Tuesday, 29 March 2016

My Travel Catastrophe

It's no secret to anyone who reads my blog (or knows me in real life) that travel is a huge part of my life. In all honesty, the reason I originally actually started my blog was as an outlet for my travel reviews and photography, so it's something I blog about quite frequently.

To say my travelling experiences have been straightforward on the other hand, is another matter. There's been the usual hassle such as getting lost, forgetting things and most recently having my flight cancelled for 36hrs because of the French air traffic strikes (post coming soon) but I don't think anything can top the absolute disaster from my 2011 trip to Barcelona.

My friend Kate moved out to Barcelona in Autumn 2011, and a month or so afterwards I jetted out to visit her in her new home. It was my first time in Barcelona, but a city I'd had on my wishlist for a long time, so to say I was excited was an understatement.
It was also the first time I'd travelled completely alone, but being a fairly frequent flier and a confident traveller with friends and family, I wasn't phased about the airport part of the trip.
My Mum offered to take me to the airport to save me having to faff with parking, and I had no idea how incredibly grateful for that I would later turn out to be.

I landed in Barcelona late morning, having caught the early morning flight, and Kate met me at the airport. We excitedly chatted about our plans for my trip, and caught up on her new life in this bustling, vibrant city.
Shortly after dropping my stuff off and freshening up, we decided to head out for lunch at a Japanese restaurant Kate had wanted to try. I'm an adventurous eater who's up for trying anything, but the food was lukewarm and everything was covered in breadcrumbs, so I don't really know what we ate. After the food, we went on a whistlestop tour of Barcelona, looking at Casa Batllo, Barceloneta Beach, and the Marina. Our spirits were high and we were basking in the October sunshine on the beach.

Later that evening we headed out for a burger with Kate, her husband and their housemates, but I didn't really have much appetite. I put it down to being tired and the mysterious breadcrumbed Japanese cuisine I'd consumed earlier in the day. I guessed it would be nothing a good night's sleep wouldn't fix.

The following day we had an action packed day of covering as much of Barcelona by foot as was physically possible - we visited La Boqueria, climbed Montjuic and explored Gaudi's masterpieces; La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, marvelling at the beautiful colours, breathtaking architecture and quirky gingerbread house-esque statues.
I still felt slightly under the weather but fought on, determined to pack in as much as I could.

That night, we were too tired to do anything other than head out for a few quiet beers. We decided to head back to her apartment ready for my final full day.

The next day, we went to Monserrat, which was incredible. We travelled to the top of the mountain range by Aeri de Monserrat cable car, visited the Benedictine Abbey where we saw the Black Madonna, and heard the Escolania choir singing in the Basilica. The mountain range is a sight to behold and we walked and climbed for hours, looking at the breathtaking views.

On the journey back, things started to go downhill; my pale British complexion had taken on a decidedly sallow hue, I ached all over and my eyes started blurring and stinging to the point that Kate was frantically trying to figure out how to ask for eye drops in Spanish.
At this point I knew the peakiness I'd felt was slightly unusual, but I assumed I'd got something in my eye and so we stopped to watch the Magic Fountains display on the way back to the flat.

That night I headed to bed, and the hell began. I began to feel a pain in my right foot that was so horrendous, I felt helpless. I was burning up but shivering - dripping with sweat and covered in goosebumps. I knew sleep wasn't going to be forthcoming and the blinding pain meant there was nothing I could do but curl up on the cold tiled floor and wait for the waves of sickness to pass.
By the next morning, I crawled to the bathroom and attempted a shower. The pain was still all-consuming and I couldn't see past it, so I took the paracetamol Kate forced on me without argument.

I (literally) dragged myself to the airport and waited for my flight, thanking my lucky stars I'd checked in online and therefore didn't have to walk 2 miles to the terminal to check in. A 6 minute walk to the boarding gate took 35 minutes, and I texted my Mum to say I thought I'd injured my foot somehow and would have to make a doctor's appointment on the Monday.
Eventually the time came to board and all I remember is turning to the woman behind me and saying "I think I'm going to faint" before collapsing to the floor. I came round to see an entire flight-full of people staring at me, and offering water and sugar. I should have been mortified, but felt too out of it to even really care. The lovely kind lady sat behind me on the flight because "she didn't want to cramp my style" but kept an eye on me just in case. 

We landed and my Mum was there to meet me. The first part of the journey home was uneventful, until I without warning climbed into the back seat, curled up in the footwell and tried to sleep. My Mum was slightly panicked by this point, and even more so when I clawed the window, and couldn't answer questions about my own name! She rushed me to the nearest hospital who took one look at my hallucinatory state, and the telltale red marks tracking up my legs, and put me on a drip. 

To conclude - I had a nasty case of blood poisoning that was slowly spreading though my body and muscles, and was kept in hospital for 3 days (being discharged the night before my birthday) They identified that a 'foreign body' was present in my bloodstream but couldn't explain definitely how it had happened, the doctors were as mystified as I was. An X-ray showed that thankfully it hadn't spread to my bones (as worst case scenario could have led to amputation) and eventually I was sent home with a bag of medication, crutches and a doctor's note signing me off work for the next 10 days.

I still can't believe how lucky I was - I was told it was a good thing I went to hospital when I did (thanks Mum!) Also, had I driven myself to the airport and attempted to drive home, it wouldn't have been pretty. 
Barcelona is somewhere that unfortunately seems to be a bit cursed for me (my trip last week ended in flights being cancelled) but the experience hasn't made me lose my passion for travel and any future adventures!

Oliver's Travels are running an amazing competition where you can win a long weekend in the beautiful Algarve (all details can be found here) but you have to be in it to win it!
A few nights in this beautiful beach villa looks incredible!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Little Things

Happy Easter lovelies!
I hope the day brings you happiness, relaxation, and lots of chocolate!

I love long weekends; the thought of waking up and knowing there's no work tomorrow is one of the best feelings in the world. I rarely go out on bank holidays any more, mostly I prefer to use them to potter around - a nice walk, meeting friends for lunch, some shopping, catching up on Netflix etc.

As boring as that may make me sound, for me it's all about the little things.

Life is a funny old thing, it goes by so quickly but we rarely appreciate things as much as we should. We don't always live in the moment, and sometimes don't realise what we've got until it's gone.
But we're all human, and that's just life; it doesn't make us bad people.

The older I get though, the more I recognise the importance of appreciating the little things. 
I realised that at least once every day, I find something that makes me smile, even if it's a stupidly small thing. And that's a really nice feeling to have.

The first cup of tea in the morning, putting your clothes on the radiator while so they're nice and warm when you get out of the shower, having a good hair day, receiving a lovely text, finding a parking space, a song you love coming on the radio, belly laughs with friends, getting a compliment, going for a walk in the fresh air, getting post, driving home and seeing a beautiful sunset, taking your bra off and putting on your PJ's, the smell of food cooking, soaking in a hot bath, having crisp clean bedding, nabbing a bargain, dancing the night away, Netflix binges, having things to look forward to, booking an adventure, having a lie in.....to me, these are the things that life is all about.

I'm no good to anyone if I don't make some time to do the things I love, no matter how small they are. 
I'm determined to keep on making the time to do more of whatever makes me happy, whether that's planning a non-stop busy weekend with friends, or relaxing on the sofa in my onesie.

So this weekend whether you're sleeping off the hangover, pottering around, eating your body weight in easter eggs or doing nothing at all, as long as it makes you happy it's all good.
I plan to spend the rest of my weekend having a massive spring clean and having some puppy cuddles, as well as planning my next adventure, wherever that may be.

Credit - www.benwalkerphotography.co.uk

How have you spent your Bank Holiday weekend?


Friday, 25 March 2016

Prettying Up My Fitbit Charge HR

Activity Trackers are big business at the moment, and most people have one, or have at least thought about getting one. I bought my Charge HR back in January and it hasn't been off my wrist since - I love it! I'd spent several months weighing up whether to buy one as they can be expensive, but eventually decided to bite the bullet and I'm so glad I did.
My Fitbit has really made me more health conscious, I now constantly keep tabs on how many steps I'm doing per day (and if I'm not doing enough, I pick up the pace) but also for me the sleep tracker has been really beneficial, I rarely get enough sleep and this has encouraged me to start trying to.

Anyway, I've raved about the many positives, but onto the one bugbear I have - the Fitbit just doesn't look pretty. I'm pretty fashion conscious and I just don't like the way it looks, shallow as that sounds. At weekends if I'm pottering around the house or going for a walk it doesn't bother me in the slightest, but for work or going out I think it looks quite unsightly. 
So I've searched the internet for Fitbit accessories, and if you have a Flex there are definitely options, (Tory Birch does a gorgeous range for example) but for those of us with the Charge/Charge HR, our options are limited.
And this is where Funktional Wearables step in. I found them through Etsy, and they're a US brand that specialise in making accessories/jewellery for all activity tracker makes/models.
In the end I opted for the Tatum Insight in Rose Gold, but there were lots I was torn between. I chose the Tatum because it's chunky bangle is the kind of jewellery I would wear myself, and it really isn't obvious there's a Fitbit hiding inside! I went for the Insight model as I use the display regularly to keep track, but there are models that hide that altogether too. I went for rose gold as it matches my watch, but I actually really want a silver version too for when I'm wearing silver jewellery! Typical ;-)

The bangle is slightly fiddly to use, as it doesn't quite sit perfectly with the tracker, but after a bit of negotiating it does. It can be difficult to get the display to align with the hole, but the bangle is round and the Fitbit oddly shaped so that's understandable. 
There are two elastic straps inside that the band slides through to hold it in place, but I personally only use one as one of them goes over the sensor which means it doesn't track as accurately which for me defeats the purpose, but it stays in place nicely with just the one strap. 
I'm definitely pleased with my purchase, the customer service was great and delivery was quick. It's also well made and stylish, and definitely serves it purpose which is to make your tracker look pretty and inconspicuous. Now I just need to figure out which silver one I want!

Have you bought any accessories for your activity tracker?


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A Night in Hotel Gotham, Manchester

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have picked up on the fact that I love visiting hotels. It's my 'thing' (a very expensive thing, but a thing nonetheless)
I absolutely love having something to look forward to, and experiencing new places. 
Last year I popped in for a nosy around Hotel Gotham in Manchester (I wrote a post about it which you can read here) and ever since, I've been desperate to go and stay.

My wish came true a couple of weeks ago when my Mum and I headed there for the night having found a great deal online. Hotel Gotham is a 5* hotel situated right in the heart of Manchester and it's price reflects that, so I love it when luxury hotels advertise offers that mean people who normally couldn't afford it get the opportunity to stay affordably. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, the style of this hotel is second to none. Absolutely no stone has been left unturned when it comes to decor, it's genuinely a sight to behold. The hotel is lavishly decorated in a 1920's art deco style, with small touches everywhere that really add to the luxury feel; whether it's the faux fur throw on the bed, the black leather headboards, the 'White Company' toiletries and the well-stocked mini bar, there's so much to take in in the bedrooms alone.

Hotel Gotham is a restored bank, and that's evident through the 'Swag Bags' in the room where you can buy any of the items featured in the room, and the decorative gold bars dotted around. There's also a doorman/bell boy which makes you feel like you're stepping into another era as soon as you walk through the door.

The hotel also boasts a members only bar called Club Brass with panoramic views of the city, where the attentive staff dressed in white tails are happy to tailor make cocktails for you, if nothing on the menu takes your fancy. Although I can't remember the names of our drinks now, they were both delicious, and mine came served in a vintage milk bottle and contained chocolate coco pops milk!
After we came back from dinner, we took the barman up on his offer of bespoke cocktails and he rustled up two 'nightcaps' for us, one with a mint chocolate taste, and the other with an chocolate orange taste. The atmosphere in the bar is relaxed and makes you feel like you're sitting in a Prohibition bar.

The next morning we had breakfast in the Honey Bar, which was light and airy with beautiful views across Manchester, and immaculate decor as with the rest of the hotel. My eggs royale was one of the best I've tasted.

I really couldnt fault the service in the Hotel, and the interior design just took my breath away. 
It's definitely worth a visit next time you visit Manchester.

Have you stayed in Hotel Gotham?


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Spring has Sprung

I'm not sure what it's like near you, but where I am has finally started to feel like Spring is on the way!
I love Winter in lots of ways, but once the excitement of Christmas is over and done with I find it starts dragging on, and we've had biblical amounts of rain here in not-so-sunny Wales.

When the weather picks up, my mood picks up (not that I think I've got SAD or anything) and I start dreaming of sunny mornings, long walks, car roof down, beer gardens, and fresh flowers.
It also makes me want to overhaul everything, and I start (attempting) to declutter, switching my heavy winter clothes and shoes to slightly more lightweight ones (nothing drastic mind you, I'm not expecting miracles in Britain!)  drawing blinds and buying brightly coloured flowers.

I'm getting bored of gloves and boots now, and can't wait to start wearing brogues/shoes and thinner tops. It'll be a while before I start braving bare legs and sandals though so I can carry on neglecting my pedicures and leg shaving until then!

These cute pictures are all from Pinterest, and make me feel a sense of renewed optimism just looking at them.

Are you looking forward to Spring?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Home Post: Styling The Perfect Coffee Table

I really love interior design, and it's been a while since I've posted anything home related.
Now Pinterest exists, it's become so easy for us to start picturing our perfect homes, and searching for images to give us that inspiration.

When thinking about decorating a living room, I think knowing how to style the coffee table is really important. For most living rooms, the coffee table is a centrepiece, and can often provide a lot of focus in the room.
I think it's key not to overload the table, because you don't want it to look cluttered, instead focusing on a few statement items.

 Chairish are currently running a Coffee Table Essentials Challenge, and invited me to take part.
While browsing their website, I came across this beautiful vintage chrome and glass coffee table. I really love vintage furniture, and this piece caught my eye because it's quite striking. It would look perfect in my living room, it's not too big, and is also timeless; it's vintage but also manages to look quite modern.
 I was thinking about how I would decorate it; and as the table is a statement in itself, I decided to keep the items adorning it simple. 

For me, I think fresh flowers will always freshen up any space, and it's lovely to be able to smell them in the room as you walk in.
Coffee table books/magazines are an instantly chic and stylish way to decorate a coffee table, especially if you get a variety of different and interesting titles to choose from.

I adore candles, and almost always have some lit. Not only do they smell lovely, they also help give a room a nice homely feel. Because the majority of candles are pretty small, they're quick and simple to add to the corner of a coffee table.
Terrariums are so fashionable at the moment, and you can get all sorts of shapes and styles. They're also an inexpensive item to add a bit of pizzazz (I'm so glad I managed to throw that word in!) to a table and transform the style of a room.

What do you think of my style picks?

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