrun with tourists queuing as far as the eye could see. I didn't think I'd be able to get a single decent photo inside as it was so packed, so we reluctantly gave it a miss.
Have you ever been to Porto?
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Monday, 4 September 2017

Holiday Wardrobes

Holidays.
We all love 'em, we all want 'em.

The other thing we do is buy things we don't need for 'em.
Holidays are so expensive, and are definitely a luxury for most of us. But all I see these days online is people over-spending on holiday wardrobes for each holiday they go on, and I often wonder if that's really necessary.

I can't remember the last time I bought anything new purely to take away on holiday with me.
Our wonderful British climate means my summer clothes are generally underworn and therefore my dresses and shorts get barely an outing all year. I love being able to wear things I haven't worn in ages, because they basically feel like new clothes.
Holiday wear rarely goes out of fashion so I tend to rotate my clothes on a two yearly basis (the dresses I'm taking to Lisbon haven't been worn since I went to Palma in 2015 so case in point)
I know so many people who buy loads of cheap items for their holidays with the view of leaving what they don't want behind. To me that is so excessive and an example of consumption at its finest.

Over this past year, I've really tried hard to work on curbing my spending. It's made me feel so much happier, and I guess what they say about feng shui is true, because having less around me has made me feel calmer and more content. 

As someone who is a fairly frequent traveller, I like to think I've got my packing now down to a fine art. For my upcoming trip to Lisbon (today!) I managed to pack in less than 10 minutes. 
For me the key is definitely less is more and my packing mantra tends to be:
  • I rarely ever take hold luggage because most of my holidays tend to be short breaks, so I try and take the minimal amount and mix and match my items together as much as possible.
  • I never take more than 2 pairs of shoes on a short break and I never ever take heels because for me it's all about the comfort on holiday, and whenever I have taken heels they've been unworn.
  • I utilise any free samples I have to take in my toiletries bag, things such as moisturisers, perfume samples and shampoo are particularly handy as they take up so little room and can be thrown away to save space coming back.

What are your thoughts on holiday wardrobes?




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Friday, 14 July 2017

Oliver Bonas Wishlist

Saying that Oliver Bonas have some amazing things in stock at the moment is a bit of a pointless statement because they ALWAYS have amazing things in stock...but it seems like right now they're totally nailing it and it's making me want basically everything. 

I'm a total sucker for coffee table books, statement jewellry and quirky homeware, which I guess is preeeeety obvious from this wishlist. 

I've decided to try and be kind to my bank balance so I've whittled it down to my 9 favourite items, but from browsing the website they do seem to have the uncanny ability to constantly deliver and make your dreams of a Pinterest-worthy home that little bit more realistic. Obviously some of these are pretty pricey, but a girl can dream.


What do you think of my picks?
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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

2017: 6 Month Goal Review

And just like that, we're halfway into the year...
Not only has it shocked me to find that 6 months has passed already, but it's also been over a month since I last posted! Which probably isn't much of a deal for most, but it's been my longest ever bloggy break (for a number of reasons)

But onto the point in hand, it's time to log back on so I can update on how I've been getting on with my goals for 2017. I won't lie, despite purposely picking vague goals that aren't easy to break, I've not exactly stuck to them like glue. I've made vague improvements here and there but meh, they're a work in progress and I have 6 more months to work on them...

Be Better With Money
Lets start with a positive...this goal is actually going quite well. I wouldn't say I'm perfectly balancing my bills each month, but I've definitely curbed my spending somewhat. I haven't been buying clothes and make-up the minute payday strikes, but I'm still not exactly living within my means all the time. But I'm getting better and I've managed to save a fair bit over the past 6 months meaning I've now got a deposit at long last! Yay!

Think Less
Hmm, nope. Not happening. If I'm being kind to myself I'd say I've started to improve on a few occasions, but then life gets in the way and I'm back to square one. Over the past few weeks I've definitely done better (and been happier for it) but tonight for example, I've been in an over-analytical tizz. So this is still a work in progress.

Keep Active
I'm doing fairly well with this one, because I love being outside and it makes everything seem better somehow. Though I'm not practically able to crack 10k steps a day I am walking as much as possible and I've seen an improvement in my fitness. I'm getting out most lunch times and evenings, which is definitely more doable when the weather's good!

Less Phone, More Living
Gah, no. This one was going really well, but me being me means I couldn't stop for long. Whenever one door closes another opens they say, and my frenzied little brain loves to second guess everything. So I'm definitely not switching off as much as I should which is a shame because I feel so much better when I do. On the living front though I'm definitely doing more than I was a few months back, so it's swings and roundabouts.

Be Kind To Myself
Last but not least...this one is also a work in progress. I haven't been getting any more sleep (damn you Parks & Recreation!) and I'm not always getting my full intake of water, but I'm not being too bad. I don't like baths in the summer so I'm not having the time to pamper quite as much, but I'm still taking care of my skin and trying to listen to my body when I'm tired, so that's something.

All in all, I'm still not quite where I want to be 6 months on. I've had a couple of setbacks, but I'm also doing better than I was emotionally in many ways and am feeling stronger in myself.

How are you getting on with your goals/resolutions?



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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Chateau Rhianfa, Menai Bridge

A couple of weekends ago, my Mum and I booked an overnight stay at Chateau Rhianfa on the spur of the moment, in order to have a night of rest and relaxation.
Described as a 'Welsh Fairytale Hotel', which is a pretty fitting description, luckily for us Chateau Rhianfa is right on our doorstep so there wasn't much travel needed.
I've been lucky enough to stay here a few times before, as well as attend a couple of weddings, but no matter how many times I visit it still feels like a real treat. 
Our room was a standard double, with beautiful views across the perfectly manicured lawns and a large modern and luxurious wetroom. The bedroom itself was decorated in a classic country style, but each room in the hotel is unique and individually decorated to the highest standard. One of the suites for example, (The Duchess Suite, named after Kate) has a beautiful free-standing roll-top bath in the window! My personal favourite has to be this room, which I've added a link for as unfortunately I've never been lucky to stay in the amazing round bed on any of my stays, but a girl can dream.
After a few hours of unwinding in our room, we ventured downstairs to the Dragon Rouge restaurant for a slap up three course dinner, complete with two amuse bouche (bonus extra courses are always a winner in my book!) of a goats cheese roulade and a mushroom arancini - both of which were delicious. For my meal I had the locally caught scallops to start (which were so darn tasty I didn't even stop to take a photo, but believe me were incredible), the blade of beef complete with potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, and the deconstructed rhubarb crumble for dessert. The food was melt-in-your-mouth good, and we left feeling very full and very satisfied.
To walk off all the food we'd consumed, we decided to explore the rest of the hotel. Each corridor is like a labyrinth of hidden treasures, filled with trinkets and oozing old-school luxury. From the grand piano, to the chandelier, to the overstuffed leather sofas and soft table lamp light, each room is a sight to behold and manages to be both grand and cosy, as opposed to imposing.
The following morning we awoke to the sun streaming through our window, and headed downstairs for breakfast. There was a generous choice of continental food on offer; pastries, fresh fruit, yoghurts and breads, as well as hot food cooked freshly to order. I opted for the eggs royale which were absolutely delicious, and tasted all the better for being eaten while admiring the views across the Menai Strait.
After checkout, we went for a leisurely walk around the grounds; the hotel has other features such as a hot tub, tennis courts, summer house and even its own private jetty! There are so many cosy corners in the grounds I imagine it would be perfect to relax with a book and take in the fresh sea air. 

If staying in a luxury fairytale castle is your thing, Chateau Rhianfa is the place for you. I'm so proud to live in an area where we're blessed with so many amazing venues, and already can't wait for my next trip!

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Life

Life has certainly had it's challenges lately. And while there is always something good amongst the bad, at the moment for me it's felt like these moments are few and far between.

Despite all the gloom, I'm still finding things that always cheer me up. I'm still laughing, I'm still yearning to explore, and I'm still enjoying the things that make me, me
So it's not all bad.

This weekend, I've spent a fair amount of time walking. Not walking to reach any particular destination, but instead just to enjoy my surroundings. And what beautiful surroundings I have!
Pretty pastel painted houses I can only dream of living in, fresh flowers reminding me that Spring is on its way, and as always, breathing in the sea and letting it wash away my worries. 
For me the sea will always be my leveller, it's always there and it always reminds me that things are only temporary. Enjoying my beautiful coastline made me realise that life is always going to be what I make it.

And even if this weekend I've done nothing of more value than walk, stretch my legs, marvel at the stunning scenery I call home, and eat one of my first ice creams of the year, maybe that's in fact all I needed to do.
Maybe in fact, that is life.
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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lady Betty Afternoon Tea

When I recently visited Harrogate we couldn't possibly miss the opportunity to visit the world famous Betty's Tearooms. I've always wanted to visit Betty's, there's just something so quintessentially British about an afternoon of tea and scones, and it really is an institution.

We decided to go all out and book in for the Lady Betty Afternoon Tea. At £39.95 per person it's definitely not the cheapest, but considering the amount of food included and the service provided, it's definitely worth it.
We arrived for our tea and were shown to our table in the window. The room in which the tea is served is like being transported into another world, with it's high ornate ceilings, chandelier, opulent decor and even a pianist to accompany our experience.
Once we'd placed our drinks order (Jen had the Moutard Rose Prestige Champagne while I plumped for the Rhubarb Champagne Cocktail) a tray of tea (we went for Betty's Tearoom Blend) arrived followed seconds later by our appetiser; diced tomato and red onion on a bed of creme fraiche and pea puree. It was delicious and I knew from that point onwards that the rest of the tea would be just as lovely.

Shortly afterwards we had our savoury selection; smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill roulade, and a miniature pork and apple pie. They were both melt in the mouth delicious (I will forever be a savoury girl) and definitely whetted my appetite.
The sandwich selection was traditional; ham and tomato pate, egg mayo and a very tasty chicken and tarragon. When they offered us more sandwiches we happily accepted, but a note to self should have been to step away from any more food because there was just so much of it!
Onto the sweet selection: first off we had two scones, a lemon and a rose. I absolutely love rose and it was so delicately flavoured and lovely. Of course these were served with lashings of fresh cream and jam, as any self respecting scone should be.
Sometime before we tackled the top tier of miniature cakes, we hit a wall. As truly delicious as everything really was, there was just so much of it and it was really filling. Of course for the price, it's great that you get your money's worth. We had a gooseberry macaroon, a chocolate and passionfruit cube, pistachio and chocolate dacquoise slice (very sweet!) and we had to ask for our battenberg, fresh berry meringue and lemon religieuse to be boxed up as we simply couldn't fit them in!
The tea was a truly lovely experience, and perfect for a special occasion. You really do feel spoilt and waited on hand and foot, and the food is wonderful. Just step away from the extra sandwiches!

Have you tried Betty's?
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